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Please note that the stories reviewed in this blog are Romances, and as such, often contain explicit sexuality.

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Book Spotlight and Giveaway – Red Dirt Duchess – Louise Reynolds

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Red Dirt Duchess

 

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When English society playboy Jonathan Hartley-Huntley is sent to outback Australia after a disastrous affair with his editor, all he wants is to take a few pictures, do a quick interview and get back to his usual life of luxury as soon as possible. Until he meets his host, the irresistible Charlie Hughes, and suddenly the back of beyond is a lot more appealing.

Running the pub is a labour of love for Charlie and she has no desire to ever leave the tiny town of Bindundilly. That is, until Jon discovers an old painting that raises questions about both their lives. Charlie impulsively decides to follow him to London, and as the feelings between them begin to deepen, she starts to wonder if there’s more to life than the pub. But at Jon’s family home, the magnificent Hartley Hall, they become acutely aware of the differences between them, and it soon seems clear they have no future together – especially if Jon’s mother has her way. 

Family and tradition threaten the course of true love in this warm and witty novel from the author of Outback Bride and Her Italian Aristocrat. 

One lucky reader will receive a Kindle copy of Red Dirt Duchess just for “Liking” Louise Reynold’s Facebook page! Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below!

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About the Author

Louise Reynolds is an author of contemporary romantic fiction. Born in Sydney, she spent her childhood frolicking on beaches before moving to Melbourne at age 10. After one look at Melbourne beaches she got a library card and started to read. It was a logical step to take her love of romance novels to the next stage and tell her own stories. After some success in writing competitions she’s thrilled that her warm, heartfelt romances have found an audience.

By day, she works in the commercial lighting industry, lighting anything from bridges to five star hotels. By night, she’s working her way through a United Nations of fictional heroes.

After a lifetime of kissing frogs one finally turned into a prince and she lives with her partner in Melbourne’s inner north. She loves live jazz, cooking complicated meals that totally destroy the kitchen, and dining out. She has embraced Melbourne by wearing far too much black.

You can find her here:
www.louisereynolds.net | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Review: Engraved – Carina Press – Karina Cooper

Engraved

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Expected Release Date: August 11, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://www.karinacooper.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 5, The St. Croix Chronicles
Series Best Read In Order: Yes, but may work well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Cherry St. Croix returns to the fog-ridden streets of Victorian London, where the balance of power threatens all that she loves.

I will not wither without laudanum. Sober and determined, I have chosen another way—alchemy, and the pursuit of wellness it embodies. My name is Cherry St. Croix, and though freedom is finally at my fingertips, I return to the blackened streets intent on righting the wrongs I’d left behind.

All is not well in London low. Caught in a war between gangs, men are torn limb from limb, and I am called on to ascertain how. The immoral Karakash Veil is no doubt involved, and Micajah Hawke, a prisoner in his own Menagerie, cannot soften the danger this time.

Armed with the alchemical arts I have learned, my ever present guardian, and what few friends are left to me, I embark on a campaign to rescue the ringmaster I cannot abandon, save the Brick Street Bakers from annihilation, and finally face that which frightens me the most—my own heart.

Book five of the St. Croix Chronicles

106,000 words

This book, nay, this entire series, has been such a roller coaster thus far, and I for one love it.

I take notes as I read so that when it comes time to write these reviews, I’ll (hopefully) be able to form somewhat coherent sentences. Yet, when I glance over my notes for this installment, I find that it’s mostly filled with expletives, excited exclamation points, quite a bit of angry underlining, and, well, even more colorful expletives.  That, in turn,  pretty much sums up my feelings in reading this book.

I will attempt to distill my wildly flailing emotions over this story into something readable, while still refraining from giving away too much  in the way of actual storyline.

Here we go.

We open the story to find Cherry still dried out from her laudanum addiction thanks to her guardian turned tutor turned friend, Lord Ashmore. Unfortunately for her, this means she’s still not quite at her physical peak, nor does she have the opium to give her the false courage and bravado she’s relied on since she began her reckless career as a Collector.

Hawke is still help prisoner at the Menagerie, but the real question remains as always — is he a prisoner of the Veil because they truly have control over him, or because he chooses to remain under their thumb for reasons that are his own?

Cherry has a lot of amends to make — Communion, Zylphia, the younger Lord Compton, and even her old servants may have been marked by the Veil for her previous antics, and it is yet unknown as to which ones may prove to be allies and which ones may have decided that their own hides are more valuable than whatever previous loyalty they may have felt towards Cherry.

We very quickly find a familiar and terrifying face from Cherry’s past has become a major player in the Menagerie, and the Veil itself has expanded its territory with the help of the Ferrymen. Not only that, but their horrifying experiments on the people under their rule have created a new breed of fighter to do their dirty work.

With Cherry’s fall from grace both from society and from her position as Collector, she finds herself in a sort of a no man’s land, unable to move as freely as she used to, with none of the easy welcome she’s accustomed to either above or below London’s fog.

Hawke’s horrifying behavior the last time we saw him left Cherry hurt and confused, and, stubborn as ever, she’s still continuing to refuse to heed the warnings from coming from practically everyone involved with the situation, nor has she yet taken to heart Ashmore’s lessons on learning to walk before you run in regards to her newfound knowledge of alchemy.

I find that that’s all I can really say without giving away spoilers. Everything else that I had angrily underlined or followed by multiple exclamation points gave away a major plot point.   I will say, however, that this was one hell of a ride, full of action, adventure, and emotional turmoil, and the very last thing in my notebook was yet another very colorful expletive, followed by several exclamation points. Infer from that what you will.

A very solid 5/5 Stars and I cannot WAIT to get my greedy little hands on the next (and I think final?) installment.

5stars

 

Review: A Heart of Ice (Love is… Anthology) – Hailey Edwards

Love Is

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Expected Release Date: August 2, 2014
Author’s Website: http://haileyedwards.net/
My Source for This Book: Gift from the author
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 0.5 Araneae Nation
Series Best Read In Order: Works Well As A Standalone
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Reine knows marriage isn’t about love. It’s about making the best bargain you can with what you have and then living with the consequences. Wedding vows are alliances given voice, and I do is on the tip of her tongue.

Ennis is a man on a mission to woo the future Araneidae maven, whether she wants him or not. Her clan is wealthy, prosperous and in dire need of the one thing his people have to offer—protection. But one look at her and all thought of his obligations vanish. He’ll court Reine, but he wants the feisty heiress all to himself.

Forced to entertain offers from her bevy of suitors, Reine is torn between duty to her people and loyalty to herself. Ennis is the man she wants, but is he the future paladin her fragile clan needs? She can choose to lead with her head or, for once, she can follow her heart.

This story is part of the Love Is… Charity Anthology. All profits go straight to the Reach Out and Read Program

As many of my readers know, I’m a huge fan of the Araneae Nation series, despite my own personal inherent dislike of spiders (shhh! Nobody tell Ms. Edwards!).  In this installment, we get not only Reine and Ennis’ story, but fans of the series also get a glimpse of a familiar face – Isolde – as a young and mischievous girl.

Reine is the daughter of the current maven of her clan, and her mother thinks it’s high time that she got married.  Knowing her stubbornness, Reine’s mother has invited potential husbands for her daughter from all of the clans with which her clan would benefit from forming an alliance with, much to Reine’s dismay.

One thing that I loved the most was that Reine is no wilting flower. She may be young and impulsive, but she stands up for herself when it’s important and she doesn’t hesitate in putting Ennis in his place when he needs it.

Ennis, too, gives as good as he gets, and is the perfect balance for Reine, even though she might not quite see it that way at first.

Of course, the trademark chemistry fans have come to expect from Ms. Edwards doesn’t hurt one bit, either. ;)

Overall, this tasty little tidbit was exactly what I was looking for. As a fan of the series, I loved getting a peek into the history of the Araneidae clan, and I think newcomers to the series will find this a perfect introduction.

4halfA very solid 4.5/5 Stars

Review: The Hunt – C.J. Ellisson

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Expected Release Date: June 26, 2014
Publisher: Red Hot Publishing
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://www.cjellisson.com
My Source for This Book: Gift from the publisher
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 2, VV Inn Series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Rape/Dubious Consent, Shifting POVs

Official Blurb:

Vivian thinks she can control every aspect of a deadly game with her usual manipulations… but what if she can’t? 

Seven vampires and seven werewolves pay to hunt a supernatural criminal across the cold, vast grounds of an Alaskan resort. The one to catch her, and live through the encounter, will increase their power by feasting on hers. 

The tiny vampire they track is more than she appears, however. To escape a fate of twelve years in silver chains, she’ll do anything to survive the weeklong excursion. This time, the darkness holds more than just the stinging bite of the Arctic–it holds death. 

Journey along, in this next installment of the V V Inn series, for a wild ride as the tale is told through the eyes of all the new seethe members.

Warning: This series contains explicit sex and is intended for readers over 18.

Though this book can be read as a standalone, I admit that at first it was a little hard to keep up with the sheer number of characters, especially since the first person POV kept shifting between the different characters throughout the story.  I think I would have fared slightly better had I read the first installment in the series, but even so, by about halfway through, it was fairly easy to keep up.

My biggest problem actually stemmed from the somewhat cavalier attitude to something that happened to one of the male characters fairly early in the story. Had it happened to a female, I felt that everyone would have been outraged, and yet at the time that it happened, it seemed that everyone was quite prepared to just brush it aside as though it were nothing. This bothered me so much that at the time, I almost stopped reading. I’m glad that I didn’t, however, as it was addressed later on, and much to my satisfaction.

To be honest, the one thing that held me back a bit was the overwhelming amount of sex in the book. I think I went into this story expecting a paranormal romance, but instead, this book firmly falls into the genre of a more lighthearted erotica.  Everyone seems to be having a lot of sex with everyone else, and romance doesn’t always seem to be a prerequisite, nor does a Happily Ever After seem to be a requirement, which was a bit of a disappointment to this romance addict.

That said, there’s no denying that the love scenes are hot, and while the shifting POV’s were distracting a first, the final quarter of the book was actually the best for me. That was where the main storyline with the rogue vampire got settled, as well as a very satisfying resolution to a bit of the storyline that had plagued me from very early on.

Overall, this was a fun, sexy paranormal romp, perfect for when you’re in the mood for quite a bit of no-strings-attached sex thrown in with a bit of intrigue and action along side.

4/5 Stars.

04stars

About the Author

C.J. Ellisson is the USA Today Bestselling author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Vanilla on Top, the bestselling V V Inn series, and several erotica shorts. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband, two children, three dogs, and a fluffy black cat who makes her sneeze.

Unlike most full-time authors, she’s also battling severe chronic illness. C.J. works daily to put her Lupus into remission and continues to fight numerous bacterial infections while her immune system slowly attacks her body. She turned to writing when she could no longer work outside the home and claims the escape of penning contemporary fantasy, erotica, and erotic romance has helped save her sanity.

To learn more about C.J. and her other books, please stop by the author’s website (http://www.cjellisson.com) or visit her on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/c.j.ellissonfanpage.

Review: Stranger on the Shore – Carina Press – Josh Lanyon

Stranger on the Shore

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Expected Release Date: May 5, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://www.joshlanyon.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Favorite Tropes: Enemies to Lovers

Official Blurb:

Twenty years ago young Brian Arlington, heir to Arlington fortune, was kidnapped. Though the ransom was paid, the boy was never seen again and is presumed dead. Pierce Mather, the family lawyer, now administers and controls the Arlington billions. He’s none too happy, and more than a little suspicious, when investigative journalist Griffin Hadley shows up to write about the decades-old mystery. Griff shrugs off the coldly handsome Pierce’s objections, but it might not be so easy to shrug off the objections of someone willing to do anything to keep the past buried.

What Worked For Me:

  • Though I did figure out  the main “twist” very early on, I did enjoy the runaround Mr. Lanyon gave us on that point.
  • Even though the chemistry wasn’t quite up to par for what I’m used to from this author, I did enjoy the back and forth between Griff and Pierce, and the angst that resulted from several of the scenes.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • The book got off to a much slower start than I’m used to for this author’s books. Though the reasoning behind this became apparent later on,
  • I solved the mystery — well, both mysteries, actually — rather early on, which was rather disappointing. One of the things that I usually enjoy so much about Josh Lanyon books is the mysteries, but this one fell flat.
  • Unfortunately, the romance, too, fell rather flat to me. There’s usually such lovely chemistry between the protagonists in Josh Lanyon novels, and the one things I can look forward to is the angst between them being complemented by this chemistry.  This just wasn’t the case in this book.  Don’t get me wrong, we still get the angst, and there’s still the asshat of a love interest for our main character, but I never really felt the chemistry between them.

Honestly, this wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from Josh Lanyon.  I’ve been a big fan of his for many years, and was so excited when I saw this book available that I jumped at the chance to read and review it. Unfortunately though, it fell a bit flat for me, both in the romance aspect and in the mystery.

It still had the trademark angst and a lovely amount of tension between our heroes, and as always, he does write an enemies to lovers story oh so well.

For me, though, while I love the romance aspect of the story, I crave a strong mystery to go with it, and in this particular case, I simply wasn’t feeling it.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible way to pass the day, but I think I’ve come to set the bar a bit high when it comes to Josh Lanyon, and unfortunately this one simply didn’t feel like it hit the standard he’s set in the past.

3half3.5/5 Stars

Review: Voodoo ‘N’ Vice – Carina Press – K.C. Burn

Voodoo n Vice

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Expected Release Date: May 26, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://kcburn.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, Galactic Alliance
Series Best Read In Order: Worked well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Forced Nudity
Favorite Tropes: Class Barrier

Official Blurb:

After nearly causing a galactic incident, fleet captain Gideon Arcturus is disgraced, demoted and exiled with nothing to do but pass the time at a seedy club on seedier planet Elora Ki. It’s no place for a straight-laced soldier, but following the rules is what got him there in the first place. When he meets a mesmerizing fire dancer, he’d do anything to get close to the flame.

Tai doesn’t date customers—it’s far too dangerous for a man who was once for sale. But the shy, awkward Gideon entices him, and the two spend Gideon’s leave tangled together, neither knowing the passion that stirs within them won’t soon subside.

When a violent drug lord forces Tai back into slavery, Tai has no choice but to give up his new love. But when Gideon learns that Tai’s fate lies with those who brought about his own ruin, he’ll need to revisit his own difficult past in order to save them both.

What Worked For Me:

  • Mmmm I do love a good tale of hot lovin’ between two sexy men, and this one really fits the bill. Kai is stunning, and Gideon is nothing to sneeze at either.  With Gideon’s need to keep a perfect reputation due to his status in the military, and Kai’s desire to avoid unwanted attention due to his past, their almost clandestine meetings added a delicious bit of secrecy to their rendezvous.
  • loved Kai’s tattoos, especially with the history behind them.
  • Gideon’s reaction to the revelation to Kai’s past warmed my heart, no pun intended.  It was lovely, especially since that was a huge concern for much of the story.
  • Though I’ve read the previous installments of the series, I was pleased to discover that knowledge of the other books were not necessary to understand the events of this book. It’s been a long time since I’d read the other books, so while I had a passing memory of some of the characters when they were mentioned, I didn’t really need that knowledge to get me through this story.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the sub-plot that continued the overall story arc of the series. The drug trade on Elora Ki, and how it touches both Kai and Gideon’s lives, as different as they may be, resulted in some very thrilling action. I especially loved the revelation of just how different Kai was from those around him.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • As strange as this may sound, I think there were just a few too many sexy times for my taste. Now, don’t get all excited — I do love me some hot man-on-man action — it’s just that at times it actually took away from the main storyline, and I found myself skimming a bit.

Believe it or not, I think there may have been just a little bit to much sex for my tastes. Don’t get me wrong, it was hot sex, but it was a lot, and sometimes got in the way of plot development. 

Even so, it was an enjoyable take with two tortured protagonists, some action, a bit of intrigue, and lots of hot man on man action. 

There was a little too much self hatred on the part of Kai for my tastes but given his background that was understandable.

I also liked that you didn’t have to be familiar with the series to follow along though obviously that would make your enjoyment of the overall story arc a little more satisfying.

Overall a very pleasant way to spend the day.


04stars4/5

Review: Blood Ties – Bantam – Kay Hooper

Blood Ties

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Expected Release Date: January 22, 2010
Publisher:  Random House
Imprint: Bantam
Author’s Website: http://www.kayhooper.com/ 
My Source for This Book: Public Library
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 12, Bishop/Special Crimes Unit
Series Best Read In Order: Yes
Steam Level: Chaste

Official Blurb:

A series of grisly murders has left a trail of blood across three states, bringing the Special Crimes Unit to a small Tennessee town. There, two more brutal killings lure Noah Bishop and the SCU into what may be the ultimate trap, and lead Special Agent Hollis Templeton into a dangerous attraction—and a serial murder investigation that turns very, very personal. In her time with the SCU, Hollis has shown an uncanny ability to survive even the deadliest attacks. But what she can’t know is that this killer intends to destroy the team from within. As the body count climbs, and Bishop and his agents race to uncover the true identity of their enemy, not even their special senses can warn them just how bloody, and how terrifyingly close, the truth will be

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved the concept of a special division of the FBI that is made up of psychics, mediums, and the like.
  • The identity of the killer left me gasping. I thought I had it figured out, but the author surprised me, and honestly, that doesn’t happen very often in romantic suspense.
  • The pacing was perfect, with just enough down-time between the action to give a bit of a breather, without ever letting things stagnate. This also gave the perfect amount of time for the two main romances to develop organically, without feeling rushed.
  • Speaking of the romance, while I would have preferred a little steam, I loved the intensity and devotion that Hollis and Diana got from their men. There’s just something delicious about having a man so completely focused on his woman like that, and his refusal to give up on her even when everyone else around her has.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • As hard as the author tried, it was pretty much impossible to jump into this story without having read some of the previous installments. There were just too many characters, too much backstory, too much history to keep up with on top of the action going on with this story.
  • While I appreciated the tidbits of romance in the story, I was admittedly disappointed with the lack of heat. A minor point, as I didn’t really go into this one for the smut, but still, I’m the kind of gal who likes a little lovin’ action to go with my suspenseful action.
  • SPOILER ALERT SelectShow Spoiler

I snagged this one from the library right before I left for vacation, and while I realized it was part of a series, what I didn’t realize was that it was book 12.. Unfortunately this meant that it was a little hard to keep up despite the author’s best efforts to provide everyone’s backstory, and it left me floundering at times trying to keep the vast number of characters and their powers and their relationships straight while still trying to keep up with the main storyline.

That said, the mystery and suspense was beautifully paced, and while I of course was disappointed to the lack of smut (heh), there were two rather satisfying romances on an emotional level.

I DID like that there were notes at the end of each chapter marking references from previous books. An author’s note indicated that this was something new with this installment, and it did seem like it would be helpful, were I to want to go back and read up on a particular incident, or refresh my memory had I read some of the series up to that point.

3half3.5/5 Stars
(though it would probably have been higher were I more familiar with the series going in)