Tag Archives: My Reviews

Reviews I wrote

Review: Love Under Three Valentinos by Cara Covington

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

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Love Under Three Valentinos by Cara CovingtonLove Under Three Valentinos by Cara Covington
Series: Lusty, Texas #27
Published by Siren Bookstrand on June 19, 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-half-stars

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

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

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

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

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

four-half-stars

Review: Call On Me by Roni Loren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

Review and Giveaway: Caged by Lorelei James

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

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review and Giveaway:  Caged by Lorelei JamesCaged by Lorelei James
Also by this author: Unraveled
Published by Penguin on July 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
In the searing fourth novel in the Mastered Series, following Unraveled, only one woman can set a hardened fighter free from his past.… In order to survive a life of tragedy, Deacon McConnell embraced his roughest edges and learned to fight on the streets. Then a life-changing jujitsu seminar led by Sensei Ronin Black led Deacon to become a professional fighter. With his muscular physique and his body covered in tattoos and scars, the MMA fighter defines mean, both on and off the mat. But everything changes when innocent Molly Calloway signs up for his kickboxing class. Molly is Deacon’s opposite in every way: She’s kind, sweet, thoughtful, and educated. After a heated argument between them turns into a passionate encounter, Deacon realizes Molly is eager to experience more, and she looks to him to take her to the darker edge of lust.... The last thing either of them expects is how deeply their lives will be thrown upside down by the passion they find together.

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie James

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

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie JamesSuddenly One Summer by Julie James
Series: FBI / US Attorney #6
Published by Penguin on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
From the New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Wedding comes a novel about a man and a woman whose summer is about to get very, very hot... Divorce lawyer Victoria Slade has seen enough unhappy endings to swear off marriage forever. That doesn't mean she's opposed to casual dating—just not with her cocky new neighbor, who is as gorgeous and tempting as he is off-limits. But once she agrees to take on his sister's case, she's as determined to win as ever—even if that means teaming up with Ford....Investigative journalist Ford Dixon is bent on finding the man who got his sister pregnant and left her high and dry. He's willing to partner with Victoria, despite the fact that the beautiful brunette gets under his skin like no other woman. He might not be looking to settle down, but there's no denying the scorching attraction between them. Still, the more time he spends with Victoria, the more he realizes that the one woman as skeptical about love as he is might be the only woman he could really fall for…"If you need a great read to throw in your beach bag, make sure Suddenly One Summer is one of your choices." --USA TodayFrom the Paperback edition.

SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER is only the second book I’ve ever read by Julie James, but she has already become a writer I trust to provide a couple I can’t resist in an interesting story filled with seemingly effortless dialogue and just enough plot twists to keep it lively. In this latest entry in her ongoing FBI / US Attorney series, our hero is an investigative journalist who was introduced as a secondary character in a previous book and his heroine is a divorce attorney determined to keep her life free from romantic entanglements.

Victoria Slade wasn’t supposed to move into her new house until the end of summer, but when burglars send her to the hospital with a panic attack, she’s forced to find another less frightening place to live until then. When she meets Ford Dixon, her temporary neighbor, Victoria is tempted, but refuses to let her libido or her heart get her in trouble. What she didn’t count on was getting pulled into Ford’s quest to find the father of his sister’s baby, and how their constant proximity would soon blossom into a romance neither Victoria nor Ford is quite ready to handle.

What I loved the most about SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER is how Julie James takes two people who are complicated characters in their own right and throws them together in a way that not only seems possible but inevitable as we feel every moment they experience on the way to their happy ending. Although Ford and Victoria come from different worlds, the childhood traumas that shaped them aren’t all that dissimilar, and when they reach the inescapable black moment of the story we can see their coping mechanisms are also variations on the same theme. The search for the father of Ford’s sister’s baby may at first seem not directly related to the romance, but as Ford and Victoria become more engrossed in their shared quest, their teamwork helps build the rapport and trust each needs to take their summer affair into something deeper. It’s also what ultimately keeps them in each other’s lives long enough to realize what they have is stronger than any past trauma, and pushes them into the shared leap of faith a real commitment requires.

It’s hard to fully describe the feeling I get when I read a Julie James book without sounding either pretentious or hackneyed. For me, her writing is like a perfectly mixed cocktail or a flawlessly constructed dessert, where you know there was extensive effort behind the scenes to make it all work but all you experience is the sublime result. SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER made me laugh, made me cry, and made me swoon, sometimes all in the same paragraph. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year and reminds me I still need to go back and read all the other titles in this excellent series.

five-stars

Asking For It by Lilah Pace

Asking For It by Lilah Pace

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

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Asking For It by Lilah PaceAsking for It by Lilah Pace
Series: Asking For It #1
Also in this series: Begging for It
Also by this author: Begging for It
Published by Penguin Group USA on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
“This is who I am. This is what I want. Now I need a man dangerous enough to give it to me.” Graduate student Vivienne Charles is afraid of her own desires—ashamed to admit that she fantasizes about being taken by force, by a man who will claim her completely and without mercy. When the magnetic, mysterious Jonah Marks learns her secret, he makes an offer that stuns her: they will remain near-strangers to each other, and meet in secret so that he can fulfill her fantasy. Their arrangement is twisted. The sex is incredible. And—despite their attempts to stay apart—soon their emotions are bound together as tightly as the rope around Vivienne’s wrists. But the secrets in their pasts threaten to turn their affair even darker... Reader Advisory: Asking for It deals explicitly with fantasies of non-consensual sex. Readers sensitive to portrayals of non-consensual sex should be advised.

ASKING FOR IT is an unusual story from a new author, or at least a new name to the genre. I wish I knew the name that Lilah Pace used for her other books, because I want to glom her backlist. Because I loved ASKING FOR IT. I loved it so much that I bought my own copy when it was released weeks after I read the ARC. It’s easily the best book I’ve read so far in 2015, and the only book I’m anticipating being better is the follow up book to come later this year.

Vivienne Charles has a special need for sexual satisfaction, an overwhelming need and a secret shame. Secret until one fateful evening when her drunk ex blurts out the truth in front of the one man who hears and understands. For Jonah Marks has his own wants and desires, and what he wants is what she needs. The forces that let them to this point may be pushing them together, but when long buried secrets are revealed, those same forces will drive them apart just as quickly, perhaps for good.

I’m not going to drop any spoilers to show why I found this book to be so incredibly good because as always, the joy is in the reading. But there is one thing I need to reveal because I’m convinced it will make you like the book more, not less. ASKING FOR IT is not a stand-alone book – it’s book 1 of a duology. That means the romance started here in ASKING FOR IT will not have its happy ending until book 2, BEGGING FOR IT.

If you hate cliffhangers, please know that I hate them just as much, and if I hadn’t known this story was continued in the next book, I’d have felt blindsided. Yet I did know, and as a result, the ending felt more like an intermission between acts, a natural break as opposed to an arbitrary stopping point. Vivienne and Jonah just have so many problems to work out both individually and together that any HEA in this book would have to be rushed and completely unbelievable. By the time ASKING FOR IT ends, there’s so much we know about Vivienne, but we’ve only just begun to plumb Jonah’s depths, and why what Vivienne wanted is what he wanted to give her…until it wasn’t.

If you’ve read the blurb or the disclaimers, you know what this book is about. It’s a woman with rape fantasies and a man willing to make them happen for her. But what this book is also about is consent, in big flashing capital letters. Consent is what brings Vivienne and Jonah together. Consent is what differentiates their relationship from any other either has ever had. And lack of consent is what could ultimately tear them apart. Because consent needs to be mutual, or it doesn’t exist at all.

The line that resonated with me the most about consent is also what I keep coming back to when someone asks me why their story had to be in two separate books. It was spoken by Vivienne’s therapist about Jonah, and it’s part of why this book was so different for me in a genre overrun with dub-con, non-con, and every variation of what is sold as “dark romance” these days.

“But he gets to have limits too.”

Readers also get to have limits. ASKING FOR IT might hit your limits, and that’s understandable. But if this is the kind of book you think you might like, I think you might like it a lot. I know I did.


Excerpt

“Enough about me,” I say as the weekend-night bustle flows around us – college kids heading to bars, stores open late to take advantage of the foot traffic, guitar music and drumbeats audible from the door of every club. “What about you? What made you decide to study earthquakes?”

“And volcanoes,” he adds.

“Can’t leave out the volcanoes,” I say, and am rewarded with a small smile.

“Well, when I was about ten years old, my mother and stepfather took the whole family to Hawaii.”

Stepfather, I note. Jonah could have no memory of his real father, and Carter Hale’s been married to Jonah’s mother for almost three decades. Most kids in that situation would wind up calling their stepfathers Dad. Not Jonah.

He continues, “Like most tourists in Hawaii, we went out to see the volcanoes. I hadn’t imagined you could get that close to the lava flow. When I saw it – glowing orange with heat, pure liquid stone –” To my surprise, he grins. “I was ten, so I thought it was totally cool.”

I laugh out loud. “So that’s how you picked your scientific specialty? Because it was cool?”

“Any scientist who tells you something different is lying. If you’re going to spend your entire life studying something, it needs to thrill you. Volcanoes and earthquakes thrilled me when I was a kid, and they still do. Even after all the studies and the dissertation and months of looking at nothing but seismograph readings. I get a charge out of it every time.”

“Hey, they always say that if you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work,” I say.

Which is a crock.” When I raise an eyebrow at Jonah, his smile regains some of the fierceness I know so well. “If you spend twelve hours in a row doing something – anything – it feels like work.”

Laughing, I admit, “Okay, yes. The studio’s my favorite place to be, but there are times when I feel like if I go in there one more time, I’ll tear my hair out. Still, I’d rather go crazy making art than do anything else.”

Jonah nods. “That’s it exactly.”

“So you get to spend your whole life chasing lava.”

“And you’ll spend yours making art.”

“Yes and no,” I say. “After graduation I’m hoping to go into museum work. Preserving old etchings, curating important pieces, even using original plates from centuries ago to make new prints.”

He gives me a look. “You should do your own work. Not worry about taking care of someone else’s.”

“It’s not either/or. I’ll never stop creating my own work. But even if I set the entire art world on fire, it’ll be years before I can support myself through my etchings alone – if ever. So there’s going to be a day job for a while, probably a long while. Should I do something boring that sucks my soul away one day at a time? Or should I surround myself with some of the greatest etchings of all time, and help other people understand how amazing they are?”

After a moment, Jonah nods. “When you put it that way, okay. I see it.”

Then his hand brushes against mine. At first I think he’s drawing me aside as we go past a group of college kids drunkenly weaving along the sidewalk. After they pass, though, he adjusts his grip, twining our fingers together.

Jonah Marks has screwed me hotter and dirtier than any other man ever has – and yet my heart flutters like a girl’s as he holds my hand for the first time. 


About the author

Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling YA author. This is her first adult novel.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

five-stars

Review: Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden

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 Mine by Jackie AshendenMake You Mine by Jackie Ashenden
Series: Nine Circles #2
Published by Macmillan on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Gothic, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
In the Nine Circles Club, one lucky man gets more than his share of money, power, and women--until he meets a beautiful opponent who plays in the name of love...in Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden.He's raising the stakes.International playboy Alex St. James always plays to win. Whether it's betting on a high-stakes card game--or bedding a high-class socialite--the gorgeous world-class gambler knows how to beat the odds using his brains, his body, and a whole lot of charm. But there's one woman who's immune to Alex's bag of tricks--which makes her the perfect challenge...and the ultimate prize.She's going all in.Once a special operative in her native Russia, Katya Ivanov knows what kind of man Alex is. As his personal bodyguard, she's seen him seduce the richest women, place the riskiest bets, and break the hardest players. But to even a score from her past, she's willing to take a gamble on her reckless boss. Even if she has to pretend to be his lover. Even if he drives her mad with desire. And then she never wants this dangerous game to end...

This review may contain spoilers for MINE TO TAKE, the first book in the Nine Circles series. You could try to read MAKE YOU MINE as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

MAKE YOU MINE is the second book in Jackie Ashenden’s romantic suspense series Nine Circles, telling the story of how another member of the “bleeped-up billionaires club” finds his own true love when he least expects it. And while the first book MINE TO TAKE was a great introduction to the Nine Circles world, MAKE YOU MINE took off like a rocket from where that story left off and didn’t stop until I was breathless and crying for fictional characters like they were actually real.

Alex St. James has tried to protect himself and everyone else in his life by pretending not to care about anything except making money and pleasures of the flesh. Caring nearly killed him once, and he refuses to be vulnerable a second time. But when he needs his lovely bodyguard to be his pawn in a plot for revenge against the man who changed his life forever, Alex discovers that not only does he care, but that being cared for in return can be the greatest strength of all.

Betrayed by family and country, Katya found work as a bodyguard to an American billionaire playboy while waiting for news about the missing man she’s promised to marry. She is paid to protect his body, but it’s his soul that she worries about. As Alex’s plan unfolds, only Katya’s unswerving loyalty and Alex’s last shreds of humanity stand between them and the loss of everything they both hold dear.

One of the things I love about Jackie Ashenden’s stories is how her characters always pull at my heartstrings so brutally that I sometimes have to put the book down, but never so much that I won’t immediately pick it back up again. And then just when I think it’s reached the lowest point of what could possibly happen, she hits me with one more punch that leaves me both reeling and begging for more. in MAKE YOU MINE, Alex and Katya burn up the page every time they are together, even while a terrible menace hangs over them for most of the book. And as they each reveal their closest secrets to each other, that menace seems less threatening if only because they know that nothing can really hurt them as long as they have each other. The suspense plot brings them together, but it’s their romance that propels the book and that’s what makes it a romantic suspense I can wholeheartedly recommend. And with the overall Nine Circles storyline still unresolved, I’m even more eager to read YOU ARE MINE than I was to read this book.

five-stars

Review: Seduced By Sunday by Catherine Bybee

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:  Seduced By Sunday by Catherine BybeeSeduced by Sunday by Catherine Bybee
Published by Amazon Publishing on April 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 310
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
She swore off love forever...but he just might change her mind. The sixth sweet, thrilling book in the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling Weekday Brides series from Catherine Bybee. Meg Rosenthal: Matchmaker by day, realist by night, Meg is not about to get swept away by a charming, darkly handsome businessman in a designer suit. She's come to a beautiful secluded resort to evaluate the private island's potential for her agency, not to ogle its owner. But there's something about the magnetic man that's hard to resist, even for a woman who refuses to fall in love. Valentino Masini: A successful and drop-dead sexy businessman, Valentino is used to having the finer things in life. Yet he's never wanted someone the way he wants Meg, who's stirring up a hurricane of trouble in his heart. But just as he decides to convince her to stay, someone else decides it might be time to get Meg off the island...permanently.

One of the very first romances I read as an ebook several years ago was WIFE BY WEDNESDAY by Catherine Bybee, and it’s still one of my favorite contemporary romances. Since then, that book has been followed by several others in what’s now known as the Weekday Brides series, where each day of the week features another heroine and hero finding their way to each other and a well deserved HEA. What I’ve noticed as the series progresses is that each book in turn has been more romantic suspense than straight up romance. And now with this latest book, SEDUCED BY SUNDAY, what I’d feared would happen has occurred – the actual romance has been downgraded to just another facet of a complicated suspense plot that ends up taking over all but the beginning and ending of the entire book.

SEDUCED BY SUNDAY starts out well enough as we get to know Meg Rosenthal, one of the highly skilled matchmakers working for Alliance, the company started by the heroine of WIFE BY WEDNESDAY. Alliance has successfully matched up several couples who need to be married for reasons other than love, but as we’ve seen in the previous books, sometimes those alliances turn into love, and sometimes they lead its participants to love matches within the circle of those who initially brought them together. In this story, Meg is taking Michael, the closeted gay actor we met two books earlier, to a resort island run by Valentine Masini in the hopes that this resort will work well as a private honeymoon destination for future Alliance clients. But as Meg and Valentine try not to succumb to their shared sexual attraction, their promised privacy is violated by someone with much bigger plans than mere blackmail. By the end of this story, there will be terrible betrayals and more than a few dead bodies, but the promised HEA for Meg and Val will not be denied.

What made SEDUCED BY SUNDAY a less enjoyable read for me wasn’t just how the suspense plot became the focus of the story instead of Meg and Val’s budding romance. It was how that plot went from mysterious photographs hinting at blackmail to a sudden and lengthy trip to Italy while another secondary character was kidnapped and abused, culminating with the heroine saving herself in a way that I could not believe one bit. Then when the romance was finally taken up again near the end, I was supposed to believe that the heroine really didn’t know the hero loved her because she didn’t know the Italian translation of “I love you.” I might have been able to swallow one unbelievable ending, but both were just too much for me. And even though I will always love WIFE BY WEDNESDAY, it’s clear that the series has transformed into a subgenre where I don’t care to follow, so SEDUCED BY SUNDAY will be my last Weekday Brides book.

three-stars

Review: The Billionaire’s Ink Mistress by Joely Sue Burkhart

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:  The Billionaire’s Ink Mistress by Joely Sue BurkhartThe Billionaire's Ink Mistress by Joely Sue Burkhart
Series: Billionaires in Bondage #2
Published by Samhain on April 7 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotica, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 216
Format: eARC
four-half-stars
His desire for her pierces deeper than skin.

Billionaires in Bondage, Book 2

The Lawyer

Jackson Montgomery Warring never lets opposing counsel see him sweat. Juggling a dozen billionaire clients on a daily basis, he’s always perfectly prepared, calm, cool and collected. Until he meets his best friend’s fiancée, the luscious Mistress L.

Now he wants a Mistress for himself. Badly. Except the one who’s caught his eye is his complete opposite—a Goth-booted, tatted and pierced priestess of the local tattoo scene.

The Inker

For over a year, Diana Temple has been too busy at her up-and-coming tattoo shop to throw one of her legendary BDSM parties. But for Jackson, she’ll make the time, especially since the slick, fancy lawyer admits he likes to watch.

The Secret

If she thought her edgy style might turn him off, she’s happy to discover she’s wrong. But when she learns his secret addiction, she might refuse to teach him a thing or two about submission.

Or maybe she’ll just punish him harder…

Warning: A rich, successful attorney in a downward spiral, a tattoo artist who happens to be a Mistress, a secret addiction and a peek at exhibitionism/voyeurism.

One of the best books I read in 2014 was THE BILLIONAIRE SUBMISSIVE, the first book in a new series from Joely Sue Burkhart, who continues to be one of my favorite erotic romance writers. So of course I was excited about this second book, THE BILLIONAIRE’S INK MISTRESS, and I’m happy to report that it was nearly as good a read as the previous one.

Jackson Warring is an overworked overachieving lawyer who presents a perfect facade to the world even as his actual life is falling apart. Yet he has no idea what he can do to stop his downward spiral…not until one fateful day when he has to visit his best friend Donovan Morgan on business and discovers the new relationship that has made that man happier than he’s ever seen. That’s when Jackson realizes exactly what he needs, and begs Donovan’s Mistress L for help. Lilly’s friend Diana seems like the perfect match for Jackson even though they come from completely different worlds. But as Diana and Jackson begin to learn each other’s secrets, their happy ending is far from certain, and anything less might be too much to bear.

The best part of THE BILLIONAIRE’S INK MISTRESS was how it avoided the more obvious ways the plot could play out for something less expected, yet more realistic. Of course there were class-based conflicts between Diana’s world and Jackson’s, and the way they each rose to every occasion proved that their love wasn’t based solely on their powerful sexual attraction. Even after the reasons why Jackson had pushed himself to his physical and emotional limit before meeting Diana seemed to be resolved, there had to be one last big threat which only Jackson could resolve himself, leaving Diana to wait and hope he would find his way back to her for good. But none of it the way I might have expected, and that’s what made this great book even better for me. With the Billionaires in Bondage books, Joely Sue Burkhart continues to subvert popular romance tropes and that’s what makes this a must-read series for me.

four-half-stars

Review: The Enticement 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:  The Enticement by Tara Sue MeThe Enticement by Tara Sue Me
Series: Submissive #4
Also in this series: The Collar
Also by this author: The Collar
Published by Penguin on April 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
New York Times bestselling author Tara Sue Me returns to the story of Abby and Nathaniel to explore the passion after the ‘Happily-Ever-After’…Limits were made to be pushed.Abby West has everything she wanted: a family, a skyrocketing new career, and a sexy, Dominant husband who fulfills her every need. Only, as her life outside the bedroom becomes hectic, her Master’s sexual requirements inside become more extreme. Abby doesn’t understand Nathaniel’s increased need for control, but she can’t deny the delicious way her body reacts to his tantalizing demands…Between Abby’s reluctance and Nathaniel’s unyielding commands, the delicate balance of power between the Dominant and his submissive threatens to shift. And as the underlying tension and desire between them heats up, so does the struggle to keep everything they value from falling apart …

One of the reasons I’ve loved Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series is the way she continues to show its romantic couple – Nathaniel and Abby – grow in their love for each other while they deal with everything married life continues to throw at them. It’s not often we get to see a D/s erotic romance couple in their lives together after the HEA, but THE ENTICEMENT, the latest book in this series, is just as fascinating and enjoyable as its predecessors.

Now that Abby and Nathaniel have been married for a while, it seems almost inevitable that they might fall into a bit of a rut in their interactions, and their D/s relationship is no exception. When a new career opportunity for Abby comes up just as Nathaniel is looking to hand off day-to-day control of his charitable foundation, the combined stress has the potential to either strengthen their D/s commitment or open a split in what each believes the other wants both in and out of the bedroom.

What I loved most about THE ENTICEMENT was how neither Nathaniel nor Abby ever once took each other’s happiness for granted even with all the big changes they had to navigate in this story. It was great to see Nathaniel truly happy for Abby’s success and not feel threatened by how it might affect his privacy. And even though Abby had continuing doubts about the new woman trying to come between her and Nathaniel, Abby still trusted in Nathaniel’s love. Best of all, when their D/s relationship began to reflect the major upheaval, they both eventually realized that they needed to communicate what they were feeling and thinking, making the changes deliberate instead of just a knee-jerk reaction to everything going on. Neither one of them is perfect, and they make mistakes along the way, just like anyone else would. But both Nathaniel and Abby know they love each other, and that is what keeps them from losing touch with what’s really important. It’s as realistic a portrayal as one can be for a contemporary billionaire Dom and his submissive wife, and I can’t wait to see what happens in Nathaniel and Abby’s lives next.

four-stars

Review: Beauty’s Kingdom by Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquelaure

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: Beauty’s Kingdom by Anne Rice, writing as A.N. RoquelaureBeauty's Kingdom by A. N. RoquelaureAnne Rice
Published by VIKING on April 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
The erotic Sleeping Beauty trilogy now continues with a fourth novel by master storyteller and bestselling author of Prince Lestat, Anne Rice, writing as A. N. Roquelaure   Mega-bestselling author Annie Rice returns to where she left off in Beauty’s Release with the disappearance of Queen Eleanor in Bellavalten. Now, twenty years after they were forced to leave the kingdom to return to their homeland, Beauty and her husband Laurent agree to travel back as its king and queen, to uphold the ways of complete sensual surrender, with a twist: they now insist on voluntary servitude in Bellavalten.   Countless eager princes, princesses, lords, ladies, and common folk journey to Beauty’s new kingdom where she and her husband awaken their domain, ushering in a new era of desire, longing, and sexual ecstasy. Provocative and stirring, Rice’s imaginative retelling of the Sleeping Beauty myth will be hailed by her longtime fans and new readers of erotica just discovering the novels. This book is intended for mature audiences.

BEAUTY’S KINGDOM is the surprise addition to the infamous Sleeping Beauty trilogy written by Anne Rice under a pseudonym over thirty years ago. In the history of erotic literature, the Beauty books hold a special place of honor and with good cause. From THE CLAIMING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY, through BEAUTY’S PUNISHMENT, and ending with BEAUTY’S RELEASE, we see the innocent sheltered heroine both figuratively and literally awakened to a whole new sensual world neither she nor we thought existed. Each book goes deeper in and further out so that by the time Princess Beauty finds her Happy Ever After with the powerful Prince Laurent, the reader can’t help but be as changed by the experience as its titular character.

But now it’s twenty years later in Beauty’s world, and the domain where she discovered both her true nature and her true love is in danger of collapse. The task ahead is great, and it will take the help of friends both old and new to secure their beloved land’s future. All this and more is the story of how Queen Eleanor’s kingdom is transformed into Beauty’s kingdom.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed reading BEAUTY’S KINGDOM even half as much as I’ve loved the original trilogy. But it became clear to me early on that this book was trying to hook new readers unfamiliar with the previous books while still servicing existing fans by bringing back nearly every named character from the original kingdom. The result is a story that falls down in the two areas where the original books excelled, namely exposition and pacing. It wasn’t wonderful and it wasn’t terrible. It was just…there.

In the original trilogy, the story is focused on Beauty herself, and to some extent, the people with whom she comes in contact on her voyage to self-discovery and love. We are given just enough information about where Beauty is and why it matters, leaving the rest for our own imaginations to run wild. But in BEAUTY’S KINGDOM, everything is laid out for the reader in such meticulous detail that it soon becomes a struggle just to absorb everything without losing track of wherever the plot is supposed to be going.

Thanks to all the catching up on what happened since the last book and all the details involved in Beauty and Laurent deciding to accept the throne, it takes seven long chapters – nearly a third of the book – before we actually get to Beauty’s kingdom. Before then, it’s pages and pages of “and then this happened” with name checks for all the original characters in the kingdom, even those who’d just been mentioned briefly in the earlier books, and for me it was easily the most deadly dull part of the whole book. By the time we finally arrive nine months and a hundred pages later, all I could picture was that scene in Monty Python And The Holy Grail where everyone is yelling “Get on with it!”

The most disappointing thing for me about BEAUTY’S KINGDOM was how little we get of Beauty or Laurent’s points of view once they are established as the new rulers. Most of the book is about how Lady Eva kept the kingdom traditions going in the absence of its previous rulers and then how each of Beauty and Laurent’s fellow pleasure slaves from twenty years ago return to take control over various areas of activity in support of the new regime. There are a few chapters here and there featuring “volunteers” in the new and improved pleasure slave experience, and those were the stories that kept me reading when I was tempted to give up. But for someone whose name is in the title of the book, Beauty herself gets precious little time in BEAUTY’S KINGDOM, and the book suffers in her absence.

Yet all could have been forgiven if the ending of BEAUTY’S KINGDOM was worth the work to get there. The other characters constantly refer to some terrible secret involving Lexius, the mysterious Sultan’s servant who’d been mastered by Laurent back in the third book, but when both he and it are subsequently revealed, I didn’t know whether to be amused or appalled. Meanwhile in the few glimpses we get of Beauty herself, we can see she’s still not fully content with her role in the new kingdom despite all the public credit given to her. Up until the very last scene, I was holding out hope that the parallels drawn between her and the pitiable Sir Stephen were hinting at an updated happy ending for her. But like so much of what preceded it, what is intended as Beauty’s ultimate triumph fell flat for me. By then, I was happier to be done with the story than with what I got at the end.

In conclusion, for me BEAUTY’S KINGDOM was as overstuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey, and just as lifeless. I’m not sorry i read BEAUTY’S KINGDOM. I’m only sorry it wasn’t better.

View all my reviews

three-stars