Archives for March 2012

Review: A Kiss in the Wind

Reviewed by Jen

All Marisol wants is to find and rescue her missing brother Monte. Her father, the pirate captain Alain, believes he is dead. So does her other brother Luc. But Marisol knows Monte is alive. And now she believes he is on the merchant ship Gloria.

When Marisol learns that a messenger travels with word of the Gloria’s location, she heads him off and gets ahold of the missive. Her escape throws her directly in the path of Captain Blade Tyburn, a pirate as well known for his mastery of women as his mastery of the seas. She picks his pocket, having no idea that the cameo she is palming holds great value to him. And through a series of events stemming from her theft, she ends up on his ship, headed straight for the Gloria.

Blade is both drawn to and repulsed by Marisol. She is spirited and bold, but she’s also a liar and a thief. He tries to fight his physical attraction to her, but it’s a losing battle. He does better when he faces her over and over in battles of wit and will.

The story follows the intrigue surrounding the Gloria and a missing shipment of silver. Not everyone is what they seem, which keeps the book interesting and pacing pretty quick. I did get a little confused a couple of times trying to keep all the ships and their crews straight in my head. But really, what matters in the story is the relationship blooming between Blade and Marisol. It’s not exactly an epic love story, but Marisol has had a pretty tough life and she suffers a great deal of betrayal and loss in the story. Blade becomes her first true comfort and the only person she can really count on. Plus, the sex is hot.

Entertaining with a lot of twists and turns.  3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Kiss in the Wind
by Jennifer Bray-Webber
Release Date: March 26, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Artistic Pursuits

Reviewed by Jen
 

FBI agent Frank Jennings and Interpol operative Leslie Carlton are thrown together by the theft of some antique windows in Milwaukee. The windows are very valuable and Leslie believes they could tie into an international art thievery case he has been working for years.

The men aren’t sure what to make of each other at first. They are attracted to one another, but neither knows whether the other is gay –and both are wary of getting involved with someone on the job. It doesn’t take long, though, before they give into their desires and fall into bed. The book follows the men as they try to solve their case and navigate their growing relationship.

I must say that the sex in this book is really well done. It’s very hot; it’s satisfying; and it’s realistic. Every single sex scene was a winner. In the bedroom (and the shower), we really see the passion these men have for each other. However, the relationship didn’t work for me in every way. My biggest beef was with the dialogue. People simply don’t talk the way these characters do. For instance:

“You look like alabaster, do you know that?” Frank asked as he moved closer, their chests touching. “A perfect alabaster god, and you are right here in my bedroom.”

Not to mention all the times Frank asks Les if he does (insert awesome sex-type thing) only for him, or tells him how “responsive” or “vocal” he is, or whatever. Or when he calls him “sweetheart.” It just didn’t ring true. Nor did the declarations of love and the overhaul of one of their lives –after essentially only a week or two in each other’s company.

The crime-solving part of the story moved well and provided a good backdrop for the romance. And we got a solid secondary character in FBI agent Karl. I liked both our leading men and I liked them together. But I would have liked the relationship better with a little more realism, especially in the speed of which they developed their emotional connection. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Artistic Pursuits
by Andrew Grey
Release Date: February 13, 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

18 & Over Book Blogger Giveaway Hop

It’s giveaway time again!  Welcome to the 18 & Older Book Blogger Giveaway Hop, hosted by Bitten by Paranormal Romance and Getting Naughty Between the Sheets.  90 great blogs are participating, each giving away a book or book related prize.

As many of you may be aware, DABWAHA is underway right now.  If you’re not familiar with it, some of the best romance books of the year are going head-to-head in a battle royale.  I read about 350 books last year and was still stunned to find how many of these popular titles I had never tried.  So in honor of the competition, I am giving away the book of your choice from among the DABWAHA finalists.  That’s 64 books you have to choose from. 

The contest is open internationally, but if you live outside the US, your selection must be available at The Book Depository.  US residents can choose from TBD, B&N, or Amazon.com.  (All selections must be valued at $15 or less.)

To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

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Be sure to check out the other great blogs participating in the hop.

Review: In the Flesh

Reviewed by Jen

Well, my goodness.  This is my first Portia Da Costa book and I went in to it thinking this would be a standard 19th century London historical romance.  (Those of you already familiar with Da Costa can stop laughing at me now.)   This is not a story of a gentle romance where the innocent virgin lands the rakish gentleman.  It more like the randy and explicit sexual adventure where the innocent virgin lands the rakish gentleman.  Let me explain.

No one will ever look at Beatrice as a lady again, ever since nude photos surfaced of her on cabinet cards in the gentleman’s clubs. Granted, her ex-fiance drugged her beforehand, but no one knows that.   And because of the photos, she has caught the eye of Edmund Richie, a notorious and wealthy ladies man. Richie offers to pay off her brother’s debts and give her an allowance if she agrees to be his mistress for a month.  With no other prospects and the debts piling up, Bea accepts.

Richie’s seduction is a slow one, but he gives Bea quite the education.  Most of their interactions surround some kind of sexual act ranging from masturbation to voyeurism and sex toys to, eventually, the full monte.  Richie is nearly obsessed with Bea because of the cards. And because of his tortured past relationships, he feels like an affair is all that can ever be between them.  Bea is truly an innocent as the book begins, but ends up quite the lusty temptress.  And that’s not only bed play the story has to offer.  There is also a spicy subplot featuring a m/m/f menage, with Bea’s brother in the center of it all.

The romance is essentially the plot.  Bea and Richie fall in love, despite the futility of a relationship between them.  But theirs is a relationship that is built almost entirely on bedsport.  Don’t get me wrong. The sex is hot.  And I cared enough about both characters to want them to have a happy ending.  It was clear there was only one way that could happen, so in that respect it was a little predictable –or perhaps, I should say, inevitable.  But it entertains and titillates along the way.

I don’t think anyone looking for an erotic historical would be disappointed.  I just wish we could have experienced the couple together a little bit more out of bed, to make the deeper emotions a little more believable.  3 1/2 stars.


*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
In the Flesh
by Portia Da Costa
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: HQN Books

Review: Natural Evil

Reviewed by Jen

It feels like the Elder Races series has taken a detour from the Wyr in recent books, but Thea Harrison brings back her sexy shapeshifters with this latest novella. Our hero is Luis, a 20-something Wyr whose alternative shape is a large dog. Our heroine, Claudia, finds him in animal form on the side of the road, nearly dead. Someone had shot him, dragged him, and beaten him, but he still managed to cling to life. Claudia rescues him, bringing him to a local vet for healing.

Claudia is 40 years-old and retired Special Forces. She was just traveling through the small mining town where she found Luis. But she finds herself drawn to the battered Wyr and decides to stick around for his rehabilitation and to solve the mystery of who hurt him and why.

This novella had a different feel for me than the other books in the series. It’s a good story, but the romance is slow in coming. Halfway through, Luis is still a dog and that makes it hard to find a love –or even a lust– connection. Once we see him as a man, the sexual tension comes quickly. The age difference and Claudia’s competence and maturity help give the story a fresh feel. But there’s simply not enough page-time for me to really develop strong feelings for our couple. If anything, it feels like set-up for a love story (with one of Harrison’s hot sex scenes thrown in.)

I liked it, but for me it ran more on action and adrenaline than heart. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by Samhain

Click to purchase: Amazon
Natural Evil
by Thea Harrison
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Samhain

AAD Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Julia Talbot

An adopted native of Texas, Julia Talbot is a full time writer. And homoerotica is her genre of choice.  Please help me welcome her to the blog.

Jen: What drew you to writing homoerotica?

Julia: Oh, man. I admit to being of the age where Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite were my first tastes of same sex love. I was very much like, “You can do that in a book?” I was hooked, but I didn’t start writing m/m until I got back into fiction in the late ’90s. I wrote feature articles and ad copy for a long time. Once I got back into the romance genre, though, I thought there was a missing niche, and my journey into m/m was on its way.

Jen: Tell new readers about the Bloodrose series.

Julia: I started the Bloodrose series on a whim. I was writing about werewolf genetics, and I needed a place for creatures of the night to meet and feel safe. Jonny, the owner of the club was meant to be a bit character, but he was so yummy that I had to write more. The series started with The Werewold Code, which is about private investigators Deke and Kasey, One’s a vamp, one’s a werewolf, and I mention briefly in this mystery story how the two met at an auction at the club Bloodrose. Readers demanded that story, and it all started rolling from there.

Jen: In Cereus: The Building, you collaborated with other authors, using the Bloodrose series as a platform.  What was it like to have other authors contribute to a world you created?

Julia: It’s amazing. The questions they ask when they’re writing their stories are so neat, and such fuel to the creative process. They think of stuff I would never even imagine.

Jen: I’ve noticed that many authors have other author friends that form a close support or collaborative network.  Is that true for you? And if so, what does it do for you personally or professionally?

Julia: Oh, absolutely it’s true for me. Back when we were all novice authors I got to be friends with Sean Michael, Chris Owen, Jodi Payne and Tory Temple. BA Tortuga is my life partner, so I’m not sure I can classify her as just a collaborator. We’re all close enough that people have accused us of being the same person (man, I wish I had time to write as much as all those folks combined) but we’re all over the world and all different, and it makes for a wonderful sounding board and a great group of inspiring conspirators. I also get great geographical information, as they range from the far East Coast to California to Canada.

Jen: Some of your stories are very short.  For instance, Crate Trained is less than 20 pages.  Is it still satisfying to publish short little snippets of stories?  Are you ever tempted to go back and further develop your short stories?

Julia: I love short stories. When I first started writing fiction, back in my late teens and early twenties, that was what I did. I wrote horror and gothic fiction, and I loved that the shorter a story was, the scarier it was. As I got into romance, I found that sometimes I just wanted to know how two guys met, or how they got over a hurdle in their partnership. I find in general it’s the readers who want more, and sometimes that’s awkward, as all the story I have to tell is told!

Jen: You have several different series out there.  Which are the most fun to write?  Tell us about a few.

Julia: Oh, I love the Bloodrose, series. I love my Colorado smokejumpers, the Thatcher brothers. Those are all novels, and while the second book, Landing with Both Feet has gotten me more hate mail for having a breakup in it, it’s still one of the best books I’ve ever written. If I had that one to do over, I would rearrange it a little as far as what goes in what book, but I love it. I also really like Jackass Flats and Just a Cowboy, which are two related stories about my hometown in New Mexico.

Jen: So many authors of m/m romance are women. Do you find most of your readers are also women or a mix of men and women?  What are your thoughts on that?

Julia: Well, this is just my experience, but most of my fans are women. If I can get my books into men’s hands, they love them, but in general women are the readers who are looking for romance. I think reading m/m gives women the opportunity to take out their need to relate to the heroine, which so often just isn’t possible, and let’s face it, two men is a lovely, lovely visual.

Jen: What is releasing next from you?

Julia: I have a m/m coming out from Torquere called Loose Snow. It’s a novela about two Forestry service rangers and one of them gets caught in an avalanche, leading them to really look at their relationship. I also have a m/m/f coming out in February from Changeling Press. called Outfoxed. It’s the beginning of a new series called Mixed Breeds, and it’s all about different kinds of shifters making lives together.

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

Julia: Oh my gosh. I’m looking forward to meeting all sorts of new people, and to seeing old friends. I’m on a bunch of paranormal panels, so I get to blather about stuff I adore, and I’m doing a party this year with my partner, BA Tortuga, so everyone can come see us! (NOLA in August? Not so much with the hooray. I will be wearing lots of tank tops and capris and still sweating) grins.

Jen: Thank you so much for sharing your work with me and for taking the time to chat! I look forward to meeting you in New Orleans!

Julia: Thanks so much for having me! It’s been a blast.

Julia is giving away $10 AllRomance Omni Bucks to one lucky winner.  To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.  You can learn more about Julia on her website and on Twitter.

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Review: Darkest Knight

Reviewed by Jen

Since I finished this book, I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to put my finger on what keeps this series from reaching its potential for me. And I think I’ve finally come up with the answer. It feels like a YA book. Yes, I know the heroine is 28, but I stand by this and I’ll tell you why. She doesn’t really act her age. Chalice has lived most of her life enslaved to an organization of dark magic. She only became free at the end of the last book and really, this series is her journey of self-discovery. She is learning about who and what she is. She is learning about her parents and how her family fits into her world. She is falling in love for the first time. And she is surrounded by a bunch of young women, also just coming into their powers and learning their place in the world.

As the story begins, Chalice is planning to meet her “sisters” in the Order of the Hatchet. But just as she is on her way, many of them are mysteriously slaughtered. She travels to her grandmother’s home to meet the woman and some of her surviving sisters in training. Though she is looking for connections, she finds a lot of jealousy and immature cattiness from the other girls. (It was unnecessary and felt like high school, by the way.) Chalice quickly solves the mystery of who is behind the murders and spends the rest of the book trying to save the day.

In the meantime, she is also working to turn her love interest, Aydin, back into his human form. (He became a gargoyle at the end of the last book.) While she had affection for him before, that has now morphed into love. The growing relationship between Chalice and Aydin was very subtle in the last book and I was happy that it looked like it was going to take a bigger role here. Until I got to the first love scene, which was so vague, I had to read it three times to determine whether they actually had sex. I’m pretty sure they did. But you can be the judge. At this point in the story, Aydin is still a gargoyle and can only visit Chalice in dream form:

His body appeared hazy, like a blurred rendition of his former self, yet I could sense every part of him, smell his skin, taste his lips as he kissed me.  I pressed against him and felt the hardness of his body as sensations thrilled my every cell.  Dream or not, my body was consumed by passion that melted into me like hot lava.

Aydin filled my mind, which enabled me to get inside his.  I found love there, and concern, and hesitation. His need overwhelmed me, yet knowing his feelings were as strong as mine put me at peace.

His arms held me close, his chin pressed against my neck as we lay spooned on the bed. I snuggled against his naked chest and his hold on me tightened as he gently nibbled my ear.

“I wish this was real,” I told him. He kissed my hair.

“It is real.”

I smiled. “I know, but I mean physically real.”

“Felt pretty real to me.” He rolled me over onto my back and ran a finger from the hollow of my throat down to my navel. “I still need to get some sleep.”

“You are asleep.”

I sighed. “You know what I mean. Dream sex is confusing.”

“But you enjoyed it.”

I reached up to pull his head down close so I could kiss him. “Yes I did. Very much.”

Wha?? That was the whole scene.  I can’t begin to tell you how cheated I felt here. There is one other sex scene in the book, and while it’s not very long, at least that one acknowledges the necessary body parts to complete the act. But again, a first love scene like the one above reinforces my whole YA theory. Not what I’m looking for when my hero and heroine finally get together. (I should also point out, there’s a minor secondary love interest, as well, but there is no way to take him seriously.)

The world-building is interesting and it’s different from a lot of what’s out there, so I must give the book credit for that. I can also say it wasn’t predictable and I enjoyed the direction that the author took the story. It just didn’t strike a great chord with me overall. Maybe it would be a better fit for someone with different expectations. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Darkest Knight
by Karen Duvall
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin

Review: Much Ado About Rogues

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since Jack was first introduced in The Taming of the Rake. He’s the dark one among the three Blackstone bastards. He’s mysterious and broody and I couldn’t wait to learn his secrets and watch him surrender to love. Sadly, the book did not live up to my expectations. Let me give you a little info on the story.

Jack works for the crown, doing super-secret government missions. His latest assignment is to track down his missing mentor. That means he must confront the man’s daughter, Tess, who was once his great love. Four years ago, he was involved in a plot with her dad that ended with the death of her twin brother. She was never able to forgive him. It turns out, though, that her father is the real villain. While he pretended to work for the crown, he was more interested in his secret job as an antiquities thief. And he never cared about his children as much as his stolen treasures.

Once Jack fills Tess in on her father’s true nature, they must work together to track the man down. But time after time, they realize that they are dancing to her father’s tune. You see, Daddy is uber-brilliant, and is always several steps ahead. He is hoping to draw out Jack to help him foil his other protege, the Gypsy. And he’s willing to fight dirty to get what he wants.

We get the details on Tess and Jack’s initial love story as the couple looks back on what went wrong. That was kind of disappointing, because we miss out on all the delicious new love/ attraction build-up. The couple starts the book with all this history behind them and they’re already mired in angst. Of course, the mission puts them on the road to reconciliation. It’s not a bad romance, but it wasn’t great either.

There were two major things I didn’t like about the book. One was puppetmaster quality of Tess’ father. It’s hard to swallow that the man is so dastardly brilliant that he has master plans that span years and pulls everyone’s strings. It was too much. (Plus, I found the resolution to his part of the storyline to be very anticlimactic.)

My other issue was the pacing. The book wasn’t terribly long, but it felt like it was. Perhaps it’s because there was so much more story even after the plot surrounding Tess’ dad was put to bed. Maybe because I found the backstory on Jack’s parents to be so terribly convoluted and unbelievable. Or maybe it was that it all ended in a way that was much too convenient. I’m not sure. I just know that it felt like it went on and on and left me disappointed. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Much Ado About Rogues
by Kasey Michaels
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin

Hanging Out with Patty Briggs

If I wasn’t a fan of Patty Briggs before, I definitely am now.  (OK, so I was already a Briggs fan, but now I love her even more.)  I was lucky enough to spend two hours with the author of the Mercy Thompson and the Alpha and Omega series at a signing for Fair Game in New Orleans Friday.

I spied Patty in the bookstore about a half hour before the signing began and she patiently and kindly let me babble and gush on about how great she is.  And she never called security even once.

The gathering was surprisingly small, which gave it a much more intimate atmosphere. It was almost like we were all just sitting around chatting.  Patty gave a short reading from the book then answered questions from fans.  We spent alot of time talking about Bran.  She says she is not as adamant as she used to be about not writing his book.  But it’s more likely to be a short story.  (She’s working on a collection of those.)  The thing is, Patty likes her books to have a happy ending or at least a HFN, and she doesn’t know that she could do that with Bran.  She said that zealots rarely end up happy and that Bran really is a zealot: protecting his wolves is everything to him.

We talked about Leah and how many people wished for her death (myself included.)  But Patty considers her a strong and vital character.  We talked about how some relationships are simply dysfunctional. I asked her if we should feel sorry for Leah and she said that she does.  But Leah knew what she was getting into when she married Bran.  That what she wanted was to be the Queen Bee and she got what she wanted.  But she’ll never have Bran’s love –and really, if Bran ever did love her, she would be unhappy because she’d be incapable of living up to the demands his love would bring.

Patty also says she is definitely doing short stories for Samuel, Ben, and Tad (who is a favorite of hers.)  She says she doesn’t take notes to keep her world straight in her head, but she is thankful to the ladies on her forum who keep it all straight in the Mercy Canon section of the site, which is pretty awesome.

She points out that even if you don’t read the Alpha and Omega books, that you really need to read Fair Game before the next Mercy book. That amazing ending is going to carry over big-time.

Other tidbits:

  • Adam would rather bite his arm off than let Jessie become a werewolf, though she may feel differently.
  • The next Mercy book will open with Mercy and Jessie shopping on Black Friday.
  • Bran’s short story may be set in the past.
  • Patty loved writing a short story for Warren and found it interesting that killing bothers him so little.
  • Sometimes she writes backstory for her characters, just to help herself understand them better. She did this for how Mercy and Zee met and it became the basis for the Homecoming graphic novel.
  • Alpha and Omega wasn’t initially designed to be a series, but the short story was so well received that her publisher asked her to turn it into one. She said it made for a sticky situation with the beginning really taking place in a short story. When Cry Wolf is released in hardcover, it will include the novella.

It was a great night and Patty was a lovely lady!  I hope I get a chance to meet her again.

Review: Bitter Harvest

Reviewed by Jen

I like sci-fi/ futuristic romance stories and I am known to enjoy the sexy goodness of some m/m loving –so I thought this novella would give me the best of both worlds. In this future/ alternate world, a computer generated mutation has taken over humanity, turning almost everyone into mindless sex machines. There are a few patches of survivors here and there, but it seems like they are only fighting off their inevitable fall.

Sutton is one of those left uninfected. He has a special immunity, of sorts, which allows him to withstand the super-mojo pheromones of the sex-zombies. (To be fair, they’re not actually zombies. They’re more like the Borg, but go with me on this.) When Rider stumbles into his camp, it’s clear he’s been altered by the nano-technology, but he clearly has disconnected from the sex-zombie hive mind. Sutton fears Rider is more likely a next-generation carrier, rather than someone who managed to escape. But when all the tests on him come back negative, he is allowed to stay in the camp.

Sutton’s body wanted Rider’s from the moment he laid eyes on him, but he fights the attraction. He manages to stay out of Rider’s pants for about half the story, but really, that’s only about 40 pages. Once they give in, well, I have to leave something unspoiled. But I will say that it’s odd.

Honestly, the whole thing was kind of odd. Even those who aren’t sex-zombies are all holed-up, humping each other like bunnies. And everybody wants to hump Rider. And most do. Which makes it hard to completely swallow this uber- connection he has with Sutton. What’s so special about Sutton to make him the one, not just in the want-to-hump him way, but in the epic way that I can’t talk about because it will spoil the end of story?

It’s one of those books that you just can’t take too seriously or question too deeply. It was entertaining, though, and it had some solid sexual tension and good sex. And if the idea of a sort-of a Skynet produced sex-Borg future sounds good to you, then you’d probably enjoy it. 2 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Bitter Harvest
by Kim Knox
Release Date: March 19, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press