Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: Lick

Reviewed by Janell
 
Holy cow, you guys. This book. This is the book. Grade: A

Oh, you want more? Fine. Evelyn spends her 21st birthday in Las Vegas, planning to get drunk and have sex. Instead, she gets very, very drunk and marries a rock star. She wakes up in her hotel bathroom with a giant diamond ring on her finger and a hot shirtless guy watching her. With no memories of the night before, she freaks out, vomits, and makes her new husband angry enough that he storms out, planning to annul the marriage.

This story works because of the characters. It’s narrated by Evelyn, and she is not stupid. She knows that getting married at 21 is a bad idea and would interfere with her career plans. She’s also observant, self-aware, brave, and self-deprecating (“If I were him, I’d divorce me and never look back.” “Marriage sucked and husbands were the worst.” “How horrible, being forced to live in the lap of luxury with my wonderful husband. Poor me. I needed a good slap.”).

David, the wonderful husband in question, is not the typical tortured, angsty, alpha male. He has issues, but no big tragedy that he wallows in. He’s not overbearing and controlling. He will punch a guy who touches his woman, but he’ll also listen to his woman explain the touching without going all rage Neanderthal on her. He has a temper, but he also likes to cuddle. He is awesome.

I was so pleasantly surprised by all of the conversations Evelyn and David had. They honestly wanted to figure out a way to make their crazy relationship work. There were no big secrets or silly misunderstandings. Evelyn even knows that withholding information is lying, and that, “if [she] had to demand his faith and affection, it didn’t mean a damn thing.” She’s so opposite of the too-stupid-to-live heroine that it makes me giddy.

Of course they have hot sex all over the place. It takes a little while to happen but then makes up for the delay. Of course they run into some bumps and break up. The fallout is realistic, the make-up is fantasy. I know, the whole plot is fantasy, but the way it’s written made it seem so believable.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to ruin the experience for you. Just go. Read it. Go on now.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by Momentum

Click to purchase: Amazon
Lick
by Kylie Scott
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Publisher: Momentum

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Review: Love at First Date

Reviewed by Janell
 
This is a cute fairy tale disguised as a contemporary novella. Ellen, recently turned 30, is ready to marry and have two children. Her mother, now on her third marriage, has drilled into Ellen the mantra that compatibility is the key to a successful relationship. To that end, Ellen has joined an online dating service to screen out anyone who might prefer paragliding over walks on the beach, and to include only honest, successful men ready for marriage.

As the story opens, Ellen has narrowed her choices down to two matches. She is prepared to meet them face to face and begin her lifetime of shared goals and political views. But wait! First she has to dog-sit for her best friend, which leads to an evening at the vet, which leads to dog-training school and Henry. Henry is an unscreened, unknown, dog-rescuing, gray-eyed hottie in sweatpants. What should Ellen do?

Ellen forces herself to meet the two appropriate men, all the while daydreaming about Henry. Because he has nice eyes and a nice dog. What’s not to love? Over three nights of dog training she dreams, she doubts, she focuses, she despairs. In the end, everything works out, yay!

This is a short romance, I read it in about an hour. It introduces other characters who have their own full-length novels in the series. Based upon the writing style, the other books should be light, breezy, and fun. This story was pretty much building up to a kiss at the finale, so the heat factor was almost zero. I wonder how steamy the other books are? I probably won’t read them because I felt this story was too fluffy, too “waiting for Prince Charming”. But I bet my fourteen-year-old self would have fallen for it completely.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
Love at First Date
by Susan Hatler
Release Date: October 31, 2012
Publisher: Hatco

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Deja VooDoo

Reviewed by Carrie

This is the third book in Elle James’ Cajun Magic series but the first one for me. I didn’t have any trouble hopping in and understanding the world. The book is set in the atmospheric swamps of Louisiana’s Cajun country in the small town of Bayou Miste where alligators are kept as pets and the local Voodoo Queen is revered. Alexandra (Alex) Boyette is trying to keep her head above water while running her gym and helping her mom care for Alex’s 19 siblings. Ed Marceaux is an undercover Baton Rouge cop in town to protect a high profile witness. When Alex’s scheming Mama pairs them up at a family dinner, an instant connection is made.

Had the plot stuck to this storyline, I feel like the book could have succeeded. At the beginning of the book, the Voodoo Queen gives Alex a gris gris bag that turns Alex’s dog, Sport, into man to supposedly help cure her loneliness. This was supposed to be the charming and quirky part of the book but, unfortunately, it just seemed out of place and kept me from enjoying the main story.

Ed was a good fish-out-of-water character being the city cop trying to pretend he’s a backwoods fisherman. The author doesn’t get too heavy handed with his troubled childhood backstory and instead focuses on how good a family man he could be and I appreciated that.

Alex, on the other hand, was tiresome. She complained that she was lonely, but adamantly refused to entertain any idea of a relationship. This fact was reiterated every other chapter. Oh, but then she runs into handsome Ed in town, has sex with him about two seconds later and promptly runs away from him because she can’t possibly have a relationship and maintain a business. I will say the sex scenes have good tension and have the right amount of heat.

The main suspense story was ok, if completely predictable. The cops are hiding the witness. The bad guys start attacking Alex and Ed rushes to protect her and insta-love happens. Never mind that they have only had one conversation out of bed. Perhaps Alex & Ed had conversations in the previous books that would’ve made their relationship make more sense.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I love the unique culture of the Cajuns and the swamps really are a little bit magical. However, the voodoo in the book was just downright corny and not needed. I had a hard time with the writing in general and kept putting the book down and forcing myself to pick it back up. If you’ve read the previous two books, then you probably know what you are getting in to, but for me, this one didn’t work and doesn’t inspire me to pick up the others.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Deja VooDoo
by Elle James
Release Date: June 24, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

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Review: Spartan Frost

Reviewed by Jen
 
I have to say, I was so excited when I found out we were getting a novella from Logan's POV. I'm always down for getting in the head of a series hero, but this one was even more tempting to read because of the angsty way the last book ended. After all, the dude tried to kill his girlfriend!  The emotional impact should have been huge.  Only, it wasn't really.

Yeah, Logan feels like crap for what happened. He blames himself. He doesn't trust himself. And he wants revenge on the Reapers.  But if you're looking for anything deeper than that, you're SOL.  This is novella is really short. A third of it focuses on recounting the events of Crimson Frost, a third of it focuses on a battle with some Reapers, and the rest is a look at Logan's relationship with his dad (and a really descriptive scene involving the contents of their breakfast.)

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Estep's writing (and her foodie scene always make me hungry.) But this was pretty superficial and didn't show me anything new about Logan as a character.  It wasn't a bad read, but it felt I could have gotten just as much out of this if it were pared down and delivered as a web short.

Just ok.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Kensington via NetGalley


Click to purchase: Amazon
Spartan Frost
by Jennifer Estep
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Publisher: Kensington

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Guest Video Post: Kait Ballenger

The very sweet Kait Ballenger made this great vlog post to tell us a little about herself and her new anthology with Gena Showalter:


Check out the deets on her novella, Shadow Hunter:

Vampire hunter Damon Brock's newest assignment with the Execution Underground is Rochester, New York, a city crawling with the undead. But he isn't the only hunter in town gunning for vamp blood. Tiffany Solow is fierce and ruthless when it comes to slaying the monsters that destroyed her family-and she works solo. But being alone is no longer an option when she meets the mysterious hunter who wants more than just her turf. Forced to unite against the local covens, the line between good and evil blurs when they must decide between their lifelong beliefs...and their newfound desires.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Thanks so much, Kait, for visiting the blog today!

BIO: Kait Ballenger is a full-time paranormal romance author, wife, bellydancer, graduate student, and soon-to-be-professor. She is the multi-published, award-winning author of the Execution Underground paranormal romance series. With a B.A in English from Stetson University, Kait is currently earning an M.F.A in Writing. Kait believes anything is possible with hard work and dedication. One day, she hopes to be a bestseller and to see her novels on the big screen. Look for the next two books in her page-turning Execution Underground series: Twilight Hunter, book one (August 2013) and Immortal Hunter, book two (January 2014). For more information, please visit www.kaitballenger.com or follow her on Twitter @kait_ballenger.

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Review: Hope Breaks

Reviewed by Shelly

This is the first in a series about Hope Jones. Hope’s job as a photographer doing romance novel covers could be construed as the lush life, but Hope will beg to differ because she can’t seem to produce a cover that the publisher’s star author seems to like. She’ll be lucky if she can keep her job. I wasn’t expecting such a banger (no pun intended) of an introduction. I thought Bello would ease us into Hope and her life, but no, she brings it straight to the heart of the matter. I gotta say that I like it, I like it a lot.

Hope is what I like to call a hot mess. She’s not really sure what she’s doing and the inner monologue makes her that much more likable – she’s witty and sarcastic. Waking up one day to the trial of finding a male model so she can take some scintillating pictures, Hope goes to the local Wal-Mart looking for painkillers to fend off that headache she’s working on. While she’s isle hopping, she meets Drew. Bingo! Perfect Wal-Mart experience: you walk in for one thing and walk out with something a little extra. Now all Hope has to do is make sure that Drew shows up for the photo shoot.

In the parking lot her trusty steed, okay it’s really a Ford Taurus, has decided that Hope needs to find another way home. Once she gets her car over to the Tire and Lube Express area, she meets hunkalicious #2, Jake Troy. Turns out that Jake remembers Hope from high school and from what happens later, that’s not a bad thing. The chemistry between these two was really good. Jake is a flirt and he knows it, but I’m not convinced (yet) that he’s a player, just a guy who knows what he wants. There’s a vibe that there are things that Jake is not giving away this early in the game and I can’t wait to find out what they are in the next story.

I had couple of time related issues – I’m not sure of Hope’s age, it’s either 37 or 26. I’m hoping it’s 26 because that would make sense and but some of the (Def Leppard/Van Halen) concerts mentioned wouldn’t. Maybe it’s the version I received?

Suffice it to say, that didn’t take away from the story enough that I didn’t enjoy it because I did and will be reading the others in the series. Be warned, this does not have an HEA or HFN.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hope Breaks
by Alice Belo
Release Date: June 14, 2013

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Review: An English Bride in Scotland

Reviewed by Jen
 
If you are in the mood for a light and sweet historical, you've come to the right place.  This is a pleasant, enjoyable, and fast read... featuring a daughter no one wanted, finding happiness in the life that her sister threw away.

Annabel was sent to live at an abbey at the age of seven and has lived there ever since, trying to make the best of her lot in life.  She hasn't done well in her training. She enjoys life too much, enjoys food, laughter, and simple joys.  But the abbey is all she has ever known.  So when her mother appears out of the blue and whisks her back to the home she hasn't seen in more than a decade, she has no idea what to make of it.

It turns out that her parents promised the hand of their eldest daughter to the son of an old ally.  Unfortunately, Annabel's big sister Kate ran away with the stable boy and that leaves Annabel to take her place.  She resigns herself to do her parents' bidding, despite the fact she is completely unprepared to be a wife or to run an estate.

Ross is attracted to Annabel right away.  He sees her beauty on the inside and out, and their marriage of convenience quickly becomes one in truth. It's really very sweet. There's not really an internal conflict; no lies or stupid choices.  No big misunderstanding.  We just get to watch these two fall in love.  Ross is a noble and good leader to his people. He is a caring and understanding husband.  Annabel is pure of heart. She wants to be a good wife to her new husband and a good lady to his people. How could you not root for these two?

It's not all smooth sailing. Someone is trying to kidnap Annabel.  The big issue of the book centers on keeping her safe while figuring out who is after her and way.  When all is revealed, it's a fairly satisfying conclusion.  It's not very deep.  By that, I mean, it is not in anyway emotionally taxing or challenging.  But sometimes, a feel good story is what you need.  The love story is nice; the sex is good; and the plot wasn't overly predictable.  There were times some of the characters stretched close to caricatures, especially members of Annabel's family.  But overall, I found it an enjoyable read.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
An English Bride in Scotland
by Lynsay Sands
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Avon

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: A Brother's Honor

Reviewed by Shelly

My favorite Brenda Jackson story is Delaney’s Desert Sheikh from The Westmoreland Series. Yes, I’m dating myself, but I remember reading that story and thought the story line was great and fresh and I fell a lot in-like with the author’s writing. Over the last five – seven years, I’ve noticed that the majority of the stories that I’ve read from her have the same theme – the hero (usually a millionaire or billionaire) comes from a privileged background and the heroine is involved in the family’s business and some other predictable things that if you’ve read her you’ll know what I’m talking about here – and unfortunately this story is no different. I can’t tell you the predictable things because I will not do a spoiler. Anywho, after a lengthy absence, the Granger brothers have returned to Virginia at the request of their dying grandfather. Coming home means they’ll have a lot on their hands - a failing family business and their imprisoned father.

The first in the series is Jace Granger’s story. Jace works as an attorney for his local California government with a scheming and devious ex-wife to boot. She provides her own entertainment but that wasn’t too surprising. You know what would have pleasantly surprised me – if she was nice. Moving on, even though he’s the oldest of the brothers, Jace seems to take a very laid back approach as the head of the family, considering their father is in jail for killing his wife (their mother) and their grandfather is dead. After taking over the family business, Jace decides to hire Shana’s consulting firm to help his brothers and him find out why the business is failing.

A majority of this story is about Jace and his family; the heroine Shana doesn’t even get an introduction until about twenty percent in, which for me is too long. Shana is a nice enough character, not too soft and not too rough, but I can’t say that I rooted for her because I just couldn’t click with her --or Jace for that matter. I don’t know what was missing, but I didn’t feel the chemistry between these two – just a convenience of storyline. I was hoping for something more once the plot picked up and things started happening, but then the predictable stuff started coming at me left and right.

To a certain degree, the multiple storylines in the story for me was distracting, mainly because I wanted to know about Jace and Shana, not everyone else. There’s a subplot with Dalton the youngest and playboy extraordinaire of the brothers. After Dalton was denied his trust fund at 25 like his brothers, he decided to spite everyone and through a series of calculated investments became a self-made billionaire. Seems to me, he wouldn’t have worked (if investments are considered work) at all if his money was handed to him. But aside from that, Dalton is a complete brat whose ‘my daddy didn’t love me' complex has driven every decision and choice he’s made, including the type of women he associates himself with. I really didn’t like him at all. Maybe I’ll come around when his story is told more. Caden, the middle brother is a musician and came off more of a jerk than anything else to me. His past relationship with his ex-best friend who happens to be a girl seems to be his motivation.

Of the Grangers, Sheppard, the father of these three, has the more interesting story. He’s in prison for murdering his wife and there’s a whole back story there that’s full of secrets and intrigue. I think that’s going to be a good one once it’s panned out. Shana’s father, a retired cop, had his own story line. His new love interest sounds like she’s not going to fall easily and it sounds like the way he’s going to have to woo her might make an interesting read. It would be nice to read a romance where the hero doesn’t have six-pack abs.

Overall, this is a good story. If you like Jackson’s previous work I’m sure you’ll like this one also.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Harlequin MIRA

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Brother's Honor
by Brenda Jackson
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: MIRA

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Review: After Dark

Reviewed by Jen
 
This anthology features two novellas: one which was previously published by Gena Showalter as part of her Lords of the Underworld series; the other a prequel to Kait Ballenger's new Execution Underground series.  I'd read the Showalter short before.  If you didn't catch my review on it the first time around:

"The Darkest Angel" - Gena Showalter seamlessly connects the dots between The Darkest Whisper and The Darkest Passion with this super sexy short story.  Our heroine is Bianka, sister to Gwen, and a fellow Harpy.  As our story begins, she is kidnapped by the angel Lysander. It turns out, she is his one true temptation and he thinks to neutralize the threat she poses. Ultimately, they each prove to be more temptation than the other can resist. But can they overcome their huge differences? 
 
The great thing about this short story is that it hyper-focuses on the romance. And by "romance,"  I mean spectacular sexual tension and payoff. --Yeah, you could skip this short story and still understand what is happening in the next book. But honestly, why would you want to? It was a great story. (I'm still fanning myself.) And unlike some of the other short stories set in the LotU world, this one actually features the Lords, albeit in supporting roles. 

Rating: B

"Shadow Hunter" -  This was a story with an interesting premise.  Damon is a vampire hunter, part of an elite fighting team called the Execution Underground.  He is trying to kill Caius, the vampire responsible for the death of his best buddy Mark.  Damon feels responsible for Mark's death and has lost more than his friend. He also lost Tiffany, Mark's sister and the woman he has been exchanging letters with for years. Damon has no idea that Tiffany, too, has been hunting Caius, until the two come face to face on the job.  The spark between them is instant and they explore their relationship as they work together to find justice for Mark.

There were problems for me from the start.  One: Tiffany is 22 years-old, gorgeous, and has never even been kissed. COME ON.  So unnecessary to the story and immediately had my eyes rolling.  Two: the instant overwhelming attraction between Damon and Tiffany (who each had no idea who the other was) was something you would expect, maybe, from shifters. But to go from never been kissed to sex with a stranger in the same night? Again, I say COME ON.  Three: Damon's constant bemoaning about lusting after his friend's baby sister.  And this was all in the first 25%.

But as trying as all that was for me, the absolute worst part of the story is the ending.  The completely NOT HAPPY ENDING.  I have an expectation of a HEA --or at the very least, HFN, in PNR.  But no. The ending is bad.  Unforgivable.  

Rating: D

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon 
After Dark
by Gena Showalter & Kait Ballenger
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: HQN

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: Gaming for Keeps

Reviewed by Janell
 
This book made me so jealous, you guys. I wish I was more of a geek girl, that I knew my way around online multiplayer games, that I could wear costumes and go to conventions. Alas, I don’t have the time or mental energy for most of it. I just consume the mainstream movies and tv shows and wish I had more street cred. Penelope — Pen — is the heroine in this story, and she plays the games, she walks the walk, talks the talk. I wish I was her. Her dog’s name is Worf, she references Supernatural and makes t-shirts printed in binary code. I caught all the references she made, but I couldn’t confidently make all the references myself, and that makes me sad about my life. But this is a book review, not an analysis of my lack of awesome, so I’ll move on.

Pen plays an online game called Heroes of Fallen Gods, and she’s in a guild with her ex-boyfriend. She has a flirtationship with a player in another guild, who invites her to a convention and suggests they meet up in real life. Pen, having been burned by meeting someone offline before, says she’ll be there but doesn’t set a specific meeting time. Once there, a douche trolling for girls pretends to be her gamer friend, so she hangs out with him, but he’s lame and she has to knee him in the crotch. No one is as cool in reality as they are online, am I right?

Meanwhile, Pen’s online buddy Cal is a hot stud / secret agent who just wants to paint himself indigo and wander around as a Dark Elf without being bothered by work. Unfortunately, a Bad Guy is planning Bad Things at the convention, so Cal has to take phone calls and plan things and stress.

Pen and Cal meet in an elevator, but they don’t know that they already know each other! I know, right?! The heat pooling, the sparks flying, the feeling like they’ve known each other a long time, it all happens. Fast. Did I mention this is a short book? On the plus side, Pen and Cal spend a lot of time bantering and kissing before he has to save the world and rescue the girl. On the minus side, I wouldn’t mind if they’d spent even more time together, delving into more obscure sci fi and then rolling around naked.

There’s a clumsy shower scene acknowledging that shower sex is trickier than the books make it out to be. There’s body paint. Fake sword fighting. A discourse on how a person’s knowledge of Firefly tells you everything you need to know to judge their character. Sigh. I’d better stop before I get the sads again. To sum up: fun, cute, hot, awesome. I just wish it had more, went deeper, lasted longer (…that’s what she said).

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Entangled


Click to purchase: Amazon
Gaming for Keeps
by Seleste deLaney
Release Date: June 10, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

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Review: It Happened One Midnight

Reviewed by Jen
 
I am a big fan of Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green series; and I did like this latest installment, but it took me a while to warm up to it.  The romance was a very slow burn and I found myself impatient through the first half, waiting to get to the romance.  It's a friendship to love story and it seemed like the friendship part lasted a long time.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but just as it took our couple awhile to get on board with the lovin' -- it took me just as long to get excited about them together.

Our hero, Jonathan, is the youngest of the Redmond clan.  Few people take him seriously, especially not his father.  But there is more to Jonathan than meets the eye. Behind his good looks and rakish charm, he has a mind for business.  He even has a lucrative venture in mind.   Unfortunately, his father won't give him the backing he needs. Even worse, he demands Jonathan marry an "appropriate" woman or be cut off financially from the family.

Thomasina --Tommy-- exists on the fringe of society. She is no proper lady, but she is no courtesan either. She helps plays hostess to popular parties, and is universally desired by the men who frequent them.  Her carefree and attractive persona is a just a mask she wears, however. She lives hand to mouth, comes from a difficult childhood, and has a higher calling that constantly places her in danger.

In meeting Jonathan, Tommy finds a kindred spirit. They have the same wit and social parrying skills.  They see through each other's bullshit, frankly, and come out friends because of it.  And it's a good long while before it progresses beyond that. In the interim, they end up showing each other their true selves... something few others ever see.  By the time they start to see each other with romantic interest, they are so close, they can't imagine living without each other, despite all the common sense reasons they should be with other people.

I liked the characters. I liked the plot and I thought Tommy's cause was a great one.  I felt for her as she struggled without anyone to love her. I loved that she maintained her independence and worked to live up to her personal morality.  Jonathan, meanwhile, was sexy and an interesting blend of earnest and jaded.   But I never burned for them to get together.  Sure, it was nice once they did --and the book picked up at that point-- but I didn't feel much tension between the two of them in the first half.  First they were friends; then they were briefly friends with (less than sex) benefits; then true lovers.  I guess the tension was supposed to be in that middle phase but it was underwhelming.  Not bad by any stretch. I just wasn't excited.

I had hoped to love it more.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
It Happened One Midnight
by Julie Anne Long
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Avon

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Out of Control

Reviewed by Jaimie
 
I’m always on the lookout for books by authors that I haven’t read previously, because I like a wide variety of books and every author has a unique style of writing which I enjoy. It can be hit or miss when you approach a “new to you” author but in this case I definitely found one that I will continue to read. Stephanie Feagan writes romantic suspense and historical books and she also writes young adult books under the name Trinity Feagan.

Blair Drake is an oil rig blowout specialist who comes from a wealthy family that has disowned her. After a series of deliberate oil rig explosions, Blair teams up with Nick Robichaud, an oil well fire expert, to stop a plot to cripple the world’s oil supply. Blair and Nick have red hot chemistry, but Blair has been burned in the past by her ex-husband so she has trouble trusting people, especially men. In order to survive they must learn to trust each other, but with Nick clearly hiding something and time running out, Blair is forced to take a leap of faith.

The action in this book starts pretty much right away and it doesn’t let up. While inspecting an oil rig, Blair sees a suspicious looking man who appears to be watching her. She ignores the bad feeling she has and completes her inspection but a few seconds after her helicopter takes off, the rig explodes killing everyone on board. Shortly after the helicopter pilot is murdered and Blair finds out that there have been a number of explosions at various rigs. Blair is sent to put out one of the fires along with Nick, who she is very attracted to, but thinks he’s a chauvinist. From there they discover a plot to drive up oil prices by destroying key oil rigs, and their quest to stop it takes them to Saudi Arabia.

Right off the bat I loved Blair. She is a strong female heroine and she holds her own in a field dominated by men. In a lot of stories, the heroine starts off strong but later turns into a vulnerable, let the man take the lead kind of girl, but Stephanie writes her as a kickass woman throughout. Don’t get me wrong, she has moments where she’s feeling vulnerable and she does have a softer side, but it doesn’t come at the expense of her overall character. I particularly enjoyed the parts when Nick and Blair were in Saudi Arabia and hearing her inner dialogue over the way women are treated and viewed there. I also really liked the interaction between Blair and Conaway, a female reporter in training. The two bantered back and forth in a way that you can picture your friends and you talking. I really hope this is going to be a series and that we get a book for Conaway.

The entire book is narrated from Blair’s point of view. I would have enjoyed having it from both Blair and Nick’s points of view just to switch it up a little bit, but it certainly didn’t ruin the story for me. It is very obvious Feagan did her research about the oil industry which is great, but at times it almost felt like there was too much description of the various parts of the machinery, etc. This happens early on in the story and again it is not something that would have ruined the book for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and I can’t wait to check out more books from Stephanie Feagan. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this turns into a series.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Out of Control
by Stephanie Feagan
Release Date: June 24, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

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Review: Stalking the Others

Reviewed by Jen

Well, I'll give you this. Jess Haines knows how to go for a big ending. Wow.

This installment of H&W Investigations picks up right where the last one left off.  Shiarra is out for blood. Chaz and his pack nearly destroyed her in the last book. She is livid over his betrayal and terrified that she may be turning were.  So she decides to take matters into her own hands and seek revenge.

Unfortunately, the Sunchasers don't make it easy for her. They go into hiding at the same time she knows she is a walking target. She can't stay home; she won't stay under Royce's thumb, so she goes to find sanctuary and back-up with the White Hats.  Just like we got an intimate look at the weres in the last book, here we are getting even deeper with the renegade humans here, especially Jack.

But the real meat of the story was inside Shiarra head.  One of the things I have consistently liked about these books is Shia's voice. I have always found her easy to relate to; I could always understand her thoughts and motivations.  Here... not so much.  She really goes off the deep end. I found myself questioning her bloodlust and her need for vengeance which seemed totally out of proportion and, honestly, out of character.  I mean, yeah, Chaz is a dick. He deserved to be dumped --humiliated, even-- but does he deserve to die for being a cheater?  It was a tough read at times to see Shiarra fall so far.

But Haines has a plan.  I won't tell you what it is, but I will say I started to suspect about 40 pages before it was revealed.  It was enough to make me feel a little smart, but also a little dumb for not figuring it out sooner.  I still hate Chaz.  And Royce... well... I have mixed feelings there.  He is sexy to be sure. And I believe he feels something for Shiarra.  But I don't know what. I don't entirely trust him, and his power over Shiarra makes me nervous.

All in all, I'd say the book is a pretty good ride.  Kind of a roller coaster.  I'm still kind of high on the ending. But I am scared to pick of up the next book. It's called FORSAKEN By the Others. Who is going to betray her next? I don't know if my heart can take it.

Rating: B+

P.S. Huge improvement on the cover!

*Book provided by author

Click to purchase: Amazon
Stalking the Others
by Jess Haines
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: Kensington

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Series Reading Order: H&W Investigations

This is the reading order for the H&W Investigations series by Jess Haines:

*Denotes short story/ novella

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Review: The Trouble With Fate

Reviewed by Carrie

Hedi Peacock is living a lie. She’s half Fae, half werewolf and a mystwalker and completely lost in life. After being attacked by a pack of weres, Heidi has to retrieve an amulet from her childhood crush who she believes may have played a part in her parent’s death in order to rescue her kidnapped aunt. This book is kind of a hot mess. It suffers from the first book syndrome of trying to tell the reader too much information. This book felt like a friend trying to tell you a good story but kept on stopping and changing direction when she remembered something else. There were bits and pieces left all over and not all of them made sense.

I really loved Heidi. I have an affinity for troubled souls and she is certainly that. She’s caught between two worlds being a half-Fae half-Were. She had to witness the deaths of her parents. She watched her twin brother carted away to the Fae realm. On top of all that, Heidi had to live under the radar her crazy Aunt Lou and Merry, her enchanted Fae amulet. She’s torn. She’s lost. She’s lonely. Despite all of her heartbreak, she finds ways to compartmentalize her pain to move on to the next challenge.

Enter her childhood crush, Robson Trowbridge, the son of the deceased Alpha who is trying to figure out who killed his father, mother, brother and wife. I pieced together that he’s been spending the last 10 years at the bottom of a bottle, but returns to Creemore at the behest of his sister, who is mentioned once and never talked about again. Trowbridge, (what a mouthful of a name), has the amulet that opens the portal to the Fae realm. Heidi nearly steals the amulet out from under him but is caught and in what seems like the next breath, they are doing it and being mated.

It’s understandable how she could very quickly fall for this man – she’s young, naïve and lonely. Trowbridge is one minute mooning over his deceased wife and the next trying to get into Heidi’s pants. The whole business of them hooking up and then mating was glossed over and left me feeling quite confused. Finally, the biggest head scratcher was the amulet. Supposedly made of Fae gold and therefore mutable, it mainly hung out around Heidi’s boobs. I just couldn’t use the written words to form a visual in my mind that made sense. Sometimes it would hop around and move and other times, I think, would grow gold vines and twist around things? I’m still not sure even after reading the passage about 10 times.

Despite all the WTH moments, I really did feel like my girlfriend was telling me a good story but talking so fast she was leaving out important things. I’m continuing on to the second book with a firm hope that the author fills in the blanks because the writing is certainly there.

Rating: C+

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Trouble With Fate
by Leigh Evans
Release Date: December 24, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: Gavin's Submissives

Reviewed by Shelly

I’m a fan of this publisher, but the author is someone that I’ve not read in the past. Considering there are quite a few of her books through this publisher I decided to take a chance on this story; it doesn’t hurt that I’m a fan of the category and it’s a relatively quick read. This is the first in the Creek Valley series where ménage and the like are not uncommon.

Fresh out of a marriage with an abusive husband, Heidi is finally free to pursue some measure of happiness. Deciding to move back to her hometown of Creek Valley where she felt comfortable and safe Heidi temporarily moves in with her childhood friend Landon and his lover/Dom, Gavin. Although Heidi has been away for ten years, Landon has been a faithful friend and kept in touch with her over time... and he’s always had a thing for her. Can these three make a go of things or will past actions, hurtful words and Heidi’s ex put a stop to their happiness?

Heidi is a full figured woman who --despite the ending result of her previous marriage-- is an admitted submissive. Regardless of the non-excusable verbal and physical abuse she suffered in her marriage, she  enjoyed the dominance of her husband – the telling her what to do, what to wear kind of thing. So it wasn’t a shock that she didn’t blink an eye when Landon confessed to the D/s lifestyle that he prefers with Gavin. She did have problems dealing with the budding relationship between the three of them, but they were more self-directed about what she could offer the guys. I did have a problem with was the timing of everything and a couple other things – but before I get ahead of myself, I’ll tell you some of the good stuff

Landon is a relatively nice guy. He’s always always had a thing for Heidi and during his time with Gavin he’s let it be known that he still loves her and if he ever gets the chance with her he’ll take it. I thought that was an honest approach and I appreciated that the author didn’t have Heidi and Landon re-meet and then have the miraculous, can’t live without each other falling in love. There were moments that I wanted to bash Landon’s head in, but in the end he prevailed and my likability of him was restored.

Gavin, the Dom in the relationship, came across a little…I don’t know…spoiled and temperamental is all I can think of. There’s a sensitive moment between him and Landon where I couldn’t believe his reaction as a grown ass man and a Dom no less. But that’s okay because I don’t have to like them all the time, right?

Here’s what I wasn’t so keen on – Gavin’s quick concession to a relationship with Heidi. He’d met her less that one day when that happened. And even though he grew up in the same town he didn’t remember Heidi, so why so soon – because of Landon? No way – I’m gonna need more convincing than that. Another bother for me was a sex scene when Heidi noticed that Gavin’s not wearing a condom and ‘she scared to ask him why and what it actually meant’. COME on, seriously she’s that big of a doormat she’s not concern with the High V, STDs or pregnancy? That’s just dumb.

Don’t take my small rant to mean I didn’t like it, because I liked it enough to want to read the next story in the series as I thought this was a nice introduction. If you’re a fan of Oaks Bliss series this might tickle your fancy.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon
Gavin's Submissives
by Sam Crescent
Release Date: June 12, 2013
Publisher: Evernight Publishing

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Tempest Reborn

Reviewed by Jen
 
After the soul stomping ending of the last Jane True book, I was ready for this book to sweep me off my feet and continue the wild ride from page one. Let me warn you now, it doesn't do that. In fact, for the first 90+ pages, I found myself struggling to get through the book.  There's a lot of quiet misery, which I understand.  But there is a huge amount of time devoted to existential ideas and ideology inside the world building.  I found myself asking What happened to the characters I love so much in this series? The relationships? The action?  The short answer: they're here.  You just don't see them until about a third of the way into the book.

That being said, the second two thirds of the book were great.  After the requisite amount of research (*shudder*) Jane figures out what she needs to do to save Anyan from a lifetime trapped inside an evil white dragon.  Jane must work with her band of friends and supporters to get the job done.  It's a mishmash of her people from Rockabill and those she has met in her various adventures. (Honestly, I wish I would have done a series re-read, because I kind of struggled remembering who everyone was.)  But it became increasingly obvious just how vital her team is to her success.

It's a great finish to the series in a few ways: most notably with Jane and Anyan. One of my chief complaints about their relationship has always been in how it's been ridiculously parceled out. The wait for them to finally get together was excruciating.  Thankfully, all of that is over.  We finally see Jane and Anyan as they were meant to be together. Plenty of love; plenty of sex.  Plenty satisfying.  Also great: Nicole Peeler ties up her loose ends nicely.  We get resolution on many lingering threads. We see what happens to all these characters we have gotten to know.  And finally --we see Jane come full circle.  She has evolved into this awesome champion... only to find it's her fragile humanity --her heart-- that makes her capable of saving the world.  Good stuff.

There were a couple of niggles.  Like I said, the start was really slow.  And this book is really missing the humor I have come to love from Jane and the series.  There's a great line about sex surrounded by Oreos and a river of milk that gave me a chuckle, but all in all... it's heavy.  The prior installments really  balanced the humor and the serious in a way this book just didn't.

All in all, though, I liked the way it ended.  Peeler throws in a good surprise or two and kept me emotionally invested until the end.  A satisfying conclusion to a good series.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Orbit


Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempest Reborn
by Nicole Peeler
Release Date: May 28, 2013 
Publisher: Orbit


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Review: Dire Distraction

Reviewed by Jaimie
 
Avery Solomon is the leader of A-Tac, a black-ops division of the CIA that uses their jobs at a university as their cover. He has saved countless numbers of people but still harbours a lot of guilt over the death of his wife 14 years ago in a car bomb in Iraq. During a mission in Afghanistan, a computer hard drive is recovered which produces what appears to be a photograph of his wife with a calendar behind her indicating that she is in fact still alive. Solomon sets off for Southeast Asia without the back-up of his team, on a quest to find out the truth. There he teams up with Sydney Price, an undercover operative who poses as a wilderness guide.

I had read the first two books of this series and then for whatever reason did not keep up with it. After reading this installment I cannot remember why! Sparks fly right off the bat between Avery and Sydney, but considering he is on a mission to find out if his wife is alive, they are slow to act on it. While journeying through the jungle, we find out plenty of background information on both characters and together they begin to heal some of their old wounds.

Sydney is the type of female heroine that I love – she’s strong, can kick some ass and she knows it. That being said she does have a soft side and insecurities that we all deal with. Her views on love are fairly negative as she grew up in a home where her parents were utterly in love and devoted to each other, which resulted in a very lonely childhood for her. She convinces herself that she enjoys her solo life, not relying on anyone, but after witnessing the closeness between Solomon and his team, her outlook starts to change. I was also happy to see that Avery didn’t turn into a macho, domineering man who demanded that Sydney give up what she loved to do, all in the name of keeping her safe. He has confidence in her abilities and this raised him up several notches in my opinion.

I liked that the connection between Avery and Sydney wasn’t fast tracked because it wouldn’t have fit with their back stories. It also made it more believable once they finally did act on the attraction. I also liked that A-Tac welcomed Sydney into the fold without being difficult or giving her a hard time. Even though I haven’t kept up with the series I was able to pick up this book and get right into the story with no problems. That being said, I definitely plan to go back and catch up on all that I missed with this team. If you like a fast paced story, strong heroine, ultimate “good guy”, and hot romance I definitely recommend this one!

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dire Distraction
by Dee Davis
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Forever

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: The Awakening: Aidan


Reviewed by Shelly

I started this one completely based on a recommendation. I’m happy to say that I’m going to be taking those recommendations from now on because this is a really good story, so much so that I’m hoping there’s a series coming because the premise is a good one (shameless plea #1).

Niles has built an entire world around shifters and their mates that resembles nothing (in a good way) that I’ve read in the past. This is story of meeting the one that’s your eternal love, not just in this life, but in the afterlife too.

Aidan is in a pickle because his fellow shifter and friend, Liam, is in serious trouble and the only one who can help is Jaylin Avgar. Half shifter Jaylin is one of the few psychiatrists who not only knows what ails Liam, she also knows what needs to be done - this calls for a house call. Once she arrives at the cabin to see about Liam she meets Aidan O’Connell and the sparks fly. Oh boy, do they ever! Aidan knows of the stories that tell what will happen once he meets his mate, but he’s not prepared for the roadblocks that Jaylin puts up about why she doesn’t want him. The fun’s about to start, so buckle up.

Aidan is the shiznit – plain and simple. He was cool, calm and collected and let me put this out there – he played nice with the imaginary retinas, which is all good. His likability was high considering he’s a guy with a not so great past, but he’s worked hard to make a change, and I appreciated him that much more for it. The relationships that he had with his fellow shifters spoke highly of the person that he is but it was the relationship that he wanted to have with Jaylin that made me just heads over heels for him. Aidan knew what he wanted and his willingness to go the extra mile to make her want the same thing was admirable, because there were a couple times when smacking Jaylin on the back of the head seemed appropriate.

Jaylin’s character was well written; she had a complexity and vulnerability that I could empathize with… up to a point. She’s stubborn as heck and is convinced that she knows what’s best, and although that’s admirable (kinda sorta) her unwillingness to allow Aidan to make his own choices got to me a little bit. Thank goodness that Aidan had the patience of Job to try and try and try some more with her.

Once this story takes off, it doesn’t take long before I realize that is not about this short life that we live but about whom you’re going to spend your eternity with. Because the world that Niles builds is focused more on the eternity that a bonded couple will share and the negative effects that can occur if the human female chooses not to bond. I’m completely fascinated to find out what happens to Liam – that’s a shameless plea (#2) for a sequel.

If you enjoy a different way of looking at forever love and wouldn’t mind a little smut with the tale – then I’d recommend that you pick up Aidan’s story.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Awakened: Aidan
by Abby Niles
Release Date: April 21, 2013 
Publisher: Entangled

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Review: Twisted

Reviewed by Jen
 
Rebecca Zanetti definitely knows a thing about creating anticipation! I have been excited for Maggie and Terrent's story since I first saw them face off in Consumed.  I love that Maggie is this klutzy, amnesiac wolf who still manages to get the upper hand over a big bad enforcer like Terrent. I just can't believe he has waited so long the pick things back up.

It's been five years since these two have seen each other. And we find out right away, there is more to their attraction than we ever realized.  Terrence KNEW Maggie before she lost her memory.  Even better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) --they were in love.  Now, he is ready to put their relationship back on the front burner.  This, as she tries to infiltrate his pack, to sniff out who is behind some inoculations that were tampered with.

I thought it was cool that there was more depth to their connection, but I had some trouble with the idea of Terrent staying away from his great love for 10 years.  Yeah, his job is important and all, but that bothered me.  Setting that aside, I did enjoy the sexual tension and the hot sex between these two. I could do without the spanking/ dominating scene, but the other encounters were great.  There is also some pretty good banter.  Maggie is sassy and smart.  I like that she gives as good as she gets with Terrent. I also like that she isn't powerless in their relationship, even though Terrent is so strong and alpha.

Over the course of the story, we learn about Maggie's history --and Terrent's too-- which is kind of interesting. (I wonder if that is going to be incorporated more into the series.)  And we get a few Jase and Dage cameos, which I was happy about.  The ending takes a bit of an obvious route, but in the end, I was pretty satisfied with how it all turned out.    At first, I was disappointed this love story would not have a full length book, but I think it was served well as a novella.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Kensington via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Twisted
by Rebecca Zanetti
Release Date: June 20, 2013
Publisher: Kensington

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Officer Off Limits

Reviewed by Carrie

Tessa Bailey is becoming an auto-buy author for me. She writes such deliciously dirty talking alpha heroes that just make me sigh. This is the third book in the Line of Duty series and though loosely connected, each can be read as a stand alone.

Hot on the heels of a broken engagement, kindergarten teacher Story Brooks dashes across the country to be at the bedside of her estranged father, a New York cop. In the hospital she runs into her father’s protégé, Daniel Chase, and sparks fly. The only hitch in the plan is that dear old Dad forbids Daniel from hooking up with his daughter. This lasts all of a hot second and by the time Daniel takes Story home, he has her pinned up against a wall. She decides to use him for fun while she’s in town and as a way to get back on her feet after a long disappointing relationship, but both of them get much more than they bargained for.

Story is a cheeky girl who appears self-confident despite lingering insecurities from her ex and abandonment issues with her father. She is in a bit of an emotional block while coming to terms with the fact that she basically wasted the last 2 years on a guy that she really didn’t connect with and feeling like a failure. I liked that she stood up for herself and didn’t wallow.

Daniel was the one who threw me for a loop. I had expected a straight up cop hero but got a heart aching tortured hero - my favorite! Daniel grew up shuffling between foster homes, drifting without someone to give a crap about him until he joined the police force and was taken under the wing of Jack Brooks, Story’s father. Daniel matures in police work, but sticks to his womanizing ways because he doesn’t know how to care; he wasn’t ever taught. When Story tells Daniel she loves him and he says that’s the first time anyone had ever told him that, I wanted to rip my heart out and serve it on a platter to him. He just slowly unravels as this sensitive man underneath who survived a horrible childhood and ultimately just wants to belong to someone.

The sex between these two is insanely hot and all the dirty talk had me fanning myself. Besides the sex and romance, I loved all the banter in this book – Story and Daniel, Daniel and his boys, Story and her friend, Hayden. It really kicks up the fun and gives the main characters more depth. There is a slight twist to the story at about the 80% mark that was unexpected and felt a little unnecessary but that was really the only blemish on the book.

I really recommend this book for an unexpectedly sweet and sexy story! I can’t wait for the next one!

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Officer Off Limits
by Tessa Bailey
Release Date: June 10, 2013 
Publisher: Entangled

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Review: The Rules of You and Me

Reviewed by Janell

“I was Hannah Cohen. I had everything and knew everything and could do everything.”

Hannah is sixteen and raised to follow her mother’s rules of self-preservation, including: Always have the upper hand; Never let yourself be surprised; and, If reality isn’t the way you want it to be, create your own. Obviously she’s a lot of fun. When her father overdoses on pills and goes to rehab, Hannah’s mother runs away to Paris to avoid scandal and Hannah moves in with her aunt to avoid her mother.

This is more a coming-of-age story than it is a romance, because Hannah learns how to face reality even when it terrifies her, trust people, and take responsibility for her own mistakes. There is a boy, though, helping her with all of this growth. Jude is a high school graduate whose brother died in Afghanistan. Jude hasn’t been able to move past his brother’s death, but he finds Hannah to be a welcome diversion from the non-life that he’s barely living.

Hannah and Jude hang out, drive around town, and have awkward social encounters with other people. Jude encourages Hannah to climb Chimney Rock even though she’s afraid of heights (metaphor alert!). They are “just friends” until one afternoon in Jude’s truck, when he says, “I know this person sitting right here, and she matters.” They kiss, I’m happy, and then his mother interrupts them and ruins everything. Hannah remembers that she’s not supposed to trust anyone so she forces Jude back into the friendship zone, where he stays for pretty much the rest of the book.

This book is Hannah’s emotional journey. She makes up with her dad. She confronts her mom. She dumps her shallow friends and reconnects with ex-friends. Jude is there, as a friend, but the story is more about Hannah becoming Hannah than it is about her falling in love. I, of course, must quibble with that because I love reading stories about teens falling in love, but when there’s so much personal growth involved it takes time away from the romance. I’m superficial that way.

Having said that, both characters are interesting, the setting is beautiful, and if you need some help with your own personal growth, this book will have some good advice for you.

Rating: B

*ARC provided author via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Rules of You and Me
by Shana Norris
Release Date: June 17, 2013 

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: This Man

Reviewed by Carrie

Ava O’Shea is a young successful interior designer who is sent to consult on a job in the country at an exclusive place called The Manor where she meets the enigmatic owner, Jesse Ward. From the first moment, of course, there is a connection. While Ava tries to keep her poise and professionalism, Jesse obsessively pursues her until she gives in.

I picked up this book because I actually received an ARC of the second book, Beneath This Man, and I have a thing about reading series in order whenever possible. After reading the blurb and knowing full well what kind of book I was getting into, I forged ahead.

Jesse is a controlling, possessive, borderline stalker. I can excuse these behaviors in a book provided that they come with proper character motivations or explanations. I love reading a good alpha, but this is not him. Jesse behaves like a petulant child when Ava ignores him. This is a man supposedly in his mid-thirties who hits redial non-stop because Ava won’t answer his call when she is at work. He basically stalks her wherever she goes and claims it’s for “her protection”. Again, this can be done so the reader can make peace with an unsettling action, but there is no basis or explanation for his reasoning other than he’s afraid she’ll get hurt in the big bad world. Finally, I found it vaguely insulting that Jesse’s age at 35 was considered “old”.

I found Ava even more frustrating because she would, at times, have a spine, ignore his calls and refuse to bend to his will and then throw that all out of the window basically because he was hot. Now, I agree that a pretty face can excuse some sins, but not when a man is dictating your every move and then throws a toddler-like tantrum. The author was trying to paint Jesse as a Dominant but there is nothing kinky about the sex. He’s just simply controlling and it has nothing to do with sex.

Overall, the scenes and descriptions were extremely repetitive and the smexy scenes were uninspiring (if I had to read one more time about lace underwear, I swear...). This book could’ve easily been reduced to a novella, which might have improved the overall enjoyment. Despite all the disappointments, I do admit there was a spark to the book and I am hoping the next book will be more fleshed out with better writing. This book is for the super fans only.

Rating: C-/D+

Click to purchase: Amazon
This Man
by Jodi Ellen Malphas
Original Release Date: October 20, 2012 
ReRelease Date: June 18, 2013 
Publisher: Forever 

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Deceived by the Others

Reviewed by Jen
 
Jess Haines throws the H&W series on its ear with this installment.  Just when things seem like they are going in a clear direction for Shiarra and her life, Haines takes her on a screeching detour filled with danger and a shocking betrayal.  In short, she blindsides Shiarra (and me) with a sucker punch I never saw coming... and I'm still reeling.

Let me back up. The story starts with Shia making plans for a getaway vacation with Chaz. The idea is to get a closer look at his pack and cement her relationship with Chaz after their struggles in the last book. She's even thinking of signing a contract with him, to show him how much he means to her.  Unfortunately, their romantic trip is quickly upended by threats from inside the pack and from outside sources as well.

I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read, so only click through to the spoilers if you have already know what happens.  I know not everyone loved Chaz, but I actually empathized with his character. He always seemed so loyal and loving to Shiarra. When his betrayal was revealed, I felt sick.  I always figured Royce was the endgame, and I had wondered how Haines was going to get Chaz out of the picture. But I never dreamed it would be this way.  I don't know how I feel about the choice, but I am heartbroken for Shiarra.

The pacing of the book is very different in the first half and the second. The first is slower, but in hindsight, I can see what a setup that is for the back half --which just flies by.  As with the first two books, I enjoyed the world-building and the voice of the main character. Haines does a great job of making me experience her range of emotions... the yearning, the hurt, the fear, and anger.  I believed it all, which makes me feel so invested in her story.

Then there's the ending. Which managed to sneak up on me out of nowhere. We're left with many lingering questions and I can only say thank goodness I have book 4 waiting in the wings. This would have been tough if I had to wait for the next installment.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Deceived by the Others
by Jess Haines
Release Date: July 1, 2011 
Publisher: Zebra

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review: Hunted

Reviewed by Jen
 
It's not easy being mated to one of the Kayrs brothers.  Sure, they love you to the moon and back, but they aren't afraid to bully or muscle their way into winning an argument. Admittedly, none has been worse than Talen, the hero of the first book. But we see hints of the alpha-hole in them all.

I had hoped Conn would be better.  After all, when he accidentally mated Moira a century ago, he actually acquiesced to her request for time apart so she could train as a witch.  He let her do what she needed as a witch with a powerful potential in her line.  Which made it all the more disappointing when he started pulling the caveman routine here.  He isn't nearly as bad as Talen, thank goodness, but I had hoped he would give his mate a bit more credit. She is a lethal enforcer for her coven --a trained killer-- but he still tries to put her in a bubble to "protect" her. It annoyed me.

I still enjoyed the book, despite my annoyance with Conn.  That's thanks to the great world-building and the fascinating series storyline. There is a lot happening in this installment. The primary plot involves the witches. Someone is using magic to take out members of the ruling council. Moira is on the hit list --and she wants to figure out who is targeting them --and why. This, as the witches consider aligning with the demons against the vampires. That puts Moira in the terrible position of potentially having to choose between her family and her mate.

Meanwhile, we're seeing the set-up for Katie and Jordan's book.  Katie still can't shift, prompting her to take desperate measures. --And we're seeing more of the Kalin-Zane-Janie interaction.  It's amazing how their scenes always manage to steal every book for me! I know Kalin is bad, bad, bad, but there is just something about him that makes me want to see his redemption.  (Maybe I need my head examined.)

The sex is hot and the characters are well defined.  Conn does make some progress before the story is over, but he doesn't quite hit the mark for me.  I struggle with imbalance of power in the relationships in these books.  Even with Moira being the most kick-ass of witches, Conn still has to win.  At least she gets a couple of small victories.  I guess that's progress.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hunted
by Rebecca Zanetti
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Kensington

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: Falling for the Lawyer

Reviewed by Shelly

Working as an assistant Personal Assistant in a big law firm, Alex Farrer is sure that she’ll be out of a job as soon as the new boss shows up. Little does she know that the nice stranger who helped her that rainy morning is her new boss. JP McKenzie is the new partner at Alex’s law firm, he’s also Alex’s boss and after meeting the mud-drenched Alex, JP’s first day on the job grows into something that’s a little bit different than he’s used to.

This was a pleasant, quick, fun, and angst filled story - just like I like ‘em. Even though this is a ‘clean’ romance, no sex – zero zip nada – I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Clifton had me on the edge about what Alex would do about her staid, predictable and unhappy life. Would she fall back on what’s comfortable or make the change for something different? Suffice it to say, if I could life a (drama free) angst filled life I would, but since I can’t, I live that vicariously through these kinds of characters.

Alex’s character went through her share of change and growth. From an insecure and malleable character, Alex’s metamorphosis into a woman of strength and substance was a welcome transformation. That she was able to stand up to those around her, including JP, was handled really well without any melodrama and tantrums. Instead I saw Alex grow some and manned up to get down to the business of living the one life she’s got.

I must admit that I didn’t like JP at first.  Actually about the first half of the story I though he was a jerk because he came across as brash and loud and wouldn’t stop yelling at Alex. I thought he was just going to bully this girl and she would take it – oh nay nay! I warmed up to him eventually though and I could see that he cared about Alex as a person and didn’t want to see her wasting her potential because of fear. It’s always nice to have someone believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.

There were some secondary characters that helped to move the story along and were quite enjoyable to read about. If you’d like a clean, good story about a discovering yourself and finding happiness, then I would definitely suggest that you give this one a go.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: B

*Book provided by Harlequin Enterprises Australia via NetGalley


Click to purchase: Amazon  
Falling for the Lawyer
by Anna Clifton
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Australia

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Review: Polished

Reviewed by Shelly
 
As an m/m/f fan, it’s rare to find category story that is fundamentally strong. I mean that to say if you took out all the sex scenes, the story would still make sense, not fall to stereotypes and you’d still root for the threesome. That’s the way I felt the majority of the time about this story by Turner. But hey, I’m no prude; the sex scenes were rocking. However I actually am going to admit – I thought there was too much sex. I know what you’re thinking -- there’s no such thing. I would have really liked to see more of these three getting to know each other outside the bedroom. Between that and the small ‘why’ details that intermittently nagged me, this was an interesting read and left my thoughts provoked hours after turning the last page.

Rory Campbell and Spencer Hartley have been a couple for the last three years. They’re living together on the outskirts of New York where Rory is a NYU grad student majoring in psychology and Spencer is a construction worker. Although they’re happy together and Spencer loves Rory, he’s also attracted to men. This is something that he’s not told Rory. Jack Rothman is Spencer’s boss at the job but when an accident occurs and together they’re trapped in a tunnel, doors will open for both Jack and Spencer.

I thought the relationship between Rory and Spencer was strong and loving. The emotion that Turner was able to show (not just tell me) between these two was quite lovely. I found myself liking them both pretty early. Interestingly enough though, Spencer and Rory’s relationship wasn’t as strong as I would have thought, in spite of the way Spencer insisted of his love and trust to Rory. I didn’t see the rationale for Spencer not telling Rory of his sexuality. He kept bragging about how smart she is and that she’s doing grad work in psychology to help people with sexual identity, but he didn’t want to tell her about his own. Hmmm.

Jack was just a hot mess. He’s restless, rude, unlovable and constantly having to prove his worth to his father (textbook case of my Daddy didn’t love me). After a work accident that caused he and Spencer to be stuck in the tunnels he realizes that there’s a mutual attraction between them. From their rescue on, Jack’s is determined to see where it can lead.

Here is where I sometimes have trouble understanding when there’s three people involved – I thought that after Spencer discovered his satisfaction with Jack and their relationship, the focus of the love story moved to them. I find it hard to empathize with the three characters when one couple’s relationship diminishes to satisfy another. The more I read the more I thought that Rory’s interaction seemed secondary and superfluous. I couldn’t figure out why Rory and Spencer never spoke about his homosexual desires; in fact one day Rory’s reading a Kinsey textbook and it’s like a light bulb goes off in her head that Spencer likes boys, especially Jack. I had a problem with that. If I’m in a relationship with a guy for as long as theirs is and all of a sudden I see that his intensity for the relationship has changed, I’m pretty sure that nothing about Kinsey’s sexuality scale is going to keep me from asking questions – a lot of questions. It was a bit too convenient the way she just accepted it, no questions asked. Also I didn’t have a clue of Rory’s need for a Dominant, it seemed to have kinda dropped out of nowhere to satisfy Rory having any need for Jack.

Jack was undoubtedly my favorite character because he matured the most. His relationship with his father was a significant part of that growth. Their scenes were really tense and made for great reading.

There are a couple of other things that I thought were a bit too convenient, but they didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the story. The relationship between the three was passionate, interesting and yeah there’s a lot of sex, just in case you didn’t catch that earlier. In the end it was good story that I just didn’t enjoy as much as I wanted to. If you’re an m/m/f fan – do pick it up and give it a try. I’ll look forward to more from this writer.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: C+/B-

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon

Polished
by Alyssa Turner
Release Date: May 23 2013
Publisher: Etopia Press

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