Category Archives: Romance
ORDER A COPY: Rusty Nailed (The Cocktail Series)
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publishing Date: June 24, 2014
Paperback: 320 pages
Rating: 5 stars
In this sequel to Wallbanger, the second book in the Cocktail series, fan favorites Caroline and Simon negotiate the rollercoaster of their new relationship while house-sitting in San Francisco.
Playing house was never so much fun—or so confusing. With her boss on her honeymoon, Caroline’s working crazy long hours to keep the interior design company running—especially since she’s also the lead designer for the renovation of a gorgeous old hotel on Sausalito. So with her hotshot photographer boyfriend gallivanting all over the world for his job, she and Simon are heavy-duty into “absence makes the heart grow fonder” mode. Neither has any complaints about the great reunion sex, though! Then Simon decides he’s tired of so much travelling, and he’s suddenly home more. A lot more. And wanting Caroline home more, too. Though their friends’ romantic lives provide plenty of welcome distraction, eventually Caroline and Simon have to sort their relationship out. Neither wants “out of sight, out of mind,” but can they create their own happy mid-ground cliché?
Simon “Wallbanger” Parker is still keeping Caroline “Pink Nightie Girl” Reynolds up all night banging on her walls, only now he’s banging on that wall with her. Simon is still traveling around the world and Caroline is still decorating San Francisco, and the relationship is working out well for them. Unlike the women Simon has dated in the past, Caroline enjoys some quiet me time, and reunions make the Simon and Caroline time all that much sweeter.
But as they countdown the days to the wedding of Caroline’s boss Jillian to everyone’s hot fantasy older man, Benjamin, and Mimi and Ryan are planning a wedding of their own, not everybody is happy in Wallbangerland. Caroline and Simon’s friends Neil and Sophia are on the outs and its making wedding planning rather rough going whenever they both arrive and the fights begin dragging their friends into the mix.
Caroline also gets quite the surprise. She gets a new office…so she can to do both her and Jillian’s jobs while Jillian is away on her open-ended-ticket honeymoon. Interior Design is one thing, but office manager on top of that is a job Caroline is not sure she will be able to handle. As if Caroline isn’t under enough pressure, she can’t help notice that Simon is leaving on less and less assignments, and even cancelling a few he had scheduled. Now that Caroline is around less and less, Simon is around more and more. And no time to bake is making Caroline a little cranky (and Simon a little hungry).
Caroline’s life is in chaos, with less and less wallbanging going around. Can Caroline and Simon try to adjust to their new relationship dynamic or is too much time together going to drive a wedge between them?
I just love Alice Clayton and her quirky, fun humor. At first, everything is smooth sailing for Simon and Caroline. They are developing their own unique relationship. But when Jillian dumps all the responsibility for the design company on Caroline, she is meeting the task but she is also slowing cracking under the pressure. She sees Simon’s cancelling his travel plans and something to be concerned over and she is afraid of why he is doing that, but she’s also afraid to just ask him.
Simon has had no reason to put down roots anywhere since he lost his parents as a teen. So we, who are not going crazy along with Caroline, can see that Simon finally has a reason not to spend all his time away from home, but Caroline is in panic over what’s going on in his head.
I thought this story was filled with as many sweet moments as funny ones. One complaint I heard was that there was not enough tension in the story, but I thought just their adjusting to their relationship along with the increasing stresses being put upon them and Caroline’s mental breakdown, created an enjoyable story of these two people trying to become a couple while life is trying to pull them apart.
Oh, and how can I forget, Clive is back for more fun. Meow!
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I hung up the phone. Because in my driveway was a white Mercedes convertible. With a red bow on it. What the actual fuck?
I parked the van, hurried up the walkway, opened the door, hurdled over a sawhorse like an Olympian, and dashed into the kitchen. Where I found Simon, on a ladder. Faded jeans. No shirt. Tool belt.
“Um, what’s that in our driveway?” I asked. He turned in slow motion, it seemed, and I noticed for the millionth time just how stunning he was. Sculpted arms, broad shoulders, skipping down to that sweet spot just above his bum. And a six-pack that, when he was really worked up, gave up a seven and eight as well. And then that V on either side that just seemed to slip into those jeans.
“Well, it was the funniest thing,” he started, climbing down off the ladder and setting down his belt sander. He gave great sander. “I was watching you drive off today in that ridiculous van and I though, my girl needs some wheels.”
“So you bought me a car?” I asked, confused. Brain was not liking some of these words, but every other part of me was liking the walking sex coming right at me.
I couldn’t let him just buy me a car, could I? Oooh, he’s walking.
He crossed to me, slowly, and I walked backward as he advanced. Before I knew it, I was up against the wall. With a shirtless Wallbanger inches from me.
Now, for the record, when I went vaulting into the house, I was pretty sure what was going on. And what he’d obviously done. And I was pretty sure I was pissed.
Now think about how good he must have looked to make me forget how pissed I was.
“If you don’t like the color, we can go down and pick out another one,” he said, now only one inch from me. I could feel the heat from his body began to penetrate mine. Penetrate? Yes, please.
But wait, he can’t just buy me a car!
“Yeah, you can’t just, just buy me a, ummm,” I breathed, my words getting fuzzy as he leaned into me. There was so much tension in my body I was starting to vibrate like a tuning fork.
“Yes, I can just buy you a car. It’s a gift—get over it,” he replied, his brow furrowing as if he couldn’t understand why I was giving him shit about this. And at the very moment, I couldn’t tell you why either.
I’d never gone this long without having sex with Simon, not when he was in town. It was starting to get to me. And he smelled so good!
“But a car, Simone? I…uh…what is that cologne?”
“They should bottle that shit,” I breathed, my voice going husky.
“It comes in a can.”
“It’s really working for you,” I moaned as he dipped his head down and dragged his tongue right up my neck.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he murmured, burying one hand in my hair.
“Did you do this on purpose? This whole handyman fantasy? The tool belt? The abs? The—holy fuck.” I gasped when he took my hand and pressed it against his …drill bit.
“You came home early,” he explained, thrusting into his hand. “I like early.”
“Lucky me.” I sighed and dropped my head back against the wall. He took this to be a green light, because within seconds my shirt was ripped, my skirt was pushed up, and he’d wrapped my legs around his tool belt. “I liked that shirt,” I protested.
“You really care?” he asked, slipping his fingers underneath the lace of my panties. Slippery already, and he moaned at the first touch.
“Not really,” I marveled at his strength; I always had. The idea of being actually wall banged always seemed impossible to me. Until Simon. He was strong without being beefcake. And he could carry my body around like I weighted next to nothing, when that wasn’t the case at all.
“How much do you care about these?” he asked, tugging on the waistband.
“One guess.” I smirked.
ORDER A COPY: Fall From India Place
Publishing Date: June 3, 2014
Paperback: 294 pages
Rating: 4 stars
When Hannah Nichols last saw Marco D’Alessandro, five long years ago, he broke her heart. The bad boy with a hidden sweet side was the only guy Hannah ever loved—and the only man she’s ever been with. After one intense night of giving into temptation, Marco took off, leaving Scotland and Hannah behind. Shattered by the consequences of their night together, Hannah has never truly moved on.
Leaving Hannah was the biggest mistake of Marco’s life, something he has deeply regretted for years. So when fate reunites them, he refuses to let her go without a fight. Determined to make her his, Marco pursues Hannah, reminding her of all the reasons they’re meant to be together.…
But just when Marco thinks they’re committed to a future together, Hannah makes a discovery that unearths the secret pain she’s been hiding from him, a secret that could tear them apart before they have a real chance to start over again.
It has been seven years since Nate won the heart of Olivia in Before Jamaica Lane and we find Hannah Nichols all grown up and finishing her first year as a probationary teacher. Sunday dinner at her parents house has gotten even more crowded over the years with all her friends and family now bringing their children with them.
When Mum needs Hannah to clean out her old room so they have room for a crib, Hannah stumbles over her old diaries and a picture of the only boy she has ever loved, Marco D’Alessandro, and it sends her on a painful trip down memory lane. They first met when she was 13 and he was 15. The upperclassman protected her from some bullies after she missed her bus and afterwards he took it upon himself to walk her home each time she missed the bus. As they walked and talked, their friendship grew and Hannah’s schoolgirl crush deepened into a young woman’s first love. But it was the night that Hannah gave her virginity to Marco that tore her world apart. Marco walked away from her that night and returned to America taking her heart and all her girlhood dreams with him.
Hannah spends most of her free time with her new best friend, Cole Walker. After Marco left town, Hannah and Cole grew closer. Hannah only wishes that there were the kind of sparks between her and Cole as she felt with Marco. In fact, Hannah hasn’t found anyone who makes her feel even half of what she felt for Marco.
Morning over the loss of an old love is depressing enough, but to run into him once again after reliving the hurt knocks the wind out of Hannah. She never expected to ever see Marco again in Scotland, but when she finds out he returned more than four years ago, it shatters what is left of her heart. She felt abandoned before but now she can add betrayed to that list as well.
Marco has grown up during his time away from Hannah. The young man who felt unworthy of the beautiful, smart and too young Hannah is gone and the man before her hasn’t forgotten his own feelings and how much Hannah meant to him. He never planned to walk back into her life, but now that he has seen her again, Marco can’t stop his desire for a second chance to win the heart of the only woman he has ever loved. Both the boy he was and the man he is now, know there is no other love for him like Hannah and this time he won’t walk away from her.
But Hannah and Marco are both hiding secrets from their past that could destroy any future they can have together.
I always have a hard time with a series when we have a young characters now grown like Hannah and Marco. It takes me a while to get with the program since part of my brain is still looking at the little kid they were. Seeing them as grown ups who have sex takes me a while. (Yes, my kids are in trouble.) Just like in Until Fountain Bridge, Hannah uses her diary entries to fill us in on our past with Marco from before and after we left her in Nate and Liv’s story.
For the most part, I liked young Hannah and Marco better. Being friends with Marco made Hannah more confident but she was always outspoken with the quiet and reserved Marco. To Marco, Hannah’s friendship and dedication gave him a comfort he couldn’t get from his own family.
Grown up Hannah was holding on too much to her feelings of anger and betrayal. Marco had definitely matured and apologized and no matter that her family and friends all told her how good they were together and how she should give Marco a second chance, she kept jerking him around. Marco would jump through hoops and Hannah wouldn’t stop her bitchy behavior.
Young Hannah was a very likeable character throughout the series and you can understand that her heartbreak could change her, but she needed to either decide to give the guy a chance or walk away. I didn’t like that they kept having sex and she would toss him out, over and over again. Take him back or lock your door. Marco was a responsible and caring kid, who had self-esteem issues and he grew to became a responsible and caring man who finally thought that maybe he was worthy of Hannah. Hannah continuing to jerk Marco around just knocked Hannah’s character down several pegs to the point that I almost had no more pity for her pain.
Cole Walker has grown up into an impressive man, and I am looking forward to his book which is next.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My gaze snapped back to Marco.
A double date.
I was going to be sick. Or I was going to kill him. We were only a few feet from the table when we drew Marco’s gaze. His expression softening at the sight of me until his eyes dropped to my hand in Cole’s and that expression instantly hardened.
He was on a double date and I was with a friend and he was pissed?
“Marco.” Cole greeted him pleasantly. “Just wanted to come over and apologize for…well, you know…” My best friend looked at the pretty blonde at Marco’s side. “I hope I’m not interrupting your date.”
Marco’s eyes clashed with mine and I knew he was definitely irritated with Cole. “It’s not—”
“We shouldn’t have interrupted.” I was studiously avoiding Leah’s burning gaze as I tugged on Cole’s hand. “We’ll let you enjoy your dinner. Cole.”
Cole gave Marco a tight grin before sliding his hand around my waist and leading us to the waiting hostess. As soon as she delivered us to our table, Cole sighed and said, “You’re shaking like a leaf.”
“I’m trying not to kill somebody,” I said through clenched teeth. “Let’s just go home.”
“Fuck that.” Cole let the anger shine from his eyes. “He can’t do this to you.”
“He’s not. I am. I’m doing this to me,” I muttered angrily. “I’m sending him mixed signals, he’s sending me mixed signals. It’s a whole bunch of fucked-up mixed signals. And I really just want to go home before I end up doing hard time.”
Cole leaned into me, pressing his forehead against mine so I had nowhere to look but in his eyes or at my feet. I chose his eyes. “I’m sorry for taking you over there. But he knows that no matter how mixed up you are, underneath it all you love him. And he’s here on a bloody date? I wanted to shake him up, not you.”
“You’re not fine. You’re trembling.”
“I’m trembling with anger. Cole—”
He cut me off by cupping my face in his hands and pressing a soft, sweet kiss to my lips. When he finally pulled back, I stared at him wide-eyed and more than slightly alarmed. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Reminding him he hasn’t won you yet and unless he fights harder he’ll lose you to someone else. He doesn’t need to know that someone will never be me, sweetheart.” He grinned unrepentantly.
I loved my best friend. Totally. I leaned up and pressed another soft kiss to his cheek. “You’re the best, but part of the reason I’m so messed up is because I don’t want him to fight harder. I want us to be over. I just don’t know how to let go.”
Cole leaned into me again, lips almost touching mine as he said quietly, “You need to stop lying to yourself, Hannah Nichols. You love him. You know you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be in such a state.”
Before I could respond in the negative, a shadow fell over us and we pulled slightly apart to look at our right and into Marco’s furious face. Anger danced in his exceptional eyes and it was all directed at Cole. “You’ve got two seconds to move away from her before I fuck you up a million times worse than I did at the site.”
ORDER A COPY: When Day Breaks (A KGI Novel)
Publishing Date: June 24, 2014
Paperback: 304 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Eden is said to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her face has graced countless magazines and her body has sold millions of dollars of clothing. But her fame and beauty has earned her more than she ever imagined. Evil is stalking her, determined to extinguish the ethereal beauty forever.
Swanson or “Swanny” as his teammates call him is always up for the next mission. He came back from Afghanistan wounded and scarred. Hardly the kind of man who even belongs in the same room with Eden. And yet there’s something about the quiet beauty that stirs his blood and makes him dream of the impossible. Because Beauty loving the beast only happens in fairy tales and KGI doesn’t deal in fairy tales. Ever.
Daryl Swanson, known to everyone as Swanny, was captured with Nathan Kelly and held by insurgents in Afghanistan. He was starved, beaten and tortured for information. It was the miracle of Nathan’s wife, Shea, that allowed Nathan and Swanny to escape their prison. They survived their ordeal, but they not not unscathed. Both suffer from nightmares and scars, but unlike Nathan, Swanny cannot hide all of his scars. Swanny bears a jagged scar down the side of his face.
In their latest mission, Nathan and Swanny have been asked to protect the sister of one of their former platoon mates. Ryder used to share his letters and photos of his sister, Eden, with the men. She wasn’t someone that Swanny could easily forget. She had an inner beauty to match her outer beauty.
Now someone from her father’s past wants to hurt her, and Swanny isn’t going to let anyone get close enough to try.
As a model, Eden is surrounded by people who are mostly just beautiful on the outside. Eden is intrigued by the quiet, soft-spoken man who keeps trying to hide his scar from her, yet she is drawn to his strength and bravery and she connects with him on a far deeper level than she has ever connected with anyone. He has an inner beauty that draws her in and opens her heart.
I don’t know that I have read a story with two more likable characters. We see the inner Swanny who is battling with nightmares and the insecurity of scarred face. He admits that the women haven’t been flocking to him since he returned from Afghanistan. He also remembers seeing pictures of Eden that her brother shared with them and he remembers thoughts of the beautiful woman that kept his warm on the coldest nights. There is something between them from their first moments but he only sees himself as the Beast to her Beauty.
Eden is as sweet as she is beautiful and she sees Swanny for his inner beauty and admires his outer beauty as well, which only makes us like her more.
Since most of KGI have met their spouses on a mission, there was no tension with his teammates when a relationship starts to develop between Eden and Swanny. In fact, the team is so happy that Eden sees more to Swanny than his scar, they are all but high fiving Eden every time she gives Swanny a look or boldly pursues him.
One interesting plot point that Maya doesn’t discuss but has me wondering is that Swanny has such strong gut feelings when things aren’t going right, so much so that his whole team trusts him and if he says “pull back” they don’t question, they pull back. I was wondering if this was attributed to the healing that was done to Swanny by way of Shea and Grace while he and Nathan were escaping their prison. They used a psychic link for Grace to heal his internal injuries, and although nothing is mentioned in the book, his strong feelings made me wonder if this was an aftereffect of that slight paranormal twist that Maya gave Nathan’s story, Whispers in the Dark. Hmmm.
I was put off by Donovan’s story which came out back in January, but I am loving the Swanny/Eden connection and yeah, yeah, there was exciting running from bad guys stuff, yada, yada, guns, whatever, but the Swanny/Eden story was absolutely sweet and addicting.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“It’s not ugly,” she said in a sincere voice. “It’s a mark of courage. Of survival. I think you’re beautiful.”
He reared back his head, surprise flaring in his eyes. He stared at her like she’d lost her mind.
“Beautiful?” he said hoarsely. “You’re beautiful. Not me.”
She leaned in, knowing she was being bold—too bold—but she simply couldn’t resist showing him with more than words that his scar didn’t put her off in the least. She cupped his face and slid her fingers down the puckered ridges.
He flinched and tried to withdraw but she leaned further, following him back as she continued her gentle exploration.
“I disagree,” she murmured. “I think you’re beautiful. Strong. A warrior. Your scar is a badge of honor. You forget, my father and brothers served in either the military or the police force. They have scars. They don’t bother me in the least.”
Swanny looked at a complete loss for words, but he remained frozen in place. Then he leaned slightly into the palm of her hand as if he enjoyed her touch.
“Can I kiss you?” she whispered.
Shock registered in his eyes She knew she was being forward. Practically forcing herself on this man. But she knew he felt it too. This inexplicable pull between them. She wasn’t imagining it.
“We shouldn’t,” he began. But she hushed him by fitting her mouth to his.
He let out a low groan and she licked over his lips, pushing gently so he’d open his mouth to her advance. And then, as she’d hoped, he took control of the kiss.
He pulled her into his lap, deepening the kiss, sliding his tongue across her in a gentle exploration. Her body molded to his perfectly. She leaned into him, enjoying the hard wall of muscle against her much softer body.
She was tall, nearly five-ten, but he was still a head taller than her. If they were standing her head would tuck perfectly underneath his chin and she’d only have to angle her mouth up a bit to kiss him.
She was the first to break the kiss but she wasn’t finished. Not yet. She started at the corner of his mouth where the scar began and she kissed a gentle line over the entire puckered slash that ended close to his eye.
“You are beautiful,” she whispered. “To me, you are.”
He framed her shoulders in his hands and pulled her away, regret simmering in his eyes. But there was also answering desire. He actually picked her up and deposited her back onto the sofa and then backed off, standing a distance away.
“That shouldn’t have happened,” he said hoarsely.
He dragged a hand raggedly through his hair and looked away.
“Besides the fact that my job is to protect you, you’re so far out of my league it’s not even funny. I don’t even exist on the same plane as you.”
Her eyes narrowed as she stared back at him, unwilling to give an inch.
“Don’t you think it’s me who gets to decide who’s in my league?”
“A woman like you doesn’t have to go slumming,” he said bluntly. “You could have any man you want.”
“Apparently not,” she murmured, looking pointedly at him.
He stared back at her in clear confusion. “Why me?”
She smiled ruefully. “Attraction doesn’t follow a set of rules, you know. But I know that I don’t look at the others like I look at you. I don’t feel any chemistry with them, or anyone else for that matter. Can you deny that you feel it too?”
Publishing Date: June 3, 2014
Paperback: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars
For the Abbott siblings, the Green Mountain state has always been an idyllic place to call home. But it isn’t until they open themselves up to love that they’ll truly discover how fulfilling life can be…
Almost seven years after losing her husband in Iraq, Hannah Abbott Guthrie isn’t sure she’s ready—or able—to move on, but the attentions of a lifelong friend are making her think about it for the first time. The memory of the sweet kiss she shared with Nolan Roberts hasn’t strayed far from her thoughts, but she also fears that pursuing something with him would mean betraying her husband’s memory.
Nolan has loved Hannah for years, but he’d been giving her the space she needed to heal from her devastating loss. Now, when an opportunity arises to show her how he feels, Nolan can’t resist, but he knows earning her love will take more than a kiss. Somehow he has to prove to Hannah that finding love twice in a lifetime is possible—and well worth risking her heart.
The close knit Abbott family will always work together to solve any problem, but there is one thing that hurt them all so deeply, and there is nothing they can do about it. Caleb Guthrie was a long-time friend of Will and Hunter Abbott and the husband of Hannah Abbot Guthrie. His death was a shock to the family, but there is nothing they can do for Hannah while she grieves the loss of her husband. Until she is ready to move on, they have to sit and wait as the years pass.
The Abbotts aren’t the only ones waiting to see if Hannah will move on. Nolan Roberts has been waiting in the wings for the last few years hoping against hope that Hannah will agree to go out with him. Nolan is a long time friend of both Hannah and Caleb and he understands how Caleb’s loss has effected Hannah and he is willing to go as slow as she needs in order to be a part of her life.
The dance at the Grange a few weeks ago and Nolan’s kiss at the door, changed something for Hannah. She forgot the simple pleasure and excitement of being with someone. Hannah is wracked with guilt over the thought of kissing someone else, since she is Caleb’s wife, and Nolan is such a kind, sweet man she doesn’t want to lead him on. Yet if she was going to find love again, she couldn’t ask for a better man than Nolan.
Just when she is ready to take a step forward with Nolan, Caleb’s dog, Homer, passes away and it once again brings a finality to Caleb’s life, and Hannah’s emotions are in turmoil. Except this time, she has Nolan’s support as well as that of her family. It is Nolan who suggests a big send off for Homer, just like Caleb would have done, and Hannah feels her guilt lighten since Nolan understands her so well and what she needs in order to move forward with her life.
Nolan Roberts might just be Hannah’s second chance at love, but not everyone is ready to let Caleb go and let Hannah move on with her life.
We spent more time getting to know the Abbott Family in Book #1, All You Need is Love, but they weren’t far away in Book 2. They are there to support Hannah but they would like to see her move on with her life and stop being alone. Caleb has been a part of Hannah’s life since she was 13, first as the annoying friend of her brothers, and they slowing into a first love. Caleb is portrayed as someone large than life, always the center of a crowd a friends who love him and Hannah. But we also get to see that not everything was perfect between Hannah and Caleb. His larger than life personality also included excessive party drinking, and Hannah refused to start a family with Caleb until he was ready to “grow up.” This also causes Hannah some pain since she believes that her chance to have a family died with Caleb.
We see Hannah moving forward with her plans, suggested by Cameron, to turn Caleb’s home into a retreat for war widows which bridges her need to hold onto Caleb’s memory and a moving on with her life.
She couldn’t have chosen a better man to move on with than Nolan. He is so understanding of the pain she is suffering and how hard it is for her to move on. Trying to move on, causes Hannah to swing on an emotional pendulum and whenever she pulls away, Nolan is afraid he is losing her, but he is willing to give her the time she needs to work through her feelings, as long as she doesn’t just walk away. We feel his frustration but he is already in love with Hannah that he won’t give up entirely on their future.
It is a sweet story of moving on from the pain of loss, and we see how the further loss of Caleb’s dog brings another finality to Caleb’s loss which rocks Hannah just as she tries go reclaim her life.
We also get a glimpse of future stories which would involve Mountain man Colton and Hannah’s twin, Hunter. I am not sure who’s story is next, but I am enjoying spending time with the Abbotts.
Received ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Every time the garage phone rang, his heart stopped for a moment, which was flat-out ridiculous. She said she’d call him. She hadn’t said she’d call him today. But why hadn’t he asked her to call to let him know she’d arrived safely after the trouble with her battery?
He wiped the grease off his hands with a red oil rag and threw it aside in frustration. Was it possible for a person to drive himself nuts? If it was, he was well on his way. Since his productivity was positively shot, he decided to break early for lunch.
He was on his way out the door to grab something to eat at the diner when the phone rang. Under normal circumstances, he would’ve let voicemail pick up the call, but there was nothing normal about circumstances under when Hannah Guthrie might be calling. So he ran back in and grabbed the phone.
“Hey, it’s me. Hannah.”
Come on. No way. Had he gone straight around the bend into the land of the delusional? Had he wished so hard for her call that he’d made it happen out of sheer will?
“Nolan? Are you there?”
It was really her. “Oh yeah, sorry. I’m here. Is everything okay with the car?”
“That’s why I called. I figure you’d be worried about whether or not I got here, and I did, so I wanted to tell you.”
Was it his imagination or was she rambling? And did she sound nervous? The calm, cool Hannah he knew and loved never sounded nervous. She was always in perfect control of her emotions, something he admired greatly about her in light of what she’d been through. “That’s good to know. I was hoping it wouldn’t give you any more trouble.”
Nolan wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say next. His brain spun with possibilities, each of them rejected.
“I also wanted to tell you…”
His heart pounded as anticipation beat through him in time with his heart. “What, Hannah? What did you want to tell me?”
“Ever since I saw you this morning, I can’t stop thinking about enchiladas.”
Since that had been about the last thing he’d expected her to say, he laughed. “Is that right?”
“I’m drooling, in fact. So I was thinking, maybe we could check out that place in Stowe later? If you’re not busy. I know it’s last minute–”
“I’m not busy.” He was but he’d get out of it. The racing team could meet without him. “What time will you be back?”
“Around six thirty.”
“How does seven sound?”
“Sounds good. I’ll see you then?”
“I’ll be there. I can’t have you drooling all over the place. What will people say?”
Her laughter made him smile. “See you soon.”
Nolan put down the phone and let out a very loud, “Yes!”
ORDER A COPY: Make You Mine: The Dumont Bachelors
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Publishing Date: May 6, 2014
Paperback: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars
For ninety-nine years, every man in the Dumont family has remained a perpetual bachelor. Residents of Cedar Bayou, Louisiana, whisper about a voodoo hex cast upon the family, sabotaging each man’s chance at marriage. In truth, the Dumont men have their own player personalities to blame, and Marc is no exception. As captain of his family’s riverboat, he’s broken hearts up and down the Mississippi. That is, until his high school crush strolls onboard…
Allie Mauvais rocks the boat when she fills in as pastry chef. She hasn’t seen Marc since senior year, when rumors flew that her great-great-grandmother was the one who cursed the Dumonts. After two weeks on the water, neither can deny the attraction that still burns between them. But to truly reach Marc’s heart, Allie must show him that the hex isn’t real, and it’ll take more than her mouthwatering sweets to prove it. Will Allie’s love be enough to finally make Marc hers?
It was Allie Mauvais’s grandmother who first cursed the Dumont men so they would never be able to find love and commit to one woman. Marc’s father is the perfect example of this powerful curse. He has five children with four different women and now another one on the way with his new girlfriend.
Marc tried never to cross paths with Allie, even going as far as changing to the other side of the street when he sees her. She might be beautiful to look at, but he is smart enough to be afraid of Cedar Bayou’s own Voodoo Queen. Everyone knows that every lonely heart stops by the Sweet Spot to pick up Allie’s delicious pastries as well as a gris-gris for love.
Marc has just inherited his family’s riverboat, and as the new captain, he has enlisted all his step-brothers and step-sister and even his Pawpaw to help out as the crew on his first excursion. He has even hired the famous and temperamental Phil Regale to be the chef for the two weeks cruise. Everything is all going according to plan until his pastry chef calls in sick, and the agency sends a last minute replacement, Allie Mauvais.
When odd things start happening, his crew starts to point toward Allie, but the more she is attacked, the more Marc appreciates how she rises above the accusations and is the first to make suggestions and offer a helping hand.
Once he stops thinking about voodoo and curses, he starts to feel the pull between himself and Allie. Except every time he acts on the attraction, something else goes wrong. Can they finally break the Mauvais’s curse on the Dumont men and find a happily ever after or is bad mojo just to powerful to let love grow?
I really liked all the characters introduced in this new series. Allie and her big sister, Shannon, are delightful and Marc’s dysfunctional family has pulled together and created their own strong family bond even though their shared father can’t commit to anyone, including his children. There are several background stories, including the next one which involves Allie’s sister Shannon and Marc’s brother Beau who have a history of their own which didn’t not end well between them, but both are still pining for the other. I will be reading Make You Remember when it comes out.
The only thing that disappointed me was that Allie herself doesn’t believe in the family’s voodoo magic. It isn’t just that she doesn’t use it (although it seems to be hinted that she has powerful magic), but she doesn’t believe at all that her family has any powers. It seemed like a let down. I liked that for the most part, Allie used psychology to figure out what people were looking for, but again, disappointed that she didn’t believe in the magic.
Great and fun new series.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
He flapped a hand and poured her another shot, waiting until she downed that one, too. “I’m all keyed up. I need to unwind first.”
At least they agreed on one thing. Marc needed to blow off some steam, and Allie was happy to help—they were even in the perfect place for it. “Then let’s play a game.”
Marc glanced over her shoulder to the rows of dormant slot machines and empty roulette tables in the darkness. He pressed his lips together as if weighing her suggestion and finding it intriguing. “What’d you have in mind?”
“Well,” she began. “You’re probably tired of poker.”
He nodded in agreement. “Especially the Texas variety.”
Which left blackjack, but then they’d have to take turns representing the house, which didn’t sound like much fun.
“I don’t know a lot of cards games,” Allie admitted. “We could play Go Fish.” She’d meant it as a joke, but Marc’s lips tugged in a wide smile that drew out the cleft in his chin. He seemed to take it seriously for a moment, then laughed in a low, masculine chortle that turned her thoughts from gaming to sinning.
“Haven’t played that in a while,” he said, nudging another tequila shooter in her direction. “What should we wager?”
“Do we have to bet?”
“Of course,” he said. “That’s half the fun.”
In general, Allie didn’t carry much cash, and what little she had was in her suite. “I don’t have any money on me.”
“That’s okay. I don’t want your money.”
She glanced around the bar for ideas, then pointed at a bowl of salty snacks. “We could play for pretzels.”
“Pretzels?” He scoffed in offense. “What are we, twelve?”
Allie scowled at him. “Well, what do you want?”
His gaze took a slow trip down the length of her body, from shoulders to toes and back up again. Her skin heated as she began to understand the stakes he had in mind. “I wouldn’t object to seeing what you’ve got on under those clothes.”
Reflexively, Allie darted a glance at the strong contours of Marc’s chest, barely visible as shadows beneath his white dress shirt. Truthfully, she wouldn’t mind seeing what he was hiding either. “Are you suggesting we play Strip Go Fish?”
He answered by toasting her with his Coke and eyeing her shot in a silent message to drink up.
“Right here in the casino?” she added.
“The door’s locked, and the cleaning crew isn’t scheduled to come around till third shift.” He nodded to a dark corner on the opposite side of the room. “We can sit back there if you want. That way nobody will spot your bare naked backside through the glass doors.”
Allie pointed at him. “I think you mean your bare naked backside.” Which she was going to enjoy ogling–immensely.
“Sugar, you’re going to be very cold, very soon,” he teased. “So you’d better take another shot.”
“I will have another, but only to prove I can still trounce you half-drunk.”
She tossed it back, then slid off her bar stool, feeling warm and floaty as she led the way to a round table in the corner. Marc found one of those battery-operated candles that mimicked a flame’s flickering glow and set it on the table, so he could “see what he was winning.” They continued their Go Fish trash talking until they’d found a pack of cards and settled in their chairs.
“Wait,” Allie said while Marc shuffled the deck. “First we should make sure we’re starting out with the same number of clothes.” She counted her polo shirt, bra, skirt, panties, and clogs. “I’ve got five.”
“Are we counting socks and shoes as one item?”
She shook her head. “Separate.”
“Then I’ve got six.”
He quickly remedied the injustice by unbuttoning his dress shirt and pulling his arms free. Beneath it, he wore a white T-shirt that fit him like a second skin, stretched unmercifully tight across his broad shoulders. Even in the dim light, his bunching chest drew Allie’s eye and watering her mouth.
She swallowed hard. “That’s better.” So much better.
Marc caught her staring and faked a stretch to show off the inside curves of his biceps, then turned it up a notch, flexing them so they strained the hem of his T-shirt sleeves. A hint of dark ink peeked at her from beneath the fabric.
Oh, heavens. Allie loved a good tattoo, especially on a properly muscled body. She wanted to see all of it…and hunt for more.
“You’re not distracted, are you?” he asked with a smirk.
“Not one bit,” she lied. “Prepare to lose your other shirt, Captain.”
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Publishing Date: April 1, 2014
ebook: 70 pages
Rating: 4 stars
On the surface, Joy McMasterson has everything—a steady career, a trendy French Quarter townhouse, and high-society parents who fill her schedule with a rotation of trust fund hotties. But despite her good fortune, Joy is suffocating beneath the pressure of her father’s political campaign. Every detail of her life is scripted, from her sensible Tiffany hoops to the men she’s permitted to date.
To assert control over her love life, Joy visits The Sweet Spot bakery—home to Allie Mauvais, third-generation voodoo priestess and renowned matchmaker. Armed with love potion and a newly-found nerve, Joy walks out of the bakery and into Ryan Gibson’s tattoo shop. One look at the gorgeous owner and she knows two things: they have enough chemistry to steam the ink off his skin, and he’s not the kind of guy she can take home to her parents. But if Joy wants to escape her father’s shadow, maybe Ryan is exactly who she needs.
This is a novella which takes place before Book #1, Make you Mine. Although it is not necessary to read this first, Joy and Ryan do make an appearance in Book #1.
Joy’s father is running for the Senate, so he is all about image. He keeps pimping Joy go out on dinner dates with the single sons of his biggest donors. After speaking to Allie Mauvais and getting her voodoo gris-gris, Joy goes across the street to get a piercing. Although she is concerned with what her mother and father say, instead of getting a belly button ring or something else she can keep discreet, she picks a double eyebrow ring.
Ryan believes the sophisticated beauty is out of his league but he decides to ask Joy out anyway. All Ryan’s visible tattoos are complete;y opposite of all the men her parent’s make her date. I liked that Ryan took things slowly between them since he recognized that Joy was shying away just a bit. It is almost unheard of anymore for the H/H to go on several dates before they take the attraction to sex. Ryan earns a ton of points in my book for being thoughtful. There is a great deal of chemistry between the two, but eventually, you feel bad for Ryan. He is falling for Joy and she for him, but she is still way too concerned about keeping the status quo for her parents. She is keeping Ryan hidden, like a dirty little secret. I like when he finally confronts her it is with “I’m not a criminal.”
Ryan and Joy in private are adorable, but other than that you want to shake Joy for treating Ryan like his tattoos make him unacceptable. It takes a lot of courage for Joy to put herself before her father’s wants, but in the end, he doesn’t give her a choice when his ambition outweighs his concern for her.
This was an enjoyable story, but not imperative for the overall series and $2.99 seems a bit much for a 70 page story, but maybe I am just getting too used to $.99 book specials.
Ryan was beginning to worry that his constant clock-watching had caused time to go in reverse. There was no other explanation for how slowly the day had passed. He tried to stay busy, but after two of his appointments cancelled, he was left with nothing to do but imagine Joy’s sweet face reflected in every room of the shop–in the entryway where they’d shared cupcakes; even on the wall, where a framed pin-up girl grinned provocatively down at him.
Just when he’d managed to get Joy out of his head for five minutes, one of Judge McMasterson’s campaign ads had come on the TV in the break room.
The public Joy–linked arm-in-arm with her parents, their smiles wide and wooden, their eyes devoid of emotion–bore little resemblance to the vibrant girl he’d taken to dinner last night. The private Joy was the one who had his heart pinging. She let down her walls, spoke her mind, and snorted when she laughed too hard.
Ryan recalled how she’d looked with tears leaking down her beet-red cheeks, and he caught himself smiling. She’d even sent back her wine for him–a gesture that was unnecessary, but said a lot about her character. Most of the women he’d dated could drink a naval fleet under the table, and none of them had refused a drink in his company.
But as he was quickly learning, Joy wasn’t just anyone.
Walking her home and leaving with nothing more than a gentlemanly kiss on the hand had cost him a good night’s sleep. He’d heard the unspoken invitation in her voice, enticing him to come inside and fulfill her pretzel-twisting fantasy. But he’d also detected a note of uncertainty, that Joy’s heart wasn’t ready, even if her body was. Sexual frustration aside, his instincts told him to take it slow. A relationship was building between them, and he wanted to protect it.
One thing was certain: when they made love, it would be worth the wait.
Our winner of the combined A Beautiful Distraction giveaway is – Lysette.
We’re giving away a copy of A Beautiful Distraction courtesy of the publisher. If you are entered in our Friday giveaway, you’ll be entered in this one and vice versa.
Giveaway ends Thursday, May 8th. Open to U.S. residents, 18 years and older.
ORDER A COPY: A Beautiful Distraction: A Hard Feelings Novel
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publishing Date: May 6, 2014
Paperback: 272 pages
Rating: 4 stars
First Sergeant Rafe Murano did everything to the extreme. He trained harder, he fought harder, and, unfortunately, he loved harder. And falling for the wrong woman nearly destroyed him.
Home from a deployment, and without his missions to consume him, Murano is ravaged by memories of his heartbreak. So he drinks until he’s numb and drowns himself in meaningless one-night stands. But they only take the edge off…
Until he meets Fallon.
Haunted by her past, Fallon Kelly knows all too well about the desperate desire for an escape. So when she sees the tatted-up bad boy who’s one punch away from a ride in the back of a squad car, she offers a distraction—one that quickly becomes an addiction.
Little does she know, this bad boy can love so hard, it can break her.
Rafe Murano had turned into a man he never expected to be. That’s because he fell in love with the wrong woman. Bridget was married. Although Rafe can tell himself that he didn’t know that at the beginning, he continued to see her once he learned the truth. For a man who doesn’t share his woman, he found himself desperate for any time she gave him after sneaking away from her husband. Now it’s over and Rafe is left with a broken heart over a woman who was never really his, and using alcohol and one night stands to distract himself from his heartache.
When he arrives at Velour, he doesn’t expect anything more than the same to get him through is night, but from the first moment he sees Fallon dancing on that stage in the burlesque show, he wants more from her than a night of sex. Fallon is happy to give the attractive and intriguing soldier a night of distraction since she too is looking for a distraction from her own. But Fallon has been let down before by those who she loved and she is not looking to get too close to anyone again. She doesn’t like the warm feeling she gets when she is with Rafe or how he makes her feel cherished. She knows that is only a lie. Meeting Rafe’s family only reinforces how screwed up her own upbringing was.
The harder Rafe tries to hold onto Fallon, the harder she fights to retain her independence from the feelings Rafe brings out in her. When Rafe declare he doesn’t was Fallon dancing anymore, she fears she has once again set herself up when she doesn’t measure up to someone else’s standards for her.
Can Rafe and Fallon find a middle ground that will make them both happy, or will they both walk away with a heart so shattered that no distraction will ever help?
I love Fallon’s strength. She is tossed out by her parents as a young teen because her choices do not measure up to their country club lifestyle. She forges on with only $100 in her pocket to make her own way in the world and eventually because the owner of Velour. Fallon was also abandoned by her hand-picked, picture perfect boyfriend because her choices interfered with his life plan. We can see how Fallon looses trust in people and why she resists Rafe, so that he too can’t be disappointed by her once she puts her trust in him. But instead of being cold and heartless, we see how much love and trust she gives to the people that work for her. She takes care of her girls and helps some of them back on their feet after life kicked them around. So it is a little strange how she views these relationships. The girls can be wrong and do disappoint her, but they can’t be disappointed by her. In getting close to Rafe, and especially his declaring that he doesn’t want her dancing in front of other men anymore, he makes her feel that she is once again a failure and a disappointment, and that’s a vulnerability she doesn’t want to feel again.
I am uncertain is Rafe is just the type of man who is attracted to women who are unavailable or is it just bad luck. He falls hard for the married woman, who is a bit of a bitch and a user so I have to ask “what’s the attraction?” and in the end, it is she who breaks it off. Rafe would have continued to see her even though he hated himself for ruining her marriage and for being such a loser to take the few hours a week she would give him. Rafe then turns to drinking and casual sex instead of trying to meet someone else and give them a chance. It is only after seeing Fallon dance with such passion and then spending time with her before the sex that he takes more of an interest in her and the more she fights the commitment, the more he wants from her. So is he one of those guys who always wants the woman he can’t have or is it just bad luck?
Rafe’s family enjoyed the spotlight in this book as well and I found them to be very interesting and enjoyable characters, but sadly I don’t see a reason to be meeting them again. Rafe’s younger brother follows in Rafe’s footsteps by having his heartbroken by a woman and becoming self-destructive. Since this series, so far, is focused on soldiers, I don’t know if we will ever get more from him or how his situation turns out. I hate when we get invested in great secondary characters who won’t be back.
Overall it was another great story by Kelsie Leverich.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“You know, I’m struggling to figure you out,” he said.
She narrowed her eyes, sipping her drink. The chilled carbonation soothed and tingled her throat as she swallowed. “And why’s that?”
He pressed his glass to his lips and sucked in a leisurely sip of whiskey. She watched as his Adam’s apple rose, then fell as he swallowed; then she shifted her eyes back to his when he set the glass down.
This undeniable physical attraction she felt toward him was new for her. It was uncontrollable. Her traitorous body scorched with a need she wasn’t sure she was ready to give into yet. The last eight years had been nothing but calculated decisions made to keep people at arm’s length. Sexual relationships formed from want…not need. She’d never had the impulse—felt the need—to lean over, rest her hands on a man’s thighs, lick his neck…
Rafe’s tongue snaked across his bottom lip, lapping the lingering whiskey. “You don’t strike me as a woman who breaks the rules often. At least not her own rules.” His voice compelled her thoughts to retreat from the temptation she was feeling.
“I’ve followed and broken my fair share of rules. But you’re right—the only ones I’m concerned with following are my own.”
Mischief gleamed in his eyes. “And you’re breaking your rules for me?”
“Don’t get cocky. You needed a distraction, and I gave it to you. Besides, my bartender had called the cops and you were about ready to turn an ass kicking into involuntary manslaughter. I can’t be having an investigation at my club because you decided to play the hero.”
“He wasn’t that bad.”
She arched her brows. If that wasn’t denial, she didn’t know what was.
He laughed, tilting his head back toward the ceiling.
“Well, he had it coming.”
“You want to tell me about her?” Fallon asked as he looked back down at her.
She crossed her arms. He knew exactly who she was talking about. Not too many reasons a man like him is the way he is, and a woman was undoubtedly the reason. “The one who flipped you inside out. The woman you’re attempting to forget at the bottom of your glass.”
“No.” The volume of his voice lowered and the finality of his tone told her that little topic of conversation wasn’t up for discussion.
“Ah, the suffer-in-silence type. Sexy,” she said, trying to ease some of the sudden tension that hardened his expression.
Standing up from his chair, he picked up his glass and drank the remaining liquor, the glass clanking against the wood bar as he set it back down.
She studied him curiously as his demeanor transformed again. Anger, heartache, guilt—all whirring mutely through his posture.
Capturing her gaze, Rafe took a step toward her, and she swallowed hard. His intensity returned and she willingly shrank beneath it, reveling in the way his masculine stance made her feel crazed and delicate at the same time.
His hand fell to her knee and she swore the fire lit on the surface of her skin and ricocheted all the way down to her toes. Long fingers curled around her knees as he pulled her legs apart, pushing his thigh between hers. Her legs instantly closed, the insides of her thighs pressing against the outside of his. Arching her back, she leaned away to look at him, but he only advanced into her, preventing distance from growing between them.
God, he smelled so good. She wanted to coil her fingers into his shirt and pull him to her face so she could inhale.
But she was frozen. Motionless by the sheer power of his focus as his velvety dark eyes inched closer to her own. “You mentioned a distraction,” he whispered, lips lowering to the sensitive skin below her ear, waiting for her to answer.
“Yes,” she replied softly. His hand dropped down and his palm flattened against her hip—and if she hadn’t been so determined not to, she would’ve shuddered.
His fingers grazed up her side until the tip of his thumb brushed beneath her breast. “You’re right. I do need one.”
Warm breath bathed the side of her neck, causing her to involuntarily close her eyes. “And I want you to be that distraction for me tonight.”
With his right hand on her side and his left hand latched onto the edge of her barstool, she was trapped between his powerful arms. Arms she imagined would feel incredible wrapped around her.
She wanted to be that distraction for him, which was probably reason enough to say no. She didn’t have flings or random one-night stands. When she was with a man, it was planned and on her terms. It kept her in control. Sex that was brought on by intense sexual tension, desire, and pure wanton need was way too risky. Sex that was planned and initiated for raw, unadulterated pleasure with no other emotions attached was what she liked. Not spontaneous lust. Yet that was exactly what this was. Lust.
She was helpless against her body’s response to him, imprisoned by his eyes.
Curiosity and an unfamiliar longing swayed her, impulse overruling her. She would give him the distraction he needed. Just this once.
ORDER A COPY: Searching for Perfect
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publishing Date: April 29, 2014
Paperback: 352 pages
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
The up-and-coming matchmaking agency Kinnections is the hottest thing to hit Verily, New York—just like Kennedy Ashe, social director for the service she owns with her two best girlfriends. A coach, consultant, and cheerleader rolled into one super-sizzling package, Kennedy creates dream dates, encourages singles to shine, and never refuses a challenge—not even Nate Ellison Raymond Dunkle, rocket scientist, nerd extraordinaire, and Kennedy’s newest client.
Kennedy vows to work her magic and transform this hot mess in a lab coat with a disastrous relationship track record into the most wanted man on the Verily dating scene. If only she could turn the wand on herself . . .
Though she radiates confidence and sex appeal, Kennedy harbors deep-seated insecurities from a tormented past and lifelong struggle with weight issues. When she realizes she and Nate are cut from the same cloth and might be perfect together, can Kennedy learn to let her heart lead the way? Or will her fears sentence her to the sidelines as Nate finds love—with someone else?
Nate believes he has everything he needs to move onto the next level in his life. He is a successful career and now he is looking to find someone special to settle down with. He wants a wife and family to come home to, but he just doesn’t know where to find it. There aren’t many attractive women hanging around in his lab waiting for him to ask them out. When he tries a night of speed dating, disastrous doesn’t even begin to cover it.
When he gets pulled aside by the most beautiful woman there that night, he thought his luck had changed, but Kennedy Ashe is just trying to sell him her services…no, not those kind of services, but her services as a matchmaker. Kennedy wants to make Nate over, Pigmalion style. He will be her own Eliza Doolittle, she will make him over and find him true love. The first thing she needs to do is remove the orange self-tanner and return Nate to a normal color. Then he needs a new wardrobe, haircut, maybe a sexy five o’clock shadow, and when she is done on the outside, she needs to teach him how to talk with women without insulting them with his brutal honesty.
Actually, Kennedy believes his honesty is quite refreshing even if it is a tad harsh. It is nice to finally know what a man is actually thinking. But what Nate is actually thinking is that the wants his matchmaker. The more time he spends with Kennedy, the more he is certain that she is the perfect woman for him. He can see that beneath the sophisticated woman before him is a someone of fears commitment and doesn’t believe herself worthy of the love she is trying to find for others.
Nate needs to convince Kennedy to give him a chance before she puts him on the market for her clients and packs him off for a HEA with someone else.
I really loved Nate and Kennedy. Who doesn’t love a geek in love? Nate is a bit of a mess, literally. He is always covered in spills. He is awkward with women. I gave this book only 4 1/2 stars because the characters and their interaction was wonderful, but there are several contrived story plots which will make you roll your eyes. Nate is a geek. He’s dated, but nothing long term and it is amazing that he dated at all since he needs such a drastic makeover of his look and his wardrobe to get women to even look at him. But not only that, he has a habit of saying what he thinks and turning women off. Soooo how come Nate is such a fabulously hot lover in bed? If he was so good, you think one of his prior lovers would have taken the time to do her own makeover and overlooked or curbed his big mouth. Nat is also hindered by an older brother who is sex on a stick and who teaches Nate all about picking up women for one-night stands. His brother has been burned by relationships and he can’t understand why Nate wants to find someone to marry. So Kennedy has to counter everything Nate has been taught by his brother.
We find out that as self-possessed and stylish as Kennedy is now, underneath it all she is still the fat, geeky girl that was teased and tormented in her youth. She eventually goes the other way and becomes anorexic until she gets help and learns how to deal with food. But you can see she still lusts for some of the things that Nate eats in front of her, so maybe she doesn’t have it all worked out with that relationship. Kennedy doesn’t believe she is worthy of a deep relationship which also indicates not all her issues have been dealt with in her therapy. Like Nate’s brother, she also uses casual sex as a way to keep men from getting too close.
As an example, one of the contrived story plots involved Kennedy who just happens to meet a date where Nate and his brother go to have a beer. Kennedy asks this man out to get her mind off of Nate. Kennedy and her date know that the get together is intended to lead to casual sex, but she changes her mind when she sees Nate at the bar. Kennedy doesn’t go home with the date, but they leave the building to a dark corner outside where date starts to force himself on Kennedy, rips her clothes, etc. Nate had the sudden need to follow her out, sees what’s going on and beats up the date to protect Kennedy. Now I can go with the theory that Nate used to be picked on at school and his brother taught him to protect himself, but why would Kennedy be hanging around in a dark alleyway with a man who she decided not to have sex with for a makeout session, except to wait around to be rescued by Nate, who she expected was going to get his ass kicked by her date.
One thing that did bug me and I have complained when the hero does it, so let’s not be sexist and I’ll complain that our heroine has done it…Kennedy sleeps with Nate although she has declared over and over again that she can’t commit to a relationship with him. After sleeping with him, she sets him up on dates with other women. In prior stories, when my hero has no problem having sex with the heroine even though he feels she needs to go find a better man than him, I have slammed him for his behavior and Kennedy deserves no less censure. If you sleep with the guy who likes you (and you like him) and then push him out of bed to go find another women, that does reek of cold-hearted bitch.
This was an enjoyable story with well written characters and many fun moments, and when Kennedy wasn’t lamenting how unlovable she was, the time spent between Nate and Kennedy was sweet. Jennifer Probst was highly recommended to me and this was my first story by her. I picked it because I liked the plot idea of the geek makeover. I was just a little disappointed that she used such basic dime store romance plot points.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
She took a slug of water so she didn’t have to answer. He waited her out anyway, his gaze probing for truth. “Long term means something different for everyone. Yours is marriage. Mine is a few months.”
Students chatted, mats were dragged out for the next class, and his voice reached her ears, deep and dark and caressing. “Maybe you deserve more.”
She opened her mouth to set him straight, but a sweet, female voice interrupted. “Hi. Just wanted to welcome you to Zumba. It’s so great to see a man here. Most don’t have the guts.”
Kennedy took in her high ponytail, bare midrift, and interested gaze. Whoa. She was really interested, her sly gaze sliding up and down his body. Fresh meat was always welcome at the gym. Nate didn’t move. Didn’t respond. Kennedy cleared her throat and bumped his shoulder. This was a perfect opportunity to watch him handle a first meet. Maybe he’d learned a few lessons from the disastrous speed dating and their time together. “Umm, Nate, I’ll be right back.”
She moved away to give them a bit of privacy, and fiddled with her iPhone. Come on, dude, you can do this. Talk. Say anything. No, scratch that, say something that’s not stupid.
“Nice to meet you. My name is Nate.”
Kennedy slumped with relief. Perfect. Maybe she should school him just to be direct from the get-go. No bad pick-up lines, body-related comments, or probing questions. Just direct information.
“I’m Heidi. Haven’t seen you at the gym before. First time?”
“Yep, I’m a golfer, but figured I’d try something different. Hey, you have a great–”
Kennedy squeezed her phone in a death grip.
She let out her breath. He listened! Maybe this would be easier than she thought. Was he ready to be sent out? They had the wardrobe makeover coming up, and of course the role-play session with Arilyn and Kate,but she always saved that for last. A mixer would definitely work. Plenty of options.
“Thanks so much. I’m heading for a shake at the health bar. Wanna join me?”
“Sure.” He glanced over at Kennedy. She gave him a subtle thumbs-up sign. He gave a slight nod in acceptance and began walking out. Their voices drifted through the room. “What do you do, Heidi?”
“I’m in school. Studying to be a nail technician.”
“You need to go to college to learn how to paint nails?”
Heidi paused and swung her head around. “Nails are serious business. Why, what are you? A rocket scientist?”
He stiffened. Kennedy winced. Oh, no. No, no, no, no…
“Actually, an aerospace engineer. They don’t call it rocket science anymore.”
She cocked her head. “Are you serious, man?”
He gave her the look. Filled with derision and judgment. “Of course. Listen, I don’t think this will work between us for long-term relationship, but I’m completely open to having a short affair. What do you think?”
Heidi gasped. “You’re an asshole.” She stalked off, ponytail bouncing, and disappearing through the smoked-glass door.
Nate blinked. The lines of his face were stamped with complete surprise. He turned back to Kennedy with is palms upturned. “What did I do wrong?”
Okay, no mixer.
ORDER A COPY: Giving In (The Surrender Trilogy)
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publishing Date: May 6, 2014
Paperback: 320 pages
Rating: 5 stars
In her sensational Breathless Trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks tested the boundaries of desire. In her new trilogy, there’s only one thing left to do: cross them. Now, the story continues as one woman, haunted by the shadows of the past, explores the possibilities of a new beginning in ways she never could have imagined
Kylie sees the way Jensen looks at her. The dark promise in his eyes. That rough edge of dominance she knows he possesses. But dominance is the one thing that frightens her above all else. She and her brother barely survived a childhood steeped in violence and abuse. She could never give up total control and submit to a man. Especially a man like Jensen. Could she?
Jensen sees the shadows in Kylie’s eyes. Knows he has to tread very carefully or risk losing any chance he has with her. All he wants is the opportunity to show her that dominance doesn’t equal pain, bondage or discipline. That emotional surrender is the most powerful of all, and that to submit fully to him will fulfill the aching void in her heart in a way nothing else ever will.
Since Jensen Tucker became Dash’s new partner, he has been enjoying all the perks of his new job, including the view. He has had his eye on the office manager, Kylie Breckenridge, since he walked in the door, but he has to be very careful if he wants Kylie in his life. First of all, as the new partner, he has taken her deceased brother’s position in the company, which already doesn’t make Jensen her favorite person. Secondly, Kylie and her brother Carson were abused by their father as children. Jensen’s nature is to be aggressive and dominant in his relationships. He knows without question that if he wants to be with Kylie, he is going to have to surrender control to Kylie until she understands that not every man will hurt her.
But having a plan is one thing, convincing Kylie to give him a chance is another. He almost thwarts his own plans when he sees that Kylie is working herself into a state of exhaustion and his dominant nature takes over. He forces Kylie to go home and stays with her to make sure she gets into bed for the rest of the afternoon.
Jensen also has plans for Kylie out of the bedroom. He believes Kylie’s brain and her degree are being wasted as an office manager. She knows the business as well as he and Dash, and he wants her to come in as a third partner. Now his plans include building her confidence in the office as well as the bedroom.
I was not a fan of Book #1 of the trilogy. I thought Dash was an ass and was very degrading in his treatment of Josslyn. I couldn’t even finish it.
But I couldn’t wait to get to Book #2 since I was intrigued by how Maya Bank was going to write a bondage book that included a woman who was abused as a child. Kylie was very fearful when her sister-in-law Josslyn wanted to explore bondage and want getting into a relationship with Dash that included spankings and tying up. Like her brother, Carson, Kylie feared the line between dominance and abuse. I am not 100 percent certain, but I believe Kylie was a virgin in this story because I can’t imagine after what Jensen goes through to have a sexual relationship with Kylie, that she would have ever reached that level of trust before in a relationship.
Jensen is also a member of the sex club that Dash and Josslyn and Chessy and Tate belong to, so we knew he has an interest in bondage and dominance. So how to you play tie-me-up-and-spank-me with a woman who deep down is afraid of a man one again harming her?
I loved that the twist she gives this story in that Jensen doesn’t teach Kylie to accept his dominance over her, he allows her to tie him up and dominate him until she learns to trust him and trust that he won’t hurt her like her father did. I enjoyed watching how Jensen helps Kylie through her fears and helps build her confidence so she can blossom at work as well and show she is more valuable as a partner than as an office manager.
The story line becomes a bit contrived at the end so that we have a break up and this allows Kylie to show her new found confidence to assert herself over their relationship to bring them back together. It wasn’t so awful and eye-rolling that it took away from the overall enjoyment of the story but I did have that moment of “really?”
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
He could tell she was caught in an epic battle with herself. She did not want to have dinner with him or even meet him outside of work, nor did she want to ride with him to their meeting, but neither did she want to pass up the opportunity he’d presented her with.
She bit her lip in consternation, and he’d never wanted something so badly as to reach across the desk, thumb her lip free and then kiss away the damage she was doing to the tender flesh. His dick reacted to that image, and he was glad he was seated behind his desk where she couldn’t see his physical reaction to her. She’d tuck tail and run for the hills, and she’d very likely tender her resignation within the hour.
He sighed, silently commanding his dick to behave. Not that it did a bit of good because the woman just did it for him and he couldn’t even explain why. Challenge. She was a challenge. Even as he reasoned away his inexplicable attraction to a woman who in no way returned it, he knew he was a goddamn liar.
She riled every single one of his protective instincts. She made him want to treat her gently, cherish her and protect her from anything that could ever hurt her, physically or emotionally.
Damn it, he wanted to show her that not all men were assholes. That not all dominant men were focused so solidly on the more physical aspects of dominance. Emotional surrender was what he was after with Kylie. He’d never mark her, never tie her up. Never take a flogger to her tender flesh. He’d never do anything to frighten her or make her feel as vulnerable as she’d felt in the past in the hands of a monster. He’d never do anything to remind her of her past abuse. He’d die before allowing that to happen. He too had demons he fought, and it would have made him physically ill to ever do anything to a woman that could be construed as abuse.
He just wanted…her.
“All right,” she finally said in a husky voice that made him go even harder. Because there was capitulation in her voice. Not quite submission, but it was close and it fired his blood, and made it sing through his veins, because just this once, he’d won.
“I’ll meet you at the restaurant at seven,” she said.
She lifted her gaze challengingly to his, as if to dare him to argue with her statement. He merely smiled back. He’d allow her this small victory because the bigger one was already his. Dinner. Just the two of them. Yeah, they’d talk business, but he also planned to delve deeper into this intriguing woman. Figure out what made her tick. And he’d pick her up the next day and drive her to their meeting. Which meant she was dependent on him the entire day.
He liked that idea. Like it too damn much. Her dependent on him. The hell he’d ever let her down or make her regret her grudging trust. Oh, he knew she didn’t trust him yet. That would be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Baby steps. Take it one small victory at a time.
“Seven it is,” he agreed.
She was surprised. It showed on her face. She had already been bracing herself for an argument, her shoulders squared and chin thrust upward in defiance. Even that aroused him, almost violently.
He might like submissive women, but submissive didn’t mean being a doormat. He loved an independent woman perfectly capable of making her own choices. Submissive women, or at least the ones he’d been with, chose to submit. Chose to offer their surrender into his keeping. And that was a very powerful thing indeed.
He wanted a strong woman. Someone who didn’t need him and what he offered but wanted it. That made all the difference to him. He wanted someone who could stand up for herself and not back down. Who would go toe-to-toe with him and meet him halfway.
In return? He’d lay the world at her feet. She’d never want for anything he could give her. He’d pamper her, utterly adore her, worship her and cherish her.
He ached to do that for Kylie.
ORDER A COPY: Hard Time
Publishing Date: April 15, 2014
ebook: 304 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Annie Goodhouse doesn’t need to be warned about bad boys; good sense and an abusive ex have given her plenty of reasons to play it safe. But when she steps into her new role as outreach librarian for Cousins Correctional Facility, no amount of good sense can keep her mind—or eyes—off inmate Eric Collier.
Eric doesn’t claim to be innocent of the crime that landed him in prison. In fact, he’d do it again if that’s what it took to keep his family safe. Loyalty and force are what he knows. But meeting Annie makes him want to know more.
When Eric begins courting Annie through letters, they embark on a reckless, secret romance—a forbidden fantasy that neither imagines could ever be real…until early parole for Eric changes everything, and forces them both to face a past they can’t forget, and a desire they can’t deny.
Cara McKenna takes us back to the Town of Darren, Michigan, but instead of the psychiatric ward of Larkhaven, we are going into the dangerous corridors of Cousins Correctional Facility. A medium security facility where criminals are doing time for drug charges, assault, rape, and various hard core offenses.
Annie Goodhouse is the new hire at the library so it falls to her to take over the library’s education program at the prison. She hopes to make it back out without being verbally or physically assaulted. Cousins is the last place she would ever believe she would find a man who stirs her fantasies for the first time since she left her ex five years ago.
Stephen’s abuse started slowly with a pinch or a taunt but there was no question that when he drank, the violence was getting gradually worse. Until that last time, when he dislocated her jaw and ruptured her eardrum. Although it was truly painful, it was the wake up call that she needed to walk away. But Annie has been hibernating from the world and men since then.
When she walks into Cousins she meets the eye of Eric Collier and there is no question that there is an instant connection between the two of them. While Annie has been in her self-imposed prison, Eric has been behind bars for assault. For the first time in five years, both Eric and Annie have found themselves thinking of someone in a sexual way.
Eric may have approached her to get his help with his writing, but his practiced correspondence becomes more and more erotic and as Annie and Eric discuss their fantasies, they each once again awaken desire in each other.
But when Eric gets an early parole, what happens to their fantasies when the real world creeps in? Will they have the courage to embrace their growing feelings or will the ability to date in the real world, take away the safety that distance allowed?
Cara McKenna writes such interesting and unusual characters and obviously takes us to interesting places to tell her stories. After Hours took us to a psychiatric ward and now, we are at the local prison. These are not rich, affluent people. No tie me up billionaires in her stories. These are everyday people, some with less than average upbringings and circumstances, just trying to get by.
You can’t help but fall for Eric. There is no question that Eric is dangerous. He is in prison for assaulting a man with a tire iron, and although he declares that the man deserved it, it does show he has the ability to reach that level of violence. Even though he says he would do it again if the circumstances called for it, there is definite growth in Eric from the young man who was originally incarcerated. He understands what he wants to do with his life when he finally get out. And he also understands that a woman like Annie is too good for someone like him, but he wants to be the kind of man she would deserve.
There is such a strong connection between the two main characters here but when Eric is paroled, it takes the safety of the fantasy away from Annie. She is not jumping up and down when she finds out, and poor Eric is heartbroken when she is not ready to start a real life romance with him upon his release.
Although their letter writing was very erotic and in one way bonded them, I was disappointed that there wasn’t even some attempt made for a real ‘get to know you’ in their letters. Obviously, these letters were all part of the fantasy between them, especially since Eric expected to be locked away for a few more years. They weren’t meant to be indepth philosophical discussions. The purpose of the correspondence was simply to fuel each other’s fantasy life. I loved that Annie would dress up and put on make up and perfume to read Eric’s letter.
Once Annie works past her fear of the real world with Eric, it is almost a redo of the story as they get to know the person behind the letter.
This was wonderful storytelling and such interesting and unforgettable characters.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I could only image how he might be, in real life—how he’d treat me if we were alone together. Happily there was no possibility of us, alone together in real life, and so I imagined everything, every possible flavor, relieved to know my hypotheses would never be proven right or wrong. That he’d never get a chance to disappoint me.
I spent so much time fantasizing about him, it occurred to me on Friday morning that I had no idea how to act toward him if he approached me again. Play dumb, pretend I really did think that letter had been meant for some other woman? Be stern, shut him down before he grew bolder?
I knew what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to tell Shonda or any other CO about it, but I also knew I wouldn’t be doing that. Selfishly, I wanted the letter for myself. And recklessly, I even hoped maybe he’d want to tell me more.
It was insane, of course, but when you’ve not felt sexual hunger for months, for years…The idiotic risks people take in the midst of affairs made sense to me, suddenly. Nothing felt as good as this wanting. Logic was impotent. Flaccid. A pitiful, powerless thing.
I saw Collier as I passed through the dayroom, and it was recognition as I’d never felt it. I’d lived out a thousand imagined intimacies with this man, and when our eyes met it felt as though he must have lived them too.
It was muggy and brutal that day, leaving inmates and staff alike punchy. The convicts bickered and baited, but it was for the best—the discord kept me on my toes, kept my mind off Collier through Literacy and Composition, kept my eyes off him for the most part during Book Discussion.
As always, though, he caught me during the afternoon Resources block. I had to wonder if that was on purpose. If he wanted to be my final memory of the day when I left this place.
Oh, the meaning I read into every crack and crevice of our encounters.
Attendance was down. The Resources room wasn’t air-conditioned, and apparently the allure of ogling my breasts and butt wilted some when the temperature flirted with the triple digits. Men still came and went, and most showed up for their computer slots, but for the first time I had a bit of free time, myself, and I used it to make a list of things I’d need to implement Karen’s unrealized plan of starting a cell-to-cell book cart service. I’d nearly begun to think I could put off choosing my stance toward Collier another week. Or indefinitely. Maybe he pulls that “help me write a letter” shit with every librarian. Maybe he’d never come calling again.
He came for me at twenty minutes to five. I felt him step through the door, a heat wave and a cold front all wrapped inside one man. He strode to where I was sitting, lazy as you please, and I knew it was him without even looking up. He stood across the tabletop from me. behind an empty chair, his big fingers curled over its back. I raised my chin. Played it cool aside from the pink I felt stinging my cheeks.
“You free?” he asked, in that voice that had whispered the most brilliant, disgusting secrets in the privacy of my head this past week.
“Sure.” I nodded to the chair and he sat. He pulled a folded piece of paper from his back pocket, and a knot formed in my middle. Another letter?
“I was hoping you could read something for me?” he said, gaze on my hands. “Something I wrote.”
“Sure.” I realized in that moment, I knew exactly where the nearest officer stood, and not for my own protection. I knew it the way every one of these cons must. The way a criminal keeps his radar tracked on witnesses and cameras when he knows he’s on the brink of wickedness. I took the paper from him, but he stopped me before I could unfold it.
“Not now. But maybe you could take it with you. Take your time. It’s real important. I want to make sure I say everything right.”
Thump, thump, thump “Um…Yeah. Sure. I can do that.” It was lined paper, and I could see the impression of his handwriting. Lots of it. “Whether it needs rewriting or not, this was good practice writing it all out,” I offered.
He nodded. “I used that machine. I wrote it on that, and it fixed my capital and spelling. Then I copied it down on paper. I didn’t have to rely on my head, to know which way all the letters went.”
Collier’s brown eyes swiveled, seeking the guards. Finding them busy with the now departing inmates, he leaned a bit closer. “I’ll make this real easy for you,” he said.
I felt my brow rise and my heart tumble into my shoes. “Easy?”
“I’ve got stuff to say. To you.” He tapped the paper, his voice barely a whisper. “If you want to hear more, next week, you wear red.”
“You show up next week wearing red, I’ll know what I’ve got to say is okay by you. You wear any other color, I won’t even bother you again. Not about typing or anything else. I won’t be angry or anything. But if you wanna hear, wear red.”
“Collier!” The guard shot him a look. “Check your posture, loverboy.”
Collier sat up straight, drawing his crossed arms away. “Red,” he said. “but only if you want to hear more.”
I nodded, tucked the folded paper in my note book along with a couple other convicts’ letters I’d promised to drop in the mail room.
He watched my hands then stood. “‘Preciate that,” he said at a normal volume, and pushed his chair back in.