Category Archives: Romance
ORDER A COPY: Screwdrivered (The Cocktail Series)
Publisher: Galley Books
Publishing Date: September 2, 2014
Paperback: 245 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Readers back for a third round of the bestselling Cocktail series will enjoy a madcap romantic comedy about bodice ripping and chest heaving, fiery passion and love everlasting. Plus a dash of paperwork filing and horseshi—wait, what?
By day, Viv Franklin designs software programs. By night, Vivian’s a secret romance-novel junkie who longs for a knight in shining armor, or a cowboy on a wild stallion, or a strapping firefighter to sweep her off her feet. And she gets to wear the bodice—don’t forget the bodice.
When a phone call brings news that she’s inherited a beautiful old home in Mendocino, California from a long-forgotten aunt, she moves her entire life across the country to embark on what she sees as a great, romance-novel-worthy adventure. But romance novels always have a twist, don’t they?
There’s a cowboy, one that ignites her loins. Because Cowboy Hank is totally loin-ignition worthy. But there’s also a librarian, Clark Barrow. And he calls her Vivian. Can tweed jackets and elbow patches compete with chaps and spurs? You bet your sweet cow pie.
In Screwdrivered, Alice Clayton pits Superman against Clark in a hilarious and hot battle that delights a swooning Viv/Vivian.
Also within this book, an answer to the question of the ages: Why ride a cowboy when you can ride a librarian
Vivian Franklin’s life has taken an adventurous turn. She was stuck at a crossroads between her software design company and her inner artist until she received a 1:30 a.m. call from a California attorney. Her aunt passed away and left her beach house in Mendocino, California to Viv. Viv is certain she is going to California to determine what to do with the house, until she arrives and sees the majestic house and the beautiful views, including that of the half-naked cowboy who takes care of the horses and chickens on the property. Viv realizes that maybe it is time for a change of scenery.
Now Vivian seems to think that her life is turning into one of those bodice-ripping romance novels that she’s so addicted to. A destined inheritance and a trip across the country, a gorgeous, moody cowboy playing hard to get, and a villain in the shape of the local librarian and historian who is determined to keep Vivian from making all the changes that she wants to the house. Okay, maybe villain is a little harsh a description for geeky Clark Barrow. He does rock those elbow patches. But her roof is leaking and the front porch is collapsing literally under her feet and Clark wants to fight with her about materials and historical trim and the local artist who created her balustrades — which is falling apart in her hand.
Except an interesting thing happened during a telephone figh–discussion one night with Clark, it seems Nighttime Clark can be funny, sexy and slightly naughty. While Daytime Clark is a pain in the ass, Nighttime Clark makes Vivian want a take a bite out of his ass. But that leaves her with a new problem, is her romantic hero in her real-life romance supposed to be the aloof Cowboy or the geeky librarian?
Alice Clayton gives us another hysterically sexy and delightful story. We met Vivian briefly in Rusty Nailed and she showed us that she what an outrageous and quirky character she was going to be. Clark was the perfect sexy-geek, straight-laced and romantic. So honestly no one from her friends to the readers can understand why she was putting any effort into hot cowboy Hank. Hank is a picture perfect hottie. The kind you would put on your computer screensaver, but as soon as words came out of his mouth, I was so over him and couldn’t understand why Vivian continued to drool over him. Okay, I could understand the drooling, but other than being pretty to look at, Hank did nothing for me but bother me that he was distracting Vivian from Clark.
I am sure you are wondering why I gave my beloved author Alice Clayton only 4 stars for Screwdrivered. It is because she introduced great characters and a hysterical concept of Viv flaking into her romance novel narratives and the creepy dolls always ‘watching,’ but then she waste precious pages (it was only a 240 page story) on Vivian chasing Hank who was such a flat bore to Vivian’s vivacious character that it just didn’t even make sense for her to continuing chasing him. Vivian was intelligent and witty and Hank, like I said, pretty to look at but once he opened his mouth, nothing. He was a dumbass. Obviously that is what she was going for in her writing, but I hated wasting my time with him.
Nighttime Clark was all that we have come to expect from an Alice Clayton hero, and phone calls between them might not have hit the phone sex level of Grace and Jack but they had the potential.
When you read the book information saying “cowboy or librarian” you expect two equal love-interest characters and that was simply not the case. I can’t imagine there is anyone who will read this story and be Team Hank. The Viv/Hank time waste what could have been more interesting Viv/Clark time and it just detracted from the overall story.
In fact, they only time we see Hank acknowledge Vivian at all is whenever she is standing close to Clark and Hank intrudes in their conversations so Clark can see that Vivian is hot for Hank. I thought we would find out that Clark and Hank had a history from high school, since they were both locals, where Hank was always taking the girl Clark was interested in. The old brains vs muscles scenario. But there really was no explanation as to why it was only when Clark was around that Hank made any attempt to converse with Vivian other than Yes, No and Hay. Yes, I mean “hay.”
The parts of the story revolving around Clark and Vivian were awesome. Those parts involving Vivian and Hank were just annoying and made me lose respect for Vivian. Other than my complete dislike of Hank and time wasted on Hank, the rest of the story was delightful, flirty and funny as I have come to expect from Alice Clayton.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Vivian gets stuck when her leg goes through the porch boards and called Clark for help.
“Pardon me, I need to get a little closer here. I just—Ah, yes, I can see it there.” Clark had leaned across me, one arm on either side of me as he peered through the broken board to the ground below. His head was almost flush with the floor. And flush with what else was on the floor. Flush with my—-Oh my. I unexpectedly felt his breath on my bare thighs. I was dressed in running shorts that left little to the imagination, and my imagination was bombarding my senses with the most inappropriate images.
All I could think about was if he just moved about three inches to the left, he could probably get me off with is jaw alone. And how in the world had I never noticed that it was so very strong, so very chiseled, so very lightly covered with Sunday-evening stubble? Stubble that could so every easily drag back and forth across the inside of my legs, up and down, and right and left, and then up, up and away to my—
“I’m going to have to do down,” he said, and it took all the strength I had not to bury my hand in that flippy soft brown hair and take him at his word.
“Sorry?” I asked, panting. I was panting,for Chris’s sake! Over a librarian?
Mmmm, over a librarian…
“I have to go down beneath the porch. Believe me, I’m not looking forward to it. Who knows what’s under there?” he said, turning toward me. All I could see was bandage, and the bruises that were fading from purple to yellow around the edges, and the spell was broken.
Still breathing a little heavy, I warned him to watch out for dolls. And watched as he hurried down the steps, around the side of the house, and began removing the lattice work cover on the side of the porch with the utmost care.
What the hell! Lusting after a librarian, when there was a cowboy on the loose? It was clear that lusting after Hank had addled my brains. I was seeing things, imagining things, getting hot over the slightest touch, even from a guy like Clark.
The wind blew more forcefully across the porch, and I shivered. What the hell was taking so long?
“Hey! You want to put a little hustle on over there?” I finally called out, when the third piece of lattice was placed carefully onto the porch.
His head popped up over the edge. “Do you have any idea how old this is?”
“Do you have any idea how much it’s going to suck if you’re caught underneath there in the rain?”
He looked at the sky, getting darker by the minute. “Point taken.” He pried off the last of the lattice, then disappeared.
I could hear scrambling coming from beneath me, and then I could feel the ground shifting a little under my stuck foot.
“Vivian? It’s just me. Don’t be alarmed.”
“No kidding, Clark. Who else would it be?”
“Well pardon me all over the place. I was just concerned that if you were surprised, your first instinct would be to kick. So let’s see what we can do about getting this free.”
Then he put his hands on my leg. Wrapped his hands around my ankle, turning it slightly. “Okay, it’s wedged into a cement block, but I think I can get it loose. Bear with me a moment, Vivian.”
“It’s Viv. And be careful, huh?” I called down.
“Impossible woman,” he muttered. His hands traveled a little farther up my leg, inside, and then around the back of my knee. And then I felt…well, it felt like…
“Clark! Did you just lick–“
“No!” he yelled, wrenching my foot free at that exact moment and pushing it up through the porch. I fell backward, my leg pulling clear of the wood and my heart pounding. I saw him crawl out from beneath the porch, dust himself off, and walk toward me.
I pointed at him. “You licked my leg.”
“I did nothing of the kind,” he said. But the tips of his ears were red.
ORDER A COPY: Festive in Death
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Publishing Date: September 2, 2014
Hardcover: 400 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Personal trainer Trey Ziegler was in peak physical condition. If you didn’t count the kitchen knife in his well-toned chest.
Lieutenant Eve Dallas soon discovers a lineup of women who’d been loved and left by the narcissistic gym rat. While Dallas sorts through the list of Ziegler’s enemies, she’s also dealing with her Christmas shopping list—plus the guest list for her and her billionaire husband’s upcoming holiday bash.
Feeling less than festive, Dallas tries to put aside her distaste for the victim and solve the mystery of his death. There are just a few investigating days left before Christmas, and as New Year’s 2061 approaches, this homicide cop is resolved to stop a cold-blooded killer.
This year Eve and Roarke are celebrating the holidays as they do each year with a party, good friends and murder.
Trina and her friend Sima are going to play a prank on Sima’s ex. The dirty bastard used her to pay his rent and his bills for months before he tossed her out for a new bimbo. But they’re just a little too late. Someone has already given Trey Zeigler his Christmas present early, a knife to the chest and a “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Trey Zeigler was an award-winning personal trainer. He was also a user, a blackmailer and a rapist. Eve would rather have put Trey in a cage, but since he’s on his way to the morgue, it is up to Eve to figure out who killed him. Unfortunately, the list of suspects includes his award competition for this year, all the woman Trey used or raped and their respective boyfriends and/or husbands.
With barely any time to holiday shop between interviews, Eve makes a deal with the devil, or some people call him Summerset. If he wraps her presents, she’ll help with the party preparation. Maybe she’ll get lucky and catch her killer and be too busy with interviews to help. It’s a long shot, but a cop can hope.
In between sifting through the life of the dirtbag known as Trey, and avoiding getting vomited on by Drunk Santa, Eve is trying to make time for just her and Roarke to enjoy the holidays and the life that they have created for each other.
I can’t rate an In Death book at less the 5 stars. Even a bad In Death book is better than most books out there. I love the characters that she has developed and how they have grown and bonded over the years.
This story had nice balance between the investigation and the personal. As we know, after 39 books, there are some stories more focused on either the murder or Eve’s personal life. I generally enjoy the personal in these stories more than the investigation and this was no exception. We have the big holiday party which brings together people who we haven’t seen in a while like Louise and Charles. We also have a few touching moments with Peabody and even Summerset. The relationship between Eve and Roarke continues to expand and bond them closer.
The murder of Trey Zeigler wasn’t the most exciting story she has written, but with so many suspects it did keep you guessing throughout the entire story.
I am looking forward to Book #40 which comes out in February. It sounds like she is going all out for the next chapter as we step into 2061.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“So I can open it now? I love when I can open it now. The paper’s so pretty.”
She picked at it delicately, carefully breaking seals.
“Jesus, Peabody, rip the damn thing open. I don’t have all night.”
“I can use it again. I haven’t wrapped everything yet.”
She slid the box free, carefully folded the paper, preserved the ribbon and bow. And finally opened the box.
“Oh!” She pulled out the gift, stared at it, eyes and mouth wide. “It’s a magic coat. It’s my own magic coat. It’s pink! It’s a pink magic coat. Holy shit! Holy pink magic shit, Dallas.”
“The pink was Roarke’s doing. You can’t hang that on me. I said brown.”
“I have to sit down. No, I have to try it on, then I have to sit down. Holy shit, you got me a pink magic coat.”
“Don’t blubber! Why is there so much blubbering today?”
“Thank God I used all waterproof, sweatproof, smudge-proof face enhancers, because I’m going to blubber. Dallas, wow. Just wow, it’s leather. It’s pink leather.”
“The pink’s not on me. Ever.”
“Holy, holy, holy shit. I can’t stop saying it.” She swung the coat on over the frothy dress. It looked silly with it, Eve thought, the military style of it over the party dress. But apparently Peabody didn’t think so. She twirled in it so the knee-length pink leather billowed and swirled.
“Oh my God, it’s beyond. Just beyond. It feels like leather. It is leather. It has pockets and pretty buttons. And it’s magic and it’s pink.”
“I can’t go around wearing coats with internal body armor when my partner’s not.”
Peabody stopped twirling. She didn’t blubber, but a couple tears trickled down. “It means so much to me, that you’d have it made for me. For my safety. That all by itself means everything. But the rest? It didn’t have to be leather, it didn’t have to be pink. But you did that because you knew it would make me happy.”
“You get stunned or stuck or blasted, it’s pretty damned inconvenient for me.” On Peabody’s water laugh, Eve sighed. “You’re…family. That’s it.”
Peabody grabbed her, squeezed. “Okay, okay.” Eve tapped her on the back. “Okay, okay.”
“I love you. People don’t say that to people enough, so I’m saying it. I really love you, and I’m going to let go in a second because I know it weirds you. But thanks. Thank you so much.”
“I have to go thank Roarke.” Peabody pulled back. “And show McNab. Then I need to put it away safe. Is there someplace I can put it?”
“Give it to Summerset. He’ll stow it.”
“Right. Oh, wow. Just wow. I’m thanking you again right now by not hugging you again and kissing you on the lips.”
“And I’m saying you’re welcome by not putting my boot up your ass.”
ORDER A COPY: Lay It Down: A Desert Dogs Novel
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Publishing Date: August 5, 2014
Paperback: 336 pages
Rating: 4 stars
That’s a life well lived, according to the Desert Dogs—four friends who call Fortuity, Nevada, their badlands home.
Vince Grossier is the self-crowned outlaw king around here. But when Fortuity’s slick new mayor invites a casino development to town, greed isn’t far behind—and it claims Vince’s good friend as its first casualty. With the law turning a blind eye to the mysterious death, Vince must seek his own brand of justice. The pretty photographer hired by the developers might be the key to uncovering the truth. And she’s a temptation too good to pass up.
Finally free of a controlling ex, Kim Paget’s not looking to be taken for a ride—not on the back of some tattooed roughneck’s bike and definitely not in his bed. But when she uncovers evidence supporting Vince’s suspicions of murder, Kim must entrust her safety to a man whose body threatens danger of a whole different kind.
Vince Grossier’s friend Alex calls him late one night to meet up at the local bar. Alex saw something while patrolling at the construction site for the new casino which has him pretty spooked. Vince wasn’t happy when Alex never showed that night, but Alex couldn’t help it. Alex was died on the way to the bar. After their conversation on the phone, including Alex’s cryptic statement about “bones,” Vince isn’t ready to accept that Alex died while driving drunk in his police cruiser. Alex might have had a problem with alcohol, but he was always too smart to drive in that condition. Unfortunately, Vince can’t convince any of his friends that someone might have faked Alex’s death to cover up something that Alex saw that day.
Actually the only one who thinks there might credence to Vince’s insane idea is the photographer Sunnyside hired to take some publicity shots. Vince offers to take Kim to get some of the more dynamic shots of the area as only a local would know, if she promises to keep her eyes open while taking pictures around the construction site.
Surprisingly Kim stumbles on a conversation which might just give weight to Vince’s suspicions. Now the Vince is able to convince his friends that there might have been something more sinister behind Alex’s death, he has to worry that someone might be coming after Kim to make sure she doesn’t share whatever she might have heard.
I always love Cara McKenna’s characters. They are edgy and imperfect creatures. That’s what makes them so memorable. In Lay It Down, Kim pegs Vince as a selfish guy. She is right in her assumption but she is also very wrong. Unlike his brother, Vince has stayed in the rundown Town of Fortuity to take care of their mother who is showing increased dementia. He has been in prison, but he also tries to help the families of the guys who are still inside. Helping others makes Vince feel good about himself. So Vince might be a bit selfish, but he has many good qualities to him as well.
Although Kim was interested in a one night stand, I loved that when they got to her room she quizzed him first with a “You can come in if you can answer my question. What’s my name?” At this point, Vince was only looking to get laid and wasn’t concerned with anything more than getting sex. Since he didn’t even bothering to pay attention to such an unimportant fact as her name only proves her belief of him that he is selfish. Kim turning him away peeks his interest in her as more than just a way to get a quick release.
What I like most was that by the time we get Kim and Vince into bed, Vince acknowledges to himself that his normal m.o. is to get the most out of his own enjoyment and hit the bricks as soon as it’s over. By the time he gets there with Kim, he realizes he wants to give her more than he usually demands. So we get to watch a change that being with Kim is making in Vince’s life.
Again at his fly as she undid the button. He let her wrists go, and his breath slipped out in a silent moan as she slide his zipper down. Christ, this was his cue. A cue he’d taken too many times, to cup a woman’s head, lead her down to her knees. A selfish man’s most natural move, yet his hands lay limp at his sides, the whole of him mesmerized as she explored.
Their after sex doesn’t include cuddling, mostly because they are both unsure what their relationship is, are they a one-time thing? Are they having a romance? It takes them awhile to acknowledge to themselves and to each other that there is more they want than simply enjoying sex.
This is the first Cara McKenna book that I have read that is part of a series instead of a stand alone. She introduces some really great characters and some side characters who I think will play a more important part in upcoming books. The story plot also involves murder and cover up and how far up the chain does the conspiracy go. Because she was introducing several characters and building the ground work for future novels, this one was a bit of a slow read for me. It took me some time to get into the story. We do get some answers at the end, but many more questions are still open. It will be an interesting series. I just hope the rest of the books aren’t so draggy now that we’ve established the who’s who.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
She stared at him for a long moment, trying to figure out why she wasn’t unnerved by any of this. In fact, all she felt was intrigued. “You’re a very unusual man.”
“You’re a very attractive woman.”
She felt her cheeks heating at that, and promptly hid behind the camera once more. This massive, sketchy, shameless man wanted her. For a night, likely—nothing more. It wasn’t as if he knew her well enough to have an actual crush on her. A collision, that’s what he was after. A sex collision. She strained for reasons to run away…
She might be embarrassed, bumping into him afterward. Though that wasn’t such a high price to pay.
Or the sex might be awful and disappointing. Like that hasn’t been true with nice, normal guys? Maybe the sex would be just like Vince—brash and loud and exciting and fast, and larger than life itself.
You could just kiss him. More often than not, that told you everything you needed to know about how two people would fare in bed together.
When the last of the dawn’s colors bled to pale blue, and the hide of Lights Out looked common as terra-cotta, Kim dropped the camera to her lap and turned to her perplexing tour guide.
“Well, you win.”
A smirk. “Do I then? What’s my prize?”
“You were right,” she reiterated. “That’s got to be the best view in town. And I never would have found it myself. Thank you. Can I give you some gas money?”
“Nah. But I’ll take that breakfast you mentioned.” She nodded, eyes dropping to his stubble-dark chin, his mouth.
“What, what?” she bluffed, hauling her attention back to his eyes.
A smile—very faint, very approving. “You know what. So tell me, and then we’ll both know.”
Fine, busted. “I was…just wondering…if you were any good at kissing,” she finished in a mumble.
“Oh were you then?” he asked with over done surprise.
“Don’t act so satisfied.”
“Quit giving me reasons to.”
“Shut up and let’s kiss,” she decided. “Then at least we’ll know whether or not all this flirting is a waste of time.” It’d probably be too hard—his mouth mashed against hers, a crushing, toothy, awkward assault. Or too wet. Too much of something, with this too-much man.
But his approach was measured, nothing like the battering ram she’d forecasted. He leaned in slowly, lips parting as he drew close, the temperature only rising as he cast a shadow over her. His gloves were on, his palm clad in beat old leather, fingers bare and warm as they curved along her jaw. She shut her eyes and breathed him in—earth, coffee, sweat, skin. The very scent of anticipation. His other hand grazed her neck, making her shiver, then swept up to her cheek. She was dying for his lips, but it was a different, unexpected contact he offered. Gently, slowly, he slid her glasses from her face, something about the act so odd and intimate, she gasped as though he’d cupped her breast. Her eyes opened, finding those hazel ones so near.
He was unlike any man she’d ever been this close to, and somehow she knew, after this kiss, something inside her would never quite be the same. Like that electric color he’d shown her, whatever happened next was going to rewrite her perceptions, Expand her understanding of what kissing meant.
With neat, almost prim motions, Vince folded her glasses and hooked them to his own collar. Now those hands were free to hold her jaw, the contact crackling bright, stealing her breath. Shutting her eyes. His rough thumbs stroked her cheeks; then his lips glanced hers in a scalding whisper. Nothing like she’d imagined. Light and teasing. Then just a bit more, his lower lip brushing both of hers, urging them to part. Her fingers sought his jacket, curling around his lapels. Tugging. He took the hint, giving her a first taste of that kiss she’d been expecting. More of everything—more pressure, more intention. She drew his lip between hers, released it with a graze of teeth and earned herself the hottest little reaction—a flare of surprise in his exhalation. The unmistakable sound of a man rousing.
She felt possession in those hands, and tasted hunger on his lips. He angled her head and took the kiss deep—a bold sweep of his tongue, but so much more sensual than the intrusion she’d anticipated. He was dark and sweet from the coffee, same as her, perfect somehow. Wanting more of him, she found his jacket’s zipper and eased it down, letting her palms seek his chest through is tee. He was burning hot despite the cool bite of the morning, and she felt his heart beating behind smooth cotton. As his mouth explored hers, his hands roamed lower, until those big fingers were fanned across her waist, seeming to urge her in subtle pulls, mimicking the thrusts she’d guiltily let herself fantasize about, with this man. Now she imagined everything. Every inch of his bare body, braced above hers. Every noise. Every motion.
And this kiss told her every last thing she needed to know about how he’d be, in bed. And she couldn’t wait to find herself there with him.
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.