Archives for March 2013

Review: Permanent Marker

Reviewed by Shelly

Although this is a series with recurring characters, I paid no heed and didn’t read them in order, I read #2 after reading #3. To the author’s credit, the stories were written with story lines that, even though connected, could be read independently. Not my usual genre of choice (a bit heavy for me,) I appreciate the writing style of Angel Payne. She is believable at giving the point of view from both the newbie and the experienced; at least that’s the way it seems to me. (I’m thinking the book’s dedication has something to do with this.)

Do-gooder Rosalind Fabian wants to create a better world. One way she wants to do that is by going on a feel-good-about-you company sponsored trip over to the Middle East. But before she goes, she must attend a corporate training meeting on the isle of Nassau. When I read that it was a destination based story, I was sure that I would hear all those flowery words to describe the scenery. Thank goodness, absolutely no flowery words were used – at least in reference to that.

Consultant and former military Mark Moore is the teacher for this training. He’s also an ex-Senator (by choice) and from some small inferences I gather he can be a bit of a tool. Mark is also a widower. He’s got a lot going on doesn’t he? He and his dead wife were both in the BDSM lifestyle; he misses both the relationship and the routine that established itself with the practices and routines of the lifestyle. Once he sees Rose, things start perking up in his world.

Can an experienced Dom ‘cure’ a newbie sub’s painful past while finding their own brand of happiness? I had my doubts.

Rose is a veritable hot mess – full of insecurities and constant self-degradation. She’s got a family that proves that money doesn’t buy happiness or love – actually they’re about as mean spirited as you can get, especially that brother of hers. But I digress. I’m still not sure that I like Rose. From her past experiences both in and outside of her family, I didn’t see the kind of sub that Mark wanted in her. I know I was told that she’s submissive, but I just didn’t feel her need to ‘serve’ her Dom. The other thing I had trouble with was Rose’s idea that she was ‘trouble’ and has no ability to control her actions. She’s 31 years old. When do you stop listening to other people and go life your own life?

What can I tell you about Mark other than he was a Dom? Not a lot, to be truthful. He was a complete alpha – but the kind I don’t really care for. The progression of the relationship between Rose and Mark happened quickly; he even recognized that it was speedy. This was another troubling part of me – you’re telling me that this is speedy, you’ve got a woman who’s never subbed before – i.e. doesn’t know the rules or the protocol – with just those two things Mark still treated her physically like she’s got experience? I had trouble with that.

The sex between them was hot, heavy and frequent of course, a lot of it from Mark’s angle. Unfortunately, the ending seemed a bit rushed to me and the I love you flowed pretty early in the relationship. It might seem like I didn’t like this story but that isn’t it – I think that Payne’s writing is actually quite brilliant. For me, this story would be so much more if it was flushed out and paced a bit more evenly.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: C

*Book provided by publisher 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Permanent Marker
by Angel Payne
Release Date: November 12, 2012
Publisher: Loose ID

 

Review: Lady of Pleasure

Reviewed by Jen

A deliciously angsty hero; a heroine who is steadfast, loyal and knows her own heart. Fabulous sexual tension and a love story to pull on the heartstrings.  Simply put, this book rocked my socks off.  In her letter to readers at the before the story begins, Delilah Marvelle says the publishing industry has no place for a book like this one.  Perhaps the industry needs its head examined, because this book gave me absolutely everything I want in a historical romance.

Still need convincing?  Let me give you the setup.

Lady Caroline knew she was in love with Ronan, the Marquess of Caldwell, when she was only 13 years-old.  The dashing 24 year-old was her brother’s friend, but he quickly made a special place in his life just for her.  They had a standing weekly card game for years.  They talked; they valued one another; they were friends in the truest sense of the world.  But circumstances forced Caroline to move away at 16.  She professed her love before she left, but it was clear he still saw her as a child.

Fast forward three years.  When she returns, Caroline is most definitely grown, and ready to pursue Caldwell’s hand.  And when he sees her, he can’t help but react as any man would to her beauty. The problem is, he doesn’t want to soil the one true and good thing in his life.  He has a dark secret that keeps him from forming real relationships.  I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say, it leaves him feeling unworthy of Caroline and unwilling to pursue anything beyond friendship.  But fate and the interference of others won’t let that be enough.

Ah, I loved Caldwell so.  Marvelle has constructed such a marvelous tortured hero in him.  He is so sure he isn’t good enough for Caroline; so unaware of his own feelings; so… good.  And Caroline!  It would have been so easy to make her naive or weak-willed because of her age or her consuming devotion.  But she respects herself too much to be walked on; and at the same time is so unwavering and true. I loved her almost as much as I loved him.  There is great chemistry. And most importantly, I believed in their feelings for one another 100%.

My only small complaint is that Caldwell’s issues resolved a little faster than I would have liked, and much of it, off page.  I would have liked to see more of his “education” at the school of gallantry, but perhaps, some of the events there happened in previous books.  I must go and read the backlist to find out. If books one and two are anywhere as good as this one, they will definitely be worth the read. I couldn’t put this one down.

Rating: A-

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Lady of Pleasure
by Delilah Marvelle
Release Date: March 15, 2013

Review: Night Demon

Reviewed by Jen

Lukas wants nothing more than to end his immortal existence. He never wanted to be a Night Walker; he was turned centuries ago, by accident.  Ever since then, he’s barely been able to contain his hunger.  And he is plagued by the times he has failed at control.

Now he is working to decipher some ancient Mayan text, hoping to unlock the secrets to his kind, and eventually to find a way to die.  But somehow, despite his best intentions, he has fallen for Gretchen, the beautiful translator who he’s been working with all of these months.  He wants her, but he refuses to expose her to his world, so he pushes her away.

Unfortunately, Gretchen is getting a healthy dose of the Night Walker world anyway.  Someone has unleashed a powerful demon on the world, very close to the Mayan site where Gretchen and Lukas are working.  It feeds on death, prompting a string of suicides, and nearly taking Gretchen’s life as well.  Only the four original Night Walkers can return the demon to her prison.

This sets the stage for several things.  Gretchen and Lukas are thrust further together. Calisto –Lukas’s maker and the hero of book 1– is drawn into the storyline, along with his mate, Kate.  We get to meet the oldest Night Walkers and learn their origin story.  And we get a front row seat to the dangerous mission to best the demon, hellbent on destroying humanity.

I liked both Gretchen and Lukas, though perhaps my biggest complaint about the book is that their romance felt overshadowed by the other events of the story. Sometimes, it felt like too much was going on.  I was frustrated over and over by how many times we cut away from our couple to the stuff going on with the ancient ones.  There was a strong sexual tension and great build-up, but I wish we would have had more time to enjoy them together.

I loved seeing Calisto and Kate again, as well as Kane and Rita. And I was intrigued by the Guardian. The world building is cool –and more involved her than in the previous books.  It wasn’t too hard to follow until the reincarnation element came in force.  At that point, I got lost. It was explained eventually, but it all ended up a little… convenient.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, though probably not as much as I liked Night Walker.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Entangled 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Night Demon
by Lisa Kessler
Release Date: March 18, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

Review: No Regrets, No Surrender

Reviewed by Shelly

Picking up about a year after Retreat Hell! She Just Got Here (Always a Marine #2), Jasmine Winters, Logan Cavanaugh and Zach Evans return with a longer look at how their happily ever after happens. When I saw this story, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was significantly longer than the others that I read in the series.

Logan and Zach have patiently waited for Jazz’s return. They’ve met her at a couple overseas locations where she was able to meet them. At this point, my big questions were – how would this ménage work if Logan and Zach are having exclusively individual relationships with Jazz? I mean, how would it work when they’re all living in the same household if a pattern of two and not three had been practiced?

I gotta tell ya folks, I don’t know Long’s background with the military or if she’s just done a ton of research, but she’ll make a you cry like a two year old throwing a tantrum. When Jazz has to come back from her assignment after an IED explosion, I had no clue how I would handle it and folks I didn’t handle it well. When Jazz meets the guys at the airport and she’s in uniform in a wheelchair with her escorts, I had to take a break, go get a glass of water and a box of tissues. I could go on about how war is hell, but we all know that, and that’s not what this story is about. Instead it’s about Jazz letting Logan and Zach into her heart and letting them help her overcome her challenges.

For such a sensitive topic, it’s a relatively short read, but Long gets a lot done. She doesn’t mince words with the description of the wounds and the subsequent traumas (strokes, seizures) that happen. Jazz – a marine you are – had a lot to go through to get her mind right so the body can follow and lucky girl, the good news is that Logan and Zach had her back 110% of the way. Even in the bedroom, the dynamics had to change because of Jazz’s injuries but the way Long handled the limitations was well done.

Of the two guys, Logan was the one with the physical injuries from his time in active duty, and he had more than enough patience, love and support to offer Jazz. And Zach, oh my, what a man – he was my favorite. He doesn’t have the physical restrictions that Jazz or Logan have and I think that put him on the back burner more than he should be, but when he feels the need to express himself he does it quite well. Oorah!

If there was a way to have a prequel for Logan and Zach’s story I would love to read that. But that would be hard to do because these guys are straight and that really wouldn’t make for fun reading or would it? Never say never.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
No Regrets, No Surrender
by Heather Long
Release Date: November 17, 2012
Publisher: Decadent Publishing

Review: What Happened at Midnight

Reviewed by Jen

Mary’s life as a proper lady came to a crashing halt when she discovered her father not only had embezzled from his company, but he killed himself in shame.  She could do nothing about the embezzlement, but she made it her mission to keep the suicide a secret, so that he could receive a proper burial.  Unfortunately, her quick escape to hide the body only served to make her look complicit in the crime.

Fast forward a year and a half, and Mary is living in misery. She is a companion to a woman trapped by a domineering husband.  And Mary is trapped too.  Her employer withholds her wages and keeps her from leaving.  She holds out little hope for anything better.  Until John walks back into her life.  He was her fiance when the disaster happened with her dad and she walked away from him, thinking never to see him again; thinking he never really loved her at all.

Meanwhile, John believes it was Mary who never really loved him; and that she is hiding the money her father stole, money that was supposed to go toward his nephew’s inheritance.  He tries to cozy up to her, in the hopes of convincing her to reveal her secrets. But their time together only serves to rekindle the feelings between them.

It’s easy to sympathize with both Mary and John. Courtney Milan does a great job showing how each of them truly believes they are the only one to love the other.  Both characters are afraid to risk their hearts, but it makes it that much sweeter when they stop fighting their own feelings.  Their love story is heartfelt, easy to root for, and totally emotionally believable.

This was originally published in the Midnight Scandals anthology.

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by author for review  

Click to purchase: Amazon
What Happened at Midnight
by Courtney Milan
Release Date: March 14, 2013

Review: The Lady Always Wins

Reviewed by Jen

Whenever I am looking for a historical romance novella, Courtney Milan always hits the spot.  This second-chance love story was no exception.

It’s been seven years since Ginny broke Simon’s heart. She refused to marry him, instead marrying another man. But now her husband is dead and Simon sees his chance to reclaim the only woman he has ever loved.  When Ginny turned him down years ago, it was because his parents threatened to disown him. He had no trade and she didn’t want to live in poverty.  Now, he is independently wealthy, at least for now.  But a looming business calamity threatens to take all that away, so he figures he must seduce Ginny quickly and secure her hand before he is financially destroyed and she has a reason to turn him down again.

It’s amazing that in less than 70 pages, Milan can make me feel so invested in her characters.  At first glance, you might think Ginny is the lesser member of the relationship… after all, she chose her husband for money. But we see she is so much more than that; and Simon bears his own responsibility for their separation. Ginny is practical and pragmatic, but she also loves Simon utterly and completely –even after seven years apart. Just as he loves her.  There are some books three times as long that don’t make me feel connected to the characters and their feelings even half as much.

I really enjoyed the romance –and the surprise twist at the end.  Good stuff.

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Lady Always Wins
by Courtney Milan
Release Date: February 22, 2013

Review: The Story of Rachel

Reviewed by Shelly

When I saw the blurb for this story, I was pleasantly intrigued. I was even more titillated when I started reading. This is the debut story by McLean and after reading her blogsit,e I found the answers for some of the little nagging questions I had. One of course was – it there such a place called Pandora? I knew what the answer was going to be, but there’s always a 50/50 chance, right?

Rachel Collin’s story starts off with a bang, there’s no downtime or pondering of ‘what shall I do’? She’s a go-getter (not aggressively so, thank goodness) and knew what she didn’t want in a man (especially after the disaster that her marriage turned into.) It was just a matter of time before she found what she did want. After trying the online dating sites and the occasional blind date, Rachel finally meets her man — out of all the popular pick up places, it certainly wasn’t where I would ever think the magic would strike.

Like Rachel, Michael Evans is a writer. He’s a tad bit older than her, but he’s well preserved and pulls off the rower’s body quite well. After their initial get together, the conversation gets turned up with phrases like BDSM. I had many moments of laughing out loud reading Rachel’s response. If some dude, no matter how nice, smart or good looking, who I just met, brought that up to me, I would like to think that my reactions would have been similar to Rachel’s.

Michael is completely and totally attracted to Rachel – but he’s convinced that she’s only going to last three months, just like his past relationship have. It’s amazing how people pray and wish for a thing and when they get it, some will subconsciously sabotage it. To me that was the big difference between Rachel and Michael — both of them got what they most desired/wanted/prayed for but the way they separately handled it was really well done.

I kinda sorta felt bad for Michael because I just knew that he had more to give and I could see him really putting forth the effort by giving and doing for Rachel without expecting any reciprocity. But like a lot of people, when they’re given what they want, they tend to freak out. To his credit, other than Rachel, he’s got some things burning on the fire – writing a book, interviewing with the NY Times – he’s hoping to be in the movers and shakers crowd.

Together these two had tons of chemistry, even outside of the bedroom. Now that doesn’t mean that their sexy times were anything tame, because that would be so wrong. Michael knows how to turn it up and on for Rachel. And I loved, loved that Rachel was so willing to try new things – first because that would make Michael happy and then because it made her happy. Isn’t that how we find out what we like, by trial and error?

When Rachel gets to Club Pandora there are some interesting characters there — if there wasn’t, I would’ve been so disappointed because, really, it’s a sex club! Because I just couldn’t help myself, I found out from McLean’s site that a couple of the characters will have their own stories in the series. I eagerly await Annik’s story – that should be an interesting tale of redemption.

In the end, I liked both Michael and Rachel and wished a happily ever after for them. Maybe they’ll be some of the upcoming stories in the ‘Tales of Pandora’ series. Good stuff so far.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Story of Rachel
by KD McLean
Release Date: January 15, 2013

Review: Retreat Hell! She Just Got Here

Reviewed by Shelly

Stories about female Marines are few and far between. As a matter of fact, Long is the only one I can find who writes about active Marines who are female. I recently read another one of these series and couldn’t help but look for more and –yeah for me– I found this one.

While on leave, GySgt Jasmine ‘Jazz’ Winters has been set up for a One Night Stand, by of all people – her own mother. She’s requested not just one man but two (not sure Mom knows about that) because why not?  It’s a fantasy night! Logan Cavanaugh and Zach Evans are former Marines themselves. Logan was wounded during their last tour and was discharged on permanent disability because of his injuries. Zach goes where Logan goes. He’s the light to Logan’s dark and what a great contrast he is – yummy.

Theses three really electrify the pages, so by the time the sex scene came around, I was on pins and needles to see how that would turn out. Oh, my goodness Logan you are the man!

The only thing missing for me in this short story was finding out the back story to Logan and Zach’s relationship. My curiosity is still high, so now I’m gonna find their follow up story – ‘No Regrets, No Surrender (Always a Marine, #6)’.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
Retreat Hell! She Just Got Here
by Heather Long
Release Date: April 21, 2012
Publisher: Decadent Publishing

Review: The Sweetest Shorts

Reviewed by Jen

I love Amanda Bonilla’s Shaede Assassin series, so I was very excited when I discovered there was more from her that I had not read yet.   These Sweetest Shorts are very different.  Instead of UF, they are PNR and they are very short: about 45 pages a piece.  I flew through them pretty fast, so rather than review them in three separate posts, let me break them all down here.

The Sweetest Torture – I’ll give Bonilla this: she can definitely do sexual tension and hot bedroom action. (Not that any of the sex happens in the bedroom, but I digress.)  This story features Cait, a cougar shifter who is being forced to mate with the man who broke her heart 30 years ago.  Back then, she caught him in bed with another woman. And though he swore he had no idea how he ended up naked with a stranger, she couldn’t forgive him and walked out.  Now, her father has offered her up to make peace with his fellow Alpha, and she has no choice but to do as instructed.

The thing is, as angry and as hurt as she is, she can’t ignore that she still wants Logan.  And despite his anger over how she left and her subsequent attempts to have him ruined, he still wants her too.

I got invested in Cait and Logan very quickly.  As with all of her work, Bonilla does a great job with characterization.  I understood them and you could cut the tension between them with a knife.  I enjoyed their sparring and the heat between them.

I only had two gripes.  One, it confused me that she used the words cougar and lion interchangeably.  True, a cougar is a mountain lion, but that is not the same thing and I actually had to wikipedia it.  I don’t like to Google during a romance novel.  And two, due to the length of the story, the external conflict felt abrupt and like it came out of nowhere, spinning into a rushed resolution.   True, it was only 43 pages, but I think the front half was better fleshed out than the back half.

The Sweetest Temptation – OMG. This one was hotter than the last one!  But then, what would you expect when the heroine is a nymph?   Someone has kidnapped Erica’s sister and tipped off police that Andrew is the man who snatched her.  But Erica knows she can use her nymph abilities to get more information than the cops can –so she takes matters into her own hands and kidnaps him from police custody.  It doesn’t take long, though, before the pull of the moon awakens her sexual hunger, and she focuses her desires on Drew.  She quickly figures out that he is innocent and that gives her the green light to act on the attraction.

The sexual dynamic between Andrew and Erica is off the charts.  Their supernatural quirks made the speed of their physical pairing acceptable for me. (I thought her throwing around the prospect of a relationship came around rather quickly, but at least they weren’t spouting the L-word.)

I liked that the story tied in with The Sweetest Torture, with Andrew being Logan’s brother and some other references.  I think this would hold up as a stand-alone, but I the ending would resonate a little better for folks who have already read the first story.

The Sweetest Mercy – Another really hot read.  I think this one was my favorite.  It focuses on the rescue effort for Erica’s sister, Kiera.  Carter is Logan and Andrew’s best tracker and he sets off, not only to find the missing nymph, but also to bring her kidnapper back to the Pride for justice.

Carter has been celibate for decades, since the death of his mate.  But when he makes it to Kiera, her nymph mojo and her glaring need are too much to ignore.  What starts as a quickie to take the edge off, turns into something much more between these two people who had lost hope of ever finding an HEA.  Yes, it’s an uber fast connection, but the sex was super hot and I really felt for the characters. Carter, especially, was so wounded (both physically and emotionally.)  A satisfying end to the trilogy. I am glad I read them all back-to-back.

Overall Rating: B

*ARCs provided by author for review

Click to purchase: The Sweetest Torture
Click to purchase: The Sweetest Temptation
Click to purchase: The Sweetest Mercy
The Sweetest Torture
The Sweetest Temptation
The Sweetest Mercy
by Amanda Bonilla

Review: The Beast in Him

Reviewed by Jen

After kind of lukewarm feelings toward the first installment in this series, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on with these books, but I am glad I did.  I found that I enjoyed this story.  The things that were good in The Mane Event were good here as well: the humor and the delectable sexy times.  But in this case, with a full length book I got a chance to know the characters a bit better and get more excited about their romance. [Read more…]