Tag Archives: Made Me Cry

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

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

Review: Begging For It by Lilah Pace

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

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

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

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

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

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

five-stars

Review: Crosstown Crush by Cara McKenna

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

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

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

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

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

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

five-stars

Review: 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

Review: Call On Me by Roni Loren

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

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Call On Me by Roni LorenCall on Me by Roni Loren
Series:
Published by Penguin on July 7th 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars
The new Loving on the Edge novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Nothing Between Us and Need You Tonight… Oakley Easton wants two things: to be a good mom to her daughter and to ditch her less than ideal night job. Hooking up with bad boy drummer Pike Ryland? Not on the agenda. She needs a promotion. Not sex, tattoos and rock ’n’ roll.Pike isn’t about to let Ms. Prim and Proper shut him down so easily, especially when he stumbles upon Oakley’s sexy night job. She’s only playing a role on those late night calls with strangers, but when he gets her on the line, all bets are off. He won’t stop until that sultry voice is calling his name for real.But as they move from anonymous fantasies in the dark to the flesh-on-hot-flesh reality of the bedroom, the risk of falling in love becomes all too high. And the safe, quiet world that Oakley’s worked so hard to create is about to be exposed to the one person who could ruin it all.

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

Review and Giveaway: The Collar by Tara Sue Me

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

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review and Giveaway: The Collar by Tara Sue MeThe Collar by Tara Sue Me
Series: Submissive #5
Also in this series: The Enticement
Also by this author: The Enticement
Published by Penguin, Penguin Publishing Group on July 7th 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars
The New York Times bestselling author of The Submissive returns with a scintillating new tale about power, danger, and jaw-dropping passion.... Nathaniel and Abby are struggling to navigate the challenging waters of their own relationship, when they get a surprising phone call from their partners in play, Dena and Jeff, who are in need of a helping hand… Seven years ago, blonde, beautiful lawyer Dena Jenkins was tired of her carefully controlled life. Desperate for something exhilarating to help her escape the pressures of her demanding job and her senator father, she joined a steamy, local BDSM club as a submissive. There she met brooding Dominant, Jeff. The attraction between them was undeniable, and, despite Dena’s doubts, they couldn’t stay away from each other. Except, as the years have passed, their blazing connection has proven difficult to maintain. Dena and Jeff have a history they’d rather forget, but Dena can’t let go of the past, and Jeff is ready to move across the country to give her space. Now, to save their passion, they’ll have to rediscover what it means to trust each other—and give themselves to each other completely.

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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.

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four-stars