Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: A Marry, Merry Christmas


Reviewed by Jen
 
This anthology features two historical and two contemporary romances with a Christmas wedding theme.

"His Indecent Proposal" - After years abroad, Victor has returned to his brother's home. He is shocked to find out that the family's governess is the same feisty woman he nearly accosted in a tavern years ago.  The attraction he felt for her then is still strong now. He wants to make her his, but she believes a future together is impossible. Can he change her mind?

The premise for this story is fairly good, but I felt like it was rushed in places.  Penelope changes her tune very quickly and it seemed abrupt and forced.  Maybe it's because the story is so short, but I needed a more realistic transition for her... and a better explanation for her initial rejection of Victor's honorable proposal.  It's not a bad story, it just felt like it had some holes in it. 

"A Love Like That" - After two years, Tina is still mourning the loss of her husband David.  But she is determined to open herself up to new possibilities for happiness.  Enter her neighbor, Wade.  It turns out that the sexy plumber has been doing small acts of kindness for her for months. From plowing her driveway to fixing her mailbox... to a lovely rose he left behind.  He is so different from her husband, but she can't deny her growing feelings for him.

I liked this one. Of course, I am a sucker for stories where the hero doesn't feel good enough for his heroine.  I liked the pacing and almost everything about this one, except for how quickly the L-word started flying.  The last chapter/ epilogue solidified the HEA, so why profess love on the second date? (*sigh*) Even though that bugged me, I enjoyed this one overall.  It was probably my favorite of the bunch.

"Forever Winter" - Susanna feels like she has been waiting for her wedding day forever, but when it finally arrives, it's one disaster after another.  A terrible snowstorm delays her dress, injures the reverend, and keeps away many of the guests.  Then, an attack from her horrible brother-in-law takes things from bad to worse. But all she wants is to marry the man she adores.

I would be upset, too, if my wedding day tanked this way, but Susanna came off a bit like a spoiled child.  Camden made an admirable groom, but I wish I would have had a chance to know him better.  Then, after all that build-up, I have to say I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see the payoff.  I would have preferred to read about the wedding night, rather than the epilogue five years in the future.

"Together at Christmas" - We switch back to contemporary for this last story.  Penny is a widow with two kids who is going home to visit her family for the holidays, when she accidentally grabs the wrong little boy at the train station and pulls him on the train.  It turns out she took the foster son of a station employee named Rick, who cared for her child until they could switch the kids back.  The story follows the couple falling in love and creating a blending family.

This was by far the least compelling of the stories in the book.  While I thought the premise was fine, I saw absolutely no reason for these two to fall in love. There is no build up. No emotion. No sexual tension. Nothing. And they end up married in a week.  Not to mention, Rick orchestrates an adoption in even less time.  Totally implausible, without even a strong emotional tie to make me ignore it.   

Overall Rating: C

*Book provided by author for review


Click to purchase: Amazon
A Marry, Merry Christmas
by Amber Daulton, Lynn Kellan, Susan Kaminga, & Terry Long
Release Date: December 4, 2012
Publisher: Bradley Publishing

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review: Visions of Heat

Reviewed by Jen
 
I can't say I enjoyed this second installment in the Psy-Changeling series quite as much as I liked the first.  "What changed?" you may ask. Well, not very much. And therein lies the problem. In many ways, it felt a lot like I was reading the same book all over again.

The premise: Sascha Faith is a powerful cardinal of the Psy race.  Their people are bred to eschew emotion, to achieve a calm equilibrium and focus on the power of their minds.  Only, our heroine's powers are not quite right.  She fears that if she can't get a grip on her backfiring talents, the Psy Council will figure her out and mark her for "rehabilitation."

Lucas Vaughn is a powerful changeling... a shapeshifter with a heartbreaking past. He has survived his adversity, but the heartaches involved have never truly gone away.  He is shocked when he finds himself drawn to a Psy.  But the attraction between them can't be denied.  In the meantime, a serial killer is targeting his next victim and only Sascha Faith can stop him. Using her powers, she puts herself at risk, navigating the Psy-Net and dealing with the treacherous council, in order to save the next victim and avenge those who have come before her.

Ahem.  Sound familiar?

The details were different.  Vaughn is a jaguar instead of a leopard and he is a sentinel as opposed to the Alpha of the pack.  Faith isn't an E(mpath)-Psy like Sascha, but an F-Psy that can foresee the future.  And instead of a business deal drawing our couple together, Faith meets Vaughn when she seeks out Sascha to find answers about her faulty powers.  Oh yeah, and Faith is even more sensitive to touch and feelings than Sascha was.  And there endeth the differences.

I still liked it.  Maybe I would have liked it a lot if I hadn't just read its book-twin the day before.  I can only hope that the series opens up and spreads its wings a little in future installments. I have faith. All of my book-buddies love this series and I wouldn't have gotten so many recommendations if it gets stale and stays that way.  Therefore, I'm gonna give book three a try and hope for the best.

Rating: B- (*ducks head*)


Click to purchase: Amazon
Visions of Heat
by Nalini Singh
Release Date: March 6, 2007
Publisher: Berkley Sensation

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: Hunter's Prey

Reviewed by Jen
 
The more I read from the Bloodhounds series, the more I enjoy them.  They're this gritty blend of shapeshifter, old west, steampunk, and holy hot sex --and I am already jonesing for the next one. 

This story features Hunter, the man turned into a Bloodhound against his will and kept caged and tortured by the vampires in Wilder's Mate.  He is trying to aclimate himself to his new life, but he is having a hard time reconciling the man that he once was, to the beast that is now inside him.  He is living with Wilder, Satira, Nate, and Ophelia --and he is coming on his first new moon where he is not locked behind bars.

It's Ophelia who he wants to slake his lust upon during those three days of burning need, but he fights it. He is afraid he'll hurt her. But when the time comes, his beast will accept no other.

Thankfully, Hunter's feelings are not one sided.  Ophelia wants him too and only fears that the man in him doesn't want her as much as the Bloodhound does.  The story follows their path to mating, as Archer and Wilder search out a new vampire threat.  Oh --and some guys from the Guild come sniffing around to check out Hunter and Nate.

It absolutely must be said that the sex in these books hits all of my happy buttons.  It's just the right blend of dirty and needy and passionate without crossing the line into eye-rolling.  The sexual element of Hunter and Ophelia's relationship is awesome, but I also really liked their tentative romance as well.  They both have issues that make them fear rejection from the other, but I love that it's handled honestly between them.

There is action and violence and an interesting plot to go along with the loving too.  There is also a wealth of fleshed out secondary characters which give depth to the world and plant the seeds for future stories. It's just cool all over.  You should definitely check this series out.

Rating: B+

*Book provided by authors for review


Click to purchase: Amazon
Hunter's Prey
by Moira Rogers
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Samhain

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Romancing the Holiday

Reviewed by Allison
 
"We'll Be Home for Christmas" by HelenKay Dimon

Lila Payne has been trying to find her way after her marriage fell apart and she thinks that moving to Holloway to take care of the campground "resort" that her uncle gave her is as good a place as any to start over. Only she didn't expect that when she went to Thomas Nurseries to pick up something her uncle ordered, she'd run into the man she hasn't been able to get out of her head for three months... not since their hot and heavy 3-night stand. Once Spence spots her, he can't help but be drawn back to her with memories of that weekend in the swank hotel, and he's dying to know if it was just a one-time sizzle or if the fireworks are still there.

My trip back to Holloway was even better than the last! Spence was the perfect balance of smart and sexy with shake-your-head-he's-such-a-man. This short story was so emotionally charged between the devastation of a marriage gone wrong that Lila was dealing with and the lifetime of women leaving (starting with his own mother) to complicate his commitment issues on Spence's end of things.

All the smexy lovin' happened behind closed doors but this story was SO good, it didn't even matter. The emotions were intense, the tortured hero just right, and the "moment of truth" so satisfying that even though it wrapped up a bit quick, it was easily forgivable.

The growth that he showed in just a few chapters was truly a joy to read and made it hard to stay mad once he decided to finally make the dive into the unknown with the woman he found himself willing to risk being with - whether she stayed or left.

Grade: B+

"Ask Her at Christmas" by Chrisi Barth

This short was about best friends, Caitlin and Kyle. BFFs since high school, they take care of each other, lean on each other, talk each other to sleep every night... and hold back their true feelings in order to keep the friendship at a safe level. Unfortunately, when Kyle pops the question and reveals that Caitlin is his "practice run", she might have lost him for good.

Kyle explains that he is proposing to his girlfriend of six months to make his father proud and to solidify a merger between the two families companies. He figures that even thought it's essentially a business transaction, he'd put a little effort into it to try to at least base the marriage in respect and friendship.

Although the romantic in Caitlin is completely horrified (I'd feel the same way!) she has always supported Kyle and won't stop now. She does everything she can to plan a romantic proposal, giving him plenty of Christmas-y ideas like the ice rink, a fairy tale ending in front of Macy's Christmas windows, and a surprise Christmas gift. Nothing seems right to Kyle but as the days to Christmas tick down, the plan gets more real, and he doesn't know if he can go through with it.

It was absolute torture watching Kyle try to please his dad by ruining not only his life, but Caitlin's. These two are so perfect for each other that while rooting for them you go from wanting to beat him over the head with a blunt object one moment, to cheering like a crazy person the next!

This story will make you fall in love, get pissed, stand proud, and swoon in 24,000 words - in short, you'll love it!

Grade: A

"The Best Thing" by Jaci Burton

Tori has worked for Kent Construction for a few years, but the past 10 months have been especially difficult - ever since Brody Kent kissed her at the company Christmas party and she bolted. She's been in love with Brody for years, but can't let her heart get involved because of Brody's playboy reputation. She knows she wouldn't be able to handle being used and tossed aside by this man. So when Brody's brothers tell him to "fix it", he starts a dialogue with her that eventually ends in a magical weekend for the both of them... but can Tori get past her trust issues and can Brody finally man up and settle down?

I really liked Tori and Brody, but I think some background from the previous stories (this is book 3 in the series) would've helped frame their struggles a bit better. I also think that Tori had good reasons to be wary of Brody and while he did prove himself, I think she forgave him a little too easily. That's probably due to the nature of the short story though, because it's still a great tale of love and family with a Christmas twist!

Grade: B-

All three of these stories are the absolute perfect Christmas read, they're emotional without being overwhelming and will satisfy every hopeless romantic's need to swoon this holiday season!

*ARC provided by Carina Press via Netgalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Romancing the Holiday
by HelenKay Dimon, Jaci Burton, & Christi Barth
Release Date: December 3, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: A Love Untamed

Reviewed by Jen
 
As the newest member of the Feral Warriors, Fox is still trying to learn his place in the elite brotherhood.  It's a task made even more difficult by the fact that he came into his animal at the same time a group of tainted animal spirits found their hosts. 

He's barely instilled in Feral House when one of the tainted Ferals kidnaps Kara the Radiant, mate to the Feral leader and source of their power.  Now Fox and his new brothers must join forces with members of the sensual and powerful Ilinas to rescue Kara and bring her back home.

It becomes immediately clear that Melisande, second in command of the Ilinas, is meant to be Fox's mate.  That doesn't really go over big with either one of them. Fox is a playboy with no desire to settle down.  He thinks he can scratch his itch with Melisande and be done with it.  Melisande's issues, however, are far more complicated.  She is the victim of horrific abuse that she has never gotten over.  She has cut herself off from tender feelings to become a merciless killer for her people.  And she fears that if she lets any emotions in, she will shatter.

For longtime fans of the series, the book shows Melisande in a very new light.  She has done some coldhearted things in her past, but now we see why.  It may not be enough to make everyone warm to her, but suffice it to say, she has been through a lot.  Fox is pretty much your standard heartbreaker.  He is gorgeous and he knows it.  He loves playing the field and lives up to his reputation... until he realizes there has been a woman out there for him all along.

I like the world-building in this series for the most part, though it can get a little cheesy at times with the animal names and nicknames.  I like that Pamela Palmer isn't afraid to get dark with it  (though fortunately not as dark as in her Vamp City books.) In that vein, the way that Fox deals with Melisande's history of abuse went a long way to improving his character in my opinion. Though with the gray cloud of her past hanging over them, I didn't find the sex, well, all that sexy.

She does a good job on setting up a story for the side character Grizz.  Though it's a Wulfe story I really want.  Overall, I found the book pretty good, but I didn't emotionally invest enough for it to be great.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Avon


Click to purchase: Amazon
A Love Untamed
by Pamela Palmer
Release Date: December 26, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Last Kiss Goodnight

Reviewed by Jen
 
I absolutely love that Gena Showalter is expanding her Alien Huntress world with this spinoff series.  This story serves as a great introduction for new readers, but also fits very well with the existing books.  It has a sexy, unloved alpha-male... and a tortured heroine who hasn't allowed her difficult life to diminish the light of her spirit.

Vika grew up under the cruel hand of her father, the owner of a traveling circus.  His menagerie once held exotic animals. Now, members of otherworld races are caged and subjected to humiliation and torment.  Vika abhors her father's actions, but he is too powerful for her to stop.  When she has tried, it has earned her beating after beating, including one viscous attack that took her hearing. She realizes she must plan her escape quietly --and in the meantime, offer what kindness she can to the prisoners.

Solo is an otherworlder who works as a black-ops agent, essentially killing people who need to be killed.  He grew up only knowing love from his adopted parents. Everyone else turned their backs on him, calling him a freak and a monster.  Just moments after he was tasked with tracking down some missing aliens, he was incompacitated and sold into the circus.

At first, he lashed out, but it did no good. And slowly, he began to see the goodness in Vika.  She seems to see him as no one ever has, and her gentle crush on him has an effect he can't ignore.  The two grow closer and plot their escape. But can they really get out from under her father's thumb?

I enjoyed the romance.  It was actually very sweet. Vika is innocent to the ways of love, but it felt much more genuine than with so many ingenue heroines.  She has to compromise what she knows is right in order to survive, but she hangs onto her humanity no matter the cost.  Solo is solid mildly-tortured hero.  He had a solid foundation with his adopted parents, so he wasn't completely wrecked. But he struggles with the rejection of others and his assassin work doesn't leave him feeling altogether worthy of love.  It's quite nice to see them each find the love they never thought they would have.

There's not a lot of sex, though we did have some toward the end.  I would imagine it would be hard to work in, with Solo in a cage for so much of the book.  Also, notably lacking, is Showalter's fabulous wit and snark. This story is much more somber.

There's a good set-up for future books, centering on the other members of Solo's team who have gone missing.  And we're even treated to a cameo from Dallas!  Overall, I enjoyed it and look forward to the next installment... especially if it centers on John.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Pocket Books

Click to purchase: Amazon
Last Kiss Goodnight
by Gena Showalter
Release Date: December 26, 2012
Publisher: Pocket Books

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Review: The Boss's Fake Fiance

Reviewed by Allison
 
Melissa Bencher is at a fundraiser for her boss and his company when she sees her cheating bastard of an ex slide his way toward her across the dance floor. Since she can't get away, she grits her teeth and tries to stay cool. Unfortunately, the unapologetic twit gets under her skin (who could blame her - he slept with her [ex]best friend?!) and she ends up "confessing" her secret relationship with her boss, Garth Solen. Little does she know that when she wakes up the next morning the jealous idiot has told the paparazzi and now she and Garth are front page gossip news!

Although she is convinced she will lose her job, she's shocked when Garth asks her to keep up the charade. We learn that although her sexy boss is very private, he's also very family oriented and when his grandmother (the woman who raised him after his parents passed away) got so excited that he had finally found someone, he couldn't bring himself to break her heart. Especially since she's recovering from pneumonia and is having a hard time bouncing back.

And so a deal is struck. They pretend the engagement is real until his grandmother gets better and then they're done. Of course, that's not how the cookie crumbles...

Not another fake fiance story, you say? I'll admit, I was wary going into it but to be honest even though the name is corny as hell and way too obvious, the story and characters truly made up for it.

I really liked Melissa and how even though she had been hurt, she was open to the possibility of something else changing her life --and that even though she knew she shouldn't fall for Garth, she let herself do it anyway. That's my kind of girl! Even if it hurts, every one should have that great big REAL love once in their lives. Garth, on the other hand, did everything he could to avoid it. It was really interesting and a little heartbreaking to see what he had been through as a child and how that shaped him as an adult. I couldn't help but feel empathy for him when he revealed his condition at the end and how truly beat down the world made him about himself.

It was sexy and incredibly sweet, definitely a worthy read! I will make sure to go back and read about Melissa's brother, Brit, in Rules of Negotiation.

Grade: B+

*ARC Provided by Entangled Publishing
The Boss's Fake Fiance
by Inara Scott
Release Date: October 14, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: Slave to Sensation

Reviewed by Jen
 
It seems like people have been telling me for ages that I needed to read this series... and it turns out, they were right.  It is fast paced and sexy, with intriguing characters and cool world-building.  Now that I have started these books, I am going to have a hard time keeping myself from reading them all back-to-back.

This first installment provides the set-up for the series.  The world consists of three types of beings: humans, changeling, and Psy.  The changelings are shifters: passionate and fiery with some of the traits of their animals.  The Psy are cerebral. They wield various psychic gifts and link together in a group consciousness called the Psy-Net.  And for generations, they have worked to weed out emotions of any kind.  If any Psy shows evidence of feelings, they are "rehabilitated" --a nice way of saying, lobotomized.

Sascha has always known she was unlike her Psy brethren and she has worked her entire life to hide it.  That suddenly gets harder when a work arrangement thrusts changeling alpha Lucas into her orbit. She is attracted to him like she has never been to any man.  He is pretty hot for her too. But his motives for getting close to her are more complex.  The changelings know that there is a Psy serial killer on the loose, targeting shifters.  Lucas hopes Sascha can give him enough insight into her people to help him figure out why they are covering up the murders --and how to catch the killer.

I really enjoyed watching Lucas tear down the walls Sascha worked so hard to build around herself.   He is both playful and sexy, powerful, protective, and possessive.  But he doesn't cross the line into alpha-hole.  Not only is his romance with her satisfying, so are the bonds of family she forms with his pack. It's very nice to see her finally get the love she has always craved.  And to learn that she is so much more than anyone ever predicted.

We're introduced to a wealth of secondary characters that --no doubt-- will all be the heroes and heroines of future books.  And I am very excited to see where Nalini Singh takes their stories.

The book isn't perfect. I'll admit I got lost a couple of times as Sascha went into detail about her psychic exploits inside PsyNet, but at a certain point I just wrote it off as "sneaky psychic stuff" and called it a day.  But overall, I liked it a lot... and can't wait to continue on in the series.

Rating: B


Click to purchase: Amazon
Slave to Sensation
by Nalini Singh
Release Date: September 5, 2006
Publisher: Berkley Sensation

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Series Reading Order: Psy-Changeling

This is the reading order for the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh:


*Denotes novella
**Denotes free short story/ deleted scene provided by author

"Whisper of Sin" is listed as story 8.5 in the series, but takes place chronologically before Slave to Sensation.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: The Lady Most Willing

Reviewed by Jen
 
It's anthology, but not.  It's dubbed as "a novel in three parts" and I think that's a pretty fair assessment. Each author tackles a different couple, but all three love stories fall under the umbrella of a bigger picture.  And for the most part, I really liked it.

The basic story is this: a Scottish laird, who sees no prospect of a wife and child of his own, decides to find a matches for his two nephews and potential heirs.  So he kidnaps four eligible heiresses (and one stuffy duke by accident) and drags them back to his castle to put his plan in motion.  Snow keeps anyone from leaving, and everyone ends up finding their perfect match over the course of a few days.

Generally speaking, I really hate it when couples fall in love in such a short time, but the story had almost a fairy tale type feel that made me fixate on this less.  And though the individual love stories were clearly defined, I thought the authors did a fantastic job of working together to make it all flow together in a cohesive way.

The first third of the book was my favorite.  It features a lovely pairing between the stuffy duke, Bret, and Catronia, a lesser member of the nobility. The laird didn't really mean to kidnap either of them. After all, Catronia has no money to bring to a match with one of his nephews, and the duke is --well-- a man.  But they really make a great couple, as the duke found someone to look past his title for the first time and see him simply as John.

Part two featured the laird's uptight and proper nephew, Byron, and Fiona, the bespectacled redhead with a tattered reputation. This one was my least favorite of the three. I just didn't think Byron made an attractive hero and his affections toward Fiona seemed to come out of nowhere.

Part three focused on the laird's true heir, Robin, who has a reputation as a dissolute rake.  But Lady Cecily doesn't judge him on the gossip. She is a firm believer in true love, and (though neither realizes it right away) theirs was a case of love at first sight.  Robin really tries to stay away from Cecily, because he believes she deserves better than him, but she won't give up on what's in her heart.

The whole thing was very easy reading... sweet and fun. I was a bit sad when it was over.  Definitely worth reading for fans of historical romance.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Avon


Click to purchase: Amazon
The Lady Most Willing
by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Connie Brockaway
Release Date: December 26, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: The Reluctant Santa

Reviewed by Shelly
 
Yeah, Christmas is here and how do we know this? Other than the absolute craziness of our busy lives, the Christmas themed stories are out in full force. Well folks, I’ve got a good one here for you.

Colin McDermott is a self described Grinch who’s allergic to Christmas and everything surrounding it. By day, he’s a workaholic salesman for a software company, and by night, he’s an unsuspecting Santa. In order to win a coveted contest and the associated promotion Colin unknowingly goes to pitch his spiel to the small hospital where his ex-girlfriend from college works. Brooke Warren, Colin’s ex, is the assistant administrator at Crystal Mountain General Hospital. She has a five-year-old daughter and absolutely no friends outside of work. These two ex-lovers are accidentally (or is it?) reunited after six years. I was completely and totally hooked by the end of chapter one.

Suckered into playing Santa ‘for the children’ by Amelia Carter, event planner extraordinaire and all around donation guru, Colin grudgingly puts on the suit and goes to work. Poor emotionally stunted my-mother-didn’t-love-me Colin is so focused on making his first million he’s willing to do just about anything to get ‘er done, including putting on the dreadful Santa gear. While he’s playing it up to the kids, Colin meets a very special little girl. I really liked Colin, although he’s conflicted after meeting Brooke and her daughter again, all he wants to do is the right thing. How can you not like a guy like that?!?

Brooke was a great character, even though she had some issues – mainly stemming from her single-minded focus of raising her kids-- that I really kinda sorta felt sorry for her. This made her come off as one dimensional without interest or aspirations outside of raising her daughter. Don’t think I’m being mean hearted here.. her retired father was there to help her as much or as little as she wanted, so it wasn’t like she couldn’t take a night off and hang out with people her own age. Even with all that, I still enjoyed her. She and Colin really sparked on the pages. You could feel love/ hate/ anger/ love/ hate/ anger/ love as these two fell in love. Very well done.

The only complaint I have about this story is that the long-term situation that brings these two back into each others lives is repeated way too much.

The sex is pretty tame, the word ‘center’ is as naughty as it gets. If you’re for a nice quick treat for the holiday, I would definitely recommend that you pick this one up and give it a try.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

*Book provided by author for review 

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Reluctant Santa
by Sylvia McDaniel
Release Date: October 19, 2012
Publisher: Virtual Bookseller

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Crimson Frost

Reviewed by Jen
 
I think this is the strongest installment so far in Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series. It’s also the second book of hers this year that has left me feeling emotionally fragile.

The story starts off in a good place for Gwen, despite the fact that Loki is now free and ready start a Chaos War. That’s because she and Logan are finally together. After much angst and a great deal of waiting, they have both admitted their feelings to one another and are going on their first date. From there, though, everything starts to go downhill… fast.

Before the date even ends, members of the Mythos governing body –the Protectorate—place Gwen under arrest. She is accused of freeing Loki intentionally and a trial date is set. The student body turns against her; a guilty verdict seems a foregone conclusion. Making the situation worse, Gwen knows that the Reapers have something even worse on the horizon. But how can she beat them when her own future hangs in the balance?

I liked the whole Protectorate storyline. The leader, Linus, is such a dick. His righteous rhetoric is played to perfection. I love how he’s all tied in with Logan and how that plays into Gwen’s life even more. I enjoyed the new character Alexi and his surprising link to Gwen’s band of friends. The action was great. Gwen’s emotional turmoil was great. The bigger picture is advanced. And the end… well, let’s not linger too much on the end. Suffice it to say that Jennifer Estep likes making us work for our happy moments. I guess we’re not done working yet.

I had a pretty good inkling who things were going to go south for about halfway through the book, but didn’t find the other elements of the climax to be very predictable. I just wish we could get a little more of a mature dynamic in the relationship department. It doesn’t have to be dirty or anything, but it feels very innocent for 17. (Maybe this would be less bothersome for folks who are bigger YA fans. I read these because I love Estep… not necessarily the genre.)

Gwen is getting stronger and stronger. While in some of the past books that has played out with her magical gifts, here it’s a different kind of strength, the internal kind. I hope she wipes the floor with those Reapers in Midnight Frost.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon 
  Crimson Frost
by Jennifer Estep
Release Date: December 24, 2012
Publisher: Kensington

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Undercover Professor

Reviewed by Allison
 
Dr. Drew Sullivan is a famous sexy gaming sociology professor (so many oxymorons in one place) who is looking to do a social experiment about female gamers, but since everyone knows him in Portland, Oregon he decides to move clear across country to Wisconsin. There he can simultaneously help his mom out after hip surgery and gain the anonymity that he needs in order to get the most accurate results possible from his interviews as "Andy" Sullivan - the scruffy yet amiable drifter. Which is when he meets Lucy Benoit, and his life gets both more fun and complicated all at once.

Lucy can't help but be drawn to the sexy guy she met in the laundry room downstairs, but she's got strict rules to follow:

Rule Number One: Must not lie.
Rule Number Two: Must not live with parents.
Rule Number Three: Must have a job.
Rule Number Four: Must not be a friend's ex.

They are set in place for a very good reason... which seems to fly out of her mind every time she finds herself in the same place as him.

As they become closer as friends, the pull between them is not something they can deny...but how can it last when he can't tell her who he really is and she hates lying more than anything?

I really enjoyed the characters in this story. They both did a lot of growing up (which every reader appreciates) as they learned a lot from each other as well as the relationship itself.

Andy was incredibly endearing in the way that he took such good care of his mom and, even when he doesn't mean to, of Lucy. He may have been an alpha male but he was a sweet and nerdy one. Although Lucy's family was clearly nutso, I enjoyed her crazy cousin (well, when she wasn't trying to land Andy) and am glad she ended up with who she did.

With a very emotional conclusion, the story wraps up with a smile on your face and a new author in your pocket! Definitely recommend this debut tale and as Shelly always says - Happy Reading!

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
  Undercover Professor
by December Gephart
Release Date: November 19, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: All I Want for Chrisrnas Is a Duke

Reviewed by Jen
 
This duology features two fantastic novellas, featuring historical Christmas romances.  I would absolutely recommend, since I adored them both.

"Merry Christmas, Mrs Robinson" - I really, really enjoyed this one!! Years ago, Jane fell in love with a secret admirer.  A man who called himself only Mr. X sent her beautiful letters... letters she responded to in kind.  She had no idea they were coming from Martin, a younger friend who never believed she would return his affection if she knew who she was.  When an older, dashing man came forward, claiming to be Mr. X, Jane believed him and married him.  It only took a couple of weeks for his lies to surface and for Jane to demand a divorce.  Only, her husband dropped dead before he could grant her wish.

It's been eight years since that happened.  Martin, who left town when Jane got married, is back.  And circumstances bring him back into Jane's life.  This time, however, he refuses to hide who he is and how he feels.  Can they find love after all that has happened?

This story was so good!  The characters were so engaging. It's impossible not to root for Martin as reaches for his dream of a life with Jane.  The sexual tension is palpable. The sex is hot.  And in just 100 pages or so, Delilah Marville had me completely emotionally invested in their future.  Loved.

"The 12 Days of Seduction" - The day Adrianna has long dreaded has finally come to pass.  Her employer has finally learned about her past and real identity. She had adopted a softer, more proper, persona as governess to Alexander's daughter.  The position, and the child, have come to mean the world to her.  But all is not lost. Alexander wants her as his mistress. She challenges him to seduce her and as he works to do that, he ends up peeling back the layers of Adrianna's true self she has hidden for so long.

Adrianna has worked hard to shed her horrible past, and she is a good person. I loved watching Alexander discover what a treasure she is. Just the right combination of romance and sensuality, this novella really hit the spot.

It's rare for a novella to truly satisfy for me, but both of these really did.  I was already a fan of Marvelle, but now I won't hesitate to try more from Clairmont.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Entangled via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke
by Delilah Marvelle & Marie Claremont
Release Date: December 5, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review: Plenty of Love

Reviewed by Shelly
 
This is not my first read by this author, but it is the first read that I’ve liked.

Hair salon owner Becca Parks has fallen for orthopedic surgeon Mark Miller and attorney Travis Andrews. Mark and Travis are already a couple and have been for fifteen years. For the last five years, they’ve been on the lookout for a third, specifically a woman, and believe that they’ve found her in Becca.

I’m going to have to assume that there’s some back story in Plenty, FL 1-2 with these three but alas, I didn’t read those so I’m treating this as a stand-alone in the series. You know what, I wouldn’t mind living in Plenty, FL, where the tolerance for how you want to live your life is high and the judgment factor is very low.

Becca has been in hot-like with Mark and Travis for quite some time but she doesn’t think that there’s any chance of a relationship or a future with them because let’s face it – they’re gay. Smart girl! BUT there’s a crinkle, both Mark and Travis not only find Becca very attractive and likeable, they also think that she’s their future.

What I really, really, really liked about this story was that although Mark and Travis are both alpha males and very much dedicated to each other, they had lives outside of the bedroom and we got to see it. We got to see them becoming involved in the local community and really growing friendships outside of their threesome.

I completely enjoyed that Becca’s angst and reasons for hesitancy in the relationship were not only addressed by her, but also by Mark and Travis. They were definitely not skimmed over, but were smartly and reassuringly provided by the duo. Mark and Travis wanted to show and prove to Becca that she would be the center of their world and she could count on them for any and everything. Oh man, how refreshing that was to read in an m/m/f. I will not accuse this author of this – but some of the stories I’ve read where there’s an established relationship (especially between the two guys) tend to overwhelm the story where the female is very much a secondary/afterthought to much of the relationship. So, kudos to Valentine for convincing me that it’s possible to have a good storyline involving this scenario.

There are a lot of secondary characters who had their own stories in the previous two books, including Becca’s father and his two spouses and Becca’s two brothers and their wife. Cassie, Zach and Chase from Plenty to Come (Plenty, FL #1) and Jillian, Ryan and Jackson from Plenty to Learn (Plenty, FL #2). Addie, one of Becca’s volunteer services recipients, is as cute as a button and I wouldn’t be surprised if that little old woman had a speckled past, if ya know what I mean.

Last but not least, the sex scenes were well written and super-duper steamy, not too raunchy but not too good girl either. I would definitely recommend this read for those looking for a believable story line for m/m/f. Yep, I wanna go back to Plenty, FL and soon.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

Plenty of Love
by Lara Valentine
Release Date: November 23, 2012
Publisher: Siren

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: A Feast of Souls

Reviewed by Jen
 
I continue to be impressed with this great fantasy romance series.  I really enjoyed book one and this second installment is just as strong.  The world building is fresh and woven skillfully throughout the story.  The characters are well-drawn and easy to root for. And the romance really hits the spot, with just the right blend of emotional pull and sexual tension.

We first met our hero and heroine in A Hint of Frost. Mana is still in Araneidae territory, where she was brought after saving her cousin Rhys's life.  Vaughn, Rhys's half-brother, is supposed to escort her home.  Their journey takes on another layer when he is charged with bringing along Pascale for Mana's people to watch over. The young woman has been sentenced to indentured servitude for her actions in the last book.  But a neighboring clan wants Pascale dead for killing their heir.  The threat from that clan makes the long trip, through icy terrain, even more dangerous.

Along the way, Mana --who can communicate with the dead-- comes in contact with Vauhn's father.  He has his own agenda.  The story follows Mana and Vaughn's journey, first to her home... then to his.  The two have been attracted to one another for years, but the more time they spend together, the stronger their feelings become.  Mana fears giving in to her desires, since her people believe in soul mates and she never dreams Vaughn could be hers. So their feelings are forbidden, which of course makes them even more delicious.

Vaughn is very tough --and the heir to his people's throne. But there is great vulnerability in him. He's never felt first in anyone's heart.  And Mana, well, she is innocent in the ways of love, but she is powerful and driven to do the right thing --even if means facing the deadly plague threatening Vaughn's people.

There's a lot happening in the story --too much to try to map out here-- but it flowed together very well.  I felt so immersed in the world, the story, and the romance, that I did not want to put it down.   Simply put, I am a big fan of these books.  If you enjoy fantasy at all, I definitely recommend you give them a try.

Rating: A-

*ARC provided by author for review  


Click to purchase: Amazon
A Feast of Souls
by Hailey Edwards
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Publisher: Samhain

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review: Ripe for Seduction


Reviewed by Jen
 
I have always enjoyed Isobel Carr's League of Second Sons series, but I really had trouble connecting with this one.  It got better for me as the story progressed. The first half, though, just didn't reel me in.

The story follows Lady Olivia as she struggles to overcome the social stigma of finding out her marriage was invalid.  She had no idea she had married a bigamist --she followed all of society's rules-- but she is considered damaged goods, nonetheless.  She still has her beauty and a hefty dowry, and her father is pushing her back into society.

In a drunken stupor, Roland Devere sends her a scandalous proposition, and Olivia is smart enough to turn his insult to her advantage.  She tells his family and hers that he has proposed marriage. He knows that if he exposes the lie, she'll produce the letter. They make the deal to front a phony engagement long enough to insulate her from the ton, then she'll call it off and retire to the country.  Of course, in their time together, the ruse becomes a reality.

The two are attracted to each other right off the bat. And Devere is set on getting Olivia into bed.  But one of the first problems I had with the book is how many liberties she allows him early on.  As much as she is determined not to be with him, she acquiesces to some mighty big physical advances, over and over again. Then she goes back to acting like there is nothing between them. It just didn't ring true.

I found that really preferred the secondary romance between Olivia's father, Phillip, and Devere's sister, Margo. That one kept me guessing and I thought their exchanges were both genuine and very, very sexy.

Like I said, the book did improve for me in the second half, especially once there was some actual conflict between Olivia and Devere --and the author began really pulling the threads of the book together.  But the main romance never really bowled me over. I just didn't get the same pull or dynamic from them that I got from Phillip and Margo.  Those two saved the story for me.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Forever via NetGalley


Click to purchase: Amazon
Ripe for Seduction
by Isobel Car
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Publisher: Forever

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: Last Regress

Reviewed by Shelly
 
Alyssa Matthews works at ‘weird central’ for the Institute of Paranormal Research Cambridge (sounds fancy, doesn’t it?) as a researcher for the past two years. She’s a workaholic who has one friend (sounds sad, doesn’t it?) She’s decides to take on a new assignment and write a story about an old case, Cain Andrew. Years ago, he died from burns resulting from Spontaneous Human Combustion (sounds real, doesn’t it?) I’m can’t say that I’m a fan of this type of paranormal story but I appreciate the story telling for what it is, and as this is my first read from this author, so I was really looking forward to it.

Folks, this is a dark tale. there are really scary (to me) monsters at night and death all around. There are some light moments that added a nice blend and those really kept me going. Alyssa is very much a loner, she was an orphan at a young age, grew up in foster care, and didn’t create any social connections at all during her childhood. After aging out of the system, she finds a home to invest in and meets her neighbor and only friend, Greg.

During her investigation of Cain, Alyssa finds herself questioning her sanity. She begins to lose it – what’s real and what’s part of her nightmare. But through it all she finds herself falling in love with Cain because he offers comfort and protections from the boogey man. I thought Alyssa was a great character and the pacing of her development was well done. I don’t think that she ever became what I would consider well-rounded, but she’s able to socially function. (*spoiler*) I had a big problem with was Alyssa’s decision that suicide was her only choice to be with the one she loved. I really didn’t see that coming at all and I definitely didn’t agree.

Cain’s existed in an alternate plane where he was able to have knowledge of the present and the past, but not the future. I thought this was an interesting way to handle his non-human existence and still have him be an active member in the story. Along with that, there were some characters, especially Nathaniel, that I thought had very interesting stories to tell.

I must admit that I didn’t quite understand Cain and his reasons for choosing goth as his chosen expression. He’s 33 for goodness sake, maybe I just think of goth as a teenage/young adult genre. But I digress. For me that didn’t take away from the story, I would have just liked to know a little more his background and why he made the choices he did. His selfish actions to finesse his musical career were a little too much for me, considering he starting dealing in witchcraft and dark forces while not knowing the repercussion of his actions (sounds scary, doesn’t it?) Like I said, this is a dark tale.

There was a single sex scene in the story and it didn’t tickle my fancy at all (not one bit – no way, no how) even though it was appropriate for the time and place. It actually gave me the willies a little bit.

If you like ‘em dark and HEA this is the one for you!

Rating: B-

*Book provided by author for review


Click to purchase: Amazon
Last Regress
by Rachael Thorne
Release Date: July 15, 2012

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: The Bridegroom Wore Plaid


Reviewed by Jen
 
I have mixed feelings on this book.  There were things I really liked about it. The primary romance was well done. I liked the hero and the heroine.  And though the progression of their love story was predictable, I really enjoyed watching them fall in love.  However, there are too many subplots that are not fleshed out --side stories with great potential-- that left me feeling like I missed things and confused at times.

At the center of the story is Ian, the presumptive heir to a Scottish title.  He is a wonderful laird who faces financial straights.  As so many others did before him, he decides he must marry a woman with a large dowry to secure the future of his people.  It appears that woman will be Genie Daniels, a well-dowered English woman who comes to his land with her family to make a titled match.  No one has any illusions about what the marriage would be: Ian gets the money he needs and Genie gets the title her family wants.  Only, it's not quite so simple.

Genie has no desire to marry Ian. Her horrible father is forcing her.  But her cousin Augusta sees in Ian all the wonderful things Genie can't.  He is handsome, smart, and loyal.  Augusta and Ian strike up a friendship that quickly makes way to something more, despite the fact that they both realize they can have no future together.  It's bittersweet as they fall deeply in love, seeing no chance at long lasting happiness.

In the meantime, Genie is setting her sights on Ian's brother Gil. Her brother is falling for Ian's sister.  And even the chaperone, Julia, is getting action with brother number three, Connor. Generally, I love some good secondary romances, and all of these could have held up their own stories, but it wasn't done that way.  We would jump in and out of these pairings without witnessing key events in their development.  We hear about things that had happened off page, and I often found myself flipping back in the book to make sure I hadn't missed entire scenes that were being referenced. This happened several times and left me feeling off balance and annoyed.  (Especially since some the events sound like they would have been very entertaining to read.)

While all of this matchmaking is going on, there is also danger afoot.  Augusta's horrible uncle is trying to kill her. It's not explicitly stated why from the beginning, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.  He was really more of a caricature of a villain than one you could really sink your teeth into.

But despite my complaints,  I really did enjoy Augusta and Ian's romance.  I felt like I knew and understood them both.  They were easy to root for and they stirred my emotions.  The sexual tension was hot. The sex was good.  And the ending satisfied.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Bridegroom Wore Plaid
by Grace Burrowes
Release Date: December 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spotlight & Giveaway: Second Chances



Second Chances: Spotlight on the Characters



We all know what it’s like to lose out in love … but what if you get a second chance at happiness?

Will you grab it, or run?

The Second Chances anthology is a collection of male/male short stories on finding love again.

Non-Negotiable by T. D. Green
Heart of Glass by L. J. Harris
Better Together by DaNay Smith
Dirty Martini by Bette Browne
Notice to Appear by C. C. Lorenz


Read more »

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Review: Prophecy of the Undead

Reviewed by Shelly
 
Fiona McGier where have you been all my life?!? This is my first but definitely not my last of her books. I’m actually hoping for a series out of this story (yes, this is a shameless plea).

Prophecy of the Undead starts out with a bang and it doesn’t let up. Neurobiologist Keisha Brown is working for a company with some slightly shady (to say the least) financial backers. Growing up poor and being the first in her family to graduate high school much less going on to college, Keisha is on a mission. Not only does she want to be better that where she came from, she’s determined to solve the mystery behind  intelligence. Yuri Kazakov, hottie Russian vampire, has his own agenda. He’s been reading up on Keisha’s research to see if she can help him find out the biological (or non-biological) reason that vampires came into being.

McGier writes a fun and interesting take that pleasantly strays from the formulaic vampire tale. There’s no mistake that these people are even remotely alive, and I think it’s with this rationale that we’re able to see them do things that are clearly not for the living and sometimes just plain old silly. I couldn’t agree more with the social commentaries, so thanks for saying it (‘cause it’s true). But I’m drifting – back on task.

After Yuri’s rescue of Keisha from some straight-up-vicious foul-mouthed thugs, the rubber meets the road and Keisha has to choose if she wants to live.  She makes the right choice. Then finding out the repercussions of her newly ‘differently animated’ anatomy, these two set off on a fast-paced adventure to find out more about Yuri’s questions. There’s a lot of information (some will make sense, the other will give you a nice giggle) that’s found out along the way.

I can’t give away too much because the book is relatively short and is a very quick read (I read it in one sitting). Before I go, I have to tell you about Casimiro and Apolinar – these are two OLD vampire dudes are also lovers. Argh, I couldn’t stand them initially, because they were two of the most pompous and self-aggrandizing vampires EVER. But but but, they actually turned out to be a bit more than meets the eye and I found myself really starting to like them after their experiences with Keisha. Oh, and then there’s Caesar, the Latin Lover, who is such a sweet talker you couldn’t help but like him from the get go.

I really enjoyed this story and I would like to see Keisha and Yuri in a follow up, not because the story was left without satisfactory resolution, but because McGier really created a world that I would like to read more of.

"What happened with the sex?" you say – well, these two are no slouches in that department either. Yuri knows where his bread is buttered and he’s definitely taking care of business (if ya know what I mean).

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon or Enter to Win
Prophecy of the Undead
by Fiona McGrier
Release Date: November 7, 2012
Publisher: Eternal Press

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: The Importance of Being Wicked

Reviewed by Jen
 
Money has been tight for Caroline since the death of her husband Robert.  The two eloped when she was just 17 and their seven years of marriage were a whirlwind of parties, fun, and artistic expression. Really, the only things of value she has left are her memories, her old friends, and the painting of Venus that Robert bought for her before he died.  She sold everything else to pay off his debts, but allowed herself to keep the one painting that reminded her of his love.

Caroline is serving as chaperone to her cousin Anne when Thomas comes calling for the young woman.  Thomas is very proper... stuffy, even.  But Caro thinks he would be good to her cousin.  Anne is just what Thomas needs - a combination of a good bloodline and a sizeable dowry.  But it's Caro who heats his blood.  And the attraction goes both ways.  It's only a matter of time before they stop trying to fight it.

The story got better for me as it developed. The first half moved a bit slowly at times as we laid the groundwork for the relationship.  I got tired of Caro extolling the virtues of her late husband, who was clearly a cad.  Especially since Thomas is such a good guy.  He is steadfast and stalwart and his inexperience and naivete are all the more attractive in contrast to Robert.

The sexual element of the relationship is well done.  I enjoyed the tension as Caro worked to seduce Thomas and the payoff was good as she taught him the ways of physical love. (He is not virgin, by the way, but he has a lot to learn.)

There is not a huge conflict here, at least not an external one.  The biggest hurdle to face is for the two to get over their issues -- especially Caro.  And waiting for this to happen got frustrating at times.  But overall, I enjoyed this one.

Rating:  B

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Importance of Being Wicked
by Miranda Neville
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: Men of Smithfield: Adam and Holden

Reviewed by Jen
 
I wouldn't call my love affair with the Men of Smithfield "over," but I think maybe this installment took a little blush off the rose.  I didn't really dislike it, but I don't have the urge to gush over it the same way that I did with the first two books.  I didn't laugh nearly as much and the romance was a little less my cuppa tea.

The story centers on Holdon, a rich 40 year-old agoraphobic living in Smithfield.  He's a popular writer with a successful tv show under his belt, but his life fell apart a few years back when his lover outed him on national television.  Now, he sits at home with only his brother and housekeeper for company. Well, that is true until he hires Adam, a sexy new gardener.

Adam is beautiful --and 24.  Holden thinks himself a dirty old man for wanting him, but he can't help it.  Adam has a troubled family history and trouble making connections with people, yet it doesn't take very long for something to spark between him and his boss.

As this new attraction plays out, a body turns up buried in Holden's backyard --and his dubious reputation makes him the town's prime suspect.  Especially when the rumor starts flying that the corpse is Holden's ex.  The story follows the romance between Holden and Adam, the murder-mystery, and Holden's struggle to overcome his fears and deal with his past.

I didn't love Holden. I can't really wrap my brain around his agoraphobia, but even worse, I just didn't like his voice.  The fact that he kept belaboring the fact that Adam was an innocent kid --that he was hired help-- just kind of squicked me out a little.  The fact that Adam looked young enough to be in high school while Holden was 40 bothered me, even though he was legal. And though I know he had an illness, Holden just felt like a skeevy wuss to me. --As for Adam, I never really felt like I knew him, or what it was about Holden that attracted him.  The love declarations came way too early.  And the murder caper was a bit over the top.

I'm not giving up hope on the series, though. I thought the first two were fabulous.  Maybe the next one will ring my bell.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley


Click to purchase: Amazon
Men of Smithfield: Adam and Holden
by LB Gregg
Release Date: November 26, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: The Mercenary's Marriage

Reviewed by Shelly
 
Former slave Darius Aarin Laris serves his King, Simon Jenran of Braulyn well. So well, in fact, that he’s gained his freedom. Not only is his freedom secure, Darius has bargained for certain privileges after missions. After this particular mission to confront an enemy, Darius decides to hold the King to his word – he wants Brice as his wife. He says it’s to protect her but he wanted her for more than that. Brice Wrlyn Ashlyn, born a slave, only knows the hand she’s dealt. She literally began her life as the whipping girl for Lord Micrey’s daughter, Gwendolyn. Darius and Brice’s journey takes them from one battle into another, in a time when men fought hard for land, title and coin. Yummy!

Even though he’s been trained as a mercenary soldier, Darius is a compassionate man - quite perfect for Brice, and because of his upbringing does not abuse those around him. But Brice had to learn that through trust and time. Lucky girl. He’s faithfully served his King for many years and in reward is trusted and respected by his King. I really liked Darius.  He’s the quiet, strong type but when he speaks, it’s certainly not wasted – he’s a hunk of delicious man meat.

What can I say about Brice, other than she was a delight to know. When she first lays eyes on Darius, you just knew she saw the man and not the scars or the battle fatigue. She was anxious and fearful without being either clingy or ill tempered. I thought her fears of Darius were perfectly justifiable because of her past with the men in her life and really the age in which she lived. And even better and most perfect actually, she can take a licking and keep on ticking. Don’t worry, it’s not by Darius’s hand. As a matter of fact, Brice totally reminds me of those tough women that I read about in my younger years - if you’ve ever read Judith McNaught’s Westmoreland series, I’m positive you’ll like this too.

There were so many other characters that made up this great story – Ewian and Karyn, the good doctor Kurt, Trenar and many more. All of them quite lovely to know.

Although this is a pretty short story (about 91 pages on e-book) there’s absolutely nothing missing in either the characters development or story line. Oh by the way, there’s no sex but I guarantee you will not miss it.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: A-

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Mercenary's Marriage
by Rachel Rossano
Release Date: July 15, 2011
Publisher: lulu.com

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review: Unforeseen

Reviewed by Allison
 
Alex Crocker is a middle school teacher that has always had incredible "intuition" about people. She didn't think much about it, until while out on a run one night, she gets nabbed by what she later finds out are vampires. She got caught in the crosshairs of a battle in the centuries old war between two covens...or at least, that's what everyone thought. When "Knower" Sage finds he can't erase her memory, he knows that she's not the average human and takes her back to headquarters to keep her safe while finding out more about the anomaly. She fights being questioned for a long time but after finally getting some answers, she begins to learn more about the world she's been thrust into.

The Q&A session between Alex and the Regan (the head of the coven) is essentially how Ms. Grimley chooses to build her world. Alex asks something in order to understand her situation better and gets a history lesson in return that conveniently explains it to the reader as well.

There isn't much character development, which is disappointing as three of the vamps that befriend Alex -- Sage (the aforementioned Knower), Markus (a traditional but adorable vamp who becomes the love interest), and Rocky (the youngest vamp in the group who is serving a sentence by working for the Regan)-- are all great characters. Unfortunately, I personally wasn't a fan of Alex herself. I thought she was obnoxiously loud, rude, impatient, and she hurt Rocky! On purpose! Not cool, Alex, not cool.

There was a mystery element to the story as she went on the journey to try to figure herself out as a "Seer" and what all her gifts entailed as well as a family enigma that wasn't quite solved by the end. I honestly had high hopes for this book, but had the hardest time finishing it. The plot was too strung out, it didn't piece together soon enough, and the love story completely lacked spark. I liked Markus and Alex together, but there was no way I could believe they loved each other after a couple of walks around the compound. It would've been a lot more plausible to put her with Sage since they could read each other.

Overall, it wasn't a terrible read, but I was not impressed.

Grade: D

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Unforeseen
by Lauren Grimley
Release Date: April 26, 2012
Publisher: Malachite Quills Publishing
 

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review: Winter Fairy

Reviewed by Shelly
 
This is my first Christmas story for this year and my first from this author so you could see why I was really happy to get started.

Ballerina Penelope Glazier is back in her hometown to recuperate from an injury. To earn some extra money, she decides to teach a creative movement class where the precocious Eloise Langley is one of her star students. Carson Langley, Eloise’s father and the resident town widower and doctor, not only doesn’t trust Penelope, he’s also hopeless attracted to her. Ooh, I couldn’t wait to find out what road will be traveled for their happy ever after.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this is a sweet and even heart-tugging story about a couple choosing to be together versus circumstances making it convenient and easy. Penelope is a free spirit - she’s not conventional in either her occupation or the way she gives and cares for those around her. She does tend to live a bit in her imagination, after all she teaches movement to young children so you’ve got to have a pretty big imagination for that to be successful. I didn’t find these things to be negative because she’s definitely not afraid to work hard to make her dreams come true. There were many sacrifices that she had to go through when growing up, because we all know that you hit your prime as a dancer early and it definitely doesn’t last forever. I really admired her fortitude for sticking with it and not letting the daily distractions, including love, hold her back from living a life with no regrets.

Her relationship with Eloise was my absolute favorite. How many people can gain and hold the attention of a six year old little girl? Penelope’s ‘free spirit’ really shined and won me over by giving Eloise the inspiration and approval to use her imagination. There’s no better gift you can give a child.

Widower Carson was almost a lost cause. Still in love with a wife who’s been gone for three years, he really tested my patience at times. But he did rally through when crunch time came. There were times when I was so proud of Penelope for not giving into his surliness and in the end I did enjoy the way he grew from such a sourpuss to a person who was worthy of both Penelope and Eloise.

Penelope’s family was a cute and welcome addition to the storyline; what an awesome Mom she had. Eloise’s maternal grandparents I thought were a bit of a handful but hey, that’s the beauty of family – they’re not all the same.

The attraction between Penelope and Carson was well written and I could really feel it. The sex was tame but still good. I would definitely recommend this short story especially if you’re looking for something to get in the Christmas spirit.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review


Click to purchase: Amazon
Winter Fairy
by Lola Karns
Release Date: September 17, 2012
Publisher: Crimson Romance

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Review: Provoked


Reviewed by Jen
 
After I read Consumed earlier this year, I told myself I would go and read the backlist on this series.  Now, reading this latest installment, I am renewing my pledge to do just that. This series is really cool. It's got great world-building with continuing threads that span from book to book.  Yet, Rebecca Zanetti makes it easy to jump in as a new reader.  She manages to fill you in with everything that's been happening in a way that seamlessly folds into the story.  It's good stuff.

This is Kane's love story. He is the analytical, brilliant adviser and brother to the king of the vampire people.  Their youngest brother, Jase, is being held captive by the demons and he has a plan to rescue him.  It requires finding and drafting a demon destroyer.  And wouldn't you just know that one is broadcasting her abilities loud and clear??

Amber has no idea of what she is.  In fact, she is an adamant pacifist.  But Kane isn't the only one picking up her unintentional signal.  The demons are after her too --and once the danger becomes obvious, she throws her lot in with Kane and agrees to help him.

I can't say I was in love with Amber as a heroine.  Her tree-hugging sensibilities were hard for me to connect with.  And I felt like a little too fine a point was put on her forcing her veganism and other preferences on everyone else.  But that was probably the only thing I didn't enjoy about the book. I liked Kane... his intensity and his honesty.  I thought the sexual tension was hot and so was the bedroom action.

The secondary stories were great. I was really into the sidestory with Jase... and even more wrapped up in what is happening with young Janie and the two men in her life.  Clearly, this has been an arc percolating for a long time.  And when the payoff comes, that book is going to rock my socks off.  I'm feeling like Zane is the obvious choice for her, but part of me carries a little hope for Kalin. (Is that wrong?)  Honestly, their history is the biggest reason I want to go back and read the older books.

There are plenty of action and battle scenes.  Plenty of scheming and machinations.  It's all layered in with the romance and the b- and c-plots.  I love books that are intricate in this way. Especially when the author can pull it all off without being confusing.  (Which she totally does.)

Well done.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Kensington via NetGalley


Click to purchase: Amazon
Provoked
by Rebecca Zanetti
Release Date: November 1, 2012
Publisher: Kensington

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