Archive | Short Story/Novella RSS feed for this section

December Read-a-Thon: Twelve Days of Seduction by Maire Claremont Offers a Short Novella Ideal for Jane Eyre Fans

31 Dec
Twelve Days of Seduction by Maire Claremont (Entangled Flaunts, December 30, 2013)

Twelve Days of Seduction by Maire Claremont (Entangled Flaunts, December 30, 2013)

I’m going to admit that I reread Jane Eyre about twice a year (and usually disdain any media adaptation of Charlotte Bronte‘s novel – no Mr. Rochester can equal the one in my mind), so any romance involving a potential mesalliance between a governess and a highborn man has my immediate attention.

Alexander Hunt, the eighth Duke of Beresford, is trying to remain cold and distant while he informs his beautiful governess that she is about to be fired a few days before Christmas. He’s followed her and discovered that she is a novelist whose work clearly indicates she comes from humble beginnings,. In fact, Miss Adriana Grey is actually Miss Adriana Flint, a granddaughter of an earl whose mother ran away with the man she loved only to fall into ruin in the East End of London. Alexander is no stranger to scandal – the men in his family have a reputation for doing exactly what they feel like, Victorian society be damned. Just the fact that the beautiful Adriana is the governess to his ward, Georgiana (in fact, his illegitimate daughter) right in his home says this is a man who writes his own rules.

Adriana knows that she doesn’t yet make enough money as a novelist to support herself and not turn to the petticoat trade, a direction her life almost took. That she was discovered by her handsome employer is not only disastrous but it also reveals that he has been as fascinated with her as she has been with him, and both of them have attempted to ignore it. Boldly addressing that fact, Adriana challenges Alexander to take the twelve days of Christmas to seduce her – if he can – and see if he would like to keep her as his mistress. While she admits that her background makes her the worst possible person for little Georgiana, the fact remains she loves the little girl and feels a strong attraction to the man. while she’s had only one other intimate relationship, she’s just desperate (and curious) enough to take a chance.

All I Want For Christmas Is a Duke anthology with stories by Delilah Marvelle and Maire Claremont (Entangled: Scandalous, 2012)

All I Want For Christmas Is a Duke anthology with stories by Delilah Marvelle and Maire Claremont (Entangled: Scandalous, 2012)

Claremont is brilliant for gently framing this story with the understanding that Alexander is the head of his family (and therefore answers to no one) and already has indulged in some unconventional behavior, like keeping his by-blow in his own home as his ward. While Adriana is legitimate and descended from aristocracy, her father not being of that class clearly would render her unacceptable to the vast majority of Victorian nobility. There’s definite heat between the hero and heroine but only a few spicy interactions with Alexander being, for the most part, very respectful of Adriana as he wants to get to know her better. I was so impressed at how much backstory on both of them Maire Claremont managed to pack into a mere 76 pages while moving the plot along.

While this story on its own is only $.99, I should also point out that this story is also available in the duology, All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke, also only $.99 and with that purchase you get the additional novella, Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle, an extremely well-regarded romance author. Two stories sound even better than one as long as you get Maire Claremont’s as well.

Happy reading!

December Read-a-Thon: The Earl’s Christmas Colt by Rebecca Thomas Is a Delightful Holiday Historical Short

30 Dec

The Earl’s Christmas Colt by Rebecca Thomas (Entangled Flirt, December 30, 2013)

I have a thing for animals in romance, particularly in historicals and what animal is better for this genre than horses? In Rebecca Thomas‘ delightful holiday short from Entangled Flirts, The Earl’s Christmas Colt, both the hero and heroine would rather spend time with horses than find a spouse, but duty calls.

Lady Arabella Sutton is appalled when her otherwise loving older brother informs her that he’s signed the contracts for her to marry…at the end of the week right after Christmas! She knows that she wasn’t that interested in looking for a husband in her last season, but the fact is she’d rather spend her time with her horses, especially since her father recently passed away. But now her brother informs her she’s supposed to marry some horribly old Earl (he’s four and thirty!) who will be a duke one day, as if she cares about that. Feeling betrayed, she heads out for a long ride – sans groom, thank you.

Unfortunately her lovely mare picks up a bad stone, bruising her hoof and forcing Arabella to head through a driving rain to the nearest coaching inn to get her under a dry roof to recuperate. When a handsome stable master with a gorgeous stallion and fetching colt helps her care for her mare and says he’ll help her get a room and send her brother a message, she doesn’t have a name for the strange fluttering in her chest or the tingling skin a chance touch leaves in its wake.

Oliver Westwyck, the Earl of Marsdale, is astonished that the gorgeous, wet young woman who knows horses backwards and forwards is his intended. A stray comment that hints at her disdain for dukes has him giving his mother’s maiden name instead of his own, a decision that allows him to know her a bit better but has him cringing at his deception. He simply wanted a good marriage of convenience after a disastrous engagement years ago trying to have a marriage based on love, but the more time he spends with Arabella, the more he’s worried that this woman is going to be much, much more than he’s ever experienced before. But his lie – and the bigger one perpetuated by Arabella’s brother regarding the state of the family’s finances – could come between whatever common foundation they might have laid in this stable.

I don’t usually fall for short stories with no sexy times, but this one (probably because it was an historical) absolutely charmed me. Author Rebecca Thomas is a self-confessed horse enthusiast and her knowledge and love of this noble animal shines through in her writing. There was a terrific foundation for conflict which, when combined with the sudden attraction between Oliver and Arabella, had me rapidly turning the page. I liked that the brother is well-intentioned and actually quite loving in his decision to match his reluctant sister with a good man who also loves horses. No two-dimensional villains here!

I’m super excited to read some more Rebecca Thomas who appears to be a relatively new author. Please note that this story is also available in the Entangled Flirts bundle, Twelve Days of Christmas Past, which includes not just this story but also the wonderful time-travel romance Christmas Past by Susanna Fraser which I reviewed earlier this month, as well as an additional story by Thomas and another Entangled author. At only $2.99 for four stories, that could be a post-Christmas bargain, but you can get the single story for a mere $.99 if you’d like to start just sampling this particular short. With such a wonderful example, I’ll be eagerly looking forward to her other works, historical or otherwise (and I hope they feature horses prominently).

Happy reading!

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance a Great Addition to the World of Gothic Romance

30 Sep

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance (Entangled: Flirt, September 30, 2013)

One area of romance I feel is horribly neglected is gothic romance. Because gothic is by its nature a subset of horror literature, not only does a reader experience chills similar to that of a mystery or thriller, but there is a looming sense of evil and death which pervades the story, often with the setting itself providing an additional character (and it’s usually the villain).

Sarah Ballance’s new novella, Ruby Hill, certainly fits the bill, with an estranged couple (both investigators in their own way) and a haunted insane asylum harboring a serial killer. Ballance gives us lovely, spooky writing – the kind where the sentences feel good in your mouth while they send shivers down your spine – making this novella the perfect way to launch a ghost-filled October. Since I read and re-read tons of paranormal to get me in the Halloween mood, I was elated to find Ruby Hill to be a great way to get me in the mood for the upcoming holiday. Move aside, Pinterest!

The story opens with the arrival of our hero, Corbin Malone, a cop whose boss, frustrated by a rash of unsolved murders centered on an abandoned Victorian lunatic asylum, has decided to let in a group of paranormal investigators to see what they could find out on the “ghost” front. The police want to prove that there isn’t a ghost killing the victims, and this seems like the best (and least confrontational) way to go about it. The two major problems for Corbin are that 1) his brother Cash died in this exact spot six months ago and 2) the lead investigator is none other than Ashley Pearce, the woman who he kicked out of his life when he lost his brother.

Ashley Pearce has built a reputation as a solid paranormal investigator who not only tracks ghosts but can speak to them as well. She knows she’s not to blame for Cash’s death, but that fact doesn’t make the rejection by the man who she loved any less. She has strong ties to Ruby Hill (her great-grandfather was one of the founders) and is dismayed that this place she loves has taken on an overtone of evil. With the death of not only Cash but two beautiful young women, the police are baffled since all victims died of cardiac arrest with not a mark on them…as if they were scared to death.

Corbin has never believed in the paranormal, a fact that was the only tension between him and Ashley while they were together. When he establishes the connection that each of the victims (including his brother) all were descended from people who worked at the asylum, Corbin knows he has to get himself and Ashley to safety as they both fall into the same category and are therefore a likely target for a serial killer. The only difference is that while he believes he’s dealing with a live person, Ashley is even more certain that they are going to confront a dead one.

Decaying, abandoned insane asylums are PERFECT locations for a gothic novella!

Ballance paints a vivid picture of the hospital as an entity out for revenge, with the characters experiencing waking nightmares and conditions that fill your nostrils with decay while you are reading. The dynamic between Ashley and Corbin is poignant and rife with the tension of the situation, particularly as he denies again and again what he sees because it doesn’t fit with his belief system. By not believing in ghosts, he shows no respect for Ashley and her work, possibly leading to a personal rift that could cost both of them their lives.

I noticed on Goodreads that there were some reviewers who believed that the story felt unfinished or that the romance wasn’t strong enough. Okay, it’s true there was nothing more than some hot reunion kissing, but quite honestly, the asylum was disgusting and I would have looked serious askance if they had gone further in such an unhygenic environment!

If it were any other subgenre but horror, I could understand the reviewer complaints better, but Ballance does a pitch perfect job of crafting a horror story in Ruby Hill. Yes, there is a romantic element between these two lovers who have really never let go of each other and Ballance’s choice was to play up the gothic piece, which she does beautifully. The author’s main goal in a gothic romance novel is to get the couple out alive and relatively unscathed so they can go off (into the sunrise, in this case) and craft a happily ever after. Done. Romance readers are all about expectations however, so it’s possible that some people expected more on the romance and less on the gothic. I’m really pleased with the gothic emphasis, personally!

Entangled’s Ever After imprint (designed to deliver short stories and novellas between 20,000 and 40,000 words) is giving away some terrific prizes in honor of these debuts. I’ve put the links to the Rafflecopter giveaways at the bottom of the post, so be sure to enter them after you take a look at the descriptions. Lots of gift cards to your preferred bookstore to win as well as some cool jewelry and yummy gifts!

Here are a few of the stories they are releasing this week, covering a variety of genres, including the one I just reviewed:

Find Your Ever After in Under An Hour

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance

From her earliest memories, Ashley Pearce has been drawn to Ruby Hill Lunatic Asylum, and she’s not the only one. Decades after the abandoned hospital ended its institutional reign of torture and neglect, something lurks in the shadows. Since she’s a paranormal investigator, it’s Ashley’s job to find out what.

Crime scene expert Corbin Malone doesn’t believe in ghosts. A born skeptic, he has no interest in entertaining the hype surrounding the mysterious deaths at Ruby Hill, but he won’t turn his back while more women die. He agrees to an overnight investigation, never expecting his first encounter would be with the woman he pushed away a year ago. But when he discovers Ashley is a target, he learns his greatest fear isn’t living with his own demons, but losing her for good.

One Thousand and One Nights by Ruth Browne

Sheri spends her days fighting zombies and her nights chained to a wall, earning her every breath by telling stories to her captor Aleksy—stories that make them both forget the ruined world. Sheri could put up with the conditions—at least she knows her sister is safe in the community Aleksy leads—until she realizes she’s falling for him…even though he wants her dead.

When Aleksy allowed Sheri and her sister into his compound, he didn’t know about the zombie bite on her back. It’s only a matter of time before she turns into one of the rising dead and threatens their existence, but Aleksy has a secret need for Sheri and her stories. For everyone’s safety, he chains her to his bedroom wall, hoping for just one more day. But how long will the community allow Aleksy to ignore his own rule: always kill the infected. Always.

Mercy by Jan Coffey

Julia Klein’s life has begun to unravel—her daughter Amy has been suspended from school, Julia is about to lose her job, and her boyfriend Garrett is being transferred thousands of miles away. Overwhelmed, she and Amy leave for a weekend at a rambling old colonial inn. Julia never suspects that Garrett, desperate to find a way to keep Julia in his life, has decided to surprise her by joining them. Nor does she expect her daughter to befriend a mischievous ghost…or that she herself would be possessed by the malevolent spirit of a long-dead mother.

As a dark secret emerges, Julia, Amy, and Garrett find themselves pitted in a fight for survival against a savage presence that intends to resurrect/repeat/relive a horrible crime committed two centuries ago. And this time, Amy and Julia will be the victims.

Haunted Chemisty by Lindsey Loucks

When bookish college co-ed Alexis heads to the laundry room in her new apartment, she runs into Ian Reese, the chem lab partner she crushed on all last semester. And the guy who stood her up on their first date. But she’s down for an awkward reunion, and no better place than her creepy laundry room.

Ian has every intention of making amends, but just when Alexis begins to trust him again, a new threat calls more than their future together into question. A ghost from the apartment’s past is hellbent on revenge, and if he wants to get his girl, he’ll have to get the ghost first.

Wish Upon a Star by Michelle McLean

Ceri McKinley never stopped wishing that her ex-fiancé Jason Crickett would come back into her life. But when he finally does, he comes with a request that puts them both—and all of humanity—into jeopardy.

Jason only wants two things: to bury his brother properly and to convince Ceri to trust him again after he jilted her. But when Ceri agrees to help him get his brother back, they end up fighting for their lives as a zombie uprising threatens them all.

Northern Light by E.J. Russell

Nothing gives art fraud investigator Luke Morganstern a bigger rush than busting forgers, the low-life criminals who dare victimize true artists. But when his latest job sends him to a remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, he’s stunned to discover the alleged forger is his former lover, Stefan Cobbe, the most gifted painter Luke has ever known.

Stefan, left homeless and destitute after the death of his wealthy partner, doesn’t exactly deny the forgery — he claims he doesn’t remember, an excuse Luke can’t accept.

But Luke’s elderly client suggests Stefan may be telling the truth and presents another possibility – a dark presence in the woods, a supernatural fury simmering for decades. Luke must face down his fear of the uncanny – and admit his feelings for Stefan – if either of them is to survive.

Not to Be Missed Giveaways!

A skeleton key necklace and $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble a Rafflecopter giveaway

A vintage sailing ship brooch and $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A really cool looking Wish necklace and $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A fantastic pottery handwarmer mug with Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate mix (yum!) a Rafflecopter giveaway

I definitely felt like Ruby Hill was a terrific addition to the world of gothic romance, one so good that I’m now jonesing for other spooky-poo books to get me into the mood of gusting autumn leaves and the start of crackling fires in my living room fireplace. Thanks, Sarah Ballance, for getting me off to such a great start for the season! :-)

A Great Addition to Lovers Unmasked Anthology Is Cari Quinn’s Tempted By His Best Friend

29 Sep

Lovers Unmasked (A Brazen Anthology) by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck and Tessa Bailey (Entangled, September 23, 2013)

I have already reviewed three of the fantastic novellas contained in Entangled’s Lovers Unmasked anthology, but since mine was one of the copies which got delivered without Cari Quinn’s story, “Tempted By His Best Friend,” I felt that I needed to also give her due diligence, particularly considering my enjoyment of her other writing to be one of the reasons I bought the book in the first place!

Stephanie Price would not be recognized by her kindergarten students as she heads to the annual Halloween party she used to love. Anytime a woman dons a short skirt, crotchless tights and a fresh Brazilian bikini wax, well, the gauntlet has been thrown and someone is looking for sex, particularly with a fox tail and mask rounding out her ensemble.

Steff knows that she’s been in love with one of her best friends, Landon Grant, for a while, but because of the dynamic between them and their other best friend, Craig Connolly, she didn’t push too much in letting know Landon know how she felt. She’s had to watch him “date” other women since college, but over the last year, it’s been awful as he has deliberately pushed her away. She knows that he sees her as just a friend and firmly believes that seducing him as a sexy mystery woman is the only way to open his eyes to what they could have together.

No Flowers Required (Love Required #2 – Alexa and Dillon) by Cari Quinn (Entangled, August 2012)

Dressed as a cheesy pirate at the party with Craig, Landon is disappointed that Steff has texted she’s not coming but knows it’s for the best. He does have feelings for her and while he’s suspected that she might feel something for him, anything more than friendship would be disaster – he just doesn’t do long-term relationships and hurting Steff would kill him. Once he spots the sexy vixen over by the bar, the chase is on, including a hold-onto-your-stiletto-boots library sex scene that will require ice water while reading it. But his mystery fox runs away with no name or conversation exchange and Landon is back to where he started, only now he’s pining for Steff and wondering who his mystery lady is.

Craig reads both of them the riot act that he’s not going to stand any longer for the weird estrangement that’s come over them in the last year, deliberately engineering that Landon would have to help Steff for her annual father/daughter event for the school. Landon insists they go out to dinner to talk, yelling a time as Steff flounces off. She must not have heard him based on what he hears her doing in the shower, but she gets pretty convinced that he might actually want her – not the sexy fox whose costume is moldering in her closet as a reminder of a very bad idea. But how can something real grow out of the lie of omission regarding their previous identity?

Cari Quinn never, ever disappoints when it comes to layered, complex characters and plots filled with emotion. Steff actually reads Landon extremely well (with the exception of not realizing that he does want her) and while her actions are desperate, they are exactly what’s needed for the situation. Knowing that doesn’t stop your heart aching while you watch everything blow up in both their faces, but it’s important to hang in there since Cari Quinn believes in the happily ever after as much as the romance reader does!

Many thanks to the staff at Entangled for being so determined to make sure I got my Cari Quinn story and profuse gratitude to Cari Quinn herself for not only her incredible PR in reaching out when I complained on Goodreads, but also for writing yet another fantastic love story. :-) Go out and buy Lovers Unmasked for all four fantastic novellas – it’s a bargain at under $4.00 for so many incredible stories!

Eat Play Lust by Tawna Fenske Delivers Sensuality in a Small Package

9 Sep

Eat Play Lust by Tawna Fenske (Entangled Flirts, August 26, 2013)

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that Entangled Publishing keeps putting out great stories like it’s going out of style. Considering that many publishing houses often seesaw in the quality of their authors (and honestly, often their editing), this is not only a joy, but often has me picking Entangled work over other houses since I know I can trust them to give me a romance that is going to be deliciously emotional and probably a little bit (or better yet, a lot) naughty.

This delightful short, Eat Play Lust by Tawna Fenske, keeps up Entangled’s reputation. Cami is a fabulous yoga instructor coming off the emotional roller-coaster of her uber-healthy mother’s extended visit. Gluten-free tofu everything may have had her drop a few pounds, but it seems like there’s an emotional cost as Cami’s relationship with her mother has always been one of guilt around food. Like the minister’s daughter who wears a mini-skirt and gets drunk every night at college, Cami gained more than her fair share of weight and both women have never forgotten it.

While Cami guiltily harbors tatertots in her apartment above her yoga studio, she doesn’t wistfully think about how nice it would be to have someone of the male persuasion to share it with. When the hottie in her group class requests a private paddleboard yoga lesson (yes, this is an actual thing and it looks very cool!) she is more than happy to get to know Paul Hammond better. She’s got some seriously naughty thoughts of the sexual variety whizzing through her thoughts while she puts him through his paces on the water, but she is trying to keep it professional, particularly after he tells her he is a gourmet chef. What would a chef want with a secret junk food eater?

I don’t know what’s lovelier – this beautiful woman or the setting. Paddleboard yoga seems like a great idea for people who enjoy practicing in the great outdoors (and enjoy a little extra core work).

What Paul wants to do with Cami cannot be spoken aloud, but suffice it to say that he wants her as amuse bouche, appetizer, entree and dessert. Yet Cami’s proximity seems to have permanently disconnected any conversational skills Paul previously possessed as his sex drive is taking all available brain power. Paul’s physician brother was the one who took one look at the cholesterol numbers from Paul’s latest blood test and insisted he begin doing cardio, but it’s not just the yoga that is causing Paul’s heart to beat double-time. A river dunking and some time in Cami’s kitchen confirms the sexual tension is simmering between them, but can there be a future between someone whose life revolves around food and someone who feels nothing but guilt in eating what tastes good?

Two fabulous characters who were so well-drawn that I was astonished the story is only around 50 pages. Despite the small space, you still experience the mark of a good writer – Fenske draws a rich setting, three-dimensional characters, and an emotional connection (with highs and lows) that tugs at your heartstrings. Did I mention the sexy times? No? Let me reassure you that despite all of of the above, there was some pretty awesome sex between our two characters that managed to be hot AND emotionally satisfying. I’m hoping for a few more stories set in this town so I can catch a glimpse of a happy Cami and Paul in the context of another couple’s journey. Worried about paying for a 50 page story? At only $.99, make this your Tawna Fenske amuse bouche and realize that here is another great writer for your romance shelf.

Tawna Fenske has certainly caught my attention and I’ve both made a point of adding her blog to my RSS Reader (give yourself a chuckle by reading her September 2nd post “If I Write What I Know, I Must Know a Lot of Perverts”) and added a few of her other books to my to-read list.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 649 other followers

%d bloggers like this: