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Tag Archives: Contemporary – Virgin Heroine

Review: His Secret Temptation – Carina Press – Cat Schield

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Expected Release Date: April 16, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://catschield.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Warm

Official Blurb:

Who’s the sexy blonde stranger sleeping in Simon Holcroft’s bed? The workaholic returns from a business trip to find someone stretched out on his sheets. Between the laundry basket at her side and the smell of orange cleaner, he deduces that the young woman is his maid-and resists the urge to kiss her awake.

But when his brother’s fiancé-his own ex-bursts in and strips down to her panties, Simon has to get her dressed and back where she belongs. So he introduces the maid as his fiancée. But his little white lie gets bigger, because now he has to bring his supposed bride-to-be to meet the whole family. One offer-she-can’t-refuse later, Simon has bought himself a temporary fiancée.

In debt up to her eyeballs and all alone for the holidays, how could struggling grad student Caroline Sampson not accept her gorgeous client’s fantasy proposal? But acting like she’s in love comes more easily than she ever expected.

What Worked For Me:

  • I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for the “pretend fiance” trope, and was really intrigued by the idea of a man hiring a woman to be the pretend fiance. For some reason, it seems to always be the other way around, so this was fascinating to me.
  • Even though it was light on steam, I enjoyed the chemistry between Simon and Caroline.  In some ways, I actually liked that there wasn’t a lot of focus on explicit details, because there was less chance of attributing their growing feelings to simple lust.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  •  I wasn’t thrilled with Simon’s “betrayal” of Caroline (don’t worry, it’s not that kind of betrayal), though it did add a lot of tension to the story.
  • I’m also not a huge fan of whirlwind romance unless there’s a mystical reason factored in.  While some readers will file this in the plus column rather than the negative, the fact taht Caroline and Simon were “in love” after less than a week took away from my enjoyment.
  • Caroline was a bit too “perfect” for my tastes. Hard working, principled, beautifully, intelligent, self-sacrificing, and chaste, I had a hard time warming up to her character.

Cute and sweet, with just a touch of steam, this book is good for a light summer read.   I’m  a big fan of the “pretend fiance” trope in romance, but it’s rare indeed that the female is the one helping out the male, at least in my experience.

loved the tension between Caroline and Simon stemming from both their attraction to each other, and the stress of keeping the truth from his family.

However, the whirlwind aspect to the romance, combined with a few other things kept this one from being a favorite of mine. The pacing seemed off at times, and I never really believed that his family would be quite as accepting of Caroline, no matter how nice they truly were.

In the end, this wasn’t a bad way to pass the time, but neither was it a favorite.


3.5/5 Stars

Review: Catalyst – Zoe Winters

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Expected Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Self Published
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: zoewintersbooks.com
My Source for This Book: Amazon.com
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, Preternaturals
Series Best Read In Order: Yes
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

It started with one lost, shivering pup; it may end in a war… 

Panthers don’t do responsibility. They don’t do long-term relationships. They definitely don’t raise kids. But when Z discovers a young wolf in the forest, he takes him in, unaware of the powerful beings hunting the pup.

Fiona is a witch who can’t leave her house; the birds have told her something bad will happen. The mailbox is as far as she’ll go, but even that may provide more danger than she’s bargained for. When a wolf pup stumbles into her garden, her safe, wrapped-up world heads for a free fall. 

But along with danger, the pup brings a chance at love—a chance an agoraphobic witch and a bachelor panther shifter aren’t likely to find on their own. 

What Worked For Me:

  • This never counts for or against a rating, but I have to say it — isn’t that cover GORGEOUS?
  • I really loved Fiona. Her agoraphobia, and surprisingly enough, the fact that she still had her v-card. That’s not normally something I enjoy in contemporary heroines, but it just fit with her character much better than the alternative.
  • Z was great. I loved that jaguar shifters weren’t typically into the whole Hearth and Home thing, and how resistant Z was to ending his bachelorhood. Plus, the little speech to the villain was delightful.
  • I really enjoyed how the villain wasn’t some caricature. Instead, he was well-rounded and had what felt like a pretty good motivation for his actions.
  • I loved the ending. While I’m pretty sure it makes me insane for thinking this — I thought it was really romantic.
  • While it’s been a while since I read the other stories in the series, I have to admit that after I got over the disorientation from switching over to Jane and Cole’s story, I really enjoyed how it played out, especially in regards to the pup.
  • I loved Cain. Somehow I never really saw him as the protective type, but I really enjoyed seeing that side of him in this one. As a side note – am I the only one looking forward to him getting his own story one day?

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I didn’t care for how quickly Fiona “got over” being kidnapped. Yes, the explanation given did make sense in a way, but I was still sad to see that she didn’t give Z more hell for it.
  • I think my biggest problem with this book was that I haven’t read the other books in the series recently, and as such, was a little lost with Cole and Jane’s back story.  I’ve read the first two books in the series, but it’s been a while, and so I wasn’t as up to date with some of the details as I should have been.
  • I also don’t think I was expecting Jane and Cole to play quite as large of a role in this story as they did. I would say their story was perhaps half or at least a third of the novella, and while their story was satisfying, I was thrown off when the story suddenly shifted from Z and Fiona to Jane and Cole.
  • A very very minor point, but it felt strange that werewolves live in a “hive” instead of a “den”. This didn’t count against the final rating, because I’m pretty sure that issue was covered in a previous book and I just forgot about it, but still, it made me pause while reading.

I would definitely recommend that new readers go back and pick up the earlier stories in the series before reading this one. As someone who has read the entire series, but has forgotten much of the details, I found myself struggling to follow along at times, and while I think Ms. Winters did an admirable job of making this book stand alone, I do feel like I missed out on how meaningful some of the events actually were in the context of the series.

That said, I did enjoy it.  While not as heavy on the steam as many paranormal romances, there was plenty of chemistry and romance to be had in the meantime.  While I did wish that Fiona had a little less hormonal reaction to Z and a little more emphasis on the agoraphobia, I enjoyed her character immensely. I also really enjoyed how Z’s behavior was not typical for a jaguar shifter, since that made his reaction to Fiona quite a bit more meaningful in my mind.

Overall, while I personally think that previous fans of the series are going to benefit most from this story, I would recommend it for fans of reformed rakes, agoraphobic heroines, and reunited lovers.

4/5 Stars

Preternaturals Series Reading Order:

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey – The Writer’s Coffee Shop – E.L. James

Expected Release Date: May 26, 2011
Publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://www.eljamesauthor.com/
My Source for This Book: Borrowed (Paperback)
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1, Fifty Shades Series
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Hot

Official Blurb:

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms. Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires. Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

I shall start this review off with some background and a very honest confession, as I think it’s important to know my history in regards to this story when hearing my opinion of it. This is, in some ways, technically a re-read for me.  I first read “Fifty Shades of Grey” a long time ago when it was still called “Master of the Universe” ,  a Twilight fanfiction posted on Twilighted.net, with the author being known as Snowqueens Icedragon instead of E.L. James.

At the time, reading it a single chapter at a time as soon as they were published, I just devoured it. After all, I’m not at all ashamed to say that despite the fact that this blog focuses on Adult Romance, Twilight itself is the reason I got back into reading in the first place.

Back before all of the hype, I had heard that Master of the Universe had been “de-Twilighted” and published under a new name, but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it — after all, I’d already read the story, even if the names in the published version had been switched around, so I wasn’t really missing much, was I?

Once the big controversy hit, and it seemed that everyone was talking about it,  I quickly found myself both annoyed and even hurt when hearing so many of my “non-romance-reader” friends raving over this title. You see, I’ve been extolling the virtues of the romance genre for years now, and quite a few of the very same people who turned their nose up at not only this blog but my book recommendations are just gushing about Fifty Shades of Grey, and its sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. So I’ll be honest — I was very hurt, and as such, it made me resentful of the hype this title was receiving before I’d even given it a real chance.

In talking to a good friend of mine (who not only has similar taste to mine in books, but who thoroughly enjoyed the Fifty Shades trilogy), I was encouraged to put my hurt and prejudices aside and give the book a fair chance. So, I borrowed her paperback (ug!), and sat down to read it.

I won’t lie — having read the original fanfiction, I had a very hard time not reading “Christian and Anastasia” as “Edward and Bella”, especially with all of the parallels drawn between these characters and the original Twilight versions. But even with my subconscious realizing that Anastasia Steele is Bella Swan (tons of blushes, biting lips, clumsiness, and inexplicable virginity included), Christian Grey is Edward Cullen (minus the vampirism of course, but complete with the self-hatred and super possessive tendencies), I have to admit that the basic storyline is an interesting one.

In the end, I have to say that I’m glad that I bothered to re-read it. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the (admittedly dysfunctional) relationship between the protagonists, and while the “kink” was actually pretty blase in my opinion, it was steamy without pushing any hard boundaries.

While I’m realistic about its problems, namely the overuse of certain phrases (if I hear the term “Inner Goddess just one more time I will not be held responsible for my actions), poor sentence structure, dated technology (really, does anyone even know what a “mini-disc” recorder is anymore??), and some overused romance tropes (a completely sexually repressed virgin heroine in contemporary times? Really??), I can’t help but say it wasn’t nearly as bad as many reviewers have made it out to be.

In the end, I would categorize this as a Guilty Pleasure read — that is, something that I realize is pretty badly written and full of terrible tropes,  and yet I enjoyed it anyway. I would say the same about books by authors such as Laurann Dohner and Christine Feehan, and I have read almost everything both authors have ever published.

Do I recommend that others read it? Honestly, I do, if for nothing else than to make sure you’re not the only one standing there clueless when every single person you know starts discussing it.

That said, I highly encourage new readers to go read a sample of the books before buying them.  A sample can be READ ONLINE VIA KINDLE SAMPLE (which you can read in your browser in the free Kindle Cloud reader if you don’t have a Kindle device) by clicking on the “Send Sample Now” button on the right of the product page.  Please note that the sample does not include any of the love scenes, and for those just dipping their toes into the world of erotic romance, I would recommend skimming through THIS TUMBLR PAGE (NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!) because it gives small excerpts to some of the love scenes and gives you a hint of what to expect in the playroom.

Will I read the sequels? Eh, probably not.  While the basic plot was interesting, I admit I don’t really care about the characters in the end, nor am I willing to risk even one more instance of that obnoxious Inner Goddess mess.

 3/5 Stars

 Fifty Shades Series Reading Order:
 

Review + GIVEAWAY: Wasteland – Crescent Moon Press – Lynn Rush

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Expected Release Date: September 2011
Publisher: Crescent Moon Press
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://lynnrush.wordpress.com/
My Source for This Book: Gift from the author
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Warm

Official Blurb:

Bound by the blood contract his human mother signed four centuries ago, half-demon, David Sadler, must obey his demonic Master’s order to capture fifteen-year-old Jessica Hanks. But as he learns more about her, he realizes she may be the key to freedom from his demonic enslavement.

The only obstacle—Jessica’s distractingly beautiful Guardian, Rebeka Abbott. He must not give in to their steamy chemistry, or he will lose his humanity. But fresh off a quarter millennia of sensory deprivation as punishment for not retrieving his last target, he may not be able to resist temptation long enough to save what’s left of his human soul.

David Sadler, a half-human/half-demon bound into servitude by his mother’s contract with Lucifer, has just been dumped into a viper’s den of temptation — a popular dance club in Arizona.   Having spent 50 years in unimaginable torture followed by almost 200 years in a sensory deprivation chamber as punishment for failing to bring his Master his last Mark, David knows that he must bring back his newest Mark, Jessica, no matter what the cost.  More than that, however, he knows that he cannot give into his carnal lusts without fully transforming into a demon and forever losing any humanity he ever had.  Thrown into this world of scantily clad, writhing females, David is overwhelmed by all of the decadent sensory overload of the modern world, but is determined to ignore these tempting distractions.

David quickly begins to suspect that his Master dropped straight into this pit of temptation in an effort to force him to finally give into his Demon — in doing so, he would fully transform into his Demon half, permanently losing all of his humanity. More importantly, however, he would also lose the immortality granted to him by the contract his mother entered into all those centuries ago.

Knowing that he’s racing to find his Mark before the Guardians — warriors for the Light — can reach her first, he attempts to focus solely on his mission yet nevertheless finds himself completely captivated by Beka — the oh-so-delicious co-owner of the bar who immediately returns David’s instant infatuation.  Not only is he drawn to her beauty and innate sensuality, but also to the purity he can sense in her very being.

When it becomes apparent that not only is Beka pure of heart, but that she’s also Guardian paired with her brother in the search for the same girl that David is seeking,  David’s suspicion that Jessica is not merely another Mark wanted by his Master is confirmed — she has been prophesied to be a powerful asset to the Light in the ongoing war to suppress the Dark, but only if the Guardians can get to her first.

Soon, the war erupts, with different sides vying not only for Jessica’s capture, but for David’s very soul.

What Worked For Me:

  • I adored the premise. David was sold by his mother into perpetual slavery to a powerful Demon before he was even born, and cannot give into carnal lust (aka has to remain a virgin) in order to avoid transforming fully into a demon himself. As a half-blood, he is actually more powerful than his Master because it is impossible to behead him — the only way to truly kill a demon. Once he fully transforms, however, he will lose this protection, which of course adds an extra incentive for him to keep his pants on, as difficult as it may be.
  • I really liked the first person POV.  That, to me, is probably the hardest POV to pull off well, but Ms. Rush did a wonderful  job in allowing the reader to feel David’s emotions and motivations while still allowing other characters to develop as they should.
  • I also enjoyed the fact that nothing was ever as it initially seemed. Beka wasn’t just a Guardian, and Jessica wasn’t a simple mark as David had first been led to believe. David, of course, wasn’t simply a half-breed demon, and his demon Master had secrets of his own as well.  There were some terrific twists thrown at David throughout the novel, adding a delightful edge of suspense to the story.
  • The action sequences were very intense. There was one scene early on that I especially enjoyed, where Beka’s hatred for demonkind and her desire to protect her ward overcame even her natural sense of self-preservation, and was one of the most incredible scenes of the entire book.
  • The pacing was incredibly fast, which added a great sense of urgency to everything. David’s Master was anxious to get his hands on Jessica, other demons were added into the mix, the Guardians had to quickly choose whether or not to align themselves with David, and so forth, which kept me engaged as a reader.
  • I really liked that Ms. Rush wasn’t afraid to kill off main characters. No spoilers, but suffice it to say that not everyone is there to witness any victories that may arise in the end.
  • I really enjoyed the ending as well, where the title dimension came into play.
  • As a New Adult book, I could appreciate the warm sensuality that never quite crossed the line into PG-13. Plenty of kisses, a few soft caresses, and a very tame topless moment or two were just enough to emphasize David and Beka’s attraction to each other, without using sex to move along the plot.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • SPOILER ALERT SelectShow Spoiler
  • At the very beginning, David made the observation that he didn’t think Beka was a “normal” human because she spoke in the same old fashioned manner that he did.  However, as the story progressed, they both flip-flopped between what I would consider to be contemporary speech patterns and old fashioned ones, which really took away from the idea that they were both centuries old.  Beka, especially, needed to retain the old-fashioned speech patterns for at least several chapters longer, in my opinion, because of David’s early observation. David could be more easily forgiven for the change because he was still adapting to being out of solitary confinement for so long, so it would be logical that his speech patterns would progress from an older style into a more modern one as he acclimated himself to his new environment.
  • Clocking in around 80k words, the book was a bit on the long side.  It wasn’t the word count persay, but merely the sheer volume of action — despite my engagement in the events of the book, the constant battle sequences were almost exhausting. While I definitely appreciated that things were never boring, it seemed as though the reader and characters both barely had a second to breathe before yet another horde of demons was attacking the group, complete with slashing claws, sword fights, decapitations, kidnappings, and violent beheadings.

Readers should be aware going into this that it is a “New Adult” or “Upper YA” book, and as such has very little sensuality other than some kissing and a tiny bit of touchy-feely action.  There is also a distinctly “young” feel to this book despite all the explicit violence.  Many of the characters make rash decisions that seemed more immature than their true ages would account for, and the incredibly speedy development of the “love” between David and Beka felt more like youthful infatuation than a deeper emotion.

I personally loved the premise of this story. David is an incredibly tortured hero, both literally and figuratively, and the whole idea of having been “out of the loop” so to speak for over two hundred years gave the story a wonderful “time travel” vibe — David must not only avoid the temptation to give into his demon’s lusts and lose his humanity forever, but he must also accustom himself to the massive changes that society has undertaken in the time he’s been gone.  Sexuality has become open and casual, women’s clothing has all but disappeared in the desert environment, and the speech patterns are all but impossible for him to understand and blend in with.

I also greatly appreciated that not only was David a virgin hero (which I adore in romance novels), but that losing his virginity would literally mean losing his humanity.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the first-person POV in this story, because it allows you to really get into David’s head and experience his confusion, anger, lust, and even hopelessness as though it were actually happening to you.

However, in the end, for me it all came down to the overwhelming number of battle sequences.  I think with some very judicious editing, the overall length of the novel could be pared down to a more mainstream length, and each of the battle sequences could have so much more impact than they do now.  While constant fights between the Guardians, David, and the other demons certainly helped to maintain not only the fast-paced thrill of the story but also to emphasize the incredible amount of danger that they were all in at any given time, I think that with so much carnage that I as a reader became desensitized to the importance and excitement of each individual skirmish.   Swords, claws, wings, teeth, daggers and even magic were often brought into the fray, but as exciting as each of those factors were, eventually the fights simply began to lose their impact.

There are several fight scenes that I can recall off the top of my head that were absolutely incredible and deserved to have a spotlight in the story. One fight in particular rather early on (that I can’t specify as it would be a major spoiler) was a definite turning point in the novel, but unfortunately, it almost got lost in the shuffle due to the constant barrage of altercations, and that was disappointing as a reader. As a result, it lost a full star from my final rating.

In spite of this, however, I did enjoy it.  David was intriguing, and I couldn’t help but be enthralled by the idea of a man, given into the service of evil by his own mother, who desperately wants to hold on to the last shred of humanity he owns no matter what the personal cost.  The sweet love that blossomed between David and Beka was a beautiful story of redemption and forgiveness, despite the speed of their initial connection, and the determination to fight against darkness and temptation was wonderful.

In the end, this book is recommended for fans of tortured heroes battling against harrowing odds to ensure that good will prevail, of destined lovers refusing to let the obstacles in their paths slow them down, and of accepting yourself, flaws and all, in order to embrace redemption.

3/5 Stars

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