Tag Archives: 4.5 stars

Review: Giving In by Maya Banks

Giving In (Surrender Trilogy, #2)Giving In by Maya Banks

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

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

This review may contain spoilers for LETTING GO, book 1 in the Surrender trilogy. You can read GIVING IN as a standalone, but I believe you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read the previous book first.

GIVING IN continues the story of a group of friends and family devastated by the untimely death of Carson Breckenridge and how their lives have changed since then. In the previous book, we saw Carson’s best friend finally acknowledge his long-suppressed feelings for Carson’s widow after three long years of mourning. Here in GIVING IN, Jensen Tucker, the man who replaced Carson as partner in his successful management consultant firm seeks to rescue Carson’s still-grieving sister from the emotional black hole she’s been in for most of her life. What neither Jensen nor Kylie could have anticipated was that Jensen needed rescuing just as much as Kylie, and that together they would find the path toward real healing and true love.

Kylie Breckenridge and her beloved older brother Carson had already survived a horrific childhood, thanks to his success at planning their escape and unwavering determination to keep them both alive. But Carson is gone, and Kylie feels abandoned all over again. Now there’s no one who can understand what she went through and why she can’t bring herself to live the full and happy life he’d always wanted for her. What Kylie doesn’t realize is that there is someone who senses what she feels and what she really needs, and it’s the one person who makes her angry enough to fight for what she wants, even as she resists him every step of the way. That person is Jensen Tucker.

Jensen may have only recently arrived in Kylie’s world, but he can already see that letting her continue to drift through life would be the same terrible mistake that her late brother and their friends have already made. Now Jensen is determined not only to drag Kylie out from behind her walls of self-protection, but to seek her complete emotional surrender to him as the only man who can protect her from everything she’s been hiding from for much too long.

Although I’m a big fan of how Maya Banks incorporates BDSM into many of her other books, including LETTING GO, it was just as satisfying to see GIVING IN focus more on the non-physical aspects of Dominance and submission, and how one can provide the emotional grounding for the other, even when the roles are switched. Jensen is willing to do just about anything to prove to Kylie that he can be trusted unconditionally, including suppressing his innate desire to dominate her. But Jensen’s need to be Kylie’s protector is tangled up in the damage from his own violent childhood from which he’s never completely recovered. When this unresolved trauma triggers Jensen into doing the one thing he’d promised Kylie would never happen, his heartbreaking decision to keep her safe becomes the catalyst for her to finally give him the surrender they both need for a genuinely happily ever after together.

GIVING IN is a remarkable story of two damaged souls who find their perfect counterpoint in each other. It never flinches from showing the long-term effects of domestic violence and child abuse while always keeping the delicate romance between its hero and heroine front and center. Up next is TAKING IT ALL, and it will finally address all the problems we’ve seen between Chessie and Tate caused by his repeated work-related absences. As sad I as I’ll be to see the Surrender trilogy end, I still can’t wait to read it.

Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5

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Review: The Submission Gift by Solace Ames

The Submission Gift (LA Doms, #2)The Submission Gift by Solace Ames
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

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

I enjoyed reading THE DOM PROJECT earlier this year, and was glad to see that there would be additional books in the LA Doms series. But I did worry (because I’m a worrier) that the loss of the previous book’s co-author might somehow have an adverse affect on the series going forward. The good news is that THE SUBMISSION GIFT isn’t merely the equal to its excellent predecessor; it’s even better, with what I believe to be one of the most realistic portrayals of what it means to have a truly polyamorous relationship in the present day.

Before we even meet the person who will change their lives forever, we see how the past year has tested Jay and Adriana’s marriage. The car accident that nearly took Jay’s life has wreaked havoc on their finances, their love life, and their peace of mind. Even now, Jay is only able to handle the most basic tasks involving physical effort, and has to be ever mindful of what he can and cannot do. Meanwhile, the bills aren’t going away, and Adriana struggles to provide financial stability while laboring in a demanding work environment where the hours are long and her co-workers are trying to sabotage her on a daily basis. But she still has needs in the bedroom that Jay just can’t fulfill, so when an unexpected windfall from the insurance company provides the means, they agree to use the money for something they’d always discussed doing: paying a professional Dominant to share their bed for a night or two. What they didn’t expect was someone like Paul, a man whose rightness for them would surpass any fantasy. But when a series of unconnected events expose still hidden secrets, it will take all three of them working together to transform this fantasy into a lasting relationship that can survive their new reality.

I’m a big fan of menage romances, but I’m also aware that many aren’t exactly what one could call true to life. They tend to take place in lovely fictional towns where everybody accepts menages, or where one or more of the involved characters has enough money to let them exist untouched by any possible controversy. But in THE SUBMISSION GIFT, the triad relationship begins as a financial transaction between a somewhat non-traditional couple and a part-time rent-boy. Even before their first sexual encounter, every one of these three characters is already living on the financial edge, and where they live and love is present-day Los Angeles, in neighborhoods far from the rich and famous. So when Jay and Adriana and Paul make the decision to commit to each other publicly, the direct effect on their day-to-day lives will be immediate and significant.

Even before Paul entered their lives, Jay and Adriana already had to deal with those who thought that their marriage was a sham just because Jay was, as he put it, “a bi guy on the femme side.” But this loving couple soon realizes that Paul is as intrinsic to their happiness together as they are to each other. So when Paul’s hidden past is revealed at the worst possible moment, Jay and Adriana must make the hard choice between reaffirming their love and trust in him, or letting him go for their own security, if not their long-term contentment. It’s to the author’s credit that she never hesitates to show us every ugly moment of doubt, and never flinches from the ugly facts of what these three people will face if they choose each other. But as we see how Paul fills the gap between what Jay and Adriana have and what they need, it’s clear that their unconditional love and determination to make it work will be more than a match for whatever life has to throw at them next. THE SUBMISSION GIFT is a gift to readers who love romance in all its permutations, and it made me believe that a polyamorous relationship could work in a world outside the borders of fictional Romanceland.

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Review: East of Ecstasy by Laura Kaye

East of Ecstasy (Hearts of the Anemoi, #4)East of Ecstasy by Laura Kaye

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

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


This review may contain spoilers for earlier books in the Hearts of the Anemoi series. You could try to read EAST OF ECSTASY as a stand-alone book, but I would strongly recommend that you read the previous three books first.

After all the life and death struggles for the brother-gods of the Anemoi, those who seek to stop their brother Eurus from destroying all in his path have come together for the final battle between good and evil. We have already met the good Anemoi, and seen them fall in love with human women as they work against Eurus, he who controls the East Wind and seeks to wipe out humanity along with his fellow gods and goddesses of Nature. EAST OF ECSTASY is our formal introduction to Devlin, middle son of Eurus, and one who may be good or evil, depending on who is telling the story.

In previous books, we saw Devlin from afar as he appeared to be doing his terrible father’s bidding, and heard how the other Anemoi believed him to be a threat to their cause. But in EAST OF ECSTASY, we discover that appearances are not as they seem, and that Devlin himself is the key to any hope of success in defeating Eurus before all is lost. But before Devlin Eston can find redemption, he has to find love. And that love comes from a woman who may contain more than a mere spark of divinity herself.

Annalise doesn’t look or act like anyone else in her family, or anyone else in their part of Maryland. Her countenance is almost colorless, including her pale gray eyes, and although she’s a gifted painter, the only time she can actually experience color is when she’s in the middle of creating a new work of art. When she spots Devlin hiding in her studio, it’s a toss-up as to who is more surprised, as no one has ever sensed his presence when cloaked in invisibility before now. But that’s just the start of all the unusual abilities Anna manifests in the initial moments after he reveals himself to her. It’s clear that Anna must be a descendant of one or more divinities, but when her parentage is revealed, even the Anemoi are taken aback. Yet it’s Anna’s concern for Devlin’s well-being that makes her valuable to their cause, and to him. Love can’t cure all, but it can be the missing element that helps a wounded hero heal in time to save the world.

Devlin would never consider himself any kind of hero, wounded or otherwise. Though he may be a god, his father Eurus is a stronger one, and that strength has been used against Devlin as the worst sort of weapon. Devlin has been judged unfairly by those unaware of just how greatly he has suffered at the hands of the one who should have loved and cared for him. And like so many other victims of parental abuse, Devlin has taken blame for his father’s evil deeds upon himself in the mistaken belief that somehow he personally could have prevented all the death and destruction. When Anna shows Devlin that he can love and be loved, it causes him to lash out at her at first. But Anna is resolute, and her unwavering need to show him he deserves better is what helps both him and those who should be his allies come together in shared purpose to stop Eurus from carrying out his plan to destroy the earth with a powerful storm unleashing all four winds. The question remains, however, as to who will survive among the Anemoi and their loved ones before success is finally theirs.

EAST OF ECSTASY is a wonderful payoff for loyal readers of Laura Kaye’s Hearts of the Anemoi series and an enjoyable romance in its own right as the abused and misunderstood Devlin finds the one woman who can see beyond his ingrained defenses to the gentle soul who has been starved for love his whole life. Even though the events of the past few books have taken place in only a few weeks’ time, the ultimate outcome never feels rushed or truncated. The final battle is just as fierce as I had anticipated, and the road to the Anemoi’s happy ending had me crying both sad and happy tears in turn.

I wasn’t a big paranormal romance fan when I began reading this series back at its start. But through the previous three books, Laura Kaye made me a believer in the Anemoi, and this final entry, EAST OF ECSTASY, is her crowning achievement.

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Review: Desperate Match by Lynne Silver

Desperate Match (Coded for Love 5)Desperate Match by Lynne Silver

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

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

This review contains spoilers for previous books in the Coded For Love series. You can read DESPERATE MATCH as a stand-alone, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you have read the entire series.

DESPERATE MATCH is Lynne Silver’s fifth Coded For Love book, and the first to be self-published (all previous books were released by Ellora’s Cave). Although I have enjoyed the entire series, I have to say that this story is the best one so far. Perhaps it’s because the ever-present threat of the evil Dr. Paulson was finally eliminated in the previous book, or perhaps it’s because Lynne Silver is just getting better as she delves more deeply into this world of The Program. Whatever the reason, it’s great to see yet another erotic romance series that I discovered at Ellora’s Cave continue with an well-written self-published entry.

DESPERATE MATCH starts with a look at the woman whose current living situation is the source of the desperation noted in the title. Jill Thompson is only 24 years old, but the last five years of her life with her abusive husband have aged her in a way no person should ever have to bear. Jack’s need to control every aspect of her life seemed charming back when they dated in high school, as she mistook his behavior for some starry-eyed notion of true love. It was only when they were both out of school and married in a home of their own that the true Jack appeared, leaving Jill with few options for rescue. But now Jill has found hope in a news story about The Program, the decades-long classified military project for creating enhanced soldiers, and their search for female volunteers to breed the next generation. Their heavily guarded military compound in Beltsville, Maryland is only a few hours away from where Jill lives in rural Virginia, so if she can get herself approved as a volunteer DNA match for a soldier there, then she can finally be safe from Jack and his fists.

Back at the Beltsville campus, Rowan Blacker has volunteered to be matched for breeding if a woman can be found for him. Rowan’s birth defect has always made him feel like less than a complete member of The Program, even though he’s otherwise enhanced as much as everyone else. When the woman who is supposed to be his perfect DNA match appears on foot at the front gates, emaciated and bedraggled, Rowan wonders what he’s gotten himself into. Meanwhile, Jill’s first thought is how can a man missing one arm possibly protect her from Jack when he comes looking for her? Needless to say, this first encounter between Rowan and Jill does not bode well for their future together. And yet the attraction, however muted, is there. When Rowan discovers what propelled Jill to put herself in the hands of The Program, he vows to help protect and free her from Jack, no matter the cost. As Jill begins her slow and painful recovery from years of abuse, she and Rowan carefully begin to trust each other, even as her presence soon becomes a major liability for her protectors. For Jack isn’t going to let Jill go without a fight, thanks to the help he gets from a secretive group intent on attacking those who believe in the mission of The Program.

I’m a big fan of this series, but I was relieved to see that this new book was going to be more about the hero and heroine finding their way to happiness with each other and less about the external threats to The Program and its members. Being accepted by The Program for their breeding program was Jill’s last best hope to escape her abusive marriage, and I cheered her on as she planned her successful route to freedom. Although it was painful to see her initial negative reaction to Rowan and his missing arm, it would have been unrealistic for her to accept him with no questions asked, especially given her condition when she arrived on base. And certainly Rowan wasn’t expecting his DNA match to be a woman so literally beaten down on arrival that she barely had the energy to flinch whenever he tried to approach her. It would take lots of time and tender loving care for Jill to return to the woman she had once been, and for Rowan to see more than just the shell she had become while living under Jack’s oppression.

The best part of DESPERATE MATCH began when Jill was finally back to her old self and better able to appreciate just how much Rowan really was the best partner for her, even as she continued to work toward a semblance of independence from him and The Program. Rowan had his own growing to do if he was ever going to accept Jill as his equal partner in love and life under the auspices of The Program. By the time they reach their HEA, both Rowan and Jill have transformed from the two people who met under strained circumstances at the start of the book to a loving couple who are ready to support each other in every possible way. It’s a beautiful end to an compelling journey, and a wonderful continuation to one of my favorite erotic romance series.

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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: Marked by Lauren Dane, Vivian Arend, Kit Rocha

Marked (Beyond, #3.5; Thompson & Sons)Title: Marked
Author: Lauren Dane, Vivian Arend, Kit Rocha
Series: Metamorphosis #1, Thompson & Sons #1, Beyond #3.5
Genre: erotic romance anthology
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook
Release Date: February 10, 2014

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

Publisher Summary:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lauren Dane takes you into a brand new world in ALL THAT REMAINS. Summer Killian falls fast and hard when Charlie arrives in Paradise Village. But the heat turns all the way up when she learns Charlie is also with Hatch – the man she loved three years before. While she’s not sure she’s cut out for a triad, neither man is going to give her up.

Take a ROCKY RIDE with New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Vivian Arend as she leads you back to the Six Pack Ranch. Anna Coleman might be the law around Rocky Mountain House, but bad boy Mitch Thompson knows that under the stiff RCMP uniform is a woman with a passion for speed and pleasure that matches his own, and he’s not giving up until she’s his.

Kit Rocha returns to Sector Four in BEYOND TEMPTATION. A promise to a dying friend backfires when Noah Lennox finds that the girl he was supposed to rescue is all grown up–and wearing O’Kane ink. He wants to protect her from the secrets of their past, but she wants him. And an O’Kane woman always gets what she wants.

My Review:

I’m usually wary about reading anthologies for review, since I’ve often found them to be more work than pleasure, but when I heard MARKED included another visit to Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, I knew I had to have it. It also helped to have only three longer novellas included, instead of a dozen or more shorter stories. Although the stories take place in different authors’ book series, each ties into the motif implied by the anthology name by including at least one or more scenes regarding tattoos and the meaning they have for the characters in that world.

BEYOND TEMPTATION is the first novella in MARKED, and if any story belongs in an anthology about the meaning of tattoos, it’s one featuring the O’Kanes and their infamous ink. I’m not sure, though, if a new reader to the Beyond series would be able to get into it as quickly as someone more familiar with that world. (I actually went back and read the first three books again first, just to be sure, and let me tell you, those books more than hold up to a second read.)

We met Noah and Emma briefly back in BEYOND PAIN, when he was the only one with the technical savvy and connection to get vital data back to the O’Kanes from the other sectors not under the gang’s control. At that time, it was obvious that the history he and she had shared in Sector 5 went deeper than just his friendship with her now-late brother. But it’s only BEYOND TEMPTATION that we eventually learn what had brought them together before and what threatened to keep them permanently apart. Emma’s brother had been trapped by his own addictions fed by the evil in Sector 5, and that legacy lurks behind every moment of sorrow for Noah and Emma. But as a newly inked O’Kane woman, Emma has the strength and security to go after what she wants, and she won’t let the mistakes of the past keep her from the man she’s meant to be with. It may be shorter than the usual Kit Rocha story, but the extensive world-building already established in the previous Beyond books helps make BEYOND TEMPTATION a thoroughly enjoyable read and an essential installment in the series. 4.5 stars

After experiencing the joy of being back in Sector Four, I was a little concerned that the rest of MARKED couldn’t possibly live up to my now-lofty expectations. Little did I realize that the second story, ROCKY RIDE, would be just as good, if not a tiny bit better. This was my first Vivian Arend story, and it began with a (somewhat literal) bang. In that opening scene, Constable Anna Coleman meets up with her secret boyfriend and local biker dude Mitch Thompson, out on an isolated country road for some incredibly hot and heavy sexual fantasy fulfillment. When their amazing sex is over, Anna retreats behind her policewoman persona once again, leaving Mitch to wonder how a girl like her will ever be brave enough to go public with a guy like him. But as Vivian Arend then so perfectly shows, the two of them aren’t that different after all, when the facades (and clothing) are all stripped away. Even when it seems like they can’t make a real go of it, especially when so many other people are against them based on their prejudice against him, true motives and true love ultimately win out, making their reconciliation all the sweeter. ROCKY RIDE not only made me want to continue Vivian Arend’s new Thompson & Sons series, but to go back and check out her Rocky Mountain Heat series which preceded it. 5 stars 

It’s a rare anthology where every reader loves every story, and Lauren Dane’s ALL THAT REMAINS was that one story in MARKED I did not love. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth where a devastating virus has killed most of the women, and resulted in the birth of fewer female children being born to those who survived. This has resulted in a dramatically different society in which more people are in committed triads instead of couples, and where women and their sexuality are celebrated and protected from both censure and physical harm. Summer is a young woman living in Paradise Village somewhere in what sounds like it used to the northwest part of the United States. She has settled there in support of her sister Dulce, who lost her own two husbands and their shared children in a tragic train crash years earlier, and has never completely recovered from the loss. Summer has enjoyed intimate relationships with other men, but never been interested anything long term until she meets Charlie, a stranger to the area, and finds herself immediately attracted to him  Charlie is looking for a woman to complete his own triad, and much to Summer’s surprise, the second man in the relationship turns out to be Hatch, the man who was Summer’s first true love and who broke her heart when he left her behind several years ago. Now he’s back and wants to her to join her and his beloved Charlie in a permanent commitment, but there can be only sex between them until Summer can learn to forgive and Hatch can learn to leave his itch for wandering behind.

It was difficult for me to connect with ALL THAT REMAINS, most likely due to it not having enough pages to contain all the back story details. In a full-length book, I could have discovered for myself what life was like for Summer when she was growing up on the New Earth commune and falling in love with Hatch. and what happened to Hatch when he was traveling west to follow her after she’d moved to Portland with her family. But because ALL THAT REMAINS is a novella, all of that was told instead of shown, and it left me searching for an emotional grounding that all the beautifully written sex scenes simply couldn’t provide. 3 stars.

Review: The Dark Affair by Maire Claremont

The Dark Affair (Mad Passions, #3)The Dark Affair by Maire Claremont

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 THE LADY IN RED, book 2 in the Mad Passions series. You could try to read THE DARK AFFAIR as a stand-alone book, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

When I read THE LADY IN RED last fall, Maire Claremont was a new author for me, and I hadn’t known what to expect. Its whirlwind plot and profound emotions were almost too much for me to handle (but in a good way). I actually had to force myself to put it down more than a few times, because I was so worried about what would happen to not only its hero and heroine, but the hero’s friend Viscount Powers, whose help was essential in their plan to save the heroine from her villainous father.

Powers – a tortured and brooding man who refused to answer to any other name – shared the same brutal need for opiates that plagued the heroine of THE LADY IN RED. While her addiction had been induced during her forced captivity in a madhouse, his was entirely self-inflicted after the untimely death of his wife and child. By the end of the previous book, the heroine and hero are both safe and happy in marriage together, but meanwhile Powers has given himself over entirely to his addiction. Months later, when we first see him in THE DARK AFFAIR, he has himself been involuntarily committed to a madhouse.

Margaret Cassidy was a titled lady back in Ireland, but that couldn’t protect her from the harsh realities of famine and poverty, nor from the ongoing violence as those who starved fought back against the cruelty of their English overlords. Her gift for healing has brought her to England, where she is tasked by the Earl of Carlyle to bring his son Powers back from the brink of insanity. Back when Margaret was still in Ireland and her father was still alive, Powers had sent a letter and funds to assist those in dire need of help, asking for nothing in return. Rescuing him now from his addiction is her opportunity to repay that act of kindness, even as her attachment to him quickly moves in a more personal direction. It will take all of Margaret’s talents and indomitable will to bring Powers back not only to sanity, but to a life where he can grieve properly for what he’s lost without sacrificing himself again. But when the violence she left behind in Ireland comes to call at her front door, what ends up being at stake isn’t just their shared happiness, but their very lives.

Once again, Maire Claremont has written a story that transported me into a world more darkly intense than most historical romances, with characters I couldn’t help but root for as they were forced to trust in each other even as they should rightfully be mortal enemies. The depth of Powers’s sorrow had only been hinted at in the previous book, but here it is front and center with everything you might expect, and worse. He has abused his mind and body for so long in self-imposed guilt for the death of his wife and child that his recovery is never really certain, even as the story moves toward that conclusion. And when we find out just how they died…well, it’s definitely understandable why he has suffered so greatly, even though it’s just as obvious to us, if not to him, that their deaths should not be on his head.

It’s also clear that only someone like Margaret would even have a chance to break through the wall of anger and opiates that Powers has built all around him, and not just because of her beauty and determination. Only Margaret has the ability to focus his attention beyond his own pain and outside the bubble of privilege in which he has lived his whole life as a member of the English nobility. But it will take more than that for them to move forward with a life together, and their Happily Ever After will be won only after those who seek to defeat them are confronted one last time.

I’m sad to see the Mad Passions series come to an end but I’m looking forward to seeing what Maire Claremont comes up with next. THE LADY IN RED vaulted her into my list of favorite historical romance writers, and now THE DARK AFFAIR has firmly established her place near the very top.


Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5

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Review: Once In A Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor, #9)Title: Once In A Lifetime
Author: Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor #9
Genre: contemporary romance
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: ebook and print
Release Date: February 18, 2014

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

Publisher Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis continues with the ninth installment in her beloved Lucky Harbor series.


After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he’s back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she’s not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben – even though he has absolutely no idea what she’s done . . .

Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?

My Review:

It’s fair to say that the Lucky Harbor series is near the top of my comfort read list and books like Once In A Lifetime are the reason why. In it, we finally get to see two of the more intriguing members of the Lucky Harbor community finally find a forever love with the one person everyone there would have picked as their least likely partner.

Back in high school, Ben only had eyes for Hannah, the “good girl” he’d eventually marry and ultimately lose to a drunk driver, while Aubrey was the “hot mean girl” that everyone loved to hate. Ben had never known just how much Aubrey had wished he was hers instead of Hannah’s, nor had he known about the terrible thing she’d done in anger and regretted ever since. After Hannah’s death, Ben lost himself overseas by working in places too dangerous for people without a death wish. Now that he’s back home, it’s Aubrey who will pose the greatest danger if he can’t manage to keep his distance.

Aubrey didn’t have the shelter of a stable loving home that most of her high school classmates took for granted. All she had was her good looks and a mother who wanted her to make the most of them. This helped cement her reputation in town as the unlikeable hot girl, and all she could do was roll with the punches while getting in a few of her own where she could. Just because everyone’s all grown up now doesn’t mean Lucky Harbor has changed its opinion of Aubrey. The recent mess with the town clerk who lied to her about being married while stealing from the town coffers has only sealed her fate as a seemingly shallow woman who can’t be trusted. She has her small tight-knit circle of friends, but she needs more customers if her new bookstore is going to be any kind of real success. When an accidental confrontation with Ben propels Aubrey into an AA meeting, what she hears there helps her embrace that the idea of taking a fearless moral inventory of the wrongs she needs to right, in the hopes of fixing her karmic future. But when the person she hurt the worst is the man she wants the most, Aubrey wonders if she can be happy in a future that doesn’t include him.

Although none of the Lucky Harbor stories can be really described as light and fluffy, it does seem to me that as we get farther into the series, each succeeding book shows more of the darker side of life there. We now meet characters that didn’t always have the warm feelings for a town that on the surface appears nearly perfect, and we see how their Lucky Harbor childhoods are something to be gotten past, not treasured.. For me, this recent change makes these newer Lucky Harbor books even more enjoyable, and Once In A Lifetime is no exception.

Readers have gotten to know both Ben and Aubrey as supporting characters in the previous two books, and been able to form an opinion based on what was shown there. In the eyes of most people in Lucky Harbor. Ben is the martyred widower so tortured by the untimely death of his wife that he nearly died himself in the world’s political hotspots while trying to help those less fortunate. And Aubrey is the snooty hot girl who never ever deserved the benefit of the doubt in high school, nor years later when she was just as taken in by that rotten Ted Marshall as everyone else in town. So naturally when these two finally act on the sizzling chemistry between them, only Aubrey’s best girlfriends worry for her heart, while everyone else assumes she’s nothing but bad news for the beloved Ben.

But in Once In A Lifetime, we discover that neither of these assumptions is true, as Jill Shalvis slowly reveals what shaped this couple into the adults they are now, and how they are actually perfect for each other now in a way they could have never been before. She doesn’t sugarcoat Aubrey’s past behavior, nor does she give short shrift to Ben’s feelings for his late wife and the rawness of his grief at his loss. But she also shows how they can each move toward a shared happy future while learning lessons from their shared past, and the revelations about each of them are what made their ultimate Happy Ever After even more satisfying for me.

It takes a special talent to create a series about a seemingly perfect town, and then show how even that place isn’t always the most welcoming to everyone without ruining the warm feelings readers have for it from the previous books. In Once In A Lifetime, Jill Shalvis continues her winning streak of consistently enjoyable and moving romances between genuinely portrayed human beings, and I can only hope for more of the same in the Lucky Harbor books still to come. 4.5 stars

Review: Best Bondage Erotica 2014

Best Bondage Erotica 2014Title: Best Bondage Erotica 2014
Author: Rachel Kramer Bussel (Editor)
Genre: erotica
Publisher: Cleis Press
Format: ebook and print
Release Date: January 7, 2014

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

Publisher Summary:

Rachel Kramer Bussel ties her readers up in knots each year as they anticipate the very best BDSM stories of the year. And, she does not disappoint, defying the odds and occasionally gravity with tales of bondage at its best. These whip-smart tales of domination, submission, spanking, and other highly imaginative acts keep readers in a frenzy. Best Bondage Erotica 2014 features 21 hot bondage tales that titillate from the bedroom to the dungeon and beyond. Handpicked by best-selling erotica editor Bussel, these kinky stories show and tell exactly what it means to wield the special power of being in charge of someone else. These characters manipulate rope, handcuffs, leather straps, a St. Andrew’s cross, a chair, and, in Raziel Moore’s “My Own Device,” a special contraption crafted just for bondage, with the ultimate aim of pleasing each partner. Here, bondage takes place behind secret doors, at sex parties, at the office, on a mountain hike, and, of course, at home.

My Review:

I always have trouble reviewing anthologies, especially really good ones like Best Bondage Erotica 2014, because there are so many good stories and how can I possibly do them all justice in a single review? I could try to talk about each one individually, but there are twenty of them here, and frankly I don’t have the fortitude to write that much, or expect anyone would want to read through a long list of mini reviews.

What I can do is let you know that if you are looking for a collection of fascinating, thought-provoking and scorching hot stories, look no further than Best Bondage Erotica 2014.
You can consume the entire book in one glorious gulp, or you can do as I did, which is to savor each story individually, then put the book down until later, so that each story can work its way into your subconscious more thoroughly.

No individual story here runs more than 20 pages, and for me, that’s the biggest strength of the anthology as a whole. Each is perfectly self-contained, describing a moment in time with an ending that provides basic closure, even while it continues to bounce around in your brain as you consider the possibilities of what could have happened next. I enjoyed every one of them, but my absolute favorite was Anyway by Sommer Marsden, as I immediately identified with its heroine as she struggled to free herself from a predicament of her own making.

If you’re at all familiar with Rachel Kramer Bussel’s work as an editor, you already know that she’s got a keen eye for what works in an anthology such as this one. And if you’re at all familiar with writers in the BDSM erotica genre, you’ll see many of your favorites here, doing what they do best. But if this is your first time, I envy you, because you’re about to discover a whole new world of reading satisfaction in Best Bondage Erotica 2014. Enjoy! 4.5 stars

Review: Jaded by Anne Calhoun

Jaded (Walkers Ford, #2)Jaded (Walkers Ford, #2) by Anne Calhoun

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

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

The small town librarian and the police chief. It may be a cliche, but JADED shows us why it works. When you live in a town as tiny as Walkers Ford, everybody knows your business. We saw how destructive that could be in UNFORGIVEN, the first book in this series, and fear of those repercussions is reflected in the behavior of our hero and heroine when JADED begins.

Alana is one of those people who choose a small town as a place to hide from their responsibilities back in the big city. She’s spent her whole life hiding from others, content to let her famous sister be the public face of their family’s foundation while she works tirelessly behind the scenes. It wasn’t until their mother pushed a family friend to propose marriage that Alana finally fled her privileged life in Chicago for a place where she could directly influence the lives of people in need. What Alana didn’t count on was a landlord who would make her regret her decision to leave Walkers Ford when the job was done.

Lucas grew up in Walkers Ford, but had left years before to be a cop in the big city of Denver, returning only after he believed his actions had led to the death of a young man he’d mentored there. After a bitter divorce and the descent of his beloved cousin into drug addiction, Lucas has become too cynical to believe that love was worth the trouble it could bring, even as he embarks on a secret fling with Alana. But as she prepares to leave Walkers Ford for good, he has to decide if he can take one more chance on love and on her.

Anne Calhoun’s UNFORGIVEN was one of my top ten best reads of 2013, so I was especially excited about reading this next book in her new Walkers Ford contemporary romance series. As much as I enjoyed its over the top drama and angst, I was relieved to see the level was dialed back a bit here in JADED. We have a hero and heroine who are both spending all their time doing everything for everyone else in their lives, but unlike the stars of the previous book, neither of them seems to have an unhealthy level of self-loathing. Still, the fear of small-town gossip keeps them from going public with their liaison and feeds into their respective worries that the other isn’t looking for anything beyond a temporary fling.

Lucas and Alana are brought together by their shared inability to keep their hands off each other, and their intimate scenes are loaded with sexual chemistry and undeniable passion. As their affair progresses, the responsibilities they each have threaten to tear them apart. But the love they find with each other helps Lucas and Alana reach the balance they both need in their lives and begins to heal the pain which had brought them to Walkers Ford.

What Anne Calhoun shows us in JADED is that you can’t do your best for others if you won’t give yourself the same amount of consideration first. It’s a lovely return visit to Walkers Ford and bodes well for the next book in the series.


Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5

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