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Reese Monroe Brings Angsty Paranormal With Her Latest, Marked By Hades

15 Apr

Marked by Hades (Bound by Hades #2 – Justin and Yvonne) by Reese Monroe (Entangled Embrace, April 14, 2014)

When it comes to paranormal, the eternal battle between angels and demons is one of the more compelling story arcs and talented writer Reese Monroe (aka Lynn Rush) clearly feels the same way.

Her Bound By Hades series pits an ancient group of Gatekeepers and their Companions against demons who have escaped to earth to terrorize humans. Awaiting the time that “the Great One” decides to award them a mate, they toil in a rather lonely job, warriors to the core with nothing but their brothers and sisters in arms for companionship.

Marked By Hades is the second book of the series and the good news is that you can certainly read it out of order as Monroe does an excellent job catching the reader up without making them suffer through an unwieldy info dump. That said, much of the secondary characters’ behavior is predicated on a series of events from the previous book, so it might be worth taking advantage of this books’ initial $.99 offering and get both it and the previous volume, Forged By Fate, Theo and Sadie’s story.

In Marked By Hades, the heroine awakes naked on a park bench in the cold of an Arizona November, a kind man hovering over her as he wraps a blanket around her shoulders and gets her to his car. Sensing his goodness even as she remembers nothing about herself or her past except for her name – Yvonne – she goes to touch him in gratitude and is horrified to see him turn to dust in the driver’s seat. Learning to shield herself in leather and work menial day jobs that overlook pesky paperwork, Yvonne finds herself able to tell whether people are good or evil, with a strong fascination for the good ones. Yet she condemns herself to loneliness for fear of hurting the innocent while she attempts to figure out who and what she is.

Justin Bradford has seen his brother, the Gatekeeper and leader of their group, find his fated mate and doesn’t want to go through the emotional turmoil when he could just hook up with women like he’s been doing for nearly a thousand years. When he and his brother are working in Arizona, Justin is fascinated by a glimpse of a raven haired, green eyed beauty clad in leather. Feeling the throat mark indicating his destined mate, he fights it as as he searches for the woman he’s seen kill in a strange way. When he finally catches up with her (after noting with horror his lack of attraction to women he would have been happy to bed), he’s somewhat startled and disappointed that her upper arm does not wear the tattoo he expected.

Forged by Fate (Bound By Hades #1 – Theo and Sadie’s story) by Reese Monroe (Entangled Embrace, December 9, 2013)

His disappointment fades quickly after bringing her with him to his enclave – after all, she’s clearly paranormal, doesn’t smell of demon, and needs his help. Yet the greeting she receives from his sister-in-law – who claims Yvonne was the mate of the demon who kept her trapped – has him rejecting her even when he’s willing to protect her and a good look at her shoulder after her shower indicates she was covering up the sudden tattoo whose presence she couldn’t explain.

It’s the height of irony for a demon killer to be mated to a demon, even a beautiful, giving one who seems to be human. That there are multiple antagonists and a hell of a story arc accompanying Yvonne and Justin’s transformation adds to the reward of the two of them finally making it through hell (in this case, literally).

This book reminded me of A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford – do people remember her books? Her characters have near insurmountable obstacles placed in their path, to the point where you are emotionally exhausted vicariously living through their experience. Because so many readers adore this type of book, these are great reads for a chunk of romance enthusiasts, and fans of the “will they make it?” roller coaster should hop on a Reese Monroe book for a ride.

Please be warned that if you are someone for whom sexual violence is an issue, you may want to proceed with caution as Yvonne’s eventual capture and return to her demon state (complete with another memory wipe of her time with Justin) involves her being at the mercy of a demon who hurts her. Much of the violence is behind the closed door (in romance parlance) but when the memories resurface they are incredibly painful.

My very slight objection to this book is its characterization under the popular umbrella of “New Adult.” While undoubtedly the series is properly assigned that moniker – the previous book’s heroine fell in the early 20s age range and it appears likely that the next heroine will be her best friend also in that age group – I don’t think this particular volume fits the bill. The hero’s near millennium on earth and his mate’s leaving her second century behind doesn’t exactly have them hitting the new adult/coming of age target range. But hey, it’s paranormal, so maybe all bets are off. :-)

Reese Monroe is a new author who has created a rather fascinating world filled with feisty heroines and compelling heroes, so if angels and demons who have to go through a literal and figurative hell to find happiness makes your heart flutter, you would do very well to check her out.

Happy reading!

Mystery and Murder in a Private School Setting Makes You Again by Ashlee Mallory a Page Turner

2 Apr
You Again by Ashlee Mallory (Entangled Ignite, March 24, 2014)

You Again by Ashlee Mallory (Entangled Ignite, March 24, 2014)

One of the reasons I am so faithful at trying out Entangled Publishing’s new authors is because they do such a good job picking new talent that I am rarely disappointed. Ashlee Mallory, with her debut book, You Again, is just such a talent, combining strong writing, excellent plot structure, and a unique voice to give readers a wonderful romantic suspense novel, yet one completely devoid of the military/mercenary/investigative reporter characters so overdone in that genre.

Having worked at private schools for most of my working life, You Again‘s setting of a private school in the heart of Salt Lake City was downright juicy and immediately sucked me in. The heroine, Allie McBride, patiently waits with her extended family for a relative to get back from his two-year mission. While Allie is Catholic, her stepmother and sister are Mormon and everyone has come to terms with loving each other while not necessarily sharing the same faith. With her mind wandering, she’s shocked to see none other than her high school crush Sam Fratto walk through the airport. He’s now a best-selling true crime author and any heart flutters she experiences upon looking at his still-athletic body are quickly quashed when he 1) doesn’t recognize her and 2) makes a dick comment about one of Allie’s nephews.

Sam is less than thrilled to be back in Utah. His distant father died a few years ago and when his mother was recently diagnosed with Stage Three breast cancer, Sam made the decision to take time away from his teenage son and come home at least for a while. Disillusioned about his parents marriage years ago, his own experience with women has only bolstered his distrust of the fairer sex, yet he can’t help having a strong reaction to seeing the blonde from the airport. Unfortunately, it’s in the principal’s office at Sam’s alma mater, St. Andrews, and the gorgeous and understandably icy blonde in question is his fellow English teacher. Sam was happy to fill in when he heard one of the older teachers had some health issues, but the lovely Allie does not appear to be welcoming.

A lovely shot of Salt Lake City with the surrounding mountains and distinctive architecture. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

A lovely shot of Salt Lake City with the surrounding mountains and distinctive architecture. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Both of them are shocked the next day, along with the entire community, when the school’s under construction Peace Garden reveals the dead body of a former English teacher – one who had been a mentor to both Allie and Sam. Allie’s proposal to include a short tribute video as part of the school’s upcoming centennial celebration is met with a mixed response and her digging quickly results in a series of threats and attacks, a circumstance that has all Sam’s protective instincts rushing to the fore. Yet with his track record of not trusting women, he’s not sure he can negotiate the many feelings he’s having for Allie, particularly when what she uncovers opens up the closet on some family secrets.

I loved the eccentric secondary characters as well as the well-drawn hero and heroine with their strengths and weaknesses. Mallory’s writing has a clear, distinctive personality and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a range of Mormon characters handled in such an honest and respectful way. Of course, being an Ignite book means that the entire, single love scene is behind a very closed bedroom door, but that’s what their readers enjoy. The romance in an Ignite book is always secondary to the suspense plot, but Mallory handles the mystery element with such aplomb that I sincerely hope she keeps writing them. I’ll keep reading them!

What a great debut novel for a wonderful writer who has clearly found a supportive home with Entangled. I look forward to reading her future books and hope she has a terrific response from readers! She made this one quite happy. :-)

 

 

Friends to Lovers (Internet Start Up Style) with Joan Kilby’s Mad About You

1 Apr
Mad About You by Joan Kilby (Entangled Indulgence, March 31, 2013)

Mad About You by Joan Kilby (Entangled Indulgence, March 31, 2013)

Friends to lovers is my favorite trope – I’ll rarely ignore a book which indicates this is the romance theme – and if you throw in a geeky hero or heroine, I’m toast.

Veteran category romance writer Joan Kilby manages just this balance, giving readers in Mad About You the story of quiet accountant Cassy Morris who agrees to temporarily move to Seattle to help her best friend from grade school, the multi-millionaire Scott Thornton. Voted Seattle’s sexiest bachelor he needs her to not only fend off the women who keep throwing themselves at him but to also help him get his nanotechnology startup in financial order while vetting angel investors so he can beat a rival to the patent punch.

Complications naturally arise – both of them find the other incredibly attractive and always have – and it’s not long before they are pondering the fact that no previous girlfriend or boyfriend worked out because who they were really waiting for was each other. Yet acting on their attraction could not come at a worse time, with Scott’s estranged father attempting a reconciliation, dealing with a temperamental Australian billionaire, and juggling their fake engagement to keep vipers at bay.

Joan Kilby does an excellent job transmitting the weight of all these tensions (there were times reading I felt a physical heaviness in my chest) but she shines in her characterization. Scott is no typical geek – yes, he’s a genius, but he’s also a mountain bike enthusiast and works out constantly, hence his awesome body. No wonder the Seattle ladies go crazy for him! Yet, he’s still vulnerable at thirty to his father’s abandonment, and facing that issue is undeniably painful. He’s an introvert and it’s obvious the balance Cassy has played in his life since grade school. She’s got some risk-taking issues, making her pursuit of Scott all the more brave and gut-wrenching. Learning to stand up for herself and not settle as she has been in her career and romantic relationships is heartening to watch, particularly when Scott is busy earning the Captain Oblivious award.

I was fortunate enough to hear from Joan Kilby, who agreed to answer a few questions. Based on her cupcake answer, she’s a long lost sister of mine!

1.    Is friends to lovers a favorite theme for your writing? Why/why not?

Friends to lovers is definitely a favorite theme of mine. Maybe I’m drawn to these types of stories because that’s how my husband and I got together. We were living in a group house with mutual friends for a whole year before we got together romantically. At first I thought he didn’t like me! Later I found out he was a shy because he was attracted. Then we both went traveling, separately, and returned home within a few days of each other. I’ll never forget the first moment we saw each other again. It was like a scene from a movie. Time seemed to stop as we saw each other through new eyes. Not long after, on New Years Eve, we kissed for the first time. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In terms of writing a friends to lovers story, I enjoy exploring new aspects of the couple’s relationship and how they discover things they never knew about each other. There’s a lot of vulnerability and bravery involved in the big leap from being ‘just friends’ to admitting they’re in love. What if the romance goes bust and they lose their best friend in the process? In Mad About You, my hero, Scott, has abandonment issues so the possibility of losing Cassy from his life is really scary. As for Cassy, she can’t conceive of life without Scott.

2.    Why do you think readers can’t get enough of millionaires?

I think millionaires are the modern day equivalent of a Prince Charming. The fantasy appeal is that they have the money and the power to sweep the heroine away from her life of drudgery and into a magical new existence. Of course, a modern heroine is independent and fully able to provide for herself, but it’s still nice to know that if she needs him, the hero can protect her…and keep her in glass slippers for the rest of her days.

There’s also the underlying assumption that if he’s that rich it must mean he’s smart and has a strong character. Clearly not every rich person is nice or good but usually in a romance novel, a millionaire has done something impressive to earn his wealth. In Mad About You, the hero, Scott, has invented something with the potential to change the lives of everyone in the whole world for the better, not just the heroine.

3.    Your favorite cupcake/icing combination?

Great question! Devil’s food chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting. Yum!

Thanks, Joan! Keep in mind that Mad About You is currently at the low price of $.99 in keeping with Entangled’s fabulous new policy of an initial low pricing to reward on the ball buyers, so take advantage of this colossal bargain and pick up a great new book.

Happy reading!

 

Rising Assets by Rebecca Zanzetti Will Have Your Blood Pressure Skyrocketing…In the Best Way

31 Mar

Rising Assets (Maverick Montana #3 – Colton and Melanie) by Rebecca Zanzetti (Entangled Brazen, March 31, 2014)

It’s an unfortunate truth that while I love Western romance, I rarely get the pleasure of a novel that meets me on all counts – evoking a strong sense of place, emphasizing an imperfect but loving family, possessing driving conflict and providing an off the charts steamy romance.

Yet Rebecca Zanzetti scores perfect 10s in every category with her Maverick Montana series and she particularly knocks it out of the park with Rising Assets, the third book in these Western romances (we’ve plenty more siblings, thank heavens, so more books to come!).

Colton Freeze is both a cowboy comfortable chasing down stray cattle on the back of a horse as well as a keen businessman who wears an expensive suit while choosing his family’s investments. He has a life plan, a business plan, and probably a couple of others and no one ever changes them. No one would dare.

Except his best friend, Melanie Jacobs, that is. He’s spent his life ignoring the fact that she is of the feminine persuasion, but seeing her working her third job in the scanty attire of a barmaid has him seeing red. If she was hard up for money why didn’t she come to him? And when did her ass become so amazing?

Mel isn’t going to anyone for help, because her problem is of the most private kind. Recently having discovered that her biological clock isn’t just ticking, it’s almost run out of steam, has hurt her profoundly. That her pushy best friend Colton is back in town and demanding answers – and worse, offering to help – is a complication she didn’t need, one that ratchets into the stratosphere when their incessant arguing leads to a kiss that rocks both their world.

Glacier National Park in Montana (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Glacier National Park in Montana (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Now Mel has thrown Colt through a loop and everything is falling apart, his family’s business hits roadblocks, his best friend is hiding a secret, and the entire town is betting on when he and Mel will get together. But Mel isn’t going to let Colt throw his plan away on her no matter how badly she wants a baby while she can still make one, no matter how much this man doesn’t hear “no” when people are yelling it at him.

If you haven’t read Rebecca Zanzetti yet, this is the series to try. It’s impossible not to love every single person in this family, including the extended “friends” who are really family and the tight-knit town with its eccentric characters wins you over in a heartbeat. Zanzetti writes for the Brazen line for a reason – her sex scenes are un-freakin-believable and the dominant Colt and his ability to see a thrown gauntlet will induce a sweat no matter how cold it is outside.

Take advantage of Entangled’s amazing  $.99 deal for recently published books – you don’t need to read the previous books to appreciate the nuances of this installment in the series. Compelling heroes and heroines who know how to heat up the sheets (when they even get to a bed, which isn’t often), lots of loving family and a Western setting that will make your heart ache, is what the Montana Maverick series, and Rising Assets in particular, has to offer.

You’ll Give Diane Alberts’ Temporarily Yours a Permanent Place In Your Heart (and Your Bookshelf)

3 Feb
Temporarily Yours (Shillings Agency #1 - Cooper and Kayla) by Jen McLaughlin (Entangled Brazen, February 3, 2013)

Temporarily Yours (Shillings Agency #1 – Cooper and Kayla) by Jen McLaughlin (Entangled Brazen, February 3, 2013)

It doesn’t seem to matter if she writes under Jen McLaughlin or her other contemporary romance penname of Diane Alberts – this wonderful writer always hits me at heart level with her sexy, smart voice and amazing characters.

After loving her Take a Chance series, I was extremely excited to see that she was embarking on a new series, Shillings Agency, since this agency in question is a security firm based out of Maine and we all know that former military personnel populate the ranks of these organizations. Who doesn’t love a military hero? Diane Alberts specializes in tortured, handsome heroes who have one woman destined to reveal their sweetness, an ability which has always made her quite the writer goddess in my mind.

After reading this new release, I hope Mt. Olympus is pretty this time of year because she certainly is using all her power with Temporarily Yours!

Kayla Moriarity is just trying to hold it together as she waits for her flight from Maine to North Carolina. As an actuary, she is all too aware of the statistical chance of dying in a plane crash and this knowledge has only exacerbated her fear of flying. Going home for her sister’s wedding is hard enough when she doesn’t really believe in love (and can quote divorce statistics in her sleep), but add to it the method of transportation and she’s not having a great weekend. Kayla’s not even registering the post-holiday bustle around her, except for when one gorgeous guy gets nailed in the cashmere sweater by a three-foot-high hoodlum wielding a saliva-coated, candy cane like nobody’s business. He literally drops at her feet and it’s not long before this hunk is helping her forget all her fears, particularly when he arranges to sit next to her in the empty first-class seat adjoining hers.

Try Me (Take a Chance #1) by Diane Alberts (Entangled, May 2012)

While falling at a woman’s feet isn’t exactly the way he’d like to make a first impression, there is no denying the view of this beauty’s gorgeous legs and even more beautiful face might be worth the fall. Kayla stirs up all Cooper Shilling’s protective instincts, so much so that when he invites her to use him as the model of the fake boyfriend she’s invented to pacify her family, it’s not long before he’s offering to fill in as the in flesh version. They both know that he’s shipping overseas to take a security job – and not the one with his father’s firm back in Maine – so their time together has an expiration date. A few days to explore the chemistry between them and solve Kayla’s boyfriend dilemma is the perfect solution. When their chemistry becomes something more, Kayla finds herself wanting to defy the odds, but Cooper may not be capable of letting her in past the losses he carries from his time in service.

OH. MY. GOD. Cooper and Kayla are both terrific characters, deluded in the way they see and understand their family, but smart and insightful about one another. Their connection is so strong that I felt the need to ping the flight attendant for cold drink while they were busy kissing in front class! Alberts always does a great job with the sexy times, but she’s even better at surrounding her characters with flawed families who nevertheless overflow with love for each other. The plot is tight in this wonderful novel, with each piece of information and action building to a climax that had me reading with my hand over my heart the whole time. The epilogue was so heart-warming (and so tied into the plot) that I found myself choking up while wishing for my own Cooper. I’ll never look at first class the same way again. (I always knew amazing things happened behind that curtain!!!)

Do yourself a huge favor and take advantage of Entangled’s new $.99 deal for new releases to pick up this outstanding book. You, like me, will want to be in on this series from the get-go and Temporarily Yours is going to find a permanent place in your heart, I promise. For anyone within driving distance of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area of Pennsylvania, you may want to come enjoy hearing Diane in person as she will be reading (possibly from this novel) at the newest location for Lady Jane’s Salon, along with several other authors on Thursday, March 6th. (And there will be wine.) I’ll certainly be there in the front row. :-)

Happy reading!

Tawna Fenske’s Marine For Hire Will Have You Wishing For Live-in Help (More Than Usual)

3 Feb
Marine for Hire (Front and Center #1 - Sam and Sheri) by Tawna Fenske (Entangled Blaze, February 3, 2013)

Marine for Hire (Front and Center #1 - Sam and Sheri) by Tawna Fenske (Entangled Brazen, February 3, 2013)

I fell for Tawna Fenske‘s writing this past summer after loving her Eat, Play, Lust novella. Now having read the first book in her new series for Entangled Brazen (yes, please!), I am definitely reminded why I love her writing. Hot, sweet heroes who occasionally step in it and flawed funny heroines generate plenty of heat together in the pages of her books, resulting in plenty of reader laughs and sighs as we watch two people struggle to get their happily ever after.

But even I wondered how much heat a talented writer could pull off when the heroine in question has twin seven-month-old boys. I have now come to the conclusion that Fenske lives to defy the odds, gleefully laughing while traveling where other authors fear to tread. This woman pulls off the impossible, delivering a relatively new Mom actually interested in having sex – but then again, who wouldn’t when the man in question is a sexy Marine who loves children and can clean and cook like Martha Stewart (minus the servant abuse)?

Sam Kercher can’t let on he’s a Marine however. His buddy Mac finds Sam helping his parents while contemplating whether or not to officially leave the Corps. Still torn up over his last assignment (which is under investigation), he’s taking some much needed time off, a fact Mac knows. Since Mac has saved Sam in the past, Sam owes him a pretty big favor, but nothing prepares him to hear that the favor Mac wants is for Sam to fly to Hawaii to pose as Mac’s sister’s nanny.

Sheridan has haunted Sam’s thoughts since he literally fell into her crocheted bikini cleavage in college and hearing that her now-ex-husband abandoned her and her new twins has him nothing but indignant on her behalf. But Mac isn’t in intelligence for nothing. Knowing that Sam comes from a huge family and is great with kids and can cook makes him a reasonable cover as a nanny hired to help Sheridan. That Sam can also wield a gun like nobody’s business is also vital as the ex is resurfacing and Mac believes him to be a threat. However, Mac makes Sam swear that he will help Sheridan, keep the fact that he’s a Marine a secret, and not touch Sheridan at all.

Eat Play Lust by Tawna Fenske (Entangled Flirt, August 2013)

Sheridan can’t believe that her new manny is smokin’ hot and that she can’t remember meeting him when he was Mac’s college buddy, although the circumstances appear to have made a big impression on Sam. She desperately needs another pair of hands and can’t help but feel like a failure as a Mom. After suffering through an overbearing military father, brothers, and former husband, she’s had enough of men who think they outrank her when it comes to her running her life. Now that her stripper-bonking ex is sniffing around again, she knows her oldest overprotective brother is only looking out for her in suggesting his friend fill in as nanny, but accepting help means admitting she can’t pull it off on her own. But her twins love Sam, he’s amazing in the kitchen and, she suspects, amazing in the bedroom as well. The fact she can’t keep her hands off him is not sexual harassment if her brother is the one who hired him, right?

Clearly this is a train wreck waiting to happen. Our hero and heroine are perfect for each other but a relationship built on a lie has got a cracked foundation. Any woman will empathize with Sheri’s feelings that all other mothers are naturals while she’s fumbling to make things work and there is no warm-blooded woman alive who won’t swoon for Sam. This is no overbearing alpha asshole; Sam is a sexy nurturing beta happy to switch on his alpha when Sheri or the babies are threatened. I found myself tearing up when he sang the “Halls of Montezuma” to the boys or cooking and cleaning so Sheri could sleep.

My only wish (and it’s a minor blip on the awesome book radar) was that Sheri’s ex-husband’s actions were a little more explained. Obviously he was a total dick having left her like that, but a little more about their non-relationship or a better understanding of why he suddenly was so unhinged as to want to get back together would have made him seem more of a threat. The supporting characters were outstanding while never taking over the story. This is a good thing considering that this novel is the first in Fenske’s new series, Front and Center. Considering the ending, it’s obvious that the next book is going to focus on Sheri’s brother, the mysterious Mac, and Kelli, Sheri’s veterinarian friend who has had the hots for Mac for some time now. I, for one, will be looking forward to reading their story. And there is still another brother we haven’t met, who I imagine is as sexy as Mac. An abundance of riches, indeed!

Keep in mind Entangled’s new policy of having their new books at the $.99 price for the first week or so – you’ll want to hop on board that price if you haven’t had a chance to enjoy Fenske’s work before (and you’ll be congratulating yourself on the great bargain if you have).

Happy reading!

Tessa Bailey Aims for the Heart With Her Latest Amazing Release, Staking His Claim

3 Feb
Staking His Claim (Line of Duty #5 - Matt and Lucy) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled Blaze, February 3, 2014)

Staking His Claim (Line of Duty #5 – Matt and Lucy) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled Brazen, February 3, 2014)

It’s only appropriate that the hero of Tessa Bailey‘s latest Line of Duty novel, Staking His Claim, is a sniper. This incredible author aims for the heart every time…and never misses.

I’ve raved for over a year about my author crush on Tessa Bailey, whose Line of Duty series about dark, hot cops and the women who ensnare them is the BEST contemporary series on the market (and I do not make that claim lightly). While she first captivated me with her incredibly unique writer-voice, what won me over was a combination of the unbelievable characterization, her ability to write unique panty-melting sex scenes that bare the souls of her heroes and heroines, and finally in her un-freaking-believable dependability. Tessa Bailey never phones in a book – each one matches or tops the previous novel in its high quality. Considering how amazing her very first book was, this is nothing short of incredible and the reason she is on my auto-buy list as soon as she announces a new book. I don’t even have to read the description!

We actually met the taciturn NYPD sniper Matt Donovan in Bailey’s previous novel, Asking for Trouble, when he took time out from his usual observation mode to deliver some home truths to his best friend Brent Mason when his love life was going to hell in a handbasket. Brent and his fiancee Hayden are doing great now, but an obligation to Hayden prevents Brent from driving to Syracuse and picking up his sister Lucy and her grad school roommate to bring them to NYC for the week. Matt agrees reluctantly to help him out and get them, only to be confronted by a strawberry blonde petite siren who stirs all the dominant instincts he tries to keep tamped down tight. At least she’s not Brent’s sister, but this ray of sunshine roommate doesn’t seem capable of handling what Matt wants to dish out – until she shows that she’s 100% on board with it in a motel room after his car breaks down on the drive back to New York City.

Asking for Trouble (Line of Duty #4 – Brent and Hayden) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled Brazen, November 25, 2013)

The only problem? The roommate is actually Lucy Mason who was in the coffeeshop across the street from her building when the hottest man she’d ever seen walked in asking the drooling baristas for directions to find her. When she hears him call her a nuisance and realizes that this stern warrior would never cross the best-friend’s-sister line, she decides to impersonate her roommate Sasha who bailed to go be with her boyfriend at the last minute. Once she realizes that Brent is not only attracted to her but that his mouthy brand of dominance – clearly meant to drive her away – is only ratcheting up the heat between them, she’s determined to have him. And she does, but what Brent takes for her hesitance at what they did together is actually guilt that she forced him to say another woman’s name during their fantastic sex.

Of course they can’t help but see each other again at the engagement party for Brent and Hayden a few days later and naturally Lucy’s deception comes to light, awakening a tidal wave of anger in Matt. He’s been deceived before and gives no quarter for liars, even ones he’s overwhelmingly attracted to. That he’s battling his inner demons, the ones that tell him that Lucy’s brand of inner sunshine would only be tainted by the desires he has been taught by experience only repels women, complicates the situation. But it’s not long before he succumbs to his need for her, helped by her take-no-prisoners itinerary she left in his car that first day. But the road for these two is far from smooth as Matt’s inability to express his feelings leads Lucy to believe that his attraction to her is just physical, an impression which could lead to him losing her forever.

Protecting What’s His (Line of Duty #1 – Derek and Ginger) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled Brazen, February 2013)

I defy you to not fall for these funny Masons! Brent had me laughing out loud in Asking for Trouble and Lucy had several similar moments, clearly showing that this Queens brand of humor is genetic. Matt’s experience with his former fiancee and deceased best friend was understandably scarring, leading him to believe that his need for dominance in the bedroom would send women fleeing. Not so for Lucy who, fresh out of her master’s program, has never been with a man with this predilection, one that she quickly realizes is exactly what she’s been wanting. Every sexy, hot thing Matt does – the spanking, the dominating, the possessive sex talk – pushes her buttons and she’s baffled as to why he keeps thinking it’s not what she wants when she’s shouting his name. Matt’s brand of dominance reminds me very much of Derek, the hero of Tessa Bailey’s first novel, Protecting What’s His.

Entangled recently announced several new features of their house (mostly awesome things to help their authors) but one of their changes that affect lucky readers is that they have decided to offer all new books at the $.99 cost for their initial debut. I think the offer only lasts a week or so, so hop on that amazing decision if the descriptions look good! For Staking His Claim, that price makes this book a tremendous bargain in my opinion, and you could certainly read it if you haven’t yet sampled any other book in the series.

While I’m a little worried that Bailey is finished with the Line of Duty novels since there are no more uncoupled characters or stray siblings, the fact is that my faith in her writing remains so firm that I know whatever her next project, I’m fully behind her. This writer is a sharpshooter among romance authors, and one who never misses her target.

Happy reading!

Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennet Channels the 20s While Delivering Outstanding Romance (With a Dash of Paranormal)

29 Jan

Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties #1 – Winter and Aida) by Jenn Bennett (Berkley, January 7, 2014)

Holy WOW. I felt like I had been hit by the awesome reading truck after finishing Jenn Bennett‘s new addition to historical/paranormal romance. Bitter Spirits is probably one of the best historical romances I’ve read in the last couple of years and it has taken me a while to determine if this is due to her writing chops (which are prodigious), the unbelievable detail of a period often neglected in historicals, or because of her kick butt characterization.

The answer is d) all of the above.

It’s prohibition in San Francisco and Aida Palmer has enjoyed her time at the upscale Gris-Gris speakeasy where her medium act is a huge hit. This is assuredly because it’s totally real – Aida can summon, and dispel, the dead.

Since her employer is a voodoo practioner, Aida is surprised when she is summoned to help an important person get rid of a haunting, and even more shocked to discover that the person in question is the handsome, premier bootlegger of San Francisco, Winter Magnusson. This huge man oozing masculinity has been hexed and he needs help ASAP before he succumbs to both the poison and the ghost he can’t shake. Aida helps with the ghost and her boss with the poisoning, but not before it comes clear that Winter has made an enemy of someone in Chinatown.

Winter is utterly fascinated with the diminutive, freckled medium with the gorgeous figure and rich dark hair. She’s also the real deal, and he is intrigued that she has no reaction to the scar he retains from the car accident that killed his wife and parents. She’s also refreshingly honest, so when the opportunity presents itself to hire her to help him with a haunting in his mansion as well as his ongoing mystery enemy he does it. Proximity only makes their intense attraction more formidable, but obstacles – both paranormal and all too in the flesh – exist to keep these two apart despite the fact they are falling fast and hard for each other.

It's amazing to think of a time San Francisco's iconic landmarks were new. (Public Domain image via Pixabay)

It’s amazing to think of a time San Francisco’s iconic landmarks were new. (Public Domain image via Pixabay)

Before I get into the time period, let’s take a moment to discuss how utterly blown away I was by Bennett’s writing. A lot of historical romance writers are like Laurence Olivier, the famous film and stage actor who was known for his brilliance but who always declared he wanted the audience to see the effort it took to bring his characters to life. I’ve read excellent authors who seem to want you to appreciate all the work they put into their accurate underclothes research or the mind-numbing social constructs (which may or may not be necessary to understand their plot).

With Bennett, her plot moves effortlessly along, with an emotional intensity that makes me desperate to turn the page. The tone is alternately dark and sinister but with increasing flashes of hope for our couple, even as their time together draws to a close and things get more desperate. Bennett is, hands down, one of the best writers of sexual tension – a tension born of a realistic sexual attraction between two people who are falling in lust and in love at a real pace, albeit perhaps one propelled a little faster by the urgent circumstances of attempting to discover Winter’s enemy. The scene in the taxi? Holy cow!!

Jenn Bennett brings both Prohibition San Francisco and this era to life (take a look at her great RT Times article on the history of the speakeasy during this time), so much so that it’s jarring to return to modern life. Her attention to the very last detail – the clothing, the birth control, the tenuous racial coexistence between groups – demonstrates a familiarity that never, ever ventures into the world of the info dump. Bennett effortlessly transmits the tone, feeling and data we need to understand a world that is both familiar and yet totally foreign to us, and kudos to her for managing to do what so few historical writers can manage, even when we are loving their characters.

Grim Shadows (Roaring Twenties #2 – Lowe and Hadley) by Jenn Bennett (Berkley, June 3, 2014)

And you WILL love her characters, and there are so many to love!! Not only do we have Winter who is the best hunk of tortured hero I’ve seen in a while, but Aida is a modern spitfire who has carved a place in the world for herself that almost defies explanation. The secondary characters – Winter’s biracial sidekick who clearly is a possible love interest for Winter’s younger, impetuous sister, the family servants in the mansion, Aida’s landlady in Chinatown – are so well-drawn that you find yourself spinning possible backstories about them in your head. I’m sure I’ll see their reappearance in the next book of the series, starring Winter’s world-traveling archeologist brother, Lowe, and the curator who gets herself involved with an Egyptian artifact harboring some powerful effects. Their book, Grim Shadows, is due out on June 3rd, so happy birthday to me!

I had literally reached a point where I couldn’t bear one more “meh” Regency romance, but really wanted a historical that would satisfy me. What I got in Jenn Bennett’s Bitter Spirits was a book that haunted me for weeks afterward, reaffirming my belief in this subgenre of romance and rejoicing in the fact that such a talented author exists on this planet. For anyone who loves historical romance and this time period, run out this second and go buy this book.

Happy reading!

High-Heeled Wonder by Avery Flynn Combines Fashion and Revenge in a Suspenseful Love Story

27 Jan

High-Heeled Wonder (A Killer Style novel) by Avery Flynn (Entangled Ignite, January 27, 2014)

I have got to hand it to the editors of Entangled’s Ignite line, they know how to choose romantic suspense stories that have me yelling out things unhelpful to the hero and heroine during the last few pages (things like “No, look out!” and “Oh my God, be careful!”). You should see me at a Jaws viewing.

With a clear emphasis on fashion, I worried that High-Heeled Wonder would be the typical bodyguard falls for fluffy woman with a heart of gold. It’s not that there is anything wrong with this trope per se, but I did not expect the emotional and extremely well-crafted story I actually got from Avery Flynn (thank you, Avery!). Having never had the pleasure of reading anything by her before, I have my eyes fully open now. This is an author who offers the reader deep characters carting a complete Samsonite set of baggage behind them, not all of which is dealt with in the course of the novel (which I appreciate).

Sylvie Bissette is having a phenomenally bad 24 hours. She’s supposed to be a cheerful, serene bridesmaid for her sister Anya, but in actuality she’s about to yak into a potted plant due to the whiskey bender she chose after catching her boyfriend going down on a waiter…a male waiter. With two dads, she thought her gaydar was well-developed but apparently not. Being the daughter of famous fashion designers means Sylvie is as much a target of public attention as the bride, so she’s trying to put a pleasant smile on her face and just tough it out. It’s hard to do when her anonymous fashion blog, High-Heeled Wonder, is getting increasingly more violent threats. But for Sylvie, she is going to tell it like it is and operate business as usual, putting out of her mind deceptive boyfriends and someone who hates her enough to possibly hurt her.

I was worried this novel would be an homage to fashion, but it's really pays due to women who enjoy looking good and feeling confident. Who can't get behind that? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

I was worried this novel would be an homage to fashion, but it’s really pays due to women who enjoy looking good and feeling confident. Who can’t get behind that? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Those unpleasant emails are the reason that her fathers have asked her to take on a bodyguard, none other that the uber-hottie she almost kissed on Anya’s wedding day. Tony Falcon has been hired by her family to watch over Sylvie and hopefully discover who this mystery threat is. With a list as long as her arm of important people she’s pissed off, this is not an easy job, particularly when you could boil water with the heat between them. However, Tony not only doesn’t succumb to lust for his clients (no matter how hot they are) but he also doesn’t begin to fall for a woman when he’s secretly investigating her family for murder, right?

This situation was like watching a freight train crash, yet Sylvie and Tony have so much to offer each other you just can’t look away. While my favorite character was undoubtedly the 150 pound Newfoundland dog with a hankering for peanut butter, Sylvie was the perfect blend of vulnerable and smart, a fact Tony caught on to pretty quickly. He was an excellent hero, blinded to doing things the right way by his sense of guilt and desire for vengeance. With revenge the point of the mystery antagonist bent on destroying Sylvie’s work and taking her life, there were actually some pretty big themes in this novel, all of which were well-executed.

Based on the fact that the book is being marketed as “a Killer Style novel,” I can only hope that this is the first of a series since Tony has a few security firm compatriots I’d like to see more of and Sylvie’s friends are pretty winning as well. Please note that Avery Flynn’s excellent website is having a TERRIFIC giveaway in honor of the book’s debut, with a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $100 DSW gift card, swag, and several ebooks that are part of Entangled Ignite’s recent releases.

Happy reading!

You’ll Sweat in the Desert Heat Reading Molly Gets Her Man by Julie Rowe

27 Jan

Molly Gets Her Man by Julie Rowe (Entangled Ignite: January 27, 2014)

Entangled’s Ignite line for romantic suspense (or mysteries or thrillers) appears well named. Despite absolutely frigid temperatures outside, I found myself reaching for a cold beverage while vicariously sweating in the Las Vegas heat with the new novel from Julie Rowe, Molly Gets Her Man.

This came as a surprise to me since I had only heard Rowe’s name in association with a trilogy of interesting historical romances set in Europe during World War I (they are on my to-read shelf). A Canadian with a medical background, I gather that Rowe has had success with some medical romance stories and even her historicals utilize her knowledge base as the characters are often doctors and nurses, albeit with a different level of medicine available to them in their era.

After reading Molly Gets Her Man, I was impressed that someone without a suspense background could write such an excellent debut in this subgenre. Rowe managed to have a relentless plot pace which had me turning the pages to figure out how our hero and heroine were not only going to work through their emotional baggage to find love, but how they were just going to survive all the twists and turns of their predicament.

Molly McLaren cannot seem to catch a break. With some demons in her past in the form of an abusive father and an ex-boyfriend who wanted to follow in his footsteps, she’s shy of large men, especially angry ones. Her anxiety actually led to the loss of her last job as an interpreter for the court system when she was deliberately intimidated by a convict, an incident that frightened her so badly that she quit her job. Now she’s dressed in uber-tight capri pants, a glittering top and enough make-up to work a department store counter in order to be a hair dresser, albeit one that speaks seven languages fluently.

The seamy backdrop of Las Vegas is perfect for this tale of drugs and organized crime. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

The seamy backdrop of Las Vegas is perfect for this tale of drugs and organized crime. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

That unusual ability has just bitten her in the ass as she overheard a client arrange the assassination of a congressman three days from now. Although she reported it to the police, she’s got a bad feeling, enough that she called her former military brother in California to ask for help. He’s relayed that help will be appearing on her doorstep in the form of a truck driven by his friend and it’s none too soon as two Russian enforcers are searching for her in a deserted parking garage. She manages to get away, not before they get off a few shots at her, only to find herself trapped in the cab of a semi, with the biggest, angriest guy she’s ever seen. Cue anxiety.

Grey Wilson is trying to redeem his career from the major cock-up that was his last mission, one that involved discovering his former girlfriend was a drug addicted woman using him for information and resulted in his almost losing his leg after getting shot. He’s currently on the path of a Russian group smuggling drugs in and out of Vegas, using the cover of a truck driver to gather information. Helping a former military buddy’s bimbo sister is not what he signed up for, but it quickly becomes apparent that the nervous Molly is no intellectual lightweight and that she is in really deep trouble, trouble that intersects with his mission. As the two of them succumb to the attraction between them, can they each work through their past betrayals to find something real before they have to part from one another?

This was a great story about two people forced by circumstances to look beneath their surface and discover the error of their first impressions. Molly is obviously a brilliant linguist and Grey a gentle soul around Molly who would shoot his good leg before her hurt her (he’s a badass around a perp, however). The suspense plot was well done with a few really good red herrings and twists I enjoyed, and I’m hoping that Molly’s brother crops up in a future book. If I have any criticism, it’s that Rowe’s sex scenes are rather brief and seem to be more about releasing sexual tension rather than about revealing more character development or inspiring a closer connection between the hero and heroine.

I would definitely encourage Julie Rowe to continue to develop her astonishing versatility between subgenres and continue to write romantic suspense since her first offering was such a good one. I’m glad Molly got her man and hope that Julie Rowe continues to get her contracts so I can enjoy more books by her.

Happy reading!

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