Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: The Guardian

This book reminded me why I fell in love with Sherrilyn Kenyon. For me, the Dark-Hunter series has kind of lost its way a little bit lately. But The Guardian felt a lot like some of the earlier books that I loved so much. It's technically a Dream Hunter novel, but it brings together many different threads from previous books. We've got many of the Dream Hunter characters we've met before, like Solin, Delphine & Jericho. But our heroine is half Dream Hunter, half Kattagarian... so we've got a healthy dose of Were-Hunter. AND our hero is a slave to Noir, which ties us into the whole Azmodea/ Hellchaser storyline. Plus we get a visit to Sanctuary and a Malachai connection.

If all that sounds intimidating, well, I'll be honest when I say there were times my memory was creaking, trying to remember all the elements from the previous books. But Kenyon does a good job filling in the blanks and bringing you up to speed. And besides, the real draw of this book wasn't all background stuff anyway: our main couple stole the show.

Seth is part Egyptian God, but was cast out by his parents as a child. He has been rejected and betrayed his whole life, and has spent thousands of years as a slave to the primordial god Noir. He has been tortured beyond any point I could convey to you. He's never known love. In short, he is a super-awesome- dreamboat of a tortured hero.

By the bidding of his master, Seth has been torturing the Dream Hunter Solin to get him to reveal the location of the key to Mt Olympus. But then, Solin's daughter Lydia comes to rescue her dad. She becomes Seth's prisoner, while Solin goes to get the key. As his captive, Lydia spends more time with Seth and gets to see the man behind the mask he wears as Noir's Guardian. And she wants to show him all the love he has never known.
He pulled her hand up and laid it against his chest before he finally explained, "I can perform a lot better for you if you wait until the end to hurt me there."

She didn't know what made her hurt the most, the sincere honesty in his voice or the expectation of pain she saw in his eyes. He spoke as if he were nothing more than a trained monkey with no other purpose than to service her and go.

Her hand trembling, she brushed his curls back from his forehead. "Has no one ever made love to you?"

Scowling, he cocked his head. "Made love? I don't know what that is."

Of course, he didn't. Because no one had ever touched him with a loving hand. They had used him, abused him, and then thrown him away his entire life.

But that was going to change.
I really enjoyed this book alot. Kenyon is sooo good at writing tortured heroes and this reminded me a lot of Dance With the Devil in tone. My only complaint, was that ending felt a little bit rushed. Maybe more than a little bit. But I can forgive it. I really think fans of the series are going to be happy with this one. I definitely was.  4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by St Martin's Press

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
The Guardian
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: Cut and Run

Reviewed by Jen
There is somebody for everybody in this world. Even if you are as completely and thoroughly screwed up as FBI agents Ty and Zane. You'd never think that they are two people who could fall for each other. As the story begins, Ty comes off as this flippant, rebellious asshole with an enormous chip on his shoulder. Zane is a by-the-book, uptight brown-noser with something to prove. But looks are deceiving. As the book progresses, we learn that both men wear masks that cover who they really are... and underneath, they are each a big, fat mess.

The guys are thrown together to help solve a bizarre serial killer case. They hate each other from the get-go. But both men are talented agents in their own way, and slowly, a grudging respect forms between them. As they work the case, things continue to evolve between them. Each man begins to see the real person beneath the other's facade... and an attraction begins brewing, which ultimately proves too powerful to resist.

There were several things that surprised me about this book. First, is that this is a real thriller. It's not a romance with a mystery backdrop. It's a true romantic-suspense, where both love interests happen to be guys. (I wish I could say the identity of the killer came as a shock. I can't, but it was a roller-coaster ride to get to the ending anyway.) I was also surprised by how much time passes over the course of the book. Twice, we jump over months with our main characters apart. They continued to live and to change off-page.

By the time we get through most of the book, we see the real Ty and Zane. And it's no picnic. Zane is an addict with reckless tendencies and abandonment issues; Ty is emotionally cut-off and afraid of anything real in his life. They lust after each other, but often don't like each other. They need each other, but can't extend themselves enough to risk heartbreak. All the while, they get their asses kicked over and over and over again. Car crashes and shootings and overdoses... suffocations and explosions... you name it, they endure it.

It's not light reading. But it's gripping.  I didn't want to put it down.

The sex: super hot. And the tender moments were touching. But these two really need some therapy. And a good health insurance plan.  A little more than 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Cut and Run
by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Release Date: September 29, 2008
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

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Series Reading Order: Cut & Run

This is the reading order for the Cut & Run series by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux:

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Queenie's Brigade

Reviewed by Jen
The fight for Earth isn't going very well for humanity. Captain Michael Drake leads one of the last starships still battling the alien race trying to take over the planet. But the aliens are winning. Just before they completely destroy his ship, his crew manages a space jump... which lands them near a remote penal colony.

The colony is run by Queenie, a tough yet seductive woman, who takes Drake and his crew as prisoners. She wants to use his ship to get her people off the long-abandoned planet. But they'll all need to work together to repair the ship enough to make it ready for flight. Drake holds out hope he can convince her to join his cause to defend Earth, but she wants no part of his plans. So he is in a race against time to change her mind before the aliens find them next.

There's a definite attraction between Drake and Queenie, but there's very little romance to speak of. We do get one short love scene, but it's not until the very end. The bulk of the story is about the battle of wills between Drake and Queenie. She is a difficult character to like. I understand that her life has forced her to be a hard person, but she was very hard for me to empathize with. Drake was pretty likable though. Overall, it was a quick, easy sci-fi read, with a dash of sexy times. 3 stars.

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Queenie's Brigade
by Heather Massey
Release Date: July 2, 2011
Publisher: Red Sage Publishing

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Ecstasy Untamed

Ecstasy Untamed is book six in Pamela Palmer's Feral Warrior series. But if you haven't read the first five, don't let that stop you from giving this book a try. I haven't read the other books either. And while it was obvious the series has a history, I never felt lost and the world building was easy to understand in the context of the story.

A quick set up: There is a race of immortals called Therians. Long ago, each had the power to shift into animals. But a big bad thing happened and then only about two dozen of the Therians retained the power. Each carried the spirit of one animal. Then, another big bad thing happened, trapping the animal spirits of all but nine of the remaining shifters. Those men, the Ferals, protect the other Therians and fight the bad guy Mages who want to release bad-guy Daemons on the world. Anytime a Feral is killed, his animal searches for a strong Therian to replace him and that man is drawn to the other warriors to join their group. Still with me?

Hawke is one of the Ferals and as the book begins, he is recovering from an attack that left him in conflict with his animal. He is trying to repair the damage, but it's not working out. In the meantime, Maxim appears at the house with his would-be mate, Faith. Maxim has the marks of a Feral, and the men believe he is there to replace their lost brother, the Fox. It turns out, he carries one of those animals lost years ago. Quickly, Feral House begins filling with men carrying the other missing animals.

Hawke is drawn to Faith. She had only known Maxim a day before she followed him to Feral House, but she felt drawn to him... certain she belonged to him. It's a feeling that's difficult to hold onto as Maxim reveals himself to be an enormous asshat and she begins to fall for Hawke. If you're worried this might be an infidelity story, don't be. Maxim is a bad, bad dude. And it's obvious Hawke and Faith are meant to be together. The only question is how they're going to get there.

There's a lot going on in the book. The love story is good and so is the sex. There is plenty of action and plot development, but it's easy to keep up with. There is also a bit of darkness --which surprised me a bit. But all the twists and turns kept things interesting. We've got a set-up for two different couples in future books. I am definitely interested in what's going to happen with Wulfe. I want to go back and check out the backlist to learn more about him, if for no other reason. He smacks of a delicious tortured hero.

I enjoyed it. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Ecstasy Untamed
by Pamela Palmer
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Avon

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: All About Seduction

Reviewed by Jen
Poor Caroline really took one for the team when she married old Mr Broadhurst. She was only 15 years old and he was 40 years her senior. Basically, her father sold her off and Broadhurst has been helping the family with finances ever since. In exchange, Caroline has forced herself to submit to his attentions for the past 15 years. Twice a week, every week, he has come to her bed, but never did she take pleasure from it --and never has it resulted in pregnancy.

Now that her husband is 70 years-old, he has decided he wants an heir. And he has demanded that Caroline sleep with another man to give him a son. She doesn't want to. Sex is horrible enough with one man --why would she endure it with another? But he forces her hand, cuts her out of his will and threatens to turn over his mill to a man even more unscrupulous than himself.

Broadhurst invites a group of noble men to the home for Caroline to choose from, but Jack --the only man who has ever caught her eye-- works in the mill. As the book begins, he is badly injured and she takes him into the Broadhurst home to convalesce. It's no big jump to guess where the story goes from there.

It's all kind of predictable. Caroline is uptight and terrible at seduction. But Jack is pretty solid hero material. I always enjoy it when the male lead thinks the leading lady is out of his reach. It was gratifying to see him finally catch a break, but it was a long time in coming. He had to suffer through most of the book. So did Caroline, come to think of it.

It took too long to get to the good stuff... and the author didn't tread much new ground. But the romance was fairly good. Comfortable and kind of familiar. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
All About Seduction
by Katy Madison
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Avon

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AAD Author Spotlight: Kristen Painter

Former college English professor.  Two time Golden Heart finalist. Blogger. AAD Author. Kristen Painter wears a lot of hats. And she has dipped her toes in several genres from romance... to poetry... to steampunk... and most recently urban fantasy. Kristen was kind enough to spare some time to chat with me about her House of Comarré series and a few other tidbits. Check it out:

Jen: Right off the bat, it must be said that the cover art for Blood Rights is absolutely gorgeous.

Kristen: Thanks you!

Jen: Did you get any input there?

Kristen: The fabulous folks at Orbit found Nekro, the artist, and he did the art, then Lauren at Orbit put it all together. I had some input, but just minor tweaking stuff.

Jen: What did you think?

Kristen: LOVE it. LOVE. Like majorly.

Jen: For those who have not read Blood Rights yet, what can they expect?

Kristen: Hopefully, a fun, fast-paced read and a glimpse into another world not so unlike our own.

Jen: Where will Mal and Chrysabelle go from here in Flesh and Blood?

Kristen: Now that would be telling, wouldn't it? Hah! Let's just say...more trouble awaits. 

Jen: Is there a set number of books planned for the series?

Kristen: Yep. There will be five books in total and possibly a spin-off series if things go well.

Jen: I was so sure the Mal and Chrysabelle relationship would was going to go farther in Blood Rights. Will there be more romance between them in the later books? (Please say yes.)

Kristen: YES! Remember, it's five books, so having everything happen in the first book wouldn't have worked. I promise that things will keep progressing for them!

Jen: You do have several romance books under your belt, ranging from PNR, to contemporary, to steampunk. Which is your favorite genre to write and why?

Kristen: It tends to be whatever I'm writing at the moment. Does that make me fickle? lol

Jen: What other authors do you enjoy reading?

Kristen: I love Louisa Edwards's contemporary chef romances and Roxanne St. Claire's romantic suspenses. I love a good Victoria Alexander historical, too! Outside the realm of romance, I'm currently digging back into comics and graphic novels. A lot of my fellow Orbit authors have some great stuff out there too. I'll pretty much read anything you put into my hands.

Jen: I spend way too much time playing on Twitter. What is your biggest time-sucker?

Kristen: Twitter! And tv. I love tv. There, I admitted it. From reality tv to Law and Order marathons to the BBC, I watch too much. I have to really use it as a reward or I'd have zero brain cells left. I should probably add online shopping to the list of time-sucks too. Man, I wish I could get paid to shop. I'd BANK! 

Jen: Your favorite guilty pleasure?

Kristen: Besides chocolate and playing with my cats? Going to movies with my husband. Because we both work at home, we can sneak off for matinees and a lot of times we have the theater to ourselves. It's pretty awesome. 

Jen: What are you looking forward to most from AAD in New Orleans this year?

Kristen: Um, everything? My husband graduated from Tulane, so we go to NOLA quite a lot. I know the city fairly well and love to spend time there. There's one particular meal I'm looking forward to having -- besides beignets and hot chocolate at Cafe Du Monde -- actually, there are about five meals I'm really looking forward to. lol Oh, NOLA, I love you but you do not love my waistline!

Jen: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.

Kristen: Thanks for having me! I'll be chatting tonight (and giving away some books) in the Knight Agency chatroom at 9pm eastern, so stop by and say hi!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: Shades of Gray

Reviewed by Jen
This book put me through the emotional wringer. It was provocative; it was gut-wrenching; and it was damn good.

The story follows FBI agent Miller Sutton as he forces drug-runner Danny Butler to turn state's evidence against his boss Roberto Hinestroza. Danny doesn't want to do it, but it's that or he gets sent back to prison and labeled a rat... virtually a death sentence.

Miller is responsible for Danny's protective custody and as they spend time together in close quarters, the attraction is undeniable. Danny is gay, but Miller has never allowed himself to explore feelings for another man. There is something about Danny, though, that breaks through Miller's walls. It's hard to describe the evolution of their relationship in a way that gives it its due. It's definitely sexy, but there is real depth beneath it. Danny is so broken by the life he's led, but he covers it with a facade of strength. And yet, while his self-worth is undeniably fragile, there is a beacon of light in him that calls to Miller as no one ever has.

Miller is wrestling with his own demons. He has lived his life with such rigidity, pushing down his own feelings and desires so deep, even he can't see them. As these two begin to fall for one another, each man is forced to look deep within himself and face hard truths. But at the same time, their hidden relationship makes both men happier than they have ever been.
When it was over, Miller slid out slowly, collapsing onto Danny's body.

"Why," he panted into Danny's neck, "why is it so goddamn good?"

He was surprised at how full his voice sounded, so close to overflowing its steady banks.
Danny stroked his hair, his lips warm against Miller's cheek.

"Because it's us, Miller," he whispered. "Because it's us."
I thought the whole book was going to be about their time in the safehouse, but there is so much more beyond that. There are some great flashbacks peppered in, which give readers alot of insight and backstory. And there are major developments after the guys leave the safehouse too. Without giving it all away, I can tell you that Danny makes a huge sacrifice... and so does Miller.

Sometimes I felt crushed under the weight of their feelings for each other, their own self-loathing, and the confluence of horrible circumstances they have to face. But in their moments of happiness and acceptance, it was like a warm blanket. There was just so much happening, my emotions ran the gamut. The sex is hot, don't get me wrong, but this book is about so much more than that. It's about love; it's about self-discovery; and it's about redemption. Very good. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Shades of Gray
by Brooke McKinley
Release Date: October 19, 2009
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

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Guest Post & Giveaway: SM Reine

This giveaway is closed. The winner is Sariah.

Please welcome author SM Reine to the blog today. Her new book, Death's Hand is out this week. Check out the details and this guest post from Sara. 

Policing relations between Heaven, Hell, and Earth is messy and violent, but Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner excelled at it-- until coming across a job so brutal that even they couldn't stand to see one more dead body. Now they've been pretending to be normal for five years, leaving their horrific history a dark secret. Elise works in an office. James owns a business. None of their friends realize they used to be one of the world's best killing teams.

After years of hiding, something stirs. Bodies are vanishing. Demons scurry in the shadows of the night. A child has been possessed. Some enemies aren't willing to let the secrets of the past stay dead...

I have to admit something a little bit embarrassing. We’re all friends, right? We all love books here, and I’m pretty sure we like them spicy (why else would we be addicted to Red Hot Books?), so we can be honest with each other.

When it comes to hot heroes... I fall in love fast and hard.

I think my first real love was Edward from the Anita Blake series. His smoldering good looks and ruthlessness made me totally infatuated with him. I drew a lot of pictures of him on my binders (this was high school, don’t worry) and fantasized about him slaying my nonexistent vampires. When he hooked up with Donna in Obsidian Butterfly, I was seriously crushed! Why hadn’t Laurell K. Hamilton saved him for me?

Well, fortunately, I picked up Anne Rice after that, and she’s not short on any number of hot guys to lust after! If I wrote my name as “Mrs. Sara Lestat” once, I must have written it a thousand times. That didn’t go so well once I got to Memnoch the Devil (the books started getting a little weird from there), but that was okay, because fictional marriages and divorces are faster than a trip to Vegas.

My list of boyfriends gets pretty tangled from there—my marriage to Remus Lupin from Harry Potter resulted in heartbreak (curse you, Tonks!), and Patch from Hush, Hush and I had to end it because of a difference in philosophies (nothing to do with Nora, I assure you). After that, I gave up on YA guys (too unreliable) and dove head first into romances, where I was suddenly surrounded by heavily muscled shirtless guys courtesy of JR Ward, Shayla Black, and Jeaniene Frost.

But there was a problem: All of these guys kept running off with the heroines of their books!

I’m married to a real human guy these days, so I’m coping. I don’t draw pictures of my hunky fictional boyfriends all over my pages anymore, and the only name coming after “Sara” belongs to my husband.

And yet, I still haven’t given up on those hunky heroes. Instead, I write them myself instead of falling in love with the ones I read. My books are full of hunky heroes—whether they be demon hunters or badass warlocks or ordinary guys thrown into the thick of things, they’re all completely crushable and fictionally marriageable... at least for a few weeks, until the next fictional guy comes along to break my heart.

But please don’t tell my real husband. I’m not sure he could stand the competition.

Who are your favorite fictional boyfriends?

Answer the question below for a chance to win a bookmark and Death's Hand charm.

Click to purchase Death's Hand at: Amazon or Barnes & Noble

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Avenger's Angel

Reviewed by Jen
This was a book with potential. The premise: 2000 years ago, four favored archangels were given the gift of soulmates. But before they could join with their archesses, members of their brethren interfered, wanting the women for themselves. The creator sent the women to earth to protect them, and their mates chose to fall, in order to find them among the humans.

Presumably, each archangel will get his own book as the series progresses. This one features Uriel, the first of the four to finally find his archess. Uriel is living as a popular actor (a la Robert Pattinson) when he stumbles across Ellie at a book signing. She has no idea what she is or that angels even exist. But she has had mysterious powers all of her life and she is inexorably drawn to Uriel.

There are two main foils for their relationship. One is Samael... he's one of the jealous archangels who didn't get a mate. He also followed the women to earth and is determined to make Ellie, his. The other problem is a mysterious group of men that has been tracking Ellie and her powers since childhood.

All of this sounds pretty good, but something didn't quite connect for me in the execution. There was a lot of repetition, especially in the early part of the book. Ellie's attraction to Samael was, while understandable, somewhat off putting. But the biggest problem for me was the lack of a discernible build. Uriel was besotted at first sight. Ellie's resistance was laughable. It's like she's supposed to be tough and strong, but also this shining beacon of good. Meanwhile, Uriel is a perfect, gorgeous, rich movie star. As if being a freaking angel didn't make him spectacular enough.

Meh. It wasn't bad. It just didn't live up to its potential. The scene stealers in the story were Samael and vampire-angel Azriel. Perhaps, a story featuring one of them would grab me more. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Avenger's Angel
by Heather Killough-Walden
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Signet

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: The Sinner

Alex MacDonald loves the ladies. And why shouldn't he? He fights hard and plays hard too. He never wants to marry; he doesn't believe any woman could ever hold his heart... until he meets Glynis.

Though most Highland women want a husband, one marriage was more than enough for Glynis. Her first husband was a nightmare. He treated her cruelly and openly kept mistresses. When she could take it no more, Glynis left him with a dirk in his leg and vowed never to wed again. But her father has other ideas. He is pushing her so hard to remarry, that she blackmails Alex into helping her run away.

Though Glynis and Alex both oppose marriage, they don't hold the same reservations about sex.. And their trip to Edinburgh has plenty of that. Of course, it's only a matter of time before that translates into something more.

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. Alex was suave and sexy and it was charming to watch him fumble about as he learned to be in a relationship. The love scenes are good --and I'm always a sucker for a good brogue. Plus, this was a couple easy to root for... especially once a child was brought into the story.

And then came The Big Misunderstanding. I hate these. And it was made worse, because it was so obvious that something like this would happen. Glynis went on and on about how she could never forgive infidelity. It was such an issue, there was no doubt in my mind that somehow she would end up thinking Alex cheated. It was very frustrating --and disappointing-- that this progressed in the predictable fashion. And it was a shame because I was pretty invested in the story by then --and I liked it. Grr.

I was satisfied by the end. It didn't quite live up to its potential, but it had a lot of action, some pretty good steam, and a healthy dose of heart. A little less than 4 stars.

P.S. This is the 2nd book in Anne Mallory's Return of the Highlanders series.  It was designed to be read after The Guardian, but works easily as a standalone.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
The Sinner
by Margaret Mallory
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

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Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop features more than 400 blogs which are giving away books or gift cards in a contest that runs from October 24-31, 2011.

I want to give you the book you want!! For a prize, the winner can select any book from the Book Depository, valued up to $10.  This contest is open internationally, to all Red Hot Books followers. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below! Then click here to check out the other great blogs participating in the hop.

Find a Book Now

Read more »

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: Ripe for Scandal

Reviewed by Jen
Gareth Sandison is in love with his best friend's little sister, Beau. But as a second son, he knows the lady is out of his reach.  Beau has other ideas.  She wants Gareth for her own, and when he saves her from a kidnapping attempt, she grasps her opportunity to have him.

The two decide to wed in order to keep Beau's reputation intact --and it works for the most part.  But swooping in on a friend's sister is a cardinal sin among gentlemen and the marriage leaves Gareth ostracized among his buddies.  The love is there for our couple and so is some pretty rockin' sex... but they aren't without problems.  In addition to Gareth losing his friends, they must also deal with a revenge plot against Beau and the appearance of Gareth's bastard nephew, who his brother refuses to claim.

The baby is where the book lost me.  I kind of like the idea of our hero and heroine banding together to thumb their nose at society.  They were a united force (who entertained me with steamy love scenes.)  But Gareth's willingness to break Beau's heart to perpetrate his brother's lies completely alienated me.  It was totally unnecessary.  Even if he wanted to maintain the pretense to the outside world, lying to Beau was inexcusable.  She handled it better than anyone could expect, but when the truth comes out and she apologizes for being a bad wife... she lost me too.

The first half of the book was pretty enjoyable... and I was satisfied by the time we got to the ending.  But the baby plot device/ secret/ misunderstanding was a big fail.  3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Ripe for Scandal
by Isobel Car
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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Series Reading Order: Jane True

This is the reading order for the Jane True series by Nicole Peeler:

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: Finding Samantha

It's been two years since Samantha's husband was killed in the line of duty.  But even now, she can't seem to pull herself together. Everything reminds her of him. She cries all the time; she's even left her job on the police force.  Desperate for a change, she decides to leave her old life in New York behind... and move south to work as a ranch-hand in North Carolina.

There, she meets Ma and Pops, who run Rolling Hills Ranch, as well as the five men she'll be working with. Sam hits it off with Dan right away, and he's pretty taken with her. But it's Luke who ends up knocking her off her feet. Of course, Sam fights her immediate attraction to Luke, feeling as though it's a betrayal of her late husband. She can't resist his charms, however, and the evolution of their relationship makes up the bulk of the story.

The book is rich in characters. Each of the ranch-hands has his own story to tell.  They all have unique and distinctive personalities, but make up a ragtag family to Sam and each other. The last quarter of the book changes gear with developments that were in some ways expected, but pushed to an extreme I didn't foresee.

The story itself with pretty good, but predictable at times. The initial degree of attraction and the eventual falling in love happened with a magnitude and speed which were too great for my taste. I would have felt a lot better about how it all played out if more time passed during the course of the story, even if some of it happened off page. There were times I felt like there could have been more subtlety in both the dialogue and the way the inevitable played out. I also must note that there were about a dozen spelling and punctuation errors.

But it was a pleasant read. The characterization was good and consistent; the writing was clear and easy to understand.  And I see potential for how the author could build on what she's already created in future books.  

*Review copy provided by author

Click to purchase: Amazon
Finding Samantha
by Megan Grooms
Release Date: March 2011
Publisher: Tease Publishing

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Redemption

Reviewed by Jen
Adriano is a jaguar shifter living in exile. He was cast out from his people five years ago. But he believes if he can uncover an ancient artifact of his people, he can use it to return to their good graces. He has worked his way onto the dig site where the artifact is hidden and he is getting closer to it everyday.

He is also getting closer to Sophie, one of the archaeologists at the site. He feels an attraction to her that he's never felt for a human before. He makes his move and they hook up. But before the relationship can go any further, other shifters begin to show up, placing his mission --and their lives-- in danger.

The sex is good. The story is... ok. The book is really more of a novella, and it isn't very fleshed out. The sexual pull --the animal attraction-- is easy to connect with. But it's harder to see the foundation for real feelings between these two. They basically just have a handful of conversations, when they aren't going at it (or running for their lives.) It's short and sexy... basically a fun way to spend an hour or two. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Eleri Stone
Release Date: September 26, 2011
Publisher: Carina Press

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Drink Deep

Reviewed by Jen
If you're a fan of the Chicagoland Vampires series and you haven't read this book yet, there's only one reason you are reading this review. You want to know if somehow... some way... Ethan comes back. Well, let me address this right off the bat. (*spoilers*) There is no way in hell I am going to answer that. Come on, guys, it's about the journey, not the destination!

Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that I did alot of crying. Again. It's been two month since the events of Hard Bitten, and Merit is grieving. But she is also Sentinal to the Cadogen House and it's a responsibility that she still holds dear. So slowly, she is trying to pull herself together enough to do her job. Jonah, the Captain of the Guards from Grey House, is there to help her. He's serving as makeshift partner, but there are hints he would like to be more.

Cadogen is in disarray. The big vampire council has sent someone to reorganize the House and it's clear the guy's not there to help, but to undermine everything Ethan has built. Still, Cadogen doesn't have much choice but to take it.

Merit is served up a distraction from her personal problems, when yet another supernatural problem begins brewing in the Windy City. It starts with the lake turning into a magic-sucking abyss and escalates from there. The vampires aren't to blame, but hostility is growing among humans toward the supes so Merit hopes to fix the problem before her people are blamed by the public.

I'm not going to tell you anything else, plotwise, although it's tempting. I am, however, going to try to address a couple of things in broad strokes. Very early on, I had a pretty strong feeling about who was causing the problems. But despite the fact that it felt a little predictable, I might have been ok with it, until the why of it was introduced. The why-part seemed wrong... a little contrived, even. And I hate to say that, because there were alot of things I really loved in this book.

We got the chance to learn more about the other supernatural races in the context of this world: from the nymphs and sirens to the Fae and, well, whatever the heck Tate is. I loved Luc and Lindsay. I loved Malik. And Jonah. But even in his abscense, Ethan's prescence is deeply felt... both by Merit and by me, as a reader. There a great deal of emotional resonance in this book and the big theme is loyalty: what it means to the different characters and whether they manage to hold on to it.

I'm going to give it a little more than 4 stars. I would have given it more, truly, if it weren't for the problems I had with the villain reveal. But definitely a must-read for any fan of the series.

*ARC Provided by NAL

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Drink Deep
by Chloe Neill
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: NAL

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AAD Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Megan Grooms

Our latest AAD Author Spotlight features Megan Grooms.  Megan is a small press romance author.  Her first book, Finding Samantha, is a contemporary romance, published in March 2011.  She has two short stories out. "Handsome Stranger" is one. The other,  "Hestia's Vacation," is part of the anthology Love's Immortal Pantheon, Volume 5.  Megan was kind enough to visit the blog today to tell us a little about herself and her work. Check it out:

Jen: Tell us a bit about Finding Samantha.

Megan: Well, Sam is a police officer from NY who had been married to another officer until he was killed on the job. Two years later she decides it's time for a change and goes back to what she loved when she was younger, horses. She gets a job on a ranch in NC where she meets Luke. The two are attracted to each other right away however both are a little cautious.

Jen: I know you are planning future books featuring some of the other men on the ranch. Do you know whose story you would like to tell next?

Megan: I am working on John's book right now. He's proving a little difficult but I'll get his story told.

Jen: In Finding Samantha, your love of animals shines through. Let's talk a little about your "day job."

Megan: I work at an animal hospital during the day and I do enjoy all kinds of animals though no snakes or spiders. I have five dogs and three cats myself. The dog in this story is actually based on my dog Zeus. I put him in it from the beginning and when I was halfway through the book he passed away unexpectedly. I'm very glad that I had put him in it. Now I get to visit him in all the books.

Jen: You've said that you have interest in more than one genre. Which one is your favorite to write and why?

Megan: I had never really read romance until I met Cara North. Her books brought me into the world of romance so well that I had to write my own. I really enjoy urban fantasy however. I have always loved people with special powers, be it Demons, Angels, Vampires or Werewolves.

Megan Grooms
Jen: When people see your name on a book, what should they be expecting?

Megan: I'm a sucker for happy endings with characters you can really get a feel for and connect with. I enjoy writing my characters so much that I can't help fall in love along with them. So people can expect sweet romantic stories with characters that you will want to learn more about and want them to be together in the end. Though I do always want a little action so somewhere in the book there will be some kind of conflict or action based scene.

Jen: What can we look forward from you in the future?

Megan: Well I am working on the second book in Rolling Hills, I am also trying to pitch an idea for an urban fantasy series that I have been working on for a long time. Hopefully that will be picked up sometime soon. I also have short stories that I have been putting out between my Rolling Hills ones.

Jen: What are you looking forward to most from AAD in New Orleans this year?

Megan: I'm really excited to see New Orleans I've never been there and I can't wait to go on the outings with authors that write about that area. I love all of AAD, meeting new people and just sharing a love of books with like minded people.

You can find Megan Grooms on her website and on Twitter!

We're giving away a free ebook of Megan's cowboy romance Finding Samantha. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below.  The contest is open internationally. If you give the book a try and you like it, please spread the word and post a review somewhere. Let's support our small press authors!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Bayou Moon

Reviewed by Jen
We first met William in On the Edge. He is a changeling, a shapeshifter, who has been rejected his entire life. He was given up at birth, raised in a heartless facility, then forced into military service. He is estranged from his only friend, Declan, and he simply doesn't believe that he'll ever have love or a family of his own.

He's been living in the Edge for two years now, largely cut off from his old life. But he is pulled back in, when given the chance to finally track down and kill his old nemesis, the Spider. That mission takes him into the bayous of the Mire and it's there he meets Cerise.

Cerise has her own issues to deal with. Her parents have been kidnapped. The Spider is responsible, which gives her and William a common enemy. There's a lot more going on.... a family feud between Cerise's people and a neighboring clan, a mysterious monster, a secret journal. But the the single biggest draw in the book is William. He is such a heartbreaking tortured hero. Watching his tentative steps towards a relationship with Cerise is riveting. Seeing him find his first feelings of happiness is lovely. And getting the payoff on the phenomenal sexual tension was awesome. (A very, very satisfying love scene.)

But there were times I got lost. There were too many characters. I understand that it's sort of the point that Cerise's clan was really, really big. But it was really hard to keep track of everyone. And once we started learning the names and skill sets for the Spider's enhanced soldiers, my retention skills were kaput. I applaud the idea of big and sweeping world-building in theory, but I just couldn't keep up in some parts, which took me out of the moment more than once. It was also hard to keep track of the geography in my head.

It was still good. Especially the parts of the story that focused on Cerise and William. It was also a treat to revisit Declan, Rose and the boys to see how they are doing. 4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Bayou Moon
by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Publisher: Ace

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Series Reading Order: The Edge

This is the reading order for The Edge series by Ilona Andrews:

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: On the Edge

Reviewed by Jen
I read somewhere that Gordon Andrews* once called this series "rustic fantasy." It kind of fits. It's decidedly not urban. The setting is kind of backwoods, really. But it's quirky; it's kind of charming; and while it took me a little while to connect with it, the book grew on me more and more as I continued to read.

This series is nothing like the Kate Daniels books, except for this: the world building takes some getting used to. It's not really hard to understand, but it's also not like anything else out there. In this case, there are essentially two parallel worlds. The Broken is the regular world we live in: a world of Wal-Mart and electricity. Magic is just a myth. Whereas, in the Weird, there is a world of nothing but magic. There is, however, an in-between place. The Edge is a little of both worlds, and somehow neither, at the same time. This is where Rose and her two brothers live.

Rose has more magic than most other people in the Edge, or perhaps it's more accurate to say, she is better at using it. So everyone wants to breed with her, or sell her, or profit from her in some other way. She is raising her little brothers, working a menial job, and has given up hope that her life could be more. When Declan appears, she assumes the noble from the Weird is there to force her into marriage. But at the same time, strange and dangerous creatures begin showing up. Rose has to work with Declan to fight the threat. And as they spend more time together... well, you know how these things go.

Like I said earlier, I didn't love it right away. Maybe it was the backwoods thing; maybe I just had to get used to the concepts. But either way, I ended up rather engrossed in it. Notably absent was the trademark Ilona Andrews snark, but there was a pretty hot sex scene which helped me get over that. There are some interesting secondary characters... especially William. I hope we see more of him in later books. I'm curious to see where the series goes next, since the ending felt pretty settled for Rose and Declan. There is only one way to find out.

A little more than 4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
On the Edge
by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Ace

*Gordon is part of the husband/ wife writing team who write under the pseudonym Ilona Andrews

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Mistress by Midnight

Merryn has devoted the last decade of her life to learning the details of her brother's death and plotting to make his killer pay. It's common knowledge that Stephen died in a duel at the hands of his friend Garrick. Stephen had been having an affair with Garrick's wife, who also died young. Garrick left town in the scandal, but now that he has returned, Merryn intends to find proof that something was amiss at that duel... and she won't rest until she finds justice.

There is, indeed, more to the story of Stephen's death than meets the eye. But the truth is very slowly unveiled, even to the reader. Garrick feels great remorse for his actions and has all but written off the possibility of happiness. But as his path crosses with Merryn, he begins to feel emotions he has long thought dead. And despite her disdain and distrust, she is drawn to him in a way she can't deny.

Reviews like these are always the hardest to write. The book was ok; pretty standard Regency romance. Self-castigating hero, plucky but naive heroine: they fall in love despite their best intentions... a secret looming that could destroy them all. Throw in a little sex, a little scandal, and voila!

I found the heroine awfully innocent (and not just sexually) for a 25 year-old; and the idea that she could lust after Garrick after hating him so thoroughly and for so long, was kind-of a tough pill to swallow. And speaking of far-fetched, I had real trouble with the idea of two people getting intimate after being soaked in old beer and a caved-in building for two days. They were hurt; they were dirty; they had to stink... and they're having awesome sex - without a bath? Nuh-uh.

Otherwise, it was fairly good, I guess. The twist on the "big secret" was surprising in the end. And other than the beer-sex, I enjoyed the love scenes. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Mistress by Midnight
by Nicola Cornick
Release Date: November 23, 2010
Publisher: HQN

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Favorites: Paranormal Romance

Paranormal Romance is my drug of choice, people. It's not the only thing I read. I love Urban Fantasy, Historicals, a little Erotica... But at the end of the day, when my brain needs a little comfort food, PNRs are where I turn. They are the beloved french fries of my book-diet. Here's a look at my favorites in the genre.

by Kresley Cole

This series has it all. It's funny. It's sassy. It is so damn sexy, it rocks my world. The series features a wide array of supernatural characters that mix, match, and interact over the course of several installments. For me, the band of feisty Valkyrie makes up the heart of the books. Powerful, greedy, strong, beautiful women who are more than a match for any man willing to try and win their hearts. But there are also the sexy Lykae, who have a brogue to die for... hot, horned demons (see how I resisted the urge to call them "horny?")... vampires, witches and more. My favorite in the series so far has been Demon From the Dark, but if you haven't read this series, start at the beginning.   Go read these books.  Right now.

Click to purchase: A Hunger Like No Other (Immortals After Dark, Book 1)

by JR Ward

Dark. Gritty. Urban.  These books are not light reading.  But the series boasts my favorite tortured hero of all time and my favorite PNR book, Lover Awakened.  There is violence; there is scorching hot sex; there are vampires; and there are very stupid character names.  But the early books in the series are simply unparalleled. Not every installment is as strong as the others, but there are so many amazing characters and secondary plots, that there is something worthwhile in every one of these books.  The basic premise surrounds a band of warrior vampires who defend their people from the soulless villains who wish to destroy them. And they fall in love... and have superhot sex. Start with Dark Lover.  Don't let the glossary intimidate you.  And before you know it, you'll be thinking of your husband as a "male of worth" and counting the minutes until the Qhay novella... just like the rest of us.  

Click to purchase: Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1)

by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I read through these books like a starving man at Thanksgiving dinner.  Sherrilyn Kenyon has concocted a strange blend of vampire legend and Greek mythology that just somehow works.  The Dark Hunters were all human once. But each was done a terrible wrong; their souls called out for vengeance --and they got it, in exchange for an immortal lifetime in service to the goddess Artemis. They protect humanity from a breed of life-sucking vampires.  And they fall in love. And have superhot sex.  For me, the series has lost its footing a little in the wake of the epic Acheron. But the early books are not to be missed.  In addition to Gods and vampires, there are also shapeshifters of several varieties.  Plus, it's set largely in New Orleans, with great landmark mentions and even a female lead from the suburb where I grew up. (Shout out to Kenner, everybody!)  Be sure to check out Kenyon's website. It puts all others to shame.

Click to purchase: Night Pleasures (Dark-Hunter, Book 1)

by Jeaniene Frost

Unlike the first three series I talked about, the Night Huntress books do not feature a new couple in every installment.  All of these book center around half-vampire Cat and her sexy vampire partner Bones.   And believe me, they are worth reading for the cocky allure of Bones, if nothing else.  There's a great band of secondary characters, some of which have scored their own spinoff books.  The series is easy reading... sexy, funny and it has a lot of heart.

Click to purchase: Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 1)

by Gena Showalter

I've heard some people say this series is kind of a derivative of the BDB books.  A bunch of supernaturally enhanced warrior guys, living together, fighting the good fight. Plus (say it with me) they fall in love and have super-hot sex.  But really, the similarities end there. The tone of these books is totally different.  While I wouldn't call it "light," there are some funny moments. The characters are irreverent and quirky.  And the heroines are each unique and worthy.  These warriors used be guards of Mt Olympus, until they opened Panadora's box, unleashing demons on humanity. Now each Lord houses a demon inside of him... which provides special gifts and drawbacks.

Click to purchase: The Darkest Night (LotU, Book 1)

So which PNRs are YOUR favorites? Everyone tells me that I have to read Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling books and I swear they are on my TBR pile. Any other suggestions?


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Review: In Total Surrender

Reviewed by Jen
This book started out a little confusing for me at first. It is book three in Anne Mallory's Secrets series, and I'm not sure if things would have been clearer for me if I had read the first two books or if the author was intentionally building a late reveal.

Andreas Merrick is definitely an anti-hero. He's dark, broken, and relentless in his pursuit of vengeance.  It seems like everyone in London wants him dead over his business dealings. And he is subjected to one assassination attempt after another. But as much as he would like to think himself utterly removed from humanity, he finds himself smitten with Phoebe Pace.  They have never met... he has only ever seen her from a distance at the theater.  But that changes when she shows up at his home, with a business proposition in hand.

Andreas does his very best to reject Phoebe. But no matter how many barbs he sends her way, she accepts him with a smile. Andreas simply refuses to open himself up to another person. Some things in life just happen, though, whether we want them to or not. Phoebe first wins him over in business, then slowly, in other ways.

This book was fun to read.  I really enjoyed Mallory's writing.  It was witty and smart.  Andreas was a fantastic tortured hero. There was great action and I absolutely adored the idea of him finding salvation with Phoebe.  BUT despite a phenomenal build-up, the sexual payoff was a huge disappointment. The sex scenes were rushed, vague, and terribly short.  And that's a real shame because I liked everything else about the way the relationship played out.

There were some pretty big twists at the end, which I didn't see coming.  And a satisfying conclusion.  Almost 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
In Total Surrender
by Anne Mallory
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Avon

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Mythic

Reviewed by Jen
I'm having a really hard time with a review for this book. There are some things that were done really well here, but there were developments that made me want to pull my hair out at the same time.

The story centers on Gianna, a human-vampire hybrid, plotting revenge on Mattias, the man who she blames for the death of her parents. As the book begins, Gianna rescues the vampire Nicholas from some of Mattias' henchmen. Nicholas is only in London to try to end a feud between Mattias and his family. Obviously, it's not going so well.

Anyway, Gianna takes Nicholas to her home and the two of them hit it off right away. She knows his connection to Mattias, but he doesn't know hers. So he's shocked when he finds out she and Mattias are dating. The relationship is a ruse to get close to the man. And it seems like Nicholas and Gianna are on the path to something really good. He even takes her back home to the States. She gets close to his family; everything looks great.

Let me tell you, Jae Lynn Davies can write the hell out of some sex scenes. There were a good many hot moments. They never felt monotonous or redundant. They were outstanding. I loved the idea of Gianna finally finding happiness with Nicholas, even if he did fall in love with her sickeningly fast.

But then, the story is completely turned on its ear. All of a sudden, Mattias isn't what he seems and the book goes in a completely different direction. I would have drop-kicked it if I didn't value my nook so much. I completely lost any ability to relate to Gianna and simply could not understand her feelings. I hated where she ended up and the ending was a cliffhanger.

I guess part of the reason I'm so frustrated is because I really liked where I thought the book was going. I sure as hell was on board with the love scenes. But then... (**sigh**)

I guess it says something that I got invested enough to be this bothered by it all. But (*spoilers*) she should have ended up with the other guy, dammit!!! Argh. Very hard to rate this one.   3 stars.  It would have been more had the ending been different.

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: All Romance Ebooks 
by Jae Lynne Davies
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Publisher: Tease Publishing

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Hard Bitten

Reviewed by Jen
I knew before I started this book that Something Big happens. I avoid spoilers like the plague and I didn't even read this series when this book came out. But despite that, there was so much chatter that you'd have to live under a rock to have missed the outcry. And even knowing all that, I was still utterly and completely decimated by this book.

It all starts out innocently enough. The mayor is putting the screws to Merit and Ethan to put an end to the blood raves in the city. And the same time, Darius, a bigwig from the governing vampire council, comes to town to check out the Chicago vamps. Merit believes Celina has a hand in it all. But Darius essentially forbids any further investigation of her.

In the meantime, Ethan is working to redeem himself for his behavior in the last book. He now accepts how he feels about Merit and is trying desperately to win her back. It's an intricate dance between them and their eventually acquiescence feels inevitable.

I'm not going to spoil the details of what happens, in the off chance you are one of the five people in the world who doesn't know how the book ends. Suffice it to say, (*spoilers*) it left me feeling much like I did at the end of For a Few Demons More. I am emotionally empty. Heartbroken. Betrayed. It was an amazing book, but I don't know how to forgive Chloe Neill.  And I don't know how to rate this. How do you rate a book that rips your heart out and stomps it on the floor?

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Hard Bitten
by Chloe Neill
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Publisher: NAL

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Twice Bitten

Reviewed by Jen
Wow. Just wow. This book completely knocked my socks off. It took my emotions on a crazy ride... from excitement to passion to joy to despair and back around to hope. Twice Bitten has it all: a great plot, fantastic action, love, betrayal, angst... and sex (did I mention sex?) Again, I say, wow.

The book picks up in the moment where the last one left off. Merit is answering the call of that mysterious note she got at the end of the last installment, inviting her to meet someone. And at first, it seems like this book is going to be about the secret organization of vampires she is asked to join. But the main story really follows Merit and Ethan as they provide security for Gabriel, the Alpha of the shifters, as he gathers his people to vote on the future of the pack. Someone is trying to kill Gabriel, so it's a struggle not only to keep him safe, but to find out who is behind the hit.

Merit is making great strides as a vampire. It's gratifying to see her grow and shine. But the big, big payoff in the book is road she travels with Ethan. These two put me through the wringer here, but in a completely amazing way. I cheered; I cursed; I considered making little Ethan voodoo dolls and sticking them with pins. It was amazing. All of it.

The ending opened so many doors to future storylines, not just in Merit's personal life, but in what will happen with the vampires, the shifters, and the Red Guard. And let's not forget, Celina is still out there somewhere. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Twice Bitten
by Chloe Neill
Release Date: July 6, 2010
Publisher: NAL

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