Archive | August, 2014

Dirty Deal by Christine Bell Proves The Best Kind of Romance Bargain

30 Aug

Dirty Deal (Perfectly Matched #2 – Selena and Bryan) by Christine Bell (Entangled: Brazen, August 25, 2014)

I am a big fan of Christine Bell. Her Dare Me series is a great example of her writing which combines dirty, bad boys who think they aren’t good enough for the woman they love with heroines who bring a Samsonite collection of emotional scars. Her trademark sense of humor always shines through her characters’ dialogue and thoughts but her writing never ceases to impress. She makes a clever turn of phrase that encapsulates a scene or emotion look effortless. Love her.

With my fangirl chops established, it goes without saying that I was looking forward to the release of the second book in her Perfectly Matched series focusing on a dating service in Salem, Massachusetts. Grace Love, the business founder (and owner of the requisite “tingles” that let her know when a perfect match has been made), found her true love in the form of her playboy best friend and SWAT leader, Patrick Mathews, in the first book of the series, Dirty Trick. Business co-owner and socialite, Selena Elliott, was due to take a fall from her love ’em and leave ’em ways and that future is delivered in the pages of Dirty Deal via the form of Dr. Bryan Metcalf, army ER trauma doctor and auctioned bachelor.

Bryan can’t believe that he’s let his professional party-planner sister talk him into doing this bachelor auction, but considering that it’s to benefit the hospital, he could hardly say no. While walking out in some little leaf costume and nothing else makes him wish he could chose Afghanistan again, he still goes out, and is frozen in place when a bidding war breaks out between his stalker ex-girlfriend, Piper, and Grace Love, the owner of the dating service who wants him to do an ad campaign for her company. At the last minute, a stunning platinum blond grabs Grace’s paddle, delivers some smack talk to Piper, and saves the day with the winning bid. Thinking he might just have won the dating jackpot, Bryan is disappointed to find out that the woman who won him for the night is Grace’s business partner, Selena.

Dirty Trick (Perfectly Matched #1 – Grace and Trick) by Christine Bell (Entangled: Brazen, September 2013)

But he quickly realizes that while he can’t take his eyes off Selena’s gorgeous body and beautiful face, she actually is the real deal – funny, smart, and just as anti-commitment as he is. Considering his philandering military father scarred him with the prospect of ruining any relationship he might attempt while he’s still in service, Bryan has made a point of keeping things light. The times he didn’t ended in disaster. Not only is Piper still stalking him nine years later but he’s had women attempt to kill themselves or make other grand stunts that just embarrassed themselves and him. Selena’s cool demeanor and healthy sexuality reassure Bryan that he won’t have to worry about that reaction and he can’t deny the strongest attraction he’s ever felt for a woman. He finds himself agreeing to be the ad campaign boy for her dating business and the phenomenal sex that follows on the beach melts his brain.

Selena isn’t sure exactly what Bryan uses to mesmerize these crazy women other than an unusual dose of intelligence, good looks, and a great sense of humor, but she knows how to keep her distance from guys. Her parents may have left her a massive trust fund and palatial home, but what she really inherited was a disbelief in real love and family after seeing her parents’ affairs and being raised by a series of boarding schools. Despite telling him that their awesome sex was a one-off, Selena finds herself spending all her time with the sexy doctor and hanging out with his great family seals the deal – she’s in big trouble. When her attempt to tell him how she feels dredges up all his phobias about clinging women, she thinks her chance at love is over. But Bryan needs to figure out who Selena is and get past his own history in order to embrace what might be the best gift he’s ever received.

I loved seeing Selena’s character fleshed out in this book and Bell does a great job showing us all her insecurities and damage while also letting us admire Selena’s confidence and the way she managed to raise herself with the help of her one caring relative, her grandmother. Selena literally doesn’t know what to do with herself around Bryan and the feelings he stirs in her, but she finds a measure of bravery even as her fight or flight instincts are telling her to run in the opposite direction and protect herself. Bryan has spent so long avoiding a real relationship (and his avoidance is part of the reason why he still has the psycho contingent around him since a nice restraining order would have given the feedback some of these women needed), that he also is off-kilter with Selena, especially after seeing how great she gets along with his sister and grandmother. Selena’s big moment and Bryan’s gut reaction is heart-wrenching, as is his grand gesture to try and get her back.

Dirty Deal is classic Christine Bell. Not only do I heartily recommend it to lovers of contemporary romance but I strongly exhort them to also sample the Dare Me series as well since this author offers readers delicious characters and fabulous writing in all her novels. The summer might be waning but Bell will always bring the heat!

Happy reading! 🙂

 

 

What Mecca Is to Muslims, Boonesboro Is To Nora Roberts Fans

30 Aug
The impressive panel of Sylvia Day, Hank Phillipi Ryan, ??, and Susan Donovan

The impressive panel of Sylvia Day, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Jeanne Ford, and Susan Donovan

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend the Nora Roberts Writing Institute held at Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, Maryland, a fabulous annual event that brings together over a hundred writers for a weekend of excellent classes (and good food) in the beautiful setting of Western Maryland. Such a small setting allows participants to really spend time and ask questions of the published authors who run the sessions and give the keynote speeches. With keynote addresses from romance author Sylvia Day and thriller doyenne Hank Phillippi Ryan (both of whom blew me away with their professional insight and generous attitude toward would be authors), the sessions and casual conversations made me think a great deal about how I can model myself after these successful writers, getting the point of producing consistent, excellent works that bring pleasure and entertainment to others.

Historic Boonesboro is filled with friendly residents and cute as a button.

Historic Boonesboro is filled with friendly residents and cute as a button.

That lofty personal idea aside, I adored Western Maryland which is close enough to Baltimore and DC to have numerous amenities but enough in the country that it is a bucolic wonderland bursting with history. One such destination is the small town of Boonsboro, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Sharpsburg, where the famous Civil War battle of Antietam took place. While my husband and I were eager to fulfill our passion for history at the National Park that commemorates the battle, I convinced him that our first destination was going to be the town of Boonesboro that has benefited from its most famous resident, author Nora Roberts.

One of the benefits of Nora Roberts owning a bookstore? Awesome author signing parties!

One of the benefits of Nora Roberts owning a bookstore? Awesome author signing parties!

Most of her fans are aware that Roberts loves her home with a passion. With some of the renovation pain and details immortalized in her Inn Boonsboro trilogy, Roberts actually bought a late 18th century building in the center of town and restored it into the Inn Boonsboro where you can stay in rooms named after some of Roberts’ famous characters (the Roarke room is supposedly one of the favorites, naturally!). The Inn is located almost directly across from her bookstore, Turn the Page, which not only has a terrific collection of popular fiction, but showcases local authors while having an entire room dedicated to Nora Roberts’ books! Jewelry that ties into her characters and titles is also sold as is some truly awesome NR swag (which I bought for my wonderful, cat-sitting mother and for myself).  The flyer for the upcoming booksigning looked amazing, and the residents of Maryland are fortunate as they have an abundance of romance authors in their midst and the thriving Maryland Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Lucky you, Marylanders!!

The corn was about as high as it was during the actual battle, allowing us to realize the terrain was similar to what the actual Union and Confederate soldiers would have experienced, i.e. zero visibility for most of the battle.

The corn was about as high as it was during the actual battle, allowing us to realize the terrain was similar to what the actual Union and Confederate soldiers would have experienced, i.e. zero visibility for most of the battle.

After having a phenomenal lunch at Dan’s Taproom and Restaurant (directly across from the Inn and catty-corner to the bookstore), we trekked over to the National Park dedicated to the Battle of Antietam, and I realized that the people of Maryland live with the heavy weight of the Civil War right in their midst. The National Park is nothing short of amazing – an information center with knowledgeable staff and excellent materials sits in the middle of the 65+ acre site linked by a series of roads and markers. While walkers and hikers will love exploring the side trails and some of the views, the park is made infinitely accessible via car with a self-guided tour (we bought the audio CD and book that talks you through some of the major sites) that for us lasted for a few hours (and we felt we gave it short shrift).

I will definitely go back to this area again, hopefully with my mother who would be the person truly capable of appreciating the Inn Boonsboro. Not only was I able to get a wonderful experience from the Writing Institute but the countryside itself (both with and without Nora Roberts) fed my creative self with its incredible history and rolling views. Consider a trip to Western Maryland and the mecca of romance readers, Boonsboro!

I’ll try and have a few posts dedicated to some of the sessions and content of the conference since I think both readers and writers will get a lot out of many of the larger issues and trends discussed, but for now, I heartily recommend the Nora Roberts Writing Institute to aspiring authors and the area of Western Maryland to romance readers.

Happy reading! 🙂

Stealing His Heart by Diane Alberts Will Run Away With Yours

29 Aug

Stealing His Heart (Shillings Agency #2 – Jake and Tara) by Diane Alberts (Entangled: Brazen, August 25, 2014)

Diane Alberts (aka Jen McLaughlin) is a contemporary romance author at the top of her game. Whether it’s her raw and emotional Take a Chance series, or her super hot contribution to the multi-author Wedding Dare series (*fans self*), this writer knows how to create vulnerable and appealing heroes and heroines who come together in a burst of heat under unusual circumstances only to find that the unlikely pairing is actually a perfect match.

When her first book in the Shillings Agency series, Temporarily Yours, came out this past winter, I was most definitely hooked with Cooper and Kayla’s story, and the latest installment, Stealing His Heart, has proved no exception. A testimony to Alberts’ talent is that I usually don’t have the time of day to give to “reunion” romances (it’s a personal mental block – they are great books), but when she writes one, all I can do is turn the pages faster!

Tara Harris isn’t a thief, she’s a “recovery consultant” who tracks down stolen items and then steals them back in order to return them to their rightful owners. Having seen the justice system fail both her and the people she loves means she doesn’t have a high opinion of the traditional route of turning to the authorities. Her genius IQ and the trust fund left to her by her parents’ untimely death mean no one considers that this unassuming and wealthy young woman is one of the premiere cat burglars stealing from mob bosses and seamy celebrities. But when what should have been an easy art theft has her caught red-handed, she’s shocked to discover that the man so effectively holding her still is none other than her former friend, partner and first love, Jake Forsythe.

Falling for the Groomsman (Wedding Dare #1 – Christine and Tyler) by Jen McLaughlin (Entangled Brazen, June 2014) – This is the story of Jake’s sister and gives an interesting perspective on his childhood trauma of losing their parents

Jake wishes he wasn’t enjoying keeping Tara pinned against the wall as much as he is. The two of them came together as kids with the common ground of her loss of her parents at the same time he lost his. The difference was while she went to a loving if prissy grandmother in a mansion, he went to an abusive foster home, separated from his sister, Christine. Thankfully his sister has found happiness with a doctor and she’s back in Jake’s life happy and content, but her bliss only emphasize how alone Jake is.

Years ago before the military, Tara was his lifeline – his partner in crime (literally) and the princess who was so irresistible to him. Their one night together had him satisfying her without taking the final step of taking her virginity, as he knew she deserved better than his dark desires. He ran off to join the military the next day and the years in his country’s service have taken their toll, mentally and physically. His leg is covered with scars and hardly fully functional, but it’s nothing compared to the emotional scars left from the IED explosion that killed most of his fellow soldiers on patrol. He knows he’s cold and alone but that’s what he has to be in order to do his duty for the Shillings Agency. After Tara got past their security and stole a vase from a client, they’ve needed her to show them how she bypassed their system, hence the sting that nabbed her.

Tara felt rejected twice being trapped by Jake – the first time when he left her high and dry after delivering more pleasure than her young self thought existed and now when it’s clear he’s been back stateside for a while and never looked up his former friend despite them having been so close. But the real sense of betrayal comes when he cooly informs her that she is going to have to show his security agency how she got past their system on her last job or they’ll use the footage from this break in to put her in jail. She’s not about to give up either her code knowledge or endanger her network of contacts who help her. However, she’s happy to play along since Jake’s body is clearly enthusiastic to see her even though his frowny face says otherwise and she wants to figure out what’s really going on in that gorgeous head of his.

What follows is an exercise in frustration – for both of them. The spark they knew as kids is a raging inferno now and while Jake makes clear that his need for being dominant in the bedroom should scare Tara away, she can’t wrap her head around submitting to anyone, although Jake makes the idea damn appealing. Her practical joker tendencies quickly crack Jake’s shell with her mouth and body widening the gap to his heart. Tara finds that Jake is exactly what she needs but since he’s about to land her in jail, they hardly have a future. With Jake torn between his duty and saving Tara, he knows he’s forced to betray her trust in a way that might have her cutting him out of her life. But now that he’s had a taste of what it means to feel again, he’s not about to let her get away.

Temporarily Yours (Shilling Agency #1 – Cooper and Kayla) by Jen McLaughlin (Entangled Brazen, February 2014) – This is Cooper’s story of how he came to fall in love and decide to go back to Maine to the family security business.

There is no way to not love the isolated Jake who made the biggest mistake of his life not heading back to find Tara the instant he was stateside. That they are clearly exactly what each other needs is evident, but he is reluctant to let go of his mental image of her as a past princess who deserves the best. Diane Alberts writes the sexy times like nobody’s business, but it was the incredible moments of laughter that got to me. Because Tara knows Jake and all his buttons, her jokes were awesome, penetrating right through the drone shell he’d adopted to cope with his life. Cooper Shilling, Jake’s boss, was just as yummy as I remembered him from the first book in this series, Temporarily Yours, and I liked that, knowing his own personal happiness and what it gave him, he didn’t hesitate to kick Jake in the right direction when it came time for him to figure out the “grand gesture” that would bring Tara back to him. And what a gesture! I was tearing up in that final scene as Jake proved he knew the real Tara as much as she knew him.

Stealing His Heart is an excellent buy for $3.99 and I eagerly await the next book in the Shillings Agency series, which I hope will star Jake’s coworker and playboy, the tattooed Gordon and the cool blonde he was sent to investigate in this book.

Happy reading!! 🙂

You’ll Find Yourself Down For the Count With Abby Niles’ Latest, Winning Love

26 Aug

Winning Love (Love to the Extreme #3 – Mac and Gayle) by Abby Niles (Entangled: Select, August 26, 2014)

Gah. When I read the second book in Abby Niles’ Love to the Extreme series, Fighting Love, I remember thinking “well, there’s no way she can top this one” but I appreciate a writer proving me wrong!

Designed so they can be read independently from one another, the latest installment of this MMA-focused collection of novels, Winning Love, delivers the to-die-for characters and heart-wrenching dilemmas of the rest of Niles’ work. Heat is delivered in abundance as Love to the Extreme characters never just “sort of” want each other; they contract a flat-out, bad case of lust from the get go.

Mac Hannon has returned to Kansas to help out a good friend of his, despite his finding MMA success in his new life in Atlanta. It’s not easy to be around people who knew him when he was a laid back chef who loved his wife and enjoyed training for the ring. After the tornado that robbed him of not only his life but his future, Mac earned his moniker of “the Snake” by channeling all his rage into the cold way he cuts down his opponents. Shacking up at a friend’s farmhouse has the not so welcome surprise of the professor next door being anything but a gray-haired old maid. Gayle Andrews has killer curves and a smile that lights up a room. When she clearly sets her sights on Mac, he knows he’s in more trouble than if he was fighting against the #1 ranked contender.

Gayle is happy to help her neighbor and his cute daughter whenever they need her since she’s come to treasure friends and experiences when she can get them. Having had everyone close to her ripped away from her in her youth drove her passion with meteorology. Becoming one of the premier storm chasers allows Gayle to face her darkest fear on a regular basis and remind herself she’s alive. One of her favorite ways to do that is to find someone sexy to spend some time with, and Mac’s expiration date and proximity makes him the perfect fling. She can tell he’s into her and she’s going to lay it all on the line as she can see he needs to let go of the dark knight brood he’s got going and live a little. But when her job and his past collide, Gayle is despondent as the future she couldn’t help imagining despite her best intentions can never happen, no matter how her feelings are telling her otherwise.

Fighting Love (Love to the Extreme #2 – Tommy and Julie) by Abby Niles (Entangled: Select, December 31, 2013) – Mac appears in this book as well with his dark past well-hinted at while he helps along Tommy and Julie’s transition from best friends to lovers.

Reasons I adored this book. Gayle is an effervescent, uber-smart woman who fiercely embraces life in order to get the most out of it, and her pigtail-sporting head has some serious seduction techniques trapped inside. Mac never stood a chance! And a chiseled fighter who has remained true to his wife’s memory who is also a restaurant-level cook? Ladies, where do we sign up? Kansas should use this book as marketing to get people to move to the state. Single women would be populating farmhouses in a heartbeat.

It’s impossible not to fall for these empathetic characters (and Niles provides her usual brand of strong supportive secondary sidekicks destined for a feature role in the next book in the series), but the conflict is so outstanding, I kept turning the page desperately trying to figure out how Mac and Gayle were going to work through their differences. Both of them were forced to confront their darkest fear in their desperate bid to see if they could be together and their version of compromise was nothing short of perfect while also being highly realistic. The sex was off the charts hot (another Niles speciality) but I honestly think that the muddy, obstacle course event Gayle suckers Mac into doing was one of the most sensual and emotional scenes I’ve read in some time. Well done, Abby!

This book is a full-length novel and the price of under $6 for the ebook and around $11 for the paperback reflects that. Abby Niles is one of those authors I will cheerfully pay full-price for as she delivers a quality of writing that I think is at the top of the contemporary romance genre.

Happy reading!

 

Taming His Tutor by Natalie Anderson Will Have You Looking For Lessons

25 Aug

Taming His Tutor by Natalie Anderson (Entangled: Brazen, August 25, 2014)

As a cerebral, bookish kind of gal, I’ve a soft spot for the trope about the nerd girl who falls in mutual lust/love with the jock guy, and I don’t think I’m by myself in the romance reading demographic.

If you count yourself as my sister under the skin, then I suggest you take a close look at Natalie Anderson’s latest, Taming His Tutor, which debuted today.

Abbi Hayes has come a long way from the math Olympiad circuit she did in high school. She’s lost the braces and the boob-hiding long scarf she sported, but even with her new hairdo and clingy wardrobe, her confidence still needs a boost. Her last (and first) boyfriend called her a cold fish in bed and her one and only one-night stand was a disaster. Working as the head IT person for a posh women’s magazine, she’s working hand in hand with her best friend and the magazine’s sex editor to not only develop a fabulous new app with sexual confidence tips, but to ingrain said ideas into her daily life. Easier said than done, as she’s literally saved from death-by-audiobook by none other than former NBA star Joe Fuller.

Joe can’t believe that the curvy goddess who almost became another pedestrian fatality is none other than the blue-eyed sweetheart of a tutor who helped him get through math class back in high school. If he had known she was hiding these killer curves under that sweet smile and earnest expression, he would have pursued her, but there’s no time like the present. Recognizing that the newly blossomed Abbi is stirring up a possessiveness and hunger he’s not used to experiencing with his casual “love ’em and leave ’em” lifestyle, Joe is ready to leave her after one hot but disastrous date. The realization that the little vixen has no idea of her sex appeal AND is researching sexual attraction for her app gives him the perfect opportunity to work her out of his system while also helping her gain her confidence. The problem arises when his previously perfect paradigm of leaving before getting attached hits the fan.

Oh, wow. Joe is sex on a stick – a hard-bodied NBA star who has never been anyone’s priority and as a result has managed to feel like a failure. A hurtful mother and a series of foster homes who put him second, a sister he felt he should have protected, and a professional team he felt he let down with his career ending injury and we have a recipe for a decade of therapy. Instead, Joe channelled his energy into building a highly successful gym business and releases some of his tension through the many classes he offers. Abbi at least has let herself be open to being hurt – and she has – but her time with Joe proves to her that she needed to focus on being with someone who actually turns her on and who she can pleasure in return. She tries to protect herself around Joe but she can see his vulnerabilities. Even if he doesn’t choose her, she insists on calling him out on his imposed lone wolf status. Abbi knows that Joe doesn’t deserve to be alone, no matter what he believes.

I’ve never read any Natalie Anderson before and that is something I plan to rectify soon. This talented Kiwi writer of category romance has an excellent grasp of character psychology, one which she uses to drive the evolution of her plot. Joe and Abbi are sympathetic characters and the heat between them is incendiary. The dialogue felt natural and I like the way they were flawed characters who occasionally hurt each other, but never irreparably.

Grab Taming His Tutor for a geektastic read filled with emotion and naughty bits that will have your e-reader smoking!

Happy reading! 🙂

Carrie Ann Ryan’s Montgomery Ink Series Leaves Readers Permanently Marked and Wanting More

13 Aug

Ink Inspired (Montgomery Ink #.5 – Shep and Shea) by Carrie Ann Ryan (Fated Desires, February 15, 2014)

The world of romance writing is a fabulous place.

While I have zero interest in ever getting a tattoo (or solving a murder, or meeting vampires, or extracting a hostage from the clutches of a drug cartel), I get to read about fascinating characters who love the world of permanent body ink, and who fall in love during the process of considering what body art to acquire.

At least I do whenever I have the pleasure of reading Carrie Ann Ryan‘s new Montgomery Ink series.

While the first full-length book of this series, Delicate Ink, will be published on October 14th, we can enjoy the two prequel novellas to the series that she has put out to tantalize us until then, both of which take place in that most sensual of cities, New Orleans.

Ink Inspired (which, let’s be honest, should win some kind of cover art award because yikes) stars Shepard Montgomery, a talented tattoo artist with an established reputation who has created a life filled with his art, friends, and his large and loving family but who finds himself wanting more. He’s tired of the semi-drunk tourists who stumble into his shop not caring what they are about to permanently put on their bodies, and it’s this attitude that has him being brusque with the prim blonde who can’t decide what tattoo she wants. That she’s scared to death is a given, and Shep isn’t about to ink her until she absolutely sure what she wants. What he can do is pursue her despite his poor first impression, as his mid-life ennui has disappeared in her presence with one look out of those big eyes.

Shea Little can’t tell the huge, handsome tattoo artist what she wants because she has no idea. She barely understands who she is, having suffered with the constant emotional abuse of her mother and her bossy ex-boyfriend. Coming from a politically prominent and moneyed family, Shea has tried to make a life of her own working in her little accounting office and wearing her suits. She can control her immediate world even if she can’t control the negative things her mother thinks and says, and choosing ink for her body wouldn’t just be a rebellion but a big step to asserting her independence. The sexy, oh-so-dirty Shep Montgomery, however, is not within her sphere of control, although she finds his relentless pursuit of her unbelievably sexy. When she develops feelings for this gentle, scorchingly sensual man, all her efforts to create her own life might come to an end when her family threatens to destroy him.

Delicate Ink (Montgomery Ink #1 – Austin and Sierra) by Carrie Ann Ryan (Fated Desires, October 14, 2014)

Oh. My. God. Shep is the last person you’d think to pair with Shea, so naturally he’s perfect for her, since he understands and supports her work to uncover who she is and what she wants on her own time. While he knows that he’s from a different world, Shea and Shep are kindred souls who learn from one another. That Shep is more than happy to show Shea what she’s been missing regarding her sexuality, is a bonus for readers and for Shea, and I defy you to find a more heinous bitch of a mother than the abusive and manipulative villain in this story. Remember, this is an edgy hero, with plenty of f-bombs, piercings in sensitive areas, and the frequent use of the modern adjective “hella” but chances are you are going to love him as much as Shea by the last page.

This novella is skillfully written as Ryan manages to lay the groundwork for the entire series, smoothly weaving in Shep’s Colorado cousins (the focus of the series and owners of their own tattoo business), minor characters in the New Orleans shop, and hints of the Montgomery clan’s own social and political influence (albeit the less prominent and far shadier variety than Shea’s family). Shea easily could have been a cowed, naive twit, but instead she is a woman struggling against the bonds that have tethered her personality for so many years, with Shep coming at exactly the right moment to help her break free. Shep is one of the sexiest, sweetest rough heroes I’ve read in a while, and I’m certainly hoping I get to see and hear from him in future installments of the series.

Midnight Ink Box Set (seen here with the individual book covers for each of the novels contained within it) featuring stories by Jayne Rylon, Sidney Bristol, Robin L. Rotham, P. G. Forte, Eden Bradley, R. G. Alexander, Carrie Ann Ryan, and Mari Carr (Amazon Digital Services, November 18, 2014)

Ink Inspired is also a great deal, only $.99 right now on Amazon, and you can get it as one of the novellas contained in the Midnight Ink box set if there are other authors in that collection who also appeal to you (and there are some doozies in there!). I can honestly say – as a decided connoisseur of boxed sets – that I was blown away by Midnight Ink, a collaboration of the group of authors who make up the Inkheart Authors (and several of whom are in the quality romance author group, the Smutketeers). These wonderful authors developed a New Orleans tattoo parlor, Midnight Ink, figured out who the key characters were (either artists, owners, or patrons) and then each developed a story. The result is a brilliant sequence of moving, erotic, emotional stories as these men and women move to find their happily ever after (HEA) in the Big Easy.

The consistent quality and deliberate cohesiveness of the anthology makes this feel almost like one of those big Baskin Robbin’s ice cream bowls with 21 flavors – they are all delicious but each have a different (delicious) taste. Keep in mind that the various stories’ focus ranges from more traditional uber-hot romance to menage to BDSM-themed romance, but with the execution and writing quality so high, I think even readers who don’t normally choose some of those themes will find themselves reading to find out how each character takes a chance on happiness. At $5.99 for over 500 pages, it’s a good bargain, although I’ll warn you that I loved so many of these stories that I went out and bought the other books related to them to find out more about the secondary characters and relatives of the Midnight Ink characters!

Ink Reunited (Montgomery Ink #.6 – Sassy, Rafe and Ian) by Carrie Ann Ryan (Fated Desires, January 29, 2014)

One character who we did not see get her HEA in the anthology was Midnight Ink’s receptionist, Sassy Bordeaux, who played matchmaker when she saw which way the wind was blowing with each of her coworkers and clients. Luckily Carrie Ann Ryan took it upon herself to not leave Sassy out in the cold, and Ink Reunited is a wonderful tale of Sassy realizing her own dreams. This novella explains how years ago the sensitive yet brash receptionist had fallen for two very different men after running away from her abusive, wealthy home. Rafe Chavez loved Sassy from the start when his loving parents added the homeless waif to their large family and she honed her administrative skills working in the Chavez chain of auto repair stores. But Rafe never considered Sassy a sister and the heat between them became all-consuming when Rafe brought home a wealthy stranded client, young millionaire Ian Steele. The three of them fell head over heels in love with each other, but when Ian began to distance himself emotionally from Rafe and Sassy, Sassy couldn’t handle yet another massive rejection from the men in her life and she ran.

A decade later, Ian has never stopped regretting the impulsive actions of his young twenties’ self so when Rafe tells him that Sassy has been in New Orleans hiding under their noses the whole time, they commit to winning her back and renewing their relationship, this time for the long haul. To say that Sassy is shocked by their appearance is an understatement, but her heart is reluctant to risk everything – again – on these two wonderful men. As Rafe and Ian convince her of their seriousness and show her how their unconventional partnership will hold up to family and public scrutiny, an ugly specter from her past rears its head to threaten everything they are trying to rebuild.

This is a wonderful menage story with a strong focus on the emotional journey of three people who have known and loved each other for a long time. Rafe and Ian would each be a catch, but both of them together? Sassy is one fortunate woman, whose heart of gold almost undermines her future. I loved this 100+ page novella which whetted my appetite for the upcoming full-length novel in the series, Delicate Ink.

Honestly, if you haven’t already gotten Midnight Ink, I would recommend getting it and Ink Reunited, as that gives you over 600 pages of amazing, spicy New Orleans romance for under $9.00, but with each story of the anthology available independently, the world is definitely your oyster if you want to pick and chose what you think looks good. Know that part of the Inkheart Authors and the Smutketeers motto is quality romance, which means that everything they publish is beautifully formatted and edited.

Just like a tattoo, the Montgomery Ink series and its related stories are bound to leave a permanent mark on your romance reading soul, but the good news is that, unlike going under the needle, this process is painless thanks the excellent writing of Carrie Ann Ryan and her fellow authors.

Happy reading!

Did You Miss It? New Books, Fun Stuff, and Great Deals You May Have Missed

3 Aug

New Releases and Upcoming Books

Lori Foster’s fans are eagerly anticipating her Ultimate Series about MMA heroes and the women who love them, so it’s a happy thought to realize that the prequel to this series, Hard Knocks, will be released August 4th. When a woman can’t forget her affair with a rugged fighter – one who disappeared without a word for months – she’s got to protect her heart when he waltzes back into town. But our hero hasn’t been able to forget the woman who meant everything to him months ago and he has only one night to convince her that he’s back in her life for good. We only have to wait a month for the first full-length novel, No Limits, which will be coming out September 1st, so we can enjoy Hard Knocks while we tap our feet. FYI, Foster is also running a giveaway on Goodreads where she’ll be dispensing 25 copies of the book, so enter by August 7th to see if you can snag one!

Paranormal doyenne Kresley Cole is also releasing this week the fourteenth novel in her incredible Immortals After Dark series, Dark Skye, coming out on August 5th. Fans have been waiting for this installment as it features a couple with a dark past – a prince and a sorceress from rival clans who loved each other as children but were torn apart by a cruel tragedy. While they question whether what lies between them can overcome physical and emotional scars, readers don’t, because Kresley Cole’s name is on the cover!

Contemporary romance author Gina L. Maxwell has got a new series What Happens in Vegas, and is kicking if off on August 11th with the first book, Tempting Her Best Friend. Since Maxwell showed us her considerable writing chops with her wonderful MMA-focused Fighting for Love series, I’m excited to see what this new venture will bring romance readers. This first novel stars a heroine frustrated that her best friend and neighbor can’t see what is right under his nose – so she determines to go to Las Vegas to attend a romance book convention and hopefully have a fling with one of the cover models she’s bound to find. Naturally when her friend, who has commitment issues and thinks she can do better, catches wind of her plan, he’s jetting off to Sin City to make sure that he is the only one she’s going to do any sinning with.

I’m not sure it’s physically possible for me to be more of a Lisa Marie Rice fan, but I’m happy that she’s taken a minor character from my favorite series of hers – her Midnight collection – and given him a book of his own, Midnight Vengeance, which will come out August 18th. We met the tattooed, pierced Jacko in Midnight Angel when he protected the heroine per his boss’ directions, but Jacko has a secret, the beautiful elegant Lauren Dare, who he has loved in secret and whose art classes he has taken. Someone as beautiful and refined as her would never be interested in a rough former sniper like him, but when he realizes that Lauren is running from something in her past – something that may have caught up to her – Jacko isn’t letting anyone touch the woman he loves. Classic Rice! Intriguingly there is another book, Midnight Promises, listed on the Goodreads series page which will be published in January 2015, but with no description as of yet, it’s a bit of a mystery as to who it will feature.

If you are enjoying Laura Kaye‘s Hard Ink series, featuring a group of disgraced special forces soldiers and the tattoo parlor that becomes their home base as they puzzle out the mystery of who set them up, you’ll want to mark your calendar with two upcoming dates. Kaye has a novella being released on August 19th, Hard to Hold On To, starring none other than Edward Cantrell (yay, Easy!!) who has found a woman who has finally penetrated the numbness which has plagued him since his team’s attack, and he’s not about to let go of her, particularly since danger seems to follow her around. All this is the lead up to the next full length novel in the series, Hard to Come By, this time with Derek DiMarzio and a beautiful woman related to the enemy who he falls for, due out on November 25th.

Jennifer Ashley has several upcoming books and novellas in her ever-popular Highland Pleasures historical romance series. Those naughty Mackenzies and McBrides are up to their usual tricks, starting in the The Mackenzie Clan Gathering, where I am guessing we will get an update on our four favorite brothers and their families on August 18th, followed by Scandal and the Duchess on September 16th. Soldier Steven McBride is known for his drinking and wenching off duty, so its with great trepidation that widowed Duchess Rose Barclay confronts the handsome man’s prone form in her hideout. She’s tired of scandal following her everywhere, starting with her ill-fated honeymoon when her much older husband expired, and it’s just her luck that in trying to outrun the journalists she’s ended up with a much bigger problem. Both these novellas are simply the precursors to the next full-length novel in the series, Rules for a Proper Governess, which has brilliant barrister Sinclar McBride finally finding someone who can awaken his widowed heart and wrangle his two hellion children, starting on October 7th.

Kat Latham – an up-and-coming writer who is producing British rugby sports romance that surpasses any of the baseball/football novels I’ve read recently – is coming out with the third book in her London Legends series, Tempting the Player, on November 10th. This novel features a player fighting for his starting slot whose best friend, a gorgeous airline pilot, makes his heart ache. With his fear of flying and her desire for a stay-at-home partner, they both know it wouldn’t work between them, but that doesn’t stop them from making the decision to take a break from their platonic relationship and indulge in the passion which is clearly there. If you haven’t read the first two in the series (take a look at my review of the first book, Knowing the Score, to get a sense how wonderful this writer is), pick them up now so you are ready for the third book in the series.

Contests and Giveaways

Readers who love their heroes with a cowboy hat will be pleased to see that B. J. Daniels is giving away a copy of Mercy, the fifth book in her Beartooth, Montana series, due to come out on August 28th. When U. S. Marshall Rourke Kincaid finds himself on the track of a killer, he’s shocked to come to the doorstep of his prime suspect, Callie Westfield, and find himself blown away by her delicacy. Still, all clues point to her as the killer, yet Rourke fights what he knows is his duty to turn her in and his instinct which is telling him that not only is she innocent, but she’s the woman he’s been hunting for his whole life. Enter by August 7th.

If you are the campy type who enjoys a blast from the past when it comes to romance novels, you’ll want to take a closer look at RT Book Review’s hilarious giveaway – vintage romance audiobooks from the 1990s! Some of them look like they are *gasp* on cassette tape, so you may need to unearth your boom box from the attic to listen. I think I might frame the Fabio one for posterity! Enter by August 6th.

Even though I’ve pre-ordered it months ago, I’m still planning to enter Lauren Dane‘s Goodreads giveaway for a copy of her upcoming first book in her spin-off Hurley Boys series (*fans self, oh those Hurley boys!*), The Best Kind of Trouble, which officially debuts on August 26th. A former wild child, small town librarian Natalie Clayton has got her life on the right path, a path that becomes threatened when former fling Paddy Hurley, one of the famous Hurley Boys rock group, comes back into town. He’s just her brand of naughty when her head is telling her that nice is the way to go, but Paddy has a different idea of what constitutes being a bad girl, and he’s more than willing to teach her how to walk the line. Enter before August 9th for a chance to win one of 25 copies in this giveaway!

 

Fun Stuff

I still love paper books as much as ebooks, so bookmarks are a must (no dog ears or *gasp* open faced books, in a librarian’s house!) and these little triangle book corners from Sketch are as cute and fun as they come. With sayings like “to be continued…” and “eyes rested here” this page of four metal bookmarks are a great gift for your favorite reader (even if that’s yourself). $10

There is no such thing as too many reading-themed t-shirts, so I was thrilled to see T-shirt Booyah’s take off on the Major League Baseball logo with their “Major League Reading” t-shirt. If the $22 price tag is out of your league, you can always get the sticker for $5 which they claim is tough enough for a car (or okay for notebooks). I might have to get both!

Considering all the reading that happens there, the bathroom is an excellent place to highlight book-themed accessories, particularly with a captive audience engaging in mandatory hygiene. Whether it’s your kids or your guests, Zazzle’s Read a Book Bath Accessory Set at $24.95 delivers a soap dispenser and toothbrush holder that urges people to “read a book.” Literary and clean – my favorite!

Great Deals

For readers who can’t get enough military men in their lives, Hot Alpha SEALs: Military Romance Megaset is right up your alley. With twelve stories by military romance authors like Cat Johnson, Cindy Dees, Cristin Harber, and Delilah Devlin, you know you are in good hands. At only $.99 for over 1400 pages, you can consider this one of your summer bargains!

I love the writing of Vivian Arend and if you haven’t had the chance to sample it, the current deal for the first of her Six Pack Ranch series offers a terrific opportunity. Rocky Mountain Heat is free right now, and I have a feeling you are going to like Arend’s brand of cowboy – strong and hot! Blake Coleman is trying to be a responsible rancher but he’s strongly tempted by Jaxi, even though she’s always worn a “hands off” sign as the girl next door. Jaxi has wanted Blake for years and is determined to shatter whatever barriers lie between them, at least to the point that Blake can see the potential for the something more that she always knew was there.

Mastered: Ten Tales of Surrender is a wonderful boxed set with some heavy hitting erotic writers. Joey W. Hill, Portia de la Costa, Kate Pearce and Carrie Ann Ryan are just a few of the outstanding best-selling authors who have novels in this collection, making its $.99 price tag even more phenomenal. If you like a little dominance in your romance, then submit to this collection while the introductory price still holds.

For fans of mysteries, hot sex, and hilarious humor, look no further than Darynda Jones‘ fantastic urban fantasy Charley Davidson series, featuring a heroine with some rather special abilities and a hero to die for (and they don’t come any hotter, believe me). The first book, First Grave on the Right, is on sale for only $2.99 for the Kindle edition, so consider sampling this fantastic paranormal at a bargain price.

I adore Roxie Rivera‘s Her Russian Protector series, but fans of boxing/MMA fighting might want to try her writing in the form of her spin-off series, Fighting Connollys, particularly since the first book, In Kelly’s Corner, is currently free on Amazon. Kelly Connolly has finally broken free of his fighting past working security for a Russian mafia company that treats him well, but when a friend from his past, the internet millionaire Bee Langston, is threatened by a stalker and his dad’s gambling problem escalates, Kelly finds himself having to re-embrace the fighting life he worked so hard to escape.

Happy reading this week!

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