Monthly Archives: March 2014

Review: The Cry for Freedom by Jerri Hines

The Cry For FreedomThe Cry For Freedom by Jerri Hines

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was acquired by me for free on Amazon after the author contacted me directly to request a review at The Romance Evangelist.

When I first started reading THE CRY FOR FREEDOM, I was entertained by the introduction of our heroine, Hannah Corbett, when she met Marcus Durham, a mysterious handsome stranger who took a special interest in her while she was attempting to avoid yet another in a series of boring social events. As the story progressed, our Hannah morphed into a Mary Sue character whose only faults (headstrong, tomboy, more interested in the outside world than in parties and social gossip, etc) are the ones that our modern sensibilities would see as assets in the conflicts about to tear her world apart. Although at first it appeared to me that Marcus would be set up as Hannah’s eventual love interest, in THE CRY FOR FREEDOM, they only encounter each other sporadically as the conflict between those who support the Crown and those who want freedom from its rule morphs into full-out war.

THE CRY FOR FREEDOM features a whirlwind of activity as Hannah’s insular world is blown apart by enemies both within and without. After suffering incredible personal losses, Hannah insists on volunteering as a spy in the New York household of her own grandfather. Of course, in the grand tradition of all Mary Sues, she manages to overhear all kinds of incredibly useful information, thus proving wrong all those who thought her too young and inexperienced to be an effective asset. While Hannah’s life has been in upheaval, her brother Jonathan has suffered just as greatly, and we see periodically how the tragic events occurring in Virginia have affected his personal life as well. Meanwhile, the mysterious Marcus pops up here and again throughout the story, including in New York, where Hannah isn’t sure whether she could ever trust someone working on the same side of the people who tried to destroy her family. And then the book just…ends.

The Amazon blurb for THE CRY OF FREEDOM claims it’s the first in the Winds of Betrayal series, but for me, that description was incredibly misleading. This isn’t the first book in a series — it’s the first book in a serial. In a serial, each succeeding installment is structured like an individual chapter in a book, instead of a complete story connected to additional complete stories as the word “series” would imply. This distinction became all too obvious in THE CRY FOR FREEDOM, when just as it seemed Marcus and Hannah might have an actual romantic moment together, the next line was a title promotion of the third Winds of Betrayal book, followed by a brief excerpt. (Wait, wasn’t I just reading Book One? What happened to Book Two?) There is also a Book Four scheduled for release later in 2014, but for me, the Winds of Betrayal series/serial ends here.

Ultimately, THE CRY FOR FREEDOM had just enough plot to keep me reading, but not enough for me commit to additional books/chapters. Your mileage may vary.

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Review: Night of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

Night of Pleasure (School of Gallantry, #4)Night of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

Delilah Marvelle’s School of Gallantry series has been sitting on my insanely large To Be Read list for quite some time now, but it took the opportunity of doing this review to finally get me to take the plunge with NIGHT OF PLEASURE. I knew that in each book, there would be a visit (or two) at some point to the aforementioned school, but that they all could be read as stand-alone stories. And based on how much I enjoyed this fourth book in the series, I know I’ll be going back to binge read them all very soon.

We first meet the hero and heroine of NIGHT OF PLEASURE on the same day they meet each other for the first time. That day turned out to be both the best and worst day of young Derek Holbrook’s life. It was the best because he met the woman destined to one day become his wife; it was the worst because only moments later, he lost his beloved father to a previously undisclosed illness. Derek had been taught by his father that it was always better to show a happy face to others, never revealing true emotion, but after that man breathed his last, Derek (now Viscount Banfield) could only sob in his new fiancée’s arms.

Clementine Grey spent the majority of her childhood attempting to parent her own father while trying to stay alive amidst all the political violence surrounding him as a man of worldwide influence and stature. Clementine’s confused memories about the angry conflicts between her parents before her mother’s death have spawned unhealthy notions about what a true marriage would be to any man, convincing her that she should never marry if it meant bringing a child into a similarly dysfunctional household. Still, Clementine wouldn’t have to confront that problem until years from now, when she’s old enough to marry Derek.

Suddenly it’s eight years later, and Derek is all but swooning at the prospect of finally having the lovely Clementine as his own. This marriage was arranged by their fathers to provide money for the Banfield estate and a reliable husband for Clementine, but Derek is certain Clementine is just as much in love with him as he is with her. When she finally arrives for the wedding, only to assert that she intends to leave him for another man she considers merely a friend, Derek is understandably distraught. When he realizes she will not be swayed, he then convinces her to give him just one night with her, a night where they can be intimate with each other in the way he had dreamed of all those years apart. But it’s only when the night is over that the true story between Derek and Clementine will begin in earnest.

Because NIGHT OF PLEASURE was my first book in the School of Gallantry series, I wasn’t sure when to expect that institution to become a part of the plot. But as I was pulled more deeply into Derek and Clementine’s tumultuous romance, I forgot all about the School and just let myself enjoy the beauty of Delilah Marvelle’s writing. Derek is a lot like an overeager puppy when it comes to his love for Clementine, and rightfully feels like he’s been kicked in the teeth when he’s hit with the reality of her decision to leave him. Never mind that the reasoning behind her goal is flawed, never mind that they really don’t know each other all that well to begin with, even after eight years of written correspondence. The fact remains that Derek has been patient for far too long, and refuses to be denied at the very moment that should be ending his lonely wait. Meanwhile, Clementine finally understands the consequences of her plan to abandon Derek at the altar, including just how much her fortune is needed to support all the people who depend on him for their living. Her growing guilt prods her into agreeing to Derek’s single request before her departure. That night Derek and Clementine spend together provides a starting point in the path to their ultimate reconciliation, but it takes the fortuitous appearance of the School of Gallantry to gently instruct them in exactly what they need to enjoy a truly happy life together.

What I enjoyed the most about NIGHT OF PLEASURE was how the path to true love between Derek and Clementine was never easy or predictable, but it was always deeply satisfying, from the mixed emotions of its opening, through its twists and turns, and ending with its passionate and touching conclusion. I’m pleased to add Delilah Marvelle to my must-read historical romance writer list and I’m looking forward to savoring each of the previous School of Gallantry books in anticipation of the next one to come.

Favorite Quote:

By God. The girl who had once wiped away his tears had come to wipe them away again when he least expected it. He wanted to grab her and kiss her and smother her with every emotion he’d ever held within.

Only they were in a church, and the violins had stopped and people were staring.

“God love you,” he rasped. “God love you for astounding me.”

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Review: Cup of Sugar by Karla Doyle

Cup of SugarTitle: Cup of Sugar
Author: Karla Doyle
Genre: hot contemporary romance
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook
Release Date: February 26, 2014

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review.

Publisher Summary:

Nia has one rule—don’t date neighbors. Simple, except the guy next door is single, handsome, and not inclined to close his blinds while naked. When her car dies, Conn takes “being neighborly” to a new level by offering a ride to her long-distance destination. Nia has resisted his looks and charm for months. Surely she can handle a few hours in his truck…

For months, Conn has blatantly put himself on display, hoping his pretty blonde neighbor would tire of secretly watching and come knock on his door for a cup of sugar-or more. No such luck—until an unusual opportunity arises. After a six-hour drive turns into a sweet-and-sexy weekend, Conn wants more than neighborly status with Nia. To get it, he must convince her to break the rule protecting her heart—by putting his on the line.

*hot contemporary romance with some explicit sexual content*

My Review:

Karla Doyle is rapidly becoming one of my go-to comfort read authors, and CUP OF SUGAR is yet another reason why. Although she doesn’t make light of the real concerns and problems that her characters might have on the way to their happy ending, she also doesn’t turn them into anything too overwrought or super-angsty just to get “all the feels” from readers. Her deft hand is what made CUP OF SUGAR such a great read for me. Its hero and heroine have both had to deal with broken relationships, and those experiences come into play during this story, but they also both learn from what went wrong before and use that knowledge to make better decisions the second time around without wallowing in too much fake drama.

Nia is the classic sweet-but-overly-cautious girl who’s been burned one too many times by the men she has come to recognize as her type; namely, the ones she fixates on simply by virtue of their close and continuous proximity. After her last breakup which essentially forced her to sell her house and move, Nia now has a new dating rule. No getting involved with neighbors, not even a little bit, not even if they are the nicest and hottest guys around. Especially not then.

Too bad for Conn that he’s living next to a seriously attractive woman who won’t date neighbors. Not that he realizes that right off, but after performing all kinds of outdoor chores for Nia without being asked, he’s resorted to strutting naked in front of the windows in his house that overlook hers, all to no avail. So when Nia has trouble starting her admittedly inadequate car on a night when a big snowstorm is approaching, he sees his opportunity to take his Nice Neighbor campaign to the next level. Conn is determined to get to know Nia better, and she’s most definitely attracted to him. But will they ever get past that pesky neighbor rule?

It was easy to understand why Nia had her rule about neighbors, but it was also great to see the moment in CUP OF SUGAR when she realized that her problem wasn’t dating neighbors. Her problem was dating jerks. But Conn isn’t like those other guys, and he spends the majority of the story showing Nia exactly why. It didn’t mean that he was perfect, only that he genuinely wanted to get to know Nia better and be that good guy she deserved after so many bad ones. There were a few misunderstandings between them along the way, some of them a bit more annoying than others (I hate when characters snoop and assume the absolutely wrong thing immediately, especially when the obvious answer is already in front of them) but none lasted long enough to be a major distraction. And the ending made all of the misunderstandings worthwhile, just for that lovely moment when both Nia and Conn are able to enjoy finally being together as a real couple with their whole future ahead of them. CUP OF SUGAR proves you can have a light-hearted romance without sacrificing “all the feels” and it’s why I will continue to read everything Karla Doyle writes. 4 stars

Review: Hope Ignites by Jaci Burton

Hope Ignites (Hope, #2)Hope Ignites by Jaci Burton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.

HOPE IGNITES is the second book in Jaci Burton’s new small town romance series, where each book tells the story of how a character living in the town of Hope, Oklahoma, finds his or her true love. The first book, HOPE FLAMES, introduced us to the town and several of the people living there, focusing on the McCormack brothers and their extended friends and family. Officer Luke McCormack’s romance with town veterinarian Emma Burnett was in the first book, and in this book we get to see what happens when his brother Logan falls head over heels for a genuine movie star, in spite of his own damaged feelings about love and marriage.

Because the mother of the McCormack brothers had left both her children and the town of Hope years before, never to return or even remain in contact. Her shocking departure with another man came only days after the tragic death of their father, and that had made her abandonment of them all the more deeply scarring. In HOPE FLAMES, it was Luke who had to move past both his mother’s betrayal and a previous failed marriage to trust another woman with his love. Now it’s Logan’s turn, and his is all the more difficult because he’s now the one running the family ranch, and hatred of life on the ranch was one of the main reasons his mother had wanted to leave. So why would a woman accustomed to the glamor of Hollywood and the thrill of traveling all over the world ever want to give all that up for the likes of him?

But Desiree Jenkins isn’t your stereotypical movie star. She was raised as a military brat, with her father transferred to all different sorts of places, and never got to live in one place for very long. Her life as an actress began when she got to stay at one high school long enough to discover her love of the stage. It was only when Des moved away from her family to Hollywood that hard work and more than a bit of good luck led her to a career in motion pictures. She’s been making movies steadily for almost seven years now, concerned that any sort of break would let audiences forget about her, and the movie she’s making on Logan’s ranch is just another one before the next one begins. But the idea of life on a ranch appeals to Des in a way she hasn’t experienced before, and it makes her wish she had such a peaceful unhurried place where she could settle down and enjoy its quiet beauty.

When Des encounters Logan one morning as she returns from her morning run, it’s his looks which grab her attention, and they both soon discover that the attraction is definitely mutual. But as she and Logan slowly move past their initial inhibitions to embrace an enjoyable, albeit temporary, sexual relationship, it’s going to take more than good looks and good sex to help them both realize that what they have now could last beyond the day when her movie wraps production.

Not everyone enjoys reading small town romances, and I agree that these stories can be annoyingly trite and clichéd if not done well. But in the right hands, a romance set in a small town can be the best sort of comfort read, one where we know what we’re going to get and can’t wait to see exactly how it will play out this time. Both HOPE IGNITES, as well as the previous book, HOPE FLAMES, are this type of satisfying romance where we root for each new couple in a place where everybody knows each other’s past and present, but nobody knows what the future might bring. Both Desiree and Logan have entirely reasonable concerns about their own future together even as their bond grows stronger, and the book never makes light of those issues, or attempts to skim past them. In the end, however, it’s Des who has to lay her cards on the table, leaving Logan to decide which is stronger: his fear of abandonment, or his love for Des.

HOPE IGNITES shows us the best traits of a small town romance, with an ending that’s perfect for its hero and heroine. I can’t wait to see what Jaci Burton has in store the next time we get to visit a place called Hope.


Overall: 4 stars
Sensuality level: 3

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Review: Unwound by Lorelei James

Unwound (Mastered, #2)Unwound by Lorelei James

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.

This review contains spoilers for BOUND, the first book in the Mastered series. You could read UNWOUND as a stand-alone, and I’m not entirely convinced that would be a bad thing. But others might disagree.

UNWOUND, book two in Lorelei James’s Mastered series, continues the story that began in BOUND. I did not love BOUND. I thought it sacrificed both plot and character development for the sake of an absurd cliffhanger ending just to ensure a second book would be needed to supply the rest of the story. Yet the quality of its intimate scenes provided a compelling enough reason for me to want to read UNWOUND. if only to see if it would contain all the pieces missing from the first book. When I started reading UNWOUND, I did something I almost never do: I skipped to the last chapter just to make sure the happy ending was there. That’s how burned I felt by BOUND.

I’m happy to report that UNWOUND more than made up for my mixed feelings about BOUND. It did a great job of showing me exactly why its hero and heroine belonged together, culminating in a happy ending more along the lines of what I’ve come to expect in an erotic romance by Lorelei James.

When we last saw Amery Hardwick, she’d just walked out of Ronin Black’s life after finding out he had never told her about being the heir to a billion dollar multinational corporation. There were so many other secrets about Ronin’s life that he hadn’t shared with Amery, mind you, but that one was the dealbreaker for her. After the loss of Amery, Ronin has resorted to engaging in the type of underground Mixed Martial Arts fighting that he’d given up years before, presumably in an attempt to drown his sorrow with violence. But Ronin isn’t as young as he used to be, and his most recent fight has left him bleeding and semi-conscious, pounding on Amery’s front door at 2am. But why is he at her door when they aren’t together anymore? The story then flashes back to 6 weeks earlier, where we see how unhappy the two of them are apart, and how they were mysteriously brought together again on the night of Ronin’s near-fatal fight.

As Ronin and Amery’s rekindled romance unfolds in UNWOUND, we finally get everything that was withheld before: all the secrets Ronin had kept from Amery (and why), all the triggers from Amery’s past which had exacerbated her feelings of betrayal, and more of their individual experiences and motivations. They have both been guilty of assuming the worst without bothering to ask for the truth, and of letting their mutual lack of trust keep them from a more substantial emotional connection. But even as Ronin and Amery are finally being more honest and open with each other in UNWOUND, there are new betrayals yet to come, and other more dangerous secrets that could damage more than just their second chance at love together.

UNWOUND confirmed my decision that it would still be worth it for me to see Ronin and Amery find their happy ending together, despite how I’d reacted to the book which preceded it. There is a large amount of background and plot packed in this second book, but Lorelei James somehow manages to unveil everything in due time without losing track of the romance. Even the newly revealed threat against Amery fits well into the story and never overshadows the undeniable progress she and Ronin are making in learning to trust each other with more than just their individual sexual needs. I especially enjoyed how Ronin’s sister was believably transformed from a vaguely threatening enigma into a genuine friend and confidante for Amery, and someone who could provide Amery with additional insight into the part of Ronin’s past of which even he was not aware.

I may not have loved BOUND, but I’m so glad I stuck with the Mastered series and read UNWOUND. It restored my trust in Lorelei James as an author I can rely on to provide a well-written erotic romance, and reminded me that you can’t judge a writer (or even a series) by a single book.


Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 4 (multiple rope bondage scenes, discussion of past extreme BDSM interactions with other characters)

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Review: Wicked Weekend by Gillian Archer

Wicked Weekend (Pleasure Code, #1)Wicked Weekend by Gillian Archer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

I think I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, but it bears repeating here: It takes a special talent to write a good romance novella. You’ve got about 100 pages or so to make your reader believe that these characters not only have a genuine attraction that makes them want to be together, but that they will stay together – if not forever, than at least past the end of the story. After all, pretty much anybody can write multiple chapters of insta-lust sex scenes, then slap a happy ending on it and call it a day. It doesn’t mean that what they’ve written will be believable, or even readable. So when I read a romance novella that does everything well and makes me want more without feeling deprived, I want to tell everybody.

WICKED WEEKEND by Gillian Archer is one of those romance novellas. It tells the story of how the woman who just lost her office crush to her sister finds a much better man and perhaps even a chance at true love. Lauren is one of those people who always end up doing what other people expect, especially when it’s for someone in her family. That’s how she ended up in the same ski resort bar as Jamie, a man who would never let anyone push him around that way. Lauren’s love life is practically non-existent, but she’s read about other more fascinating sexual lifestyles, so when she sees a black handkerchief sticking out of Jamie’s back left pocket, she knows he’s a Dom looking for a sub. But it takes Jamie’s mutual attraction for Lauren to convince her to not only go up to his room for the night, but also give herself over for what proves to be a pivotal weekend for them both.

I’ve read quite a lot of BDSM-themed erotic romances, but the handkerchief code was a new one on me. (It does exist, mind you, and some quick online searching was especially enlightening.) I enjoyed this more believable way for Lauren to recognize that Jamie was just the sort of man she had always wanted to help her explore her as-yet-unrealized fantasies of being a sexual submissive, if only for just one night. I’ve read too many books where the Dominant simply “senses” that the other person is submissive just by looking at them for 5 minutes, and while I’m not saying that could never happen, the handkerchief code seemed more plausible for me, especially in this shorter format.

Jamie and Lauren have a great personal rapport when they first meet, but that doesn’t mean their initial sexual encounters go off without a hitch. Again, this made the progression of the romance so much more believable, and seeing the way they both dealt with their differences then, and later as the story developed, was the best part of the story for me. By the time we got to their final conflict, it was obvious that they would be able to take their relationship to the next level, and embrace their need to be together both in and out of the bedroom. All this made WICKED WEEKEND a wonderful example of a romance novella with the Happy For Now ending, one where we can imagine what happens next without the need for a marriage proposal or baby epilogue. I loved every minute I spent reading it.

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Review: Twisted by Emma Chase

Twisted (Tangled, #2)Twisted by Emma Chase
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes For The Love Of Romance.

When I was approved to review TWISTED, I was so happy that I think I actually squealed. TANGLED was one of my favorite books of 2013 and this first sequel was near the top of my most anticipated reads for this year. But now that I’ve read TWISTED, and had some time to ponder my reactions to it, all I can do for that previous version of me is pat her on the hand and make vaguely sympathetic noises. To say I felt blindsided by TWISTED is an understatement. How about sucker-punched? Betrayed? Enough about me – let’s talk about the book.

The original conceit of TANGLED was its funny and touching 1st person POV of Drew Evans, an admitted manwhore who met his match in the only woman he’d wanted who had actually turned him down. Drew was a winning character in spite of all his shortcomings, and in their story told entirely from his side, we got to see the initial surface dislike he and Kate had shared slowly give way to a genuine romance, complete with a sweet and touching Happy For Now.

Fast forward two years, and here we are at the beginning of TWISTED, which is told entirely from the side of Kate Brooks, the woman who showed Drew that one true love is light years better than a million fleeting sexual conquests. (Or so we had been led to believe.) Just like TANGLED, TWISTED begins at what is actually close to the ending, with the bulk of the story being an extended flashback. So we know right away that something terrible is about to happen, and can only squirm helplessly as it lurches toward us like an especially gruesome slow moving train wreck. And for me, when that train went off the rails, so did the rest of TWISTED, and even more horribly than I could have ever predicted.

Because TWISTED’s entire plot relies on what I consider the worst execution of the infamous Big Misunderstanding I’ve read in any recently published romance novel, requiring the reader to suspend all critical judgment and believe in an increasingly implausible series of events. It expects you to believe that Drew would instantly jump to the most awful conclusion about something that could have easily been explained in a five minute conversation (“Who’s Bob?” “That’s my doctor. Her full name is Roberta.”) It expects you to believe that Drew would decide to react in the most offensive way imaginable after having jumped to this completely wrong conclusion mere hours before (again, without bothering to have the simple conversation that adults not in this book would have at least considered). And then it expects you to believe that although Kate first responded to Drew’s insane behavior in the same way pretty much anyone in her position would do, she would then assume she knew exactly why he had done this terrible thing and decide to leave him, her job, and her life as she knew it, without any explanation to anyone else.

Yet this was just the start of the madness. When Kate arrived in her hometown to recover and regroup, none of the people around her – not a one! – ever suggested that perhaps she might want to reach out to Drew to try and fix things. Later we discovered from Kate’s good friend Delores that everyone in Drew’s life also automatically believed his version of why they split up. Really? So even when Delores knew what Kate believed, and Matthew knew what Drew believed, Delores and Matthew never once compared notes or traded explicit accusations? I was especially surprised that not a single one of the lengthy cast of secondary characters in this story ever took it upon themselves to confront the supposed offender directly. For a brief moment, I hoped Kate’s mother would be the one to put an end to this tortured farce when she threatened to go to New York to yell at Drew herself. But that never happened. It was only pages and pages later that Kate finally relented and asked for Drew, but only after she nearly lost what she wasn’t quite sure she wanted. And it was only then that they finally had the conversation they should have had at the start. Sigh.

Although I understood the ending of TANGLED wasn’t a final Happily Ever After, I did believe I had come to know these two characters, and that perceived knowledge is what made the ill-conceived Big Misunderstanding driving the plot of TWISTED all the more hurtful for me. Because the Drew Evans *I* knew and loved would not have immediately believed the worst of the woman *he* knew and loved, and the Kate Brooks *I* knew and loved would have never given up the love of her life without a fight to the death. All I can do now is treat TWISTED as an aberrant deviation into the darkest timeline, and wait for the final resolution to Drew and Kate’s romance in TIED later this year. I can only hope that it’s more like TANGLED and less like this one. *fingers crossed*

Favorite Quote:

Anyway, now’s about the time I start spouting off some pearls of wisdom.
But given the events of the last year, it’s become increasingly obvious that I don’t know what the f*ck I’m talking about.

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Review: Beyond Jealousy by Kit Rocha

Title: Beyond Jealousy
Author: Kit Rocha
Series: Beyond #4
Genre: dystopian erotic romance
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook
Release Date: March 17, 2014

A copy of this book was provided by the authors for an honest review.

Publisher Summary:

She’s been looking for the perfect man. She found two.

When Rachel Riley sacrificed a life in Eden to protect the O’Kanes, she earned her place in the powerful Sector Four gang. But the former crime princess is tired of being everyone’s sweet little sister . It’s time for her to get wild, to embrace her fantasies as only an O’Kane can—with a delicious exiled soldier and the gang’s wickedly sinful tattoo artist.

A saint…

Lorenzo Cruz is a warrior, taught by his commanding officers in Eden that involvement equals distraction. Emotion is a liability, and desire a sin. In Sector Four, he finds decadence, shameless sex—and his own dark urges. No battle strategy prepared him for how Rachel makes his heart race…or the way his rival for her affections sets his blood on fire.

…and a sinner.

Ace Santana has a dirty reputation and a mind to match, especially where his new lovers are concerned. He’s eager to help Cruz embrace his dominant side, and to explore the lines between pleasure and pain with Rachel. But corrupting them quickly becomes an obsession, a need he can’t deny—and a love he never imagined.

Three hearts on the line means a hundred ways their ménage a trois could go wrong. After all, even O’Kanes do forever two-by-two. One of them could be the missing piece that makes them all whole…or a temporary diversion destined for a broken heart.

My Review:

This review may contain spoilers for previous books in the Beyond series. You could try to read Beyond Jealousy as a stand-alone, but you will be missing out on all the back story which makes this romance so special. Do yourself a favor and read them all.

You might think it’s easy to write a review for a book that is so good you wish you could read it for the first time all over again. Well, you’d be wrong. 🙂 But I’ll try to make this sound like something a bit more coherent than OMG READ THIS BOOK NAOW YOU MUST.

BEYOND JEALOUSY is the latest book in Kit Rocha’s incredible Beyond series and it tells the story of an unlikely romance, even for the wide open sexual landscape of Sector Four. After all, the O’Kane men and women have always paired off in couples, whether for a night or a lifetime. But a ménage is something new for the O’Kane gang, and none of the rules, as few as they are, will apply.

Ace and Rachel have been circling each other since we were first introduced to this world in BEYOND SHAME, but the reasons why they kept their distance, in spite of their obvious attraction, haven’t been fully explained until now. When Rachel found solace in Cruz’s arms, Ace was both pleased to see her cared for by someone far better than himself, and desolate at finally losing her. Yet that, too, was only temporary, leading to something nobody could have ever predicted: Ace and Cruz together, hooking up for threesomes with any woman willing to put herself in the middle.

But it’s Rachel they both really want, and it’s Rachel who can bring them together as one, if they’ll only let her. As the ongoing search for the people producing bootleg O’Kane liquor brings new violence closer to Sector Four, the forces which sent Rachel there as a sacrifice to save her family now attempt to use her to start a war between allies. It’s this new danger that will either cement the fragile bond between Rachel and her two men, or split them all apart for good.

After seeing the previous combinations of Ace and Rachel, Rachel and Cruz, and then Ace and Cruz, it seemed equally implausible and inevitable that they eventually would come together in a fully shared MMF menage. In retrospect, however, it made perfect sense. Each brought to the others the support and confidence they need, and any relationship between only two of them would always be missing that critical part of the puzzle. But it took the real threat of loss to make this clear, especially to Ace, who had so little personal self-esteem after years as a sexual plaything of the jaded women in Eden that he couldn’t let himself ever hope that someone would ever want him for himself, for always. But it was just as difficult a journey for Cruz, as he had to confront his repressed desires and everything he’d been taught about how wrong they would be. Seeing them both open up to their love for each other, as well as Rachel, is what made it worth the wait to read their story and it’s why BEYOND JEALOUSY is the best Beyond book of all (so far). 5 stars.

Review: Bound by Lorelei James

Bound (Mastered, #1)Bound by Lorelei James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at SMI Book Club.

BOUND is the first of a two book series by Lorelei James about the martial arts master Ronin and the sheltered but feisty Amery, and how they become lovers after a chance meeting in his Denver dojo. Amery has only recently escaped both the restrictive influence of her fundamentalist family and the dysfunctional relationship with the man she thought would love her enough to never stray. Ronin, on the other hand, is a complete mystery to both Amery and the reader, sharing only the barest details about where he came from and what makes him tick. Naturally, once he meets Amery, his dominant nature compels him to make her his own, even as she wonders what she’s gotten herself into while melting into his powerful embrace.

Here’s the part of the review where I would normally politely share what went on in BOUND and how it did or didn’t work for me. But honestly, this book has me in an emotional headlock about whether I actually liked it or not. A big part of the problem I had with this book was how it was so obviously designed to hook the reader into the budding romance between Ronin and Amery when there was almost nothing based in reality to make you think they should even be together. She knows absolutely nothing about him, other than that he says he’s crazy about her, while everyone else keeps warning her that he’s no good and will only put her in danger. Yet even that is all just supposition based on no real evidence, and we’re left wondering what the heck is going on with this guy anyway. And because this is only the first of the two books, it’s damn certain that whatever we do ultimately find out about him is what will send Amery off into the night, overwhelmed by righteous indignation at not being trusted with the secrets that Ronin is so obviously keeping to himself.

When that big reveal finally arrived near the end of BOUND, it was all I could do not to throw the book against the wall. (It was a print ARC, so I didn’t have to worry about damaging a valuable ereader, but I resisted all the same.) Of all the possible secrets swirling around Ronin, the one that made Amery insist their relationship (such as it was) was over for good was so ridiculous, so innocuous, compared to what we’d been led to believe, that I wanted to smack both of them for being Too Stupid To Live. How this book could be from the same author who wrote the Blacktop Cowboy books, one of my most favorite romance series?

When BOUND was focused on its more intimate moments, however, it was as good as anything I’ve read by Lorelei James, especially when Ronin had Amery fully immersed in his world of rope bondage. Those scenes kept the book from being a DNF for me, and helped me slide past all its other more troubling parts enough to want to read the second book.
So if you’re willing to look past weak characterizations, an apparent fetish with all things Japanese, and a ridiculous cliffhanger which exists solely for the sake of continuing the story in a second book, then you might enjoy BOUND. I can only hope that Lorelei James is back to her usual overall form in the follow-up book UNWOUND and that the sex scenes aren’t the only reason to recommend it.

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Review: Up In Knots by Gillian Archer

Up In Knots (Pleasure Code, #2)Title: Up In Knots
Author: Gillian Archer
Series: Pleasure Code #2
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Format: ebook
Release Date: March 17, 2014

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review.

Publisher Summary:

Book 2 of the Pleasure Code Series

After the loss of her Dom and first love two years ago, the time has come for Kyla to again allow herself the pleasure of giving up control. She isn’t looking for anything serious yet, just the comforting embrace of rope and a firm hand on her body for the night.

Rope-top Sawyer is extremely skilled and he doesn’t do relationships—but he’s fascinated by the gymnastics instructor who approaches him at a kink con. By the end of the day he’s vowed to help her feel submissive pleasure again, and to introduce her to a few Doms she can choose from.

But as Sawyer breaks down Kyla’s emotional defenses, his barriers also come down. Soon he can’t imagine giving Kyla over to any other Dom—and Kyla can’t imagine being with anyone else. When their feelings are put to the ultimate test, they’ll learn that while taking risks in the bedroom is easy, taking risks in love is terrifying.

My Review:

I quite enjoyed WICKED WEEKEND, the first book in Gillian Archer’s Pleasure Code series, so I was glad to see the series would continue with Sawyer, the snarky and infamous rope bondage expert who was the good friend of Jamie, the hero in that first book. Best of all, UP IN KNOTS is a full-length book (unlike the previous novella) so I was excited at the prospect of reading a fully realized romance from start to finish.

UP IN KNOTS begins with our introduction to Kyla, a former nationally ranked gymnast who now teaches tumbling to young children along with her younger sister, while continuing to mourn the loss of the only man who had been both her true love and perfect Dom. It’s been two long years since Adam fell to his death from a construction scaffold, and Kyla has finally decided it’s time to seek out another Dom for the kink she’s missed since then. She’s always had a crush on Sawyer – the most famous rope top in Vegas – but never thought she’d ever meet him, let alone get a chance to be his sub. But when they meet by chance at the local kink con, it seems like her perfect opportunity to embrace a new kink and a new life, if she can just leave the past behind.

We already saw in WICKED WEEKEND just how well known Sawyer is in the Vegas kink community, and how dismissive he is of any emotional commitments. When Kyla arrives alone for his Rope Bondage for Couples class, it seems obvious that she should be his subject for instruction purposes. The immediate attraction between them makes it only natural that Sawyer would want to spend a bit more time getting to enjoy her, if only for the night. When their first D/s scene results in an emotional reaction from Kyla, Sawyer decides that he’s the best one to help her back into the lifestyle, and then find someone good for her to be with once she’s healed. But as time passes and they grow closer, he refuses to admit that the person who is best for her is him, even if it ends up breaking both their hearts.

Ninety-nine percent of UP IN KNOTS was an intensely exquisite read for me, as Sawyer pushed Kyla’s kink limits, while Kyla pushed right back on Sawyer’s commitment limits. She had lost her first great love, to be sure, but what Sawyer gave her was exactly what she needed to heal from her loss and become open to love again. Yet even as Kyla continued to hold nothing back in her pursuit of new happiness, Sawyer continued to pull away even as he knew that Kyla was someone he didn’t really want to ever let go. There was a pivotal scene in UP IN KNOTS where Sawyer had planned to hand Kyla over to Grayden, his good friend and fellow Dom. As the intimate scene between the three of them played out, Sawyer’s possessiveness over Kyla overtook his original intent, resulting in anger and confusion for all. But it was only when Sawyer’s carelessness with his own safety landed him in the hospital that Kyla finally found her own moment of clarity. It was then that she not only came to terms with Adam’s death but also her feelings for Sawyer and knew what she had to do for her own self-preservation. Her next action set up what I anticipated would be the perfect romantic ending for Sawyer and Kyla, one where they would openly admit that they loved each other and have their HEA/HFN at last.

The ending is where I felt let down by UP IN KNOTS. If you don’t want to know how it ends, don’t click the spoiler button.

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I don’t expect every romance to end with a marriage proposal (or god forbid, a baby epilogue) but after 200+ wonderful pages of two broken souls working their way to each other through kink, I guess I expected more of an ending than what I got. I’m still glad I read UP IN KNOTS, though, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a hefty dose of kink with their erotic romance. I also hope there will be another Pleasure Code book and that we’ll get to see more of Sawyer and Kyla then. 4 stars