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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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Review: The Highest Price to Pay – Mills & Boon Modern – Maisey Yates

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Expected Release Date: July 15, 2011 (UK), August 1(US-iBooks)
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Imprint: Modern
Author’s Website: maiseyyates.com
My Source for This Book: Won in a contest
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

When Ella’s failing business comes wrapped up as part of Blaise Chevalier’s recent takeover, he plans to discard it — as is his usual way with surplus goods. Then he meets Ella! Cast from the same fiery mould as he is, she makes an intruiguing adversary. Perhaps he could have a little fun with his new acquisition…

As proud and strong as she she is beautiful, Ella is determined to prove Blaise wrong about her business and her worth. As long as she hides her hint of vulnerability and denies the flicker of attraction between them when she catches her enemy’s eye…

Ella is a talented fashion designer, determined to find success with her own line and small boutique. Though technically an “heiress” of a famous family, she relies only on her own talent and perseverance to make something of herself with her line.  Unfortunately, fashion is a very expensive business, and she’s accumulated massive debt with her business. When her loans are purchased by Blaise Chevalier, a man well known for both his playboy lifestyle and his ruthless business acumen, she sees all of her dreams going down the drain.

However, Blaise has seen Ella’s potential, and knows that with the right connections, he can make them both incredibly rich off of her work. All she has to do is give up control of her precious company to a man whose reputation paints him as heartless.

Even knowing that it’s unwise to mix business and pleasure, both are unable to resist the attraction crackling between them, despite the fact they each know they have nothing to offer each other…

To be absolutely fair, I have to start off any review of a Maisey Yates book by saying this: I am a Maisey Yates fangirl. I have, thus far, absolutely adored everything that I have read by her, and was incredibly upset to learn that at the time of its publishing in the UK, there were no plans for a U.S. release, and that it was therefore unavailable to me.  When I found out I’d won this book through a contest on the SEVEN SASSY SISTERS blog, my husband can attest to the fact that I quite literally squealed like a little schoolgirl and probably frightened my neighbors. Never fear, they’ve recovered, but my excitement about this book never faded.

So.

What Worked For Me:

  • I really, really enjoyed that Ella was physically imperfect, and that she actually flaunted her smaller scars to satisfy the curiosity of others without actually revealing her deepest insecurities.  It was also refreshing that while she had endured a rather crappy childhood, she wasn’t a poor little orphan who’d grown up in the foster care system.
  • I don’t normally go for virgin heroines in contemporaries, but Ella’s self-consciousness about her scars and bad prior history with men definitely made this instance more plausible than some.
  • Don’t tell Mr. Romanceaholic, but I’m pretty sure I now want a beautiful mocha-skinned Frenchman of my own *drools*.  The epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, Blaise was incredibly dreamy. I also appreciated that there was just enough French scattered throughout the dialogue to remind me to read Blaise with a French accent and my oh my, it’s called the Language of Romance for a reason *dreamy sigh*
  • I also loved that Ella was a talented fashion designer — this isn’t a career I’ve read about often in romances, and the fact that I read it on the same night that Project Runway’s new season premiered made it even better :P
  • Oh Em Gee. The scene. On the yacht. With the rose. *swoons*  That, in all seriousness, was probably the most romantic scene I have ever read in a category romance. Ever. It was sheer and utter perfection.
  • I really liked that there was no “evil ex” or surprise pregnancies or family ultimatums or any of those things in this story. While I  certainly enjoy those things on occasion, it was refreshing to simply see two broken people working to repair the damage of their pasts, without a lot of outside influences.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I really wish there’d been more details about what had happened with Marie. Or, if not what had happened with Marie, then at least some more about his relationship with his brother.  I tend to like my books to be wrapped up into a neat little bow when they’re complete, and it felt as though there was some unfinished business left dangling by not having some sort of on-screen resolution so to speak with his estranged family.
  • I hate to say it, but the fact that the heroine has terrible burn scars from a fire and the hero’s name is “Blaise” was a wee bit too cheesy for my tastes.  Though, this is a very, very small negative point, because frankly, he could’ve been named “Sparkles the Cupcake Princess”  and I’d have still adored him.
Overall, I of course loved it.  Two tortured people hiding their vulnerabilities behind a public mask of indifference, they were absolutely perfect for each other.   Ella used her smaller, more visible burn scars to erect a sort of armor around her, flaunting them to satisfy the morbid curiosity of the masses. Blaise, on the other hand, fell into his role of heartless womanizer, ensuring that he’d never fall vulnerable to the traitorous and disasterous emotion of love.  Together, however, neither could resist both the physical attraction between them, nor the lure of finding out just what was hiding behind each others’ masks.
The love scenes were tasty, but more than that, this book was romantic.  The scene on the yacht with the rose just blew me away — I literally re-read it three times before moving on, because the incredible tenderness and respect that Blaise showed Ella completely decimated her resistance to him.
Recommended for fans of tortured heroes, stubborn and  physically damaged (and therefore insecure) heroines, and of finding someone to love you in spite of all of your flaws.
A very cheerful 4.5/5 Stars

Review: Rush of Pleasure – HQN – Rhyannon Byrd

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Expected Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: HQN
Author’s Website: http://www.rhyannonbyrd.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 8, Primal Instincts
Series Best Read In Order: Yes, but might be okay as a standalone
Steam Level: Hot

Official Blurb:

DANGEROUS PASSION AND PRIMAL INSTINCTS…

With his sinister good looks, Noah Winston is the one man— a human with Casus ties—who Willow Broussard has never been able to resist. Once enemies, then lovers, Noah broke her heart. Yet the powerful witch and paranormal private investigator can’t turn him away when he needs her help in protecting his family, him—and the world—against their enemy…

As Noah and Willow work together, the secrets of their turbulent past are slowly exposed, each startling revelation drawing them closer. But when the enemy finally makes a move, Noah will need more than witchcraft and magic to survive. He’ll need his friends, one hell of a plan…and the undying devotion of a tenacious witch whose love is eternal.

Born into a family descended from the evil Casus, Noah Winston has lived his entire life knowing that one day he may be possessed by pure evil.  Now, he works with the now-defunct Watchmen to battle the Casus as they attempt to bring their evil back into our dimension.  Following an epic battle (in the previous novel), he knows he must contact Willow Broussard — the one woman he wants more than any other, and the one most forbidden to him.

A powerful witch, Willow belongs to a family whose long-standing feud with Noah’s family is a thing to make the Hatfields and McCoy’s look like a nursery-room squabble.  As teenagers, Willow and Noah were on the cusp of becoming lovers when they were discovered by their families and Noah quickly abandoned their relationship seemingly for good.  Now, twelve years later, Willow is a powerful warrior-witch in her own right, and Noah needs her family’s help to translate a spell that may be the saving grace of mankind.

Forced to work together, both Noah and Willow battle their rekindled attraction while, well, attempting to save the world.

What Worked For Me:

  • Oh Noah. I’ve been waiting for Noah’s story ever since he was introduced, and it was well worth the wait.  He’s so angsty and delicious, knowing that the Casus could end up possessing not only him but his brothers, and being so incredibly devoted to Willow even after all this time, not to mention the physical changes brought on by events in the last novel. Nom nom nom.
  • Damon was so much fun. A “sex eater” demon, on the run from his crazy ex-wife, and good friend to Willow, I almost hope he gets his own book in the future. Perhaps a spinoff, since this is the final book in the Primal Instincts series?
  • Noah has fangs now. Guh.
  • I admit, it was wonderful to finally have a resolution with Calder.  The Villain can only remain interesting and powerful enough through just so many books before things start to get ridiculous, and I really think that things were at a perfect stopping point.
  • Dude. The spell from the scroll.  *shakes head* Let’s just say the visual was disgusting(ly awesome).
  • I admit, the climax of the book (no pun intended) was pretty incredible.
  • I loved the epilogue as well — Noah and Willow’s relationship was wrapped up beautifully, but also the updates and hope for the future now that the most pressing threats have been resolved (and I love the new name for the group! lol)
  • As always, the UST is absolutely incredible, and while I was a bit disappointed with one of the actual consummation scenes, let’s just say that the rest was as incendiary as always.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Even though I truly thin Rhyannon Byrd has the ability to write some of the sexiest love scenes this side of erotica, I have to admit, I didn’t find it sexy at all to be pretty much waiting on a phone call to allow you to proceed.   There’s just something about the “everyone knows exactly what we’re doing” thing that just didn’t really speak to me on this one.
  • As much as I adored his character in general, I wanted to smack Damon for pushing the envelope by keeping a certain fact secret. And to be honest, I felt like that secret made things a little too easy, and almost felt like a bit of a copout on Ms. Byrd’s part. While I’m certain there were outside factors (page limits, editor’s suggestions, etc.), I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad that we missed out on what could’ve been an epic battle scene and instead got a “oh wow that was crazy” type commentary and some sexytimes.

Overall, I think this was a great way to wrap up an awesome series. While newcomers will likely be at least a little confused, I do feel that Ms. Byrd did a respectable job of giving just enough information to get by without succumbing to the dreaded info-dump syndrome that befalls so many books that are late entries into a previously established series.  The hotness factor was just as high as I’ve come to expect from this series (that is, deliciously hot with plenty of yummy angsty UST), and the new characters were enchanting.

Recommended for fans of estranged lovers, forbidden romance, and delicious tension and chemistry, liberally sprinkled with kick-butt paranormal action and evil mayhem. A very solid 4/5 Stars

Review: Viper’s Kiss – Carina Press – Shannon Curtis

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Expected Release Date: July 25, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://www.shannoncurtis.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Librarian Maggie Kincaid, yearns for excitement — but being accused of espionage is not what she had in mind. Wanted by the police, the FBI and the criminal element, Maggie goes on the run — and runs straight into sexy Luke Fletcher. Unfortunately, when Luke pulls out the handcuffs, it’s not because he has something kinky in mind…

Security expert Luke is intent on seeing the murderous spy known only as the Viper brought ot justice. The un-spy-like behavior of his fugitive makes him suspect he’s apprehended the wrong woman. Just as they give in to lust, new evidence convinces Luke that Maggie’s not as innocent as she claims to be.

Devastated by Luke’s inability to trust her, Maggie runs again. She’s determined to clear her name, and if that means tracking down a notorious spy even Interpol can’t seem to locate, then that’s exactly what she’ll do…

This book started out with a bang and didn’t slow down until the very ending.   We open with dowdy Maggie Kincaid, librarian for a large university, having to sneak into work so that she won’t be mobbed by her “admiring fans”. You see, Maggie, for all her prim clothes and boring lifestyle, bears a striking resemblance to a luscious model who recently posed nude for a car calendar.

Unfortunately for Maggie, this case of mistaken identity is not the only one in store for her, and minutes later she finds herself under arrest for theft and murder. It seems she’s been mistaken for a notorious international spy named Viper!   But the police aren’t the only ones who want to get their hands on Maggie —  the real Viper has double-crossed her boss and framed Maggie, and suffice it to say that the bossman isn’t happy.  Kidnapped from the police, she must rely on her own quick thinking to escape a horrible fate when she literally stumbles into the incredibly handsome Luke Fletcher, who insists that if she wants to live, she’ll have to come with him.

Luke is a security expert charged with capturing the Viper and recovering the suit she’s stolen — a prototype of technology that can literally render the wearer invisible as it bends light particles around it. Sounding more in the realm of science fiction, the technology is frighteningly real, and the implications of it being sold on the black market are absolutely devastating.

Convinced that Maggie is actually the Viper, he presents to her seemingly irrefutable evidence of her guilt in an attempt to gain her cooperation, but Maggie insists on her innocence.  Chastising himself for falling for the ploys of a master spy, he continues to interrogate her, but the more time he spends with her, the more he begins to doubt that her innocence, fear, and frustration are a ploy, as well as the harder it becomes to ignore the temptation of her body.

Soon, he not only begins to work to clear Maggie’s name, but also allows himself to give into their attraction.  When more details come in, however, Luke becomes convinced that Maggie is yet again lying to him, and once again begins treating her as a suspect.

Heartbroken by Luke’s mistrust and casual disregard for their budding relationship, she escapes, determined to prove her innocence in the only way she knows how — by capturing the notorious Viper herself!

What worked for me

  • Maggie was freakin awesome! Even though she was a “dowdy librarian”, she was also extremely intelligent and courageous in the face of danger. Her ability to think quickly saved her more than once, and  parallels between her and her idol, Wonder Woman, were drawn quite well.
  • I loved that the action really never stopped — from the moment of Maggie’s arrest until the very dramatic conclusion, things kept moving with all sorts of chases and explosions and of course her trying to prove her innocence.
  • I also enjoyed the surprising twists as to both the identity of the Viper and the Viper’s “boss”, as well as the motivations behind the entire escapade.
  • I also really liked the ending. I can’t tell you why without spoiling things, but let’s just say I think good decisions were made all around.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I don’t know, I felt it a little hard to believe that someone who was so gorgeous she truly be mistaken for a sexy model would end up a 30-something year old virgin.  Sure, we’re given the explanation of both her rather crappy childhood, and how she has no time to date because of her sick mother, and her infamous “90 Day Rule”, but even so, virgin heroines in contemporaries aren’t really my thing in general.
  • A very, very minor point, but I was actually annoyed in an early chapter when Maggie was trying to quickly tie a knot that would hold, and thought to herself something along the lines of “why couldn’t Mom have sent me to Girl Scouts”.  Instead of leaving it at that (which would’ve been both slightly humorous and humanizing), she then thinks to herself something along the lines of “oh yeah, because it was between that or having food on the table”.  While I know the intention was to introduce Maggie’s rather crappy childhood and all that, it felt so out of place in that particular scene.  On the run from kidnappers who have made it clear they plan to rape and torture you for information you don’t have, and you stop to ruminate about how you had no money as a child? No. Just… no.

Overall, this was an incredibly fun read with just the right amount of sexual tension.  A heroine whose prim facade was a result of her situation rather than lack of personality, a hero who can’t help but resist the one woman he knows he should avoid at all costs, and an exciting mystery with both espionage and just enough of a sci-fi element to appeal to the geek in all of us lead me to a solid final rating of 4/5 Stars

Review: The Marriage Betrayal – Harlequin Presents – Lynne Graham

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Expected Release Date: July 19, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Harlequin Presents
Author’s Website: http://www.lynnegraham.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1, Volakis Vow
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level:  Hot

Official Blurb:

Careless passion, pregnancy surprise…

A marriage made of secrets…

Sander Volakis goes his own way. He’s forged his reputation in business, rather than relying on the family fortune, and indulges his darkly passionate, wild streak. He has no intention of marrying…

He doesn’t do country weekends, either. Pitching up at Westgrave Manor is a favor to his father and a bore…until he sees Tally Spencer, so pretty and voluptuous that he can’t resist her. Sander’s looking forward to casually seducing her…not knowing that one night with the innocent Tally could end his playboy existence…

Sander and Tally’s story continues next month in Bride for Real.

Years ago, Tally’s mother tried to trap a tycoon into marriage by intentionally getting pregnant.  Unfortunately for her, he didn’t succumb to her machinations, and instead merely provided for Tally, whom he considers to be his dirty little secret.   When he asks her for the favor of watching out for her half sister at a house party, she reluctantly goes along, even though the 17-year old resents her presence, and refuses to acknowledge her as family.  Instead, Tally is forced to pose as her sister’s “assistant”, and is treated as little better than a servant amongst her sister’s rich friends.

Sander Volakis is an independent man.  His older brother was the apple of his parents’ eye, and nothing he could do ever compared to his paragon sibling. When his brother dies, Sander is forced back into the family fold to help with the business that is floundering under his late brother’s control, and when his father insists that he attend a house party thrown by the family of his deceased brother’s fiance, he can do little but simply go along with the plan.

As soon as Tally sees Sander, she’s mesmerized.  His physique and presence awaken dormant feelings of desire for the first time in her life, and the fact that he seems taken by her is a huge ego boost as well. Despite the fact that she has never been with a man, she begins to feel a connection to Sander, and gives herself to him in what turns out to be a very dissatisfying and even humiliating experience.

Put off of physical intimacy completely by that horrible experience, she walks away from Sander and never intends to look back. Unfortunately for her, he is intrigued by the woman who refuses to be enraptured by him, and sets out to seduce her.  When she bluntly informs him that she expects exclusivity from any man that she has a relationship with, he’s furious because he thinks she’s just like other women who try to pin him down. He quickly realizes though, that if he wants to pursue their attraction, he’ll have to make concessions, and agrees that so long as he’s still interested in her, he will remain exclusive.

Their relationship progresses until one night, Tally catches him kissing and caressing another (more beautiful and sophisticated) woman and walks out on him.  Of course, things are never that simple, as she soon discovers that he’s left behind more than just her broken heart — she’s pregnant!

What worked for me:

  • Oh this story had everything.  A tortured hero. A tortured heroine. An unplanned pregnancy. A hero who is blackmailed into marrying a woman he doesn’t (at that time) love. A secret identity that comes back to bite the heroine in the bum.  The angst is absolutely delicious.
  • I loved that Tally’s first sexual experience is a bad one.  Too many times in romances (especially category romances), the loss of the heroine’s virginity is virtually painless and results in earth-shattering orgasms. This is not the case for Tally, and I loved the realism it added (as well as the blow to Sander’s ego when she basically told him he was a lousy lover).
  • I really liked the angst involved with Tally’s secret parentage.  Her mother tried to trap her biological father by getting pregnant, and it didn’t work, so of course when Sander discovers who her father is, he (and his family) assume that she’s done the same thing.

What didn’t work for me:

  • I’m incredibly frustrated that this is a “duet”, meaning that Sander and Tally’s story is not yet done.  This book ends with what seems to be a HEA, but unfortunately the preview for the next novel in the series, Bride For Real, shows that this isn’t the case.  I truly wish that the second book were already available, because it’s killing me having to wait to find out what happens to make them get a divorce in the next one, since things seem to be going so well for them at the end of this one.

I was a little surprised as to just how much I enjoyed this one.  The angst was absolutely delicious and the love scenes were incredibly hot.  You could feel the chemistry between the two of them, and their explosive liaisons never disappointed.  I really adored how the fact that she was a powerful man’s daughter came into play, and how her having hidden that fact initially made things that much worse in Sander’s eyes.

It is absolutely killing me that this book is actually part of a duet, because it ended on such a happy note that I felt that the story was complete. Instead, the next book (due out in August in the US) opens with Tally and Sander getting a divorce!  This knowledge detracted greatly from my satisfaction with the ending, and while I’m sure that Bride For Real will end in a HEA, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to trust it when it comes.

Overall, however, this was a delightful read. Full of melodramatic angst and misunderstandings just like all of my favorite Harlequin Presents novels, I would highly recommend this one for fans of accidental pregnancies, heroes who are blackmailed into marriage, and affairs that end on a sour note yet turn into a sweet love.

4/5 Stars

Review: Savor The Danger – HQN – Lori Foster

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Expected Release Date: June 28, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: HQN
Author’s Website: http://lorifoster.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but works well as a standalone.
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

She may be aloof, and more pretty than gorgeous, but Alani Rivers is the kind of woman a hot-blooded mercenary can’t forget, no matter how hard he tries. So when Jackson Savor wakes up next to the naked, sleeping beauty—with no memory of what happened—he knows he’s been drugged… even if Alani doesn’t.

After she was kidnapped, Alani swore she’d never trust another man again. Still, something about this strong, sexy hero with the tender touch makes her want to believe him. As Jackson hunts downs a mysterious intruder, he swears he’ll move heaven and earth to keep Alani safe. But what really happened that night? And will the truth bring them closer than they ever thought possible—or put Alani squarely in harm’s way again?

What worked for me:

  • Jackson dresses like a cowboy.  *drools* C’mon, faded jeans, cowboy hat, lotsa muscles…. *fans self* It’s no wonder he had a constant parade of women in his bead.
  • Some of you may remember MY RANT in the review for the previous novel in this series about forced nudity in romance novels.  Well, I’m happy to report that the only forced nudity in this novel was that of Jackson running around in his birthday suit.  While he wasn’t embarrassed, I admit, it was nice that he ended up with his junk on display since he’s the one who snatched Priss out of the shower in the previous story.  I greatly appreciated that Alani was allowed to maintain her dignity in this novel (though there was this bit about an “opaque” nightgown, and her brother did have impeccable timing…)
  • I do love amnesia in my romance novels. Add to that the fact that Jackson has forgotten the most momentous occasion in his and Alani’s relationship, and you’ve got a wonderful recipe for some delicious angst.
  • Whooo mama when Alani and Jackson got together, things were H-O-T!
  • I also liked that it was Jackson pushing for something more than just a physical affair. Even when he refused to put a label on things, he knew he wanted her with him for a long, long time.  I don’t consider this a true “hero in pursuit” story, however, because Alani is pretty much in love with him from the beginning, though she keeps her feelings to herself once she realizes that his initial declarations of affection were due to his being drugged.

What didn’t work for me:

  • There was at least one TSTL moment, where I really wanted to smack Alani.  For all her talk of understanding how serious the situation was, and of trusting Jackson and following his instructions without question, she sure did tend to not take him seriously on occasion, much to her detriment.
  • I almost think Alani was too understanding, and it was a bit unsettling. I have a feeling that this was intentional, as it was unsettling for Jackson as well, but sometimes I wanted her to be a little more jealous of the fact he was a man-hoar, or a little more demanding of explanations when he got all secrety on him.  She seemed to assert her independence at the strangest times, while allowing him to walk over her in times where I would’ve put my foot down.
  • It’s been my understanding that “roofies” make you pass out completely, (rather than just make you really, really horny and uninhibited), so that detail was a bit annoying.  Having read the previous novels in the series, however, I understand that using something other than Rohypnol (true “roofies”) could have this affect, but new readers to the series may not realize that.

I realize that this book is part of a trilogy, but the ending was set up beautifully for a novel about Spencer and Arizona, and I sincerely hope that there will be one forthcoming.

While Alani wasn’t necessarily my favorite heroine of the series (that would actually probably be Natalie from Ready, Set, Jett followed closely by Molly from When You Dare), I did like how she was able to prove that she was tougher than the fragile flower of a baby sister that Trace and Dare have always treated her as. It was rather enjoyable to not only watch Alani come into her own, but to see Trace and Dare both acknowledge that she was a grown woman and not someone in need of constant coddling.   Jackson was probably the perfect hero for her — strong, capable, sexy (and besotted, whether he would admit to it or not), and once he learned to tone down the cave-man attitude, he really balanced Alani nicely.

Recommended for readers who enjoy heroines overcoming a traumatic past, of promiscuous heroes blindsided by love, and of thrilling action, danger, and mystery.

A very solid 4/5 Stars

Review: A Night of Scandal – Harlequin Presents – Sarah Morgan

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Expected Release Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Harlequin Presents
Author’s Website: http://www.sarahmorgan.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1, Notorious Wolfes
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Nathaniel…Icon. Celebrity. Heartthrob.

But underneath his movie-star good looks, he’s battling with the demons of his past. No one knows the real Nathaniel, they only see the pinup, the illusion he pretends to be.

Then one night he is forced to rely on Katie Field, an ordinary young woman from a very different world. She may be starstruck but she isn’t blinded by the bright lights of fame. Can Nathaniel trust her enough to reveal the real man behind the mask?

Let the seduction begin….

Nathaniel Wolfe is the Hollywood Hunk. Handsome, wealthy, and talented, he’s what many a woman (and man) dreams of.  He’s also a coward.  Nathaniel hides behind his acting, and has been running from his horrible childhood as soon as he was old enough to escape.

Katie is just an ordinary woman, with ordinary concerns and insecurities, who is working as a costume designer in a London theater. She’s an absolute genius with design, and is hoping that this job will help to launch her career and bring in some desperately needed income.

When we meet Nathaniel, he’s about to take the stage in a theater production of  Shakespeare’s Richard II, where Katie has been working as costume designer.  Just as he’s about to say his opening lines, however, he spies someone in the audience from his past — a past he’d long since hoped was buried and forgotten.

Flustered and furious, he storms off stage where he runs into Katie, and demands that she help him find a way out that doesn’t involve the paparazzi.   When it seems there is nowhere to hide but Katie’s tiny apartment, they head there only to have the media show up the next morning, determined to get their slice of the pie.

Knowing that the super-talkative Katie would never be able to hold her own against the press, he whisks her off to a private island, free from the prying eyes of the world…

What worked for me:

  • Oh Em Gee, it’s a Harlequin Presents novel that doesn’t star a Greek (or Italian) Billionaire or a Sheikh! *faints*  Now, don’t get me wrong, because I love my arrogant Sheikhs and Tycoons, but I must admit, the Movie Star is a very welcome and refreshing change.
  • Nathaniel was incredible. I loved that instead of being the stereotypical arrogant jerk of a hero that HP is often known for, he’s instead hiding behind his actor persona.  Katie nailed it right on the head when she said she wanted the man not the movie star, because acting has always been Nathaniel’s escape.  I really enjoyed watching him emerge from behind his protective facade to become a man that Katie could really let herself love.
  • I also liked Katie. Even though I’m not a fan of virgin heroines in contemporaries unless they’re, say, 18 years old, her insecurities over her own body and her tendency to try to blend in helped it make sense.
  • Katie was also a realistically sized heroine, which of course I enjoyed since that’s one of my favorite heroine types.  She wasn’t overweight, mind you, but her sister was a stick-thin supermodel, and being a costume designer, she deals with super skinny dancers and actresses all day long, so it’s easy for a non-Hollywood woman to feel that they simply don’t measure up.
  • I loved that Katie was starstruck at first! It seems so unrealistic to think that an average gal wouldn’t be tripping all over her tongue if she met, say, Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp, so it was nice seeing Katie so nervous. I also liked that she was so incredibly talkative, because when I get nervous I tend to babble. And giggle. Which is horrific for me, but nice to see in someone else.
  • I really enjoyed both their trip to Rio, and the night at the Sapphires (this book’s version of the Academy Awards, presumably to avoid trademark infringement).

What didn’t work for me:

  • I know this is something that we’re really not supposed to comment on, but.. I really didn’t like the title. There. I said it.  This was a fantastic story, with loads of angst and tortured pasts and character growth and steamy action but.. not really any scandal. I can’t help but feel like this title would work better for a historical novel, when this is most decidedly a contemporary, so I can’t really embrace it.
  • I admit that Katie’s obsession over her figure got annoying at times. While no size was ever explicitly mentioned, I had in my head maybe a size 12, which is not at all large enough to be that obsessed with her build.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one.  Nathaniel had a truly nasty childhood, and used his acting as an escape.  Even though he was incredibly successful, it wasn’t until he met Katie that he realized how much he was truly missing in life.  Katie’s obsession over her figure was a bit annoying at times, especially since she wasn’t exactly overweight, but her talkativeness and determination to get Nathaniel to open up really endeared her to me.

There are 8 scheduled novels in this continuity, meaning it will be a series of interconnected books by different authors, so I’m curious to see where the series goes.

In the end this was a satisfying summer read, recommended for fans of tortured heroes, talkative and mildly insecure everyday heroines, and touch of celebrity and Hollywood glitz. 4/5 Stars