Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: Night Thief

Reviewed by Jen
I could easily see the Night Walker series turning into one of my guilty pleasures. For me, it has a little bit of that Christine Feehan Carpathian feel. Old world, powerful heroes who are like vampires, but not quite vampires. Men who cherish their women, treat them like they hung the moon, and have a kind of hot sex with them that feels more sensual than dirty. All that good stuff without any white lightning, molten cores, or velvet over iron.

This particular story is kind of sequel, or maybe even a prequel, to Night Walker. It works either way, set in the past of the same world with no overlapping characters. Our hero, Kane, is a Night Walker --a shapeshifter who happens to enter a death-like state during the day and drinks blood to survive. Very different from a vampire -- who enters a death-like state during the day, drinks blood to survive, and terrorizes beautiful young women like our heroine, Marguerite.

The lovely Rita is enslaved to an evil vamp --and she is working as pickpocket to earn enough money to escape him with her cousin. She is engaged in a theft when she first catches Kane's eye. He is drawn to her, and as he gets to know her better, that attraction only grows. For the first time in centuries, he is enamored of a mortal and he reaches out for a connection to her.

Of course, her vampire master has other ideas. But where would a story be without conflict?

I really liked watching Kane fall for Rita and renewing his ability to love someone. Granted, he fell in love with her in, like, five seconds, but still... It's one of those larger than life vampire romances, where he just knows she's the one. The sex is pretty good and I think it was just the right length to tell the story. An enjoyable afternoon read.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by Entangled Publishing 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Night Thief
by Lisa Kessler
Release Date: September 28, 2012
Publisher: Entangled

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Escape

Reviewed by Jen
Kenya Wright is quickly becoming my first auto-read indie author.  I am a big fan of her Habitat series --and though this book has a decidedly different feel, it reeled me in all the same.

Brie is a special breed of human, one of the few who can produce vampire offspring.   She and the other women of her kind are kept in the custody of the Quiet King. They are called dominas, but they are really conscripted breeders, forced to remain with the king to bear baby after baby.  Brie is one of the lucky ones. In her two years at the compound, the king has not forced himself on her... yet.  But her time is coming. So she plans an escape.

One of the king's daughters helps Brie get out and hooks her up with Samuel, a vampire who helps people escape from slavery.  Brie can think only of getting back to her husband and twin daughters she was ripped away from.  OK, maybe, she thinks about Samuel a bit too.  But she tries really hard to fight it.

This part of the story tripped me up a little.  When Brie talked about being married, I was bothered by the idea of something happening between her and Samuel.  I don't like cheater stories.  I put it aside, though, hoping for the best and letting myself revel in Samuel's sexy goodness.  I won't spoil how the husband thing plays out, but I will let you know that I ended up very ok with Brie and Samuel together.

The lion's share of the story follows Brie and Samuel as he tries to get her back home --and as they try to fight the overwhelming attraction between them.  They fail miserably at one of these endeavors. I'll let you guess which one.

The sex is hot, y'all. Hot. Hot. Hot.  But that's not all the story has going for it.  The world building is really cool too.  I liked the characters... And some thing a little unusual: the illustrations.  The book has about 4-5 of them and I really think they added to the story. I'm not sure everyone will be as enthusiastic about the idea as I was, but personally, I thought they were awesome.

This is part one in the Vampire King series and there is clearly more story to tell, but I was satisfied with ending.  I often find myself rolling my eyes at Epilogues, but I really liked this one --which gives us a little first person POV on Samuel. It was cool getting inside his head.

I will definitely read book two.

Rating: B+

by Kenya Wright
Release Date: November 26, 2012
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Angel in Chains

Reviewed by Jen
If you've been on the fence about trying one of the books in The Fallen series, now is the time. I enjoyed this one.  And even though it's the third installment, you should have no trouble following along. There is plenty of action, hot sex, a fantastic heroine, and a virgin hero who happens to be a fallen angel.  Rrrrraw.

The story begins as Azrael stumbles across Jade while she is being threatened by several shifters.  She is only a human, but something about her draws him in.  He saves her life --and as the former Angel of Death, it is the first time he has ever stepped in to stop someone from dying.

The attack on Jade was no random incident. She is being stalked by her ex-boyfriend, the panther pack alpha.  And she has come to realize that either she must kill him or he is going to kill her.  He's already killed everyone she has ever loved, so she has nothing left to lose.

Az becomes her champion, though it takes awhile before she realizes what a powerful ally she has. What takes nearly no time at all, however, is the amazing sexual tension between these two.  Tension --and phenomenal payoff too.  The sex is really good... though Azrael's virginity is downplayed a bit.

Anyway, I really liked Jade. She has been through so much with her sadistic ex. And even though she is only human, she has a deep well of strength.  She does what she must to survive, but she doesn't lose who she is in the process.  I loved watching her find a hero in Az, especially since he is so sure he is not hero material. He is so very wrong.  --He is a fabulous hero. When he falls, he falls hard.  He would burn the world for her.  And that in itself becomes a real threat as the story goes on.

The way Cynthia Eden took on the climax of this story deserves its own shout-out.  She slammed me in the gut with how she made it play out.  I can't say more because I wouldn't want to spoil it, but it really wow'ed me.

I liked this one a lot.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Kensington

Click to purchase: Amazon
Angel in Chains
by Cynthia Eden
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Brava

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: King of the Damned

Reviewed by Jen
The more I read from Juliana Stone, the more I enjoy her books.  This story centers around the fallen angel Azaiel and a witch named Rowan.

We've met Azaiel before.  He's part of the League of Guardians, a supernatural consortium that tries to keep the balance between good and evil.  But before that, he was an angel who betrayed his kind for the affections of a beautiful woman who eventually betrayed him --then was held captive for countless years in hell. Now, he's on a mission for his brother --the leader of the League-- who wants him to investigate the death of an old witch, Rowan's grandmother.

Rowan has spent the past six years of her life away from her hometown of Salem, trying to hide herself from a demon who has marked her as part of a family curse.  But when her grandmother calls, she returns home, only to find the old woman has died.  The demon has marked her whole coven in an effort to find her and now she realizes that it's time to take a stand and end the curse, once and for all.

Azaiel was at her grandmother's home when Rowan learned what happened to the old woman and she recognizes the power in him. So when he offers to help with her cause, she accepts.  Azaiel knows the demon who is after her is very powerful, so he calls the League for reinforcement --and Nico and Priest show up to lend aid.  From there, the story follows Rowan and the three men from the League as they work to reunite her coven and vanquish the demon.

The action was really good and the storyline was easy to follow. Even though this is the second book in the League of Guardians (which was a spinoff of the Jaguar books,) I think this would still work as a standalone.  The wordbuilding is solid and the pacing is good.  The real draw, though, is the romance.

Azaiel doesn't believe he can ever trust a woman again after what happened in his past. He is attracted to Rowan but doesn't want to act on it.  The more time he spends with her, the more she wears down his resolve.  She is a woman who is not afraid to go after what she wants.  And it's hard not to want Azaiel. It really takes a long time for these two to really act on their feelings, but the sexual tension between them is very hot. It's cool to see the woman be the aggressor here and I was very pleased with the payoff.

Azaiel makes a great reformed hero.  I like watching his struggle and his demons from the past.  Rowan is pretty bad ass too. She's a very tough and take no prisoners kind of chick. There's a great wealth of secondary characters too... I definitely want to know more about Priest and there seems to be a side romance brewing for Nico (maybe we'll see it from his perspective in another book?) I've got my fingers crossed.  --All this and a very satisfying ending.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
King of the Damned
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Steel's Edge

Reviewed by Jen
I have to say that I am disappointed that there will not be any more Edge books.  Ilona Andrews has made me fall so deeply in love with the characters of Jack and George that I feel positively robbed when I consider the idea that they will not get their own book.  A travesty.  But I'll get back to my boys in just a minute.

The hero of the story is Richard Mar, Kaldar's brother, who we first met in Bayou Moon.  He is on a mission to destroy the slave trade thriving in the Weird.  The slavers nearly destroyed his niece, Sophie, and now he won't rest until he finds the head of the serpent and cuts it off.

Charlotte is the Healer of her generation.  Her gift helped her become magic nobility.  But even her skills could not help her conceive a child --or keep a husband who married her for all the wrong reasons.  His betrayal of their marriage drove Charlotte to use her gifts to harm... and as a result, she fled to the Edge to start a new life.

The two cross paths when slavers chase Richard into the Edge nearly killing him. Charlotte saves his life, but his attackers follow him to her home and kill a dear friend of hers.  That starts Charlotte on her own path of revenge against the slavers, and she is willing to use any means necessary to take them down.  She and Richard join forces --and end up falling in love.

First I'll tell you what I liked.  The world building in this series is fantastic and unique.  I love the idiosyncrasies of the Edge and the Weird. I love the complex social class system and the magic.  I love how all the books and characters are connected, and while each book features a different love story, the bigger picture remains.  Last but not least, I love the characters.  Richard is a solid hero, with just a touch of that "I'm not good enough for her" vibe going on.  Charlotte is refined, broken, and powerful all at once.  She is almost impossible not to like. And --of course-- there are Jack, George, and Lark (Sophie.) Damn you, Ilona, for making me love them without ever giving me a look at their adult lives.

This wasn't my favorite book in the series, however.  The love story was too fast and the romance too easy.  I think Richard and Charlotte were declaring their love in about two days.  The real angst was in the external conflict.  --My other issue was that it felt like the book was forced into an end-of-series role. It tacked on the Spider and the Hand elements almost as an afterthought... which is a shame considering they were worth their own big story arc.  

Overall I did enjoy it.  Definitely worth reading for any Edge fan.

Rating: B

UPDATE: Ilona says she may indeed give us Jack, George, and Lark's story --but in a different format than the current Edge books. A trilogy, perhaps. Someone... cue the party music!!

*ARC Provided by Ace

Click to purchase: Amazon
Steel's Edge
by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Ace

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review: How to Deceive a Duke

Reviewed by Jen
I've got mixed feelings on this one. There was potential there. I liked it in the first half, but the story took a hard left turn in the last nine chapters or so, that just didn't gel with everything that came before it.

Meg and her family have been struggling ever since her father died, leaving them destitute. When the Duchess of Temberlay calls, trying to set up a wedding between her grandson and Meg's sister, Rose, it seems like a perfect solution to their financial troubles.  But Rose wants nothing to do with Nicholas and his terrible reputation as a rake of the first order.  She runs away on the marriage, prompting Meg to take her place at the ceremony. Having never met Rose, Nicholas has no idea of the switch.

Nick hates the idea of getting married, but his grandmother blackmailed him into it.  He is shocked when he actually begins to fall for his bride.  She is fiery, beautiful and smart. But his reputation and a string of misunderstandings threatens to destroy their hopes at happiness. The story follows their power struggles and emotional entanglements as they try to make their marriage of convenience work.

I liked Meg a lot. She is practical and smart without being overly stubborn.  Nick's not bad, though sometimes he is a bit too arrogant.  My only problem before the weird twist was the fact that Nick refused to clear up their misunderstandings when he had a chance. He knew Meg was hurting; he knew he could fix it, but he chose to wait --for some reason that completely eludes me.  I still held out hope that it would give me a satisfying ending and then, well, it just went in a totally different direction.  I didn't like it --and I felt cheated that the dire circumstances brought about the resolution more than character growth on its own.

Like I said, it had potential. The writing was good and the sexual elements were there, but in the end, I was left off-kilter.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
How to Deceive a Duke
by Lecia Cornwall
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: Eleanor's Heart

Reviewed by Shelly
Sick, cold, homeless and hungry, Eleanor Franklin has all the odds against her. So when she breaks into a house to steal something of value to pawn for food she has no idea that her actions will lead to a life changing experience with Lord Jefferson Park. Jefferson Park is one of the last known vampires and he’s on a mission to save his race when he discovers what Eleanor’s has in her possession.

This is the first time I’ve heard of --much less read anything by-- Misa Buckley, but I promise it will not be the last. Eleanor was a joy to know and even more fun - she’s got a past that is shrouded in mystery. After being rescued by Jefferson, she’s taken back to his house because she’s in so much pain from her disease that she’s literally unable to stay conscious. Her pain came across so vividly that I felt myself aching for this poor girl and her need for relief, either through laudanum or something even more permanent. There are some dark thoughts about her future that Eleanor had, but I could understand her rationale.

I really liked getting to know Jefferson. He definitely wasn’t the typical vampire hero. He doesn’t have flowing hair, bulging muscles/biceps, or blue eyes; instead he’s Eleanor’s height, hard gray eyes, and thanks goodness, always had his clothes on. I didn’t find a thing lacking in his physical attributes and the way he treated Eleanor was absolutely perfect. He was kind, responsive, and apologetic (when she needed him to be). I really liked these two individually but I thought they made a really good couple too. Even though there's no explicit sexual shenanigans, I didn't feel cheated because the sexual tension made it nail bitin’ good.

The “I love you’” was thrown about a bit too early for me, but other than that I recommend this read to anyone wanting a story with a good plot, dialogue and character development. And for those who happen to love a good vampire story, well then pick up Jefferson and Eleanor's story. You'll be glad you did.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon 
Eleanor's Heart
by Misa Buckley
Release Date: June 30, 2012
Publisher: Champagne Books

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: The Bride's Unexpected Change in Plans

Reviewed by Shelly
I’ve read some other stories from this author, but I can honestly say this short story is my favorite so far. Although this takes place in a world where other stories of Desconians have been penned by Clark, there’s no reference to say that this must be read as part of a series. For your own enjoyment you might want to, but I understood this storyline and the characters just fine as a standalone.

On Descon, in a galaxy far far away, mail-order bride Kimberley arrives from Earth on her wedding day only to be told that her promised marriage has been cancelled. Royal guard Ewin was sent to protect the Earth women from unwanted attention and has to break the news of the broken engagement to Kimberley.

Empathetic towards the abandoned Kimberley, Ewin takes her home to stay with him and his husband Dayved. Knowing that she’s not going to be able to stay with them forever, Kimberley nonetheless begins to develop romantic feelings for the couple. I really, really like angst --and Kimberley had quite a bit-- but it didn’t feel over done; matter of fact, I thought it was very appropriate for the position that she found herself in. She’s away from home; she has no money after spending all of it to travel to the new planet; she’s doesn’t know anyone on Descon. She had so many negatives that I could see how self-doubt could take over a bit and be almost impossible to shake. What I really liked about Kimberley was that there was quite a difference in her between the beginning and the end of the story; a lot of growth and self-confidence.

Ewin and Dayved were an interesting couple because when they met Kimberley they were not looking for a third. It was purely by accident (fate if you must) that Ewin was present at Kimberley’s arrival. They found that even though they were not looking for a bride, Kimberley was their perfect match.

The sex among these three was hot. There was an anal scene that seemed out of place in the sequence of events, but other than that, both the sex and the story were really good.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Bride's Unexpected Change in Plans
by Rachel Clark
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Siren

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Review: Second Chances

Reviewed by Jen
I found myself enjoying almost all of the five short stories in this m/m anthology.  Each had a slightly different take on the theme of second chances. I think the fourth story, Dirty Martini, was my favorite.

Non-Negotiable (T. D. Green) - It's been six years since Alex broke Jacob's heart and time has not healed the wound.  After three years together, Alex bailed on their relationship, just as Jacob's sister was dying. Now, Alex has found his way back into Jacob's life through work.  And it takes everything in Jacob to say no.  But how long can he truly keep up his walls when he never really stopped loving his college sweetheart?

I liked this author's voice and I felt like I had a good idea of who Jacob was, even with the short story length.  But I thought he forgave Alex much too easily. I didn't feel like Alex actually redeemed himself... just that circumstances and Jacob's tender heart worked in his favor.  This bothered me.

Heart of Glass (L. J. Harris) - I enjoyed this one. It's basically a story of an instant connection between two men who find exactly what they need in one another. Zack is an American who has moved to Australia to get a fresh start after a bad break-up. Heath is a man who left his wife and old life behind in order to figure out who he really is.  It takes hitting rock bottom to rebuild himself, but that's what he does.  His transformation doesn't become complete, however, until he crosses paths with Zack. Attraction gives way to passion, and ultimately love.  I would have been ok without the flash forward at the end, but overall, I thought this was sexy and sweet --and I was surprised by how much I felt like I knew these guys in a very short time.

Better Together (DaNay Smith) - Sometimes love just isn't enough. Grayson gave up his career as an artist to follow Dom for his residency in Baltimore. But after years of putting his own needs aside, he up and leaves to go back to New York.  He rekindles his career. He's a smashing success. It's not enough, though.   His heart is empty without Dom. But can they get back what they once had?

I liked this second chance romance.  Both men are flawed, but there is no doubt about how much they love each other. It was easy to root for them to work it out.

Dirty Martini (Bette Browne) - Daniel was only looking to drown himself in an alcohol induced oblivion when he dropped into Nate's bar.  He had just seen his ex out with another guy.  But even through his drunken haze, he made a connection with his sexy bartender.  The next night, he went back to the bar, hoping to make a better impression on Nate... and from there a romance was born.

This one is a little sexier than the other stories and I thought the bedroom action was well-done.  The attraction between Dan & Nate was hard and fast, but thankfully the author gave them a little time to let the emotions grow.  I liked it.

Notice to Appear (C. C. Lorenz) -  Things seemed like they couldn't get any worse for Josh when a lame date turned into a trip to court for driving with an expired license.  But after the huge fines and massive inconvenience, the universe added insult to injury when his old high school crush turned up just in time to witness his humiliation.  Fortunately, the story only gets better from there. Carter not only remembers Josh, but he asks him out on a date --and turns out to be everything Josh ever dreamed of and more.

This was a sweet first love story, though I probably would have enjoyed it even more if it were a little more fleshed out.

Overall Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Bottom Drawer Publications

Click to purchase: Amazon
Second Chances
by T. D. Green, L. J. Harris, DaNay Smith,
Bette Browne and C. C. Lorenz
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Publisher: Bottom Drawer Publications

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Unravel Me

Reviewed by Shelly
This is the first Kendall Ryan story that I’ve read. I gotta say that I’m completely and totally impressed with her debut storytelling. Unravel Me is a good, solid story of loss, lust, and love. One fateful day, psychology student Ashlyn Drake receives a call from her mentor about what could possibly be the perfect subject matter for her thesis on dissociative amnesia. The caveat - the subject is in the hospital and accused of murder after being found at a bloody crime scene.

Not expecting to, I found Ashlyn to be a very likable character. Growing up poor without a mother, she’s from a working class family and has set out to prove a point – she’ll do whatever’s necessary to show that she can rise from her beginnings. In spite of her youth (mid-twenties) she’s neither stupid nor desperate and was really very level headed which I found very refreshing. There’s nothing I hate more than the temperaments and immaturity of the typical college student. But I digress.

I was a little (well – maybe a lot) skeptical about Logan’s interactions with Ashlyn. He had a physical presence that was well captured by Ryan. With that and his plain ole manliness, as well as his physical and verbal affections for Ashlyn, he eventually won me over - oh boy, did he ever! One of Logan’s attributes is his… how do I say this tactfully… his large endowment and he’s definitely not ashamed of it. I don’t mean that he’s crass, just that he’s mindful of how to wield that weapon of mass destruction quite well – if you know what I mean.

I really liked these two together; I thought the chemistry was sizzling and well written without coming across as either vulgar or unbelievable. I thought for being an expert in her field, Ashlyn could have been a bit more supportive of Logan’s need to remember his life. There were moments where I thought her heart overrode what was best for Logan, but they didn’t take away from her (or his for that matter) likability.

I would have liked to know more about Logan. He’s such a yummy character, I would have liked to know what really made him tick. What drive his ‘alpha-ness’ per se? Where did he come from? You know, the kind of stuff that makes you just go hmmmm.

Ashlyn’s best friend was a complete and total hoot, crazy as a loon but I think she’s the smartest one in the bunch – absolutely deserving of her own story (Ryan – this is me submitting my vote, just in case you’re counting).

Last, for those of you who might be curious if these two burn up the pages, heck yeah they do. All I’m saying is bring a glass of water with you because Logan’s got some …kinks… that are memorable.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Unravel Me
by Kendall Ryan
Release Date: September 22, 2012

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: Rogue Rider

Reviewed by Jen
Before I started this book, I had some serious concerns about how I was ever going to be able to get behind Reseph as a hero.  After all, we just spent the last three books with him as a really, really evil villain.  He raped. He killed. He tortured. He has questionable interactions with his mother.  This guy was as horrible as they come. Granted, he wasn't really himself. He was taken over by the evil Pestilence. But frankly, he wasn't great hero material before he turned evil. He was a flighty man-whore.  Somehow, though, Larissa Ione managed to do something incredible with this character. After everything, she has made him likable.

As the book begins, Reseph has been cast back into the human world with no memory of who he is.  Reaver has bottled up Pestilence deep inside him and freed him from hell.  He lands, naked, in a snowy Colorado town, where Jillian finds him unconscious.  Fearing for his life, she gets him back to her cabin and nurses him back to health.

From the moment he regains consciousness, Reseph starts flirting.  As sexy and gorgeous as he is, though, part of what really gets to her is the vulnerability underneath.  Jillian knows better than anyone what it means to be vulnerable. She is still getting over a terrible attack from a demon that nearly killed her and she has plenty of fear inside of her.  Of course, she has no reason to believe Reseph is anything other than human, but she is just as worried about the pain that a regular man could inflict on her battered heart.  So as much as she grows to want him --and as much as he wants her-- both are afraid to let real feelings begin to grow.  Jillian, because she is afraid of abandonment and heartbreak; Reseph, because he fears what he'll uncover about himself if he ever gets his memory back.

Most of the first half of the book sets the foundation for the romance, but in the second half, the pace picks up in a big way.  There is a lot Reseph must face from his actions as Pestilence. The other Horsemen feature prominently, as do Reaver and Harvester.  And lest you think there is no danger, the demons of Sheol are after Reseph --as are the Aegis.  There's action. There's bloodshed. There is sex.  --Goodness-- I haven't talked about the sex!!  It is so, so hot. Ione is incredibly creative with her love scenes.  You could practically feel the heat in the air.

As always with these books, the world-building is fantastic. The continuity is outstanding. And the b-plot is strong. I am positively counting the minutes until I can get my hands on Reaver's book.  The mystery of his past is already starting to unfold!!!

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Rogue Rider
by Larissa Ione
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: How Beauty Met the Beast

Reviewed by Jen
I am always a sucker for a Beauty and the Beast retelling and this book was no exception.  I love a scarred hero, though I have to say this one is a bit different from the standard.  Wesley doesn't have a rakish line across his cheek or merely an injured limb. His scars come from horrible burns. They have destroyed his face and completely taken one of his legs.  Frankly, he barely expects women to be able to look him in the eye... he certainly doesn't think he'll find one who could love him.

Now, before we get too far into the review, I have to warn you: this is the first book in a trilogy.  Do not expect a HEA. You will be disappointed.  Instead, you have to look at it as a first installment... a first step toward love. It will still leave you wanting more.  But you won't be blindsided.

So the story starts with an unlikely sexual encounter between our hero and heroine.  Jolie is a burlesque dancer who catches Wesley's eye as he hides out in the club where she works.  They flirt through a thin sheet backstage as she changes and they manage to hook up without her ever seeing his face.  Shortly after, she is attacked and would have been kidnapped if Wesley had not sensed the danger and saved her.  She slowly gets to know him as "Hauk," scars and all, having no idea he is the same man she dallied with at the club.

Wesley belongs to a super-secret organization that eschews technology. It turns out Jolie's dad is in the super-secret bad guy sect that Wesley's people fight.  Jolie quickly has her eyes opened to the world around her.  And develops a friendship and respect for Hauk.

This is no fast love story. Wesley is crazy about Jolie, but it is a bittersweet, unrequited love.  And though Jolie is a good person --and manages to see past his scars-- she doesn't manage to see him as a love interest.  Yet.  My hopes are high. I really, really want Wesley to get the girl and I think she'll be worth the wait.

The sexual tension is good (and that sexy scene at the beginning was smoking hot.) But again, this is just the beginning of their story.  In the meantime, though, I really enjoyed watching their friendship unfold against the backdrop of a pretty interesting world and premise.

I'll definitely read book two, to see where this story takes us. I just wish I had all three installments in hand, to read back to back.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
How Beauty Met the Beast
by Jax Garren
Release Date: November 19, 2010
Publisher: Carina Press

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Review: Too Dangerous to Desire

Reviewed by Jen
Cara Elliott wraps up her Lords of Midnight trilogy with this second-chance-at-love story featuring the "Hellhound" Cameron and Sophie, the sweetheart of his youth.  When they were teenagers, Cameron had hoped to marry her, but she refused, forcing herself instead to honor her obligations to her ailing father and two young sisters. Circumstances forced Cam to leave to town immediately after she said no, and they have not seen each other for all these years.

It's only by chance when Cam and Sophie cross paths again.  He accidentally stumbles on a meeting she is having with a blackmailer.  Seeing her leaves him powerless to walk away and he insinuates himself back into her life by helping her with her blackmail problem.  And in the course of doing so, their old attraction returns... and it grows into something much more.

In their time apart, Cam turned into a rake and a high-end thief. He is very cynical about love and sees himself as no-good.  Sophie, on the other hand, considers herself staid and quite boring. But reuniting with Cam makes her want to break out of that shell.  She regrets giving him up before, and she won't allow herself to live with the regret of missing an opportunity to be with him again.

I liked both main characters, though it got old to hear the heroine keep referring to herself as "simply Sophie" or the like, driving home her plain, dependable nature. Even worse were all the Hellhound reference for Cam... about dogs and paws and hounds.  What started as a play on words was driven into the ground and it stopped being cute ages before the puns were finished.  These issues aside, however, I did enjoy the book.  The characters were consistent and both grew over the course of the story.  The arc surrounding the blackmail and Cameron's legitimacy was solid and engaging. And the romance worked both emotionally and sexually.  There's a good sexual undercurrent between Sophie and Cam from the beginning and the consummation delivered on its promise.

This is book three in the series, but it works easily as a standalone.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Forever

Click to purchase: Amazon
Too Dangerous to Desire
by Cara Elliott
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Publisher: Forever

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: Galway Bound

Reviewed by Shelly
Couple of disclaimers - I didn't read the first book in the series prior to doing this review, but Jen did a review of the first story in the series (so check that out). Now that being said, I was warned that this short story contained - D/s, impact play, edging/orgasm denial, bondage, toys, and light voyeurism. Heed those warnings, folks: they're serious, because I dare say that some of it made me a little uncomfortable.

Cormac Kelly and Sean Ohara have been together for a year and during that time, their busy schedules have kept them from enjoying some quality time. Cormac, feeling the need for some kink, decides to book them into a hotel where they can both get away and enjoy themselves.

Now I can't say too much or I'm gonna give the whole thing away. Once the guys get to the hotel, the action starts quickly so there's not a big build up here.  It's down and dirty, but in a good way (if ya like that sort of thing - *wink*.)  I was a bit skeptical at first for a couple of reasons. I don't like that whole gagging thing, especially when the gaggee's hands are bound, and I absolutely do NOT agree with ever leaving someone tied up by themselves for any period of time. Other than those issues, I thought this short did a good job of showing the love and more importantly, the trust that Sean and Cormac have for each other.

Just in case I wasn't clear - the sex betwixt these two is smokin' HOT! And if you're a fan of the first story, be sure to read this one because it's a nice interlude. If you're not a fan or haven't read the first story, it's a good short standalone and is a nice window into Sean and Cormac's life together.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: B

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Galway Bound
by Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane
Release Date: October 8, 2012

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Pure and Sinful

Reviewed by Allison
Riona Dade is a witch and a Pure Soul. Marc (the Catholic priest) and Dee (aka Dionysus, demigod of Olympus) are Pure Souls as well.  The trio begins the book with Riona's very first demon vanquishing - that of her sexy demon ex-boyfriend, Jerry. Little does she know that as the Keystone, she harnesses great power, a power that makes her Lucifer's number one target. Since Jerry ended up actually falling for Riona (as much as a demon can), it's up to Lucifer to convert her, himself. Too bad she never saw him coming...

The story has multiple POVs that switch between Riona, Dee, Marc and occasionally Lucifer or Jerry. It is definitely a character driven book and I liked that they showed solid development, but I can't say the same for the relationships. Ree was in love with one guy, but hops into bed with her new neighbor? It just doesn't add up. But Marc was adorable with his whole tortured and tempted priest gig while Dee was cool because, well, he's Dionysus!

I didn't understand the organization behind the Pure Souls or the purpose behind the assignments the team was given (aside from vanquishing demons) so I suppose the world building left me with questions that I hope the next book will do a better job of answering. I did enjoy the humor. It was very clever - I loved how she worded things. It reminded me of J.R. Ward in that she was always looking for a different way to phrase words or sentences.

So, even though the story had some problem areas, the ending was a fantastic twist and cliffhanger, and I'm definitely looking forward to what McRae brings us in the next chapter of Riona and the Pure Souls saga!

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Pure and Sinful
by Killain McRae
Release Date: September 20, 2012
Publisher: Tulipe Noire Press

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Construction Beauty Queen

Reviewed by Shelly
Blond, beautiful, sheltered socialite Veronica Jamison has decided to give up city living, including the pampered lifestyle and the business merger planned marriage that was her future. The 27 year-old heiress has decided that the only way to show her parents and the world that she's worth more than what she's been groomed for, is by proving herself.

Moving to Kortville where her mother's father still lives, she gets a job as a construction worker for Kortville Construction and intends to work there for 30 days before moving on to greener pastures. Taking over his deceased brother's construction company and raising his eight year-old niece, Matt Shaw gave up his job, life and girlfriend in the city to return home.

I really enjoyed this story. Veronica is spunky, hardworking, and smart. And even though she's been raised in a bit of a societal bubble, she's very good about figuring out the needs of the people and community around her. Initially, I thought the the idea of her being a construction worker was a bit silly, but it really works because it's told well. What I didn't like was that Veronica hadn't really done her homework (not just reading a book) on what she needs to know as a construction worker, especially considering she wanted to be taken seriously.

Matt is a nice guy who's trying to do the right thing. His conscience regarding his brother's wishes plays a lot on his decision making for how he raises his niece and the way he runs his brother's business.  Unfortunately that can get a bit repetitive, but I understood. This was a relatively fast read (single day) for me, I was so curious about how things were going to turn out for these two love birds. I was very pleased with the resolution and how they got there -- not too outlandish or rushed.

There are a lot of secondary characters and they were all a delight, especially Barney who owns the local convenience store. He had one of my favorite lines. He says to Veronica after she asks him for cleaning supplies - "Nonsense. You're malnourished. You need doughnuts." Haha! Then there's Pauline, the diner owner who thinks the future is cherry-vanilla-squash and hazelnut parfait espresso and sushi... She is an absolute hoot because of how she peddles that stuff.

Ron, Veronica's grandfather is about as crotchety and cranky as you can get and just full of piss and vinegar. Jenny, Matt's niece is that great blend of politeness and curiosity that's too adorable to not fall in love with. I also liked Becca who works at the local grocery store and raises her delinquent brother Toby. I wanted to get more of these storylines, especially Becca's connection with Connor the cop.

Overall, this was a good story and I would definitely recommend it. But be warned: there's zero sex.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: B

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Construction Beauty Queen
by Sara Daniel
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: Warriors in Winter

Reviewed by Jen
This anthology revisits Michelle Willingham's world of the MacEagan family, with three short stories from the second generation of sons and daughters.

In the Bleak Midwinter - This is a story about moving through grief to find new happiness.  It's been a year since Brianna's husband was killed by a Norseman, but her heart is still broken. When a handsome Spaniard named Arturo ventures to her village for his sister's wedding, she is shocked by his interest in her. But he understands her loss. His wife died three years ago and he wants to help soothe her hurt.  The question is, can she let him inside?

I really felt poor Brianna's heartache here and as a result, this story was pretty heavy. But I liked Arturo and enjoyed watching him break down her walls.  Their romance was really fast --crazy super fast-- but it was bittersweet and emotionally resonant.

The Holly and the Viking -  I really, really enjoyed this one. It's my favorite in the anthology. I am such a sucker for broken heroes.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find the hero and heroine of this story were familiar faces from the first one.  Kaal is the Viking who killed Brianna's husband. But all was not as it seemed when he pulled his spear. It turns out, Kaal is blind.  And that day he defended himself, he lost everything he held dear.. including his young daughter.

Rhiannon never thought she would find love, but a terrible storm drove her to Kaal's cave and she quickly fell for the man's quiet strength and sensual touch.  Kaal believed he would be alone the rest of his life, so it was so satisfying to watch the romance develop between these two.  Yes, it was really fast (again,) but it hit all of my favorite romance buttons, so I barely noticed. I wish there was more of this one!

A Season to Forgive - Here we revisit Adriana and Liam, a couple first featured in the previously released short story "Lionheart's Bride."  And this story was a tough read.   Adriana is set to marry Liam, but she is hiding a terrible secret. She bartered her virginity to the king in order to save Liam's life... and he has no idea.  She spends most of the story holding in her heartbreak.  But when Liam learns the truth, things only get worse.

I was very disappointed in how Liam handled the news.  I felt like he blamed her and ultimately she had to convince him to forgive her for an act where she was the victim.   This made it very difficult to like Liam, even when he finally comes around.

I enjoyed the book as a whole. I liked the way all three stories were intertwined.  Though it's listed as book 7 in the MacEgan Brothers series, I had no trouble following along. In fact, it made me want to check out the backlist (especially Kaal & Brianna's story!)

Rating: B- (We lost points on Liam.)

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Warriors in Winter
by Michelle Willingham
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Shaman, Sister, Sorceress

Reviewed by Jen
Let me start by saying, if you haven't read the first book in this series, I urge you to give it a try.  It's called Shaman, Healer, Heretic. Scoot! Go buy it now.  This is book three, and while you could probably pick up on what's happening, you're better off starting from the beginning.  And I really think you'll enjoy it.

This installment picks up just days after the last one left off.  Olivia has ventured out on her own after finding out she can't have a relationship with the man she loves.  She doesn't know where she's going, but something compels her to visit a Hopi community where something nefarious is underfoot.  The place is ripe with other shamans --and they are all interested in Livvie.  Quickly, she is pulled into their internal battle over some missing tablets and plot to remake the world.

She doesn't want to be part of it.  But one of those tablets could hold the key to a possible future with SK.  Plus, Livvie is an honorable woman.  She can't turn her back on people who really need her.

As with the first two books, the writing and the story here are well crafted.  I like Livvie and I really feel like I know her at this point. We're introduced to a wealth of new secondary characters, and I struggled a little with that in the beginning. But it did not take me very long to get to know them all and see their evolving places in the story.  The action is good --and the plot is unpredictable without being unwieldy. 

The book did have a slightly different feel than its predecessors, I think. We've abandoned the city and its cast of characters in favor of the Hopi and their different culture.  It took me a little longer to connect to the story.  Maybe it was just because I missed SK. Certainly, once he showed up, I felt much more connected.  And speaking of SK... this wall between him and Livvie needs to come down. I know these aren't romance novels, but let's cut these two a break! I really want to see them make a go of it.  I wish there had been a little more movement in that part of the story.

All that being said, I thought the book was good and I read the whole thing in one sitting.  It's self published, but you would never know that unless someone told you. It's high quality... and I am thrilled that the covers have a new look.  I hope that will prompt new readers to give them a try.

Now, the wait begins for book four....

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Shaman, Sister, Sorceress
by M Terry Green
Release Date: September 28, 2012

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Guest Post & Giveaway: Sarah Bella

You Just Died in a Book Tonight, or Where I get my Character Inspiration
by Sarah Bella

So, umm, where do your characters come from?

Isn’t that the question that every author gets asked?

And the answer is simple. I dunno.

I know, we’re eloquent.

The truth is that my characters just ‘come to me’.

There are characters who come to you fully formed, like Nova Harper Whitley, from Darkling. You know their full name and their place and date of birth. You know their family situation and what kind of car they drive. You can hear their voice in your head, telling you, “Write me! Write me!” But you don’t know what they look like or where they work or even where their story starts.

My favorites are the ones like Jax, also from Darkling, who just sort of lurk quietly and you know exactly what they look like and you know how they move and how they dress, but they don’t say anything at first. They just wait until you’re good and ready to hear their story. They haunt you for days, weeks, months. Every picture you see looks sort of like them, but not quite. And when they finally spill, they mean business.

There are jokes about writers having split personalities and imaginary friends. Those jokes are completely true. Some days, I feel like there are people living inside my head. They tell me when it’s time to write, when I can stop to eat, even when I can make a bathroom run.

One of the things that I have learned definitively is the characters come to you as who they are, and there is no sense trying to change that because it won’t work. They might leave blanks for you to fill in, but if your characters have told you something about themselves, it’s best to trust them.

The majority of my characters don’t come to me fully formed. I get an image, or a line, and go with it. For these characters, my favorite way to fill them in is people watching. I’ll go to the mall, grab a tea and just observe. I make notes of things that interest me, whatever the reason – I love the voice recorder function on my phone.

Sometimes I make up stories to go with the people I see, sometimes I just make note of an ugly sweater, but I take this compilation of people, and clothes and sweaters and see what seems to fit the character I’m working on. Sometimes I’ll see a woman wearing a dog sweater and my character will tell me he has two black labs.

In addition to my lists of clothes and traits, I also keep a list of names for those characters who aren’t named when they find me. I try to keep in mind their date of birth when I choose their name, but I have a list of roughly twenty names on a word doc that is always my first place to check. It’s a lot like naming a child - sometimes they just don’t look like a Sarah or a Nick or whatever name you thought you wanted.

In short, listen to the voices in your head. They’re probably just fictional characters, dying to get written.

Delilah Steele was living the high life. She had a high-powered job, a man she loved and nothing was holding her back. When her world, and her trust, was irrevocably shattered by the man she loved, Delilah had no choice but to return to the town she grew up in – and couldn’t wait to leave. There, she goes to work for Aiden Dean, a handsome heartbreaker who seems to have his eye on Delilah. When Delilah’s long-absent father arrives on the scene, she has to figure out how to cope with his presence and desire to be a part of her life. Now Delilah has to learn how to live – and love – all over again. Will her hard knocks past continue to haunt her, or will Aiden break through her tough exterior and show her that forever can be a good thing?

Sarah is giving away one copy of her book, Delilah's Passion. To enter to win, just leave a comment below.

This giveaway is closed. The winner is Erin.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: Mark of the Witch

Reviewed by Jen
Night after night, Indira has the same nightmare.  She is being killed for practicing witchcraft, along with her three sisters.  Only, it's no dream. It's a memory of her past life.

Tomas is priest who has trained his entire adult life for a single mission: to stop a witch from freeing a demon from hell.  When his sister Rayne calls him to consult about the strange dreams one of her sister witches is having, he realizes the nightmares match the circumstances of his calling. Right away, he sets out find Indira.

Both Tomas and Indira have been feeling disconnected from their faith. Indira had already stepped away from Wicca and Tomas turned in papers to leave the priesthood.  But once they are thrown together, they both begin to reconnect with their beliefs.  The effects of Indy's dreams are beginning to manifest physically and together, they work to find the amulet and the portal necessary to free the demon. Of course, they do this with the plan to keep the demon safely locked away.

It's only a matter of time before these two are drawn to each other, but are the feelings real or remnants of their past life together?  Is Tomas's mentor a true believer or a crazed zealot?  Who are the heroes and who are the villains in this story?  It's hard to tell until the very end.

It took me a little while to invest in the story.  Tomas was really kind of a waffler.  It took too long for him and Indira to get together and I thought the sexual tension could have been better in the meantime.  I usually really like the whole forbidden priest relationships, but this one was just ok.  I understand he had to let go of some long-held beliefs but I wanted to shake him more than once for how long her bought into the lies he was told.

I will give the book credit for an unpredictable plot. There was nothing obvious about the direction the story would take... and I liked how it all played out.  And I'm intrigued about the potential reunion story between Indy's sister Lilia and her man.  I will definitely read that story.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. The romance just fell a little short of its potential.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Mira via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Mark of the Witch
by Maggie Shayne
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Mira

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Naughty or Nice Blog Tour

Cara Elliott and Jennifer Delamere are here today, chatting as part of their Naughty or Nice tour. Help me welcome both ladies to the blog!

Jen: I really enjoyed both of your books. I'll admit, I usually gravitate toward the naughtier end of the spectrum, but tell me about why you chose the heat level you did for your stories.

Jennifer: I love reading all sorts of romances, whether “sweet” or spicy. However, I never could picture myself writing the more graphic love scenes. One of my favorite authors, Mary Stewart, could get a lot of mileage just from the moment the hero and heroine kiss. My favorite classics, including books by Jane Austen, evoke lovely and sigh-inducing romances with even less. My goal was to write books that were rich with the sizzle and excitement of romance while leaving the more explicit details to the reader’s imagination.

Jen: Jennifer, I didn't realize until after I finished with your book and visited your website that you are an inspirational author. Talk to me about the place spirituality has in your books and what made you choose to incorporate that into your writing.

I didn’t actually set out to write an inspirational romance. In truth, it was after my book was underway that I realized that’s what I was writing. I’ve been a Christian and avid student of the Bible for many years. It’s so intrinsic in my life that I see now it was bound to flow out in my writing.

I think An Heiress at Heart could be better described as a romance with inspirational elements, and it should easily appeal to everyone. Basically, I decided to write the kind of book that I personally would want to read. I took inspiration from all the things I loved--the rich vocabulary of the classics, the bubbly fun of romantic comedies and Hollywood musicals, and the heady emotions of romance. The inspirational elements stem from the characters’ own Christian world view, which was prevalent among the Victorians. I just allowed the story to follow its own path.

Jen: Do you think there's a place for sex in inspirational romance?

Jennifer: I do, actually! Obviously, though, there are caveats. As a romance writer, I don’t want to shy away from exploring the very real emotions and physical reactions that are a natural part of falling in love. There’s plenty of room for what I call the “sizzle” without the characters actually making love. Readers of inspirational romance expect sex to take place in the context of a marriage, and I prefer to write that way too. As it happens, in my next book the hero and heroine are married, but it is a marriage of convenience. What that book will have in common with traditional romances is that when the hero and heroine finally make love, it won’t be gratuitous. It will be a significant moment when they realize their love and commitment to each other. It may not be described as graphically as in many traditional romances, but I believe the reader will not be disappointed.

Jen: Cara, Writing sex: fun or challenging? Or something else? How do you tackle writing a love scene?

Cara: Oh, that’s a very interesting question. Actually it’s a little of all three! Showing the growing physical attraction and “chemistry” between my hero and heroine as they fall in love is, for me, an integral part of their relationship, and how they are right for each other. The challenge is to make the scene resonate with their deepening emotional engagement, rather than sound like an instruction manual for, um, assembling a lawn mower—if you know what I mean! So it’s a delicate balance of describing the intimacy, yet keeping it very romantic.

Jen: Cara, A lot of authors tend to use euphemisms in those scenes. Are there any you hate? Make you laugh when you're reading?

Cara: Well, “throbbing manhood” is one euphemism that always makes me roll my eyes. But you know, I feel that it’s a real art to write an explicit scene well. A great one creates a magic that has the reader thinking about the special moment, not the actual words used.

Jen: To both authors: Give everyone one reason to love your hero and your heroine. Why will we want them to find their HEA?

Jennifer: Lizzie comes from a poor but respectable family, but she has a “past.” She made the mistake of falling for a wealthy rogue, who in the end seduced and abandoned her. That was a lot to overcome in Victorian England, especially if later you find yourself in love with a clergyman.... Unlike Lizzie, who has known love (and heartbreak), Geoffrey has just fallen in love for the very first time. He’s dealing with a lot of emotions he’s never felt before. Unfortunately, Lizzie is (supposedly) the widow of his deceased brother. The laws in England at that time would not have allowed them to marry, and Geoffrey is amazed at himself for seriously contemplating going against the mores of the day because he cannot bear the thought of living without Lizzie. Those are some pretty serious roadblocks standing between two wonderful people and their happily ever after.

Cara: Both my hero and heroine made decisions in the past that drove them apart, but they have the courage to overcome their fears and try again for happiness. Life can be very daunting at times, so I think we all love the idea of second chances, and take heart in believing true love can triumph over past mistakes and misunderstandings. 

Thanks to Jennifer & Cara for visiting the blog today! Be sure to check out Heiress at Heart & Too Dangerous to Desire this month!

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Review: An Heiress at Heart

Reviewed by Jen
I had no idea when I started reading this book that it was an inspirational romance. I tend to like my romance with a sexy kick --and frankly, the last thing I am looking for is a sermon or even a "message" while I am trying to get my lovin' going on.  Had I known this could fall under that category, I would have never picked it up. But I would have missed out.  This was a sweet love story and I actually enjoyed it.  I didn't really miss the sex (*gasp*) and I never felt beat over the head with a lesson to be learned.

The story follows a young woman named Lizzie who fled London with her brother after she was shamed by an affair, and her brother shot the man in a duel. They made a new home for themselves in Australia where fate put her in the path of a woman who could be her twin.  A woman who Lizzie came to believe truly was her half sister.  Sadly, the woman --Ria-- and her husband died in Australia, along with Lizzie's brother, but not before Ria could convince Lizzie to return to London and assume her identity. Ria had left town in an elopement a decade earlier and she hoped to make things rights with her family through Lizzie. Having no one else --and really believing that she was part of Ria's family-- Lizzie honors Ria's wish.

The deception goes amazingly well. But there's a big hitch.  Lizzie falls in love with a man Ria could never have.  Geoffrey was younger brother to Ria's husband.  And he turns to Lizzie for answers about what happened to Edward. He thinks he is getting close with his brother's widow, who could never be his. Yet he can't fight his growing feelings.  Neither can Lizzie.

You know it's only a matter of time before the secrets and lies are exposed, but it's hard not to empathize with the main characters. Lizzie's motives are understandable and her feelings for Geoffrey are true.  And Geoffrey is trying so hard to do the right thing, but his heart belongs to the woman he thinks was his brother's wife.

The writing is good, even if the story plays out in a somewhat predictable fashion.  The characters are likeable, though I wish Geoffrey, especially, had been a bit more fleshed out. It's a sweet and gentle romance with a feel good ending and just a liiittle bit of a message.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Forever via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
An Heiress at Heart
by Jennifer Delamere
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Forever

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: My Fair Dork

Reviewed by Jen

Size really does matter. But bigger isn't always better. No one understands that more than Harold.  There's really no gentle way to say it.  His dick is really, really big.  So big, in fact, that it has been a constant source of embarrassment. It's also, however, what drew Owen's attention in the dorm shower room.

Owen has always known he was bisexual. But it has always been easier to just act on his attraction to girls.  After his eyeful of Harold's goods in the shower, though, he can't stop thinking about the awkward and somewhat dorky kid from England.  He decides to focus his energies on helping Harold find a bit of a cool-factor.

It doesn't take long for Owen's well-meaning experiment to cross the line of friendship.  And once they begin to get physical, Owen must decide whether Harold is worth outing himself on campus.

I can't say this was my favorite among the Holsum College books, but it's pretty in keeping with the rest of the series. It has the same strengths: a sweet coming of age gay love story and smoking hot sex.  It also has the same weaknesses: a relationship that develops at lightening speed with conflict resolution that is just as fast --plus the L-word way, way too soon.  Sadly, that's my biggest romance peeve, so it drives me nuts over and over again.

I keep reading, though. Because the characters are sympathetic and the love stories are easy to root for.  Oh yeah, and the sex is super-good.  (*sigh*) If only these guys could wait more than two weeks to pick out matching china patterns...

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by author for review

My Fair Dork
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: October 13, 2012
Publisher: Siren

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: Heart of the Dragon's Realm

Reviewed by Jen

Princess Kimri's people have been at war for many years.  The neighboring kingdom of Helsmont makes the finest swords in the land.  In a bid to overpower his enemies, Kimri's brother trades her hand in marriage to Helsmont's King Thathan for the valuable weapons.

Understandably, Kimri is horrified and angry to be treated as such a commodity. Yet things begin to change when she meets her betrothed.  Helsmont is very different from her homeland.  The secluded, simple kingdom is said to be guarded by a dragon. It's people are open and welcoming. And Tathan is not what she expected. He is intriguing, fair and kind.  He further surprises her when he offers her a year's betrothal to determine if they will be well suited.

Of course, it barely takes half that time for Kimri to figure out that he is the man for her. Only, things aren't all that simple.  The ongoing wars won't let them be.  Kimri must figure out where her true allegiance lies and who her heart really needs in order to survive.

I liked this story and the voice of the author.  Kimri is a little immature and a bit snobby at times, but she is ultimately a good person. I liked what I saw of Tathan, but frankly, I didn't feel like I got enough of him.  Kimri is really the only character that was developed.  As a result, I didn't really feel deeply emotionally connected to the romance, even while it was a pleasant read.  I did appreciate, though, that the love story developed over time and the romance wasn't rushed.

There's only one sex scene and it's not very explicit.  The story is more about Kimri's emotional journey than anything else.

Nice for a short afternoon read.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Heart of the Dragon's Realm
by Karalynn Lee
Release Date: October 29, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: Down for the Count

Reviewed by Allison

When Lacey goes to search out her new husband on the night of their wedding, she's shocked when she finds him in flagrante delicto with her best friend and bridesmaid, Becca. As if her hours old marriage exploding in her face wasn't humiliating enough, a crowd starts to gather...including Cat, her other best friend. Cat's older brother and her childhood (lifelong, really) crush is in the crowd too.

Luckily, Cat takes charge and gets Lacey out of there. Unfortunately, it's by means of Galen, the previously mentioned stud, and his very sexy bike. In her first daring act as a woman scorned, Lacey rips off her wedding dress, hops on the back of Galen's bike and crashes at their family cottage for the night. While attempting to take her mind off the disaster that is all of a sudden her life, Galen busts out the alcohol and conversation turns to truth or dare: "I dare you to take your honeymoon"

And so it begins! Not only does Lacey take her paradise honeymoon to San Juan, Puerto Rico (take me with!) but Galen tags along. I think you, Dear Reader, can see where this leads. If not, I'll spell it out for you: First taste of freedom + a sinfully sexy and willing man + mojitos, waterfalls, and PARADISE = an incredibly sweet, sexy love story with a power couple you can't get enough of.

I loved watching Lacey grow into herself as a person and a woman. It wasn't unbelievable because she didn't jump all in, she dipped her toe in the pool of wild and crazy and inched in like a normal person. She even sucked at it sometimes! She was real.

Galen wasn't too hard to read about either. He was sinfully sexy and fell for Lacey so hard I couldn't help but swoon. Although the amazing places they visited in Puerto Rico made me want to book the next flight out!

Down for the Count was a fantastic read, yet another score by Christine Bell. As it's the first in her new "Dare Me" series, I can't wait for the next one!

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Down for the Count
by Christine Bell
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

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Review: A Reason to Believe

Reviewed by Jen

It's been more than a year since Matt lost his partner and lover, Brad, in a senseless shooting. Since then, he's been going through the motions of life.  He was outed to his boss in the aftermath of the tragedy and ever since, has been relegated to a desk job instead of working the streets as a police detective --that is, until now.  His first real case centers on the disappearance of a little girl... one who decides to appear to him as a ghost at her murder scene.

The thing is, Matt doesn't believe in ghosts, but he can't deny that little Abby's spirit is what lead him to her body.  It only makes matters worse when he admits the truth to his boss --and he is forced to take time off and see a shrink.

After he confides the truth to his sister in law, Sheila, she drags him to see a touring psychic.  Matt is skeptical, but Kiernan zeros in on him right away.  The handsome tv star offers his services to help Matt solve the case, and as they work together, a romance is born.

I liked this book.  I thought both Matt and Kiernan were extremely likeable. Matt, especially, is very sympathetic as he tries to deal with Brad's death.  The sexual tension between the two men is strong, and the love scenes were just right: sexy, detailed, and believable.

As for the mystery end of the story, I thought that was well done too. I had a sneaking suspicion on the identity of the killer, but the why of it was a good surprise. The ghost part was cool and vital to the story, but I don't think the paranormal element overshadowed the story.  There is real danger to Matt and Kiernan as the murderer tries to stop their investigation... as well as great us-against-the-world vibe, which helps draw these two closer and closer together. 

The characters were fleshed out and supported well by a few secondary players, like Sheila and  Kiernan's sister. My only small beef: the L-word in four days.  I Would have still believed in their future without it, and I could have skipped an eye-roll. But otherwise, I liked the book a lot. Worth checking out.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Reason to Believe
by Diana Copland
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: Blood by Moonlight

Reviewed by Jen

This anthology features three PNR/UF stories all loosely tied to Halloween.  The stories are pretty short... the total number of pages was a little over 100 pages.  Here's how they break down:

Of Monsters and Men - Jocelynn Drake takes us back inside her Asylum world for a new adventure of Gage and Trixie.  This short story is set after the events of Angels Ink.  And it's really designed to show just how deeply Gage has fallen in love.  Jack --the werewolf who Gage turned in a chihuahua in the novel-- is in need of help.  The Winter Court of the Fae is about to unleash the Wild Hunt on his pack.  He knows Gage has the juice to stop them. But when Trixie is threatened, we see just how far Gage will go to keep her safe.

I enjoyed revisiting this series and I like seeing this edge to Gage.  I'm not completely invested in the romance, but I really like the world building --and the fact that hero is not all black or white.

The Ghoul Next Door - This short is from new-to-me author Terri Garey. It follows the efforts of an angry witch (Cassie) as she tries to drive the new owner out of her family home.  She has no idea, though, that James has his own powers and his own reason for living there.  And it doesn't take long before she realizes that there is a thin line between love and hate.

I liked the writing in this one and the story was pretty good. My only beef is the speed that these two go from enemies to soul mates... and that is saying nothing about the make-out sessions while being held hostage.   The romantic resolution is just too rushed to really satisfy.

Trick or Treathen - Jenna is a human, desperate to rescue her sister --who has been kidnapped by a sadistic master vampire. Her only hope for help is through another master vamp, Treyne, who has she has become friends with over the past several months.  Now, she's tired of waiting, so she tries to force Treyne's assistance. What ends up happening instead, is that she lights the powder keg of sexual attraction that has been brewing between them since day one.  They are on the verge of sealing a bond between them that neither wants... or do they?

I had a couple of problems with this one.  First of all, I felt like I was jumping into an established series, the way the past between the hero and heroine was characterized.  I'm glad they have a history --don't get me wrong-- because it gave a basis to all the feelings these two have over a short number of pages.  The quick about-faces they do would have been even worse without it.  I didn't like the small time jump at the end.  But on the plus side... the sex was well done in this story, IMO.  And while it was a different vampire world, it felt similar in tone to the first Blood Rose book I read from Caris Roane not too long ago.

Overall Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Blood by Moonlight
by Jocelynn Drake, Terri Garey, Caris Roane
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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