Review: The Day He Kissed Her by Juliana Stone

day he kissed herReviewed by Carrie

I’ve been patiently waiting for Mac’s story because he’s been licking his wounds for the past two books and you know I can’t resist a wounded hero.

Mackenzie Draper keeps his two lives as separate as possible.  In New York, he’s a talented architect that keeps him in a swank city apartment, enough cash to flash and women hanging on every move.  But back home in Michigan, he’s part of the family that the town of Crystal Lake whispers about and his father’s favorite punching bag.  Mac wants to keep his hometown firmly in his past, but love and concern for his mother and his friends keep bringing him back.  A New Year’s Eve rendezvous with a mysterious blond turns out to be his best friend Jake’s, new friend, Lily. [Read more…]

Review: The Christmas He Loved Her

christmas he lovedReviewed by Carrie

Earlier this year, I reviewed the first book in Juliana Stone’s Bad Boys of Crystal Lake series and I really enjoyed it for a solid small town romance with a rock star.  Stone returns with her second novel in a flurry of angst and emotions.  If you were expecting a light hearted holiday book, turn around now.

Raine Edwards has been a walking ghost ever since her husband Jesse was killed during deployment in Afghanistan 18 months ago.  As if that wasn’t hard enough, the one other person she could always lean on, Jake, Jesse’s twin brother, bails on her without so much as a see-ya-later.  [Read more…]

Review: The Summer He Came Home

summerReviewed by Carrie

Cain Black left his small town in the dust 10 years ago to pursue his rock star dreams. Unfortunately, a death of an old friend sends him back from where he once belonged. Problems within the band and in his own life make the loss of Cain’s friend that much more poignant. While at the funeral, Cain meets quiet single mom Maggie O’Rourke and is smitten.

Maggie is focused on providing for her child and herself and is determined to keep Cain at arm’s length. Not only is she the new girl, but she’s also the maid to most of the town’s upper class residents. Little does she realize that Cain won’t give up his first taste of “real” he’s had in a long time and he slowly begins to chip away at her walls. I very much enjoyed this sweet romance. There is really great push/pull tension going on the entire book, from the rock star pursuing the maid to small town politics to wealth disparities. Despite this, the story moves quickly and doesn’t get bogged down.

I really connected with both characters. After initially enjoying the spoils of fame, Cain realizes he’s surrounded by sycophants and liars – everyone has an agenda. Coming back home, Cain’s eyes are opened again and are grounded in what is real. His mother chides him. The town hasn’t forgotten the wilder days of his youth. His friends give him no quarter. So when he connects with Maggie, he desperately wants to hold on to that feeling.

For Maggie, Cain represents everything out of her reach. She has no other choice but to be real. Maggie and her son’s lives depend on her staying low, making do and just surviving. As Cain slowly ingratiates himself, Maggie let’s hope bloom just a little bit and it makes you root for them both to make it together.

As the couple negotiates the minefields on their way to their HEA, the side characters provide a nice balance and I am eager for their coming books.

I really recommend this book to those who are looking for a sweet small town romance with a couple that you genuinely can root for.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Summer He Came Home
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review: Collide

Reviewed by Shelly
 

After reading the first story in the series, Offside, I was so eager to read whose story would be next.

Bobbi-Jo is the sister who was left behind to take care of the their ill father. While Betty-Jo and Billie-Jo left their small town and went out into the world to fulfill their happiness, Bobbi stayed home. I have to admire her for that.

But I had a devil of a time with Bobbi – she came off as such a spoiled little girl when she was a teenager – so used to getting what she wants; when she decided that she wanted Shane Gallagher, five years her senior, there was no stopping her. Not even Shane could get in her way. As an adult she hasn’t changed too much and unfortunately for Bobbi getting what you want is not always good for you.

Ex-con Shane Gallagher is back in town after his stint in jail. He’s come home because of his parole restrictions and he’s determined that he doesn’t want anything to do with Bobbi because at their last go around, things didn’t turn out so good for him. Well, that doesn’t work out so well for Shane because after Bobbi walks out on her wedding and ends up at the same bar that Shane is in, he decides to do the only thing he can.

I really wanted to like both of the characters like crazy, but these were two very emotionally damaged people and I couldn’t feel too sorry for them or feel for them at all. I grew very weary of the anger that couldn’t seem to be avoided especially when Shane was involved. Even though his violent nature was cured with the jail time, the underlying anger was always there waiting for someone/something to spark that match.

The relationship between Bobbi and Shane when they were younger was so emotionally volatile that all they did was fight and have sex, fight and have sex, rinse and repeat. As adults I expected to see some relatively grown-up interaction, but the relationship seems to continue to be based a lot on the sex and not enjoying each other as people. It seemed so shallow and made me wonder if either of them had an accident and lost the physical perfection that the other enjoyed – would the relationship survive?

Every time that Bobbi saw Shane it was focused on the way he looked or the way he smelled. After a while, I just started reading over the sex scenes because there were a lot of them. One of the more disturbing ones was when Bobbi and Shane are at dinner and Shane’s discovered that Bobbi was going commando (as was her norm) he started putting his fingers in not appropriate places while at the dinner table while his teenage sister, father and step-mother sat across from them – come on, that not cool.

I did enjoy catching up with Logan and Billie-Jo from the first book. Their grandfather and father were pleasant returns. As for Betty-Jo, she’s seems to have moments for clarity and wisdom in this story that I found refreshing. I’m hoping that in her story she’s matched with someone who will appreciate her because I think that out of the three sisters Betty-Jo might be the one who needs saving the most.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: C

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Collide
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: January 15, 2013

Review: King of the Damned

Reviewed by Jen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Avon

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

Review: To Hell and Back

Reviewed by Jen

 

I know. I know. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but before I start talking about the pages inside, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the absolutely gorgeous cover art for this book. . . . Wow.

Moving to the actual story, To Hell and Back is a companion novella to Wrong Side of Hell. It continues the story of the tortured heroine Kira — and Logan, the hellhound who loves her.  The story picks up right on the heels of the last one. Logan is trying to get Kira to safety after having rescued her from Purgatory.  They are happy together, but the odds are stacked against them. And it’s only a matter of time before they can no longer outrun the monsters that are chasing them.

Logan is kidnapped and dragged back to hell. There, he must finally face his past and his enemies.  He must find a way vanquish them if he ever hopes to have a real future with the woman he loves. In the meantime, Kira is offered help from some familiar faces from the League. But can she trust them?

The story is pretty fast paced and our couple must fight their battles separately for most of the book.  There are a few love scenes, but this is really a story about these two fighting to get back to one another.  I liked it. I was glad to see more of Kira and Logan. These are two people who complete one another. Both have endured horrific pasts.  But in each other, they have found the peace and happiness that they never believed existed for themselves.

We do get cameos from Priest and Cale, in addition to Lillith, Seth the Golden, and Samael. This book could be read as a standalone, but you are really better off reading Wrong Side of Hell first, so you can see how these two fell in love.

I enjoyed it. I hope there will be a third story for these two one day.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
To Hell and Back
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Offside

Reviewed by Shelly 

Suffering from one too many concussions while playing overseas, 25 year old hockey player Billie-Jo Barker decides to return home to both recover and decide what she’s going to do with the rest of her life. When she gets back home, she runs into no other than Logan Forest, her childhood crush who she’s still carrying a bit of a torch for.

Billie is restless because for the first time she neither has a schedule to train by nor a game in her foreseeable future. Along with that, she’s quite unsure of her future because not only can she no longer competitively play the sport that she loves, but she doesn’t know how to do anything but play hockey. To solve part of her quandry, Billie joins the local hockey league. Fortunately for her, there are no rules that say males only so she decides to give it a go.

Also on the team is Logan, who’s quite the successful businessman and resident hotmaleness. Logan and Billie have a little bit of history in that Billie was totally and completely in love with Logan, but he only had eyes for Betty-Jo, one of the Barker triplets. After seeing each other again, sharing a hockey bench and after-the-game drinks, Billie and Logan form a hot and heavy ‘don’t tell anyone’ affair. But Billie has a long held secret that she’s keeping from Logan that will seriously rock their budding relationship.

While trying to stay safe on the ice, Billie’s dealing with her father’s early stages of dementia, her other sister Bobbi-Jo’s hostile attitude, Shane – recent parolee and ex-boyfriend of Bobbi, Gerald – Bobbi’s fiancee, Betty’s total asshat attitude, and a serious (downright criminal) case of hazing.

With the smokin’ hot between the sheets moments between Billie and Logan, it all makes for a fun and very entertaining read. I’m exicted to see whose story is going to be the next one out. I’m thinking Betty-Jo because I have no idea who her HEA will be with. But I know when Shane’s turn comes, it’s going to be just as good or maybe even more awesome – because shhhh don’t tell anyone– but he’s a badboy and you know how those badboys can make a girl lose her right mind.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Offside
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: October 1, 2012

Review: Wicked Road to Hell

Reviewed by Jen

I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive in starting this book. I had problems with my only only other Juliana Stone novel, His Darkest Salvation. I got lost in the world-building –and the hero was a huge asshole to the heroine in that book. But I am so happy to say that not only were my fears unfounded, but I found myself really enjoying this one.

A few years back, the sorcerer Declan was sucked through a portal to hell. He was a prisoner there for six months, tortured and brutalized at the hands of the demon Lillith. Then he was rescued, making him beholden to an angelic being named Bill, and bound to fight for the forces of good. Shortly after his rescue, his great love, a vampire named Ana, was killed right in front of him. That was two years ago.

So imagine Declan’s surprise when he discovers that Bill secretly brought back Ana as well. She’s been working her own mission for Bill, protecting a teenager named Kaden. The boy is one of seven young people “Marked” for great power. If all of them were to come together, they would tip the scales entirely in favor of good or evil. So of course, everyone wants them. Everyone except the League of Guardians. They are a mishmash all types of beings who work to maintain a balance between the forces of light and dark. So if either side can assemble the marked seven, their objective will be toast.

Declan agrees to help Ana protect the boy. But things get infinitely more complicated when he finds out Lillith has gained possession of two more of the Marked. He knows that to save them, he’ll have to return to the same horrors he barely survived before Bill saved him.

In the midst of all the action, there is a love story. Declan and Ana have been crazy about each other for years, but for one reason or another, they never gave it a go. Ana always held back her feelings because the laws of her people forbid her to mate with anyone who is not a vampire. And she loves Declan so much, she knows that to be with him would lead to mating. And that would get him killed. Declan has no idea about any of this. He only knows that this is his second chance to be with the woman he loves and he is not going to waste it.

I liked both main characters. They are strong; they truly love one another and each does everything possible to protect the other. The sex is hot and the emotions, believable. As for the non-romance part of the book, there is a lot going on, but I didn’t find it too difficult to keep up with. It’s fast paced and interesting. And I found myself quite intrigued by some of the secondary characters like the demon Samael and the shifter Ransome. I hope they end up with stories of their own –and Nico too. I look forward to see where Stone takes the series next. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Wicked Road to Hell
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Wrong Side of Hell

Reviewed by Jen 

15 years ago, Logan took a big risk by rescuing a 10 year-old girl from Hell. As a hellhound, it was always his job to bring souls to the realm, not from it.  But at the request of the Seraphim Bill, he took the risk. And he was punished for it extensively.

Now Bill is back, drafting Logan to help the girl once again. Kira is a grown woman now, but someone has killed her and Bill wants Logan to rescue her soul from Purgatory. And he’s not above a little blackmail to get the job done.

Kira has spent the past 15 years in a mental institution, enduring horrors of her own at the hands of an evil doctor. Purgatory is actually a relief from the life she has lead… until evil entities show up, trying to destroy her soul. Logan arrives at just the right time to save her and she recognizes him instantly from her childhood. The two must work together to escape Purgatory and get to safety.

It was hard for me to get into the story right away, mostly because I was distracted by the question of whether these character have more backstory in any of Stone’s other books. It felt like they did. And once Logan stopped being an alpha asshat, I found myself much more invested. I wanted happiness for poor Kira, though I had some reservations about the ease in which she moves into a physical relationship after a history of sexual abuse.

This is listed as a prequel novella in the League of Guardians series, so hopefully, we’ll see more of these two in the future books. (Fans of Stone’s Jaguar books should be happy to know we get a little cameo from a few of her familiar characters at the end of the story… including Declan and Ana. –Not a lot, but just a little taste.) 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Wrong Side of Hell
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: His Darkest Salvation

Reviewed by Jen
 

I’ve often said that I’ve never met a tortured hero who I didn’t like. Well, now I have.

Reviewed by Jen
Julian has spent the past 6 months in hell with his buddy Declan. They’ve been tortured and parts of their souls have been ripped out. Now they must find a fallen angel named Azaiel to keep evil forces from the inter-dimensional portal he protects. If they don’t succeed, they’ll lose what little of their souls they have left and will walk the Earth as shades.

Almost immediately upon his return, Julian comes face to face with Jaden. Both Julian and Jaden are jaguar shifters, who hooked up once, years ago. But once he found out that she came from a rival family, he rejected her outright. He didn’t realize at the time, she had claimed him as her mate. Now, the two of them must work together, along with a group of other warriors to find Azaiel and the evil sorcerer Cormac, who holds him prisoner.

Julian is a complete and utter bastard. Yes, I know he’s missing part of his soul, but I simply could not get over the horrific way he treats Jaden. He breaks her heart over and over and over. Jaden’s a warrior, but for crying out loud, no one should have to endure the cruelty she suffers from the people she loves. I kept waiting for Julian to come around, but he’s even cruel to her when they finally sleep together again.  In the second half, he starts to soften towards her, but it’s really too little too late.

This is the third installment in a trilogy and it really took me a while to understand what was going on. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t sure (and I’m still not) how much was information that I would have gleaned from the earlier books and how much was new and being revealed for the first time. I wish there would have been a little recapping to help me wade through things like why it’s bad to be a DeCosta, who Cormac is to the existing characters, or what the portal is supposed to even do. I got all of my answers eventually, but the nagging questions burned until I figured it all out.

All that criticism aside, I really feel like I would like a book by this author, if I could catch the series from the beginning and if the hero isn’t an asshat. I even went so far as to check out His Darkest Hunger, the first book in this series. Then I found out that hero is cruel to his heroine too. Maybe the next series… 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

His Darkest Salvation
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Avon