Category Archives: Romance

Hard Time by Cara McKenna

Hard Time


Publisher: Intermix
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.

Favorite Scene:

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.

Foolish me.

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.

“Hi there.”

“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.”

“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.

Her Best Laid Plans by Cara McKenna

ORDER A COPY: Her Best Laid Plans

Publisher: Cosmo Red Hot Reads/Harlequin
Publishing Date: April 15, 2014
ebook: 85 pages

Rating: 5 stars

Imagine nursing a pint in a cozy, authentic country pub, far from Cork City’s busy pulse. Getting here took you a plane, bus, taxi, and…erm, bicycle. But just as you’re resigning yourself to drinking beside gray-haired farmers, you see him—a man with the looks and charm to soothe any heartbroken girl.

He’s your bartender. Your really, really gorgeous bartender.

For American Jamie Webb—recently dumped and housesitting for two weeks—Connor Kelleher is like a six-course feast after a 23-year starvation diet. But it’s gotta be casual. She’s just begun re-routing her life after an extended, man-related detour. Still, a sexy romp (or twenty!) with Sexy McBartender?

But what about when Jamie’s best-laid plans for no future plans with any man begin to change?

Jamie Webb put her own plans for college on hold two years ago to help support her boyfriend through medical school.  She spent the last few years supporting him through his dreams and was shocked when he suddenly dumped her.   Never again.   Jamie will be returning to college in the Fall to begin her architecture classes, and she refuses to change those plans for anyone else’s schedule ever again.

And the first step in putting her life back on track is the first real vacation she has had in years. She is housesitting for her mother’s friend on County Cork, Ireland. The scenery is beautiful, although a little desolate for a city girl like Jamie. A trip to the local pub is more like a trip to a nursing home with all the old men nursing their Guinness. She is afraid her plans for an exciting vacation fling are down the drain until the new bartender takes over his shift.

If there is only going to be one man under 30 in this neighborhood, Connor Kelleher is definitely a perfect specimen and his sparking eyes and sexy banter is just what Jamie needs to wipe away the mess of the past few years. Connor is happy to show Jamie around the town as well as the pleasure she has been missing in the arms of a passionate man.

As the time for Jamie to return home draws nearer, it is getting harder and harder to imagine parting forever from Connor, but Jamie refuses to once again set her plans aside for a man. Will her time with Connor become a pleasant memory to think back on or will walking away become Jamie’s biggest regret?

I have definitely added Cara McKenna to my list of favorite authors. This was a short story and a quick read but it was definitely enjoyable.   It didn’t feel rushed and it flowed nicely.  Connor and Jamie have a connection from the beginning and what was supposed to be a week-long fling for both leaves them wanting much more.    You definitely felt their connection as well as their pain and sadness that they found someone so perfect who they wouldn’t have a chance to truly know better.

Some of Cara’s stories leave me wanting so much more and with both Jamie and Connor with plans to start college in the Fall on different continents, I wasn’t sure if she would leave us dangling at the end, but I did enjoy where she went with it.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Scene:

Jamie wasn’t sure when bars officially closed for the night in Ireland, but Connor locked the door to the Crossroads just after ten, when the final regular bade him a good evening and shuffled out into the night. He flipped the dead bolt and the sign in the window, then turned expectantly to Jamie.

“Ready to redeem yourself?” she asked.

They’d been making flirtatious small talk for the past couple hours, but she still felt a ripple of nerves. Thrilling nerves–an endorsement from her intuition, not a warning.

“I’ll do my best,” Connor said, cracking his knuckles. “Though sadly you’ve already seen my best. I can only pray that whiskey’s left me with a fighting chance.”

“Sorry. I actually play better after a drink.” She fed the coin tray, setting unseen balls tumbling.

Connor flipped off all the lights save for the one above the table, seeming to close them in an intimate, dramatic little set.

He left her arrange the balls, and he broke.

Feeling cruel, Jamie took to disturbing him just before he could take his next shot, peppering him with inane questions. The fourth time she pulled the stunt, he stayed as he was, leveling her with his eyes. He looked deliciously dangerous in the stark overhead light, still poised to take his thwarted turn—brow furrowed, shoulder blades cocked, gorgeous forearms tensed and his fingers curled around the cue.

Trounce me.

He didn’t. He merely smiled some mysterious Connor smile, then finally took his turn. Her ploy worked, though–he didn’t sink a thing.

He sighed his annoyance, standing aside as Jamie got her own shot strategized. He tapped the table with the tip of his cue. “Aim about here,” he said. Tap tap tap. She eyeballed a different angle and he tapped again, in her line of vision. “Right about here, then.” Tap tap tap tap.

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and picked a ball, knocking it neatly into a side pocket. She tossed him a snotty look as she circled to find her next move. Connor rested his cue along his shoulders, gripping it with both hands. “If we’d agreed on any prizes this time, I may as well go ahead and forfeit mine.”

“I thought the stakes were rather obvious,” she said, and potted the blue ball.

Connor seemed to perk up at this. He was imaging another kiss—she could tell from his eyebrows alone, rising a fraction to betray his intentions.

“Do you now?” he asked. “And what might those stakes be?”

“Your dignity.”

He pouted, posture slumping. “I’m doomed then. Can’t we play for something else?”

She knocked a red into a pocket. “Such as…?”

“I rather liked out earlier wager.”

“At this rate, I’ll be leaving here with an entire bottle.” She eyed the yellow ball.

“Mine, not yours.”

She looked up and held his stare. “I liked your wager, too,” she admitted, her smile feeling as shy as her words were bold.

Her stepped closer, skirting the corner of the table. Goodness, those hips. This man could slink.

“If that’s the case,” he said softly, “Then maybe the snooker’s a bit of a formality.”

Rising Assets by Rebecca Zanetti

Rising Assets (Maverick Montana, #3)

ORDER A COPY: Rising Assets (Entangled Brazen)

Publisher: Entangled/Brazen
Publishing Date: March 31, 2014
ebook: 250 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Melanie Jacoby is in trouble. With three jobs—including running her ranch—and dwindling funds, she’s exhausted. Not to mention desperately trying to hide a secret. Unfortunately, her best friend Colton Freeze knows all too well that’s something is going on, and he won’t give up until he knows exactly what he needs to fix.

Then Colton learns the truth—that Melanie’s future happiness rests in the fickle hands of fate, and her chances for having a family are shrinking with every passing day. Her only comfort is Colton, but when a heated argument between them turns into an even hotter kiss, the boundaries of their friendship are erased, leaving only a scorching-hot hunger for more.

Every kiss—every touch—is a stolen pleasure. But will their new friends-with-sexy-benefits arrangement bring them closer together, or destroy everything they once shared?

Colton Freeze has just returned to Mineral Lake after obtaining his degree. He is going to take over running the family business. When he get home, he finds that one of his best friends, Melanie Jacoby, has been working herself to death working two jobs in addition to running her ranch. Melanie has been one of his closest friends almost a part of the family, since they were kids. If she was having financial problems, she should have come to him.

Melanie isn’t looking for a hand-out from Colton or his family. What Melanie needs money for is a private matter. Melanie body is working against her and is she doesn’t hurry, she will never have a child of her own. The cost of freezing her eggs is expensive but would be worth it if she has a chance to have a baby of her own when she gets married. When that doesn’t work, Melanie goes for Option 2, a trip to the sperm bank. If she tries to conceive now, she might still be able to have her own child.

Colton is shocked to find out what is happening to Melanie and upset that she didn’t turn to him for support. Having a baby is part of Colton’s grand plan after falling in love and getting married. You know, far off in the future plans. But the idea of Melanie carrying someone stranger’s baby is enough to make Colton rethink his future to-do list.

While Colton and Melanie are unsure about the changes that their friendship face if they become lovers, it seems that the whole town has been betting for quite awhile now on how long it would take for Colton and Melanie to get together.

This was a cute romance. Colton and Melanie were likable characters. There was a strong attachment between the two and they were the only ones concerned about how attempting to have a baby would effect their relationship. But it is Colton who is giving off the appearance of wanting to help Melanie, so you can understand Melanie’s concern that at what point, if she doesn’t get pregnant, do they walk away before she feels she traps Colton and keeps him from having a future.

The only thing that bothered me and made me want to smack Colton upside the head is when he didn’t want Melanie carrying anyone else’s baby but his, but then he couldn’t image being able to be there for them long term. He can’t imagine her having someone else’s baby, but for a smart and educated man he doesn’t take that thought further that he would be okay with another man taking over his role in Melanie’s life and raising his kid? If not being the father made him crazy, he didn’t seem the type to walk away and let someone else step in to be the husband and father. That part definitely went against his character.

The town bet added fun to the story. Little old ladies offering up inappropriate dates to push Melanie and Colton together in a timely fashion to meet their bet deadlines. And there is everyone’s refusal to admit who is the bet taker in Town.

I am a big fan of Rebecca’s Dark Protectors series and her Sin Brothers series, but this story lacks the excitement of the other two series. I haven’t had a chance to read the first two of the Maverick Montana series but this one seems more in the category of a sweet romance with a background of strong rancher family. This is a series to enjoy for the strong family bonds.

Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Scene:

“Colton.” Mrs. Hudson emerged from the coffee shop, her gray wool coat swallowing her, and a bright pink knit scarf wrapped around her neck several times. “Do you have a minute?”

He hustled toward the elderly lady. “Yes, ma’am. What can I do for you?” Last night he’d already apologized for the mix-up with Melanie.

Mrs. Hudson slipped her bony arm through his. “We can chat while you escort me toward my car.” Her worn boots matched her scarf, and he made a mental note to make sure she got some new boots before snow arrived again. From the chill in the air, it wouldn’t be long.

“I’d love to escort you.” He angled his body to protect her better from the wind. The woman lived at the end of Main Street and had driven three blocks instead of walking. Rain or snow, the woman always walked, probably so she didn’t miss anything on the way. “I noticed you drove instead of walked today. Are you feeling all right?”

“Yes, I felt like a drive today. Pus, it’s going to sleet, and I didn’t want to get caught.” She twittered and patted his arm. “You’re such a fine young man. My niece, Beatrix, is visiting at the end of the week, and I was hoping you’d take her out and show her the town.”

The woman had always been a matchmaker. He smiled. “That’s kind of you, and I appreciate your thinking of me, but I have plans.”

Mrs. Hudson slowed down. “Well, she’ll only be here two weeks, and I have to admit, she’s quite easy.”

He coughed out air and glanced down at tight, gray curls. “Excuse me?”

She looked up and squinted faded blue eyes. “Beatrix. She gets around, a lot.” Mrs. Hudson shrugged. “I thought you two might have some fun for a couple of weeks before she leaves. Just two weeks.”

Colton stopped. What in the world? Realization smacked him in the face stronger than the wild wind. “Mrs. Hudson. You wouldn’t have entered a bet regarding Melanie Jacoby and me, would you have?”

Mrs. Hudson brushed invisible lint off her coat. “Of course not.”

Colton bit back a laugh. “Tell me the truth, or I’ll go propose to Mel right now.”

Mrs. Hudson gasped, her head shooting up so she could meet his gaze. “You wouldn’t.”

“Oh, I would.”

“Fine.” Mrs. Hudson sighed. “I have St. Paddy’s day as my date, and I sure could use the money, Colton Freeze. If you’d just declare your love that day, I’d really appreciate it.”

He couldn’t believe she’d tried to bribe him with a slutty niece. Mrs. Hudson was a pimp. He laughed. “I will certainly keep your date in mind. Who’s taking he bets and keeping the money, anyway?”

“Can’t tell you,” she said sadly. “When you make the bet, you have to swear not to tell, or your forfeit your money.”

When he found out the bet taker, he was going to kick some ass.

Board Stiff by Annelise Ryan

Board Stiff

ORDER A COPY: Board Stiff (Mattie Winston Mysteries)

Publisher: Kensington Books
Publishing Date: March 4, 2013
Paperback: 368 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Sorenson, Wisconsin’s deputy coroner Mattie Winston is back on the job. . .in a nursing home examining the body of Bernie Chase–the now former president of the Twilight Home’s board of directors–who is covered in a powder used to turn liquids to solids. The home’s residents are certain Bernie was offing the patients who cost him too much. . .and the patient that found him can’t remember a thing.

Mattie Winston has returned to her job as the Deputy coroner. Mattie had quit to fan the flames of a relationship with her investigative partner, Det. Steve Hurley a few months ago, but after they finally got to create a bonfire, the flames were doused when Hurley’s ex-wife—wife—soon-to-be ex-wife…whatever, showed up with a fifteen-year-old kid which she claimed was Hurley’s. Thankfully, Mattie’s replacement at the coroner’s office turned out to be allergic to formaldehyde allowing Mattie to return to work while Hurley figures out how to handle his new fatherhood.

But returning to the job means, Mattie is available to be dragged by Irene Keller over to the Twilight Retirement Home to check out the suddenly dead body of the owner, Bernard Chase. Nothing about the body screams accidental death and Mattie has a whole building full of suspects. Rumor has it that Bernie was killing off the bedridden clients once their care started becoming too costly so none of the residents are too sad to see Bernie kick off.

As if the list of those wanting to see Bernie go bye-bye isn’t long enough, there is a soon to be ex-wife and a secret mistress, as well as an unknown silent partner to find and add to the list of suspects.

Meanwhile, Mattie is getting dragged into her sister’s marital problems when her inappropriate and annoying brother-in-law is tossed out of the house after he made bad investments and lost all the family’s money without mentioning it to Mattie’s sister. So he pleads with Mattie to help get his family back, all without making one boob reference. He must be desperate.

Hurley and Mattie might have cooled things off for now “officially” due to Mattie returning as Hurley’s partner, but it seems no one informed their hormones and they find themselves squeezing in quickies whenever an opportunity or two or three presents itself.

Mattie needs to catch the killer while not getting caught with her pants down by her boss and friend, Izzy, or she’ll risk losing her job permanently this time.

THOUGHTS (w/ spoilers of previous books):
I like the humor mixed with the mystery which is presented in these Mattie Winston stories. You can’t help by like Mattie who is your average, everyday woman. She needs to get to the gym and lose weight but her addiction to all things calorically challenged gets in her way. Although she is not perfect, Hurley still very much in love/lust with Mattie.

The first few books teased about the sexual tension between Mattie and Hurley and an almost adolescent Mattie is constantly give us the “does he or doesn’t he like me.” At the end of book 4, Mattie gives up her job and finally jumps in bed with the very happy Hurley. Except, once the deed was done, there is a knock on the door and Steve’s wife (who he thought was his ex-wife but she never filed the papers) shows up with a daughter who she claimed was Steve’s and told him they had no place to live and could they stay with him for now. At that point I despaired that the next book would be all back and forth with Hurley and what to do about the wife, and Mattie and what to do about her job, anything to keep the two apart, and ending with Hurley ready to commit just as Mattie gets her job back. I was pleasantly surprised that Annelise Ryan didn’t torment us with such a bad plotline.

In Board Stiff, Mattie has just returned to her job while Steve sorts out his life. This is her first case back and she hasn’t seen Steve for a few months. She keeps indicating to Hurley that they need to keep their relationship professionally — although she keeps doing this while putting her clothes back on. So between quickies which are keeping us all entertained, we get an interesting investigation into the murder at the retirement home.

The Mattie Winston Mysteries are fun, lighthearted and not overly complicated murder plots, but they will keep you guessing and investigating. There are more changes in the future for Mattie and Hurley at the end of this story, and it will be interesting to see where they go in the next story.

Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Scene:

I venture over toward the group and ask Hurley if I can speak to him a moment. This earns me several looks of contempt, and one of the women goes so far as to voice her objection.

“Hey, wait your turn, missy!” she says. The woman is well built and attractive for her age with carefully coiffed, snow-white hair, hooker-red fingernails, and a carefully made up face. She is dressed in tight black slacks, a low-cut red blouse, and shiny red pumps, which strike me as inappropriate for a women her age until I see that she is sitting in a motorized wheelchair. Hell, the woman could wear six-inch stilettos if she wanted to because she doesn’t have to walk anywhere in them.

“I’ll give him back to you,” I say. “We work together and I just need to speak to him for a minute.”

Clearly she is not satisfied with my answer because she motors toward me, grabs my arm, and pulls me aside. “You need to make it quick, darling, because I’m working my best magic on this guy and right now he’s the only man in this facility who looks like he’s capable of sustaining a stiffy for any length of time. Hell, half these guys can’t even get a stiff, much less maintain one. I once tried to talk Bernie Chase into salting the food with Viagra, arguing that it would help with is safety record because it would keep some of these old fools from rolling out of bed. But he wouldn’t go for it and now I’m stuck with a bunch of limp noodles. Don’t let this wheelchair fool you. I’m not dead in that part of my body yet, and while I’m not saying it’s been a longtime since I last had sex, I do vaguely recall seeing a T-Rex thunder by during my post-coital haze, so I’m in need here, understand?”

“And you think you can score with the detective?” I say, barely suppressing a smile.

She then does something so shocking it makes me back up a step. First, she turns her wheelchair away from the others so that only I can see her face. She contorts her lips and pops both an upper and lower denture loose, letting them stick part way out of her mouth for a second before she sucks them back in. Then she leans in closer to me and wiggles her carefully drawn eyebrows. “Play a skin flute once without the teeth and you got ‘em for life,” she whispers.

It takes a lot to shock me. If you work as a nurse in an ER for any length of time you see and hear things that would mortify most people. Despite that, Snow White’s comment makes me gasp and clamp a hand over my mouth.

Hurley hears it and looks over at us. “Did Gwen just confess?” he asks with half a grin.

“Not to murder,” I say.

Gwen gives me a smug smile and motors back over to Hurley. “I’ll share everything I know with you,” she says, stroking his arm. “You come back and find me when you’re done talking to the big-boned blonde.”

I see Hurley’s mouth twitch and know he’s trying to suppress a smile.

Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb

Concealed in Death (In Death, #38)

I’m giving away my uncorrected proof copy of Concealed in Death. Tell us one of your favorite stories in the In Death series.

Giveaway ends Monday, February 24th. Open to U.S. residents, 18 years and older please.

ORDER A COPY: Concealed in Death

Publisher: Putnam Adult
Publishing Date: February 18, 2014
Hardcover: 416 pages

Rating: 4 stars

In a decrepit, long-empty New York building, Lieutenant Eve Dallas’s husband begins the demolition process by swinging a sledgehammer into a wall. When the dust clears, there are two skeletons wrapped in plastic behind it. He summons his wife immediately—and by the time she’s done with the crime scene, there are twelve murders to be solved.

The place once housed a makeshift shelter for troubled teenagers, back in the mid-2040s, and Eve tracks down the people who ran it. Between their recollections and the work of the force’s new forensic anthropologist, Eve begins to put names and faces to the remains. They are all young girls. A tattooed tough girl who dealt in illegal drugs. The runaway daughter of a pair of well-to-do doctors. They all had their stories. And they all lost their chance for a better life.

Then Eve discovers a connection between the victims and someone she knows. And she grows even more determined to reveal the secrets of the place that was called The Sanctuary—and the evil concealed in one human heart.

Lt. Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke, are once again drawn into a case which brushes too close to their own tortured childhood.

Roarke has purchased a rundown building which he is planning on gutting and creating a new safe haven. Like Duchas, his shelter for women, this place would be for kids who have been forced into the system and are in need a safe place away from the people who are supposed to care for them; just like he and Eve once were.

While taking down a wall, he finds bodies wrapped neatly in plastic, or more particularly the bones of young girls. Roarke calls in his wife to investigate what happened to them. It doesn’t take much searching to determine that the last use the property had was fifteen years ago as another shelter for troubled and runaway kids.

Eve has to follow a cold trail back to a killer but first she needs to put faces to these young girls.  Dr. Garnet DeWinter is brought in as a forensic anthropologist to work with Dr. Morris, the M.E., to determine who they were and what killed them.

When the lives of these girls brushes too close to home, Eve realizes that the difference between herself and these young girls is simply dumb luck. While Eve and Roarke grew up and made their own way out of the gutter of their own childhood, someone took away the chance for these girls. There is no statute of limitations on murder and Eve is determine to find their killer.

Although this is not one of the most thrilling stories in the series, it was another interesting investigation for Eve Dallas. There was more time spent determining who these girls were, talking to their families and putting together the whys and wherefores of what happened 15 years ago, than there was chasing down the killer.  The investigation was mostly handled by Eve and Peabody, so there was little interaction with the rest of the team.

There were some sweet moments between Eve and Roarke, but again nothing absolutely exciting. Move of a settling into married life.

Any fan of the series will, of course, read this story and enjoy the investigation, but if I was trying to intrigue someone into giving the series a try, there are much more exciting stories that I would suggest.

I will say for a happily married woman, Eve does not like when some woman gets to close to Dr. Morris. Interesting.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion.

Favorite Scene:

Then she picked up her coffee, put her boots up, and let her mind clear.

Because it was clear, the first thing that popped in when Roarke stepped inside was: He’s so pretty.

“You couldn’t have been more right or more succinct about the traffic. It was bloody vicious.”

“We won. We’re home.”

“You’re right. That calls for a drink.”

“I guess maybe.”

He came over to her first put his hands on the arms of her chair, leaned down to kiss her.

She surprised him, undid him, by rising up, wrapping her arms tight around him, and making it much more than a welcome home kiss.

“Well now, I might arrange for bloody vicious traffic daily.”

“You don’t have to. We live in New York.”

“What’s all this then?”

“I don’t know.” She’d surprised herself as much as him. “I guess…The Miras this morning, then this couple later. It…” Her mind, she realized, wasn’t as clear as she’d thought. “I’ll have that drink, and tell you.”

“All right. Let’s have it downstairs. You can come up with Mira if you feel you must,” he added, anticipating her protest, “but we should go down, greet them first, as friends.”

“You’re right.” She wrapped around him again, just to hold. “We’ll go downstairs.”

He tipped her head back, looked into her eyes. “You’re not sad.”

“No, I’m not sad.”

Thoughtful then, he decided, taking her hand as they went back down.

Summerset had lit the fire, and the tree. The parlor looked, well, amazing, she thought. It looked like home—her home— despite its elegance, its exceptional taste and style, the gleam of antiques, the art, the color, the lovely blending of old and new.

“What is it, Eve?”

She shook her head, sat on the arm of a chair because you could do that at home.

“I was in the Miras’ house this morning, and thinking how pretty it is there, how calm and pretty and easy to be in. This is, too. Isn’t that funny that this is, too? They have a tree. We have a tree. Well, I don’t know how many trees we have in here because who could count?”


“Okay. We have twenty trees.” It struck her suddenly. Twenty trees. “Seriously?”

“Yes.” He smiled, as much at his own need to fill the house with Christmas as with her reaction. “We’ll go around and have a look at all of them sometime.”

“It’ll take a while. Anyway, they had a fire, and we have one. But it’s not that, do you know what I mean? It’s the feeling. I used to envy that feeling. I could recognize it. You’d go into somebody’s place to interview the, notify them, even arrest them, and you’d recognize the feeling of home when it was there.”

“I know that envy, very well.” Which, he understood, explained all the trees, among other things.

“I thought when I moved in here it would always be a house, and always be yours. I don’t even know when that changed, not exactly, and it became mine. Ours. That’s pretty amazing.”

“It was a house, one I enjoyed very much. But it wasn’t a home until you.” He looked around the parlor as she had. Candles and firelight, tree glowing, colors rich, wood gleaming.

“What I put in it was for comfort, for show, or because I could. It mattered to have it, this place. My place. But I could never quite reach that feeling, until you.”

“I get that,” she realized. “It matters that you mean it, and that I get it.” She took a breath while he opened a bottle of wine. “You know how they are, the Miras. So connected, so just right. I swear if I didn’t love you, if it wasn’t for her, I’d really go for him.”

At Roarke’s laugh, she shook her head again, took the wine he offered.

“I think I could take him,” Roarke considered.

“I don’t know. He might surprise you. Anyway, it’s not like that really. There’s just…he’s just…There’s something about him that hits all my soft spots. I didn’t know I had some of them.”

“I think that’s lovely.”

“He brought me those silly gloves and that stupid hat, and put them on me like I was a kid. I ended up wearing them because he can’t button his sweater right half the time but he hunted up a cap and gloves for me because it’s cold out. He’s so kind, and they have this amazing connection between them.”

She had to take a steadying breath, amazed at how sloppy she felt about…all of it.

“I want that. I mean when we’ve been together like them a couple decades, I want that with us.”

“Darling Eve.” This time he pressed his lips to the top of her head. “There’s more every day.”

“It feels like it. Sometimes I don’t know how I got through not feeling it. And later, this couple. I need to talk to Mira about her. DeLonna.”

“Ah.” He sat now. “Sebastian came through. I thought he must have when you didn’t ask me to dig him up.”

“She goes by Lonna, Sebastian neglected to tell me he’d helped her change her name off the books. Lonna Moon. She and her guy own this swank little club. The Purple Moon.”

“I know it.”

“You don’t own the building, do you?”

“I don’t, but I’ve heard of the club. It has a good rep.” His hand glided gently along her thigh. Affection. Connection. “We should go there.”

“We should. Yeah, we should. I’ll get into the whole thing, but what I wanted to say to you was listening to her, seeing them together, it struck close to home. She’s solid, no washout, but he worries about her because of what she went through. She has nightmares.”

Those eyes, those wild blue eyes met hers. He didn’t have to say a thing to say everything.

“Looking at them, seeing them, I could see some of us. And it was really good, what I saw. I don’t know his story, but there’s something there. Slick, he’s slick, and looks like he can and has handled himself. But they were connected.”

“So.” She let out another breath. “I want to let you know if the day comes when you forget how to button your sweater—when you start wearing those button-sweater deals—I’ll fix it.”

“Every day there’s more,” he murmured. Swamped with love, he drew her off the arm of the chair into his lap.

The Chance by Robyn Carr

The Chance (Thunder Point, #4)

ORDER A COPY: The Chance (Thunder Point)

Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Publishing Date: February 25, 2014
Paperback: 368 pages

Rating: 4 stars

With its breathtaking vistas and down-to-earth people, Thunder Point is the perfect place for FBI agent Laine Carrington to recuperate from a gunshot wound and contemplate her future. The locals embraced Laine as one of their own after she risked her life to save a young girl from a dangerous cult. Knowing her wounds go beyond the physical, Laine hopes she’ll fit in for a while and find her true self in a town that feels safe. She may even learn to open her heart to others, something an undercover agent has little time to indulge.

Eric Gentry is also new to Thunder Point. Although he’s a man with a dark past, he’s determined to put down roots and get to know the daughter he only recently discovered. When Laine and Eric meet, their attraction is obvious to everyone. But while the law enforcement agent and the reformed criminal want to make things work, their differences may run too deep…unless they take a chance on each other and find that deep and mysterious bond that belongs to those who choose love over fear.

This is the story of Laine Carrington. She is an FBI agent that was shot in a raid on a commune that was growing marijuana in Thunder Bay. Though this happened in a previous book, this story stands alone and you really didn’t have to read it to follow the story. If you did read the previous Thunder Bay books, you will revisit many of the people you met before.

Laine comes back to Thunder Bay from NY to recuperate after shoulder surgery due to her injury. She is being commended for her bravery and will receive a medal of valor. Her mother is deceased and her father a prominent surgeon is mad at her for not going into medicine like her brother. While she tries to win his approval, he does nothing but put her down.

While in Thunder Bay, she meets Eric Gentry. Eric owns the local garage where he specializes in vintage car restoration. Eric has been in jail for a teenage stupid mistake and he never finished high school. Though they seem to have nothing in common, they fall in love and move in together. Laine is doing part time computer work for the FBI and seems happy here.

One day her father, with whom she is estranged, arrives at her door. He is acting strange and he apologizes for treating her so badly. Laine soon learns he has Alzheimer’s disease and can’t be left alone. She has to return to NY to try to get him settled. Finding some reliable to care for him seems useless and Eric can’t leave Thunder Bay as he has a daughter and a business. It seems pretty hopeless.

There is also some minor stories in the book. A teenage boy who works in the garage trying to care for his bedridden mother with MS and 2 little brothers. The romance between the town’s real estate lady and a worker in the garage.

It was a very interesting book and certainly a must for Thunder Bay and Robin Carr fans.

Favorite Scene:

They shared a rich chocolate cheesecake dessert and Eric asked for a cup of coffee while she finished her second glass of wine. “What about that beer?” she asked. “Wasn’t it okay? You didn’t even drink half of it.”

“It was fine, but I’m not much of a drinker, and I’m driving. I should probably worry more about my coffee consumption.”

On the way home he asked her, “When you were a kid, did you do any middle-class stuff, like…you know…Brownies? T-ball? Explorers Club?”

“Nah, my parents had us in accelerated academic programs. We had tutors from the beginning. My father pushed really hard. I didn’t even know about those other things. I was playing chess by eight, Pax was an elementary school leader in science club. My dad had a plan and my mom pretty much went along with it. The only reason I was in karate is because Pax was.” She turned toward him and grinned. “But I took it better than he did. I can kick the stuffing out of him.”

“Spoken like a true sister.”

Eric pulled into her driveway. He turned to look at her and damn, she was so pretty. This was just about a peak experience for him. “Good first date.” he said, oh so eloquently.

“Excellent first date.”

“Don’t move,” he told her. “Let me be a gentleman.”

He lead her toward the door and when they got there she stopped and turned, looking up at him expectantly. “Well?”

He wasn’t an idiot. He knew what she was waiting for. “Don’t you want to get to know me better before we have that good-night kiss?” he asked, giving her a chance to make a break for it.

“Look, I haven’t been out on a real date in over a year and before that it was a series of really bad dates with guys I’d never date a second time and this was an excellent date. Didn’t I just say that? And damn it, I want to cap it off with a—”

It rapidly crossed his mind that she must have been a supervisor, at least. He slid his arm around her waist and lifted her up to his lips. She was small but not that light; he could feel the muscles that hand’t been so obvious. This was a strong woman. He found her mouth with his and planted one on her and then, almost instantly, he fell in love with that mouth. With one hand supporting her at the small of her back and the other plunged into her soft hair at the back of her head, he urged her lips open. He was cautious with his invasive tongue but she wasn’t. She welcomed him, pulled him in, joined him in tongue-play. Her arms circled his neck and held on tight and he moved over her mouth hungrily, drinking in her taste. She was just perfect. It was almost scary how perfect she was. He lapped at her mouth, devoured her, stared breathing hard in spite of his intention to be cool. He was not cool. He was over the edge.

He slowly broke away, but didn’t put her on her feet. He loved having her up against him. “Tell the truth. The president works for you…”

That made her laugh. “Want to come in?” she asked in a breathy whisper.

He shook his head. “If I come in, I won’t leave till morning.”

“That’s negotiable…”

“Let’s get to know each other a little better.”

“Wow. I didn’t think men said no.”

“I like you,” he said. “A lot. I don’t want you to have any regrets. I want you to be sure.”

“And you? You want to be sure?” she asked.

Oh, man, he was too sure. But there was a lot about him she didn’t know. And the front stoop was not the place to go through the details. “At least one more date, honey,” he said. “I think we’re both ready, but let’s take it a little slower…”

“You think I’m a slut?”

He laughed at her. “I think you’re a goddess!”

The Professional – Part 3 by Kresley Cole

The Professional: Part 3 (The Game Maker, #1.3)

ORDER A COPY: The Professional: Part 3

Publisher: Pocket Star
Publishing Date: January 20, 2014
ebook: 100 pages

Rating: 5 stars

Are you ready to play?

Yet all is not as it seems. To remove Natalie from an enemy’s reach, Sevastyan spirits her into hiding. From an opulent palace in Russia to the decadent playgrounds of the mega-wealthy in Paris, the two lovers will discover that even their darkest – and most forbidden – fantasies can come true.

In this final chapter of The Professional, not only do we finally get to see what’s behind the curtain, but we get to finally see what’s inside of Sevastyan.

When we finished Part 2, Sevastyan has taken Natalie to an underground sex club in Paris in order to please Natalie’s desire for decadent pleasures. He offers her more and more dark pleasures in his belief that she will back down from her desire for feeding his darker side but he is amazed and awed that Natalie thrills on the decadence.

After a night of intense pleasure and breaking down their walls, Natalie is surprised and frustrated to find Sevastyan just as cold the next morning. And the more their nights continue to heat up,  in the light of day Sevastyan is drawing further and further away from Natalie.

Natalie had hoped in breaking down their sexual walls, she would finally be able to break down Sevastyan’s emotional walls. Except the more he pushes her away, the more she realizes that the man who is fulfills her dreams in the bedroom, will never see her as a partner, just a sexual toy.  But after losing her heart, does she have the strength to walk away?

I really wanted to begin this story again from the beginning before I started this final section, but couldn’t due to time constraints. I am not sure if it is because the final part was only 100 pages, but I wanted more. More about Sevastyan. More of Sevastyan and Natalie outside of the bedroom. Again, maybe that is just because this was only the last few pages.

There is no question that Kresley Cole has kicked up her usually sexual tension which she gives us in her IAD series. This story was darkly erotic and I am sure like opening up Natalie to new pleasure, Kresley Cole has opened herself up to a new audience and we will see more from her in this genre.

I only hope that in future stories she abandons the serial part of the presentation because just like bad sex, she builds us up with her erotic storytelling and leaves us edgy and unsatisfied for weeks at a time. I will definitely be finding the time to read this over again from the beginning so that I can enjoy the building up of the relationship between Natalie and Sevastyan.

I didn’t receive an ARC of this final part. I don’t know why I got yanked off the list. *sob* But I still gave it my honest review. ;)

Favorite Scene:

What?? My jaw slackened, and I almost dropped the chain.

To have dozens of people see me strung up? While I was naked, clamped and about to have who-knew-what done to me?

It was one thing to flash guys at the creek near home. This was a different world.

Sevastyan picked up that remote, his expression inscrutable. “If you don’t want me to reveal this room, all you have to do is drop the chain.”

Realization hit me. He thought I would balk—that we would go no further than this! And then he could say he’d tried.

So he hadn’t been taking pains to please me? No, he’d been setting me up for failure.

Bastard! To hell with that. I had on a mask; no one knew who I was, and I’d never see these people again. This was one night of my life, a few hours of gossamer fantasy.

“Drop the chain—or prepare to feel their eyes on you, coveting every inch of your pale skin.”

He was trying to unnerve me. It was working! Did I actually have the mettle to do this?

“Come now, we’ll go home.” He was like a devil on my shoulder, tempting me away from what I needed—from what we needed. “All this will be like a dream.”

In my mind, moving forward with this equaled moving forward in our life together. And I yearned for that. When I wanted something badly enough, nothing could stop me.

Not even the leering eyes of thirty strangers.

I refused to drop the chain. I refused to stay on the ground and not climb up to the trestle. Once I broke the surface of this, it would all be worth it.

When I knew my mind was made up, I began to shake—like a fledgling. Like a girl about to free-fall.

Sevastyan’s brows drew together. “You’re trembling?” He laid the backs of his fingers against my cheek, as if to check for a fever. “Drop the chain, milaya. That’s all you have to do.”

I gritted my teeth, set my jaw, and turned from him to stare at the glass.  Bring. It. On.

I heard him exhale a stunned breath. He’d never thought I would do it. He’d set me up to take a fall. Sometimes I’m quite all right with falling, asshole.

“Very well. They’ll see my woman.” I got the sense that he hated the idea of displaying me. Caught in his own trap?

I had been ogling those in the circus ring; soon they’d return the favor. Tit for tat. I almost laughed hysterically.

“It’s not often that one of these rooms is revealed,” Sevastyan said. “This will be a treat for them, and for the other rooms as well.”

I’d forgotten about the other rooms, with their hidden occupants who would not be giving me tat. But there was no going back; he’d pressed the button.

Believe by Erin McCarthy

Believe (True Believers, #3)

ORDER A COPY: Believe: (Intermix) (True Believers)

Publisher: Penguin/Intermix
Publishing Date: January 21, 2013
Paperback: 232 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad.

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a naïve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present.

All it took was one night of drinking has changed Robin’s life. One night to drink so much that she blacked out and did the unthinkable. She woke up the next morning in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Sober Robin would never have done that. Sober Robin would never betray a friend like that.

Robin has spent all summer absolutely sober and drowning in guilt and remose. She has isolated herself from her friends because they will know something is wrong and she can’t confess to them and make them chose between their loyalty to Robin or their loyalty to Kylie. Robin will do anything to keep Kylie from finding out. Nathan might be a cheating bastard who keeps calling her, but Kylie she loves him and Robin can’t be the one to destroy that for her.

So Robin has spent the last few weeks alone. When she meets Tyler and Riley’s cousin, Phoenix, who has just been released from prison, she finds in him another pained soul and together they find quiet and peace in each other’s presence. Both of them use their art to speak what is in their hearts.

But Phoenix is the son of a drug addict and an alcoholic, and he refuses to be dragged back into someone else’s world of addition. When dark secrets from their pasts come to light, will the bond formed between Robin and Phoenix be enough to save them both from self-destruction?

I really like the way things started out with Robin and Phoenix. In the beginning there was just a need to be accepted by someone and not judged. In fact, in the beginning they spent a lot of time together not even speaking. They just watched movies together or went on a picnic and just gave each other a non-judgmental presence. He didn’t ask what she was hiding, and she didn’t ask why he was in prison.

You know my love for a wounded hero.  Phoenix’s childhood with an almost non-existent parent, since his mother was always getting high, this left him desperate for the simple touches of concern shown by Robin. She took him for a picnic and he had never been. Robin gave him a party for his birthday which he had never had, even the idea of cutting a cake was overwhelming to him. Your heart broke for him that any measure of affection or attention meant so much.

When we got to the middle of the story though the relationship started getting a little too intense between the two and Phoenix’s affection for Robin started bordering on crazy-stalker. Phoenix has an issue with rage and when it finally comes out it is pretty scary.

By the ending, both Robin’s alcohol issue and Phoenix’s rage issue are being addressed professionally, but for awhile there I was uncomfortable with where the story might be going.

Overall it was an enjoyable tale, but I liked the quiet connection between the two in the beginning a lot more than Phoenix’s overly-intense obsessiveness in the middle which turned me off quite a bit.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Scene:

Getting ready to go to the park with Phoenix sent me into ambitious activity, displaying more energy than I had all summer. I grabbed a blanket for the ground, packed a cooler with water bottles and energy drinks, along with chips and string cheese, and collected my pencil kit and two sketchooks. Then I applied sunscreen to my nose and cheeks. I had even shaved my legs in the shower, though I didn’t bother to blow-dry my hair. I just towel dried it, then let it do it’s thing.

Phoenix showered after me while I was packing things up, and he came back downstairs just as I had everything by the door to go. His hair was wet and dangling in his face, but he had put his shirt back on, which was good. I had decided at some point during the last twelve hours that why yes, I was in fact attracted to him. Very much so. The realization had come to me sometime between midnight and five a.m. and was absolutely undeniable when he had come into my room and laid down beside me. I had been aware of every inch of my body, yet he had never made a single move toward me.

As far as I could tell, Phoenix just wanted a friend.

So it was better if he stayed covered because there was something totally droolworthy about his muscles and all that skin displayed his bleeding heart tattoo. It covered so much real estate, it must have hurt like a bitch to get that done. Given that his shorts were too big, they tended to strain down, exposing the ab muscles I now understood how he’d gotten. He had been tenacious doing those crunches. But I was determined that I could ignore any reactions my body made toward his and embrace a new friendship.

I liked his company.

I didn’t want him to leave.

I wasn’t really sure why but I figured it didn’t matter.

For the first time all summer, I wasn’t spending the majority of my time hating myself.

“Here, let me carry that,” he said, taking the small, soft cooler from my hand. He also picked up the blanket and tucked it under his arm. He gave me a smile. “Are we going on a picnic?  Man, I never thought I’d be doing this.”

“Too lame?” Maybe it was too tame of an entertainment for him. I admit I was a little disappointed.

“No. It’s just no one has ever invited me on a picnic before. Once when I was about ten my mom and my aunt took me and my cousins to the fair, but they got high behind the grandstand, and Riley got busted for stealing a hot dog for Jayden. The cops cuffed him for twenty minutes to scare him before letting him go. I don’t think Eaton was born yet. Or maybe my aunt was pregnant with him at the time. I don’t know, I don’t remember. I just remember thinking that it was like a whole fairground full of families doing normal shit and having fun and eating craploads of food and I couldn’t have any of it.” Phoenix made a face. “And I have no idea why I just bored you with a shitty story like that.”

What did I say to that? I knew he didn’t want my pity. And he seemed to be musing about the past more than anything. “I don’t have any hot dogs,” I said. “But I can pretty much guarantee insects and the oppressive sun, so you’ll get the genuine picnic experience.”

Phoenix gave a short laugh. “Thanks. That’s nice of you.”

Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young

Before Jamaica Lane (On Dublin Street, #3)

Congratulations to our giveaway winner:  Lauren

ORDER A COPY: Before Jamaica Lane (Dublin Street)

Publisher: NAL
Publishing Date: January 7, 2014
Paperback: 352 pages

Rating: 5 stars

Despite her outgoing demeanor, Olivia is painfully insecure around the opposite sex—usually, she can’t get up the nerve to approach guys she’s interested in. But moving to Edinburgh has given her a new start, and, after she develops a crush on a sexy postgrad, she decides it’s time to push past her fears and go after what she wants.

Nate Sawyer is a gorgeous player who never commits, but to his close friends, he’s as loyal as they come. So when Olivia turns to him with her relationship woes, he offers to instruct her in the art of flirting and to help her become more sexually confident.

The friendly education in seduction soon grows into an intense and hot romance. But then Nate’s past and commitment issues rear their ugly heads, and Olivia is left broken-hearted. When Nate realizes he’s made the biggest mistake of his life, he will have to work harder than he ever has before to entice his best friend into falling back in love with him—or he may lose her forever.

Nate and Olivia are good friends who like to hang out, watch movies, crack jokes and just spend their free time together. Olivia spent her most of her teens years caring for her dying mother so she didn’t have that period of her life to experience flirting and boys and sex. Now she is in her mid-20s, inexperienced and uncertain of her own attraction to men. Olivia is a librarian at the college and is attracted to one of the post-grads who comes to her help desk. Every time she sees him she gets tongue-tied. She enlists the help of her womanizing friend Nate to help her learn to flirt, and Nate teaches her to be comfortable with her own attractiveness to men.

As the time comes to turn the flirting practice into reality, Olivia realizes how uncomfortable she is with her lack of sexual experience (she only had one lover/one time and it was BAD). She again turns to Nate to show her how to please a man in bed.

Although the practice sessions with Nate gives her the experience she desperate wanted, it also solidified her initial attraction to Nate and turns it into love. But Olivia knows the reason behind Nate’s decision not to have relationships with women. He gave his heart to his childhood sweetheart and watched her die of cancer at a young age. He never intends to feel that bond with anyone else.

Olivia needs to make a break from her practice session with Nate before she loses her heart completely, but it might already be too late.

I have loved this series, but I think this might be my favorite couple. Nate and Olivia are just so much fun together and you can see just how perfect they are together as a couple. When they add sex to the relation, their passion for each other burns bright. But you know with Nate’s background, what will unfortunately be coming down the road for them.

God, I love a good friends to lovers story, and this one included a bit of a twist. Usually the friends decide to risk the friendship for a romantic relationship. In this story Olivia wants Nate’s help in being more comfortable with men and after becoming more comfortable after a practice kissing session, Olivia makes the leap asking Nate to show her her to please a man in bed. Although they both show some hesitation about ruining the friendship, they are both interested in the prospect of sex, so those concerns take a backseat to lust.

Even though their practice sessions last for weeks and they are absolutely perfect together, Nate does eventually freak out about his own feelings for Olivia, and gives her the “you know I don’t do relationships” speech. But watching him try to win Olivia back makes for a great story as well. You have to give kudos to Olivia for having the strength to keep pushing Nate away, even though you know she doesn’t want to, but being with Nate has now given her the self-confidence to know she wants to be someone’s love of their life, and not a settled for second best to the ghost of Nate’s first love.

I will definitely be giving this one a re-read when an opportunity arises.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Scene:

“You already know I lack confidence because of my minimal sexual experience, but…I also just don’t…don’t feel sexually attractive.”

His silence drew my gaze to him. He was looking at me incredulously again.


He put his beer down and planted his palms on the counter like he meant business. “Let’s start with how you don’t feel sexually attractive.”

I gulped. “All right.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

I jerked back at his curse, confused by the angry tone of the question. “What?”

“Get up,” he replied sharply. “Come on, get up.” He rounded the kitchen counter and walked past me.

I got up slowly, wondering what the hell I’d done wrong.

“Follow me.”

Follow him…all right. My legs trembled when I realized I was following him into my bedroom. With my heartbeat pulsing in my throat, I was unable to speak as I stopped in my doorway and gazed at him.

He stood before my full-length mirror and gestured to it. “Tell me what you see.”

I swallowed past the heartbeat. “Nate…” I took a step back and my movement shot him into action. Lightning-quick, he had hold of me and was tugging me back into the room with him until he’d maneuvered me in front of the mirror, while he stood looking into it over my shoulder.

“Tell me. Trust me.”

Taking a deep breath, I let my eye focus on my reflection, sweeping them over my face and then down my body and back to my face again.


“I see…I see an average-looking woman with…” I shrugged, so embarrassed it wasn’t funny. “With fl–flabby arms, a belly pouch, and a fat ass.”

When my answer was met by silence I finally gathered the nerve to look up into the mirror to Nate’s reflection. He was glowering at me again. “Anything good?”

I glanced back at my face. My eyes were as always, the only thing I liked. They were striking eyes, inherited from my dad. Usually, pale hazel, with so many flecks of gold they appeared golden in a certain light. We both had dark lashes that set the color off. We’d been told on more than one occasion, and by quite a few folks, that our eyes were exotic, almost feline. My dad worked his eyes. They were flinty and perceptive in his ruggedly handsome face. On my average face they were the only thing to enliven my features. “My eyes,” I whispered softly.

“That’s a given, babe. What else?”

Tense, I searched for an answer and then said carefully, “Okay, my skin. I have good skin.”

Nate smiled encouragingly at me. “You’ve got gorgeous skin.” He heaved a beleaguered sigh. “Let’s tackle the other stuff.” I was pretty sure he then muttered under his breath, “Crazy fucking women,” before he took hold of my arm. “Where are these flabby arms of yours, then?”

Skin flushing the color of raspberries, I pushed the fat around my tricep.

I was rewarded with a “what the eff?” look by Nate. “That’s not flab. It’s skin. Look, you’ve not got any definition, but you’ve also not got flab. Rule number one…”

I nodded at him to go on, my eyes wide, eager to learn.

“…don’t use the word ‘flab’ around a guy you want to shag. Now, if a guy’s like me he can get past the self-consciousness and decide to think it’s cute, but there are loads of guys out there who don’t think it’s cute. They want a confident woman in their bed. I don’t know if this library guy is one of those guys, so we’ll play it safe. No more flab talk.”

For some reason that really made me want to giggle, but I also wanted Nate to know I was taking this seriously, so I pinched my lips together and nodded.

“Okay. Next.”

I blinked in confusion again. “Next?”

“The supposed fat arse?”

The touch of Nate’s hand on my ass caused me to jump about ten feet, but he didn’t let go, smoothing his hand over my butt and giving it a gentle squeeze.

Whoa, okay, then.

My skin was prickling and there was a suspicious fullness in my breasts and lower belly that I adamantly tried to ignore.

“Not fat.” Nate leaned close to my ear, speaking in a low voice that did nothing to abate the physical response of my body. “Curvy. And I’ll let you in on a wee secret: there are still men out there that like a woman to be soft under the hands, to have curves, hips, tits and arse.” he tapped my butt gentle with the palm of his hand. “It’s a good arse, babe. I don’t want to hear you refer to it as anything else.”

Shock rooted me to the floor. It wasn’t just the very cool things he was saying; it was the rush of tingles that shivered through me as he caressed my butt and moved his hand upward, siding it under my T-shirt, and around my waist to caress my stomach. I sucked in a deep breath.

There was no ignoring the fact that he was turning me on. I really needed him to not know he was turning me on.

Nate unwittingly saved me. His hand dipped downward, shaking me out of the little sensual haze he’d put me in when I realized when he was heading.

For my belly!

I clutched at his hand to stop him, but when our eyes met in the mirror his expression was admonishing. He gave me a little shake of his head. “Let go, babe.”

I shook my head back at him.



His expression instantly softened at the panic in my voice. “Trust me.”

After the Storm by Maya Banks

After the Storm (KGI, #8)

ORDER A COPY: After the Storm (A KGI Novel)

Publisher: Berkley
Publishing Date: January 7, 2014
Paperback: 400 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Over the years, Donovan Kelly has fought relentlessly for justice, women and children always holding a special place in his heart. Working side by side with his brothers, Donovan has witnessed firsthand the toll it’s taken—physically, mentally, and emotionally—on his loved ones, and the innocent lives caught in the crossfire. What he never expects is for his next mission to happen right on his home turf—or for it to take a very personal turn.

Picturesque Kentucky Lake is the perfect place for a soul in search of safe harbor. A beautiful stranger has arrived—desperate, breathless, and on the run from a dark past closing in on her and the younger siblings she has vowed to protect. Donovan must now draw on every resource at his disposal—if he wants to save a woman and the children who may prove to be his destiny.

Before Rusty Kelly was adopted by the Kelly family, she was a kid alone on the streets. She would do anything to avoid being sent back to her drunk father. When 15-year-old Travis Breckenridge walked into the family’s Hardware Store looking for work, it only took a minute for her to recognize herself in this teen. He was nervous and hungry and after he mentioned his sisters, Rusty knew she had to do something. But she knew from experience that a kid on the street is not going to trust an offer of help. She knew if she probed too deep, he would run for it and he needed the little money she could give him.

Rusty enlists the help her big brother, Van. Donovan Kelly is known for his soft spot for abused women and children, especially children. She knew he would figure out of way to help this family.

Rusty and Donovan follow Travis home to a broken down, uninhabitable trailer. From the moment Donovan meets Eve, Travis and little Cammie, he knows that they are meant to be his family. But years of working with victims at KGI has taught him to recognize the terror in this family. They are running scared from someone and he will do anything to keep them safe but first he needs to earn their trust.

When a freak tornado destroys their trailer and leaves Eve and Travis injured, Donovan has run out of patience. He will do what he does best at KGI, he takes over the situation and can only pray he hasn’t destroyed any hope for earning Eve’s trust. He brings them all to his house on the Kelly compound. He is not sure if they will feel safer or imprisoned but he can no longer sit back and wait while they suffer.

Growing up in a family as strong as the Kelly family, Donovan has no real knowledge of the fear that rides Eve. Donovan’s brothers would stand by him and die to save him. Eve is running from her family. She has taken Travis and Cammie away from their abusive Dad and is willing to risk prison or worse to keep them from falling into his hands. Eve would love to believe that Donovan will keep them safe, but the price for trusting the wrong person would be paid by Travis and Cammie.

If their father ever found them again, he would make them pay for defying him.

I really enjoy the KGI series, and although I flew through the story, I did feel a little rushed through it. Donovan’s immediate bond with this family is wonderful, and with that strong family bond that he has with his own family, you can understand his thinking in the story.

To a degree, I was left feeling that Eve was rushed into the situation. They have been on the run and hiding from Eve’s stepfather/Cammie and Travis’s father. After moving them into his house, Donovan lays out his cards and tells her of his feelings that they should be a family and even after Eve and Donovan have their own kids, that he feels Cammie and Travis would be their first children. Here is someone who is full of fear and a man you just met is declaring that he will take care of you and your siblings and you’ll live happily ever after playing house together and popping out more kids for him.

We know that the Kelly family is not a cult, but this situation could easily have been a storyline for a kidnapping/hostage situation or forced sexual slavery. Eve is only in her early 20′s (Donovan is in his late 30s) and she has been under the control of the manipulative stepfather for years. She walks into this situation a virgin and is not forced to but convinced into the role of lover to Donovan. He tells her he wants her in his bed and as his wife, but he only met her about two days ago. She goes to bed with him not 100 percent sure what her feelings are for Donovan outside of gratitude that he would take them all in and protect them.

And it does not take much to destroy her already shaky trust and believe she has been manipulated by Donovan so he can have the children.

All in all, the rushed feeling of the romance part of the story leaves Donovan looking like a controlling bully, and although there is no question of his intense feelings for this family, their backstory called for a slower romancing of Eve. He should have cemented her trust, taken care of the problem and then taken her to bed. In this case, I would have waited for the sex after Eve had developed strong feelings for Donovan. Rushing it was awkward and just this side of questionable.

This will not be on the list of my more favorite stories of this series.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion.

Favorite Scene:

“Eve,” Donovan prompted.

Eve closed her eyes and then leaned down to brush a kiss across Cammie’s brow. “I’m just going to the kitchen. Donovan brought food. Wouldn’t you like a special treat?”

Slowly Cammie nodded, but she kept casting her gaze sideways at Donovan, shadows haunting her young eyes.

Eve turned and made sure Donovan went ahead of her so that she was between him and Cammie at all times. He’d made quick work of putting away the groceries, though he’d left several items out on the small countertop. Sprite. Soups. A loaf of bread. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen as well as several bottled of Pedialyte, a fluid designed to correct electrolyte imbalance.

It would appear he’d thought of everything.

“I can’t afford a doctor,” she whispered fiercely. “She’ll be okay. I’m staying with her and monitoring her fever at all times.”

Donovan put his hand over hers where she’d rested it on the countertop. A warm shock raced up her arm. Soothing. It baffled her, because she had everything to fear from this man, and yet something so simple as his touch calmed some of the rising panic and hysteria rampaging through her mind.

“I have a friend–a very close friend–who is a doctor. You’d like her. Her name is Maren. She’d married to another very good friend of mine. She’s been on maternity leave and is just now starting to get back into the swing of her practice. She routinely makes house calls, and she also sees disadvantaged patients free of charge. And Eve, you are in need. Cammie is in need. I’d like to bring her over tomorrow to check on Cammie. I’m concerned. She appears to be a very sick little girl, and while I’m sure you’re doing the absolute best you can, sometimes it’s not enough.”

She sagged, her head lowering because he was right. It wasn’t something she could very well hide. One only had to look at her–at where she lived–to know that she was in desperate need. And Cammie did need a doctor. Eve had been up with her all night, worried, sick with indecision over whether she should risk taking her into the emergency room. But how would she have gotten there? She was basically trapped here. No access to anything that wan’t in walking distance.

Donovan lifted her hand, curling his fingers gently around hers. She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. His grasp wasn’t painful. Not at all. He wasn’t trying to hurt her, but neither did he let her go.

“We aren’t going to harm you, Eve. Nobody is. I’ll bring Maren out first thing in the morning so she can do an assessment on Cammie. She likely needs more than the over-the-counter medications you’ve been giving her.

She closed her eyes, bringing her free hand to her throbbing temple. More medications. Prescription medications. No insurance. No way to pay for them. And antibiotics weren’t cheap!

“Eve,” Donovan said in a void barely above a whisper. “Look at me.”

Eve listed her gaze and in his eyes she saw–felt–warmth. Kindness. And something else entirely that she couldn’t quite figure out. He looked at her oddly. Like she was someone who mattered. To him.

“I’m going to get you the help you need. Help that Cammie and Travis need.”

Eve’s knees went weak and nearly gave out. She stumbled and braced her free hand on the countertop while Donovan’s grasp tightened on her other hand as if to steady her.

What if he reported her to child protective services? In his place, Eve certainly would. This was no place for a child, and it was equally obvious that Eve wasn’t providing for Cammie. He would be well within his rights to report his finding to the authorities, and then they’d sweep in and take Cammie–and Travis–away from her. And eventually return them to their father when it was discovered who they were. And Eve? She’d be punished for what she’d done. For taking desperate measure to protect her family. She simply couldn’t be separated from them and leave them at Walt’s mercy. It didn’t bear thinking about.

“Whatever the hell you’re thinking, stop,” Donovan said. “I don’t know what’s going through your head right now, but Eve, you can trust me. I realize that you don’t trust anyone. That much is evident. It’s also equally evident that you’re in some kind of trouble. You have nothing to fear from me. Or from Maren. We only want to help.”


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