Archives for November 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

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

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 highend 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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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