Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: Hearts of Fire

Reviewed by Jen
Boy, do I love me some dragon shifters.

It's 1889. Brand has left his home in Sweden with others of his kind to start his life over again in the growing town of Seatttle. He knows that some of his companions have nefarious intentions, but he needs to get away from the woman who broke his heart... the woman who rejected him when she learned he could turn into a dragon.

The moment Alice lays eyes on Brand, she knows their destinies are entertwined. She is an Owl shifter, daughter to Seattle's leader. And she makes it her mission to bring the handsome new stranger into her life.
Sure enough, the sparks fly between these two. But can Alice accept that the man of her dreams is from the most reviled breed of shifters? Beyond that, what will it mean for her family's home when they discover what the dragons have in store for them?

I liked the story, though it was really short and the I Love You's were flowing at the speed of light. It's the age-old forbidden love story, with a twist. There's not a lot of emotional resonance, but it's superficially enjoyable. And it sets up the state of a present day world explored in the Deadglass trilogy. The first book, Hearts of Darkness, is out in August.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hearts of Fire
by Kira Brady
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Zebra

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Thief of Shadows

Reviewed by Jen
I loved this book. It's easily one of my favorite historical romances of 2012!

The best thing about the story: the hero, Winter Makepeace.  He is, by all outward appearances, this drab, stuffy, severe man who runs a home for foundling children. But there is so much more to him than meets the eye.  While he toils away for the orphans by day... by night, he is a masked protector of the downtrodden... the Ghost of St. Giles.

Lady Isabel happens across Winter's alter-ego after he has been injured. She finds him unconscious in the road and rescues him from an angry mom.  Isabel brings him home and tends his injuries, having no idea that it's really Winter she is attending.  Once he regains consciousness, however, Winter recognizes her as one of the patronesses of his orphanage.  He sees her in a whole new light, but he doesn't stick around to get to know her better.

In fact, with his attraction towards her, Winter thinks distance is the best option. After all, he has stayed celibate on purpose, devoting all of his energies into his mission to help the helpless.  A relationship would only weaken his devotion to his cause. His plans to avoid Isabel fail spectacularly, however. When one of the other patronesses suggests he needs some social tutoring, Isabel is nominated for the job. Either he cooperates or he could lose the orphanage that he holds so dear.

It's almost like Winter has two distinct personalities: his headmaster side and his Ghost side.  Both are so fascinating and well developed.  He was so well-crafted, he felt like a real person.  An honorable, driven, loyal, sexy, virgin-person. (*fans self*)  I loved watching him struggle with his growing feelings for Isabel. His concerns about being beneath her in station; his worries about failing the children who need him; his sexual awakening.  It was all. So. Good.

I didn't love Isabel quite so much, but I didn't dislike her.  She has had to harden herself in the wake of tough blows.  She, too, struggles with her feelings in the relationship.  It takes her a little longer than Winter to come around, but she gets there.  The sexual tension is fantastic --and the sex is really, really hot.

I would definitely recommend this one.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Thief of Shadows
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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5 for Friday - June 29

Happy Friday, everybody! Or perhaps, a more appropriate salutation Happy Magic Mike Day!!  But I'll get back to that in a minute.  First, I have to say it's been a real hit and miss week for me in bookland. I read the first novella and full-length book in Jocelynn Drake's upcoming Asylum Tales series.  I liked those, but everything else I read just kind of fell flat. I guess it was because I was coming off the high from all of those fabulous June 26th releases.  Who knows?  Now I'm feeling a bit uninspired to pick up anything new.  Ever have one of those weeks?  Anyway... I know something that will cheer me up...

5. At long last, the wait for Magic Mike is over.

Believe it or not, I will not be going to see this tonight. One of my buds is working, so we can't go until tomorrow.  (*tears*) But Saturday night, we are hitting the theater, and I for one, am going with a blood alcohol content of at least .05.

And to show you my level of commitment to Joe, Matt and the boys, you should know that I am braving the displeasure of family members by missing an out-of-town birthday party on Saturday. Mr. Red Hot Books knows how much I've been looking forward to the movie and he has offered to take the kids for me! (That's love, people.)

4. Hot on the heels of her Once Burned release, Jeaniene Frost is already talking about the next Vlad book.  The second installment in the Night Prince series will be titled Twice Tempted.  It's scheduled for release March 19, 2013.  How am I going to wait that long?

3. Sherrilyn Kenyon has revealed the cover for her next League book. Check out the deets on Born of Fury:

Counted among the fiercest Andarion warriors ever born, Hauk is one of the five founding members of the Sentella- an organization that has declared war on the League that rules the Ichidian universe with an iron fist and terrifies it with an army of well-trained assassins. Hauk’s enemies are legion, but he fears nothing and no one. He will do whatever it takes to survive and protect his Sentella brethren.

Sumi Antaxas is one of the best assassins the League has ever trained. In her world, failure is not an option and she has never met a target she couldn’t execute. So when she’s assigned Hauk, she believes it’ll be a quick and easy mission.

But nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and Hauk is far better trained...
Born of Fury is out April 1. But if you don't want to wait until 2013 for your next dose of the Ichidan universe, remember Maris' story, Cloak & Silence, will be out December 15.

2. Everybody is talking about Sylvia Day's Bared to You these days. I've heard many people call it the better alternative to FSoG.  I haven't read it. Honestly, the 50 Shades comparison turned me off, but now I am wondering if that was a mistake.  (*sigh*)  Anyway, the cover for book two is out:

Reflected in You is out October 2.  The final book in the trilogy will be out in December.

1. Finally, with The Avengers and Magic Mike premieres moving into the rear-view, I'm wondering what I can look forward to next at the theater.  I'm leaning heavily toward the Total Recall redux.  I'm as sick of remakes as everyone else, but I have to admit, this looks pretty bad-ass.

After this, I will begin to fixate on Ryan Reynolds as Connor MacLeod in the Highlander reboot, FO' SHO!I am picturing him in the kilt already!!

Have a great week... remember AAD in NOLA is less than six weeks away!!! If any featured authors want a last-minute spotlight, just let me know and I'll be happy to host you here.


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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: Summer Nights

Reviewed by Allison
Yet another fabulous story from Fool's Gold, California! In the eighth chapter of Susan Mallery's series of the women-centric small town of Fool's Gold, we finally get to read about the sweet tempered librarian, Annabelle & the new cowboy in town, Shane - brother to the sexy Rafe Stryker, the last book's hero. Shane comes into town looking to reconnect with his family, raise his prize winning horses on his own ranch, & definitely NOT succumb to any sort of temptation. However, ever since he walked into the only bar in town & saw Annabelle dancing on the table (a sure sign of a wild child who will never settle down), he can't get her out of his mind - but he's been hurt before by a wife who he loved feverishly & continually cheated on him. Little does he know little Ms. Annabelle was simply showing her friends an indian ritualistic dance that she wanted to use in her fundraising parade to raise money for the library's bookmobile so she can bring books to shut ins & underprivileged families.

When Annabelle convinces Shane to teach her how to ride a horse for the above mentioned parade, the twosome start getting closer & learning that first impressions are just that. Annabelle tries to keep her distance, choosing independence over attachment, she even goes so far as to try to hook him up with her best friend, Charlie, but their sizzling connection leaps off the page & they find they can't contain themselves for long.

I loved the real connection between Annabelle & Shane even as they tried to find every excuse to avoid it. I loved that they truly understood what drove the other & that at the base of each of their passions (books & horses), helping others was the bottom line for each. She loved bringing books & technology to those who might not otherwise get the chance for either, while he taught little girls how to ride even though it wasn't his favorite part & took good care of his mothe'rs crazy animals. I think a big part of why I liked them so much together was how much I actually liked them both as characters.

I disliked the part where her ex re-entered the scene just to stir things up because I didn't really see the point. The effort to simply have more conflict in order to bring the pair closer was a little too obvious and, in my honest opinion, unnecessary.

I love that we revisit old friends from other books in each new installment so that even though their book has come, we still get to see what's going on in their lives - like the Hendrix Triplets' baby fever! The next heroine to look forward to is Annabelle's other best friend, Charlie, who we met and got to know better in this book - looking forward to seeing her happy ending as well!

If you haven't started this series, DO! It's such a fun little town & their stories will only make you smile!

Rating: A

Click to purchase: Amazon
Summer Nights
by Susan Mallery
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: HQN Books

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Review: Tarnished

Reviewed by Jen
I don't usually read steampunk. It's not that I dislike the genre, but I'm still kind of new to it. Reading the blurb on this book, I found myself intrigued.  Cherry St. Croix leads something of a double life. By day, she moves among London society, while by night, she enters the the soot-filled underbelly of the city to work as a bounty hunter.

What the blurb doesn't tell you is that Cherry is an opium addict.  That her employers run a sick Menagerie... a den of iniquity, powered by slave-like pets.  Cherry takes gigs to pay for her drug habit, but operates on the fringe of the Menagerie --until she is hired to find a sadistic killer who has been targeting the prostitutes who work for her employers.  Soon the hunter becomes the hunted and Cherry gets wrapped up an ordeal of even more powerful drugs, threats to her life, and sexual situations beyond her control.

All this, as her life in society is shaken up as well. She is barely tolerated by the upper-crust because of her late father's reputation as a mad scientist.  While putting on a brave face to the sharks of the ton, she ends up in an unlikely sort-of relationship with the handsome Lord Compton.  I really thought these two might make a go of it. Then I thought maybe she'd end up with Hawke, her mysterious boss at the Menagerie.  Then everything went crazy and all the relationship stuff got shoved aside in place of outlandish experiments and near death experiences.

I was intrigued by the world building. The upper and lower London set-up was really cool. But I felt like there was too much going on. Especially in the second half, when it seemed to drop off the deep end a little. It all started out pretty straightforward, but when the story started dipping into magic dust and Frankenstein themes, it started to lose me.

I actually liked one of the two love interests more than the other, but I think she's going to end up with the other guy.  Either way, it was left very unresolved, which is a blow to my romance-oriented heart. In fact, when all was said and done, just about everything was left open ended. It's one of those stories that doesn't get finished in one book --and you should know that going in. 

I have mixed feelings about this one. The set-up was good, but the more I read, the less I felt like it was the right fit for me.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Karina Cooper
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Tempest's Fury

Reviewed by Jen
I'll admit it. I am having serious trouble with this review.  All I want to talk about is the ending.  I know that's not fair.  I can't spoil people.  I can't rob them of that feeling I got when Nicole Peeler totally ripped the rug out from under me in the last chapter.  Unfortunately, my brain just won't let me move past it.  So I must tell you off the bat that the ending to this book is a shocking/ amazing/ horrible punch-in-the-gut cliffhanger.  But I won't tell you what it is.

That being said, let's go back to the beginning.  The story starts with Jane on a mission to Great Britain to help Blondie deal with a new supernatural threat.  Ancient elemental entities similar to the underground creature in the last book, are threatening to make a comeback.  And unlike the being that imbued Jane with her new fancy ax, these beings are murderous and fierce.  Blondie actually hacked up the Air and Fire beings, also known as the Red Queen and the White King, back in the day --when she was the champion of the magic ax.  Their pieces were scattered around the world, but now someone is gathering the pieces to put the monsters back together again.  Jane, Anyan, and Blondie have to stop it.

It's a cool story arc.  It's fast moving and full of action. It takes unexpected twists and turns and it incorporates some familiar faces from past books. All this while continuing to expand the established world building.

The book is really good. I only had one complaint. That was the ridiculous number of near-sex encounters between Anyan and Jane. I was already stretched to my limit before I started the book.  While I appreciate the need and desire to keep sexual tension alive, I was just flat out annoyed with all the stops and starts. The interruptions to their attempts at physical intimacy continue well into this book.  And though they do eventually (finally) seal the deal --and it's fantastic, by the way-- I had lost my patience way before that point.

Back to the plus side... I love Anyan. Love. Anyan.  We get to know him better as Jane does, both through his actions and through a peek into his history.  --Jane continues to be a funny, earnest, and all-around great heroine.  She is really growing here, yet she still manages to hold on to the core of who she is. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I have no idea when the next book comes out, which makes me even more of a wreck about the ending. But knowing Nicole Peeler it will be one heck of a series finale.  I can't wait to see how she fixes this. Because she must fix it.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Orbit

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempest's Fury
by Nicole Peeler
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Orbit

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Interview & Giveaway: Amanda Bonilla

Urban Fantasy author Amanda Bonilla is chatting with me today about her fantastic Shaede Assassin books. I loved Shaedes of Gray --and I promise you Blood Before Sunrise is just as good. Please help me welcome Amanda to the blog!

Jen: Thanks so much for chatting with me, Amanda. I am such a fan of the Shaede Assassin series.

Amanda: Thanks for having me, Jen! I have to say, I’ve been pimping your blog and Tumblr account to everyone I know. You know just what I like to see! ;)

Jen: Tell new readers a little about the books and the main character, Darian.

Amanda: The Shaede Assassin Series takes place in Seattle. The city has become the new royal seat for the Shaede Nation (creatures who can become shadows once the sun sets) and because of that, the supernatural population has boomed. My supes don’t live out in the open, meaning, most humans don’t know they exist. The main character, Darian, is a Shaede and an assassin. She’s bitter, jaded, and carrying an atomic bomb’s worth of attitude. She’s been living the past century completely shut off from the world. She’s only known about the supernatural world for a short time. Her former lover, Azriel, had her convinced that she was an anomaly and no others like her existed. She’s slowly learning how to form relationships, and since she’s well-practiced at keeping others at arm’s length, she’s having a hard time opening up.

Jen: I am completely, totally 100% in love with Tyler, so I'll admit I am biased. How would you compare and contrast him with Xander, the other man who is a potential love interest for Darian?

Amanda: Tyler is great. I really like giving males care-giver roles in my stories. I tend to make them more emotionally stable than my leading ladies. Ty is really great in that his reason for existing is to protect. Xander, on the other hand, is an aristocrat, and used to getting what he wants. I wouldn’t say he’s an uncaring character, because truly, he’s concerned with his people and his kingdom. But Xander can be pretty selfish and he’ll admit it freely. He doesn’t care who he steamrolls to get what he wants, and he’s not above being manipulative. While Ty can appear to be laid-back, he’s okay with getting down and dirty to protect those he loves. Tyler isn’t flashy. He’s crazy powerful, but he doesn’t feel like he has to prove himself to anyone. Piss him off, though, and you better watch out!

Jen: Darian is very emotionally stunted by her past experiences. Do you think she will ever really capable of trusting someone or letting them in completely?

Amanda: When I started this series, I wanted to take this closed-off character and explore what it would be like to see her scrape bottom and then fight her way to the top. Darian has no idea how to live her life. For decades she’s just been going through the motions. She’s going to have to make a lot of mistakes before she can learn her lessons. She’ll definitely grow and mature over the course of the series. The one thing I love about writing a first-person series is that rather than having her character arc span the course of one book, I get to stretch it out over the course of many books.

Jen: You do such a great job of fleshing out the characters, even the secondary ones like Raif (who I also Love with a capital L.) Which character do you most enjoy writing for and why?

Amanda: Thanks, Jen! I love Raif with a capital “L” too! He’s definitely one of my favorite characters to write. He’s so dry and pragmatic. I always picture him with this, “Really? You think that’s a good idea?” expression on his face. There’s something about writing Darian, though, that’s really cathartic. Her personality is nothing like mine and she doesn’t take shit off of anyone. I’m such a non-confrontational person; I’ll pretty much do anything to avoid it. Darian gets right in the face of confrontation and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. I love that about her.

Jen: In Blood Before Sunrise, you expand the world building quite a bit. How much of the world and series development did you have in your head when you started writing the first book and how much developed as you were writing?

Amanda: I wrote SoG completely from the hip. I had no idea what was going to happen until I typed the words on my keyboard. Whenever I needed to flesh out the world-building, I’d take a break and sketch it out on paper. I’ve got a family tree that shows the Shaede and Lyhtan lineage and how/where they branch off from the same tree. For Blood Before Sunrise I had to really flex my world-building muscles and create a Fae-related history. I like to create my own mythology, though. It can also be tough. Writing the “rules” of the Jinn and the way they bind themselves to their Charges (which will show up in Crave the Darkness, Shaede Assassin 3) has been my biggest challenge so far. I had to make sure that it was precise and to the letter. I hope I haven’t painted myself into a corner anywhere!

Jen: SoG focused on the Shaedes. BBS on the Fae. Will you continue to delve into more supernatural races in future books?

Amanda: I like to explore the world building involved with different supernatural characters. I plan to put the spotlight on a different species with each book. I have a very overactive imagination, so I’ll keep throwing out new supes until my brain sputters out. Which I’m hoping won’t be for a while. ;)

Jen: How many are you planning to write in the series at this point?

Amanda: I’m currently contracted for three books, but I could easily write at least seven in the Shaede Assassin series as well as a few spin-offs. I really want to write a book for Raif and I’m hoping that someday I’ll get the chance to do it!

Jen: OK, tell the truth, if you could change the name of the first book would you do it?

Amanda: Honestly, no. There is the occasional confusion over the spelling, and of course there’s the connection to another certain book with a similar title. Someone emailed me a month or so ago to ask if I’d titled my book the way I had to capitalize on the other book’s popularity. That really cracked me up. I wrote SoG in 2009 and the title seemed really fitting for the tone of the story. Darian starts out as this slightly unlikeable, gray area character. Frequently, book titles will be changed several times between the first draft and production. I’m glad the title stuck.

Jen: Earlier this month, you released a prequel novella about Darian's transition to life with Azriel. I am making my pitch for your next novella. Another prequel, this one a Ty POV of when he bound himself to Darian. Any chance? I would totally buy that.

Amanda: Jen, your wish will totally be granted! ;) I’m working on a novella right now that takes place between books 2 and 3 and is told from Tyler’s POV. I’m writing a flashback so readers will get to see that first meeting between Darian and Tyler and they’ll also get a firsthand account of why he feels compelled to bind himself to her from the first moment he lays eyes on her. I’m SOOOOO excited for this novella!!

Jen: OMG, OMG, OMG. When?

Amanda: Not until February.  :’( I’m really excited about it, though. Hope I can pull off the male POV. And I’ve never written a sex scene from guy’s perspective, either. I’m going to have to visit your tumblr often for inspiration. ;) It’ll be a tough job, but I’ll soldier through! Hehe.

Jen: I am so excited about this. Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions and for the giveaway! I hope BBS is a great success!

Amanda: Thanks again so much for having me as a guest, Jen! And keep those Tumblr posts coming! LOL!

Amanda is giving away a print copy of Blood Before Sunrise, which is out July 3rd.  To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This one is US/CAN only.  To learn more about Amanda Bonilla, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.  

Read more »

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Chasing Magic

Reviewed by Jen
It's no secret that I am a big fan of this series. I love the world-building. I love the originality. I LOVE the hero. And this was a good book. It wasn't my favorite in the series, though, and I'll get to why in just a minute.

The story begins as Sacrificial Magic did: with Chess and Terrible happy and in love. As someone who has seen what they've gone through to get to this point, it's so satisfying. Chess knows the treasure that she has in him; she acknowledges that he's her everything. And while she struggles with her lack of self-worth, it seems she has learned some lessons about trying to trust in his love for her.

There are two main problems she has to deal with here. One is fact that Lex is the new head of his family's drug turf, putting him more at odds with Terrible than ever before. The other, is that some really dark magic has started infecting the people of Downside, turning them into zombie-like entities, nearly impossible to kill. Of course, with her magic abilities, Chess is really the only one who can stop them.

The first half of the book is pretty low key. It moves along quickly and comfortably. Then Chess shows her true colors again, leaving me feeling punched in the gut. I won't get into the specifics, but at this point, I feel like the books have developed a pattern: 1) There is a problem only Chess can solve. 2) Terrible is her rock and she doesn't know what he sees in her. 3) She screws up royally in her personal life. 4) She saves the day.

Don't get me wrong, there are really, really good things in this book and no way would I tell a Downside fan to skip it. What I am saying though, is that I need to see more growth from Chessie soon. Every time she betrays Terrible, she hurts me. She creates this horrible knot in my stomach that makes me want to shut the book. I don't WANT to want to shut the book, Stacia Kane. I want to glory in lines like "Love you right, Chessiebomb." That doesn't mean I can't handle some angst. The side arc with Elder Griffin was heartbreaking, but still masterfully done. I just don't want to see Chess sabotage herself the same way yet again.

Terrible continues to be one of my favorite book-heroes of all time --taking his awesomeness to even greater heights with his latest promises and assertions of love.  Even in his darkest and most intense moments (and boy does he have one here,) it's like he has this gravity that pulls me deeper and deeper into his orbit.  But as we learn more about the repercussions of Chessie's actions, I'm scared for where the future will take him.

I suppose that all my really strong feelings are a true testament to how insanely talented Stacia Kane really is. I am anxious and excited and nervous and jumble of all kinds of other emotions as I think about what may be coming next.   Chess, please don't let me down.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Chasing Magic
by Stacia Kane
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Del Rey

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Review: Wicked Nights

Reviewed by Jen
I have no doubt that Lords of the Underworld fans are going to love this one.  It's got all the things that make a great Gena Showalter book: hot sexual tension, humor, great world-building, a strong heroine, and an alpha hero undone by his first feelings of love.  --Oh, and did I mention the hero is a virgin?  Mmm.

We first met Zacharel in The Darkest Secret, an angel sent to deal with Amun when he came back from Hell, dripping with demons.  He's gorgeous and powerful, but seemingly void of emotions.  The only person he has ever cared about was his twin brother, Hadreniel. The brother who begged for death after being tortured by demons.  The brother he killed to end his suffering.

Zacharel's lack of feelings and general disinterest in humanity have him in trouble with his Deity. Too many times, Zacharel has considered a human to be collateral damage in his fight against demons.  As punishment, he must lead a band of problematic angels on the cusp of losing their wings.  He is responsible for their actions and together, they will either all be redeemed or they will all fall.

A demon killing mission leads Zacharel to the institute for the criminally insane where Annabelle is being held. She was accused of killing her parents years ago. But it was really a demon attack --and she has been plagued by monsters ever since.  No one else can see or hear them, though, and that only makes her look crazier.

When Zacharel and Annabelle meet, he is instantly drawn to her. She is a fascinating contradiction. Strong yet vulnerable. Naive and jaded.  In many ways, her spirit reminds him of the brother he lost so long ago. He ends up rescuing her from captivity and decides to help her figure out why she is a demon target and, later, to track down the monster that ruined her life.

There were so many things I liked about this book.  I loved watching Zacharel's transformation.  The way he discovers emotion and desire.  I liked that it wasn't an easy path and that he makes mistakes.  I loved, loved, loved the secondary characters in his band of angel warriors.  Koldo's story is next, but I already have a favorite and I will be waiting with baited breath for Xerxes' book.

The events of Amun's book and The Darkest Seduction are referenced here and we do get appearances from a handful of the Lords and their mates. That was great for me, but I'm not sure how it would play for a new reader.

The sex is hot, but I felt like we had to wait a long time for it.  I think I would have liked a little more payoff on Zacharel losing his virginity.  My only other complaint was that I figured out the villain reveal very, very early on in the story. Maybe I've read too many Showalter books because I saw it coming a mile away.  But I liked how it all worked out in the end. It was very sexy and satisfying. Definitely worth reading!

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by Little Bird Publicity

Click to purchase: Amazon
Wicked Nights
by Gena Showalter
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: HQN Books

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Once Burned

Reviewed by Jen
Jeaniene Frost is back.  Not that she went anywhere, really.  But the last couple of Cat & Bones books didn't quite knock it out of the park for me.  This book most assuredly did.

Once Burned is the long awaited Night Huntress spinoff, featuring Vlad.  Right off the bat, I have to tell you that he makes this book sing.  Not every cocky hero is a winner. In fact, most of them are downright off-putting for me.  But Vlad finds just the right balance of swagger and depth.  He is arrogant, but his walk matches his talk.  And perhaps most importantly, he is never a jerk to his heroine.  It isn't love at first sight. He doesn't write her sonnets or pick her flowers, but I could see respect there.  I could believe it when I watched her fall in love with him.

Leila is human, but she isn't normal. An accident with electricity in her childhood left her with serious side effects. Now, she can not touch others without discharging power.  She also carries the gift of psychometry.  She can touch a person or a thing and see past, present, and future events tied to it.  And whenever she touches someone for the first time, she always sees their darkest moment.

As the story begins, Leila accidentally gets a vision of a murder about to take place.  She manages to prevent it, but in the process, she ends up calling some unwanted attention to herself.  A group of vampires kidnaps her, planning to use her gifts to track down Vlad for his enemy.  What they never expect is for her to reach out to him psychically instead. She makes a deal with Vlad to turn over her kidnappers in exchange for a rescue.  And it works!  But Vlad isn't quite willing to let her go after that.  He hopes to use to her find the mystery man who ordered her kidnapping, in exchange for keeping her safe from future attacks.  It's as they work together and grow to know one another that the two move beyond a business arrangement.

I like Leila. She is genuine and loyal, smart and pragmatic.  I enjoyed watching her fight her feelings for Vlad. It made it even sweeter when she eventually succumbed.  The sex is really hot.  Nothing kinky, just really sensual and satisfying.  The plot is interesting, the writing is conversational, and the pacing was so good that I didn't want to put down the book, even hours past my bedtime.

Night Huntress fans will be happy to know we get cameos from some familiar faces. Make no mistake, though. Vlad is the star of this book.  He is sexy and complex. He is possessive and protective. But he doesn't give his heart easily and that bears mentioning.  (*mild spoilers*) The ending isn't your typical Happily Ever After.  But I thought it was a solid Happy for Now.  One with great potential to grow in the next installment. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Very, very good.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon or Enter to Win
Once Burned
by Jeaniene Frost
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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AAD Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Jeaniene Frost

Night Huntress fans, hold onto your seats. Once Burned is out this week and I can promise you, it does not disappoint.  The amazing Jeaniene Frost is here to chat with me today. Please help me welcome her to the blog.

Jen: What can you tell us about Once Burned?

Jeaniene: Once Burned is the first book in the Night Prince series featuring Vlad as the hero and a new character named Leila as the heroine. Vlad’s ability to manifest and control fire makes him one of the most powerful vampires in existence. Leila is human, but she has some unusual abilities as well; her whole body gives off electricity and she can pick up psychic impressions through touch. Right now, two books are contracted for this series, with the possibility for more in the future.

A little backstory: When I first started writing about vampires, I swore to myself that I would never touch the Dracula legend because that had been done countless times. Then while I was writing the third book in the Night Huntress series, Vlad popped onto the page. The first thing I knew about him was that he hated the Dracula legend. The second thing I knew was that he and my hero, Bones, were not friendly. I kept trying to take Vlad out of the scene because, again, I was not going to write about Dracula! However, I kept thinking about his character. It was as if he refused to go away. He ended up being a regular side character in the Night Huntress series, yet that still wasn’t enough. The more I thought about Vlad, the more pieces of his story came together in my mind. Finally, I gave him not only his own book, but his own series.

So much for saying “never,” right?

Jen: Vlad is my favorite secondary character in the Night Huntress world. What was behind the decision to give him multiple books, instead of just one, like Charles or Mencheres?

Jeaniene: First, thank you! Second, some stories are best told in only one book, like a movie. Some stories are too big for that and they end up taking place over multiple books, like a TV series. The reason behind the decision to give Vlad a series versus one book was simple: The story I had my head about him and Leila was too big to fit in only one book. That’s only happened before with Cat and Bones, so I pressed hard to give Vlad a series and happily, my publisher agreed.

Jen: I know a lot of fans have made noise about a book for Ian. Do you think that will ever happen? Are there any other secondary characters you'd like to develop?

Jeaniene: I get a LOT of requests for an Ian book. One reader even sent me plot ideas because she wanted the book so badly and thought the issue was that I couldn’t come up with a storyline on my own, heh. First, Ian isn’t ready to be shoved into the hero role yet, and I don’t want to write about him unless he can be a hero. Second, if he ever gets ready, I know exactly who I’d pair him with and I already know the main plot that story would revolve around. So, the issue isn’t a lack of ideas. It’s Ian. If he can grow up a little in the future, I’d love to give him a story. If he insists on remaining a slut, he doesn’t get one since I refuse to write about a hero who cheats on the heroine. I do have hope for him, though. Cross your fingers for him, Ian fans!

As for other characters, yes, I’d love to write about several of them. I’m tied up for the next two years finishing Cat and Bones’s storyline, plus finishing Vlad and Leila’s, so any new character stories would have to wait. By the time my schedule clears, it depends on which character is making the most noise in my head, metaphorically speaking (no, I don’t actually hear voices, so put down the white jacket with the really long sleeves! ;)). The character I can’t stop thinking about usually wins in the new story department.

Jen: Cat and Bones finally seem like they've gotten to the point where they are unshakably solid. Does it change your approach to writing their stories now that their relationship is a given? (Does that make sense?) Is it a challenge to keep them fresh?

Jeaniene: It alters things in some ways. Neither Cat nor Bones is going to abruptly change their minds about their feelings for one another, plus they’re past the “does he/she really love me?” stage. However, because their storyline is wrapping up and I have a LOT of things to pack into their final books, I don’t think it will be challenge to keep things fresh. It’s crunch time now and all the little breadcrumbs I’ve been dropping along the way in previous books are about to blow up. I can’t wait to share the final outcome with readers!

Jen: I can't remember where, but I read something you wrote once about writing married love and your faith. I wish I could put my finger on it now, because I thought it was really interesting when I read it...

Jeaniene: Hmm. It might have been on Twitter when I said I wished that love scenes were not taboo in inspirational fiction.

Jen: That was it!!

Jeaniene: Married couples have sex. They can even have really hot sex (shocker, I know! *wink*). Sometimes I want to read an inspirational novel because it explores my faith in a way that many secular books do not. However, I’m a greedy reader, so I don’t want to give up on a hot love story, too. The two aren’t opposites in real life, but in most inspirational fiction (that I’m aware of, please correct me if I’m wrong!) they seem to be.

Granted, some readers prefer the bedroom door firmly closed no matter what the genre is, and some of the “hottest” books on the market don’t contain sex scenes. I’m not advocating for inspirational fiction or another other genre to always contain sex scenes. I am, however, a fan of variety, and therefore I don’t think secular novels should be the only ones allowed to showcase great sex in fiction. But I could be alone in this opinion. Reading tastes vary, as everyone knows.

Jen: Talk to me a little about writing love scenes. Does it come easily? Would you rather write a steamy sex scene or an action/fight scene and why?

Jeaniene: I’d rather write neither, actually (bet you didn’t see THAT coming!). Sex scenes and fight scenes are difficult and time consuming to write. There’s a delicate balance of emotional/physical/action/reaction in every single sentence. One wrong turn of phrase – or even one wrong word - can ruin the intensity for readers. Dialogue, on the other hand, is fun to write. I can hear what the characters are saying in my head, so it’s almost like taking dictation when I write dialogue.

If you gripe about it, then why do you write sex/action scenes? someone might ask. Well, because I write romance, sex is an important part of the emotional journey for my characters. Just because sex scenes are harder for me to write – or make me blush, as has happened often - it wouldn’t seem fair to readers to shy away from it. Fight scenes equally necessary because my characters live in a dark, violent world. Life and death struggles are going to happen, and again, if I shy away from showing those, I cheat the reader in my eyes.

Jen: Bones is one of the most beloved PNR heroes out there. What is it about him that makes him so incredibly popular?

Jeaniene: I’ve had many readers tell me that they love Bones’s honesty, his openness about his feelings, and his sense of humor. *grin* Descriptions of his body probably don’t hurt, either. But in all honesty, I don’t know why he’s so popular. I’m delighted by it, of course, but there are plenty of other amazing PNR heroes. All I can say to Bones’s popularity is, Thank you, readers!

Jen: Are you working on anything outside of the Cat & Bones world? What's ahead for you?

Jeaniene: Right now I’m focused solely on novels set in my vampire world, whether it’s Cat and Bones or Vlad and Leila. After that, I’d like to write something entirely new, but then again, I’d also like to write more about side characters in my vampire world. We’ll see which idea/world demands the most attention once I’m finished with my current commitments.

Jen: What are you most looking forward to from AAD in NOLA this summer?

Jeaniene:My grown-up, professional answer? Meeting readers and other authors while talking about the genre I love. However, the inner 8-year-old in me is squealing, “Beignets and haunted tours and ancient cemeteries, yay!”

A big thanks to Jeaniene for taking the time to chat with me.  In honor of the release of Once Burned, I am giving away a copy! To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This one is US/CAN only. In the meantime, be sure to visit Jeaniene's website and the special page devoted to Once Burned. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Read more »

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Scandal Wears Satin

Reviewed by Jen
Nothing matters to Sophy Noirot as much as her sisters and the dress shop they have built from the ground-up.  Their creations are on the cutting edge of fashion and they were just starting to get a foothold in society, when sister Marcelleine made a formidable enemy in the ton.  But they're holding on, thanks in no small part to the patronage of Lady Clara.

Unfortunately, a scandal lands Clara bethrothed to a fortune-seeking scoundrel and Sophy takes it upon herself to extract her from the situation.  Then Clara runs away, forcing her brother (the Earl of Longmore) to team up with Sophy to find her and bring her home.  It's that mission which throws them together and sows the seeds of their romance.

I loved Sophy. She manages to be both innocent and jaded at the same time, and in a way that's totally believable.  She's lived a hard life but it has made her stronger.  She can read people and adapt to meet the needs of her environment.  She's a great chameleon, which serves her well in her schemes to rescue Clara from her misfortunes.  Yet, everything she knows about love and sex are intellectual.  Until Longmore awakens something inside her that she can't ignore.

As for our hero: he was ok.  There was almost too fine a point put on the fact that he's not too bright and is a bit of a slacker.  He's also arrogant at times and there were moments I didn't feel like he showed Sophy enough respect.  The way Loretta Chase describes him physically was quite delicious, but beyond that (and his affection for his sister) I'm not sure what Sophy sees in him.

I really enjoyed their first love scene together, though Sophy's decision felt a little sudden.  In fact, the sex and sexual tension were quite well done as a whole.  But honestly, I thought all the dress descriptions grew tedious.  And I felt like the sisters burned through an awful lot of money to save a business that's in financial dire straights. 

This is book two in the Dressmaker series and while this could work as a standalone, it would make more sense to people who have read Silk is for Seduction. I liked this installment, but not as much as the other Loretta Chase books I have read.

Rating: B- 

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Scandal Wears Satin
by Loretta Chase
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Migrations

Reviewed by Shelly
This is a first for me. I think my expectation of erotic romance has room for romance AND erotica but this one doesn’t deliver.

Blurb: Val Hastings, assisted by her do-gooder cousin Sarah Cline, is shanghaied into driving their Aunt Rose across the US to visit her son. What begins as the trip from hell turns into a sexy adventure when they find themselves sharing the interstate with a mysterious, leather-clad biker. Aunt Rose and Sarah are convinced he’s up to no good. But after Val catches him pleasuring himself at a rest area, and he offers her some steamy help to make her journey more enjoyable, she’s convinced he’s her nasty saviour. 

Is Hawk, the biker, a murderer, a free spirit, or something else? Whatever he is, animal attraction wins out over caution, as he joins the ladies for a cross-country romp that keeps Sarah and Aunt Rose nervous and Val hotter than her overheating engine. 

Review: There is one thing that I liked about this story: there’s a moment when Val realizes that her Aunt Rose and cousin Sally care about her happiness.

There are several things I didn’t like. For me, this story was totally unbelievable as any kind of a romance. No one can convince me that there’s a 30-year-old woman on this earth who meets a masturbating man at a truck stop and does NOT think he’s a pervert and will NOT run a 100-meter dash faster than Usain Bolt to get a way from his crazy ass.

There was a part of the book when Valerie doubted that Hawk had feelings for her, she thought he was slumming; I just wanted to hit her on the back of the head and ask her what the hell did you expect?

And there was a disturbing and, I thought, unnecessary (masturbation) encounter with Hawk and cousin Sally, in the presence of Valerie – I was like shut the front door, this better not be that kind of a book.

I can’t even say that the sex scenes were good. The story just didn’t work for me - neither did the sex scenes. And I’m still trying to figure out what kind of car they were traveling cross country in that would vibrate so much (and the whole car not fall apart) that it could act as a vibrator while you’re sitting in the driver seat.

I hate to be blunt, but if you’d like to read a stroke piece this is it.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: D

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
by KD Grace
Release Date: May 30, 2012
Publisher: Xcite Books

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Review: Lord Atwood's Lovers

Reviewed by Jen
I'll admit, sometimes I get a little skeptical about the HEA factor in a menage. What it needs, in order to be believable for me, is a real thread to connect each member of the trio together in a meaningful way.  This story manages to acheive that in my opinion and left me wanting more.

Imogen and Charles Atwood are newlyweds and they are head over heels in love with each other.  Charles was always considered serious and removed by members of the ton but he was so enamored of Imogen, he threw all that aside to court her.  Now that she is his, he can't keep his eyes --or his hands-- off her.

Imogen was a widow when she met Charles and though she loves him completely, she still mourns the death of her first husband and how he pushed her away in their last years of marriage.  She doesn't want any secrets between her and Charles and she wants to make him happy. So when she learns of a rift between him and his old friend Alex, she wants to help make it right.

She comes to learn that Charles and Alex were once lovers, and she decides on a risky proposition to give her husband everything he wants.

I liked the writing in this novella quite a bit. The relationships worked for me. In fact, I found myself wishing I could have read the story of Charles and Imogen's courtship as well.  I thought Imogen jumped into the menage-boat rather quickly, but the love scene with the three of them was very hot.  I could definitely feel the love Charles had for both his wife and for Alex, which is important, because it was balanced in the bedroom.

This is really short, only about 40 pages, but it's just right for a little lunch hour diversion.  I enjoyed it.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Lord Atwood's Lovers
by Eva Clancy
Release Date: June 1, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Spice Briefs

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: Guardian of the Night

Reviewed by Jen
Faith is an American doctor in Europe searching for her missing sister, Hope. She is told that a man named Mason LanVal may be able to help in her search. But on her way to seek him out, she is caught in an iron trap that nearly takes off her leg. She doesn't know it, but local vampires set the trap and others like it to catch animal and human prey. Fortunately, Mason picks up the scent of her blood first and rescues her.

Mason is like a vampire in many ways, but he is stronger and has a greater purpose. He was created to be one of the seven blood knights, tasked with protect the purity of the bloodline and taking down anyone that would abuse its power. He considers lower vampires to be monsters in need of extermination.

Faith is in really bad shape when he finds her and the only way Mason can save her is with a drop of his own blood. He does this and ends up creating a blood bond between them. Mason is inexplicably drawn to Faith, even in her minimal consciousness. And he senses some Otherness in her, which turns out to be a Were ancestry that she didn't even know existed.

He takes her to the local were pack to heal. And the rest of the book follows Mason as he searches for Faith's sister and tries to figure out who has made all the new vampires in his area. Meanwhile, Faith must come to terms with her heritage and her strange new connection to Mason.

I didn't love this one. My biggest problem with this "romance" was the fact that the hero and heroine only spend about 1/10 of the book in each other's company. It felt like almost the entire first half of the story was spent in Mason's head. His fantasizing about Faith, his questions about Hope, his bemoaning of his solitary life. It got really old. Beyond that, the world-building was not great. I didn't entirely get the point of the creation of the seven knights and I didn't really care. Then you throw Faith's sister into the mix and it all got even murkier. How the villain plotted her and Faith into his master plan just didn't make sense without a little ESP on his part. It was just... a mess.

And the romance was kind of lame. Too much pining. Not enough payoff.

Rating: D+

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Guardian of the Night
by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

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5 for Friday - June 22

This week has really flown by! Of course, I spent half of it getting a healthy dose of sunshine and extended family during my vacation at Fontainebleau State Park.  It was gorgeous out there and I was happily surprised that they had wi-fi in the cabins, so I wasn't completely cut off from the blog and my Twitter addiction.  Hours of play knocked the kids out at night and mixed drinks did the same for the hubs, so I even got a little reading time in!  But there is no place like home and I'm glad to be back with Tumblr you guys.

5. Tuesday is a huge, huge release day.  It's like the publishers decided to save up a ton of big books to drop on us all on the same day.  Some of the best coming out this week: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost, Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt, and Wicked Nights by Gena Showalter.

I also enjoyed Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane and Tempest's Fury by Nicole Peeler.  Oh! And Consumed by Rebecca Zanetti.  But really, those are just the tip of the iceberg.  What big June 26th release tickles your fancy?  Tell me what you're looking forward to *or* which books you wanna spread the word about.

4. A couple of tidbits from the awesome Jennifer Estep.  The next book in her Elemental Assassin book, Widow's Web is out in August, but if you can't stand the wait, she's got Chapter 1 up on her blog. In the meantime, she has revealed the cover for her next YA Mythos Academy book Crimson Frost.

That one is out in January. And Estep says the name of the book after that will be Midnight Frost (out August 2013.)

3. The amazing Ilona Andrews is giving us a sneak peek of the next Edge book. You can find chapter 1 of Steel's Edge up on her blog.  This is the last contracted book in the series from what I understand and I must say I am sad. I really was hoping for a Jack and/or a George book. (**sniff**) I shall keep hope alive.

2.  By now, everybody and their mama has seen the Breaking Dawn Part 2 trailer. But you could be living under a rock. Or just itching for a chance to talk about it.  Either way, here it is:


Yes. I will go see it.

1. And speaking of guilty pleasures. Dallas is back.

I was a huge fan of the original recipe Dallas, back in the 80's.  Of course, I was around 10 years old and I didn't even realize how much of it I didn't "get" until I watched the episodes again during a CMT re-airing while I was in college.  So, have any of you seen the new version? Is it worth watching?  Here's the trailer if you've missed it.  I need opinions before I commit.

**Bonus Item**

I saw this cover reveal on Harlequin's Facebook page and Rrraw. 

Badly disfigured Lady Isobel Dalceann has fought fiercely to defend her keep, with little thought for her safety. Why, then, has she let a stranger within her walls? While he threatens danger, his battered body marked by war mirrors her own scars and tempts her to put her faith in him.

Marc de Courtenay is a mercenary and a loner, although he is drawn to damaged—beautiful—Isobel. But in taking him into her highly defended, buttressed walls, she has unwittingly given him secrets that will enable him to betray her. What would she do if she were ever to find out who he really is…?


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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Bound Temptations

Reviewed by Shelly
This is a publication release of two previously released novels, Tempt Me and Beg Me. I’m going to review this novel as two separate review to support the reading experience.


Blurb: She’s a temptation he can’t resist…

Roxanne ‘Rocki’ Monroe’s life is full of secrets and hidden heartaches. Cole Stanton would love to heal her pain and chase away the ghosts of her past, but she’s just a complication he doesn’t have room for in his life.

Or so he thinks.

It doesn’t take Cole long to realize he’s more than willing to let temptation get the best of him, more than happy to deal with complications if that’s what it takes to get her.

What he has and what he needs are two different things…and what he needs is Rocki.

Review: This story took me about a chapter to get into, but oh boy, once I did I was in it something fierce. If you like dialogue, then you’re going to really like this story. We are privy to a lot of conversations and for me that works wonders for pacing and continuity.

Rocki, a policeman’s widow, has set up a new life for herself after the untimely death of her husband. She’s a business owner of a place I’d like to visit, Lush & Lace, I’m not going to ruin the surprise and tell you what she offers. I will say that what she sells has a significant part in the storyline.  Suffice it to say, that’s where she meets the bronzed, blonde, and beautiful Cole and his evileen fiancé Mara.

Rocki is not perfect nor is she a size six and that’s what I loved the most about her. She’s got self doubt about doing the right thing, she means what she says and she’s got a best friend who made me laugh out loud on more that one occasion.

When I first met Cole, I didn’t think I would like him at all. He seemed a bit too ‘perfect’ and those are always your psycho stalkers. Well he’s neither perfect nor a psycho and I really enjoyed the sparks that flew between these two. I thought the pace of their romance was believable; the events that went on around them were realistic and really moved the story along.

On to the good stuff, the sexual tension between Rocki and Cole was HOT. Those two could light a page on fire. The sex was enviable and with just enough self-denial to warrant Rocki still in mourning for the life she had with her deceased husband.

Overall, I really enjoyed Rocki and Cole. I would have really liked to find out more about Mara’s story, she seemed ripe for a alpha male to come in and turn her world upside down.

Rating: A

Blurb: Beg me…there had been a time when those words made her burn with desire. But now, there was only fear.

Once, Tania Sinclair’s life was almost perfect…But a couple of tragedies later, she’s barely holding it together. A car accident took away her husband, and an attack from somebody she should have been able to trust has shaken not only her confidence, but it’s also stripped away her fantasies and even made it painful to look back on her memories of her husband without fear.

Two years after her attack, Tania is determined to take her life back and the first step is taking back herself…her fantasies, her dreams, her memories. There’s only one person she can trust to do it, too. One person she wants enough…Drake Bennett, her husband’s best friend.

Warning: This book involves light bondage play, rape fantasy & role-playing. The acts between the hero & heroine are consensual, but they may not be ideal for all readers…

Review: HEED the warning folks, do NOT complain after you’ve read this story that you didn’t know about the rape fantasy and role playing game. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

This was a really hard story for me to read. It was hard for the exact scenarios in the warning.

I didn’t like Tania. I wasn’t convinced of her rational for asking Drake for his ‘services’. I felt sympathetic that she was attacked and violated, but I just couldn’t seem to invest in her as someone who deserved Drake. I can’t say that I’ve been attacked or violated but I don’t believe I have to be to either relate or not relate to any character for that matter. Maybe the point that Walker was trying to put out there is - it talks all kinds to fill the freeway, we don’t have to understand or like every character but we’ve all got a story that’s just itching to be told. So for that, the author did her job – she made me have an emotion towards her characters.

We need more men with hearts like Drake, men who’ll do anything for their woman. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed his character. He was such a tortured hero, loving Tawny from afar. When he had the chance to prove his love to her by offering his ‘services’ she selfishly overlooked his emotions.  Ya’ll, I was so mad and just when I was ready to throw my hands up and say – that’s it, I couldn’t put the book down because I just had to know what she’s going to do to fix it.

The sex between these two was primarily role-playing games of rape fantasy so I can’t say that I enjoyed them because they did make me uncomfortable. But then again, it’s in that respect that Shiloh Walker has a new fan because I cared enough about Drake and by default Tania that I wanted them to have their kinky and consensual HEA.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: A-

Click to purchase: Amazon
Bound Temptations
by Shiloh Walker
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Hydra Publications

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Review: Tempted by the Highland Warrior

Reviewed by Jen
This is the best Highlander book I have read in a long time.  It has such a fantastic tortured hero.  Callum was taken prisoner when he was only 12 years old.  For seven long years, he was tortured. It not only battered his body, but it stole his voice.

One night, Lady Marguerite sees his suffering firsthand.  She is betrothed to his captor, but she takes care of Callum. She nurses his wounds and gives him the first comfort he has known in years.  The two form a connection right away, and even after Callum is sent away to be tortured by someone else, his memories of Marguerite help him hold on to his fragile threads of sanity.

When Callum's brothers come to finally rescue him, he is gone. But Marguerite makes her escape from her wretched fiance with the MacKinlochs. So when they finally do track Callum down, the two are reunited.   Their time together is brief, though, because her father comes for her quickly and has her engaged to someone else in a heartbeat.  Callum goes after Marguerite, knowing he can't live without her.

I love Callum so much. He can't speak, but we hear his thoughts.  Marguerite is his sun and moon... his savior. And she loves him too. They have so many things stacked against them, it seems impossible for them to make it work. But their stolen moments are so tender and so good.  Callum has been through hell, but he will do anything to be with Marguerite.  He is strong, but manages to be gentle with her. 

Their obstacles are very real and my heart broke for them when they seemed insurmountable.  I hated Marguerite's father and (*minor spoiler*) my only (small) complaint was his pseudo-redemption at the end. I couldn't forgive the things he did and felt like he deserved more consequences for his actions. The sexual tension between Callum and Marguerite was good and I enjoyed the payoff, but it was more about the love there than anything else.

This is book three in MacKinloch series, but I think this would work easily as a standalone.  There's not much in the way of a brogue, since our hero can't speak, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a Highlander or a tortured hero story.   I loved it.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempted by the Highland Warrior
by Michelle Willingham
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: His Heart's Obsession

Reviewed by Jen
Being in love with another man is no small thing for an officer in the British Royal Navy, especially if the year is 1752. It's even worse if the object of your affections is head-over-heels in love with someone else entirely. But despite the odds against him, Robert is not ready to give up on his feelings for Hal.

Hal may be crazy about the ship's captain, William, but William has no idea and favors women, anyway. So Robert makes his move. Hal is shocked by his interest and even questions his sincerity. So Robert vows to prove his love by being the kind of man Hal could respect.

This is a really short story, but it's one led primarily by emotion. I believed in Robert's affections for Hal and in Hal's hopeless crush on William. I liked watching Robert try to better himself and show Hal what love really looks like. I did, however, think Hal was a little hard on Robert. He knows first hand what unrequited love feels like. He could have been a little kinder.

I also wished for a little more sexual payoff. Though I acknowledge what we got was good --and realistic, considering the circumstances. It also reinforces that this is a story really more about the feeling of love rather than the psychical manifestation of it.

Well done, especially considering the brevity of the story, which was less than 80 pages.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
His Heart's Obsession
by Alex Beecroft
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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Review: Starlight

Reviewed by Allison
I’m usually pretty OCD about reading a series out of order, but the cover for this one seduced me - it’s just so luscious & decadent!

In this story of discovery, exploration, & love, I found myself on an adventure with the eldest of the Christie siblings, Alexander, as he searched for a way to protect his feeble infant son, Edmund. The only means of keeping him away from the evil father-in-law looking to steal custody was to complete a challenge set upon him by his own recently departed father in his will. His task was to manage one of his father’s holdings, Christie Textiles in Glasgow, Scotland & if after two years of doing so, he turned a profit then he would be rewarded with *in my Dr. Evil voice* one million dollars. Just the right price to convince a crooked judge that Edmund would be better off with his father.

What he didn’t count on, however, was the spirited Polly Gowan – daughter of a famous labor union rebel, Graham Gowan. Polly earnestly follows in her father’s footsteps & feels passionately loyal to her fellow mill workers, or “her people” as she calls them. Alex sees her as his key to understanding the union, and she views him as her key to keeping anyone from her union in trouble for an explosive fire at the mill as well as a way to find out who did it (hopefully before he does).

Polly & Alex had a passionate fire between them from the moment they first kissed, however as sizzling as the love scenes were, the vocab was a little awkward which didn’t make them flow as well as they should’ve. In the end, it didn’t matter too much because the build up was well worth the wait, especially for the studly Alex Christie (who never lacked in provocative descriptions)
“Energy shimmered off of him, all around him. Or maybe that was just the steam of hot skin meeting cold air. He looked like a pagan god of war descended to earth for a contest among mere mortals. He scrubbed one hand almost lazily through the swath of hair spread over his sculpted chest, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to stroke such primal masculinity. Polly flexed her own fingers. She wanted another opportunity to touch and explore, this time finding her way to that virile torso. What would his body feel like beneath her palms? Against her cheek? Beneath her tongue?”
As the hero, Alex was more than just a sexy lay, he had some real growing to do in this story - I loved how the mill became more than just a means to keep his father in law from his son; it became something that he can take pride in, something he could make his. I enjoyed watching him learn about Glasgow & his employees at the mill, seeing them as real people the more he got to know them. He grew into something his father would be proud of, making he letter at the end that much more poignant.

This tale of loyalty, perseverance, & love not only had an intriguing twist but left me with a smile on my face. I look forward to going back & reading Viv’s story, Alex’s sister, to get to know this compelling family even better.

Grade: B+

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon or Enter to Win
by Carrie Lofty
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Pocket Books

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