Review: Beautiful Bastard

Reviewed by Allison

Chloe Mills works for the most frustrating, expectant, gorgeous man ever, Bennett Ryan. He is a beautiful bastard. He should be grateful as she’s the only assistant who has stuck around for over a week. Even as she tries to climb the corporate ladder, he makes life hell for her day after day.

And then it gets worse.

One day while presenting a project, Bennett can’t take it any more and completely ravishes her – not that you’ll find her complaining. Until she gets back to her desk that is. She berates herself over and over and swears it was a one time thing. Until the next day…up against a window… in his office… where anyone could look up while walking on the street and see. HOT. However, after this one, he’s such a bastard and so smug that she swears up, down, and sideways that this is IT. No more.

Needless to say, as much as these two hate the lustful control they have over each other, they absolutely cannot keep their hands off each other. In the car, at the office, in the elevator, you name it. But it all changes when they head to a business conference together – it’s certainly not all business and the tone of their relationship begins to change as they realize what’s between them is not just their white hot passion.

Not only were these two burning up the pages, but I absolutely loved how they came into themselves growing as people and accepting the inevitable fate of their love. He was definitely an ass, but isn’t it better when they realize they don’t have to be? That she loves him anyway?

Between the panty hoarding, the whenever/wherever sex, their sweet, developing relationship and the reality of the still existent corporate “glass ceiling”, this book was hot AND kept my interest all the way until the end.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by Gallery Books via Netgalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Beautiful Bastard
by Christina Lauren
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books

Review: Stand-In Star

Reviewed by Allison

Cultural anthropologist, Holly McCartney, is flying into LA from Sydney, Australia in order to attend the Academy Awards in her sister Daisy’s stead. The popular actress died in a car accident and is up for Best Supporting Actress. However, Holly is the opposite of prepared for the amount of paparazzi attention (damn you, Lady Gaga, for making me think of your song every time I see that word!)  She is close to completely freaking out the moment she steps off the plane – only to be saved by a dangerously handsome man that claims to be Daisy’s friend, Nate Devlin. Nate just wanted a look at the sister who abandoned his friend and only showed up when she was nominated for an award, so he was fully prepared to hate her. However, the minute he saw her, even though he actively disliked her, he also couldn’t help but be drawn to her… and ended up saving her. For Daisy’s sake of course.

After convincing her to not only take a ride from him, but to stay at his house for her safety, they’re stuck with their awkwardly growing desires and a complete misunderstanding about the drama of the sisters’ divide.

The tension was written very well in this story, both emotional as well as sexual. Even though the whole timeline was under two weeks, the author took good care of her characters, sharing what needed to be shared at exactly the right time, not revealing the truth until the story called for it. In such a short time, Holly went through such a roller coaster of emotions, it was almost hard to read. Self doubt, guilt, anger, grief, joy, love, determination – but it also made her more human and more relatable.

I also really enjoyed Nate’s sister, Bec and her adoring boyfriend, because I love when the couple in question has a solid couple they can use (consciously or subconsciously) as an example.

Even though I’m not a fan of fast timetables nor of the Hollywood stereotypes, this story was well written, emotionally fulfilling, and an absolute blast to read. I will definitely be on the look out for more books by Ms. Johns!

Grade: B+

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Stand In
by Rachael Johns
Release Date: January 7, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Exposed to You

Reviewed by Allison
 

Joy Hightower is helping her uncle and fellow artist out on the set of his latest movie when she gets the chance to work with THE Everett Hughes (think Brad Pitt, but younger). Little does she know that when she is assigned to do his body art, her swiftly changing world will tilt on its axis. From the get go, these two have off the charts sexual tension. When Joy starts to work on Everett’s lower body, she leans forward and finishes him off in a way that is completely out of character for her. She can’t stop, because not only does she love it, but she feels vibrant and alive – unlike how her doctor telling her she has lymphoma made her feel earlier that week. She revels in the feeling, but feels embarrassed… needless to say, Everett didn’t mind. He asks her to meet him at the statue that evening but what neither party realizes is that there are two statues in the studio.

Fast forward fourteen months and Joy has completed her chemotherapy, left LA, moved to Chicago, and is in remission. She’s an art teacher and loves what she teaches, but admits that her social life is definitely lacking. As she eats lunch with a couple of coworkers, in walks in no one but Everett Hughes himself. He’s in town for his Chicago Maritime launch and recognizes Joy immediately, much to her friends’ surprise! After chatting with him and his sister Katie, Joy is invited to the premiere (with the help of one of his sister Katie’s dresses) with Everett. She has trouble accepting, but in the end agrees, which begins their relationship and sets the stage for one of the sexiest yet emotionally sensitive tales I’ve read in long time.

Ms. Kery is a magnificent writer, I truly enjoyed reading her descriptions of the characters’ lives and emotions. She really lets you live the story. The story is told in third person and while Joy is the main narrator, it was nice to have Everett’s point of view sprinkled in enough to get a more robust understanding of them as a couple. She did a very good job of capturing the mentality of someone who has brushed death and doesn’t want to burden their family or friends. It was hard to understand why she didn’t just TELL people about her struggle since that is something no one should ever have to go through alone, but I think it’s one of those situations where you can’t know what you’d do until you’re in it.

I highly recommend this book (though, I’ll warn you it’s the second in a series) because it’s well written, well thought out, STEAMY as all get out, and emotionally satisfying.

Grade: A

Click to purchase: Amazon
Exposed to You
by Beth Kery
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Publisher: Berkley

Review: How to Misbehave

Reviewed by Allison

 

Amber Clark is the program director for the Camelot Community Center and while she’s always had her eye on older man and building contractor Tony Mazzara, it’s always just been a fantasy she’s kept to herself. That all changes when a tornado sweeps in and forces them to the dark basement of the Community Center as they seek shelter. Not only do they finally talk, but Tony is claustrophobic and Amber ends up being his anchor to stay calm. She doesn’t know if she should make a move, but the storm passes before she can. Fortunately for her, the storm completely smashed her car, providing the opportunity for Tony to drive her home… and come up.

I don’t know how else to explain this but to say that it was HOTT. Seriously. And not just sexy, but well written, fast paced.  This couple burned up the pages; I had to keep flipping to keep up! This is one of the best novellas I’ve read in a long time and I read it all in one sitting. Because, trust me, you won’t want to get up in the middle of this one.

This story was a hell of a way to kick off a new series & I can’t wait to read the next one, Along Came Trouble!!!

Grade: A

*ARC from Random House Publishing Group via Netgalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
How to Misbehave
by Ruthie Knox
Release Date: January 28, 2013
Publisher: Loveswept

Review: Romancing the Holiday

Reviewed by Allison

“We’ll Be Home for Christmas” by HelenKay Dimon

Lila Payne has been trying to find her way after her marriage fell apart and she thinks that moving to Holloway to take care of the campground “resort” that her uncle gave her is as good a place as any to start over. Only she didn’t expect that when she went to Thomas Nurseries to pick up something her uncle ordered, she’d run into the man she hasn’t been able to get out of her head for three months… not since their hot and heavy 3-night stand. Once Spence spots her, he can’t help but be drawn back to her with memories of that weekend in the swank hotel, and he’s dying to know if it was just a one-time sizzle or if the fireworks are still there.

My trip back to Holloway was even better than the last! Spence was the perfect balance of smart and sexy with shake-your-head-he’s-such-a-man. This short story was so emotionally charged between the devastation of a marriage gone wrong that Lila was dealing with and the lifetime of women leaving (starting with his own mother) to complicate his commitment issues on Spence’s end of things.

All the smexy lovin’ happened behind closed doors but this story was SO good, it didn’t even matter. The emotions were intense, the tortured hero just right, and the “moment of truth” so satisfying that even though it wrapped up a bit quick, it was easily forgivable.

The growth that he showed in just a few chapters was truly a joy to read and made it hard to stay mad once he decided to finally make the dive into the unknown with the woman he found himself willing to risk being with – whether she stayed or left.

Grade: B+

“Ask Her at Christmas” by Chrisi Barth

This short was about best friends, Caitlin and Kyle. BFFs since high school, they take care of each other, lean on each other, talk each other to sleep every night… and hold back their true feelings in order to keep the friendship at a safe level. Unfortunately, when Kyle pops the question and reveals that Caitlin is his “practice run”, she might have lost him for good.

Kyle explains that he is proposing to his girlfriend of six months to make his father proud and to solidify a merger between the two families companies. He figures that even thought it’s essentially a business transaction, he’d put a little effort into it to try to at least base the marriage in respect and friendship.

Although the romantic in Caitlin is completely horrified (I’d feel the same way!) she has always supported Kyle and won’t stop now. She does everything she can to plan a romantic proposal, giving him plenty of Christmas-y ideas like the ice rink, a fairy tale ending in front of Macy’s Christmas windows, and a surprise Christmas gift. Nothing seems right to Kyle but as the days to Christmas tick down, the plan gets more real, and he doesn’t know if he can go through with it.

It was absolute torture watching Kyle try to please his dad by ruining not only his life, but Caitlin’s. These two are so perfect for each other that while rooting for them you go from wanting to beat him over the head with a blunt object one moment, to cheering like a crazy person the next!

This story will make you fall in love, get pissed, stand proud, and swoon in 24,000 words – in short, you’ll love it!

Grade: A

“The Best Thing” by Jaci Burton

Tori has worked for Kent Construction for a few years, but the past 10 months have been especially difficult – ever since Brody Kent kissed her at the company Christmas party and she bolted. She’s been in love with Brody for years, but can’t let her heart get involved because of Brody’s playboy reputation. She knows she wouldn’t be able to handle being used and tossed aside by this man. So when Brody’s brothers tell him to “fix it”, he starts a dialogue with her that eventually ends in a magical weekend for the both of them… but can Tori get past her trust issues and can Brody finally man up and settle down?

I really liked Tori and Brody, but I think some background from the previous stories (this is book 3 in the series) would’ve helped frame their struggles a bit better. I also think that Tori had good reasons to be wary of Brody and while he did prove himself, I think she forgave him a little too easily. That’s probably due to the nature of the short story though, because it’s still a great tale of love and family with a Christmas twist!

Grade: B-

All three of these stories are the absolute perfect Christmas read, they’re emotional without being overwhelming and will satisfy every hopeless romantic’s need to swoon this holiday season!

*ARC provided by Carina Press via Netgalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Romancing the Holiday
by HelenKay Dimon, Jaci Burton, & Christi Barth
Release Date: December 3, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: The Boss’s Fake Fiance

Reviewed by Allison

Melissa Bencher is at a fundraiser for her boss and his company when she sees her cheating bastard of an ex slide his way toward her across the dance floor. Since she can’t get away, she grits her teeth and tries to stay cool. Unfortunately, the unapologetic twit gets under her skin (who could blame her – he slept with her [ex]best friend?!) and she ends up “confessing” her secret relationship with her boss, Garth Solen. Little does she know that when she wakes up the next morning the jealous idiot has told the paparazzi and now she and Garth are front page gossip news!

Although she is convinced she will lose her job, she’s shocked when Garth asks her to keep up the charade. We learn that although her sexy boss is very private, he’s also very family oriented and when his grandmother (the woman who raised him after his parents passed away) got so excited that he had finally found someone, he couldn’t bring himself to break her heart. Especially since she’s recovering from pneumonia and is having a hard time bouncing back.

And so a deal is struck. They pretend the engagement is real until his grandmother gets better and then they’re done. Of course, that’s not how the cookie crumbles…

Not another fake fiance story, you say? I’ll admit, I was wary going into it but to be honest even though the name is corny as hell and way too obvious, the story and characters truly made up for it.

I really liked Melissa and how even though she had been hurt, she was open to the possibility of something else changing her life –and that even though she knew she shouldn’t fall for Garth, she let herself do it anyway. That’s my kind of girl! Even if it hurts, every one should have that great big REAL love once in their lives. Garth, on the other hand, did everything he could to avoid it. It was really interesting and a little heartbreaking to see what he had been through as a child and how that shaped him as an adult. I couldn’t help but feel empathy for him when he revealed his condition at the end and how truly beat down the world made him about himself.

It was sexy and incredibly sweet, definitely a worthy read! I will make sure to go back and read about Melissa’s brother, Brit, in Rules of Negotiation.

Grade: B+

*ARC Provided by Entangled Publishing

The Boss’s Fake Fiance
by Inara Scott
Release Date: October 14, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Review: Undercover Professor

Reviewed by Allison

Dr. Drew Sullivan is a famous sexy gaming sociology professor (so many oxymorons in one place) who is looking to do a social experiment about female gamers, but since everyone knows him in Portland, Oregon he decides to move clear across country to Wisconsin. There he can simultaneously help his mom out after hip surgery and gain the anonymity that he needs in order to get the most accurate results possible from his interviews as “Andy” Sullivan – the scruffy yet amiable drifter. Which is when he meets Lucy Benoit, and his life gets both more fun and complicated all at once.

Lucy can’t help but be drawn to the sexy guy she met in the laundry room downstairs, but she’s got strict rules to follow:

Rule Number One: Must not lie.
Rule Number Two: Must not live with parents.
Rule Number Three: Must have a job.
Rule Number Four: Must not be a friend’s ex.

They are set in place for a very good reason… which seems to fly out of her mind every time she finds herself in the same place as him.

As they become closer as friends, the pull between them is not something they can deny…but how can it last when he can’t tell her who he really is and she hates lying more than anything?

I really enjoyed the characters in this story. They both did a lot of growing up (which every reader appreciates) as they learned a lot from each other as well as the relationship itself.

Andy was incredibly endearing in the way that he took such good care of his mom and, even when he doesn’t mean to, of Lucy. He may have been an alpha male but he was a sweet and nerdy one. Although Lucy’s family was clearly nutso, I enjoyed her crazy cousin (well, when she wasn’t trying to land Andy) and am glad she ended up with who she did.

With a very emotional conclusion, the story wraps up with a smile on your face and a new author in your pocket! Definitely recommend this debut tale and as Shelly always says – Happy Reading!

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
  Undercover Professor
by December Gephart
Release Date: November 19, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Unforeseen

Reviewed by Allison

Alex Crocker is a middle school teacher that has always had incredible “intuition” about people. She didn’t think much about it, until while out on a run one night, she gets nabbed by what she later finds out are vampires. She got caught in the crosshairs of a battle in the centuries old war between two covens…or at least, that’s what everyone thought. When “Knower” Sage finds he can’t erase her memory, he knows that she’s not the average human and takes her back to headquarters to keep her safe while finding out more about the anomaly. She fights being questioned for a long time but after finally getting some answers, she begins to learn more about the world she’s been thrust into.

The Q&A session between Alex and the Regan (the head of the coven) is essentially how Ms. Grimley chooses to build her world. Alex asks something in order to understand her situation better and gets a history lesson in return that conveniently explains it to the reader as well.

There isn’t much character development, which is disappointing as three of the vamps that befriend Alex — Sage (the aforementioned Knower), Markus (a traditional but adorable vamp who becomes the love interest), and Rocky (the youngest vamp in the group who is serving a sentence by working for the Regan)– are all great characters. Unfortunately, I personally wasn’t a fan of Alex herself. I thought she was obnoxiously loud, rude, impatient, and she hurt Rocky! On purpose! Not cool, Alex, not cool.

There was a mystery element to the story as she went on the journey to try to figure herself out as a “Seer” and what all her gifts entailed as well as a family enigma that wasn’t quite solved by the end. I honestly had high hopes for this book, but had the hardest time finishing it. The plot was too strung out, it didn’t piece together soon enough, and the love story completely lacked spark. I liked Markus and Alex together, but there was no way I could believe they loved each other after a couple of walks around the compound. It would’ve been a lot more plausible to put her with Sage since they could read each other.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible read, but I was not impressed.

Grade: D

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Unforeseen
by Lauren Grimley
Release Date: April 26, 2012
Publisher: Malachite Quills Publishing

 

Review: Tart

Reviewed by Allison

Juliet Lamprey is the owner of the hottest bakery in town, Tart. Since she’s joined forces with her best friends to include a catering business and art gallery, she’s busier than ever. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get lonely. She’s been in love with her best friend Cal Whaley for what seems like a lifetime (he was her first kiss at 14,) but he refuses to act on what they have for fear of ruining their relationship. So, when sexy cowboy Gideon Carter moves back into town, she not only lets the sparks fly, she encourages them. They quickly fall into each other’s lives and in love…much to Cal’s dismay.

He realizes he missed the boat on any chance he might have had with Juliet, but decides to try to convince her anyway. He catches her one night out behind Tart after closing up…and kisses her. She tries to stop it, but it’s the moment she’s been waiting for her entire adult life – and it’s as wonderfully amazing as she thought it would be! Except, she has a boyfriend.

Ever the honest girlfriend, she yells at Cal for his shitty timing and insists that she tell Gideon that night. Cal insists on coming along (since it’s his fault and everything) and everyone is ready for the argument of the century when she confesses…until Gideon suggests something neither of them considered. He doesn’t want to lose her, but he knows how long and how much Juliet has wanted Cal so he doesn’t want her to be unhappy. He and Cal have both been with men (convenient, eh?) and have known each other practically all their lives, so why not simply share Juliet? An intriguing proposition indeed!

I know not everyone is a PM fan, but I love them. I love the intricacies of dealing with everyone’s emotions, I feel like it would make you more emotionally aware. One one hand, it’d be twice the exasperation with the male persuasion, but wouldn’t double the affection be worth it? I like that she had Gillian’s sister-in-law, Erin, (I really need to read the Brown siblings series now!) to talk to about the societal views of their situations because everyone other one I’ve read, there was no support network. I loved that they were so accepted in their circle of friends, even if their family (hers was the WORST) didn’t see it the same way.

I have to say, as far as attitudes about their arrangement went, Gideon’s grandfather stole the show:

“I’m an old man, Calvin, I don’t bother to beat around the bush. I don’t much care for judging what people get up to in the bedroom, long as everyone there is on board. But I can see your heart. You wear it on your sleeve. You love my grandson and he loves you right back. And her too. So what difference does it make to me that there’s three of you instead of two? Or that two of you have the same equipment? I’m going to die soon enough; I don’t need to carry anyone else’s choices. I just need to love my family. If you were bad for him, I’d show you just how well I can still throw a punch to the face. But you’re all right. For a lawyer.”

I really didn’t enjoy the changing POV within the same paragraph as it annoys the crap out of me, but I was grateful to be given bird’s eye view of each character as they dealt with their unique situation. The story was a solid one and I will definitely be continuing with this sizzling yet romantic series!

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tart
by Lauren Dane
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Publisher: Berkley

Review: Cherished

Reviewed by Allison

I really wanted to read Lauren Dane’s Tart that recently released, but you know me – I had to read the first one first! It’s compulsive, I swear. The first Delicious tale is part of a BDSM “duology” by Maya Banks & Lauren Dane.

Exiled by Maya Banks

A true piece of fantasy, Ms. Banks takes us to a hidden island where we find Prince Alexander exiled and lying in wait to take back his country from the militant rebels who stole his kingdom. We discover that while he’s been in exile, he’s been helping a woman named Talia, whom he met when she served at the Palace. He’s been keeping a rather proprietary eye on her, sending her money to pay for her mother’s cancer treatments, her schooling, and her apartment. The only thing he asks in return is that she come without questions when he finally calls upon her.

The long awaited day has finally come, Talia gets her summons and though she feels ashamed for making such a bargain, Talia can’t regret her choices since they guaranteed her mother a second chance at life. So, anxiously, she goes with the guard sent to bring her to her Prince. Full disclosure, she knows exactly what he expects, even more so after she arrives and he sits her down to spell it out. The terms: 6 months, full obedience, he –and only he– will take her innocence, but she is to serve he and his four trusted guards. In exchange, she will live in Heaven on Earth – she will be pampered, cosseted, and cared for. Like I said…a true fantasy!

She has issues with complying to his demands at first, but after she learns to trust each man, a bond forms between the five of them. They make her first time meaningful, and anytime after that is just as tender, even with the underlying commands. What I love about the way Maya Banks does BDSM is that it isn’t about the whips or chains or even commands, it’s about what each person needs and the give and take you can find in any relationship. It’s more about trust than anything else.

Xander does eventually get the chance to take back his throne, but in attempting to protect Talia from the rebels, goes about their separation the worst way. However, their time apart and misconceptions just makes the reunion that much sweeter and you can’t help but fall in love with all four men.

I think that if Ms. Banks had set this story in any other setting it would have been ridiculous and unbelievable, but since it was a fairy tale from the start, for some reason it was easier to just go with it, no matter how fantastical it got. I loved the writing, it was HOTT as hell, and I highly recommend it!

Grade: A

Sway by Lauren Dane

This book was the reason I read the duology and honestly I was kind of disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was hot. But I really liked Daisy and the story seemed kind of stilted. I feel like I should go back and read the Brown siblings books to know the other characters better since the Delicious series is a spinoff.

Daisy is a 20-something free spirited dance instructor and artiste while Levi is a 40-something lawyer with a reputation to protect. Even though he wants to stay away, he is drawn to Daisy like a moth to a flame and can’t keep his hands off her. She is subservient without thinking about it and he can’t stop thinking of her. The question he ends up asking himself, is she worth it?

Again, it was hot – but I didn’t feel the connection. I read it, but I couldn’t feel it, I wasn’t convinced. I’m all for dirty words, but sometimes it felt over the top, crude even, and it didn’t fit the scene right. I want to read Tart anyway because I like the characters, but I will definitely go in with lower expectations.

Grade: C

Click to purchase: Amazon
Cherished
by Maya Banks and Lauren Dane
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Berkley