Tag Archives: 5 stars

Midtown Masters by Cara McKenna

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Midtown Masters by Cara McKennaMidtown Masters by Cara McKenna
Series: Sins in the City #3
Also in this series: Downtown Devil
Also by this author: Crosstown Crush, Downtown Devil, Brutal Game
Published by Penguin on February 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 193
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
From the author of Downtown Devil and Crosstown Crush comes the final novel in the trilogy that gets you up close and personal with the thrill of ménage à trois.   Online, Suzy Park and Meyer Cohen are a hot, young couple willing to try anything their paying viewers desire. Their chemistry offline, though, is fizzling out. They’d call it quits if not for the high they get from captivating their audience with mind-blowing sex.   Lately, however, one of their clients has begun captivating Suzy. With requests for vanilla lovemaking that annoy Meyer to no end, Lindsay seems to be a lonely innocent needing an imitation of romance. Suzy and Lindsay discover a bond that only deepens once the camera stops rolling, but Lindsay has a secret—that “she” is really a he pretending to be a woman for research—and the cost of confessing could turn a simple arrangement into a hands-on education...   Includes an exclusive excerpt of the first Sins in the City Novel, Crosstown Crush     Praise for Cara McKenna   “The sweet, smoking-hot, standout erotic romance you’ve been craving.”—New York Times bestselling author Beth Kery   “McKenna is a master.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks   “Dirty and mesmerizing.”—Fiction Vixen   “McKenna knows how to write sexy-as-hell bad boys.”—New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton

In a world full of often implausible erotic romance tropes, Cara McKenna’s books have always been my go-to for sexy, intense, and *believable* stories with people who could be your friends and neighbors. Her first two books in the Sins in the City series featured sexual triads born first out of desperation and then out of convenience, and each was a wonderful satisfying read. But Midtown Masters, the third and final book, might be the best of them all, as it provides the explicit HEA that the others only implied.

Suzy and Meyer are what you’d call “friends with benefits for money” – they have mind-blowing sex on camera for paying customers, but the love between them is strictly platonic. Each has needs the other can’t meet, but for the time being, the money is good and the sex is great. But when Suzy’s curiosity about a new customer gets the better of her, what happens next upends everyone’s lives, and for the better.

Here’s my big confession about Midtown Masters: I am such a big fan of Cara McKenna that I grabbed the review copy without ever reading the blurb. All I had to know was that it was her final Sins in the City book and I was in. So when “Lindsay’s” true identity was revealed early on, I gasped out loud. (Yes, really.) Now I’m not suggesting you avoid the blurb, but it’s a credit to the writing that it works just fine if you haven’t. In any case, all three characters are so well drawn and the premise of the story set up so simply that just following them down the path to their happy fate was a joy, even when they were all fully clothed. As much as I’d loved the other two books, the lack of angst in Suzy and Meyer’s approach to sex (if not relationships) was such a relief once they realized the extent of “Lindsay’s” needs. I’d say more, but I don’t want to take away the pleasure of discovering it all for yourself.

If you’re looking for realistic MMF erotic romance, check out all three of Cara McKenna’s Sins in the City books, and most definitely Midtown Masters, the crowning conclusion to a truly wonderful series.

five-stars

BRUTAL GAME by Cara McKenna

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
BRUTAL GAME by Cara McKennaBrutal Game by Cara McKenna
Series: Flynn and Laurel #2
Also by this author: Crosstown Crush, Downtown Devil, Midtown Masters
Published by Self-Published on 11/22/2016
Genres: Erotic Romance, Romance
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
The long-awaited sequel to Willing Victim.

Eight months ago, Laurel walked into an underground boxing gym and found herself mesmerized by a stranger named Flynn—a man who fights hard and loves harder. Since then he’s taken her places where fear and curiosity clash in exquisite pleasure, where trust is the price of ecstasy, and in time their brutal games have become her kink as much as his.

But when real life intrudes and hard decisions demand action, will these two whose bond is rooted in fantasy take shelter in each other’s arms, or discover that lust is no substitute for a lasting commitment?

This review may contain spoilers for WILLING VICTIM. You could try to read BRUTAL GAME as a stand-alone, but don’t. The two connect together too well to only read one.

It’s no small task to write a story that people love. But to then, years later, write a sequel that is equally well received is an even more unlikely outcome. And yet BRUTAL GAME is that mythical unicorn – a follow up to the widely praised and highly influential novella WILLING VICTIM that not only lives up to the original but gives it extra meaning by extending and expanding what was a brief encounter to a full fledged Happily Ever After.

In WILLING VICTIM, a young woman saw a man who intrigued her, made the first move, and was rewarded with an experience so unexpected, so viscerally intense, that both she and the readers were forever changed. What she shared with the man might be romance, at least for the moment, but could become love, if only we could see what happened next. Now readers clamoring for more Laurel and Flynn have exactly that in BRUTAL GAME – the rest of their story and how they found the HEA we always knew they deserved.

BRUTAL GAME shows us both the best and worst moments of what Laurel and Flynn must confront before they can be truly happy together as a real couple, and it’s tougher and more complicated than anything they’ve dealt with before. The games they play in bed brought them together, but it’s real life and death that could tear them apart. We see what plagues them both in private moments and how they learn to communicate their emotional needs as well as their physical ones. It’s a tough read in parts, but entirely genuine and moving, with an ending as worthy as what preceded it.

If you were a fan of WILLING VICTIM, you have to read BRUTAL GAME. It’s the rare sequel that justifies the existence of sequels.

five-stars

Downtown Devil by Cara McKenna

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Downtown Devil by Cara McKennaDowntown Devil by Cara McKenna
Series: Sins in the City #2
Also in this series: Midtown Masters
Also by this author: Crosstown Crush, Brutal Game, Midtown Masters
Published by Little, Brown Book Group on June 21st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, Multicultural & Interracial, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
At the edge of thirty, Clare is feeling restless. Even though she's gainfully employed and pursuing her passion for photography, she can't shake the feeling that something's missing. Then she meets Mica. A perfect subject for her portrait exhibit, Mica is sexy, exciting, and everything Clare desires. One night with the charismatic stranger is all it takes to leave her craving more. But the intensity Mica brings isn't confined to the bedroom, and Clare wonders if this summer fling might turn more adventurous than she anticipated - especially as a curious energy starts to simmer between the two of them and Mica's handsome roommate, Vaughn. As the three-way tension mounts, Mica makes a sinful proposal. It's an invitation Clare can't pass up, and an erotic encounter she'll never be able to forget. Caught up between two irresistible men, Clare is about to get all the excitement she's been looking for - and then some....

Although the erotic romance trope of a ménage a trois (or more) has become more common of late, most still tend to exist in the fantasy world of fictional towns full of threesomes, foursomes, and beyond, so I tend to get really excited any time I can find one set in a slightly more believable version of reality. The first book in Cara McKenna’s Sins in the City series – “Crosstown Crush” – was one of those few truly excellent books which unflinchingly explored the consequences of a hetero couple seeking out another man to be their occasional sexual partner to fulfill the husband’s cuckold fantasy.

Now with her second book in the series – “Downtown Devil” – McKenna explores another variation of the ménage a trois setup with three previously uncommitted people who initially come together only for sex, only to discover that what they thought they wanted was something else entirely. Like its predecessor, this story features two men and a women, with one man acting as the catalyst to bring all three together. But “Downtown Devil” goes one step further, showing us how sexual desires aren’t always neatly defined and how a genuine love relationship can be found if we are brave enough to reach out for it.

Clare is turning thirty and tired of putting her happiness on hold. When she spots Mica in the coffee shop, her initial impulse is to ask him to model for her upcoming gallery photo exhibit featuring striking looking people of mixed race. But when Mica makes it clear he’d like to have sex with her, Clare throws caution to the wind, determined to live in the moment just this once. Their relationship is more booty call than it is model and photographer, but Clare is determined to let it play out until Mica leaves town at the end of the summer, if he doesn’t start to tire of her first. But then Mica brings his equally attractive roommate Vaughn into the bedroom with them, and that’s when things get complicated.

What I loved the most about “Downtown Devil” was how it never judges anyone in the story, no matter what happens. There are no true villains here, only real human beings with all their frailties on display. Clare might think she’s protected her heart, and Vaughn might think he’s protected his sexual identity, but only Mica is truly safe for he never allows anyone close enough to hurt him. The temptation for me to condemn Mica was strong, yet when Vaughn shared his knowledge of Mica’s past with Clare, I couldn’t help but understand. Ultimately it’s Clare and Vaughn who experience the most emotional growth, and seeing them bond in the face of Mica’s behavior was a special joy for me as an emotionally invested reader. But even Mica shows signs of improvement by the end of the story, which closes on an optimistic note for everyone’s future.

“Downtown Devil” is just as unflinching and level-headed a look at what can happen when a third person joins a couple for sex as “Crosstown Crush” and I loved it just as much. Together they make Cara McKenna’s Sins in the City series my favorite of the year so far as I impatiently wait for the next book to follow.

five-stars

Desire Actually by Jennifer Skully

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Desire Actually by Jennifer SkullyDesire Actually by Jennifer Skully
Series: After Office Hours #1
Also in this series: A Love Affair to Remember
Also by this author: A Love Affair to Remember
Published by Self-Published on 2/11/2016
Genres: Hot Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
What does a red-blooded, All-American male do when his wife asks for a divorce—by email, no less—claiming he's too vanilla in the bedroom?

He gets a sexy tutor for after-office-hours sessions, of course.

Enter Jordana Davis, a work colleague who offers to share the mysterious secrets of what women really want—Desire, Actually. Grady Masterson is more than willing to listen to every seductive suggestion.

He aces sexting and phone sex as the sparks start to fly between them. Then Jordana imagines that Grady could be the one she hadn't been looking for. If only he wasn't taking lessons from her to win back his wife.

How far would you go to win the one you love?

“Desire Actually”, Book 1 of the After Office Hours series, is a sexy, contemporary romance of approximately 65,000 words.

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

If you follow me here or on Twitter, you should already know that Jasmine Haynes is one of my very favorite erotic romance writers. What you may not know is that she also writes slightly less explicit but still wonderfully steamy romances under the name Jennifer Skully. I’d already been meaning to check out her books under that name, so when the opportunity came along to review the first book in her new After Office Hours series, I was all over it.

“Desire Actually” gets its name indirectly from the movie “Love Actually” but even if you’re not a fan of that particular movie (I’m not) you shouldn’t let that keep you from reading this wonderful story of how its hero’s lessons in desire also taught its heroine the power of true love.

Grady Masterson is an honorable man both in business and his personal life. Yet he never realized how his business had overtaken his life until his wife asked for a divorce via email. Now that he’s decided to fight for his marriage where it went bad – in the bedroom – he needs someone like Jordana Davis to teach him about the power of sexual desire.At first it seems lucky for Grady that desire all Jordana wants about after a life filled with disappointment in love from everyone she’s ever counted on. But when explosive desire threatens to upend their lives in and out of the bedroom, it’s love that saves them both from settling for anything less.

Knowing that a Jennifer Skully book would be less sexually explicit had me cautious at first with “Desire Actually” but my concerns quickly evaporated by Grady’s first lesson in desire with Jordana. Together they are the perfect blend of hot and sweet as we see Grady not only learn why his marriage failed, but eventually why it was never going to work in the first place, and why someone like Jordana should be his future instead of trying to fix the past. As for Jordana, we get to revel in her stories of past desire without judgment as both she and we discover why Grady is the one guy who can teach her how to trust in love again.

As with her Jasmine Haynes stories, Jennifer Skully is quite adept at writing a hot secret office romance, providing all the background characters we need to provide the underlying sense of danger at the possibility of discovery. And as a romance reader who does not want to read about cheating characters, I especially appreciated how it was made clear that Grady has been and continues to be physically faithful to his wife for as long as a potential reconciliation exists. Some readers might not care about such niceties but I do, and that helped make “Desire Actually” an even better read for me than I had anticipated. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

five-stars

Review: Begging For It by Lilah Pace

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Begging For It by Lilah PaceBegging for It by Lilah Pace
Series: Asking For It #2
Also in this series: Asking for It
Also by this author: Asking for It
Published by Penguin on September 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, General, Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
The provocative author of Asking for It once again explores the dark side of erotic obsession, and the secrets that make it as dangerous as it is irresistible.Some secrets should only be shared in the dark.Jonah and Vivienne’s erotic bond—living out raw scenarios of captivity and force—began as no-strings sex between strangers who shared the same desires. Now the intimacy between them is turning into love, but it’s a love built on fantasies so extreme that exploring them makes guilt inescapable. But the risks they're taking are far more dangerous than they'd imagined.A stalker is terrorizing the city, and one of Jonah’s ex-lovers names him as a potential suspect to the police. Standing by a man under suspicion could cost Vivienne everything. But when Jonah’s stepfather takes advantage of the scandal to seize control of the Marks family fortune, Vivienne is drawn into her lover’s broken family and twisted past. Only then will she learn how dark the truth really is...

This review may contain spoilers for ASKING FOR IT. You could try to read BEGGING FOR IT as a standalone, but don’t. It won’t be half as good that way.

Earlier this year when I read ASKING FOR IT, I declared that not only was it the best book I’d read all year but that the only book that could possibly come close to being as good would have to be its sequel, BEGGING FOR IT. And it’s true. Everything I’d hoped to find in this book was there, and the ultimate happy ending for Jonah and Vivienne is even sweeter after they triumph over everything thrown in their path to stop them.

The story in BEGGING FOR IT picks up not long after Jonah has walked away from Vivienne to save himself from their shared need to act out the past violence in their lives as part of their sexual relationship. Still, the desire and love between them can’t be denied, and soon they’re back together with the understanding that they must proceed with caution and plenty of therapy to help them stay on a mentally healthy path. When sudden violence in their community drags Jonah in as a suspect, the national coverage gives Jonah’s evil stepfather the opening he’s been wanting to ruin Jonah for good. In an average romantic suspense, this plot device would be leveraged merely for final confrontation of the evil stepfather. But what elevates BEGGING FOR IT is how this development allows Jonah to confront his own emotional damage in the same way Vivienne did in the previous book. And in the same way Jonah helped save Vivienne in ASKING FOR IT, here in BEGGING FOR IT she saves both him and their future together.

If ASKING FOR IT was a time bomb ticking toward an inevitable explosion, then BEGGING FOR IT is a live hand grenade ready to go off at any minute. The knife-edge tension starts from the very first page and never lets up for a moment until the very end. Even early scenes that seem innocuous before the completely happy ending are actually anything but, especially on a second read. It’s rare that I completely love any romantic suspense story the first time through, let alone ever bother reading a second time. For me BEGGING FOR IT was that good – the exception that proves the rule. And together with ASKING FOR IT, it’s easily the best romance of the year for me so far.

five-stars

Review: Crosstown Crush by Cara McKenna

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Crosstown Crush by Cara McKennaCrosstown Crush by Cara McKenna
Also by this author: Downtown Devil, Brutal Game, Midtown Masters
Published by Penguin on September 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, General, Romance, Urban
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
The first in a new series from the “wicked-hot”* author of Hard Time and Give It All explores the fantasies of a daring married couple—and those of a stranger invited to play along in their scandalous little games… When he’s working, Mike Heyer is all business—every inch the alpha male, with the hard, capable body to back up his persona. But at home he can be a different man entirely, harboring appetites only his wife gets to glimpse…When Samira first learned of her husband’s fantasies, she was reluctant, even alarmed. But after witnessing the way they set him on fire, she yielded, and happily indulged. As their games have intensified, so has the rush. And now so has the risk—they’re poised to take Mike’s indecent desires to the next level, by opening their bed to a sexy, brazen stranger. A man seeming custom-made to grant every last one of Mike and Samira’s sinful wishes.Welcoming someone new into their lives was always a dangerous proposition, but the couple imagined if anything was at stake, it was their privacy…not their hearts. *New York Times Bestselling Author Jaci Burton

One of the things I love best about Cara McKenna’s books is that she is never afraid to tackle subjects that others might tend to shy away from, and always manages to provide insight along with a riveting read. CROSSTOWN CRUSH is no exception, as it tells the story of a married couple trying to embrace the husband’s cuckold fetish without endangering what they already have together.

Samira and Mike agreed when they were married that they would remain child-free so that the focus of their marriage would stay only on each other. When Samira discovered Mike’s deep desire to believe she was sexually betraying him, it nearly split them up. Now that she’s accepted his need, the next logical step is making the fantasy a reality. But when they find the perfect man to be their third, reality is more than any of the three of them are ready to handle.

The idea that a truly loving husband would find sexual satisfaction in his wife’s infidelity is not a mainstream kink (if such a thing exists) and reading about it is obviously not for everyone. Yet I thought CROSSTOWN CRUSH handled this touchy subject with respect and acceptance for its characters. The love between Samira and Mike is absolute, and what they do for each other made that obvious for me even when it seemed their relationship might not survive. And while the man they choose to bring into their lives might seem too perfect at first, he’s just as much a fully realized person as they are, with real feelings and conflicted emotions. As the three of them dare to embrace their shared need, we aren’t pushed to judge them for what they’ve done and how they handle it – only to observe their actions and understand their motivations as best we can.

If there’s any criticism I have with CROSSTOWN CRUSH, it’s that we didn’t get more of what happened between them from just after the moment of crisis to the Happy For Now epilogue. I would have loved reading several more chapters to see how they got from there to here. Without that, it made sense to me that there wouldn’t be a full-fledged HEA, simply because there wasn’t enough there to support one that soon. I’m still hoping that we’ll get more of Mike and Samira and Bern in a future story, even if it’s just a sentence in passing to let us know they’re still together and happy. But even if we don’t, I still recommend CROSSTOWN CRUSH for anyone ready to dramatically expand their notions about sex, love, and fidelity.

five-stars

Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie James

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie JamesSuddenly One Summer by Julie James
Series: FBI / US Attorney #6
Published by Penguin on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
From the New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Wedding comes a novel about a man and a woman whose summer is about to get very, very hot... Divorce lawyer Victoria Slade has seen enough unhappy endings to swear off marriage forever. That doesn't mean she's opposed to casual dating—just not with her cocky new neighbor, who is as gorgeous and tempting as he is off-limits. But once she agrees to take on his sister's case, she's as determined to win as ever—even if that means teaming up with Ford....Investigative journalist Ford Dixon is bent on finding the man who got his sister pregnant and left her high and dry. He's willing to partner with Victoria, despite the fact that the beautiful brunette gets under his skin like no other woman. He might not be looking to settle down, but there's no denying the scorching attraction between them. Still, the more time he spends with Victoria, the more he realizes that the one woman as skeptical about love as he is might be the only woman he could really fall for…"If you need a great read to throw in your beach bag, make sure Suddenly One Summer is one of your choices." --USA TodayFrom the Paperback edition.

SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER is only the second book I’ve ever read by Julie James, but she has already become a writer I trust to provide a couple I can’t resist in an interesting story filled with seemingly effortless dialogue and just enough plot twists to keep it lively. In this latest entry in her ongoing FBI / US Attorney series, our hero is an investigative journalist who was introduced as a secondary character in a previous book and his heroine is a divorce attorney determined to keep her life free from romantic entanglements.

Victoria Slade wasn’t supposed to move into her new house until the end of summer, but when burglars send her to the hospital with a panic attack, she’s forced to find another less frightening place to live until then. When she meets Ford Dixon, her temporary neighbor, Victoria is tempted, but refuses to let her libido or her heart get her in trouble. What she didn’t count on was getting pulled into Ford’s quest to find the father of his sister’s baby, and how their constant proximity would soon blossom into a romance neither Victoria nor Ford is quite ready to handle.

What I loved the most about SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER is how Julie James takes two people who are complicated characters in their own right and throws them together in a way that not only seems possible but inevitable as we feel every moment they experience on the way to their happy ending. Although Ford and Victoria come from different worlds, the childhood traumas that shaped them aren’t all that dissimilar, and when they reach the inescapable black moment of the story we can see their coping mechanisms are also variations on the same theme. The search for the father of Ford’s sister’s baby may at first seem not directly related to the romance, but as Ford and Victoria become more engrossed in their shared quest, their teamwork helps build the rapport and trust each needs to take their summer affair into something deeper. It’s also what ultimately keeps them in each other’s lives long enough to realize what they have is stronger than any past trauma, and pushes them into the shared leap of faith a real commitment requires.

It’s hard to fully describe the feeling I get when I read a Julie James book without sounding either pretentious or hackneyed. For me, her writing is like a perfectly mixed cocktail or a flawlessly constructed dessert, where you know there was extensive effort behind the scenes to make it all work but all you experience is the sublime result. SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER made me laugh, made me cry, and made me swoon, sometimes all in the same paragraph. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year and reminds me I still need to go back and read all the other titles in this excellent series.

five-stars

Asking For It by Lilah Pace

Asking For It by Lilah Pace

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Asking For It by Lilah PaceAsking for It by Lilah Pace
Series: Asking For It #1
Also in this series: Begging for It
Also by this author: Begging for It
Published by Penguin Group USA on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
“This is who I am. This is what I want. Now I need a man dangerous enough to give it to me.” Graduate student Vivienne Charles is afraid of her own desires—ashamed to admit that she fantasizes about being taken by force, by a man who will claim her completely and without mercy. When the magnetic, mysterious Jonah Marks learns her secret, he makes an offer that stuns her: they will remain near-strangers to each other, and meet in secret so that he can fulfill her fantasy. Their arrangement is twisted. The sex is incredible. And—despite their attempts to stay apart—soon their emotions are bound together as tightly as the rope around Vivienne’s wrists. But the secrets in their pasts threaten to turn their affair even darker... Reader Advisory: Asking for It deals explicitly with fantasies of non-consensual sex. Readers sensitive to portrayals of non-consensual sex should be advised.

ASKING FOR IT is an unusual story from a new author, or at least a new name to the genre. I wish I knew the name that Lilah Pace used for her other books, because I want to glom her backlist. Because I loved ASKING FOR IT. I loved it so much that I bought my own copy when it was released weeks after I read the ARC. It’s easily the best book I’ve read so far in 2015, and the only book I’m anticipating being better is the follow up book to come later this year.

Vivienne Charles has a special need for sexual satisfaction, an overwhelming need and a secret shame. Secret until one fateful evening when her drunk ex blurts out the truth in front of the one man who hears and understands. For Jonah Marks has his own wants and desires, and what he wants is what she needs. The forces that let them to this point may be pushing them together, but when long buried secrets are revealed, those same forces will drive them apart just as quickly, perhaps for good.

I’m not going to drop any spoilers to show why I found this book to be so incredibly good because as always, the joy is in the reading. But there is one thing I need to reveal because I’m convinced it will make you like the book more, not less. ASKING FOR IT is not a stand-alone book – it’s book 1 of a duology. That means the romance started here in ASKING FOR IT will not have its happy ending until book 2, BEGGING FOR IT.

If you hate cliffhangers, please know that I hate them just as much, and if I hadn’t known this story was continued in the next book, I’d have felt blindsided. Yet I did know, and as a result, the ending felt more like an intermission between acts, a natural break as opposed to an arbitrary stopping point. Vivienne and Jonah just have so many problems to work out both individually and together that any HEA in this book would have to be rushed and completely unbelievable. By the time ASKING FOR IT ends, there’s so much we know about Vivienne, but we’ve only just begun to plumb Jonah’s depths, and why what Vivienne wanted is what he wanted to give her…until it wasn’t.

If you’ve read the blurb or the disclaimers, you know what this book is about. It’s a woman with rape fantasies and a man willing to make them happen for her. But what this book is also about is consent, in big flashing capital letters. Consent is what brings Vivienne and Jonah together. Consent is what differentiates their relationship from any other either has ever had. And lack of consent is what could ultimately tear them apart. Because consent needs to be mutual, or it doesn’t exist at all.

The line that resonated with me the most about consent is also what I keep coming back to when someone asks me why their story had to be in two separate books. It was spoken by Vivienne’s therapist about Jonah, and it’s part of why this book was so different for me in a genre overrun with dub-con, non-con, and every variation of what is sold as “dark romance” these days.

“But he gets to have limits too.”

Readers also get to have limits. ASKING FOR IT might hit your limits, and that’s understandable. But if this is the kind of book you think you might like, I think you might like it a lot. I know I did.


Excerpt

“Enough about me,” I say as the weekend-night bustle flows around us – college kids heading to bars, stores open late to take advantage of the foot traffic, guitar music and drumbeats audible from the door of every club. “What about you? What made you decide to study earthquakes?”

“And volcanoes,” he adds.

“Can’t leave out the volcanoes,” I say, and am rewarded with a small smile.

“Well, when I was about ten years old, my mother and stepfather took the whole family to Hawaii.”

Stepfather, I note. Jonah could have no memory of his real father, and Carter Hale’s been married to Jonah’s mother for almost three decades. Most kids in that situation would wind up calling their stepfathers Dad. Not Jonah.

He continues, “Like most tourists in Hawaii, we went out to see the volcanoes. I hadn’t imagined you could get that close to the lava flow. When I saw it – glowing orange with heat, pure liquid stone –” To my surprise, he grins. “I was ten, so I thought it was totally cool.”

I laugh out loud. “So that’s how you picked your scientific specialty? Because it was cool?”

“Any scientist who tells you something different is lying. If you’re going to spend your entire life studying something, it needs to thrill you. Volcanoes and earthquakes thrilled me when I was a kid, and they still do. Even after all the studies and the dissertation and months of looking at nothing but seismograph readings. I get a charge out of it every time.”

“Hey, they always say that if you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work,” I say.

Which is a crock.” When I raise an eyebrow at Jonah, his smile regains some of the fierceness I know so well. “If you spend twelve hours in a row doing something – anything – it feels like work.”

Laughing, I admit, “Okay, yes. The studio’s my favorite place to be, but there are times when I feel like if I go in there one more time, I’ll tear my hair out. Still, I’d rather go crazy making art than do anything else.”

Jonah nods. “That’s it exactly.”

“So you get to spend your whole life chasing lava.”

“And you’ll spend yours making art.”

“Yes and no,” I say. “After graduation I’m hoping to go into museum work. Preserving old etchings, curating important pieces, even using original plates from centuries ago to make new prints.”

He gives me a look. “You should do your own work. Not worry about taking care of someone else’s.”

“It’s not either/or. I’ll never stop creating my own work. But even if I set the entire art world on fire, it’ll be years before I can support myself through my etchings alone – if ever. So there’s going to be a day job for a while, probably a long while. Should I do something boring that sucks my soul away one day at a time? Or should I surround myself with some of the greatest etchings of all time, and help other people understand how amazing they are?”

After a moment, Jonah nods. “When you put it that way, okay. I see it.”

Then his hand brushes against mine. At first I think he’s drawing me aside as we go past a group of college kids drunkenly weaving along the sidewalk. After they pass, though, he adjusts his grip, twining our fingers together.

Jonah Marks has screwed me hotter and dirtier than any other man ever has – and yet my heart flutters like a girl’s as he holds my hand for the first time. 


About the author

Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling YA author. This is her first adult novel.

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Review: Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Make You Mine by Jackie AshendenMake You Mine by Jackie Ashenden
Series: Nine Circles #2
Published by Macmillan on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Gothic, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
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In the Nine Circles Club, one lucky man gets more than his share of money, power, and women--until he meets a beautiful opponent who plays in the name of love...in Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden.He's raising the stakes.International playboy Alex St. James always plays to win. Whether it's betting on a high-stakes card game--or bedding a high-class socialite--the gorgeous world-class gambler knows how to beat the odds using his brains, his body, and a whole lot of charm. But there's one woman who's immune to Alex's bag of tricks--which makes her the perfect challenge...and the ultimate prize.She's going all in.Once a special operative in her native Russia, Katya Ivanov knows what kind of man Alex is. As his personal bodyguard, she's seen him seduce the richest women, place the riskiest bets, and break the hardest players. But to even a score from her past, she's willing to take a gamble on her reckless boss. Even if she has to pretend to be his lover. Even if he drives her mad with desire. And then she never wants this dangerous game to end...

This review may contain spoilers for MINE TO TAKE, the first book in the Nine Circles series. You could try to read MAKE YOU MINE as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

MAKE YOU MINE is the second book in Jackie Ashenden’s romantic suspense series Nine Circles, telling the story of how another member of the “bleeped-up billionaires club” finds his own true love when he least expects it. And while the first book MINE TO TAKE was a great introduction to the Nine Circles world, MAKE YOU MINE took off like a rocket from where that story left off and didn’t stop until I was breathless and crying for fictional characters like they were actually real.

Alex St. James has tried to protect himself and everyone else in his life by pretending not to care about anything except making money and pleasures of the flesh. Caring nearly killed him once, and he refuses to be vulnerable a second time. But when he needs his lovely bodyguard to be his pawn in a plot for revenge against the man who changed his life forever, Alex discovers that not only does he care, but that being cared for in return can be the greatest strength of all.

Betrayed by family and country, Katya found work as a bodyguard to an American billionaire playboy while waiting for news about the missing man she’s promised to marry. She is paid to protect his body, but it’s his soul that she worries about. As Alex’s plan unfolds, only Katya’s unswerving loyalty and Alex’s last shreds of humanity stand between them and the loss of everything they both hold dear.

One of the things I love about Jackie Ashenden’s stories is how her characters always pull at my heartstrings so brutally that I sometimes have to put the book down, but never so much that I won’t immediately pick it back up again. And then just when I think it’s reached the lowest point of what could possibly happen, she hits me with one more punch that leaves me both reeling and begging for more. in MAKE YOU MINE, Alex and Katya burn up the page every time they are together, even while a terrible menace hangs over them for most of the book. And as they each reveal their closest secrets to each other, that menace seems less threatening if only because they know that nothing can really hurt them as long as they have each other. The suspense plot brings them together, but it’s their romance that propels the book and that’s what makes it a romantic suspense I can wholeheartedly recommend. And with the overall Nine Circles storyline still unresolved, I’m even more eager to read YOU ARE MINE than I was to read this book.

five-stars

Review: Vanilla by Megan Hart

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Vanilla by Megan HartVanilla by Megan Hart
Published by MIRA on February 24th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars
It's an acquired taste…he just has to acquire it Elise knows what she wants in the bedroom, and she makes sure she gets it. Her thirst for domination has long been quenched by a stable of men only too happy to bow down before her. But sexual satisfaction isn't the same as love, and she's been burned in the past by giving her heart too freely. Niall is handsome, smart, successful and sweet—sweet as vanilla. When they meet, their romantic connection is electric, even though he's way on the opposite end of the kink spectrum. Despite how she fights it, Elise falls for him—but how can a relationship work when both lovers want to be on top?  "Hart wields her pen like a scalpel…in this soul-searching, emotionally sensitive story. Strong characterization and smooth, yet forceful, writing captures your attention and holds you hostage."  —RT Book Reviews on The Space Between Us

When I pick up a Megan Hart erotic romance, I know I’m going to get my heart broken, and all that’s left to discover is how, and whether or not she’ll put it back together again by the end of the book. What I got with VANILLA was heaping helpings of everything I love about her books, with a heroine not quite like any other she’s written and a hero who more than lived up to that definition by how he overcame his own fears and misguided notions to be the man most worthy of the heroine’s love.

Elise knows who she is and what she needs in the bedroom, and she’s not going to give that up for any man, not even one who might be her best shot at true love. After all, the last time she let love overrule her best judgment is still an open wound on her heart, and the last thing she needs is another one.

Niall wasn’t expecting to fall for his friend’s older sister, let alone have her push him into a sexual role he’d never ever thought about, let alone considered as something he could enjoy. But Elise is different and special and that one woman who just might be able to show him another way of making love, and in the process, find the self he didn’t know he’d had.

Any preconceived notions of how a Megan Hart book will go and what you’ll get by the end should always be thrown out, as anyone familiar with her books should already know. When we first meet Elise, I made assumptions about her based on the way she still couldn’t let go of the man who had hurt her even though he’d let go long before. Yet as her on again, off again romance with Niall progresses, I could see that the strength she shows in the face of his initial derision and resistance was a direct result from her previous emotional damage, and how it was Niall who needed to decide if what she offered was what he could take without losing what he’d always thought was his sexual identity. I was so proud of them both for working through the conflicts that threatened to separate them even though they loved each other so much, and how their happy ending was about more than just love and acceptance of the other person, but also of themselves. VANILLA was a perfect Megan Hart story for me and I’m so glad I was able to read it.

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