Tag Archives: Afghanistan

December Read-a-Thon: ‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed by Amy Andrews Continues Entangled’s Fabulous Holiday Novella Streak

20 Dec

‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed by Amy Andrews (Entangled: Indulgence, November 15, 2013)

I have seen a lot of publishers churn out holiday books and novellas and (we all know) that while there could be some great titles in the bunch, a few of them are bound to be mediocre. With that in mind, my respect for Entangled has grown with leaps and bounds as every one of these ‘Tis the Season novellas are utterly fantastic! You’ve heard me wax ecstatic over Heidi Rice’s book yesterday and Kate Hardy’s book the day before that, so please add my appreciation for Amy Andrews to that list of admired authors.

The best present to me is that, while I’ve got a few of Amy Andrews’ books on my “to-read” list, I hadn’t yet indulged in her writing, so this novella was just the kick in the pants I needed to shunt a few of her novels up the ladder in my Kindle queue. Absolutely sweet was her Acknowledgements page at the end of this novella where she thanks Entangled’s Heather Howland and Liz Pelletier for all the help she received to convert her language from Andrews’ native Australian patois to a version of English which would match her American characters. Their team effort succeeded, as ‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed doesn’t take a single misstep, delivering two terrific characters, a snowstorm, and sexual tension so powerful it provides its own fireworks when our hero and heroine decide to ring in the New Year.

When our novella begins, Tamara is well aware that she’s reaching a new level of pathetic being three sheets to the wind by 9 am on the morning of New Year’s Eve, but she has good reason. Her best friend lent her the family Vermont cabin (and left the eggnog) and since Tamara can’t figure out how to build a fire without matches, she’s bundled in her coat and several layers with the theory that enough eggnog will keep her from freezing to death. Sadly, it’s also got her feeling quite morose about the state of her love life, which has been populated with losers this last year and turning thirty makes that experience a little more painful. With a raging snowstorm outside and reports of teenage looters on the television, tipsy Tamara panics when she hears someone on the porch clearly rattling the knob. Yet, she’s ready to defend her friend’s domicile, albeit with a golf club.

Blizzards are always better when you have a hot male body to snuggle in front of a fire with. (Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay)

Blizzards are always better when you have a hot male body to snuggle in front of a fire with. (Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay)

Sergeant Luke Jackson thought that he had left ambushes behind when his plane took off from Afghanistan 36 hours ago, but after he tackles the parka clad burglar wielding a mean putter he realizes that his attacker is a pixie-haired, slightly drunk woman. As her layers strip off after he manages to get a fire going so neither of them will freeze, he’s more and more fascinated with her. Listening to her drunken rambles about the men she’s dated, he’s actually grateful that they were all impatient assholes since Tamara is available now – and Luke is beginning to think that settling down into something more serious might be exactly the New Year’s resolution he needs. Convincing her to throw out her usual ten date timetable is going to be a challenge, but it’s nothing this soldier can’t handle.

Luke’s military service is alluded to but not belabored in this 55 page novella, yet do not worry that his character is underdeveloped. This delicious sergeant with his six-pack of abs and cleft chin is just as good on the inside as he is handsome, so I guarantee you’ll be in love with him by the fourth page after his appearance. Tamara is experiencing a very understandable crisis at the age of 30 and having her best friend’s sexy younger brother appear isn’t helping her libido dilemma, particularly when her head is very clear about the need to settle down. She’s funny and earnest, especially when drunk, and I liked that she had good reasons behind her principles and that Luke immediately respected them, even when he was determined to shorten her timetable in his own case.

‘Tis the Season Bundle by Heidi Rice, Kate Hardy, Amy Andrews and Aimee Carson (Entangled: Indulgence, December 9, 2013)

Like the other books in this series, ‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed manages to read like a longer novella and at only $.99 is an utter bargain deserving of immediate purchase. You’ll be seeing plenty of New Year’s Eve fireworks with this great story by Amy Andrews on your e-reader! Please note that all four novellas in this series are actually available as a bundle for only $2.99, and since I’ve established over the last few days that the three I’ve read so far are fabulous, it’s only mathematical literacy to realize that you should get the bundle to get the fourth story (to be reviewed tomorrow) for free.

Happy reading!

Disgraced Special Forces Heroes, Courageous Heroines, and Sexy Ink Combine to Make Laura Kaye’s Hard As It Gets A Must Buy

27 Nov

Hard As It Gets (Hard Ink #1 – Nick and Becca) by Laura Kaye (Avon, November 26, 2013)

I have been waiting for months for this book to come out (and was soooo thankful its debut occurred on my Thanksgiving vacation). I’ve qvelled about Laura Kaye’s writing ability, particularly her way of transforming damaged military heroes into men with a mission regarding the woman they love, and Hard As It Gets is no exception.

Becca Merritt can’t handle losing one more family member. This brave ER nurse lost her mother as a child, her older brother to a heroine overdose and her Special Forces father on a dangerous mission in Afghanistan, and now her younger brother Charlie is missing. Yes, he’s always been a paranoid computer genius, but when they argued during a secure online chat session, he claimed that he had uncovered evidence that implicated their father in something horrible. Becca had argued with Charlie that he needed to let his animosity toward their dad go, but he signed off with a cryptic message to get help.

A message which landed her about twelve minutes from her house at a Baltimore tattoo parlor emblazoned “Hard Ink.” Asking for Rixey manages to get two brothers, but it’s clearly older brother Nick who was the one who could help Becca. His whole demeanor screams Special Forces, but the chill in his eyes when he turns down any prospect of helping her makes Becca feel she is totally and utterly alone. A little more warmth in those green eyes and Nick Rixey would have been a walking sex god, but she’s gotten through worse and she’ll do it again.

Nick Rixey is a man drifting. A silent partner in his brother’s tattoo parlor, he’s been going through the steps as an apprentice to get a license he began before enlisting after 9/11. For years, the military and later Special Forces were his life, until he and his team were betrayed by their commander, Colonel Merritt. Six good men died and more were wounded, but the greatest ignominy was Nick and his surviving men having fabricated offenses planted in their files so they could be run out of the military with dishonor. Feeling responsible and recovering from having his lower back and pelvis shot up in the ambush, Nick has avoided his former team and anything having to do with the FUBAR situation that got him home. The gorgeous blond who looked at him with such hope in her eyes may be barking up the wrong tree, but even Nick knows that it’s not her fault that her father was a traitor, something she clearly doesn’t realize.

Even though he sent her away, Nick listens to the little voice telling him something isn’t right. Two nights of recon on Becca Merritt’s house indicates that she’s clearly scared of something, and the second night demonstrates her valid feelings when Nick rushes into her home in time to scare away an intruder who was waiting for her at home. The wrench in his gut at the thought of something happening to her, combined with her telling him that her brother may have found something nefarious against her father, tells Nick that not only does he have to help keep this beautiful woman safe and find her brother, but that doing so might hold the key to clearing his name and the names of his fellow survivors.

Hard As You Can (Hard Ink #2 – Shane and Crystal) by Laura Kaye (Avon, February 25, 2014)

While attempting to fight the rising heat between them, Nick calls his team members back together and a happy reunion it’s not. Worse is that now the people he’s been trying to hold at arms length, his brother Jeremy and Becca, aren’t having it, forcing Nick to face his inner demons and realize that a new day is dawning, one in which he can finally face what happened and fight to get back his sense of self with the people who care about him at his side. To open himself will mean risking everything, but only by doing this can he win more than he ever imagined.

Nick and Becca are terrific characters and considering this is a the first book in the series, Laura Kaye had a LOT of ground to cover. Not only did she lay the hot foundation between Nick and Becca who have more in common than they initially realize, but she also set each of the characters of the members of the Special Forces team, the employees of Hard Ink and Becca’s brother Charlie. Since several of these individuals will undoubtedly star in their own book down the line, it’s important to get a sense of who they are and their backstory up front, and Kaye succeeds without ever making the reader feel like they are suffering through an info-dump.

The larger story arc of their betrayal at the hands of Becca and Charlie’s father is extremely interesting to me, mostly because I can’t help but doubt tremendously that he really did it. Do I believe everything transpired the way Nick and his crew said it did? Yes, definitely, but for a Special Forces colonel with an upstanding record, no known vices, and a son who died of a heroin overdose to turn to aiding opium traffickers in the mideast? I don’t see the psychological motivation, although I see a big one to work secretly to undermine it, and that whoever in the military is dirty would want to disgrace his team and cover his tracks. Just saying.

The next book in the series, Hard As You Can, will focus on Southern charmer, Shane McCallan, and the red-haired beauty who helped the team at the strip club during Charlie’s extraction. Awesome! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy (and since it’s going at under $5 for either the Kindle or the paperback version, I’d encourage interested readers to do the same) and have got the February 25th release date on my calendar. Easy’s novella, Hard to Hold Onto, is scheduled for the late summer, and computer genius and amputee Marz (who I confess is my favorite) will have his full-length novel, Hard to Come By, come out right around this time next year, making me have another terrific Thanksgiving, I’m sure!

Laura Kaye has begun her new series in a big way, and the only thing “Hard” about them is waiting for the next one. Happy reading!

Kaylea Cross’ Latest, Lethal Pursuit, Puts Her Among the Best Writers of Military Suspense

1 Oct

Lethal Pursuit (Bagram Special Ops #3 – Maya and Jackson) by Kaylea Cross (Carina Press, September 16, 2013)

There are times where some authors become my best kept secret, and that’s totally unfair. The point of this blog is to highlight the best romance writing (in my humble opinion) and Kaylea Cross definitely falls into that category. In terms of military romance, Cross is on par with the powerhouses of Catherine Mann and M. L. Buchman, so if you enjoy those authors, take a look at one of Cross’ many military romantic suspense series.

The latest book in her wonderful Bagram Ops series, is Lethal Pursuit, and – wow – was I impressed! I literally could not put this book down because of the unbelievable suspense plot which parallels the growing feelings of the hero and heroine.

Lethal Pursuit stars the tough Security Forces Lt. Maya Lopez, who is an utter badass as she breaks up fights and provides security detail, despite her petite frame. Maya has come from an extremely tough background and only through the sacrifices of her dead sister did she manage to excel in school and win a place at the Air Force Academy. She believes strongly in her warrior code and wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the respect she has earned, respect she exercises every day at her post in Afghanistan.

Deadly Descent (Bagram Special Ops #1 – Devon and Cam) by Kaylea Cross (Carina Press, 2011)

But temptation exists in the form of Pararescueman and Texas hottie Jackson Thatcher. There has been serious sexual tension between these two in the previous books in the series, but it all explodes on these pages. Unfortunatley Jackson is enlisted, and the military has a pretty firm no-fraternization rule. Maya doesn’t think this is a problem since she has a brief fling in mind, just enough to get this slow-talking, Spanish-speaking man out of her system.

Jackson naturally has other ideas. He’s a romantic and even though he feels used by their first encounter, he can see through Maya enough to understand that whatever baggage she’s carrying, she needs to understand what the two of them could be together. Before they can even get a real relationship off the ground, they are captured along with a major government official and held hostage. Their fight for survival will either bind them together or drive them apart as they battle to escape from the heart of enemy territory.

Tactical Strike (Bagram Special Ops #2 – Candace and Ryan) by Kaylea Cross (Carina Press, March 2013)

Oh. My. God. I want to say off the bat that I enjoyed the previous two books in this series so much – Deadly Descent and Tactical Strike – and I love Cross’ trope of a tough, capable female officer finding a (enlisted) man who finally pushes all her buttons physically and emotionally. But this book was off the charts, not just for the two characters who I adored but for the pulse-pounding hostage story. Be warned, there is some scary torture in this book, but it’s worth reading as it gives amazing insight into the heart of what defines Maya and Jackson as individuals. From a feminist standpoint, it was terrific to read a book in which the man didn’t ultimately become the rescuer – Maya was the real hero, even though they leaned on each other a lot at various points. It’s only right that he calls her a superhero to his nephews and they look at her with such awe and respect.

While you by no means need to read the previous books in the series, I think you would 1) enjoy them tremendously and 2) find them incredibly affordable. Right now, Deadly Descent is on deep discount at only $.99 (whoo-hoo!) and Tactical Strike is a mere $2.99. Lethal Pursuit is a few cents more at $3.03 on Amazon, so you are looking at 700+ pages for the cost of one traditionally priced paperback from Mann or Buchman (granted each of their novels is probably longer, but mainly their cost comes from the bigger publishers they work through). Carina Press thankfully always keeps their books affordable, so Kaylea Cross ends up being an cost-effective indulgence.

The reason that I put Kaylea Cross on the same plane as Catherine Mann or M. L. Buchman is due to her fantastic research regarding the military piece of her writing. There are more than a few military romances where the author is just phoning in the details and you can tell as a reader, even when you aren’t an expert. Maybe this is my librarian showing, but Kaylea Cross seamlessly utilizes her research until I’m ready to believe her home base is somewhere in Kandahar in a repurposed shipping container with other military women. You can get a small inkling of her enthusiasm, particularly for pararescuemen, with her recent post on Carina’s blog “Why I Have  a Crush on All Pararescuemen.” This is someone with a strong respect and love for the military.

Please, if you enjoy military romance and have not had the opportunity to read any of Kaylea Cross’ books, run, don’t walk to your nearest ebookstore and download a few of them. You will be as thrilled as I was to find such an amazing writer turning out one terrific book after another, starring the men and women of our military.

Cat Johnson Shows Us How Oklahoma Nights Are Steamy in Two Times As Hot

23 Sep

Two Times As Hot (Oklahoma Nights #2 – Logan and Emma) by Cat Johnson (Kensington, September 24, 2013)

Sometimes I am just in the mood for a cowboy romance, but I happen to like the books that don’t cater to what they think a reader believes cowboys are like, instead heading straight to a more authentic view of modern life where bulls and horses are as natural as driving pickup truck. Cat Johnson is fortunately an author whose authentic voice trumpets loud and clear through her characters and in her settings, so I was eager to try her latest novel, via NetGalley.

Two Times As Hot certainly lived up to its name and to its cover (letting us know beer wasn’t going to be the only thing found in six pack form inside this novel *wink*). While it is the second book in Cat Johnson’s Oklahoma Nights series, the prologue and epilogue are so well done as to provide the reader with a seamless understanding of the other characters and storylines, allowing anyone to jump right in and enjoy the book fully.

One Night with a Cowboy (Oklahoma Nights #1 – Tuck and Becca) by Cat Johnson (Kensington, February 26, 2013)

Johnson positions a flashback right at the start (which shows the beginning of One Night with a Cowboy) to the night New York native Emma takes her sister Becca to an Oklahoma rodeo to blow off some steam and hopefully find someone for the night. Emma wants Becca to loosen up before interviewing for an English professor position at the local university and Mr. Rodeo is just what the doctor ordered (Emma being the doctor). Emma herself almost hooks up with Tuck’s friend, Jace, but he’s called away at the last minute to help his ex-girlfriend with a car problem and she never hears from him again. Oh, well.

Flash forward to a year later and Emma is arriving dressed to kill at Becca and Tuck’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Yes, she wants to rub Jace’s face in exactly what he missed out on, but a bigger fish actually bites her hook – in the form of oh-so-sexy, no-games-playing Lieutenant Colonel Logan Hunt, Tuck’s commanding officer in the military science department of the university where he and Becca teach. Logan is fast approaching forty and feeling a little wistful that his career has had him missing an opportunity to find someone who would look at him the way Becca is looking at Tuck. But all that is driven out of his mind the minute he sees Emma unfold those long legs bared by her little black dress from the family rental car.

Three Weeks with a Bull Rider (Oklahoma Nights #3 – Jace and Tara) by Cat Johnson (Kensington, March 2014)

From the minute their eyes connect, the sexual tension between Logan and Emma is so startling that even the besotted couple getting married notice it. Yet continual distractions exist, with Jace attempting to get back into Emma’s good graces (and her bed) and Tuck’s little sister Tara deciding she’s all grown up and ready to show the much older Logan that she wants to act on the feelings she’s had for him since she was a child. But Logan didn’t survive Afghanistan to have these kind of logistical problems throw him through a loop. He and Emma have a mind-blowing night (and morning) before she gets back on a plane to head home.

Yet this is when all hell breaks loose for Logan, who doesn’t even have the time to wrangle her phone number from someone so he can let her know how much he’s missing her. Emma back in the city is miserable that her sister and her new husband have dropped off the face of the earth for three weeks and the man who gave her the best sex of her life also hasn’t lifted the phone to call. She’s feeling unsettled and unhappy and life intervenes to show her that she needs to head back to Oklahoma in order to figure out exactly what Logan and she might have. Right. Now.

There were so many pieces of this book that I not only enjoyed but found downright refreshing. The dialogue and language was true to the characters while never venturing into the wince-worthy “hick” dialect that so many authors feel necessary for cowboy romance. While there was a decent amount of jealousy and tension regarding Jace and Tara, the reader was always comforted that Logan and Emma were clear on who they wanted to be with, and the little triangles made the drama seem so realistic, I felt I was at a real wedding! Can I also complement Cat Johnson on demonstrating how a hero can be a strong man while also not being an asshole? It’s a pretty key point that so many writers today seem to miss, and she demonstrates how Logan is a sexy, dominating guy while being a gentleman down to his toes.

Based on the teaser chapter at the end, it’s clear that Tara and Jace are going to have to move beyond their hang-ups and issues to grow up a little since they are clearly the next intended match in the Oklahoma Nights series, with their story, Three Weeks With a Bull Rider, projected to come out in March of 2014. I for one am looking forward to going along for the ride and seeing another Oklahoma couple steam up Stillwater. 🙂

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