Tag Archives: Samhain

Review: Never Let You Down by Joely Sue Burkhart

Never Let You DownNever Let You Down by Joely Sue Burkhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at Night Owl Reviews.

Review Excerpt:

Much like the unconventional relationships highlighted in each of the previous Connagher books, NEVER LET YOU DOWN also features an unconventional way of telling the multi-layered story of Virginia and Jeb’s romance. We have a view of the present day as Jeb returns to woo the woman he’d never stopped loving. We also view the past, as all the questions about how he is inextricably linked to Virginia and Ty are eventually answered in full. And then, as the past and present wind their way around each other toward the anticipated HEA, a third voice enters the story in the form of a book within the book — a slightly over the top erotic western romance with a more than passing resemblance to the love story being told in the rest of the book. This manner of storytelling is risky with the danger of confusing the reader, but I was able to easily keep the three portions separate while appreciating how they all fit together as closely as Virginia, Ty, and Jeb did by the end of the book. It’s a beautiful love story in all its combinations, and a wonderful addition to one of my favorite erotic romance series.

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Review: Reward of Three by Kelly Jamieson

Reward of Three (Rule of Three, #3)Reward of Three by Kelly Jamieson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for RULE OF THREE and RHYTHM OF THREE. It would make absolutely no sense to try to read REWARD OF THREE without reading those two titles first.

Kassidy, Chris, and Dag discovered their mutual love in RULE OF THREE, and learned to live together as a triad in RHYTHM OF THREE, but now it’s time for them to take the next big step in REWARD OF THREE, one that will either cement their relationship for good or split them apart forever. For Kassidy is pregnant, and the resulting upheaval will be the ultimate test of their mutual love. And when things don’t go as planned, each of the three will need to recommit their love and trust in each other, regardless of what might happen next.

What I have loved about the Rule of Three series from the very beginning is how it presents the concept of a true MMF poly relationship in a non-idealized contemporary setting. In each of the stories, these three strong personalities have had to learn to adapt to each other and compromise in ways a mere couple would never have had to face. Yet so many of the issues Kassidy, Chris, and Dag have are all too familiar, especially once Kassidy lets her men know they are going to have a baby together. Chris’s parents have kept their distance ever since they found out Chris and Dag were as sexually bonded with each other as with Kassidy, and their absence is still keenly felt. Dag has no living parents, but his terrible childhood makes him worry that he can’t be a good father. Only Kassidy has the advantage of a family that’s present and loving, but that can only go so far to help her deal with all that happens after she announces her pregnancy.

In the previous two stories, Kassidy was the glue that brought and kept Chris and Dag together with her in love and support, but it made sense here in REWARD OF THREE that this time she was the one with the deep emotional crisis. Although I’ve found Dag to often be the weakest link of the three, it was great to see him figure out his own mistakes proactively instead of having to be dragged into the light yet again. But Chris was the true revelation of all in this story, as Kassidy’s pregnancy provided a bridge back to his parents that allowed them all to start healing the wounds of the past. And as an avowed lover of epilogues, I couldn’t help but enjoy the one here, baby and all. For me, REWARD OF THREE was just as much of a reward as to its main characters, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to see the three of them settled down at last.

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Review: The Billionaire Submissive by Joely Sue Burkhart

The Billionaire Submissive (Billionaires in Bondage)The Billionaire Submissive by Joely Sue Burkhart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Joely Sue Burkhart is one of the writers I wish would release more books each year because I enjoy reading them so much. Her Connaghers series is one of my favorites in contemporary BDSM romance, so I was thrilled to hear that she was starting a new Billionaires in Bondage series with this first title, THE BILLIONAIRE SUBMISSIVE. Sure, it’s an overplayed trope, but who better to breathe new life into it than someone who has already established her credentials in the BDSM romance field? After reading this book, I can say without hesitation that Ms. Burkhart has more than validated my confidence in her ability to make the BDSM Billionaire trope her own, with a story that’s as beautiful and touching as any romance I’ve read in a long time.

The premise of THE BILLIONAIRE SUBMISSIVE is as simple as its title, and as complex as its hero and heroine. Donovan Morgan has learned the hard way that only money and power can get you what you want, and even then, they aren’t always enough. He has employees all over the world at his beck and call, but what he really needs is to serve at the feet of a woman worthy of his submission. As a public figure, Donovan can’t just wander into any BDSM club, or show up at a local munch, so he asks his trusted private investigator to find the best and most trustworthy Domme in the immediate vicinity. But when his ace PI uncovers a woman who could be more than just the perfect Mistress, Donovan will soon discover that true submission is only part of what he needs, and just the start of what he wants to give her.

Lilly Harrison is a stained glass artist by day, Dominatrix for hire by night. Both feed her soul, but only one pays the bills. When she first meets Donovan under his pretext of hiring her for an elaborate window design project, Lilly senses the submissive inside the bossy billionaire. But when she realizes why she’s really there, it’s only against her better judgment that Lilly decides to take a chance with Donovan and all the possibilities he brings. Their sexual connection is instant and undeniable, but a happy ending is far from certain, and the road there could break them both as easily as the stained glass in Lilly’s window. It will take everything they’ve got before all the delicate and jagged pieces come together for their hard-won Happy Ever After.

I’ve read dozens of billionaire BDSM romances, and more than a few with a FemDom theme, but THE BILLIONAIRE SUBMISSIVE is currently the only one where every aspect has clicked perfectly into place for me all the way from the first page to the last. Both Donovan and Lilly are fully realized individuals who aren’t forced together by external events, but who agree to an exclusive D/s relationship in spite of Donovan’s initial heavy-handed tactics and Lilly’s reluctance to make him her sole client. As their story unfolds, we get both points of view without ever being bogged down in superfluous descriptions, or confused by excessive head-hopping. Best of all, their romance is shown as an ongoing work-in-progress throughout the book, with the natural give and take that any two people with reasonable boundaries and expectations would experience, albeit one where the woman is dominant in the bedroom and the man is dominant outside it. Lilly is never awed by Donovan’s wealth or status, but learns to accept that he will never allow her to jeopardize her own safety and well-being. In turn, Donovan learns that you can’t force love and trust; you can only show yourself worthy by giving it without question in return. And when some terrible misunderstanding threatens to derail everything near the end, Joely Sue Burkhart once again avoids manufactured drama, instead giving us the ultimate scene of trust between Donovan and Lilly that demonstrates all they’ve learned from each other and proving their love and trust is both genuine and mutual. Their HEA is as real and as beautiful as the glass window Lilly has created for Donovan’s office building, only infinitely more precious. That ending and the journey to it is why THE BILLIONAIRE SUBMISSIVE is now officially the best FemDom romance I’ve ever read, and my best romance for this year so far. I absolutely cannot wait for the next book in this series.

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Review: Having Her by Jackie Ashenden

Having Her (Lies We Tell, #2)Having Her by Jackie Ashenden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

After experiencing one of my biggest book hangovers ever with Jackie Ashenden’s first book in the Lies We Tell series, TAKING HIM, I knew I would be in for it with HAVING HER, and boy howdy, was I ever right. In this second book, we get to see what happened after Kara, Ellie’s best friend, suddenly excused herself from the bar at the comic convention they were both attending in a scene from the previous book. We already know how things went down with Ellie and Hunter — now it’s Kara’s turn with Ellie’s super hot but totally disapproving brother, Vin. And as wonderful as TAKING HIM was, HAVING HER manages to be even better.

Kara may put up an aggressive front against the world at large, but it’s all just to protect herself from more heartbreak after her trust in love and family was shattered at the hands of her alcoholic mother. Since then, it’s been easier for Kara to put others off than to let them close enough to reject her first. But that’s made it difficult for her to accomplish her new self-imposed task of finally losing her virginity, despite her multiple attempts to pick up a strange man for just that purpose. Picking up guys was easy; it’s what to do with one once she had him that still had Kara stumped. At least she knew that Ellie’s brother Vin would always be there to rescue her, even when she didn’t want him to. Especially then. But when Vin insists on picking Kara up at the door of yet another random guy who’d expected more than she was prepared to offer, she realizes that the answer to her problem is right in front of her. Vin.

When Vin and Ellie’s mother became seriously mentally ill and their father did his disappearing act, it was up to Vin to keep his baby sister safe. Now, years later, protection mode is all that Vin seems to know how to do well. He’s also convinced himself that he’s just like his rotten father, that he could never truly love another person. Despite all this, Vin still finds himself drawn to Kara, even as everything she does grates on him. The crazy clothes, the ever-changing hair colors, the insistence on constantly placing herself in what he considers dangerous situations…it’s enough to make a man insane. So when Kara sets her sights on him as the man to relieve her of her virginity, he refuses outright, only agreeing after she goads him beyond his otherwise iron control. Vin makes it clear that this will be on his terms only, and love should not be expected or given. But Kara needs someone to take charge, and Vin is just the guy to do it. Things between them seem to be progressing nicely, until the day when an unexpected event changes the nature of their relationship forever. That’s when Vin and Kara must each face what damaged them in the past if they want to embrace the happiness they both deserve in the future.

When I say this HAVING HER was an emotional read for me, I mean it was all cheering, laughing, yelling, swooning, and crying in large amounts. Jackie Ashenden knows how to make you feel for her characters in a way that pulls at your heart without piling on the drama in outrageous ways or unbelievable amounts. Yes, Kara and Vin both had traumatic childhoods, and yes, it’s messed them up in ways that kept them both from being able to reach out to anyone else until now. But the emotional moments in HAVING HER come from the intimate scenes where their hearts and souls are exposed to each other, not from wallowing in overwhelming grief at what’s already past. This book is a true erotic romance, in that the intimate scenes between its hero and heroine are essential to the plot and character development in every way. It’s only through kinky sex that Kara and Vin can even begin to learn to communicate with each other, and it’s the result of their sexual relationship that forces them into deciding whether to commit to each other fully, or to walk away from their first, and possibly last, chance at true love. I was so drained by the time they reached their happy ending that all I could do was grab a box of tissues and cry it all out. In a good way, mind you. In a very good way. I don’t know if Jackie Ashenden has other books planned for this series, but I know I’ll be the first in line to read one. I may have recovered from this book by then.

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Review: Perfect Catch by Sierra Dean

Perfect Catch (Boys of Summer, #2)Perfect Catch by Sierra Dean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Sometimes you read a sports romance where the romance is great but the sport isn’t represented accurately. Sometimes you read one where the sport is spot-on but the romance is lacking. And then sometimes, if you’re very, very lucky, you read a sports romance where everything is done perfectly. It can’t be a coincidence that during this first week of the new baseball season, I got lucky with PERFECT CATCH, the second book in Sierra Dean’s Boys of Summer series. (I also enjoyed the first book, PITCH PERFECT, but you don’t have to read that book for this one to make sense.)

PERFECT CATCH is the story of a woman who’s had to be everyone else’s rock and how she finally finds the one guy who will be that person for her in return. Alice Darling may have made a huge mistake years before in trusting a professional ballplayer with her heart and her body, but her beloved daughter Liv is worth every sacrifice, even if it means working two jobs and swearing off all baseball players for good. And as a part-time umpire for spring training and minor league games, the last thing Alice needs is to be accused of using her feminine wiles on the players to get ahead. What she never planned on was the likes of Alex Ross crossing her path. It’s easy for Alice to ignore all the guys when she’s hiding behind her umpire’s mask and gear. But it’s harder to pass up a good-looking guy in a broken-down Porsche, especially when you’re the only one who can help him change a flat tire.

Alex Ross thought this would be just another pre-season, just the usual six weeks in Florida needed to make sure his game was up to snuff before Opening Day. When his rental car got a flat, he didn’t expect a beautiful woman with dangerous curves to be his rescuer. But Alex knows he’d like to get to know her better, whatever it might take. Despite how close they quickly become, Alice is sure Alex will be out of her life for good when spring training ends. But he can’t get her out of his head or heart, and when that distraction leads him back to the minors to get back his pre-season form, nothing and nobody will be able to keep Alex from being the guy Alice really needs.

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that Sierra Dean and I follow each other on Twitter. She’s a diehard Detroit Tigers fan and I’m a lifelong Kansas City Royals fan, but we would never hold that against each other. Thanks to her tweets, I know she would no more confuse the infield fly rule for a ground rule double than she’d assume that any reader new to baseball would be expected to know either one. And that’s what has made me a confident reader for her baseball-themed romance novels. Whether or not the romance ends up working for me, I’m always assured that every moment spent in or around the ballpark will ring true, without the added distraction of easily avoidable errors.

But make no mistake, the romance is just as spot on here as every little baseball-related detail. Alice has been let down by every person in her life except her young daughter: the brother who treats his depression with pills and booze, the mother who only sees someone who refused to diet down to nothing and trusted the wrong men, and that particular wrong man who left them behind on his way to the major leagues. Why shouldn’t Alex be the same? And yet, Alex is as different to the rest as day is to night. He refuses to let Alice paint him with the same brush as everyone else, but he also realizes that he has to go slowly if she’s going to be able to trust in him. Of course, they both make mistakes, but none are too terrible or insurmountable between two adults who love and want to be loved in return. And when Alex and Alice finally find their happy ending together with Liv, everything that happened before just makes it all the more satisfying. Not a moment is wasted in PERFECT CATCH; every scene is essential. And all through the story, Alex and Alice’s shared love of the game adds that special flavor that you can only get with a well-written sports romance. I can’t wait to read the next one in this series.

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Review: Chasing Kings by Sierra Dean

Chasing KingsChasing Kings by Sierra Dean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

How does a somewhat sheltered bookseller from Oregon end up in a decadent Vegas hotel suite with the most famous man in porn? The setup for how Samantha Hart meets Ethan Silver goes way beyond “meet cute” into an unlikely alliance that ultimately turns into an emotional connection. In the process, both Samantha and Ethan face some hard truths about themselves, including the fact that they might actually have a future together.

The adult film industry might be sleazy and unattractive, but Ethan is neither. He’s handsome and sweet and funny and pretty much a dream date for anyone not otherwise turned off by his profession. Samantha is completely unlike any of the women he works with on a daily basis, and that difference is what initially makes her so attractive to him. But Ethan’s ties to the porn world aren’t easily set aside, and when his attempt to help a fellow co-star puts him in the sights of a deadly criminal, Samantha is the only one who he can turn to for help.

There were so many things I loved about Chasing Kings. I loved how Ethan was shown as more than just a porn star without glossing over the reality of how the adult movie industry can ruin people’s lives. I loved that Samantha didn’t immediately judge Ethan for the choices he’d made in his life, and how she was willing to help him out above and beyond what he’d expected, despite the possible repercussions in her own life. But the best part of Chasing Kings was how Sierra Dean was able to keep the compressed timeframe of the story from overwhelming the growing romance between its hero and heroine. She also ensured that all the usual shortcuts and stereotypes that might have been expected to happen didn’t, keeping me guessing in a good way all the way up to the lovely Happy For Now ending. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Chasing Kings and hope for more stories like this from Sierra Dean in the future.

Favorite Quote:
As good as Ethan was at everything else, it was his kisses that were going to ruin her. He kissed like old romance heroes. Like Rhett Butler sweeping Scarlett O’Hara off her feet, or Heathcliff condemning Cathy to never love another.

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Review: Steady Beat by Lexxie Couper

Steady Beat (Heart of Fame, #4)Steady Beat by Lexxie Couper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.

STEADY BEAT is the fourth book in Lexxie Couper’s Heart of Fame series, but I had no problem reading it as a stand-alone. The band previously known as Blackthorne has been on hiatus since their eponymous leader found his one true love in LOVE’S RHYTHM, the first book in this series. Their talented drummer, Noah Holden, is at loose ends since his swimsuit model girlfriend, Heather, dumped him for their dog-walker three months earlier, and worries that his ADHD will keep him from ever being able to have a real relationship outside the band. When “Blackthorne sans Blackthorne” meets in a local bar to discuss an offer to reform for a lucrative movie soundtrack, it’s their waitress, Pepper Kerrigan, who seizes on the perfect opportunity to get an audition as their new lead singer. What she ends up with is an immediate attraction to Noah and the chance of a lifetime. But can the new band survive both their sparks and the unforeseen return of Heather into Noah’s life?

As much as I try to avoid using this phrase in a review, I can’t help but say it for STEADY BEAT: I wanted to like this book more than I did. The premise was like catnip for me, featuring a shy and gifted heroine with a lifelong dream to sing with a band, meeting a sexy and sweet drummer who sees in her the woman who could be the steady love he’d thought he’d had before. The way Pepper and Noah meet borders on unbelievable, but Lexxie Couper makes it work, mostly because Noah is such an ingratiating hero who made me want to believe that this was all for real.

I’m generally inclined to give insta-lust a pass if what follows provides insight as to why these two people would have such a compelling attraction and shows the fallout from what happens next, especially when the couple have such disparate backgrounds as these two do. What I’m not inclined to ignore is when the insta-lust morphs into a seemingly magical cure for a genuine medical ailment such as Noah’s acknowledged ADHD. Meanwhile, we have a heroine who self-identifies as “chronically shy” but has somehow succeeded previously as a band manager and now wants to be the new lead singer for the reformed version of a world-famous rock band. I honestly didn’t know if I should be relieved or disappointed that Noah didn’t cure Pepper’s shyness in the same way she settled his attention span deficit, since it was that shyness that threw an unwelcome twist in the ending that the whole story had been moving toward since the first chapter.

There was much for me to enjoy in STEADY BEAT, most of which was related to Noah’s interactions with his band mates and how they ultimately came to like and trust Pepper as a member of their group. But as compelling as the romance was between Pepper and Noah, their happy ending didn’t blunt my disappointment at her inability to follow through on what she had claimed were her career goals all the way up until the end of the new band’s first gig. The somewhat abrupt ending of the story made Pepper’s sudden decision even more frustrating for me, and I wished that there had been an additional chapter or epilogue so we could see that her choice clearly made in haste was one that had actually worked out well for everyone involved.


Overall: 3
Sensuality level: 3.5 (hot passionate sex between the main characters but nothing kinky)

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Review: Chains and Canes by Katie Porter

Chains and Canes (Club Devant, #2)

This review originally appeared at Seductive Musings:

Review: Chains and Canes by Katie Porter

A copy of this book was purchased by me for my own enjoyment.

“Chains and Canes” is the latest installment in Katie Porter’s Club Devant series and its intensity and passion more than live up to the expectations set by the previous book, “Lead and Follow”. In this book, a devoted couple discovers that what they do have isn’t nearly as wonderful as what they could have with a person who can provide them with that special spark that they didn’t even realize they were missing.

By all appearances, Daniel and Naya appear to be a couple perfectly in sync. Naya is the gifted but insecure dancer who could take the world by storm if she would only believe more in her own talent. Daniel is the quiet but powerful businessman with his own gift for raising and investing money, and who provides the security and balance Naya needs to keep herself from sinking in self-doubt. The one thing Daniel can’t give Naya, however, is the fulfillment she gets only from submitting herself to a Dominant for the extreme pain which clears her mind and settles her soul. He knows it’s what she needs and craves, but he just can’t bring himself to inflict any pain, no matter what.

When Naya begins her new job at Club Devant, the attraction between her and Remy, the lead choreographer and dancer, is electric. Their first practice dance together is just shy of full-on sexual intercourse, with no heed to who might be watching them on stage. When Daniel sees how Remy dominates Naya so thoroughly just in that dance, he realizes that Remy could be the perfect Dom for what Naya needs….and perhaps even for what he himself has always needed, but never admitted to himself before now. Remy is understandably suspicious when Daniel invites him to spend the evening with him and Naya, and their class differences are no help in calming his concerns. Why would a rich perfect couple want a Cajun river rat like himself for more than just casual sex? And how can Daniel and Naya be the same together again if Remy refuses to stay?

All three of the main characters in “Chains and Canes” were well developed and enjoyable to read about, and it was great to see how they fit in the Club Devant world already established in the first book. We also got to see more about how the club operates and a bit more background on the owner, Declan, and his omnipresent security cameras. Club Devant is a place that I wish really existed, because I’d love to go there and see the shows I read about in the series.

But ultimately for me, the key to my enjoyment of “Chains and Canes” was Daniel. Daniel was the character with the most to lose, and the one who underwent the most changes to his life and sense of self. What made him so compelling was that in spite of all the enormous changes he experiences in this story, he never wavers from who he is and what he wants. He knows he loves Naya and wants to do everything to make her happy. But he also realizes that he feels the same way about Remy, and for the same reasons. His loyalty to them both as well as his own quiet strength of purpose is what made me care for him most of all. I was actively rooting for him to succeed in his quest to protect his loved ones while still being true to his own wants and desires. His journey as a character is truly remarkable, and reason enough to read “Chains and Canes”. I look forward to new intriguing stories and passionate characters from Katie Porter in the next Club Devant book.


Overall: 4.5
Sensuality level: 4.5 (M/M/F menage, several BDSM scenes including caning and anal play)

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