Tag Archives: Contemporary

DNF Review: Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake

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.
DNF Review:  Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi BlakeScandal Never Sleeps by Lexi Blake, Shayla Black
Series: The Perfect Gentlemen #1
Published by Berkley on August 18, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
DNF
From the New York Times bestselling authors of the Masters of Ménage series . . .

They are the Perfect Gentlemen of Creighton Academy: privileged, wealthy, powerful friends with a wild side. But a deadly scandal is about to tear down their seemingly ideal lives . . .

Maddox Crawford’s sudden death sends Gabriel Bond reeling. Not only is he burying his best friend, he’s cleaning up Mad’s messes, including his troubled company. Grieving and restless, Gabe escapes his worries in the arms of a beautiful stranger. But his mind-blowing one-night stand is about to come back to haunt him . . .

Mad groomed Everly Parker to be a rising star in the executive world. Now that he’s gone, she’s sure her job will be the next thing she mourns, especially after she ends up accidentally sleeping with her new boss. If only their night together hadn’t been so incendiary—or Gabe like a fantasy come true . . .

As Gabe and Everly struggle to control the heated tension between them, they discover evidence that Mad’s death was no accident. Now they must bank their smoldering passions to hunt down a murderer—because Mad had secrets that someone was willing to kill for, and Gabe or Everly could be the next target . . .

I had to give up on this book at 58% after nearly giving up on it at 25%. I understand that as the first book in the series, there needs to be a certain level of background setup, but it made for an incredibly slow start. Meanwhile the hero and heroine seemed to be going through a romantic suspense checklist, checking off each thing expected in such a story. One weekend no-names stand leading to the big reveal of their individual relationships to the murder victim – check. Someone still trying to kill them and/or cover up the trail to the murderer – check. Wild passionate sex even as all this is going on – check. Heroine getting the entirely wrong idea about the hero’s motives just after thinking how she was going to trust him with everything she was planning to do without him to find the murderer – check. And that’s when I checked out. This book is more suspense than romance, and that makes it not a book for me. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

DNF

Review: Secret Pleasure by Lora Leigh

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:  Secret Pleasure by Lora LeighSecret Pleasure by Lora Leigh
Series: Bound Hearts #13
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on August 18th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
two-half-stars
In Secret Pleasure by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh, Sebastian and Shane De Loren were born to love Alyssa Hampstead. No other woman on Earth can burn for them, ignite with passion between them, the way Alyssa does. But after three sensual months of pleasure come to a crashing halt, Sebastian and Shane are left fighting their powerful family, risking it all to have Alyssa one more time... Alyssa has closed off her heart. A senator's daughter in the political spotlight, she'd rather be quiet and safe than feel the emotional intensity Sebastian and Shane roused within her years ago. But when the sexy cousins blaze their way back into her life, Alyssa cannot help but succumb to the heady pleasures the two men can give her. And as an unknown enemy draws near, Alyssa will need Sebastian and Shane to protect her...and satisfy every forbidden craving...

It’s almost impossible to accurately summarize everything that is wrong with this book without revealing any major spoilers. I’m heartbroken because this has always been one of my favorite erotic romance series.

Full review available at Night Owl Reviews.

two-half-stars

Review: Make You Burn by Megan Crane

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 Burn by Megan CraneMake You Burn by Megan Crane
Series: Deacons of Bourbon Street #1
Published by Random House Publishing Group on August 4th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 217
Goodreads
four-stars
Meet the Deacons of Bourbon Street, bad boy bikers who are hell on wheels—and heaven between the sheets. Megan Crane revs up an irresistible new series co-written with Rachael Johns, Jackie Ashenden, and Maisey Yates.   Sean “Ajax” Harding’s oaths are inked into his skin. Once second-in-command of the Deacons of Bourbon Street motorcycle club, he left New Orleans to protect the brotherhood, and only the death of his beloved mentor, Priest Lombard, could lure him back. Walking into the old hangout gives him a familiar thrill—especially when he gets an eyeful of the bar’s delectable new owner. A wild ride with her is just the welcome Ajax needs. Then he realizes that she’s Priest’s daughter, all grown up and totally off limits.   Sophie Lombard loved her father, not his lifestyle. She’s done with bikers . . . until Ajax roars into town—arrogant, tough, and sexy as ever. And although he treats her like the Catholic schoolgirl he once knew, Sophie’s daydreams tend to revolve around sin. With the very real possibility of heartbreak looming, Sophie knows better than to get too close to an outlaw. But every touch from Ajax is steamier than the Louisiana bayou—and heat like this may just be worth getting burned.   Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.

MAKE YOU BURN is the first book in the Deacons of Bourbon Street, a new motorcycle club romance series co-written by some of my favorite romance authors. In this first book, we are introduced to the world of the Deacons, a once infamous New Orleans MC that is now nearly defunct after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The sad event bringing its remaining members back to the Big Easy is the sudden death of its charismatic leader, Priest Lombard. Yet it’s Priest’s daughter Sophie who immediately distracts the club’s VP Ajax as he rides into town for the first time since Priest exiled him ten long years ago.

Sophie is doing everything she can not to collapse in the face of her father’s death and seeing the dangerously sexy Ajax back in her father’s bar is exactly what she doesn’t need. But Ajax has his own ideas about what she needs and it isn’t long before they begin a torrid affair that threatens to take them both down a path neither one had ever planned.

If you love MC romance, then you will enjoy MAKE YOU BURN. I don’t pretend to know much about how an actual MC operates, nor have I ever watched Sons of Anarchy, but there was enough here for me to understand the world of the Deacons and how they fit into the New Orleans hierarchy. There’s plenty of world building here to set things up for the rest of the series, which includes the introduction of three secondary characters who are clearly going to be the starring heroes of their own books to come.

But really, the greatest appeal of MAKE YOU BURN for me wasn’t the slow-developing suspense plot, nor how Ajax and Sophie were eventually able to work through all the issues that threatened to keep them apart. It was every intimate scene that featured just the two of them from the beginning of the book through the “one year later” epilogue. Sex between Ajax and Sophie is as down and dirty as any you could find in erotic romance, and it was all I could do not to fan myself each time they came together. Even when they ventured into public sex that I’d imagine would get them arrested in the real world, I was riveted to the point of becoming resentful when the actual plot intruded.

If you love a dirty talking hero and a heroine who gives as good as she gets in the bedroom (and the living room floor and the bar and the alley outside the bar…) then MAKE YOU BURN will not disappoint. Everything beyond that is just a bonus. I only hope that the other authors in this series can keep up with the high bar that’s been set in this first book, and I can’t wait to see how they do it.

four-stars

Review: Love Under Three Valentinos by Cara Covington

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: Love Under Three Valentinos by Cara CovingtonLove Under Three Valentinos by Cara Covington
Series: Lusty, Texas #27
Published by Siren Bookstrand on June 19, 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-half-stars

If you’ve never read any books from the publisher Siren-Bookstrand before, you might not realize that they publish dozens of different erotic romance series featuring small towns with interesting names and a preponderance of ménage relationships. (Although many of these relationships involve blood siblings and/or cousins, the standard Siren-Bookstrand disclaimer that there is no sexual relationship or touching for titillation between relatives always holds.) Not everyone will appreciate a visit to Lusty, Texas, or Bliss, Colorado, or Luscious, Kansas, but for those who do, these books can be as enjoyable as any other long-running small town romance series.

Of all the Siren-Bookstrand series I’ve been reading for the past few years, I have to say Cara Covington’s Lusty, Texas is one of the best. It’s hard to believe, but LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS is the twenty-seventh book set in the tiny but fascinating fictional Texas town of Lusty. You would think after all those books that this series would have regressed long ago to mere formula and cardboard characters, and yet I was pleased to discover a story that is easily one of my favorites. I’m fairly certain it can work as a standalone, but since I’ve read all the previous books, I might not be the best judge.

Faithful readers of this series already met bounty hunter Kat Lawson in the last book when she helped capture the latest villain bent on vengeance when he was foolish enough to show up in Lusty. What we saw back then only hinted at the friendship she’d already established with the Jessop brothers back in Los Angeles, but it was obvious the men were hoping for more with her one day. Now that her job has gotten her noticed by L.A.’s most dangerous gang leader, Kat realizes that she needs the three brothers more than she’d like to admit, and not just to keep her alive.

I’m a huge fan of this series, so I was almost certain that I’d enjoy LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS but what I found surprising was how the suspense plot was more developed and interwoven with the romance than in the past several books. I’m always skittish about when the heroine is placed in physical danger as a way to bring her closer to her romantic interest, but the threat to Kat is balanced well with how her desire for the Jessop brothers becomes something she can no longer ignore. Of course there’s no uncertainty on the part of the Jessops, as we already know by now that when men in the extended Kendall-Jessop family find their woman, they fall instantly, completely, and for good. But that’s a comfort here when Kat needs that unconditional love to find the healing she’s been missing in her life. Unrealistic? Likely. Fun to read? Definitely.

In any case, if you love a small town romance and you’d like to mix it up with ménage and just a touch of BDSM, then LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS is for you. As the saying goes, people who like that sort of thing will find this to be the sort of thing they like. And I liked it quite a lot.

four-half-stars

Review: Call On Me by Roni Loren

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: Call On Me by Roni LorenCall on Me by Roni Loren
Series:
Published by Penguin on July 7th 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars
The new Loving on the Edge novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Nothing Between Us and Need You Tonight… Oakley Easton wants two things: to be a good mom to her daughter and to ditch her less than ideal night job. Hooking up with bad boy drummer Pike Ryland? Not on the agenda. She needs a promotion. Not sex, tattoos and rock ’n’ roll.Pike isn’t about to let Ms. Prim and Proper shut him down so easily, especially when he stumbles upon Oakley’s sexy night job. She’s only playing a role on those late night calls with strangers, but when he gets her on the line, all bets are off. He won’t stop until that sultry voice is calling his name for real.But as they move from anonymous fantasies in the dark to the flesh-on-hot-flesh reality of the bedroom, the risk of falling in love becomes all too high. And the safe, quiet world that Oakley’s worked so hard to create is about to be exposed to the one person who could ruin it all.

When I first got back into reading romance a few years ago, one of the authors recommended to me was Roni Loren. The book was CRASH INTO YOU, an erotic romance thriller, and I was hooked from the start. Seven books and one serial later, CALL ON ME continues the Loving On The Edge series tradition of mixing erotic romance with suspense, even as the suspense here is significantly less violent and more nuanced than in the first book that started it all.

Readers of this series already got to meet Pike Ryland, the super sexy and successful rock drummer, when he was hanging out with his buddy Foster as that gentlemen discovered lasting love with the lady next door. Now Pike is about to find his own HEA where he least expects it, but only once he realizes the rock star persona that brings the ladies to his door is what’s pushing her away.

Oakley Easton went through the music industry wringer and came out on the other side a different person. The last thing she needs in her precariously balanced life is a musician, even if he’s the first guy to give her any kind of thrill since before her daughter was born. Still, neither Pike nor their attraction can be denied, and as Pike and Oakley grow closer, so does her most feared danger following in his wake.

One of my favorite things about CALL ON ME was how the suspense wasn’t the usual external murderous threat existing solely to push the hero and heroine closer. It was more about all the fears Oakley had to confront every day, constantly juggling her time between dealing with her daughter’s needs and finding money to pay all their bills. Even when Oakley’s greatest nightmare finally comes true, she confronts the peril directly, singlehandedly saving both her daughter and herself with Pike serving only as an approving bystander.

The other great feature of this book is also what I’ve loved in each book of this series — a heroine who embraces her sexuality fully as the hero comes to terms with how his own wants and desires can fit within the relationship they are building together. Oakley may not advertise the nature of her second job, but she’s also not going to apologize for it to Pike or anyone else, because she knows best what she can do to earn more money while raising her daughter without anyone else’s help. It’s Pike who needs to grow up and see Oakley as the woman strong enough to be both his submissive and his love without reservations or regrets, and the result made me both swoony and teary-eyed. CALL ON ME shows that this long running series is just as good now as it ever was. I’m not sure what the next book will bring, but I can’t wait to read it.

four-stars

Review and Giveaway: The Collar by Tara Sue Me

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 and Giveaway: The Collar by Tara Sue MeThe Collar by Tara Sue Me
Series: Submissive #5
Also in this series: The Enticement
Also by this author: The Enticement
Published by Penguin, Penguin Publishing Group on July 7th 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars
The New York Times bestselling author of The Submissive returns with a scintillating new tale about power, danger, and jaw-dropping passion.... Nathaniel and Abby are struggling to navigate the challenging waters of their own relationship, when they get a surprising phone call from their partners in play, Dena and Jeff, who are in need of a helping hand… Seven years ago, blonde, beautiful lawyer Dena Jenkins was tired of her carefully controlled life. Desperate for something exhilarating to help her escape the pressures of her demanding job and her senator father, she joined a steamy, local BDSM club as a submissive. There she met brooding Dominant, Jeff. The attraction between them was undeniable, and, despite Dena’s doubts, they couldn’t stay away from each other. Except, as the years have passed, their blazing connection has proven difficult to maintain. Dena and Jeff have a history they’d rather forget, but Dena can’t let go of the past, and Jeff is ready to move across the country to give her space. Now, to save their passion, they’ll have to rediscover what it means to trust each other—and give themselves to each other completely.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/984c05ae24/

THE COLLAR is the fifth book in Tara Sue Me’s excellent Submissive series and the first where the main focus is not on the couple who have been the center of the ongoing story. Jeff and Dena were both introduced briefly in the previous book, THE ENTICEMENT. Now in THE COLLAR we get to discover their backstory and see them find their way back to each other again with the help of Nathaniel and Abby, as well as the somewhat opportune timing of a surprise stalker.

It’s clear from the start that Jeff and Dena were meant to be together before something terrible came between them. At first I thought the problem would be related to the different worlds from which they came. Dena was raised in the lap of luxury and privilege thanks to her father’s elevated status in political circles. Jeff’s origins were much lower and less pleasant, and it seemed as though he’d never stop thinking he wasn’t worthy of her. Yet when they met at the local BDSM club, her submissive nature and his Dominance fit perfectly together, and the love they found together seemed invincible. But now it’s years later and whatever broke them up still appears to be keeping them apart. As much as it kills him inside, Jeff is getting ready to move far away for good, in the mistaken belief that it’s the best decision for them both. It’s only when a sudden threat to Dena’s safety appears that Jeff realizes he must stay and protect her at any cost, even if it means reopening old wounds and confronting what stands between them once and for all.

I was concerned at first when I realized Nathaniel and Abby would not be the central couple of THE COLLAR but was soon placated by how seamlessly their story is woven into that of their new friends Jeff and Dena. We already know how great Jeff is by how he saved Abby in THE ENTICEMENT and the great trust that Nathaniel has placed in him. We also soon see that Dena isn’t the entitled rich girl one might expect with her upbringing. It’s only when Dena is with Jeff that she’s truly happy, and the same is true for him. But it’s quite obvious that the pain that stood between them would have won if it wasn’t for the person who suddenly starts threatening Dena’s life.

Normally when this type of suspense plot is used to bring the hero and heroine together I get worried that it will take over entirely, but in THE COLLAR the suspense serves the romance, not vice versa. Even when I was able to figure out the culprit, I didn’t much care because that subplot was just the excuse needed to keep Jeff with Dena long enough for them to deal with all the misunderstandings that had kept them apart. So much of THE COLLAR is Jeff and Dena recalling the past and working together to get beyond it, and that’s what I loved the most about this book. But we still get enough Nathaniel and Abby so that it’s their story as well, and that’s why THE COLLAR is yet another great entry in the Submissive series for me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

four-stars

Review and Giveaway: Caged by Lorelei 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 and Giveaway:  Caged by Lorelei JamesCaged by Lorelei James
Also by this author: Unraveled
Published by Penguin on July 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
In the searing fourth novel in the Mastered Series, following Unraveled, only one woman can set a hardened fighter free from his past.… In order to survive a life of tragedy, Deacon McConnell embraced his roughest edges and learned to fight on the streets. Then a life-changing jujitsu seminar led by Sensei Ronin Black led Deacon to become a professional fighter. With his muscular physique and his body covered in tattoos and scars, the MMA fighter defines mean, both on and off the mat. But everything changes when innocent Molly Calloway signs up for his kickboxing class. Molly is Deacon’s opposite in every way: She’s kind, sweet, thoughtful, and educated. After a heated argument between them turns into a passionate encounter, Deacon realizes Molly is eager to experience more, and she looks to him to take her to the darker edge of lust.... The last thing either of them expects is how deeply their lives will be thrown upside down by the passion they find together.

CAGED is the latest entry in the Mastered series by Lorelei James and one that continues the upward swing of my enjoyment in a series that started out rough for me but keeps getting better. In this book, we finally get an HEA for two previously introduced secondary characters, including the one whose initial violent encounter was the starting point for the entire series.

Deacon McConnell is famous in the local mixed martial arts community for his ability to read and exploit his opponents’ weaknesses in direct competition. Yet when it comes to making a claim on the woman he’s wanted for years, he’s still unable to follow through. Molly Calloway came to the dojo at her best friend Amery’s insistence for self-defense training after an attack that threatened her physical safety. Now that Amery is happily married to the dojo’s Sensei, it’s Molly who’s still working on defending herself from both physical and emotional threats, the greatest of which is her undeniable pull toward Deacon. When Molly finally confronts Deacon in the unlikeliest of places, the simmering attraction between them flares up hot and strong. But as demons from both their individual pasts threaten to come between them, it will take more than physical desire to stay true to themselves and each other to their happy ending together.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to either of these characters in previous books, other than when Molly was being stubborn about not wanting to go to the dojo when Amery agreed to participate in classes with her there in the first book. But CAGED has fleshed out the backgrounds of both Molly and Deacon almost to the point of overload, and shown that they do have more in common than just irresistible sexual chemistry. Both of them were rejected in almost ridiculously horrific ways by the people who should have loved and protected them, and each has managed to not just survive but succeed in spite of all that. It was wonderful to see them have each other’s backs as they had to re-fight their family battles one last time, even when the going got rough and inevitably faltered along the way.

The only part that didn’t quite work for me in CAGED was the early continuing emphasis on Deacon’s various confrontations with his trainer and a new but ultimately temporary competitor, and the constant misunderstandings from Ronin’s lack of transparency in his dojo management. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be the bad guy and who wasn’t, and was still confused right up until a few pages of explanation much later in the book when Ronin deigned to make things clearer to both Deacon and the reader. Frankly, anything that isn’t directly related to the romance is of lesser interest for me, so I was happiest when Molly and Deacon were front and center together. Their personalities complemented each other well when they didn’t let external forces become a distraction, and the obstacles in their path to their HEA helped them grow emotionally as individuals and a couple. By the end of CAGED, I knew that they were going to stay together no matter what, and that it was the best possible ending for both of them. I can only hope that they and we as the readers will continue to enjoy seeing other members of the Black Arts dojo family find their own happiness as the Bound series continues.

Berkley / NAL Romance is giving one lucky commenter a free copy of the first two books in the Bound series (BOUND and UNWOUND). Just leave a comment here at the blog on this review between now (7/9/2015) and a week from now (7/16/2015). The winner will be drawn at random from all comments on this post and will receive this prize directly from the publisher.

four-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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

five-stars

Review: Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol

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: Delicious Temptation by Sabrina SolDelicious Temptation (Entangled Brazen) by Sabrina Sol
Series: Delicious Desires #1
Published by Macmillan on May 19th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 200
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
A sexy category romance from Entangled's Brazen imprint...The only thing naughtier than a bad boy is a good girl...Amara Maria Robles is a good girl. So good that she gave up her dreams of becoming a renowned pastry chef to help her parents with their struggling Mexican bakery. Yet her parents reject any changes she suggests, and refuse to sell her mouth-watering confections. Clearly being a good girl isn't paying off. So when her brother's sexy ex-best friend walks into the bakery, Amara's tempted to be very bad indeed...After a scandal twelve years ago, resident bad boy Eric Valencia has returned to make things right with his family and friends. One glance at Amara and her wicked curves, however, and Eric finds himself thinking about how she'd feel beneath him-something he promised Amara's brother he would never think about, let alone do. But this bad boy is in deep trouble...because Amara's determined to have her cake, and Eric, too.

DELICIOUS TEMPTATION is the story of how a good girl and a bad boy each move past the judgmental expectations of family and community to embrace love and a new life together. This story should have been right in my wheelhouse, but the combination of a doormat heroine, a vacillating hero, and outrageously overbearing parents made this a less than optimal read for me

Amara Robles abandoned her successful pastry chef job in Chicago to take over her family’s tiny East LA bakery after her father’s illness. Now with all of the responsibility but none of the authority, Amara feels stifled by being back under her parents’ thumb and by their refusal to approve any changes to save the bakery. When her brother’s notorious high school friend Eric Valencia reappears after years away, Amara decides to risk her parents’ disapproval to go after him, if only temporarily. But will Eric be worth the gamble for both her heart and her family’s livelihood?

The trope of a heroine yearning to break free from oppressive parents is a classic in romance, and it’s gratifying when the heroine successfully rescues herself from their clutches. But when the parents are completely intractable in the face of all good reason, and the heroine can’t escape without the help of other external forces, then I start feeling trapped myself.

DELICIOUS TEMPTATION still could have worked for me if Amara had ever stood up to her parents even once. But in Amara’s world, life isn’t what you make of it, it’s what your parents decide is best for you. This might be understandable for a heroine just starting out on her own, but when the heroine is in her late 20s and has already had a life outside her parents’ sphere of influence, it makes for a frustrating read. And yet this is how Amara behaves for nearly the entire story. Even when the last best opportunity to save her parents’ bakery is rejected by them (just like always), it only still ends up happening because someone else takes over after Amara gives up (just like always).

Amara only makes a few real independent decisions in the entire story, one of which is to make the fancy cupcakes her parents previously rejected, and the other to go after Eric. And yet she even gives up on Eric when it looks like he’s not going to stick around after all. Amara’s almost complete acquiescence to whatever anyone else decided for her was infuriating, and having other characters call her out on it didn’t make it any better. By the time I got to the end of the book, it was clear that if Eric hadn’t finally seen the light, Amara would have stayed under her parents’ thumb indefinitely. That’s not a heroine I can cheer for.

Amara and Eric were a cute couple, and I was glad they got their HEA in spite of all the obstacles in their path. But ultimately for me, Amara’s inability to stand up for herself until everything else was already fixed for her made DELICIOUS TEMPTATION more aggravating than enjoyable for me.

three-stars