Tag Archives: Second Chance at Love

Review: Summer Rain (Love In The Rain series), ed. by Sarah Frantz

Summer RainSummer Rain by Ruthie Knox

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

SUMMER RAIN is a new anthology of short stories by an all-star list of romance writers where each story has three things in common with the others. The first feature tying them all together is at least one scene where rain appears to play a key role in the plot. The second characteristic they all share is that each and every one is beautifully written and deeply touching. And the final, most important aspect of every story in SUMMER RAIN is that they were all donated by their writers and editor so that 100% of all profits from the sale of this anthology could be donated to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (www.rainn.org), the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States.

As with any large collection of stories, even ones with such impressive credentials such as these, it’s likely not every story would be to every reader’s preference. But I have to admit that at least for me, I loved them all so much that I had to stop reading for a while after each one, so I could wallow in a lovely book hangover before moving on to the next. These may be relatively short stories, but each packed such a visceral punch that there was no way I could read them all in a single sitting like I usually do. More than one left me in happy tears at its end, but none left me unsatisfied, though it would have been nice to follow a few of the romances beyond what was provided here, if only to enjoy being in their world for just a bit longer.

I know I haven’t been very specific here about what is in each of the stories in SUMMER RAIN, but that’s because I want every reader to experience the same feeling of discovery I had, without any expectations other than the knowledge that you’ll be reading something very special. SUMMER RAIN is a wonderful way to help people who have suffered from sexual violence, but it is also a collection of achingly beautiful romances so good that I bought my own copy. I wish I could give it more than 5 stars.

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Review: Fall From India Place by Samantha Young

Fall from India Place (On Dublin Street, #4)Fall from India Place by Samantha Young

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

This review may contain spoilers for previous books in the On Dublin Road series. You can probably read FALL FROM INDIA PLACE as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’ve been a big fan of Samantha Young’s On Dublin Road series from the very beginning, with each book in turn reminding me why New Adult romances have become so popular in the first place. Her characters have genuine roadblocks in their lives that don’t appear just to gin up extra drama, and their coping mechanisms are completely understandable in the context of each story. And although each story is set in the same world with previous couples continuing to appear as recurring characters, each one is also unique in terms of what brings the main couple together and what threatens to keep them apart.

In FALL FROM INDIA PLACE, the timeline has advanced several years past the last book in the series, and many of the previously featured couples are married with young children of their own. Hannah Nichols, the younger sister of Braden and Ellie, is now all grown up at 22, teaching high school English by day and a weekly adult literacy course at night. Her job and extended family appear to be enough to keep Hannah content, but there’s a lingering sadness there, thanks to the only man she’d ever wanted but could never really have.

Marco D’Alessandro was introduced in BEFORE JAMAICA LANE as the busboy at a local Italian restaurant and Hannah’s first school girl crush. We only got a brief glance at them together back then, but it’s clear in this new book that something significant happened between them in the interim when when Hannah finds Marco’s picture in a box of old things that her mother has asked her to clean out. It’s at that moment that FALL FROM INDIA PLACE begins to tell Hannah and Marco’s entire story in both the past and and present, showing exactly how what they shared before could be the one impossible obstacle to finding that happiness again for good.

One of the things I loved about FALL FROM INDIA PLACE was how we got a complete picture of the adult Hannah living in the present day before Marco was ever mentioned. We see that her love life is practically non-existent, even as her friends from school keep trying to fix her up with eligible men. We also see how she channels her kind and loving nature into her job and interactions with family, while never really having much to do for her own happiness. So when Marco suddenly reappears in Hannah’s life after five years missing in action, it’s like a bolt from the blue for both her and the reader: Where has he been? Why did he leave? How can she possibly take him back? And that’s when both we and Hannah start to get a much better picture of who Marco was, why he left, and how that made him the man he is now. When Hannah agrees to give March another chance, it becomes obvious that the time apart has made them both better suited to each other in a way they never were before. But the secrets they both still carry from that time are on a collision course toward an inevitable confrontation that will either help them heal completely or split them apart forever.

What surprised me the most about FALL FROM INDIA PLACE wasn’t that I was able to eventually figure out what secret each of them was keeping back and how those two secrets would be in such horrible conflict with each other, but that I was actually happy with that outcome and how it was ultimately handled. It proved that being able to see where the story is going to end up isn’t a bad thing when the path there is written so beautifully and the actual events play out in a way you might not have expected. That’s what I’ve loved about every book in this series, and why FALL FROM INDIA PLACE was such a wonderful read for me. I can only hope that Samantha Young can keep up this consistent level of excellence in all the books to come.


Overall: 5
Sensuality level: 3

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Release Week Review: Dare To Resist by Laura Kaye

Dare to Resist (Wedding Dare, #0.5)Dare to Resist by Laura Kaye

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

DARE TO RESIST is Laura Kaye’s engaging prequel to Entangled Brazen’s upcoming Wedding Dare series. It features the couple whose wedding will be the focal point of the new series and how a sequence of improbable events propels those two people into finally confronting their long-smoldering feelings for each other.

Both Kady and Colton are in the same line of work to provide security services to the US military, albeit with varying degrees of success. Kady has to constantly prove herself to everyone around her, including her own management, just because some people can’t comprehend that a woman can be as good at this stuff as a man. Colton may have the double advantage of being male and the head of his own company, but he knows Kady can more than match him on presentation and execution. So when they are both competing for the same contract, along with a third man whom neither of them respects, the battle is fierce and the outcome could be anyone’s guess. When severe inclement weather strands the three in a marginally acceptable motel on the edge of the desert, it soon becomes obvious that the last thing on either Kady or Colton’s mind is the big military contract which brought them there. For our hero and heroine have a sexual history from which neither has quite recovered, and their undeniable chemistry still continues to conflict with their mistaken assumptions about one another. But when their impromptu sleeping arrangement provides Colton with an unique opportunity to discover Kady’s true desires, at long last they are both freed to admit their feelings for each other and discover their true compatibility in both business and love.

What I loved the most about DARE TO RESIST was how Laura Kaye was able to convey so much essential backstory in a category-length romance. We get a real sense of the inner conflict within our hero and heroine, and how their individual assumptions about their shared past have kept them in an avoidance pattern that required something as dramatic as their weather-induced housing crisis to force its end. The events that ultimately lead to Colton and Kady’s HEA could have seemed like one deus ex machina too many in the hands of a less talented writer, but Laura Kaye was able to sell each one of them to me in turn without much resistance. I especially enjoyed the reason why Colton ended up sharing a single room with Kady instead of double bunking with the other man marooned with them, although some might find it a little too TMI. It’s Kaye’s ability to provide such moments of light humor intertwined with deep emotions and scorching sex scenes that made DARE TO RESIST such an delightful read for me, and it’s successfully set the stage for what looks like another fun Entangled Brazen book series to come.

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Review: Dare To Desire by Carly Phillips

Dare to Desire (Dare to Love, #2)Dare to Desire by Carly Phillips

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Although I’m familiar enough with Carly Phillips to have several of her earlier books on my To Be Read list, DARE TO DESIRE is the first book I’ve read from her. In this second book of her new self-published Dare To Love series about the children of a man who had a second family while still married to his first wife, the hero is the oldest son of the woman his father took first as mistress, then as wife once their relationship was publicly exposed.

At the beginning of DARE TO DESIRE, Alex Dare is still dealing with the fallout of being one of the previously “secret” Dare siblings while continuing to excel in his successful career as a NFL quarterback. He’s even snagged a lovely lady to share his public and private time, although her friendship with his half siblings could be a liability if he ever tired of her company. Overall, things are going along pretty well for Alex, until that fateful Thanksgiving Day game when he ended up at the bottom of a dogpile on the field. It was bad enough being in the hospital and finding out that his risk of permanent injury would force an early retirement. But then he had to go and kick Madison out of his room and life when all she had done was stop by to see if he was okay. Now it’s six months later and after pushing nearly everyone else out of his life, Alex gets a call from Ian, his oldest half sibling, with an opportunity that could not only get him back in the NFL, but also back in with Madison, the woman he should have never let get away.

Madison Evans knew all too well that most people couldn’t be trusted to stick around, especially the people who claimed to love you. As a social worker, she’s made it her life’s work to help kids with the same problems she’d had in her own childhood, and won’t have her head turned by money or influence. Yet she couldn’t resist when Alex turns on his considerable charm, and had only herself to blame when it was all suddenly over after his career-ending injury. Now that the husband of her good friend Riley has offered her the chance to set up a new mandatory post-career education program for his NFL team, Madison is excited about being able to change lives outside the narrow confines of social work. But when her new boss Ian Dare sets her up to work with Alex, Madison has to decide if she can handle working directly with the man who broke her heart, and if he’s really changed enough to earn her trust a second time.

One of the things I especially enjoyed about DARE TO DESIRE was how I was able to work my way through all the intricate relationships between the two Dare families and their associated friends, even though this was the second book and my first read in the series. The fact that Alex was childhood friends with Riley, Ian’s wife, has helped smooth the way between the two men somewhat, but it will still take time for them to get past all the hard feelings stirred up when their father divorced Ian’s mother to marry Alex’s mother.

As a new reader to the series, I hadn’t seen Alex in action as his earlier self-centered manwhore self, other than in the brief prologue when he dumped Madison while still in his hospital bed. But it was apparent from her memories that at least from her perspective, he’d only been a nominally good boyfriend before their breakup. Sure, the sex had been frequent and amazing, but he hadn’t been particularly considerate whenever he was approached by strange women any time he and Madison had been out in public together. So just because the two of them still find each other irresistible shouldn’t and doesn’t mean all is forgiven on her part.

In DARE TO DESIRE, Alex is fortunate to have multiple chances to show Madison he’s changed by how he treats her while working on their new shared project and how he helps her out with the court case being brought against her by her foster brother. And as Madison slowly warms to the idea of reuniting the man she still loves back in her life for good, the ties between Alex and his family of half siblings are also strengthened, extending the joy of the story’s happy ending beyond Madison and Alex to their shared loved ones as well. The richness of its family background is what elevated DARE TO DESIRE beyond a basic romance for me and it’s why I’ll be reading the first book and all the other ones to come.

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Review: Dangerously Bound by Eden Bradley

Dangerously Bound (A Dangerous Romance)Dangerously Bound by Eden Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Eden Bradley was one of the first authors I read when I was just starting out with BDSM-related erotic romances, and she’s still one of the few I can always count on to provide a story in that specific sub-genre that’s as accurate as it is enjoyable. DANGEROUSLY BOUND is the first entry in her new Dangerous series, and much like all her previous books, it’s one that left me thoroughly entertained and ready for more to come.

In this new series, we are introduced to a related group of characters in New Orleans and the BDSM club where some of them meet to play and fall in love. This first book is the story of a hero and heroine with a long history that they’ve both tried to move past in their separate lives, before coming back together to give it one more try. When Mick’s newly discovered inner Dom emerged during the one night of passion he shared with Allie, her tears made him think he’d damaged her, ruining their chance at true love. His abrupt departure the next morning was followed by her own, resulting in a separation that lasted nearly a decade. But after years of training overseas as a pastry chef by day and experienced submissive by night, Allie is back in New Orleans for good. Mick may not be ready for what she has planned for him, but she is determined to confront him in any way necessary to force him to see her as she is now, not as she was then.

One of the things I love about Eden Bradley’s books is how she so easily sets up a new series without spending excessive time on things that are best revealed as the story unfolds. We know right off that Allie and Mick have a history that has kept them apart despite their obvious love for one another. We also know that there are other traumatic events in Mick’s past that are keeping him from fully committing to Allie, ones that she can’t help him get past if he won’t forgive himself. But all of these details inform our understanding of their push-me-pull-you relationship without intruding on what’s important, namely their rekindled romance here and now.

The best parts of DANGEROUSLY BOUND for me were the numerous and lengthy intimate scenes between Mick and Allie, especially when they were in a BDSM scene featuring rope bondage and Mick’s apparent fondness for biting. His struggle to keep a Dom’s control over his emotions as he plays with Allie tests him more than he can bear, and he runs away from her more than once, which did become a bit frustrating for me. But Allie wouldn’t give up on him or their relationship, not until she realized that she had to let him go so he could realize that he needed to return for good. Their hard-won happy ending made me eager for more tales of BDSM romance when Eden Bradley’s new Dangerous series continues with DANGEROUSLY BROKEN.


Overall: 4 stars
Sensuality level: 4 (several intense scenes between H/h with biting and rope bondage, brief descriptions of BDSM club play)

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Review: Beyond Jealousy by Kit Rocha

Title: Beyond Jealousy
Author: Kit Rocha
Series: Beyond #4
Genre: dystopian erotic romance
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook
Release Date: March 17, 2014

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

Publisher Summary:

She’s been looking for the perfect man. She found two.

When Rachel Riley sacrificed a life in Eden to protect the O’Kanes, she earned her place in the powerful Sector Four gang. But the former crime princess is tired of being everyone’s sweet little sister . It’s time for her to get wild, to embrace her fantasies as only an O’Kane can—with a delicious exiled soldier and the gang’s wickedly sinful tattoo artist.

A saint…

Lorenzo Cruz is a warrior, taught by his commanding officers in Eden that involvement equals distraction. Emotion is a liability, and desire a sin. In Sector Four, he finds decadence, shameless sex—and his own dark urges. No battle strategy prepared him for how Rachel makes his heart race…or the way his rival for her affections sets his blood on fire.

…and a sinner.

Ace Santana has a dirty reputation and a mind to match, especially where his new lovers are concerned. He’s eager to help Cruz embrace his dominant side, and to explore the lines between pleasure and pain with Rachel. But corrupting them quickly becomes an obsession, a need he can’t deny—and a love he never imagined.

Three hearts on the line means a hundred ways their ménage a trois could go wrong. After all, even O’Kanes do forever two-by-two. One of them could be the missing piece that makes them all whole…or a temporary diversion destined for a broken heart.

My Review:

This review may contain spoilers for previous books in the Beyond series. You could try to read Beyond Jealousy as a stand-alone, but you will be missing out on all the back story which makes this romance so special. Do yourself a favor and read them all.

You might think it’s easy to write a review for a book that is so good you wish you could read it for the first time all over again. Well, you’d be wrong. 🙂 But I’ll try to make this sound like something a bit more coherent than OMG READ THIS BOOK NAOW YOU MUST.

BEYOND JEALOUSY is the latest book in Kit Rocha’s incredible Beyond series and it tells the story of an unlikely romance, even for the wide open sexual landscape of Sector Four. After all, the O’Kane men and women have always paired off in couples, whether for a night or a lifetime. But a ménage is something new for the O’Kane gang, and none of the rules, as few as they are, will apply.

Ace and Rachel have been circling each other since we were first introduced to this world in BEYOND SHAME, but the reasons why they kept their distance, in spite of their obvious attraction, haven’t been fully explained until now. When Rachel found solace in Cruz’s arms, Ace was both pleased to see her cared for by someone far better than himself, and desolate at finally losing her. Yet that, too, was only temporary, leading to something nobody could have ever predicted: Ace and Cruz together, hooking up for threesomes with any woman willing to put herself in the middle.

But it’s Rachel they both really want, and it’s Rachel who can bring them together as one, if they’ll only let her. As the ongoing search for the people producing bootleg O’Kane liquor brings new violence closer to Sector Four, the forces which sent Rachel there as a sacrifice to save her family now attempt to use her to start a war between allies. It’s this new danger that will either cement the fragile bond between Rachel and her two men, or split them all apart for good.

After seeing the previous combinations of Ace and Rachel, Rachel and Cruz, and then Ace and Cruz, it seemed equally implausible and inevitable that they eventually would come together in a fully shared MMF menage. In retrospect, however, it made perfect sense. Each brought to the others the support and confidence they need, and any relationship between only two of them would always be missing that critical part of the puzzle. But it took the real threat of loss to make this clear, especially to Ace, who had so little personal self-esteem after years as a sexual plaything of the jaded women in Eden that he couldn’t let himself ever hope that someone would ever want him for himself, for always. But it was just as difficult a journey for Cruz, as he had to confront his repressed desires and everything he’d been taught about how wrong they would be. Seeing them both open up to their love for each other, as well as Rachel, is what made it worth the wait to read their story and it’s why BEYOND JEALOUSY is the best Beyond book of all (so far). 5 stars.

Review: Marked by Lauren Dane, Vivian Arend, Kit Rocha

Marked (Beyond, #3.5; Thompson & Sons)Title: Marked
Author: Lauren Dane, Vivian Arend, Kit Rocha
Series: Metamorphosis #1, Thompson & Sons #1, Beyond #3.5
Genre: erotic romance anthology
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook
Release Date: February 10, 2014

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

Publisher Summary:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lauren Dane takes you into a brand new world in ALL THAT REMAINS. Summer Killian falls fast and hard when Charlie arrives in Paradise Village. But the heat turns all the way up when she learns Charlie is also with Hatch – the man she loved three years before. While she’s not sure she’s cut out for a triad, neither man is going to give her up.

Take a ROCKY RIDE with New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Vivian Arend as she leads you back to the Six Pack Ranch. Anna Coleman might be the law around Rocky Mountain House, but bad boy Mitch Thompson knows that under the stiff RCMP uniform is a woman with a passion for speed and pleasure that matches his own, and he’s not giving up until she’s his.

Kit Rocha returns to Sector Four in BEYOND TEMPTATION. A promise to a dying friend backfires when Noah Lennox finds that the girl he was supposed to rescue is all grown up–and wearing O’Kane ink. He wants to protect her from the secrets of their past, but she wants him. And an O’Kane woman always gets what she wants.

My Review:

I’m usually wary about reading anthologies for review, since I’ve often found them to be more work than pleasure, but when I heard MARKED included another visit to Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, I knew I had to have it. It also helped to have only three longer novellas included, instead of a dozen or more shorter stories. Although the stories take place in different authors’ book series, each ties into the motif implied by the anthology name by including at least one or more scenes regarding tattoos and the meaning they have for the characters in that world.

BEYOND TEMPTATION is the first novella in MARKED, and if any story belongs in an anthology about the meaning of tattoos, it’s one featuring the O’Kanes and their infamous ink. I’m not sure, though, if a new reader to the Beyond series would be able to get into it as quickly as someone more familiar with that world. (I actually went back and read the first three books again first, just to be sure, and let me tell you, those books more than hold up to a second read.)

We met Noah and Emma briefly back in BEYOND PAIN, when he was the only one with the technical savvy and connection to get vital data back to the O’Kanes from the other sectors not under the gang’s control. At that time, it was obvious that the history he and she had shared in Sector 5 went deeper than just his friendship with her now-late brother. But it’s only BEYOND TEMPTATION that we eventually learn what had brought them together before and what threatened to keep them permanently apart. Emma’s brother had been trapped by his own addictions fed by the evil in Sector 5, and that legacy lurks behind every moment of sorrow for Noah and Emma. But as a newly inked O’Kane woman, Emma has the strength and security to go after what she wants, and she won’t let the mistakes of the past keep her from the man she’s meant to be with. It may be shorter than the usual Kit Rocha story, but the extensive world-building already established in the previous Beyond books helps make BEYOND TEMPTATION a thoroughly enjoyable read and an essential installment in the series. 4.5 stars

After experiencing the joy of being back in Sector Four, I was a little concerned that the rest of MARKED couldn’t possibly live up to my now-lofty expectations. Little did I realize that the second story, ROCKY RIDE, would be just as good, if not a tiny bit better. This was my first Vivian Arend story, and it began with a (somewhat literal) bang. In that opening scene, Constable Anna Coleman meets up with her secret boyfriend and local biker dude Mitch Thompson, out on an isolated country road for some incredibly hot and heavy sexual fantasy fulfillment. When their amazing sex is over, Anna retreats behind her policewoman persona once again, leaving Mitch to wonder how a girl like her will ever be brave enough to go public with a guy like him. But as Vivian Arend then so perfectly shows, the two of them aren’t that different after all, when the facades (and clothing) are all stripped away. Even when it seems like they can’t make a real go of it, especially when so many other people are against them based on their prejudice against him, true motives and true love ultimately win out, making their reconciliation all the sweeter. ROCKY RIDE not only made me want to continue Vivian Arend’s new Thompson & Sons series, but to go back and check out her Rocky Mountain Heat series which preceded it. 5 stars 

It’s a rare anthology where every reader loves every story, and Lauren Dane’s ALL THAT REMAINS was that one story in MARKED I did not love. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth where a devastating virus has killed most of the women, and resulted in the birth of fewer female children being born to those who survived. This has resulted in a dramatically different society in which more people are in committed triads instead of couples, and where women and their sexuality are celebrated and protected from both censure and physical harm. Summer is a young woman living in Paradise Village somewhere in what sounds like it used to the northwest part of the United States. She has settled there in support of her sister Dulce, who lost her own two husbands and their shared children in a tragic train crash years earlier, and has never completely recovered from the loss. Summer has enjoyed intimate relationships with other men, but never been interested anything long term until she meets Charlie, a stranger to the area, and finds herself immediately attracted to him  Charlie is looking for a woman to complete his own triad, and much to Summer’s surprise, the second man in the relationship turns out to be Hatch, the man who was Summer’s first true love and who broke her heart when he left her behind several years ago. Now he’s back and wants to her to join her and his beloved Charlie in a permanent commitment, but there can be only sex between them until Summer can learn to forgive and Hatch can learn to leave his itch for wandering behind.

It was difficult for me to connect with ALL THAT REMAINS, most likely due to it not having enough pages to contain all the back story details. In a full-length book, I could have discovered for myself what life was like for Summer when she was growing up on the New Earth commune and falling in love with Hatch. and what happened to Hatch when he was traveling west to follow her after she’d moved to Portland with her family. But because ALL THAT REMAINS is a novella, all of that was told instead of shown, and it left me searching for an emotional grounding that all the beautifully written sex scenes simply couldn’t provide. 3 stars.

Review: Need You Tonight by Roni Loren

Need You Tonight (Loving on the Edge, #5)Need You Tonight by Roni Loren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Although I’ve enjoyed every book in Roni Loren’s Loving On The Edge series so far, NEED YOU TONIGHT is the best one I’ve read since the very first book, CRASH INTO YOU, blew me away and made me an instant Roni Loren fan. It equals that book in both the emotional intensity of the “second chance at love” trope for its hero and heroine, and in the sweetness of its HEA for a couple who could never move completely past the evil which separated them in high school until they were finally able to face it down together.

When Kade Vandergriff catches Tessa McAllen trying to crash a singles cooking class at his restaurant, he has no idea that she’s the one who turned his world upside down so many years ago. All he sees is an incredibly attractive woman whom he wants to feed and bed, and not necessarily in that order. Tessa doesn’t recognize Kade either, but is quickly convinced that one perfect night of no-strings-attached sex is just what she needs after trying to rebuild her life in the wake of her lousy no-good husband’s betrayal. When Tessa’s true identity is revealed, Kade is determined to rewrite their sad shared history into a future where she realizes what a mistake she made by rejecting him for the man who would eventually betray her. But when their ugly past returns to threaten their present happiness, both Tessa and Kade will learn that even the most malevolent evil is no match for the love they never truly lost.

As wonderful as Tessa and Kade’s story is, readers should be aware that there are themes in NEED YOU TONIGHT which are potential triggers for those with special sensitivity to issues such as high school bullying, child abuse, and rape. Both Tessa and Kade suffered brutal childhoods, which helped them bond together at first, but ended up splitting them apart when the friendship threatened their survival. When they find each other again, it’s clear that although they have both grown emotionally, the scars of the past are still as real and raw as though no time had passed at all. But Kade refuses to let his past self define his present, and he will do everything in his power to show Tessa that what they had before was just the beginning, even as the danger to their lives and love is always lurking in the background.

NEED YOU TONIGHT is a beautiful and touching romance, with plenty of the perfectly written and seriously scorching sex scenes which are Roni Loren’s trademark. It’s easily one of the finest books I’ve read this year.


Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level: 4 (BDSM scenes, domestic violence, rape threats, discussion of previous assault and rape)

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Review: Once In A Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor, #9)Title: Once In A Lifetime
Author: Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor #9
Genre: contemporary romance
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: ebook and print
Release Date: February 18, 2014

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

Publisher Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis continues with the ninth installment in her beloved Lucky Harbor series.


After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he’s back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she’s not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben – even though he has absolutely no idea what she’s done . . .

Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?

My Review:

It’s fair to say that the Lucky Harbor series is near the top of my comfort read list and books like Once In A Lifetime are the reason why. In it, we finally get to see two of the more intriguing members of the Lucky Harbor community finally find a forever love with the one person everyone there would have picked as their least likely partner.

Back in high school, Ben only had eyes for Hannah, the “good girl” he’d eventually marry and ultimately lose to a drunk driver, while Aubrey was the “hot mean girl” that everyone loved to hate. Ben had never known just how much Aubrey had wished he was hers instead of Hannah’s, nor had he known about the terrible thing she’d done in anger and regretted ever since. After Hannah’s death, Ben lost himself overseas by working in places too dangerous for people without a death wish. Now that he’s back home, it’s Aubrey who will pose the greatest danger if he can’t manage to keep his distance.

Aubrey didn’t have the shelter of a stable loving home that most of her high school classmates took for granted. All she had was her good looks and a mother who wanted her to make the most of them. This helped cement her reputation in town as the unlikeable hot girl, and all she could do was roll with the punches while getting in a few of her own where she could. Just because everyone’s all grown up now doesn’t mean Lucky Harbor has changed its opinion of Aubrey. The recent mess with the town clerk who lied to her about being married while stealing from the town coffers has only sealed her fate as a seemingly shallow woman who can’t be trusted. She has her small tight-knit circle of friends, but she needs more customers if her new bookstore is going to be any kind of real success. When an accidental confrontation with Ben propels Aubrey into an AA meeting, what she hears there helps her embrace that the idea of taking a fearless moral inventory of the wrongs she needs to right, in the hopes of fixing her karmic future. But when the person she hurt the worst is the man she wants the most, Aubrey wonders if she can be happy in a future that doesn’t include him.

Although none of the Lucky Harbor stories can be really described as light and fluffy, it does seem to me that as we get farther into the series, each succeeding book shows more of the darker side of life there. We now meet characters that didn’t always have the warm feelings for a town that on the surface appears nearly perfect, and we see how their Lucky Harbor childhoods are something to be gotten past, not treasured.. For me, this recent change makes these newer Lucky Harbor books even more enjoyable, and Once In A Lifetime is no exception.

Readers have gotten to know both Ben and Aubrey as supporting characters in the previous two books, and been able to form an opinion based on what was shown there. In the eyes of most people in Lucky Harbor. Ben is the martyred widower so tortured by the untimely death of his wife that he nearly died himself in the world’s political hotspots while trying to help those less fortunate. And Aubrey is the snooty hot girl who never ever deserved the benefit of the doubt in high school, nor years later when she was just as taken in by that rotten Ted Marshall as everyone else in town. So naturally when these two finally act on the sizzling chemistry between them, only Aubrey’s best girlfriends worry for her heart, while everyone else assumes she’s nothing but bad news for the beloved Ben.

But in Once In A Lifetime, we discover that neither of these assumptions is true, as Jill Shalvis slowly reveals what shaped this couple into the adults they are now, and how they are actually perfect for each other now in a way they could have never been before. She doesn’t sugarcoat Aubrey’s past behavior, nor does she give short shrift to Ben’s feelings for his late wife and the rawness of his grief at his loss. But she also shows how they can each move toward a shared happy future while learning lessons from their shared past, and the revelations about each of them are what made their ultimate Happy Ever After even more satisfying for me.

It takes a special talent to create a series about a seemingly perfect town, and then show how even that place isn’t always the most welcoming to everyone without ruining the warm feelings readers have for it from the previous books. In Once In A Lifetime, Jill Shalvis continues her winning streak of consistently enjoyable and moving romances between genuinely portrayed human beings, and I can only hope for more of the same in the Lucky Harbor books still to come. 4.5 stars

Review: Letting Go by Maya Banks

Letting Go (Surrender Trilogy, #1)Letting Go by Maya Banks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

LETTING GO is the story of a woman who already found and lost her perfect love, but has decided after three years of lonely mourning that it’s time to go after the one thing that was missing in her otherwise perfect marriage. Josslyn will never forget Carson and the once in a lifetime love they shared. But both Carson and his sister Kylie suffered unspeakable abuse from their alcoholic father and could never have understood the need Josslyn had for a man to take charge in the bedroom and bring her both pleasure and pain. Three years is a long time to mourn. It’s time for Josslyn to find someone who will dominate her sexually in the way her late husband never would.

After Carson’s tragic death, Dash was the solid stable core at the center of Josslyn’s upside-down life. As her husband’s business partner and best friend, he has worked hard to ensure that she was taken care of in all ways, except the one he most desired. For unknown to anyone except Josslyn’s late husband, Dash has been head over heels in love with her since the moment they met. It was his misfortune to fall in love with his best friend’s girl, but to his credit, he never acted on those feelings or even gave her a hint he felt that way about her. Now that Josslyn is finally ready to put her marriage in the past, Dash will stop at nothing to make sure that she becomes his. He was prepared to take his time and move slowly toward his goal, even if it meant ignoring the Dominant side of his personality, That all changed when Dash saw Josslyn walk into a private BDSM club on the arm of another man. Could Dash have her as both his love and his submissive? Or would Carson’s memory always be an obstacle between them?

One of my favorite erotic romance series last year was the Breathless trilogy by Maya Banks, so I was happy to learn that she had another one planned for this year. Just like with that series, the Surrender trilogy features a group of interconnected characters with overlapping storylines but each book can still be read as a stand-alone story. This first book does a good job of setting up all the relationships between this group of friends and provides clues to how the other two books will progress without turning into a data dump. A special bonus for readers of Maya Banks’s Sweet series is the appearance of Damon Roche and “The House”, his members only BDSM club in Houston. This trilogy takes place in that world so I’m looking forward to more glimpses of those beloved characters in the next two books.

For me, the best part of LETTING GO was how Maya Banks portrayed the perfect tension between Josslyn’s needs and Dash’s insecurities. Just because they want to make things work doesn’t mean that their new life together is without problems. The problems they face are exacerbated by their inability to fully share what they are feeling, and the initial disapproval from their friends and loved ones only makes things worse. Josslyn’s struggle to embrace her new life with Dash feeds into his irrational sense of competing for her love with the ghost of her dead husband. Their individual fears and doubts inevitably lead to a terrible misunderstanding, and it takes a near tragedy to finally force them to communicate more fully so they can have the happy ending they both deserve.

LETTING GO is a beautifully written depiction of how a widow and her late husband’s best friend learn how to move forward as a couple while honoring the memory of the man they both loved. It features Maya Banks at her best, with the heart-rending emotions and scorching sex scenes her readers have come to expect. Kylie’s story is next in GIVING IN, and I can’t wait to read it.


Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level: 4 (intense private BDSM scenes between the hero and heroine, one semi-public BDSM scene involving a second man)

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