Tag Archives: Erotic

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

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: Begging For It by Lilah Pace

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

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

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

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

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

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

five-stars

Review: Crosstown Crush by Cara McKenna

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

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

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

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

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

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

five-stars

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: 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