Tag Archives: Different Worlds

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

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

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.
Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis SittenfeldEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Series: The Austen Project #4
Published by Random House Publishing Group on April 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 512
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-half-stars
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible tackles gender, class, courtship, and family as Curtis Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today. This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches. Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.Praise for Eligible“Even the most ardent Austenite will soon find herself seduced.”—O: The Oprah Magazine “Blissful . . . Sittenfeld modernizes the classic in such a stylish, witty way you’d guess even Jane Austen would be pleased.”—People (book of the week) “[A] sparkling, fresh contemporary retelling.”—Entertainment Weekly“[Sittenfeld] is the ideal modern-day reinterpreter. Her special skill lies not just in her clear, clean writing, but in her general amusement about the world, her arch, pithy, dropped-mike observations about behavior, character and motivation. She can spot hypocrisy, cant, self-contradiction and absurdity ten miles away. She’s the one you want to leave the party with, so she can explain what really happened. . . . Not since Clueless, which transported Emma to Beverly Hills, has Austen been so delightedly interpreted. . . . Sittenfeld writes so well—her sentences are so good and her story so satisfying. . . . As a reader, let me just say: Three cheers for Curtis Sittenfeld and her astute, sharp and ebullient anthropological interest in the human condition.”—Sarah Lyall, The New York Times Book Review “A clever, uproarious evolution of Austen’s story.”—The Denver Post “If there exists a more perfect pairing than Curtis Sittenfeld and Jane Austen, we dare you to find it. . . . Sittenfeld makes an already irresistible story even more beguiling and charming.”—Elle“A playful, wickedly smart retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.”—BuzzFeed “Sittenfeld is an obvious choice to re-create Jane Austen’s comedy of manners. [She] is a master at dissecting social norms to reveal the truths of human nature underneath.”—The Millions“A hugely entertaining and surprisingly unpredictable book, bursting with wit and charm.”—The Irish Times “An unputdownable retelling of the beloved classic.”—PopSugarFrom the Hardcover edition.

Now that the latest incarnation of The Bachelor/ette is back on the air, with its fictional behind-the-scenes counterpart UnREAL soon to follow, it’s seems fitting to be reviewing “Eligible” — a re-imagining of “Pride and Prejudice” that deftly incorporates elements from that classic as well as the aforementioned TV shows without being unduly beholden to any of its nominal source material. I’ll admit that I’m a big fan of Curtis Sittenfeld’s previous work, so I was confident that if anybody could pull off an updated story of Lizzie and Darcy, it would be her. And ultimately what she has produced here is a delightful and multi-layered story that can stand on its own without the P&P underpinnings.

“Eligible”, much like the Austen original, is a skillfully plotted story about a woman who stumbles on an unexpected love while trying to save her feckless family from themselves. The author’s decision to use a fictional dating show as the book’s primary catalyst may put some potential readers off, but I found it to be the perfect counterpart to the ongoing chaos of the Bennet family as a whole and Liz’s life in particular. In the absence of a tiny English town where everyone knows all the local gossip, it takes a tv dating show to alert Mrs. Bennet to the suitability of a visiting Chip Bingley for whichever of her single daughters she can manage to throw at him. And then as the Bennet family’s spiral into impending disaster gathers speed, it’s the TV dating show that helps keep the other characters moving through their predetermined paces as we watch Liz and Darcy meet, hate, and eventually fall in love.

Most of Romancelandia adopted the original Pride and Prejudice story as a romance long ago so it’s fair to ask if “Eligible” passes the same test. Well, yes. Liz’s relationship with Darcy, while perhaps not quite what Austen could have envisioned, is at the heart of “Eligible” from the moment they meet. and their lovely HEA had me wiping away happy tears by the end of the book. Together they are the relatively calm eye of the story’s hurricane as all other characters wreak their own sort of havoc all around, with the TV dating show always ready to prod everyone into action at any moment.

Those readers looking for cracks in the “P&P fanfic” aspect of the story should be fairly content with how the major characters are present and accounted for here. I was especially pleased with how the author chose to represent the villainous Wickham but won’t elaborate here in case you’d like to be surprised as well. The only slight issue I have in this regard was the plot line, if you could call it that, featuring Kathy de Bourgh as an elusive Gloria Steinem stand-in. Liz seems to spend half of the story trying to schedule an interview with the famous feminist, yet when they finally do meet, the Darcy tie-in expected by my inner P&P fan never really materialized. Still, it’s a minor quibble, and only confirms to me that while “Eligible” works well within Jane Austen’s original outline, it can and should be appreciated as an original creation in its own right.

four-half-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: Mastered by Maya Banks

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: Mastered by Maya BanksMastered by Maya Banks
Series: Enforcers #1
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on December 29th, 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Goodreads
two-stars
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Surrender Trilogy and the Breathless Trilogy knows what makes readers hot. Now she turns it up in Mastered, the explosive first book in a new series of a desire too dangerous to resist.   What he wants, he takes with no remorse or guilt.   She stood out in his club like a gem, unspoiled and untouched. A lamb among wolves, she clearly didn't belong. Drawn to her innocence he watched as she was surrounded by men who saw what he did--but no one but him could touch her. He summoned her to his private quarters. He sensed her fear. He also recognized the desire in her eyes. And he knew she wouldn't leave before he possessed her. She had no need to know his secrets. Not until he had her under his complete and utter control.   What he wants, she isn't sure she can give him.   The moment he told her want he wanted, she couldn't resist. Instinct told her to run, but her heart said stay and walk the fine line between pleasure and pain. Though she wasn't sure she could ever completely surrender, the primal part of her wanted to try, even knowing this man could break her in ways she never imagined. Because once he possessed her, he owned her and it would be too late to turn back. She can only pray that he doesn't destroy her in the end.

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Mastered. The major one is in a spoiler space section, but if you don’t want to know any actual details about this book, stop reading now.

Some people on the Internet seem to think that we amateur book reviewers love to write nasty negative reviews about books just for the evil fun of it. The reality, however, is entirely the opposite. And when the book in question is by a beloved author, the feeling isn’t so much glee as it is intense sadness and disappointment.

It is with that feeling of great dismay that I am writing this review. Mastered is the first book in the new Enforcers series by Maya Banks, one of my all time favorite authors. I’ve read and enjoyed so many of her erotic romance series that I jumped at this review opportunity even though this blog is still technically on hiatus until next year. And yet Mastered is such a huge departure from what I have come to rely on in a Maya Banks erotic romance that I’m still reeling at how very wrong it went for me.

The premise of Mastered is simple and familiar:  innocent heroine crosses paths with dangerous dominant hero who must have her at all costs. Evangeline was seduced and abandoned by a no-good jerk and now she’s at Impulse, the hottest club in town, to prove she’s over him. But when the no-good jerk shows up to physically confront our heroine, the all-powerful club owner Drake Donovan comes to her rescue, only to capture her for himself until it all goes horribly wrong at the end of the book.

Wait, what? you say. Horribly wrong? Well, yes. Because Mastered ends on a wrenching cliffhanger and you’re going to have to wait until the next book is released to get the rest of Evangeline and Drake’s story. This information was posted on the author’s Facebook page earlier this year, but it isn’t anywhere in the book listing or promo materials. To her credit, she has included a lengthy explanation/apology at the end of the book, and I recommend you read it before deciding whether or not to continue with the story itself.

But honestly, for me the incomplete story wasn’t the main reason Mastered was such a disappointing read. There are two more compelling reasons, one of which appears in a spoiler tag further down. But the other one permeates the entire book so thoroughly that even if the story was complete, I’d still have problems recommending it.

For in Mastered, our heroine Evangeline is presented not as a normal human adult woman with both positive and negative attributes. Instead she is the perfect combination of Pollyanna, Marilyn Monroe, and Mother Teresa that no man (other than the no-good jerk who took her virginity for kicks) can resist. She projects a relentlessly positive attitude no matter how dire her situation, yet is constantly in denial about how every man (except that one guy) is drawn to her innate goodness and powerful (yet entirely innocent) sexual allure. She immediately agrees to give up her impoverished yet independent life to a man she’s known for about fifteen minutes, one whose first interaction with her is to engage in heated oral sex in his office after rescuing her from the no-good jerk. And as every man (other than the first guy) continues to fall at her feet throughout the story, every woman is compared to our heroine and found wanting.

This, in a nutshell, is the main problem I had with Mastered —  that Evangeline is constantly presented as the epitome of acceptable womanhood and every other woman in the book (other than her mother in a brief cameo) is presented as not worthy to kiss the heroine’s feet. Indeed, the first time we see our hero, he is forcibly removing a woman from his club who had bribed one of his workers to sneak her in so she could throw herself at the hero, calling her a skank for good measure. Then when the no-good jerk who deflowered and dumped our heroine appears at the club with his new squeeze in tow, she’s just as awful and unsavory as the woman tossed out by our hero only moments earlier.

This insidious attitude toward other women would annoy me in any romance novel, but in a Maya Banks book it was especially disappointing. In so many of her other erotic romance books, notably the Sweet series and Breathless series, the heroines all had great women friends who were just as worthy of being liked and admired, and who often ended up as heroines themselves. But here in Mastered, other women who are not blood relatives of the heroine are denigrated and tossed aside when they’re no longer needed. The worst example of this occurs just after one of Evangeline’s former “best friend” roommates warns her in no uncertain terms not to get mixed up with the hero. Instead of the hero sharing his own doubts about whether he’s capable of being a good person for the heroine (which we already know about from his internal monologues), he declares the former BFF to be a “jealous bitch.” Yet the heroine wouldn’t have even met the hero if that same “jealous bitch” hadn’t magically acquired a VIP pass to Impulse and given it to the heroine. This distinct lack of respect for any women who aren’t the heroine is simply not what I’ve come to expect and enjoy in a Maya Banks book, and I’m still distressed about how prevalent it was in this one.

There are a lot of other reasons why Mastered didn’t work for me, such as how every deadly henchmen on the hero’s staff instantly declares himself ready to save the heroine when (not if) the hero screws things up with her, or how both the hero and heroine spend more time in long internal monologues on how they feel about their situation than they do actually sharing those feelings with each other.

But all those pale to the other reason why I cannot recommend Mastered, and as the catalyst for the cliffhanger, it’s the biggest spoiler of the book.

 

SPOILER SPACE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hero has unsavory gangster types coming over to his apartment for a private meeting so he convinces the heroine to go out with her ex-roommates for the evening to keep her safe. But when her ex-roommates understandably don’t want anything to do with someone who had ditched them completely since she’d met the hero, the heroine decides to surprise the hero by cooking a full gourmet dinner for him and his associates. After all, he never told her they were too dangerous for her to meet, so why shouldn’t she? When they arrive to find her waiting, the hero decides the best way to keep her safe is to not only verbally assault her in the worst possible way, but also to force her to fellate him in front of the other men.

That’s right – the hero sexually assaults the heroine to protect her from additional sexual assault by others.

Then after they all depart to eat dinner elsewhere, the heroine leaves the hero to take a job at a hotel run by the sister of the doorman at the hero’s building, the doorman being yet another random man who has immediately fallen for the heroine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

END SPOILER SPACE

This was the last straw for me and Mastered. Your mileage may vary, but everybody has their hard limits on what is acceptable in a romance novel, and that crossed the line for me in no uncertain terms. If the rest of Evangeline and Drake’s story had been in this book instead of continued in a future one, I still wouldn’t have read past where this book ends. Thanks to the nature of this cliffhanger, I have absolutely no interest in how the hero and heroine recover from what has happened between them. I can only hope that future Maya Banks books will get back to what has always made them great for me before – a hero and heroine with a genuine loving relationship in a world where both men and women are valued equally.

 

two-stars

Review: It’s A Wonderful Wife by Janet Chapman

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.

Review: It’s A Wonderful Wife by Janet ChapmanIt'S A Wonderful Wife on August 25, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Spellbound Falls novels comes a delightful new romance set on the coast of Maine…

Jesse Sinclair and his two brothers spent years dodging the women his grandfather threw in their path. But then the matchmaking old wolf died, and his brothers did the unthinkable: they ran off to Maine to get married.

Now Jesse wants to join them. Convinced the Pine Tree State must have another eligible woman to spare, he buys a small island just off Bear Harbor to build a home for his future family. But as he discovers, finding the woman of your dreams isn’t as easy as his brothers made it seem. First of all, the only woman capable of filling those wedding shoes is Cadi Glace—and unfortunately, she’s already engaged…

So imagine Jesse’s surprise when he finds the aforementioned Miss Glace hiding out in his camper, charmingly, adorably drunk. And apparently single….

Janet Chapman is an author I’ve been reading off and on for a while now, and although her heroines often nearly cross the line for me in adorable wackiness, I’ve enjoyed reading most of her contemporary romances. I read the first two books in her Sinclair Brother series back when they were on the Scribd ebook subscription service, and liked the premise of the beloved grandfather setting up his three single grandsons to find true love with the women of his favorite area in Maine.

Unfortunately this third and final book in the series – IT’S A WONDERFUL WIFE – takes all the wacky adorable charm of the others and turns it up to a level so high that it was all I could do to make myself finish reading instead of throwing the book (figuratively) against the wall in frustration. Everything I loved about the other books is made nearly unbearable here, especially the laughable attempt at a suspense plot which ended up being told more than shown, including its completely unsatisfying resolution which seems to be an offscreen afterthought.

Our hero Jesse Sinclair is jealous of his brothers’ happiness with their own adorably wacky Maine wives so he decides to build the perfect family home in an isolated wooded area in the hopes that he’ll soon find the perfect wife to fill it with the perfect family. This leads to his impromptu meeting with Cady Glace, her adorable wackiness attracting him instantly even as he discovers she’s already engaged. But all is not as it seems with that, and her supposed fiancé, and which one of them actually designed the house he’s having built in the Maine woods.

If this sounds at all convoluted, then you get an idea of how this book went for me, and how I became increasingly frustrated even when I was already making allowances for a certain level of unbelievability based on my experience with the previous books in the series. Add to that the need to keep track of dozens of secondary characters, some old and some new, and an extra dollop of magical realism at the very end, and it’s no wonder IT’S A WONDERFUL WIFE left me more annoyed than entertained. I would normally say that you should read the other books before attempting to read this one, but honestly, just read the other books and leave this one be. I’m not sorry I read it because I did like Jesse Sinclair and was happy to see the previous couples turn up one more time. But if you’re not prepared to constantly roll your eyes while keeping a spreadsheet updated with a constant parade of additional characters, then IT’S A WONDERFUL WIFE is probably not the book for you.

three-stars

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: Mistress of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

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:  Mistress of Pleasure by Delilah MarvelleMistress of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle
Series: School of Gallantry #1
Published by Self-Published on July 1, 2015
Genres: Erotic Romance, Fiction, Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Granddaughter of a renowned courtesan, Maybelle Maitenon has no interest in her grandmother's school in London where gentlemen receive instruction--in the art of seduction. Her only desire in life is to remain independent and free from men and their overbearing expectations. But when Maybelle lays eyes on the Duke of Rutherford, who is well-known for his gentlemanly ways, she can't resist. Neither she or the duke are prepared for what their attraction is about to do not only to their sanity but their hearts.

WARNING: This book contains strong language and sexual content that may cause respectable people to swoon.

This quirky, sexy and scandalous Regency/Victorian Historical Romance is part of a series but can be read as a stand alone.

As a romance reader and reviewer, I’m always interested to see what happens with books I’ve read and loved before that are later reissued with extensive changes and plot expansions. MISTRESS OF PLEASURE was originally released in 2008 as the introduction to the School of Gallantry series, featuring 5 English lords needing lessons in love from a retired French courtesan. Now that rights to this book have reverted to the author, it’s back in a longer and even more entertaining version that better connects the book to those which followed it.

Maybelle’s never been accepted by the ton because of her beloved grandmother’s previous profession, and would rather spend her life exploring rocks and dirt in Egypt than risk her heart on any man. But when a moment of passion threatens to derail all her plans, only her grandmother can help her find the way to a love Maybelle never dreamed could exist.

Much like Maybelle, Edmund has sworn never to let love ruin his life, especially with his father as the worst possible example. But Edmund and Maybelle are better matched than either suspects, each chasing and fleeing each other in turn before the students at the School of Gallantry take matters into their own hands to get them together for good.

Although I had enjoyed the original version of MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, I found this new expanded and updated incarnation even more entertaining. We get more explicit connections to the series as a whole, most notably with regard to the final book which was released earlier this year. Indeed, there is so much more material here related to that story that I was glad I’d already read it, as I might have felt somewhat spoiled at seeing parts of it here first.

My favorite expanded scenes involved Edmund and his mother, and the additional insight we got into why the actions of Edmund’s father had been so devastating. If Maybelle hadn’t instigated their first unorthodox meeting, both she and Edmund would have ended up alone and unhappy, and that helped me be patient with their assorted antics as they finally figured out they belonged together.

The School of Gallantry is one of my favorite historical romance series and appears to be getting even better now with this first reissued book. Even if you’ve read MISTRESS OF PLEASURE before, you should definitely read it again. I’m glad I did, and I can’t wait to see what Delilah Marvelle does with the other older books in the series.

four-stars

Review: Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas

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:  Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa KleypasBrown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Little, Brown Book Group Limited, St. Martin's Press on August 11th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Wedding planner Avery Crosslin may be a rising star in Houston society, but she doesn't believe in love--at least not for herself. When she meets wealthy bachelor Joe Travis and mistakes him for a wedding photographer, she has no intention of letting him sweep her off her feet. But Joe is a man who goes after what he wants, and Avery can't resist the temptation of a sexy southern charmer and a hot summer evening.

After a one night stand, however, Avery is determined to keep it from happening again. A man like Joe can only mean trouble for a woman like her, and she can't afford distractions. She's been hired to plan the wedding of the year--a make-or-break event.

But complications start piling up fast, putting the wedding in jeopardy, especially when shocking secrets of the bride come to light. And as Joe makes it clear that he's not going to give up easily, Avery is forced to confront the insecurities and beliefs that stem from a past she would do anything to forget.

The situation reaches a breaking point, and Avery faces the toughest choice of her life. Only by putting her career on the line and risking everything--including her well-guarded heart--will she find out what matters most.

BROWN-EYED GIRL might be one of the most anticipated romances of 2015, as it’s the long awaited follow-up to the popular Travis Family series by Lisa Kleypas. I’ve read and enjoyed several of her historical romances but as hard as it might be to believe, this is my very first Lisa Kleypas contemporary read. So while the target audience for BROWN-EYED GIRL might be all the readers who’ve been waiting for Joe Travis to get his own HEA, I came into this story with no expectations whatsoever, and I think that might be why it was ultimately a good read for me.

Our titular heroine is Avery Crosslin, a woman who has had to rise above so many personal obstacles to achieve success in her job, if not in her personal life. Much like the terrible example set by her own parents, Avery has been horribly disappointed in love. But instead of letting that ruin her life entirely, she’s set aside the entire notion of a romantic relationship with anyone, preferring to channel all her energy into becoming the best wedding planner Houston ever had. When she stumbles across a gorgeous and friendly guest at her latest high-stress wedding event, it’s all she can do to allow herself just one perfect night of passion with a man she never expects to see again. But when he’s determined to go on as they’ve begun, Avery has to reconsider everything she thinks she’s learned about success, happiness, and love itself.

Even though I had no familiarity with the Travis family members before reading BROWN-EYED GIRL, their history was presented quite well throughout the book. In fact it was so thorough that I occasionally wondered if readers with greater knowledge of the series might become annoyed with all the explanations. In any case, I appreciated the attention to necessary detail, and I was never lost as a new reader to the series.

What I did find troubling in BROWN-EYED GIRL was the reliance on Avery’s intermittent resistance to Joe’s pursuit as a plot device for the bulk of the story. After all, if Avery gives in too soon to what she knows is true – that Joe loves her and she loves him – then the book would be over. So most of the interaction between them boils down to Joe making an overture, Avery seeming to accept it, and then Avery getting scared and running away again (figuratively and literally). I was honestly starting to wonder why Joe was so determined to win her over. We really don’t get much information about why he’s so attracted to Avery, yet he continues to press his suit right up until the moment when she proposes the possibility of a long-distance relationship. It’s only then when we see him waver, and when Avery finally realizes what she’s about to throw away, finally giving us the HEA we and they both need.

When Joe and Avery were together and fully present in their intermittent moments of genuine affection is when BROWN-EYED GIRL had me hooked, and that’s what kept me reading until the very end. I’ll leave it to others to determine whether this book works as a worthy follow-up to the rest of the Travis Family series. But as a standalone story, it’s a perfectly nice romance on its own merits and I enjoyed reading it on those terms.

four-stars