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When Day Breaks by Maya Banks

ORDER A COPY: When Day Breaks (A KGI Novel)

Publisher: Berkley
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.

high five giphy

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.

Favorite Scene:

“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?”

Giving in by Maya Banks

Giving In (Surrender Trilogy, #2)

ORDER A COPY: Giving In (The Surrender Trilogy)

Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publishing Date: May 6, 2014
Paperback: 320 pages

Rating: 5 stars

In her sensational Breathless Trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks tested the boundaries of desire. In her new trilogy, there’s only one thing left to do: cross them. Now, the story continues as one woman, haunted by the shadows of the past, explores the possibilities of a new beginning in ways she never could have imagined…

Kylie sees the way Jensen looks at her. The dark promise in his eyes. That rough edge of dominance she knows he possesses. But dominance is the one thing that frightens her above all else. She and her brother barely survived a childhood steeped in violence and abuse. She could never give up total control and submit to a man. Especially a man like Jensen. Could she?

Jensen sees the shadows in Kylie’s eyes. Knows he has to tread very carefully or risk losing any chance he has with her. All he wants is the opportunity to show her that dominance doesn’t equal pain, bondage or discipline. That emotional surrender is the most powerful of all, and that to submit fully to him will fulfill the aching void in her heart in a way nothing else ever will.

Since Jensen Tucker became Dash’s new partner, he has been enjoying all the perks of his new job, including the view. He has had his eye on the office manager, Kylie Breckenridge, since he walked in the door, but he has to be very careful if he wants Kylie in his life. First of all, as the new partner, he has taken her deceased brother’s position in the company, which already doesn’t make Jensen her favorite person. Secondly, Kylie and her brother Carson were abused by their father as children. Jensen’s nature is to be aggressive and dominant in his relationships. He knows without question that if he wants to be with Kylie, he is going to have to surrender control to Kylie until she understands that not every man will hurt her.

But having a plan is one thing, convincing Kylie to give him a chance is another. He almost thwarts his own plans when he sees that Kylie is working herself into a state of exhaustion and his dominant nature takes over. He forces Kylie to go home and stays with her to make sure she gets into bed for the rest of the afternoon.

Jensen also has plans for Kylie out of the bedroom. He believes Kylie’s brain and her degree are being wasted as an office manager. She knows the business as well as he and Dash, and he wants her to come in as a third partner.  Now his plans include building her confidence in the office as well as the bedroom.

I was not a fan of Book #1 of the trilogy. I thought Dash was an ass and was very degrading in his treatment of Josslyn. I couldn’t even finish it.

But I couldn’t wait to get to Book #2 since I was intrigued by how Maya Bank was going to write a bondage book that included a woman who was abused as a child. Kylie was very fearful when her sister-in-law Josslyn wanted to explore bondage and want getting into a relationship with Dash that included spankings and tying up.  Like her brother, Carson, Kylie feared the line between dominance and abuse.   I am not 100 percent certain, but I believe Kylie was a virgin in this story because I can’t imagine after what Jensen goes through to have a sexual relationship with Kylie, that she would have ever reached that level of trust before in a relationship.

Jensen is also a member of the sex club that Dash and Josslyn and Chessy and Tate belong to, so we knew he has an interest in bondage and dominance.  So how to you play tie-me-up-and-spank-me with a woman who deep down is afraid of a man one again harming her?

I loved that the twist she gives this story in that Jensen doesn’t teach Kylie to accept his dominance over her, he allows her to tie him up and dominate him until she learns to trust him and trust that he won’t hurt her like her father did. I enjoyed watching how Jensen helps Kylie through her fears and helps build her confidence so she can blossom at work as well and show she is more valuable as a partner than as an office manager.

The story line becomes a bit contrived at the end so that we have a break up and this allows Kylie to show her new found confidence to assert herself over their relationship to bring them back together. It wasn’t so awful and eye-rolling that it took away from the overall enjoyment of the story but I did have that moment of “really?”

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

Favorite Scene:

He could tell she was caught in an epic battle with herself. She did not want to have dinner with him or even meet him outside of work, nor did she want to ride with him to their meeting, but neither did she want to pass up the opportunity he’d presented her with.

She bit her lip in consternation, and he’d never wanted something so badly as to reach across the desk, thumb her lip free and then kiss away the damage she was doing to the tender flesh. His dick reacted to that image, and he was glad he was seated behind his desk where she couldn’t see his physical reaction to her. She’d tuck tail and run for the hills, and she’d very likely tender her resignation within the hour.

He sighed, silently commanding his dick to behave. Not that it did a bit of good because the woman just did it for him and he couldn’t even explain why. Challenge. She was a challenge. Even as he reasoned away his inexplicable attraction to a woman who in no way returned it, he knew he was a goddamn liar.

She riled every single one of his protective instincts. She made him want to treat her gently, cherish her and protect her from anything that could ever hurt her, physically or emotionally.

Damn it, he wanted to show her that not all men were assholes. That not all dominant men were focused so solidly on the more physical aspects of dominance. Emotional surrender was what he was after with Kylie. He’d never mark her, never tie her up. Never take a flogger to her tender flesh. He’d never do anything to frighten her or make her feel as vulnerable as she’d felt in the past in the hands of a monster. He’d never do anything to remind her of her past abuse. He’d die before allowing that to happen. He too had demons he fought, and it would have made him physically ill to ever do anything to a woman that could be construed as abuse.

He just wanted…her.

“All right,” she finally said in a husky voice that made him go even harder. Because there was capitulation in her voice. Not quite submission, but it was close and it fired his blood, and made it sing through his veins, because just this once, he’d won.

“I’ll meet you at the restaurant at seven,” she said.

She lifted her gaze challengingly to his, as if to dare him to argue with her statement. He merely smiled back. He’d allow her this small victory because the bigger one was already his. Dinner. Just the two of them. Yeah, they’d talk business, but he also planned to delve deeper into this intriguing woman. Figure out what made her tick. And he’d pick her up the next day and drive her to their meeting. Which meant she was dependent on him the entire day.

He liked that idea. Like it too damn much. Her dependent on him. The hell he’d ever let her down or make her regret her grudging trust. Oh, he knew she didn’t trust him yet. That would be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Baby steps. Take it one small victory at a time.

“Seven it is,” he agreed.

She was surprised. It showed on her face. She had already been bracing herself for an argument, her shoulders squared and chin thrust upward in defiance. Even that aroused him, almost violently.

He might like submissive women, but submissive didn’t mean being a doormat. He loved an independent woman perfectly capable of making her own choices. Submissive women, or at least the ones he’d been with, chose to submit. Chose to offer their surrender into his keeping. And that was a very powerful thing indeed.

He wanted a strong woman. Someone who didn’t need him and what he offered but wanted it. That made all the difference to him. He wanted someone who could stand up for herself and not back down. Who would go toe-to-toe with him and meet him halfway.

In return? He’d lay the world at her feet. She’d never want for anything he could give her. He’d pamper her, utterly adore her, worship her and cherish her.

He ached to do that for Kylie.

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.”

Burn by Maya Banks

Burn (Breathless, #3)

ORDER A COPY: Burn (The Breathless Trilogy)

Publisher: Berkley
Publishing Date: August 6, 2013
Paperback: 353 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Ash, Jace, and Gabe: three of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country. They’re accustomed to getting anything they want. Anything at all. For Ash, it’s the woman who changes everything he’s ever known about dominance and desire…

When it comes to sex, Ash McIntyre has always explored his wilder side—extreme and uncompromising. He demands control. And he prefers women who want it like that. Even the women he’s shared with his best friend, Jace.

But Jace is involved with a woman he has no intention of sharing. And now even Gabe has settled into a relationship with a woman who gives him everything he needs, leaving Ash feeling restless and unfulfilled.

Then Ash meets Josie, who seems immune to his charms and his wealth. Intrigued, he begins a relentless pursuit, determined she won’t be the one who got away. He never imagined the one woman to tell him no would be the only woman who’d ever drive him to the edge of desire.

Ash McIntyre is a man who is used to getting what he wants, especially with women, but lately he doesn’t know exactly what it is that he wants. For the last several years, Ash and his friend Jace have shared their women. Ash became used to choosing woman with Jace for their short term relationships. Now Jace is happily engaged to a woman he has no intention of sharing leaving Ash trying to figure out what he wants to do next.

Ash is crossing through the park when he sees the woman who will turn his world upside down. He sees her sketching people in the park. More surprising, it seems that she is as aware of Ash as he is of her since she is sketching Ash. As he gets closer to her, he also notices that she is wearing the collar of a submissive. Now Ash is intrigued and determined to find out everything about the pretty little artist in the park.

By the time Ash is finally able to track down the gallery where Josie Carlysle displays her art, he is determined that Josie will be his, especially after he sees her latest painting; an erotic self-portrait, or at least he hopes it is a self-portrait because Ash wants to trace his fingers and his lips down that tattoo winding down her side.

When Josie finds out that all of her art at the gallery has been sold to a private collector, Josie finally has the confidence to accept Ash’s offer to become his submissive. Yet Ash realizes that if Josie ever finds out that he was the one to purchase her art, she might not see it as a compliment to her talent, but as Ash’s total manipulation to simply get her in his bed.

This was definitely my favorite story of the series. During this trilogy, Ash came off as the more laid back partner, but there was a charm and a manipulation that made sure that Ash always got what he wanted. Since we had a taste of Ash’s sexcapades in Jace’s story, we also learned that there was a darker desire to Ash and definitely a manipulative side. He got Bethany to have a threesome with Jace and Ash and he pretty much orchestrated what was happening between the three of them.

So when I started this book, I thought this would be the more adventurous of the books. I believed that the majority of Ash’s story would involve sex and bondage, etc., etc. But in fact, I felt that there was much more storyline in Ash’s novel than in the previous two.

I also felt less awkward with the story itself and the connection between Ash and Josie. Although Ash had more money than Josie, she is an independent woman even if she was a starving artist. Josie also had a previous dominant/submission relationship which was less balanced than the one with Ash. So Josie blossomed with Ash and learned the true nature of the D/S relationship.

With Book #1 and Book #2, when you looked passed the superficial stimulation of the erotica, Book #1 involved an older man who becomes involved with his best friend’s sister who he watched grow up from a child and who he has had an interest in long before it was appropriate. He also to some degree punishes her and humiliates her for his strong attraction and feelings for her, i.e. stripping her and tying her naked to a table and then inviting business associates to touch her.

In Book #2, I was a little wary of the storyline of Bethany being homeless. Although Jace wants to take care of her and gives her a place to live, she doesn’t have the independence that Josie has to fall back on and her choice becomes more put up with Jace and his jealousy and his mood swings or live on the streets. I was disappointed in Bethany that she didn’t take the opportunity to find a job while she was living with Jace so that she could save her own money and be able to afford an apartment and get off the streets if things with Jace ended. She was content to stay home and be his plaything.

Maya Banks always writes such passionate characters, but this was the only book of the trilogy where I felt that the players were on a more equal footing going into the relationship and although Ash was dominant, he was not as hard core as I believed he would be from the previous stories.

I thought this was the best of the three.

Received an ARC from courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

Favorite Scene:

“Now it’s my turn to ask you twenty questions.”

“Hey, I didn’t ask you twenty.”

“Close enough,” he muttered.

She sighed. “Okay, okay. Ask away.”

His gaze immediately went to her neck. To that pale ring where the collar had rested. It had been the first thing he’d noticed when she’d walked out of the pawnshop, and he hadn’t dared to get his hopes up. But the fact that she’d accepted his dinner invitation, even if he’d blackmailed her, and that she didn’t wear the collar tonight as a barrier between them, told him that she was at least intrigued by this thing between them. Whatever the hell it was.

“Why aren’t you wearing the collar?” he asked softly.

Her free hand went immediately to her neck, and consternation shone brightly in her eyes. But she remained quiet, lips firmly pressed together.

“Josie? Why aren’t you wearing the collar?”

She sighed. “I’m not seeing him anymore.”

He had to work hard not to react to that piece of news. He’d suspected as much,but he hadn’t wanted to jump to any conclusions.

“What happened?”

She pulled her hand away from his, dropping it into her lap. She looked down, refusing to meet his gaze. He waited, not letting her off the hook. This was too important. He wanted to know every thing.

“Did you break it off or did he?” he finally asked.

“I did.”

“Want to tell me why? What happened, Josie?”

Her head popped up, her eyes flashing. “You’re what happened, Ash. You.

There was no faking Ash’s surprise. She’d definitely caught him off guard with her outburst. His eyes narrowed and he leaned farther over the table. He was still holding one hand, and he covered her free one, his palm sliding over the tops of her knuckles.

The man was lethal. With every touch, he seduced her, and she doubted he even knew it. Or maybe he did. Maybe knew exactly what he was doing.

“I didn’t happen,” he said in a low voice. “Because if I did, you’d be in my bed right now.”

His voice was a husky growl, sliding over her skin until the hairs at her nape stood on end.

She tried to pull her hands away, but he held firm, not allowing her to escape.

“You happened,” she refuted. “That day in the park. You made me question everything. And I didn’t like what I discovered as a result.”

“And that being?”

She shifted, uncomfortable with his close scrutiny. She didn’t want to be having this conversation. It was too intimate It was too…revealing. Ash was a man that if you gave him an inch, he’d take a mile.

“What did I make you question, Josie?”

It was equally clear that he wasn’t going to back down. “What that collar signified,” she said, finally relenting.

“What do you mean by that?” he prompted gently.

She blew out a deep breath. “The things you said, what the collar meant to you and what it should mean to me. I realized that. After. I thought about it a lot. And when I went to see Michael to find out what that collar meant to him, he didn’t even notice I wasn’t wearing it. Now, maybe I’m wrong, but I’d think a man wouldn’t like the fact that a woman took the collar off. I mean if it’s supposed to mean everything you implied.”

“You’re not wrong,” Ash said.

“It’s a game for him. Maybe it was for me too,” she whispered. “He told me I was taking things too seriously. That the collar was fun, but meaningless. It’s like he was role-playing and none of it was real. And when I realized that, I also recognized that I didn’t want a game. But at the same time, I don’t know if I want it to be real. I think…with you…that it would be very different. With a man like you, I mean.”

“It’s not meaningless,” Ash growled, his face drawn into a scowl. “And hell yes it would be different with me. But you know what? It would be real. And it would mean something.”

“What would it mean?” she asked, her lips trembling as she stared back at the intensity of his eyes.

“It would mean you belong to me. Only to me. That you would submit to me. That I’d take care of you, provide for you, make love to you.”

He could have no idea the effect his words had. That they reached deep inside her and called to a part of her she hadn’t known existed. With Michael, it had been a game. She could see that now. Two people playacting. Going through the motions for a thrill. There was nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t what she wanted.

But the thought of Ash, of belonging to him in the sense he was talking about, scared her. He was overwhelming in every sense of the word.

Forged in Steele by Maya Banks

Forged in Steele (KGI, #7)

ORDER A COPY: Forged in Steele (A KGI NOVEL)

Publisher: Berkley
Publishing Date: June 25, 2013
Paperback: 384 pages

Rating: 5 stars

Steele, a KGI team leader, is an enigma not even his team mates understand. His emotions are tightly locked down and nothing can break that icy exterior. Nothing except Maren Scofield, a doctor on a mission, a woman who has gotten under Steele’s skin and threatens to crack that unflappable cool he’s legendary for.

Steele is determined not to allow Maren past his carefully guarded defenses, but when she’s in danger, there’s no way he’ll allow anyone else to protect her. She’s hiding something. He’s sure of it. But he isn’t prepared for the shocking discovery her secrets reveal. Or how they will forever alter the course of his destiny. He has a decision to make. Hold tight and shut her out. Or take a chance on something more powerful than he’s ever faced. Love.

Jackson Steele leads his KGI team to rescue a young woman who has hooked up with a local drug lord. Her parents want her returned to the United States and away from his influence. Since the girl has no interest in leaving the love of her life, she gets herself shot and almost gets them all killed. They decide to make a stop to see Dr. Maren Scofield at her little clinic in Costa Rica. Dr. Scofield has helped out KGI before, especially after they helped rescue her from terrorists in Africa a few years back.

Maren is surprised to see the team at her front door, but she has no problem fixing them up. She knows the dangers that they face and the people they help. The only thing Maren isn’t happy facing after a long day of work, it the glaring eye of Steele. The man has never had anything to say to her and almost dashes out of the room when she walks in. So imagine her surprise to find Steele waiting for her in her little cabin and making an offer of a night of hot sex so that he can “get her out from under his skin.” He fantasizes about her all the time and she’s a distraction he doesn’t need in his line of work. Well, not the most romantic proposition but hell who wouldn’t want a piece of Steele even if it is only for one night.

Maybe one night just isn’t enough since both of them are desperate for a repeat performance and for the first time in years, Steele is looking for a little down time so he can make his way back to the clinic to spend more time with Maren. Yet when duty calls Steele back to KGI, Maren finds herself being dragged to the home of a very dangerous man. A man who is in need of his own personal physician and why hire out, when you can just borrow the lovely Dr. Scofield. Javier Mendoza wants more than just medical attention from Maren and since she is under armed guard day and night she can only pray Steele and his KGI team can figure out where she has been taken and come get her as Mendoza’s obsession with Marin grows and becomes more dangerous with each passing day.


I love this series and this author! Maya Banks writes very passionate characters, and Steele is no exception although he was always presented as a strong, silent leader. In Book 6, when PJ’s mission goes south and they can’t get her out before she is raped, this was the first time we saw any real emotion from the very stoic Commander Steele. I was excited after Book 6 when I saw Steele would be the feature of Book 7.

Maren was very personable and a very relateable character from the start. She at first questions Steele’s interest in her as she doesn’t consider herself anything special, but then who wouldn’t want to have sex with gorgeous man like Steele.

As always, the action was intense. If anything about this story was a little far fetched, it was the depth of feelings expressed so eloquently and so often from a man who barely speaks to anyone. Once he starts speaking, it appears he can’t shut up and he spoke to Maren like he was reading from a greeting card even though he initially comes across as the quiet, manly man whose conversation would consist of “You have nice tits…I mean, breasts.”

This was a wonderful story and a great addition to the KGI series. I am looking forward to more stories and the addition of a new team to the KGI family sets us up for even more future stories. Yay!

Received an ARC from the publisher. Thank you.

Favorite Scene:

He stood a long moment without saying a word. Finally he broke the silence, his jaw clenched. He was positively ill at ease. Cool, unflappable Steele was agitated.

“You’re under my skin. Can’t get rid of you. Sometimes when I sleep…I can smell you,” He admitted. “I can see your eyes and those cute glasses you wear. I wonder what is would feel like to run my fingers through your hair.”

Ho-ly shit. This was…epic. This…There wasn’t even a description for what this was. This was huge!

She raised her hand, self-consciously adjusting the frame. “You think my glasses are cute?”

He let out a sigh and then, to her utter astonishment, he relaxed, his shoulders dropping the tiniest bit, and an honest-to-God smile curved the corners of his lips upward.

“Yeah. Cute.”

“And you want to have sex with me,” she repeated.

“I believe that’s what I said.”

“Wow. And, um, what then?”

His eyes narrowed. “You drive me crazy. You’re under my skin. Stuck deep. I don’t need you there. You’re a distraction, and I can’t afford distractions. So we’ll have sex and then I’ll stop fantasizing about what it’s like.”

“I have to say, that’s about the worst proposition I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Steele shrugged. “So I’m not a sensitive guy. You want to fuck or what?”

She clamped her hands over her ears. “Stop. It’s only getting worse.”

He pulled he arms down and then tilted her chin up with two fingers before he claimed her mouth again. She sagged into his arms, her eyes closing in bliss. When the man wasn’t talking—and she’d decided it had been a blessing he hadn’t spoken to her before—he was sexy as sin. Silence was sexy. So far, his speaking hadn’t been that great of an idea. Eloquence was not one of his strong points.

“You want me,” he said gruffly against her mouth. “You want me every bit as much as I want you.”

“Well duh,” she grumbled.

He pulled away, his eyes flashing. Triumph glittered in those ice blue depths. Only instead of feeling the chill in his gaze, all she felt was searing heat.

“The team is staying at the clinic. We have about six hours before we go wheels up. Your bed big enough for both of us?”

Slowly she nodded.

Without another word, he picked her up and she landed with a thud against his body. His arms tightened around her and he strode toward the doorway to her bedroom.

Her pulse thundered in her veins and her heart was beating so fast she felt light-headed. This was really happening. Steele wanted to have sex with her. Steele was carrying her to her bedroom. In a few minutes they’d both be naked and in the same room. Holy hell!

She braced herself, sure he’d dump her on the bed, but he surprised her by easing her gently onto the mattress before stepping back. He began to undress and her gaze was riveted to all the male flesh he was revealing.


Hard. Muscled. Tight. Not a spare ounce anywhere on his body. Lean abdomen with a ripped six-pack. Broad shoulders and chest with bulging muscles in his upper arms. His thighs resembled tree trunks. Thick and sturdy.

She grabbed for her glasses, tossing them toward the nightstand because this was too good to miss. It wasn’t as though she needed them all the time anyway. Just for reading and when she really needed to focus on an injury. Or lab reports.

This man was beautiful to look at. Suddenly she was extremely conscious of the fact that he would expect her to shed her clothes next, and she didn’t have the body he did. Not even close.

She was too soft in places she shouldn’t be. Her boobs weren’t perky. They weren’t sagging yet, thank God, but they weren’t the kind you could bounce a quarter off. Her abdomen was squishy because she didn’t exercise enough and she enjoyed her sugar. At least her hips weren’t big, not that it was much in the way of reassurance. She wasn’t huge or anything, but she wasn’t one of the super slim women or the curvy ones who looked lush and beautiful. She was just sort of in between and…blah.

“Give a mint to know what you’re thinking right now,” Steele muttered.

“I’m blah,” she blurted out.

Then she closed her eyes. She needed better social skills. This was what happened when someone grew up in an isolated environment, shut off from most of the world, never having friends or interacting with other people. They became a blithering idiot the first time they tried to interact with another person on an intimate level.


The incredulity in his voice soothed some of her frayed nerves.

“Yeah, blah. You’re gorgeous. I mean perfect. And I’m just blah. We don’t match up very well,” she said in a serous tone. “Gorgeous male specimens such as yourself do not have sex with blah women. They don’t have to. They can have sex with gorgeous female specimens, so why would they settle for blah?”

His lips flapped up and down a moment and he looked so exasperated that she felt sure his next move would be to start pulling at his hair. “You’re shitting me, right?”

She shook her head solemnly.

“You’re an idiot,” he muttered.

“You don’t call a woman an idiot if you have any plans to have sex with her,” Maren retorted.

“You’re an idiot,” he said calmly.

She had nothing to say to that.

He gestured down. “Look at this. Do you think I get this hard for ‘blah’? That I’m so horny and desperate that I’ll fuck anything with a pussy? Jesus Christ, woman, I’m a goddamn walking hard-on around you. Haven’t you ever noticed?”

“N-no,” she stammered out.

“You’re an idiot,” he repeated.

She frowned. “Okay, I’m really not liking that word.”

He sighed. “Okay, you’re clueless then. Completely and utterly clueless.”

She probably couldn’t argue that point because well, it was true. She’d had no idea that he was remotely attracted to her. It still stunned her.

She licked her lips and cleared her throat. “So let me get this straight so we’re on the same page. We have sex tonight. You leave at eight. And we never speak again and pretend this never happened. Do I have it right?”

“Didn’t say we’d never speak again,” he rumbled.

“Yes, because we spoke so much before,” she said sarcastically.

“I want you out from under my skin.”

Well, okay then. That was that. She wasn’t sure how she felt about being used as an exorcism of herself, but sex with Steele wasn’t something she was going to pass on.

Fever by Maya Banks

Fever (Breathless, #2)


Publisher: Berkley
Publishing Date: April 2, 2013
Paperback: 416 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Jace, Ash, and Gabe: three of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country. They’re accustomed to getting anything they want. Anything at all. For Jace, it’s a woman whose allure takes him completely by surprise…

Jace Crestwell, Ash McIntyre, and Gabe Hamilton have been best friends and successful business partners for years. They’re powerful, they’re imposing, they’re irresistibly sexy, and Jace and Ash share everything—including their women.

When they meet Bethany, Jace begins to feel things he’s never experienced before: jealousy, and a powerful obsession that threatens him, overwhelms him—and excites him beyond control.

Jace isn’t sharing Bethany—with anyone. He’s determined to be the only man in her life, and it’s jeopardizing a lifelong friendship with Ash. Bethany will be his and his alone. Even if it means turning his back on his best friend.

Jace Crestwell is still trying to get used to his baby sister, Mia, being engaged to one of his best friends and partner, Gabe Hamilton. At their engagement party, he can’t keep his eyes off of the intriguing woman working for the caterer. When Ash, sees the woman who Jace can’t keep his eyes off of, he steps in to see if she would be interested in sharing a bed with Jace and Ash tonight. Jace and Ash have been sharing women for several years now.

Bethany is as intrigued by Jace as he is with her, and if she has to sleep with both men to spend the night with him, so be it. It wouldn’t be a first for her. But the whole thing feels off to Jace from the beginning. He doesn’t like that his friend Ash is touching her. He wants Bethany all to himself.

When she disappears the next day, Jace is frantic to find her again. He doesn’t understand the driving need to find her, but he won’t stop until he does. Yet he has a greater shock when he tracks her down to women’s shelter near Hell’s Kitchen and finds out that Bethany doesn’t volunteer there, Bethany is homeless. He’s horrified when he realizes that anything could happen to her while she was unprotected and living on the street.

When he finally finds Bethany, there is no way he will let her get away from him, but he fears that if she can’t accept Jace’s controlling nature, she will disappear back onto the streets of New York, and he’ll never find her again. Worse is knowing that his friend has touched the one woman who has Jace in a possessive frenzy and it is putting a strain on their decades long friendship.


I like the way Maya Banks writes her characters. They are very passionate and well developed. Although I generally liked the story and it was a quick read, I was uncomfortable with the opening scene with Jace, Ash and Bethany because Jace was so uncomfortable with what was happening.

In this story, Jace has some great moments but just as many when he was an ass. Every time he was in a bad mood, he jumped all over her for something or other and then spends a good deal of time terrified she will leave and then trying to console her for treating her badly.

I understood that Bethany was relieved after all her life being ignored or abused and fighting to survive, that she would enjoy having someone like Jace taking care of her and making decision for her. I could also understand Bethany’s hesitation to believe that her good fortune in meeting a man like Jace who would take care of her would last and her self-consciousness that she wasn’t good enough for a man of Jace’s wealth and education. What I couldn’t understand is that for someone who has been taking care of herself for most of her life, she didn’t try to get a job once Jace set her up in an apartment. She kept saying it wouldn’t last and he will get bored with her very soon, but she didn’t try to get herself a decent job so that when he asked her to leave, she would have some money to get her own apartment. Instead of hanging around all day waiting for Jace to come home and jump her, it would have helped her self-esteem and her fear that she would be tossed back onto the street, if she had a job and earned her own money, or maybe was taking classes so she wouldn’t feel so inferior to Jace. She had what she believed was temporary good luck, but she didn’t do anything to improve her own situation so she wouldn’t end up right back on the street if he got bored with her. That annoyed me and if I thought too much about it, it left me feeling like Jace was just taking advantage of a homeless woman with no where else to go.

With the exception of my personal annoyance at Bethany, it was a good story and I am looking forward to see what Maya has planned for Ash.

Received an ARC from, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.

Favorite Scene:

Kate said Bethany was injured and his mind was filled with images, none that were good. They hadn’t gotten into specifics. Jace had been too impatient to get to her. How the hell had she gotten hurt?

A woman alone on the streets…There were 1,001 ways for her to get hurt and every one of them made Jace’s gut clench.

When his car pulled up in front of the shelter, he directed his driver to wait. Hopefully he wouldn’t be long, but he was prepared for anything.

He strode toward the entrance, the wind biting through his coat. When he opened the door, his gaze immediately swept the room, searching out Bethany. Then, finally, he saw her. In the back. Off to one side. Away from the others. She was sitting in a chair, pale and looking lost. Still, he drank in the sight of her, relieved beyond words that she was here. He could see that her pants were torn at the knees and on one side. He could also see the bloodstains on her clothing and the raw scrapes on her elbows. What the ever-loving hell? Before he could start over, Kate stepped in front of him, her face creased with worry.

“Will you be taking her with you, Mr. Crestwell?”

“Oh yes,” he said quietly. “She’s coming with me. I’ll take care of her, I promise.”

Kate’s expression eased. “Good. I worry about her. About all of them.”

He started to step forward, eager to get to her and to see how badly she was hurt, but Kate stopped him once more.

“I want to thank you,” she said in a soft voice. “For everything. The heat. The food. The generous donation. Look around you, Mr. Crestwell. All these woman have a warm place to sleep and food to eat because of you.”

Jace grimaced, uncomfortable with her gratitude. He nodded briefly and then headed for Bethany. Her eyes were closed. She looked asleep sitting up. He took the opportunity to study her more closely and he swore at what he saw.

She looked even thinner if possible. There were shadows under the eyes. She was pale.

And she was hurting.

He knelt quietly in front of her. As soon as she sensed his presence, her eyes flew open and she flinched away, panic firing in her eyes.

“It’s all right, Bethany,” he murmured.

Her eyes widened and he was gratified to see that her fear disappeared, but it was quickly replaced by confusion.


His name came out a cautious whisper, almost as if she didn’t belief it was him kneeling in front of her. Then she straightened and she turned her hands inward, hiding the scrapes and the blood.

“What are you doing here?” she asked in a trembling voice.

His expression hardened and he stood. Her gaze followed him up and without saying anything, he simply reached down and plucked her slight weight from the chair. She landed softly against his chest and he cradled her possessively, determined that nothing else would hurt her. Then she stiffened and her mouth fell open with a gasp.

“What are you doing?” she hissed.

He strode toward the door, he grip tightening when she began to struggle.

“Taking you away from here,” he bit out.

She began to protest in earnest and Jace caught Kate’s worried stare. He nodded to reassure the older woman and then he tightened his hold on her further.

“Enough,” he ground out. “Don’t fight me. You’re worrying Kate. I’m not going to hurt you. I promised her I’d take care of you. Don’t make a scene. Do you want to frighten all the women?”

She bit her lip and went limp. Slowly she shook her head. “No,” she whispered. “But you can’t just carry me out of here, Jace.”

“Watch me.”

Rush by Maya Banks

Rush (Breathless, #1)


Publisher: Berkley Sensations
Publishing Date: February 5, 2013
Paperback: 416 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Gabe, Jace, and Ash: three of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country. They’re accustomed to getting anything they want. Anything at all. For Gabe, it’s making one particular fantasy come true with a woman who was forbidden fruit. Now she’s ripe for the picking…

When Gabe Hamilton saw Mia Crestwell walk into the ballroom for his hotel’s grand opening, he knew he was going to hell for what he had planned. After all, Mia is his best friend’s little sister. Except she’s not so little anymore. And Gabe has waited a long time to act on his desires.

Gabe has starred in Mia’s fantasies more than once, ever since she was a teenager with a huge crush on her brother’s best friend. So what if Gabe’s fourteen years older? Mia knows he’s way out of her league, but her attraction has only grown stronger with time. She’s an adult now, and there’s no reason not to act on her most secret desires.

As Gabe pulls her into his provocative world, she realizes there’s a lot she doesn’t know about him or how exacting his demands can be. Their relationship is intense and obsessive, but as they cross the line from secret sexual odyssey to something deeper, their affair runs the risk of being exposed—and vulnerable to a betrayal far more intimate than either expected.

Gabe Hamilton, Jace Crestwell and Ash McIntyre have been friends forever and have built their corporate empire together. They have supported each other through Ash’s horrible family life, the death of Jace’s parents, and Gabe’s very scandalous and very public divorce. But Gabe is about to make a choice which could destroy the foundation of that friendship.

Gabe has lusted after Jace’s little sister for years now, but he was always quite aware of the age difference between them. Now Mia is 24 and quite the grown woman, and Gabe is willing to risk his friendship with Jace to finally have her in his bed.

Gabe is very demanding in his desires in the bedroom. After Gabe’s wife publically announced Gabe’s dominance and control over her to the world, Gabe now requires his lovers to sign an agreement. When they walk into his bedroom, they do it with eyes wide open and a very thorough understanding that they will be turning over control to Gabe completely.

When Gabe approaches Mia, his offer is two-fold, she will come to the office and become his assistant, giving her a chance to use her degree, but she must also agree to sign his contract and become his sexual partner. She must agree to be at his beck and call and do whatever he instructs and be open to try all his sexual preferences.

Gabe has not been the only one lusting after this affair. Mia has had her own sexual fantasies starring Gabe for years now. Can she agree to all Gabe’s terms in order to have a chance to see if the man lives up to the fantasy? Can she risk the relationship between her brother and Gabe if Jace ever found out about them?


I usually don’t grab books out of the erotica section unless they have a very interest storyline. I have been avoiding the bondage type stories which are all the rage. Sweetheart, shifters don’t need to tie you up. If they say stay, you stay. ;)

I love Maya Bank’s KGI series and she writes very passionate characters so I thought if I was going to try this type of book, she was definitely the author I would go with. When I am reviewing a book I try not to read other reviews since I want to give my own impartial thoughts about the story, but considering my wariness about the subject, I did peek at a few reviews.

The one complaint I noted was the lack of “romance” and true connection between the characters. Keep in mind if you are looking for a sweet romance, there are hundreds of books out there under the genre of romance. This is found under erotica. The storyline is going to be a more sexual story so you need to keep that in mind. There is a real emotional detachment in Gabe. It is all about his fantasies and desires and using the women who sign his contract to fulfill his lust.

Regardless of the sexual situations, some of which I was a little put off by—I’m not much for the tying up or the hitting/spanking and Gabe was pretty rough with Mia in that “I am so worked up over you” way—I finished the story because I was interested in seeing how it all worked out with Jace finding out, because you knew he would, and Gabe does eventually come to have real feelings for Mia and that does come through.

I have a copy of Book #2, Fever, which is Jace’s story and I look forward to learning more about Jace and his issues (it appears his likes to share his women with Ash).

As I expected from Maya Banks, there is definitely more to the storyline than just bondage and spankings but keep in mind if you are looking for romance that is just hearts and flowers, this is probably not for you.

I will still be very selective with my erotica selections, but Maya Banks does know how to write her characters with a lot of depth.

Received ARC from, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.

Favorite Scene:

Gabe watched as Mia’s gaze swept the room, her brow furrowed in concentration as if she searched for someone. A server stopped and offered her wine, and she took one of the elegant, long-stemmed glasses but she didn’t put it to her mouth.

She was outfitted in a killer dress that hugged her in all the right places complete with fuck-me shoes and an upswept hairstyle that practically pleaded for a man’s hand to tug it down. Dark tendrils floated softly down her neck, drawing attention to the slender column that begged a man’s lips. He was damn tempted to stride across the room and wrap his coat around her so that no one else would see what he considered his. Jesus, and if that didn’t make this even more insane. She wasn’t his anything. But that too was going to change.

The off-the-shoulder cocktail dress drew attention to her breasts, and he damn sure didn’t want anyone else looking. And men were looking. Already she’d drawn the attention of others. They stared—like he did—their gazes predatory.

She wore a delicate chain with a diamond solitaire around her neck, and diamond studs adorned both ears. Both had been a gift from him a year earlier. For Christmas. It gave him satisfaction to see her wearing the things he’d bought for her tonight. For him, it was one more step in the inevitable direction of her being his.

She didn’t know it yet, but he’d waited long enough. He’d endured enough time of feeling like the worst sort of criminal for lusting after his best friend’s baby sister. When she’d turned twenty, it had marked a huge difference in the way he viewed her, but he’d been thirty-four and he knew she was still far too young for what he expected from her. And so he’d waited.

She was an obsession, and it made him uncomfortable to admit, but she was drug in his veins he had no desire to cure himself of. Now that she was twenty-four, the age difference didn’t seem so insurmountable. Or so he told himself. Jace would still go ballistic—after all, Mia would always be his baby sister—but Gabe was willing to take the risk to finally taste forbidden fruit.

Oh yes, he had plans for Mia. He had but to put them into action.

Shades of Gray by Maya Banks

Shades of Gray (KGI, #6)

ORDER A COPY:  Shades of Gray: A KGI Novel

Publisher: Berkley Books
Publishing Date: December 31, 2012
Paperback: 400 pages

Rating: 5 stars

The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super-elite, top secret, family-run business. Qualifications: High intelligence, rock-hard body, military background. Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the U.S. government can’t…

P.J. and Cole were sharpshooting rivals on the same KGI team and enjoyed a spirited, uncomplicated camaraderie. Until the night they gave in to their desires and suddenly took their relationship one step further. In the aftermath of their one-night stand, they’re called out on a mission that goes terribly wrong, and P.J. walks away from KGI, resolved not to drag her teammates into the murky shadows she’s poised to delve into.

Six months later, Cole hasn’t given up his search for P.J., and he’s determined to bring her back home where she belongs. Bent on vengeance, P.J. has plunged into a serpentine game of payback that will make her question everything she’s ever believed in. But Cole—and the rest of their team—refuse to let her go it alone. Even if it means sacrificing their loyalty to KGI, and their lives…

David “Cole” Coletrane knew from the moment he first laid eyes on her, that P.J. Rutherford was something special and he wanted her desperately. Their easy camaraderie and playful competition was all part of the closeness of Steele’s team at KGI.

When KGI received a request to assist in bringing down a powerful and dangerous player in the underworld of human slave trade, specializing in children, there was no question they wanted a part in the takedown. The op was to send in P.J. into a swanky party to get information from Carter Brumley’s second in command, a man whose lips loosened up when he started drinking. Get some information where to find the children and get out. P.J. was a sniper, not an undercover operative, but she would do whatever she could to get those kids home. But when P.J. catches the eye of Brumley himself, the operation starts to go south. P.J. is separated from her team, drugged and is now terrified and alone with a monster.

Although her team reaches her before she is “disposed of,” the damage has been done and P.J. sinks into mire of helplessness and rage. She feels she is a weakness to her team and she leaves the hospital to go into hiding. She doesn’t want be the weak link, and more importantly, P.J. has a new mission–revenge! She will not take her team down that road with her. But P.J. doesn’t give her team enough credit. They don’t see her as weak. They only see her strength for surviving the horrors of that night.

When Brumley’s people start showing up dead, the team finally knows where to find P.J. and they will do whatever they can to protect P.J. from herself and from Brumley. A dangerous man like Brumley isn’t going to sit quietly waiting for P.J. to show up and kill him. No way in hell will her team leave her alone to face the danger by herself.


This was a very emotional story. My heart was racing for most of the story. Maya Banks draws you into all the emotional turmoil. I could feel the frustration and pain of the team as they could hear over the transmitter what was happening to P.J. while they desperately tried to find her. You could feel P.J.’s fear, pain and rage over being drugged and raped by this monster. Then the frustration of the team trying to find P.J. after she disappears. She doesn’t glance over the darker issues. You feel it.

Although this was a darker story than I would usually go for, the emotions were so powerful that it is certainly not a story I will forget anytime soon.

I really like her KGI series and from the title of the next story, I am guessing that Steele is up next. It will be interesting to get into the head of this very cool and controlled team leader, especially after we finally see some real emotion as he too hurts for what P.J. went through.

Received an ARC from Berkley/Penguin. Thank you.

Favorite Scene:

Cole turned and rammed his fist into the wall. He couldn’t even think for imagining P.J. alone, feeling God knows what. She’d quit the fucking team. They were family. And she walked away.

He drew back to hit the wall again and was nearly tackled by Baker and Renshaw. They took him down, pinning him to the floor.

“Get off me!” Cole roared.

“Chill your ass out,” Renshaw barked. “None of this is helping.”

“Enough!” Steele bellowed.

Cole flipped Baker off his chest and then swung at Renshaw. Renshaw ducked the punch, but it was enough to unbalance him, and Cole was back on his feet and staring a hole through Steele.

“I agree with Dolphin on this one, ice man. You blew it.” He advanced on Steele until it was virtually only the two of them. The others faded into the background as Cole faced his team leader down.

“Goddamn you, Steele, you knew I was looking for her. You knew I’d been all over Denver. You knew how fucking worried I’ve been. And you just let her go and you get around to telling us two days later? What the fuck, man?”

Steele’s jaw tightened. “I hoped she’d change her mind.”

“Yeah, well, how did that work out for you? What the fuck are we supposed to do? Pretend nothing happened? Move on? Take another mission? Hell, why don’t we just replace her since she’s so goddamn expendable?”

“Enough, Cole,” Steele said, his voice as cold as ice.

“Enough is right,” Cole said, fury rising, sharper, harder with every breath.

He turned and stalked toward the door.

“Whoa, wait a minute,” Dolphin said. “Where the hell are you going?”

Cole turned and looked at his team, that was no longer the same. It never would be. It wasn’t a team without P.J.

“I’m out,” he clipped out. “I’m going after P.J. I’m not leaving her to shoulder this alone. She needs us.”

“Don’t be so damn hotheaded,” Steele growled.

Cole’s lip curled in disgust. “Yeah? Why don’t you stop being so fucking coldhearted. What you did was wrong and you damn well know it. You should have sat on her if you had to until we could hash this out as a team.”

“She came to me,” Steele snapped. “Not you. Not the team. She came to me, so I can only assume she wanted it that way.”

Steele’s words dug deep because he was right. It was obvious P.J. had no intention of facing Cole, and it gutted him.

“I don’t give a damn what she thinks she wanted,” Cole said softly. “She’s not thinking straight and we all know it. Sometimes doing the right thing is all wrong. Giving her space and time and all that other bullshit is great on paper, but you and I know that the very last thing she needs is to be alone. We’re her family. Her only family. We’re supposed to give a damn. We’re supposed to stand up for her when no one else will. And we’re damn sure supposed to call her out when she’s making stupid choices and fucking up. That’s what family does. Live and die as a team, right? Well, you hung her out to dry, Steele. And you hung the rest of us out right along with her, because now we all look like a bunch of uncaring assholes who just let her walk away without a fight.”

“Hooyah,” Dolphin said quietly.

Echoes at Dawn by Maya Banks

Echoes at Dawn (KGI, #5)

ORDER A COPY: Echoes at Dawn

Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Publishing Date: July 3, 2012
Paperback: 307 pages

Rating: 5 stars

Grace Peterson is desperate, in hiding, and on the run after escaping a shadowy group determined to exploit her extraordinary ability to heal others. Her only lifeline – an unerring telepathic ability she shares with her sister – has been severed, leaving her alone and vulnerable. And time is fast running out…

Enlisted to bring Grace home is Rio, relentless member of the KGI. He’s unprepared for his reaction to this wounded, damaged woman, and he’s fiercely determined to protect her from those who nearly destroyed her. In Rio, she finds a safe haven, and for the first time…hope. But the mission is far from over. The danger Grace has eluded is fast closing in. And now it’s pitching two lovers toward an unfamiliar horizon, with no place left to hide.

This story takes up where Whispers in the Dark left off. Rio and his team have been sent to find Shea’s sister Grace after Shea loses her telepathic connection to her. Grace had been captured by an unknown enemy and was being forced to heal subject after subject to test her healing abilities. She manages to escape when another faction bombs the facility she is being held in. Rio and his team finally locate her up in the mountains and reach her just as the enemy manages to track her down.

Grace has been so weakened by her constant testing, that she is barely holding on. Unable to contact the rest of the KGI teams Rio decides that it is best to keep Grace and Shea separated for now and he takes Grace “off the grid” so that she can have time to heal her own body and mind.

Grace has been on the run for so long, she is not sure who she can trust, but she so wants to trust Rio, especially when he talks to her about being reunited with her sister and finally being safe for the first time in her life.

But those who want Grace’s special healing abilities aren’t going to give up the search so quickly, and they are desperate enough to call in Titan, a supposedly non-existent black ops government team who are known for their motto “Failure isn’t an option.” Rio and his team know they are up against the best and it will take all of KGI to keep Grace safe.

We all have inner strength to get us through the rough times: lost job, death of a loved one, experimental testing…but how much easier is it to get through those rough patches with someone at your side? Maya Banks writes great characters that may bend, but they never break and they show us that you can survive anything and truly heal with the help of someone special.

This was a book I just could not put down! I wanted to know more about Grace after reading her character in Whispers in the Dark. In this story, just reading the torture Grace goes through and the dark places it takes her mind and her soul is painful, but Maya gives her Rio, who knows just when he needs to be tough and when he needs to be gentle to help Grace recover from her torment both body and mind.

This was another captivating story in the KGI series and should definitely be on your must read list.

Received ARC courtesy of Penguin/Berkley. Thank you.

Check out our review of Whispers in the Dark.

Favorite Scene:

“You’ve been through hell, Grace. You can’t expect to come out unscathed. You have to heal. Not just physically but mentally as well. Especially mentally. Your body will take care of itself but your mind has been deeply bruised by all you’ve endured. It’s likely shut down to protect you. It’s in survival mode just as you are.”

“You make me feel hope,” she whispered against his chest. “I’ve been without hope for so long, but with you, I can remember what it feels like to believe and have faith.”

He held her for a moment longer and then finally pulled away. “We’ve talked enough for one night, I think. I’m sure you’ll have more questions when you’re not falling-down tired. You need to rest and completely heal. I’m not going anywhere. We can continue this conversation tomorrow.”

She nodded and he tucked her back underneath the covers. Then he went to the closet, pulled out several blankets and some extra pillows. After arranging a comfortable spot on the floor, he turned back to her. “Ready for lights out?”

“Yeah,” she murmured.

Already she’d snuggled into the pillows and was lying on her side facing his direction. She looked tired. Worn down. Like she’d been through hell. And yet he’d never seen a woman who looked more beautiful to him. Maybe it was because he’d seen the heart of her. Her spirit and resilience.

Grace had made a huge impact on his life in the very short time he’d known her, and he knew he’d never forget her.

He reached for the light switch and doused the room in darkness. Then he crawled beneath the covers he’d arranged and closed his eyes. His muscles screamed their protest, and fatigue beat relentlessly in his head.

He had almost drifted off when he heard her soft whisper.


He opened his eyes and half turned in her direction so he could hear her.

“Are you awake?”

It was said so softly he almost didn’t hear her.

“Yeah. You okay?”

There was a long pause.


“Would you…” She trailed off like she was having difficulty asking what it was she wanted. “Would you sleep with me? On the bed, I mean? I feel…safer…when you’re near.”

His chest did funny things. His heart turned over at the fear and hesitance in her voice. Hell, he’d move a damn mountain for her.

He pushed himself upward and then flipped on the lamp. She blinked and then peered anxiously up at him.

Then he pulled the covers back and crawled into the bed. He reached back to turn off the light. Once again darkness settled over the room, and he turned back so they were facing each other, though he could barely make out her features.

They lay there silently, so still he couldn’t hear her breathe. She was stiff and completely immobile but he could tell she hadn’t relaxed or gone to sleep.

“Come here,” he said quietly.

He lifted his arm and she immediately snuggled into his embrace. Her body was a warm shock to his, flush against his chest, her legs touched his.

He remained still, waiting to see if she’d react or if she seemed uncomfortable with his proximity, but to his surprise, she burrowed farther into his embrace, emitted a sweet-sounding sigh and then settled limply against him.

“This better?” he asked.

She nodded against him, her head bobbing just underneath his chin.

For several long moments, he lay there, unsure of what to do next. Finally he lowered his arm, curling it around her midsection and anchoring her to him. She didn’t even stir. She’d already fallen asleep.

Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks

Whispers in the Dark

ORDER A COPY: Whispers in the Dark

Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Publishing Date: January 3, 2012
Paperback: 333 pages

Rating: 5 Stars

She came to him at his lowest point. The voice of an angel, a whisper in the dark. She’s the only thing that gets Nathan Kelly through his captivity, the endless days of torture and the fear that he’ll never return to his family. With her help, he’s able to escape. But he isn’t truly free, because now she’s disappeared and he’s left with an all-consuming emptiness as he struggles to pick up the pieces of his life. Did he imagine his angel? Or is she out there, needing his help as he’d once needed hers?

Now he rushes to save her before it’s too late.

Shea has been on the run from people who will stop at nothing to exploit her unique abilities. She never wanted to drag Nathan, who’d already suffered so much, into danger, but she doesn’t have a choice so she reaches out to him for help. Finally face-to-face after having already formed a soul-deep bond in hell, their emotional connection is even more powerful than their telepathic one. Nathan refuses to consider ever letting her go again, but she worries they can never have a life free of the dangers that dog her every step. He’ll protect her with his every breath, but can he convince her that they are meant to face these threats together?

Nathan Kelly was a soldier fighting in Afghanistan.  He was captured, hidden and tortured by the enemy.  He no longer knows if it was day or night, or how long he had been held captive.  Two of his friends have already been killed and he has lost his will to fight his captors and just wants the release of death.  Then he hears the voice of an angel in his head.  Has he lost his mind at last?  Does it even matter?  She brings him comfort, takes his pain and gives him the strength to fight back and escape. 

Although once he is finally free, she is no longer in his head and it feels like he lost a piece of his soul.  Did he imagine his angel or was she real? 

Halfway around the world, Shea Peterson is on the run.  Shea is a telepath, and she and her sister, Grace, are running from those who want to use them like lab rats.   She doesn’t know why she hears the pain and torment of the soldier who has been captured, but when he finally starts to give in to despair, she cannot stop herself from connecting with him.  She gives him her strength and takes away his pain, although taking his pain makes her weak and vulnerable.

When her pursuers finally catch up with Shea, she is drugged and beaten for information about her sister.  She manages to escape, and Nathan is the only person she trusts enough to turn to for help.       

There is no question for Nathan that he would protect the woman who saved him.  When Nathan finally got to where Shea was hiding, I held my breath as nervous as he was for them to finally meet. 

His heart nearly stopped as he pulled onto the shoulder.  His palms went slick on the steering wheel.  His pulse raced so hard he was light-headed.

Just a few feet away was Shea.  The woman—the Angel—who’d invaded his mind.  All his doubts surfaced, but all he had to do was open his door and get out.  He would have his proof and until now he’d had no idea how badly he wanted her to be real.


He was holding her.  Finally holding her.

“You’re real.  You’re real.”

Now that Nathan has Shea, he will do anything and everything to protect her and shield her as she had done for him.

“It’s going to be we from now on,” he bit out.  “There is no you.  No me.  Only us.”

Can Nathan and his family’s KGI special forces team keep Shea safe, when they don’t even know the enemy they face? 

Whispers in the Dark is one of the most emotional books I have read in a long time—in such a good way.  Nathan and Shea are connected on such an intimate level both by their telepathic link and their similar experiences of capture and torture.  It is portrayed so strongly in this story you will feel as connected with Nathan and Shea as if you share their bond. 

I can’t recommend this book to you strong enough.  This will be one of those books that you tell all your friends about, but there’s no way you’re loaning them your copy.

The next KGI story will feature Shea’s sister, Grace and will be released in 2012.

Received ARC courtesy of Penguin Group.  Thank you!

Favorite Scene:

This time the knife slashed across his chest in a measured cut meant to inflict pain, but not mortal damage.

He ground his teeth together and focused on breathing in and out. He could endure this. He’d suffered far worse already.

Then warmth crept through his body and he felt sunshine fill his mind. Instead of welcoming it, he screamed a silent no.

Get out, Shea! Get the hell out of my head. I don’t want you here, damn it.

Do or say nothing to further anger them, she said in the voice he’d already associated with everything good in the world.

He felt her flinch, and it took him a moment to realize that he’d been cut again. He stared down in horror as blood trickled down his chest. But he felt nothing.

She wrapped herself completely around him, holding him, offering her warmth and caring and all the while he could smell her blood from the wound given to him.

Never, never had he felt more helpless as he sat there being slowly carved up by a knife that he couldn’t even feel. He couldn’t even feel her pain. She was working hard to keep it all from him.

Tears ran freely down his cheeks, not because of what was being done to him, but because she suffered in his stead. It was more than he could bear.

His fingers dug into the ropes binding him and he clawed relentlessly, trying to break free so he could kill the sons of bitches who were causing Shea so much pain. He’d die before he allowed her to continue hurting.

Just be still, Nathan, and maybe they’ll leave you alone. Don’t do anything to anger them. Please. It will all be over soon. It’s only temporary for me. You know this.

As much as he wanted to rage, he willed himself to quell the hatred and fury that burned so hotly within him. For her, he would do it because it was she who was hurting. Not him. Not him, goddamn it.

She was slick with blood and it threatened what little control he had left over his sanity.

Get the hell away from me, Shea. I don’t want you here. This isn’t yours to take for me.

It nearly broke him when she raised her hand to softly touch his cheek. A simple gesture of comfort. She was comforting him when she was taking the brunt of his torture.

Please, Shea. Don’t do this. God, don’t do this. Not for me. I can take it. They won’t break me. I’m not giving up. I swear it. Just please go. Break off.

She merely wrapped her arms around him and pressed her body close. He hugged her back as they both endured hell.


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