Tag Archives: Made Me Cheer

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

A Love Affair to Remember 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.
A Love Affair to Remember by Jennifer SkullyA Love Affair to Remember by Jennifer Skully
Series: After Office Hours #2
Also in this series: Desire Actually
Also by this author: Desire Actually
on October 12, 2016
Genres: Romance
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-half-stars
What if one night ruined your whole life?

In one sizzling night of forbidden passion, Gloria King set fire to her comfortable life and watched it be consumed in the conflagration. The man who lit the match—Parker Hunt.

And now Parker is back.

More than five years have passed since Parker has seen Gloria, but the passion between them is undeniable. And he’ll do anything to have a new chance to get it right, if only he can convince Gloria to trust her heart.

Gloria has pieced her life back together after their forbidden night. But Parker is still the only man in the world with whom Gloria can never look for happiness, no matter how badly she might want it. If only she could resist his magnetism, forget the delicious taste of his kiss and the sweetness of his caress…

Can a single night of passion born in shame become a lifetime of love?

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

Hooray, it’s the next book in Jennifer Skully’s new After Office Hours hot contemporary romance series! Regular readers of this blog may recall that the first book in this series – Desire Actually – was one of my favorite reads this year. This new book – A Love Affair to Remember – picks up not long after the previous one, telling the story of how two people get a rare second chance to be together after making a terrible mistake five years earlier.

We met Gloria King in Desire Actually, when she helped that story’s heroine get a promotion and office she deserved, earning the enmity of the company’s HR VP in the process. Five years earlier, Gloria had succumbed to a single night’s temptation with an attractive co-worker, and has been paying the price ever since. She quit her job and confessed to her unforgiving husband, taking all the blame for the wreckage of her marriage. Now divorced and living far away from where it had all gone wrong, she’s living a life deprived of love when the man she couldn’t resist and never forgot waltzes back into her life.

Parker Hunt was in a struggling marriage when he and Gloria enjoyed a single night of mutual pleasure while traveling for work. Unlike Gloria, he kept quiet about their tryst but still ended up divorced when his wife announced she was leaving him for another man. Parker knew he’d deserved what happened but hoped one day to reclaim the woman who still haunted his dreams. Now that he’s found Gloria, he’s going to make sure they finally get the happy ending they couldn’t have before.

One of the reasons I love reading this author is because her characters are frequently those who don’t often get their own HEA in current romance, namely people over forty. Gloria is in her late forties and Parker is slightly younger, but their age really only comes up in the context of having children, and after the end of her marriage, Gloria has already resigned herself to remaining childless. This author also handles the touchy topic of infidelity quite well here, which is remarkable considering both the main characters cheated on their respective spouses with each other years before the events of this story take place. For some readers, that would be a deal breaker from the start, but for me they both showed they’d regretted their actions and knew they’d been in the wrong. Indeed, so much of this story is showing how Gloria had punished herself much more severely than anyone that for me to do the same would be unfair.

Meanwhile Rhonda Baker, the HR VP who tried to ruin Jordana’s life, is now gunning for Gloria, and her machinations became increasingly annoying for me, even though she does help provide the impetus for Gloria’s epiphany about her need to stop punishing herself over Parker. It was made clear why Rhonda is seemingly allowed to run roughshod over fellow employees but I hope she’ll have her own day of reckoning in a future book.

Overall, it was great to be back in the offices of Brett Baker’s Silicon Valley startup, and I enjoyed seeing more of how the company’s front office gets their work done, as well as the scenes with Jordana and Grady from Desire Actually enjoying their newly public relationship. With A Love Affair to Remember, Jennifer Skully has upheld the excellence she set at the start and continues to keep me excited about getting to read the next book in the series.

four-half-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: 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: 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 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