Tag Archives: Anthology

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of February 16, 2014

16 Feb

Upcoming Books and New Releases

rushing amyFor fans of romance novels featuring football heroes, check out Avon’s upcoming release, Rushing Amy by Julie Brannagh which comes out on February 25th and it’s the second book in the author’s Love and Football series. An arrogant ex-NFL star meets a gorgeous florist at her sister’s wedding and is shocked when his patented moves prove he’s got no game with this particular woman. It’s always nice when the heroes have to step up their game, isn’t it? I don’t know if the price is permanent, but as of right now, the Kindle version is only $1.99 with the paperback at the usual release price of around $6, so I’ve taken advantage of the ebook discount.

Lori Wilde is well-known for her small-town Twilight, Texas series and recently the books she’s put out for that series have had some tie-in to a holiday, and since she does a great job bringing the spirit of a holiday into the plot, more power to her! The latest addition is The Valentine’s Day Disaster, book #4.5 in the series, and features an injured NASCAR driver looking to recuperate in his hometown who ends up face-to-face with his high school sweetheart during the town’s Valentine’s Day auction. Out already so go get it!

Lynsay Sands clearly deserves a yearly word count award as she keeps cranking out book after book for her Argeneau series (and vampire fiction fans appreciate all her hard work). The latest addition is the 20th book in the series (woohoo!), and Vampire Most Wanted has a renegade Argeneau hiding out in Southern California and the vampire sent to bring her back to Louisana for questioning. Put February 18th in your calendar or better yet, pre-order it.

With my adoration of all things steampunk/gaslight, I’m really not sure how author Lynn Viehl and her Disenchanted & Co series managed to sneak past me this year. Featuring a female private investigator living in an America which lost the Revolutionary War, this series looks terrific – it even has a love triangle with both an Inspector and a mage vying for the heroine’s affections! With the release of the second book in the series, A Clockwork Wolf, coming out on February 25th and having our heroine petitioned by the noblewoman responsible for ruining her, I’m going to be playing catch up this week and reading these novels.

Elle Kennedy has romance readers everywhere fanning themselves with her Out of Uniform series and the latest addition, As Hot As It Gets, is actually the tenth book in the series and centers on a sexy SEAL who, after watching all his teammates find their true love, discovers a sexy gardner who pushes all his buttons…and has so many obligations she’s not open to dating. Give a SEAL a challenge and expect all the stops to be pulled out.

Vivian Arend‘s most recent Thompson & Sons novel, Baby, Be Mine, will be on the shelves as of February 25th and I’ve had this one pre-ordered since December 15th as the initial buzz was so great. When a heroine has a car accident and loses her memory (and let’s just say that one particular memory of that night is pretty key), she’s more than baffled as to how she can be pregnant, but she’s further confused when a good friend comes back from a work assignment two months later acting like he has rights where she is concerned. What gives? Do yourself a favor and get the fantastic anthology Marked which has not only the first book in this new series but also two other amazing books by Kit Rocha and Lauren Dane while you are waiting for this one.

Contests and Giveaways

Historical romance fans love Elizabeth Hoyt for good reason, so if you enjoy her books or have simply wanted to try them, you may want to take a look at the Goodreads giveaway for the first book in her Legend of the Four Soldiers series, To Taste Temptation. When a self-made man wearing moccasins shows up among the ton with a reputation for fleeing a massacre in North America that many English gentlemen didn’t survive, society is scandalized but one young woman is nothing but fascinated with the forthright, sensual man who made it through the battle her brother did not. When that same gentleman begins to suspect her fiancee of culpability in the battle’s outcome, she must decide whether she can rely on her newly formed trust to tell help her ferret out the truth. Enter before the February 28th deadline for your chance to win.

Entangled Publishing recently released three fantastic military romances under the Brazen imprint – including Staking His Claim by Tessa Bailey, Tawna Fenske’s Marine for Hire and Temporarily Yours by Diane Alberts– and they are still celebrating with a terrific giveaway on the Fiction Vixen website. Prizes include a Kindle Paperwhite, signed copies of the books and 2 $25 Amazon gift cards, so unlock the Rafflecopter interface and get your entries before the February 26th deadline.

Since I’m a fan of Gina Maxwell‘s world of MMA Fighters in her Fighting for Love series, I was thrilled to see that her excellent Entangled ebooks have been picked up by St. Martin’s Press to be published in print. The second excellent book in the series, Rules of Entanglement, will be coming out in paperback on February 25th, and anyone interested in winning a copy should hustle over to the Goodreads giveaway immediately and enter the contest by February 17th (that’s tomorrow!). With this ridiculous cold weather, watching an uptight district attorney let her hair down with an MMA fighter while she plans her best friend’s (and his sister’s) wedding is exactly what the weatherman ordered!

Fun Stuff

Those clever editors at Avon Publishing have come up with a “choose your own adventure” type book, except this time it’s a naughty romantic adventure. A Girl Walks Into a Bar: Your Fantasy, Your Rules is written in the first person and offers periodic decisions (like wearing control top panties, naughty underwear or going commando) with the adventure directing you to the page of your next adventure. It’s tough to say from the Amazon preview as to weather the ebook as direct hyperlinks to the place in the text, but it’s an intriguing direction for romance fiction or erotica to venture. Author Helena S. Paige is purportedly doing more than one, so take a look and see if this could be something you’d like – I can picture it being a great present for a girls’ night out/bachelorette party!

My love for sports romance fiction is no secret, so I was pleased to see several wonderful authors like Cassandra Carr and Kelly Jamieson band together and form the Hockey Romance website to promote their upcoming work to fans. This is a great idea since if you enjoy one hockey romance, you might certainly enjoy another, so cross promoting like-minded authors leads to greater discoverability. I hope they start blogging about their favorite teams, the Stanley Cup playoffs and tricky concepts like icing to help readers appreciate the genre even more!

If you know someone who didn’t have the greatest Valentine’s Day, a terrific gift would be one that allows them to dwell on all their favorite Hollywood stars. As good as chocolate would be Color Me Swoon: The Beefcake Activity Guide for Good Color-Inners As Well As Beginners with it’s representations of Ryan Gosling, George Clooney and Brad Pitt just begging for your set of colored pencils and some “me” time. British artist Mel Eliott has given all of us a chance to reconnect with our inner (ahem) child, so thanks Mel!

The toughest part of choosing a calendar is always debating the cute animals approach versus the hot shirtless guys you’d like to also be looking at. Compromise no more! Hot Guys and Baby Animals 2014 combines two of your favorite things and tells you what day of the week it is. You’re welcome.

Great Deals

Harlequin Blaze’s Uniformly Hot series is one of my favorites and if you enjoy your category romance with a military hero, I suggest you take a look. A great way to dip a toe is to take advantage of the great Uniformly Hot! Volume 1 Bundle, featuring three books from Rhonda Nelson, Tawny Weber and Karen Foley – three writers with serious military chops. Harlequin books are always well priced, but $.99 for over 500 pages of hot heroes and feisty heroines is the ultimate bargain.

I love Kresley Cole‘s paranormal novels (she has an entire section of my Kindle app devoted to her) and her recent contemporary The Professional was amazing, so I’m eager to sample her historical novels. A great way to try one out is to take advantage of the ebook sale on If You Deceive, the third book in her Scottish McCarrick Brothers trilogy. A former Highland nobleman, beaten and scarred years ago for a crime he didn’t commit, finds the opportunity for the ultimate revenge when he realizes the man who caused him all this pain has a gorgeous daughter, one he can seduce with false promises and then cast aside. Naturally his plan goes awry, but can love survive the ultimate deception?

This great deal could have also been in the Upcoming Books section with a release date of March 3rd, but with seven books from seven really wonderful authors, the Lucky 7 Bad Boys Contemporary Romance Boxed Set should be on everyone’s pre-order list, particularly with the price of $.99. Readers ge 2000 pages by Charity Pinerio, Sophia Knightly, Tawny Weber, Nina Bruhns, Susan Hatler, Virna DePaul and Kristin Miller, so I think we end up being the lucky ones!

That’s it for this week. Happy reading!

December Read-a-Thon: Remind Yourself How Lucky You Are With the Military Anthology, A Soldier’s Christmas

28 Dec

A Soldier’s Christmas, featuring novellas by Leslie Kelly, Joanne Rock, and Karen Foley (Harlequin Blaze, December 1, 2013)

I’m a sucker for military romance any month out of the year, but come December, romances featuring members of our armed forces grab me by the throat as much as those damn Hallmark commercials or that Apple commercial with the kid who makes the video which induces the whole family to cry.

Fortunately the addition of hot sex and the promise of a happily ever after helps balance me out, and even luckier for me, the clever editors over at Harlequin’s Blaze line seem to know this, as based on their latest holiday anthology,  A Soldier’s Christmas.

Because it’s Blaze, readers get the perfect combination of sexy heat in these encounters balanced by the holiday “awwwww” each of them evokes. Luckily each of these three excellent writers have serious military romance chops, so you’ll be impressed by the tone and authenticity of each novella, I promise. Let’s get to the breakdown, okay?

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Leslie Kelly

Although it’s not yet listed on Leslie Kelly’s Santori series (featuring a very fun and feisty Italian American family from Chicago), this novella is actually part of that group. Ellie can’t believe that Rafe Santori has turned up at the New Year’s Eve party for a local pet rescue. This soldier broke up with her years ago after the best relationship (and sex) of her life, telling her that it was unfair to make her wait for him when he had several more years of service ahead of him in the Rangers. He seems shocked that she’s recently engaged to her good friend Dennis, but why would he be? He told her to move on and that’s exactly what this veterinary student has done. One slow dance and a New Year’s kiss that drags up old memories and he disappears. Again.

Flash forward a couple of years and Ellie is stranded in the airport in New York on Christmas Eve, desperate to get back to Chicago to be with Dennis and her family. While she didn’t marry him, he did marry her best friend – Rafe’s divebombing back in her life made Ellie realize that she didn’t have the necessary spark with Dennis (but he did with someone else). He’s a great partner with their small animal clinic and since it’s his baby’s first Christmas Ellie wants to be there. With a massive snowstorm burying the East Coast in snow, her only hope is to rent an SUV and chance the roads. Guess what soldier just got the last one?

Don’t Open Till Christmas (Santori Stories #3 – Mark and Noelle) by Leslie Kelly (Harlequin Blaze, 2005)

Yep, it’s Rafe, who seems startled to see her but hesitantly asks if Ellie wants to share his ride. She realizes that this is fate giving her the opportunity to see if the man she fell in love with seven years ago still exists under that uniform. For Rafe, he knows he’s torturing himself with a married woman but he can’t help it – the thought of Ellie is what gave him comfort during some lonely nights and if he has to live with the reminder that he was an idiot for letting her go then so be it. The news that she is not married – especially when combined with his revelation that he’s officially stateside for one more year in the Rangers and then he’s a civilian – puts a whole different tone on their trip home. A few sexy detours into questionable motels due to the weather and these two people are contemplating that a Christmas miracle may have occurred…if they can convince the other person to take a chance.

One of my favorite things about Leslie Kelly’s writing is her sense of humor and this novella is no exception, continuing the hilarious situational fun and banter that I found in another book of the series (also a Christmas themed one), Don’t Open Until Christmas, Rafe’s brother Mark and his wife Noelle’s full-length novel. The whole series is fantastic (this is one over the top Italian family I’d love to join) but both Mark Santori’s story and this novella featuring his war-weary brother, Rafe, will brighten your holiday season.

“Presents Under the Tree” by Joanne Rock

Las Vegas producer Arianna Demakis is nervous this Christmas Eve and it’s not because she’s juggling three shows tonight. No, the reason she’s on edge is because sexy Air Force Captain Dylan Rivera – a man who gave her one unforgettable night four months ago – has promised to spend the holiday with her. It’s almost midnight and Ari is worried that he’s a no show, and she’s disappointed (but not surprised) since Dylan went on a mission right after their tequila-fueled celebration. She hasn’t heard from him since and it’s not a huge shock except for the fact that they are…um…married.

Full Surrender by Joanne Rock (Harlequin Blaze, September 1, 2012)

Dylan makes it to Ari by the skin of his teeth in the parking lot outside one of her theaters and finds himself as lost in her beauty and fire as ever. He’s happy to see she’s still wearing the ring he put on her finger four months ago but he knows she’s bound to ask for a divorce. He’s loved Ari since they were friends in high school, and couldn’t believe his luck when she showed up for his thirtieth birthday celebration. They’d promised each other senior year that they’d consider getting married if they both hit the big 3-0 and weren’t hitched yet. But he knows she must be worried that their alcohol-filled night was a mistake and he’s got a limited amount of time to convince her.

Dylan was adorable in his geekiness and the fact that he’s been thinking about Ari for years. He finds her fierce independence not just sexy but also potentially exactly what they would need if she agrees to give this marriage a chance – his tech job is perfect for a former chess club leader but his work falls under the highly classified label and he’ll potentially be out of touch for weeks and months at a time. Rock does a great job sketching both characters and showing their shared history and common interests that make their sudden marriage actually believable. I did wish that there was a little more discussion for the final revelation of feelings – and a hint of exactly how their relationship would work. I also felt like I was missing if this excellent novella was connected to another story; Ari compares her marriage to her friend Krista, who is married to a Lt. Col. (Lars?) in the Air Force – is this another Uniformly Hot novel? I really wish that Blaze would make a point of just tucking in a reference for readers at the start or end of novellas when there is a connection to another story. I don’t want to miss out and I’m enough of a completionist to be irritated if there’s another book I should be reading, particularly by an an author whose work I enjoyed in another story.

This was my first Joanne Rock story and I’ll definitely be trying another. She seems to have written quite a few military romances and other Blaze novels, as well as has a few historicals under her belt and is clearly an author worth exploring!

“If Only In My Dreams” by Karen Foley

Hot-Blooded by Karen Foley (Harlequin Blaze, 2010)

Navy SEAL Aiden Cross cannot figure out why he feels so horrible or why he’s no longer with his team traipsing through the African jungle on their mission. The only silver lining about waking up in a hot tent in excruciating pain is seeing army medic, Sergeant Lily Munroe hovering over him. He’s been attracted to her since the first moment he saw her nine months ago at a joint operations center in Entebbe. Knowing that relationships in the field can be more like hook-ups and often disrespectful to the women involved, he ignored his attraction (and hers). Much to his chagrin, his team buddy Brad swooped in and got involved with her, so she’s doubly off limits now, even if Aiden wasn’t suffering from Dengue fever. The only silver lining in all this pain is the news that he’s being shipped stateside for recovery in time for Christmas with his family and that Lily is going with him since she’s rotating out.

Lily has been extremely worried about Aiden and is more than a little nervous about traveling with him. Christmas is a pretty unhappy time in her family since her mother died on Christmas Eve when Lily was still a child, so she’s in no rush to get home. Despite her being attracted to Aiden and letting him know it, he wasn’t interested, hence her childish flirting with his buddy which came to nothing. When Aiden mentions on the trip home that he only believes in serious relationships and Lily knows she only does casual – having seen how hurt people can be when someone they love dies – she thinks that’s the door closing officially on anything they might have. But a combination of getting snowed into a midwest town without hope of making it home for the holiday, and her dispelling Aiden’s misconceptions that she’s in a relationship, seems to make their dynamic take a drastic shift. Sharing the last room in town might help Lily get her Christmas wish of Aiden in her bed, but the question still remains if there can be any kind of future between them.

OMG – such a good novella. I enjoyed having a military story not set in the Middle East and especially liked the realistic feeling of the misunderstanding between Aiden and Lily regarding her “relationship” with Brad. The B&B scenes were heartwarming and did a great job demonstrating Aiden’s ability to truly understand Lily and her fears – this was one man who I bet was amazing on a mission considering how focused he was on his objective! I’ve enjoyed several of Foley’s other military romances but just went out and bought a few others based on how hot and sweet this one was. She bowled me over!

Because of the nature of a soldier’s life, it’s hard not to come away from A Soldier’s Christmas being both high on the bittersweet romance of each story as well as impressed by the writing. As a reader, you are naturally thankful both for the men and women of our armed forces but also for being at home with family during the holidays when so many other people aren’t. I think a lot of the emotion I experienced reading this anthology wasn’t just provoked by the outstanding stories told, but how fortunate I felt to have love and family this holiday season in my life after seeing each of these couples experience their emotional roller-coaster during a potentially difficult time.

This is a terrific addition by the Blaze line to both their quality holiday novellas as well as their military romance collection.

Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 21, 2013

22 Dec

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Jacquelyn Frank‘s next book in the Nightwalkers series, Forsaken, will be debuting on January 7th and fans are chomping at the bit. Mercenary Leo Alvarez is dealing with his best friend now embodying an ancient pharaoh and he now needs to protect his friend from supernatural beings more dangerous than he could ever imagine. His unlikely ally is the Night Angel, a stunning creature who sets him aflame while also wielding power like he has never seen.

It’s now less than 10 days until the anthology Turn Up the Heat is published, and readers who snatch up books by Lori Foster, Christie Ridgway, and Victoria Dahl have already pre-ordered (and you should, too). Alpha males, beautiful woman and a love worth winning are a common theme of each hot, contemporary novella and I for one cannot wait. Pre-order it and have a great New Year with this book on your doorstep or delivered to your e-reader.

This past week gaslight fans all breathed a sigh of happiness as Kristen Callihan released the fourth book in her successful Darkest London series with Shadowdance. Mary Chase is happy in her work for the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals and when tasked with bringing down the vicious murderer labeled the Bishop of Charing Cross, she is determined to be successful. Her annoying rival Jack Talent also appears to be on the case and while it would make sense to work together, this lone wolf never does. Mary doesn’t realize that Jack would like to work closer…much closer…with her but the temptation she offers combined with the danger has him worried that if their killer doesn’t hurt her the ghosts from his past may.

Fun Stuff

‘Tis the season for finding awesome gifts for readers, and a truly unique gift can be found at Spineless Classics which offers the entire text of a book in a single poster with a unique design which manages to evoke the story. From children’s classics like the first Harry Potter book, James and the Giant Peach, among others, historical classics, nonfiction works like The Origin of the Species, to the New Testament, there is something for any kind of reader. At just under $70 these unframed posters are an investment but make a truly awesome gift.

I bet you have probably used the phrase “kick-ass” in reference to a strong woman (hopefully yourself!) but did you ever wonder when this phrase became part of our lexicon? The outstanding Romance Novels for Feminists blog has an outstanding analysis of when we started saying this (the late 1970s, a key time period for women) and has some great examples of which heroine it has been applied to in the post, “From Whence the Kick-Ass Heroine?”

Did you know Microsoft is working on a bra that will help read our body cues to alert us if we are going to begin eating emotionally? Prevention Magazine recently announced that the prototype, which measures heart rate, breathing rates, skin temperature and movement, still won’t be able to account for the holidays as a factor (what, they can’t add in a clock?) but should help people be more aware of their habits. So my immediate questions are 1) how to wash it and 2) what are men going to do?

Contests and Giveaways

From the Fresh Fiction blog, the author who actually invented the military romance, Lindsay McKenna, is the focus of a fantastic contest to win her entire Wyoming series, which appears to encompass both her Jackson Hole series as well as her Shadow Warriors series, in addition to others. Enter before Christmas to have a shot of getting most of this legend’s oeuvre.

Another holiday motherload of books contest can be found at The Rock Stars of Romance website which is hosting a contest to win a $100 gift card and a TON of ebooks and paperbacks from terrific authors. Hurry over there to enter, however, as this contest ends tomorrow.

The romance industry’s major publication, RT Book Reviews, is hosting a giveaway for all the books in the Baskerville Affair Trilogy, the series by Emma Jane Holloway which focuses on the niece of Sherlock Holmes and the steampunk world she inhabits as she attempts to live up to her family’s reputation for solving mysteries. The contest ends 12/27/2013, so use the Rafflecopter interface and enter to win!

Under the Covers Book Blog is giving away a copy of Jaci Burton’s Holiday Games, the wonderful holiday novella tied to her Play-by-Play series which stars the members of the incredibly talented Riley family. Enter by Christmas to see if you can win a copy of this terrific addition to the series.

Harlequin is celebrating the holidays by offering a unique bundle of historical romances (from all time periods and settings) as a giveaway and you become eligible to win by simply leaving a comment before December 29th. With authors like Nicola Cornick, Jeannie Lin, and Susan Wiggs, historical romance readers are bound to think that Harlequin headquarters is actually at the North Pole (well, they have to read something to keep warm, right?).

The blog Hesperia Loves Books is a having a wonderful giveaway for paranormal readers who love dragon shifters, offering the three current books in Jamie Rush‘s The Hidden series, but also ARCs for the next two books in the series, and a custom dog tag. Go over today and enter as the contest closes at midnight!

You’ll have to move fast but fans of Jeaniene Frost‘s Night Huntress series have a chance to win an ARC of the final Cat & Bones novel, Up From the Grave, if they send an email to Frost no later than midnight on the 23rd (tomorrow!). Details are up on her website, so get those fingers moving to let this wonderful author know you are interested in a leg up on reading this long-awaited novel.

Tawny Weber is having a great giveaway for her holiday book, Naughty Christmas Nights, and all you have to do is go use the Rafflecopter entry form by Christmas Eve to be considered. About two rival lingerie companies and the man and woman who are fighting for their future, the heat between them begins to mean more than getting the account.

Great Deals

Available for free right now is a collection of nine short stories, each from a different author, and encompassing a variety of romance genres and heat levels. Gratis: Midwinter Tales just came out on December 19th and clearly has a holiday theme, so give yourself a totally free present and see if you can find a new author to enjoy.

Also currently free is the steamy short from Alexandra Ivy and Laura Wright, Bayou Noel, about a Louisiana woman who is tired of waiting for the man she’s loved from afar to notice her. After five years, it’s clearly not going to happen, but she couldn’t possibly anticipate what a simple letter informing him that she’s leaving would unleash. This story falls between the eighth and ninth books of this shapeshifter series and as always, it’s as hot and steamy as a Louisiana swamp, so enjoy!

Elisabeth Naughton‘s first Eternal Guardians book, Marked, is currently available for free on Amazon, so snap it up. About a woman marked to die and the 200-year-old descendent of Hercules whose job it is to bring her in order to save his people, this paranormal romance has tortured alpha males and beautiful women who have the power to bring them back from the brink, all set in a political world with its own agenda.

Jennifer Skully (aka Jasmine Haynes) has reissued her book, Sex and the Serial Killer under its new title She’s Gotta Be Mine, and it’s currently free! The first of her Cottonmouth series, fans of zany romance and eccentric characters will definitely want to take a look at this story which features a divorced woman who bounces back from her husband leaving her for his high school sweetheart by undergoing a massive makeover. Not content with simply changing her appearance, she also decides to take up with the town’s sexy bad boy who is rumored to be a serial killer. Exactly. Go get it, now!

Courtney Milan‘s first novel of her The Brothers Sinister series (really a prequel), The Governess Affair, is also free right now on Amazon, and it’s a book that’s gotten kudos from historical romance readers around the world. When a hero who started off as the son of a coal miner and rose to be the right-hand man of a duke and feared throughout the country can’t get rid of a governess, well, love is clearly in the air.

One of my favorite novellas of all time is on sale for only $.99 – Laura Kaye’s Hearts in Darkness! About two people trapped in an elevator who never got a good look at one another but who are drawn together as they talk and um…do other things…it’s truly characteristic of Kaye’s hot, sweet writing style. Similarly, her fascinating stand-alone vampire tale, Forever Freed, is also only $.99, so check them both out so Laura Kaye can make your holiday a little brighter.

Suzanne Brockmann‘s novel, The Unsung Hero, the first book in her Troubleshooters series, is on sale for $.99, a great price for 416 pages of romantic suspense with a Navy SEAL hero. Lt. Tom Paoletti spots a terrorist when at home recovering from a head injury but the powers that be dismiss it as the product of his concussion. He assembles an eclectic team of his friends and experts, including Dr. Kelly Ashton, the girl-next-door who has grown into a compelling and beautiful woman. But all of them may not be enough to take down this bad guy and Tom begins to realize that protecting Kelly might be even more important than taking down this particular tango. Can he manage both?

Lynsay Sands seems to have enough Argeneau novels that one of them is always on sale (lucky for us) and this week’s deal is Immortal Ever After about a woman captured by a psychopath who seems to have fangs and the vampire savior who claims she is his mate. Only $1.99 it’s a great deal for a full-length novel from this excellent paranormal author.

Cherry Adair‘s book Hush from her wonderful Lodestone trilogy is on sale for $1.99 and has two thrill-seeking brothers who experience a kidnapping and a woman who is kidnapped along with them. When Zak and the woman’s escape reveal a new ability for him, he needs to figure out how to use it to find his missing brother. Quite a…um…large machete he’s wielding on the cover, yes?

That’s it for this week. I’ve got a review of a terrific anthology coming up this afternoon, but I hope you have a great Christmas with lots of amazing books as your present.

Happy reading!!

December Read-a-Thon: Married, Marine, and Menage Are Three Holiday Gifts Put Under Your Tree with Menage on 34th Street

16 Dec

I actually managed to somehow not realize that this story, as well as the already-reviewed Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin, is part of a Carina Press erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction. While I have no problem reviewing each story one by one (particularly since you can buy them that way), if the quality of writing I’ve seen so far is any indication, an interested reader should probably demonstrate proper holiday frugality and purchase the collection. 😉

This novella possessed an edginess that I realized was also present in Matzoh and Mistletoe. Rather than gloss over real conflict or turn to a magical “love conquers all” scenario, both stories face the complications and difficulties of the potential situation head on in a way that was slightly reminiscent of author Lauren Dane to me. Yet unlike Dane, who has the book length to get her couples and triads to a happily ever after, Menage on 34th Street ends with a “happily for now” that honestly has me fretting for the characters I’ve come to care about.

Kat and Liam are a happily married couple who have both missed someone for over a decade. Their friend, Hunter, wanted Kat for himself and upon finding her with Liam, bolted and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Ten years later, he’s back in Baltimore and not looking forward to seeing this happy couple again since it represents what he can never have.

Liam lies to Hunter, telling him Kat is visiting her sister in another state, in order to lure him over to their house on Christmas Eve. What Hunter doesn’t know is that Liam knew Kat better than Hunter did back in the day, realizing that one man would never satisfy her. He had hoped to add Hunter to their relationship, particularly because Liam also felt that Hunter desired a relationship with a man as well as with Kat. But Hunter ran from both of them, not realizing Kat’s predilections and frightened of his feelings for Liam. Now that it’s Christmas, Liam can think of no better present for all of them than to be together the way they should have been.

Season of Seduction anthology, with stories by Jeffe Kennedy, Christine d’Abo, Elise Logan & Emily Ryan-Davis, and Jodie Griffin (Carina Press, November 21, 2013)

When Kat walks downstairs in a barely-there piece of lingerie given to her by Liam, she’s startled to see Hunter, who left her without so much as a goodbye all those years ago. While she loves Liam, he occasionally invites a temporary and carefully vetted third into their relationship for them both, but that’s gotten tired. One look at Hunter and Kat realizes she’s been trying to find someone to fill his place, something no one clearly will manage after one glimpse of the smoking hot Marine who has replaced the troubled boy who left before.

This story leaps pretty quickly into the sexual situation yet simultaneously delivers an astonishing amount of backstory effortlessly, a fact that impressed the hell out of me. The reader is exposed to all the messy emotions and feelings of each character, generating a terrific amount of empathy for each of them. Triads always have the complication of having to negotiate not two but three people’s feelings and baggage, no easy feat.

The hardest part for me about this relationship was not the rough emotional baggage of Liam and Hunter, but Hunter’s career with the Marines. He’s brutally honest about exactly how hard his work and possible deployments would be in a relationship – particularly without the military support system offered to official spouses – but that all three would have to keep their relationship a secret in order to not endanger Hunter’s career is a huge obstacle. How on earth can they manage that and still have a healthy relationship? This was why the ending is a “happily for now” and not something with a more permanent resolution, and truth be told, I’m still thinking about these people, worrying about their future! These three love each other so much and have since they were teenagers; I don’t want to see anything happen to break their hearts.

This uncertainty makes me wonder if the writing duo of Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis (who share a website at Scorchedsheets.com) don’t plan an additional book about these protagonists or some of the interesting secondary characters they introduced. If so, I’ll certainly be buying it! Their writing has an incredible mix of finely drawn characters, plenty of conflict and unbelievably hot sex scenes. That’s my go-to trifecta when it comes to must-buy books.

Consider adding this particular menage story to your holiday pile – you will not need to turn up the heat to get warm while reading it.

Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 1, 2013

1 Dec

Upcoming Books and New Releases

For romance readers who can’t get enough of hot boxers and MMA fighters, I strongly suggest you run (don’t walk) to Abby NilesLove to the Extreme series. The second book, Fighting Love, is due out on December 31st (pre-ordered, woohoo!) and features former Middleweight champion and ladies man Tommy “Lightening” Sparks who not only just lost his title, but also his home when it burned down. Forced to move in with his best friend since they were children, vet Julie Rogers, he wakes up when Julie starts sniffing around another fighter, realizing she’s actually an unbelieveably desirable woman…and he suddenly has something worth fighting for. To make this an even more delicious announcement, Abby Niles is having a terrific $100 gift card to the bookseller of your choice giveway on her blog. Enter before January 3rd.

Paula Altenburg just released the next installment of her Demon Outlaws series, Black Widow Demon, the story of a half-demon woman escaping her fundamentalist stepfather only to embark on a mission of revenge. An intense mortal stranger known as Blade is on his own path to redemption and decides to help her reach a friend who can help her, while trying to persuade her to release her vendetta, but their journey reveals that both their futures are about to change. Publisher Entangled is also running a giveaway over the next month, offering five $10 Amazon or B&N gift cards to winners, so fill out the Rafflecopter entry when adding this book to your to-read list.

It’s no secret that I adore Lauren Dane’s writing, so I was thrilled to see that she’s partnered with author Megan Hart to publish a duology (is that what you call an anthology with two stories?) on December 3rd entitled There All Along. The stories sound amazing, but even more intriguing that (despite the cover – not that I’m complaining) these stories are set in futuristic worlds. Considering Dane nailed science fiction romance in her jaw-droppingly awesome Federation Chronicles series, I feel like I’m in good hands. As usual.

Fans of the computer geek turned hunky hero will want to check out Cat Johnson‘s latest reissue from her Red, Hot & Blue series, Matt, which just came out on November 26th. The 11th book in this successful series, Matt focuses on Matt Coleman, certified genius and the dependable computer guy for Task Force Zeta. Having watched so many of team find love and happiness, he’s even more disgusted that he never goes on assignment. But when a chance comes for him to head to Dubai, and in the company of the only female agent on the task force Samantha Coleman, needed to infiltrate a modern-day harem to ferret out a terrorist. Things are going to get hot in the desert with this unlikely pairing as they discover they are more than compatible on assignment – and in the bedroom.

I adore Lisa Marie Rice and her various suspense series, so I was thrilled to see that she has packaged her Dangerous series in a boxed set. Ignore the Amazon list that says its 100 pages – that’s not even possible considering the length of each book. Three kickbutt books – one about a military operative who has dreamt of the wealthy young woman who he loved as a homeless boy, another about an agent who feigns interest in a small town librarian who is friends with a deadly target only to discover his interest is very real, and finally (my favorite) a deadly arms dealer who fall first in love with an artist’s work only to then fall for the artist herself even though he puts in her mortal danger by doing so – for $11.04 is completely worth it. If you haven’t had a chance to try this great series from Rice, take this opportunity to do so.

Jill Shalvis can always be counted upon to give us a great Christmas novella, and she’s leading off a terrific anthology – A Christmas to Remember – along with Kristen Ashley, Hope Ramsay, Molly Cannon, and Marilyn Pappano. Filled with small town goodness, sexy firefighters and doctors, war widows, and holiday magic, this 225+ page compilation by Forever Yours publishing is only $1.99 right now and will come out on December 3rd, so get your copy ASAP.

New author Jamie Wyman just debuted her newest book, Wild Card, via Entangled Publishing, this past week, and it’s got some of my favorite elements – troublesome gods and goddesses interfering in people’s lives. Catherine Sharp’s soul has been won by the Greek Goddess of Discord and while she didn’t enjoy her previous dead end job, weird tasks for her new mistress aren’t exactly a cake walk. When Coyote, the Native American trickster god claims to have won her in a poker game, Cat has enough and enlists a satryr, Marius, with his own bone to pick with the goddess. Together they might be able to reclaim their lives and destiny, if their growing feelings for one another don’t complicate the situation. Fans of Think Geek, the store that is a mecca for the unashamedly nerdy, will be thrilled to know that Entangled even has a contest over the next month for a gift card to that store and custom poker chips to celebrate this debut paranormal romance novel.

Steampunk goddess Meljean Brook just announced that her wonderful novellas, The Blushing Bounder and Wrecked, both part of her enormously successful Iron Seas series, are now available as stand alone books, for those fans who were reluctant to purchase them in anthology form bundled with the work of other authors. Gorgeous covers and the price of $.99  and $1.99 respectively make these books a steal.

Giveaways

Twins are vital to plenty of romance novels, including historical romance writer Victoria Morgan whose latest novel, The Heart of a Duke, comes out on December 3rd. Lady Julia Chandler’s patience is wearing thin as the Duke of Bedford is taking forever to propose, so she decides to take the reins in hand and corner him with a kiss to hasten things along. What she doesn’t take into account is that the Duke’s twin brother has returned after ten years due to a note that told him to come home and claim his destiny and a subsequent fire that almost took his life. Something is afoot and his evil brother might be behind it, but in addition to solving the mystery he know has to contend with a fascination with the bold woman who deserves more than the Duke of Bedford. Enter the Goodreads giveaway before December 3rd for a chance to win!

Coastal Romance blogger Jenny Schwartz (and that’s the coast of Australia, FYI) is having a Christmas Blog Hop giveaway until December 24th, where you could win a $100 gift card to the ebookseller of your choice and 26 ebooks from this writing group’s authors. Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter entry on the website and sit back with your fingers crossed that you will get an extra wonderful holiday present this season!

In what sounds like a tantalizing new science fiction/military suspense series, The D.I.R.E. Agency, new author Joni Hahn is publishing the first book, Agent I1: Tristan, a second generation Navy SEAL who just finished getting some scientific enhancements to his body (like transportation and invisibility). His ramped up ability means it’s even more important to steer clear of relationships, but he can’t help coming to the aid of one of his fellow agents when he asks him to help take out his sister’s fiancee. Rachel Monroe cannot believe that her brother has ruined her plan to help her mother when he asked his friend to transport her (seriously?!) to a remote island. Now not only is she stuck with a sexy agent when that job description is literally the last one she’d consider when falling for someone. It may be too late for both of them, however… With this book due out on December 16th, interested science fiction romance fans might want to consider entering the Goodreads giveaway before December 8th to see if they can win a copy.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Sara Ramsey added a fourth book to her Muses of Mayfair series, The Earl Who Played with Fire, and if you haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet, you can enter for a chance to win it on the Goodreads giveaway. Demure Prudence Etchingham leads quite the double life – not only is smitten with her best friend’s brother, but she’s also responsible for some of the top forgeries around London, created so she can raise enough money to avoid marriage since she can’t have the man she wants. Alex Staunton, the wealthy Earl of Staunton, has managed to hide his feelings for his sister’s best friend as his family suffers from a curse that prevents them from marrying the woman of his dreams. When an enemy takes an interest in Prudence, Alex realizes he must figure out a way to break the curse and save the woman he loves. Be sure to fill out the entry form prior to December 5th for your chance to win.

It’s impossible not to love Jill ShalvisAnimal Magnetism series (well, I guess you could not love if you disliked humor, adorable animals, brave heroines, or hot former military men, but that’s your business, you poor sap), but if for some reason you haven’t yet bought the latest book in the series, Rumor Has It, there is a Goodreads giveaway where you can win a copy if you apply prior to December 5th. You’ll want to read the story of returning soldier Griffin Reid, returning home having not told his friends and family about the career ending head injury he suffered overseas. His sister’s best friend, the quirky and gorgeous Kate Evans, not only manages to ride herd on a bunch of fourth graders each day but she takes care of her father and difficult siblings. She wants something just for her and nothing could fit that bill more than sexy times with Griffin, who she has lusted after for years. Although he knows Kate doesn’t do casual and that’s all Griffin does, he can’t help playing with fire, and soon they both realize this situation is a lot more complicated than they imagined.

Fun Stuff

Do you remember my telling you about Oyster, the Netflix-like subscription source that offers a ton of books (including romance novels) to readers? That company is offering gift subscriptions for people you love who are using Apple devices (remember they need to run OS 7 for the best clarity) in 1, 3, 6, or 12 month increments (or you can choose your own number of months). You can either have the gift notification emailed to your recipient or it looks like you can have something to put in your loved one’s stocking, but either way, you’re giving them over 100,000 books for the holiday. Pretty sweet!

As the year winds to a close, best of lists are bound to pop up. For paranormal romance lovers, I can heartily recommend taking a look at Vampire Book Club’s Best of 2013 list – they have hit every wonderful book that came out this year and would be a great guide to insure you didn’t miss something spectacular (because there’s a LOT of spectacular on there!).

Audiobooks lovers are always picky about headphones, particularly if they enjoy their recorded books while exercising. LG is coming out with a sleek set of headphones in the next couple of weeks, their Tone Ultra line, which connects to your device via Bluetooth, so no more annoying, bouncing (or too short) cable going to your phone or MP3 player. With easy to use volume controls and a microphone on the stable band that goes around your neck, you can actually switch quickly from listening to your latest romance novel to answering a phone call.

While fans of Nora Roberts have usually heard about how she wrote her first book after being snowed in with her two very young sons in 1979, it’s fascinating to hear about how her previous work and her many creative endeavors left her unsatisfied until she tried writing. Take a look at The Popular Romance Project’s 5 minute interview with this funny, prolific author and enjoy the insight into her life.

Ereader fans know that there is nothing more frustrating than being out of charge when you are right in the middle of a great book with no outlet in sight! For just those moments, Mimoco offers adorable, fun batteries which can plug in to give extra life to your smartphones or tablets (and they come with the cables you need to connect to all major devices including Apple products). Made to look like crayons, hot dogs or spray paint cans, these fun additional power sources are around 3.5 inches tall, less than an inch in diameter, and charge via your USB port. At around $30, this seems like fun added insurance against bookus interruptus and one easily carried in a purse or pocket.

Great Deals

J.D. Robb fans will want to snag the novella Midnight in Death, the eighth installment of that author’s In Death series starring Eve Dallas (and there are over thirty seven books and numerous novellas to enjoy in this hugely popular mystery/suspense series). This book not only details Eve and her husband Roarke’s rather troubled holiday (murderers do not respect Christmas) but is also currently available for free for the Kindle edition on Amazon.

Kerrelyn Sparks is universally adored for her Love at Stake series – a fifteen plus book series still going strong since its start in 2005 – and you know have a chance to see how it all began. Right now, the first book in the series, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire, is on sale for $1.99 for the Kindle edition. A desperate vampire with a broken fang and a human dentist who is not a fan of the sight of blood is quite a pair, particularly after the dentist in question is the target of a hit by the Russian mafia for having witnessed something she shouldn’t.

In a retelling of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew (or Kiss Me Kate for you musical fans), historical romance author Liana LeFey‘s To Make a Match, the third and most recent addition to her A Scandal in London series, Lady Victoria Lennox desperately wants to have a husband and family of her own, but her difficult older sister Amelia has to marry first. Victoria decides to hasten things along but arranging a scandal with Lord Julius Cavendish but Julius is way more interested in the sister marking the arrangements rather than the stubborn older one. He arranges for his friend, Lord Withington to take on that particular dragon as a decoy suitor, but it turns out Withington actually likes the woman! This comedy of errors is going to unravel and the question is, will there be a happily ever after for these players? On sale for $1.99 at Amazon right now.

My admiration for Tessa Bailey and her Line of Duty series is well known, particularly with the incredible addition of Asking for Trouble, the fourth novel in that outstanding group of books which just came out this past Monday. If you haven’t yet sampled this hot collection (it is published by Entangled’s Brazen line after all), you have a great opportunity to try it with the first book in the series, Protecting What’s His, discounted to only $.99. A hot dominant cop and the sexy young neighbor on the run who steals his heart is worth not just a read, but a subsequent re-read (I think I’m up to about six times, now). Get it!

christmas-214228_150On a personal note, I want to let everyone know that I’m planning on doing my usual December Read-a-Thon this year where I publish a review each day on a holiday themed book or novella. I’ll still publish the occasional non-holiday book (there are some really good ones coming out after all!), but hopefully I’ll be able to give you 31 days of holiday romance goodness as my present to you.

Happy reading this week!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of November 24, 2013

24 Nov

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Lots of good books both coming out this week as well as long awaited books with release dates announced.

I think Tessa Bailey is one of contemporary romance’s hottest new writers, so I’m excited to stay up until midnight tonight to watch the next book in her awesome Line of Duty series delivered to my Kindle (and write a review for you to be posted on Monday). We’ve already met the hero and heroine in the third book in the series, Officer Off Limits. Since Brent and Hayden’s two best friends are head over heels in love they can’t help seeing a lot of each other, even though each rubs the other the wrong way. Hayden’s got a host of trouble coming from her Park Avenue family who are looking to have her get married to a rich and influential man and the rough and tumble cop who pushes her buttons is also um…pushing her buttons. After a taste of each other, Brent is determined to not let go, but Hayden wonders how on earth this hot affair could have a happy ending?

Don’t you remember my telling you what a phenomenal author Laura Kaye is? Her latest, Hard As It Gets (OMG, the cover!), begins her Hard Ink series as of Tuesday, November 26th, so I’ll be staying up late for this delivery as well. This story, featuring a former military man turned tattoo parlor owner and the daughter of his military commander who has always been off limits, is bound to have her usual blend of heat, great characters, and an emotional story that wins your heart.

Fans of historical romance know that Sarah Maclean is one of the most talented writers of her genre, and they can finally sit back and enjoy her latest book, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, which will also be published on Tuesday, November 26th. Don’t forget to read (or re-read) the first two books in the Rules of Scoundrels series as this story, featuring the enigmatic club owner Temple, accused of murdering his young beautiful stepmother on the eve of her wedding to his father. The supposedly dead Mara has returned and what sets out to be Temple’s redemption and revenge becomes much more as he realizes that this woman and her situation is far from what he has imagined.

Bella Andre announced the latest in her Sullivan series, It Must Be Your Love, Mia Sullivan’s story. The Sullivan series is (I think) one of the best family contemporary romance series on the market, and the Northwest cousins are proving just as compelling as the original California Sullivans we all initially fell for. Successful realtor Mia Sullivan has been a huge support in her cousin and siblings’ romances, but it’s time for her to face the music – namely the man who she spent a few short days and nights with in his bed, and who she’s never been able to forget. Bumping into rock star Ford Vincent isn’t a shock at her cousin’s wedding, but there is an element of surprise when he seems interested in renewing their sexual relationship. Ford has never been able to forget Mia and despite the fact that he imagines she’s the one thing his fame can’t give him, he feels like he has to try.

It’s the holiday book season and that means there are some great deals on anthologies by terrific authors. A Christmas to Remember, due out on December 3rd, features stories by such contemporary best-sellers as Jill Shalvis, Kristen Ashley, Hope Ramsay, Molly Cannon, and Marilyn Pappano. If that’s not tempting enough, Forever Yours publishing has priced this puppy at only $1.99, so pick it up while you can at this price!

For fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet EvanovichTakedown Twenty, was published just a few days ago on November 19th, so get a hilarious dose of Lula and Bob (the golden retriever) right now. Get ready to imagine the next demise of a vehicle driven by Stephanie as she attempts to track down Morelli’s mobster godfather so he doesn’t have to, while also helping the oh-so-sexy Ranger determine who killed an important client’s mother. If you need to do some catching up (or want to fill in your collection of ebooks), you may want to note that several of the earlier books in the series are available for only $2.99 for the ebook editions.

Sophie Barnes‘ next book The Scandal in Kissing an Heir, her second installment in At the Kingsborough Ball series is coming out on December 31st. The next Marquess of Wolvington, Daniel Neville needs to find not only a bride but a woman who will accept his past and Lady Rebecca is tired of the men her greedy aunt and uncle send her way, men who only are interested in her beauty. Scandal threatens to tear these two apart, just when it seems they have the potential for something more.

Contests and Giveaways

Sara Humphreys‘ Amoveo Legends series is made up of a string of best-sellers, so I imagine fans are waiting with bated breath for the fifth book in the series, Unclaimed, to come out on December 3rd. When a spirited veternarian from the Timber Wolf clan reluctantly agrees to help doctor the Amoveo prince’s horses, she doesn’t expect the overwhelming attraction to a warrior from the Tiger Clan, but soon finds herself thrown together with him as they have to face danger together. Enter before November 30th to see if you can win a copy.

Talented debut author Kat Latham, of Knowing the Score fame, is having a Rafflecopter giveaway for not just her new Christmas story, contained in the All I’m Asking For Christmas anthology (pre-ordered!!), but also the other Carina Press contemporary holiday anthology, For My Own. Since I’ve yet to read a Carina anthology I haven’t enjoyed, these are both on my December reading (and reviewing) list, but winning them would make great gifts to the romance fiction lovers in my life. Enter before December 1st to see if you can’t win a copy and enjoy great writing with your holiday cheer.

The first in Lara Adrian‘s Midnight Breeds series, A Touch of Midnight, is currently a giveaway on Goodreads, so enter before November 30th for a chance to win. This 184 page novella jumpstarts the other thirteen books to date in the series by focusing on Savannah, a young college woman who can see the past of objects when she touches them. For a three-hundred year old vampire who must revisit painful memories of the past, Gideon finds himself needing Savannah to help him rid the world of a threat he didn’t even realize existed, even if it means shattering the world she knows. If you were smart enough to purchase The Midnight Breeds Series Companion this summer, then this novella is included within it, but otherwise, try to win or buy it on Amazon for only $2.99.

The Smutketeers & Friends (Jayne Rylon, Mari Carr, Carrie Ann Ryan, R. G. Alexander, Eden Bradley, Sidney Bristol, P. G. Forte, and Robin Rotham) have FINALLY released their long-awaited Midnight Ink box set, filled with erotic tales all centered around a New Orleans tattoo shop, and they are having a great $100 Amazon gift card giveaway to celebrate. Enter in the next week to see if you can win this wonderful prize and don’t forget to run to your nearest bookseller to buy the boxed set, which is currently only $.99 at Amazon for over 550 pages of hot romance.

Historical fiction fans light candles to Diana Gabaldon‘s image, as this author of the Outlander series has had thousands of readers fall for Claire and Jamie Fraser. In honor of the upcoming STARZ network release of Outlander as a series, two promotional copies are destined for a lucky winner of the Goodreads giveaway, so considering entering prior to November 30th if you are awaiting heartache, time-travel and kilts with baited breath.

I don’t know what it is about publishing during the holidays, but there always seems to be a few books which focus on the season and feature some adorable dogs and cats on the covers of these anthologies and stand-alones. Since my fur-covered family members are some of things in my life I’m most grateful for, these novels always hit home with me. Two such authors are Sharon Kleve and Jennifer Conner, who are currently hosting a blog tour contest where readers can enter to win copies of their books – Halo’s Wish, Brenda’s Christmas Desire, Central Bark at Christmas, and Christmas Gift that Keeps Wagging – as well as a $25 gift card, so take a look and see if someone small and furry is underneath your tree this Christmas. Head to any and all of the blogs on the tour before 11/30 for your chance to enter!

Elizabeth Hoyt’s tale of a fevered heir to an Earldom, returned from the dead, is the fourth in her Legend of the Four Soldiers series. To Desire a Devil pitches the savage man, demented from his captivity and the well-bred niece of the present (and highly suspicious Earl) as an unlikely couple, but historical romance readers can attempt to win a copy of this highly rated final book via the Goodreads giveaway closing on December 1st.

It’s always great to see historical romance that tackles a less-frequented period of time, so Bitter Spirits by paranormal/urban fantasy writer Jenn Bennett is worth a look for those readers who love the 1920s. Featuring a hexed bootlegger and a beautiful medium, this first installment in Bennett’s Roaring Twenties series is currently being offered in a Goodreads giveaway for people who enter before Saturday, November 30th. Considering this novel is not due to be published until early January 2014, this could be a great opportunity to get a preview, and the second novel, focusing on an archaeologist and museum curator looks to equally bring the period to life. Since the series is published by the Berkley Sensation line, I predict strong writing and hot love scenes to be contained within these covers. Bring it on!

Fun Stuff

I know you can tell I’ve got holiday books on the brain (I’m gearing up for my stretch where I try to review a holiday themed book for every day of December!) but I for one appreciated Harlequin’s adorable little video featuring some of their featured Christmas books for this year. You’ll definitely be seeing a few of these on this blog over the next few weeks (and who knew Gingerbread men as the various hero’s occupations would be so adorable?).

If you have a spare $1000 or so and love to show your book love via your shoes, I suggest you head straight to the Charlotte Olympia website and check out the Matilda shoes, part of the Fall 2013 collection. With stunning leather tooling covering the leather upper and a six inch heel (and one inch platform), the heels are designed to look like book spines, complete with the words “Once Upon a Time” and “Happily Ever After”. I think there are plenty of romance authors who would look great wearing these on the dais while answering panel questions!

Now that the weather is getting colder, women are interpreting “no shave November” with the advent of opaque tights, but you don’t have to settle for solid colors. Romantics and fashionistas (or fictionistas) alike can indulge their love of the written word by wearing Love Text Print Tights from TrendyLegs. For under $40, you can sport the wikipedia text for the definitions of “Love” and “Passion” around your thighs and calves (and think about who you might like to get closer and read it out loud to you)!

Great Deals

Historical fans might want to download Harlequin Historical’s An Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill as it’s available for free right now. Featuring a young woman compromised and married to an enigmatic duke who then promptly abandons her, this heroine determines that she is going to make this marriage work, no matter what. The first in Merrill’s The Radwell’s series, this is a good way to sample this series.

His Wicked Games by Ember Casey (the first book in His Wicked Games series) is also available for free right now, and readers who enjoy fairy tale retellings will want to tackle this Beauty and the Beast inspired story. When a woman determined to save her arts center breaks into a cold billionaire’s estate, she gets way more than she bargained for, particularly regarding his wager on how she can save what she wants more than anything. The only problem? When what she wants begins to change…

Also currently free is Mari Carr and Lexxie Couper‘s Misplaced Princess, the first in their Foreign Affairs series about men or women who leave their country and find the love of their life. Annie Prince impetuously flew halfway around the world to Australia to meet in person a sexy cowboy she met online…only to find out he did the same thing and is now in NYC. Fortunately for her, his twin brother Hunter stayed behind, and while he thought his brother was crazy, one look at Annie and he’s finding it hard to keep his hands (and other body parts) off her.

That’s it for this week. Have a terrific Thanksgiving and happy reading!!

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!

Despite a Major Production Gaffe, Entangled’s Unmasked Lovers Anthology Is Fantastic

25 Sep
Lovers Unmasked by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck and Tessa Bailey (Entangled, September 23, 2013)

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

Unlike the many cranky reviewers of the world who do not like anthologies, I adore them. Not only do great short stories and novellas pop up from my favorite authors and series, but I’ve noticed that great authors tend to gravitate to one another (or are brought together by good editors) so I invariably find new authors to sate my insatiable need for more good books.

Just in time for October, when we begin thinking of disguises, Entangled Publishing has come out with a doozy of an anthology entitled Lovers Unmasked, and they have not stinted on lining up some heavy-hitting authors for this collection. I was so psyched that I pre-ordered this puppy as soon as I heard it was available. I mean, Cari Quinn and Tessa Bailey? Color me there.

Except there is a pretty big problem with this anthology. Namely, Cari Quinn’s story is not in it.

I wish I was joking. Originally, the pre-order version also listed Lauren Blakely, but her story for whatever reason got cut from the final version of the anthology, leaving us with four terrific authors – Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck, and Tessa Bailey. Okay, fine. I’ve never read anything of Lauren Blakely, so I can forgo her story. But I was really looking forward to all four stories.

And I only got three.

This anthology possesses three fantastic, totally wonderful novellas which are without question worth the bargain price of $3.79, but I absolutely LOVE Cari Quinn and really wanted her story of a schoolteacher who decides to seduce her best friend (“Tempted by His Best Friend”). Just in case I somehow missed it (?) I went through the table of contents and then leafed through every single page on my ereader. Twice. No Cari Quinn. I was also super irritated that the future books blurbs came after EVERY novella and were the same ones. Overkill people? Did these take up the pages meant to go to Quinn’s story? This sucks Entangled, seriously. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Entangled can do that Amazon update thing and notify us that a new version of the book can be downloaded if you’ve purchased it already.

While I gave it a good rating on Goodreads, I nevertheless expressed my frustration and my hope that I’d be getting an updated version of the book so I could read Quinn’s work, and what do you know, but she posted a response to my venting review! Take a look:

Goodreads screenshot

OMG, isn’t that nice? I don’t know if Cari Quinn was busy lurking on the Goodreads page and surfing Twitter for dissatisfied fans, but I immediately sent an email to Entangled just as she suggested. Way to rock the terrific PR, Cari! Sadly, it’s been a couple of days and still no Cari Quinn file. There isn’t even a note on the Amazon page for the book, nor the Entangled page (or their blog). Cari is doing the yeoman’s work of the PR on this gaffe. I hope she’s being paid extra for it.

Anyway, the three novellas I was able to enjoy are forehead-smackingly amazing, so let me tell you about them so you can still be tempted to go out and get this anthology. Each of the novellas are clearly related to another book, yet these talented authors have managed to write stories that stand alone (and leave you wanting the other book, but not because you have to read it to understand the plot of this novella). I’ve got several new books on my to-read list now!

“Seducing Mr. Wright” by Katee Robert

Two Wrongs, One Right (Come Undone #3 – Nathan and Chelsea) by Katee Robert (Entangled, August 12, 2013)

Danielle has been chatting up the mail guy in her building for a couple of months over twice weekly coffee get-togethers, meetings that have made Tuesdays and Thursdays her favorite days of the week. While she is usually stand-offish and noncommittal around men, Grayson has a way of seeing through her, with the result that she’s opened up to him more than anyone but her best girlfriend, Chelsea. He knows about her night school ambitions, her rough relationship with her domineering military father, and that she’s historically shied away from anything smacking of a “relationship.” With their office building hosting a Halloween party for all the businesses, Danielle feels this could be her chance to make a move on Grayson, even if she’s horribly worried that sex would change the friendship she’s come to value.

Chasing Mrs. Right (Come Undone #2 – Roxanne and Ian) by Katee Robert (Entangled, March 2013)

One look at Danielle in a skin-tight leather Catwoman suit and Grayson is ready to throw his good intentions out the window. He’s actually Grayson Harper, CEO of the major corporation on the top floor of the building (which he owns), and he planned on revealing that information to Danielle tonight. He adores this gorgeous woman who has never recognized him and has no idea of his wealth. At first he was just heady at the thought someone was judging him for himself and not his black Amex card, but as they grew to know each other over the last couple of months, Grayson began to realize that Danielle equated wealthy, successful men with her distant, pushy father who was rarely around, and then only to criticize Danielle and her decisions. He knows that she will probably run in the opposite direction when he tells her, so his end game is to blind her with pleasure to the point where she recognizes what could be between them and then spring his real identity on her. To say this woman is a little gun-shy is like saying a Howitzer is a small gun.

Wrong Bed, Right Guy (Come Undone #1 – Elle and Gabe) by Katee Robert (Entangled, July 2012)

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans, right? Katee Robert is a FANTASTIC writer – just the kind of rich, emotional, H-O-T prose I love in a romance novel, and this novella (which feels longer based on how her writing is so tight that nothing feels left out) is fabulous. There are plenty of domination tones in the relationship but nothing super S&M; it’s more a matter of Grayson having a controlling personality sexually. He knows that Danielle is so feisty, her submission would be more about her trusting him enough to put herself and her pleasure in his hands which has has him utterly intoxicated. When he allows her to take the reins, it’s a real “aaawwww” moment that demonstrates how in love with her he really is. For Danielle, who has always been the one in control of her sexual encounters, it’s almost as if she doesn’t realize the depth of her feeling for Grayson as they are having a hot encounter in his office, but her body knows what’s going on. As her internal monologue states:

Who would have thought she’d feel most in control when submitting?

Probably one of the best parts of this novella is that it’s related to an extremely well-rated series, so when you are at the stage of feeling the sense of loss turning the final page of it, the good news is that you have the other books in Robert’s Come Undone series to turn to. If anything, having a few key references to Chelsea’s love story (she offers Danielle some much needed perspective) will have you ordering her book in the series, Two Wrongs, One Right (which is what I did!).

“Wicked Games” by Samanthe Beck

Lover Undercover (McCade Brothers #1 – Trevor and Kylie) by Samanthe Beck (Entangled, April 2013)

I had never read anything by Samanthe Beck before, but I was wowed by her ability to get me up to speed regarding characters and past events in this terrific novella. The heroine, Stacy Roberts, is the identical twin to Kylie, whose romance with hot cop Trevor McCade has been detailed in Lover Undercover, the first book in the McCade Brothers series. While Kylie is the “good twin,” Stacy has always been the bane of their hometown, a juvenile delinquent whose dreams of acting have come true, albeit with a stop along the way exotic dancing in a high-end gentlemen’s club for a couple of years.

While Kylie has found her happily-ever-after with her new fiancee, Stacy’s heart is broken. When she began getting letters threatening to out her stripper past to the press, she realized that she was endangering the reputation of her wonderful boyfriend, Ian Ford, Trevor’s partner. What is an upstanding cop and his nice middle-class family going to do with a stripper turned actress from the wrong side of the tracks? Since he had asked her to move in with him (not marry him) around that time, it seemed like a good excuse to cut and run before she changed her mind.

It’s been six weeks and Ian is pretty tired of playing the waiting game. Stacy is unbelievably sexy and he knows she loves him even if she can’t say the words. He understands her as well as her sister, realizing that everyone except her twin has always abandoned Stacy. He figured asking her to move in with him was a way of easing her into something more permanent. He’s only just realizing that his hands off approach while he lets her come to her senses could easily have been interpreted as backing off their relationship. When Trevor calls with the information that Stacy has gotten threatening letters and than she and Kylie are planning on going to their old strip club’s hot Halloween costume party (without bodyguards), Ian has got a makeshift costume as a cat burglar on before you can say “John Robie.”

This novella is super angsty and unbelievably hot (like habanero hot on the caliente scale) and the reader completely understands the pain both Ian and Stacy are going through. While it’s pretty easy to spot the villain, knowing who it is doesn’t make it any less scary as you wonder if Stacy is going to lose her chance to tell Ian that she loves him. May I compliment the talented Ms. Beck on a terrific epilogue? That was one of the most fun wedding scenes I’ve read it quite some time! Yes, I immediately went out and purchased Lover Undercover so I could get a close up of Kylie and Trevor’s journey to love. And Trevor has brothers? *fans self* Color me there!

“Protecting What’s Theirs” by Tessa Bailey

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

Business owner and girl from the rough side of the tracks Ginger Peet just got some startling news via pregnancy test. It’s not that she doesn’t understand how or when it happened – her boyfriend of nearly a year, Lt. Derek Tyler, has always made sure the mechanics of sex is at the forefront of both their minds in the most pleasurable way – and she remembers oh-so-well the moment in Florida that they went sans condom after she forgot her birth control pills back in Chicago. But this is a BIG life change, for both of them, and she’d only moved into his apartment a few months ago after Derek inched her gradually down the road to commitment. Having reservations about motherhood is pretty natural for a woman who had to raise herself and protect her younger sister from their prostitute and drug addict mother.

His Risk to Take (Line of Duty #2 – Troy and Ruby) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled, May 2013)

Derek loves and adores Ginger, so much that it overwhelms him at times, and while he wants nothing more than to go home and be with her (and in her) an informant just blew a case wide open. His department has a chance of nailing a criminal who not only is responsible for the death of some of his officers, but whose success in his next illegal business venture would mean countless lives lost if he took over more Chicago territory. When a fellow officer mentions that the kind of operation Derek is talking about is what in police parlance is called a “widow-maker”, Derek realizes that he must protect Ginger from the knowledge he’s doing this, and that means keeping his distance. That decision not only stops Ginger from sharing her news, but dredges up all the insecurity her love for him has kept at bay, with potentially disastrous results for them both.

Officer Off Limits (Line of Duty #3 – Daniel and Story) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled, June 2013)

Oh. My. God. I have been a gigantic fan of Tessa Bailey’s Line of Duty series from the get-go, ultimately impressed with her gritty, authentic voice and characters who are often smart, working class men and women who have defied the odds to make something of themselves. Derek and Ginger shocked me in the best possible way when I first read their story in Protecting What’s His.

Derek is a dominant with a capital D, not in the leather and chains way, but rather in the possessive, ordering, super-hot kind of way. While this could potentially make me as a reader run in the other direction, Bailey succeeds in making him empathetic as he communicates to Ginger how all the power rests in her hands. His almost relentless caring for Ginger and the way he accepts the ultimate responsibility for her happiness won me lock, stock and barrel, and that has not changed in the slightest with this gut-wrenchingly, wonderful novella. I had tears in my eyes at the end of it when they both realize what happened and contemplate what the loss of their relationship would have meant. So amazing. I cannot wait for the rest of this series!

I also cannot wait to read Cari Quinn’s story “Tempted by His Best Friend” and I’ll be happy to post a review when I finally get it. Until that time, do not let it’s absence prevent you from purchasing this amazing anthology. I was astonished at not only the quality of writing, but how each novella actually was well-developed to the point that it felt like a complete story – never rushed or ending abruptly as anthology stories can sometimes do.

Celebrate your putting up your Halloween decorations by running out and purchasing Lovers Unmasked for your ereader. You’ll be thankful you did!

Love Letters: Wicked Whispers Brings Four Erotic Short Stories to Your End Table

16 Jul

Love Letters: Wicked Whispers, Volume 3 by Christina Thatcher, Maggie Wells, Ginny Glass, and Emily Gale (Carina Press, June 17, 2013)

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, anthologies are always a pleasure to read since you never know when you are going to stumble across a new author to love (see my Lucy Monroe series post from yesterday). In looking over the larger body of work from these four authors, it’s interesting to note that more and more writers are becoming specialists, particularly in the area of short fiction. While short stories are not as interesting to me as the novella, I still enjoyed a small taste of romance in each of these works and certainly appreciate the skill it takes to make the reader feel the build up and resolution of the romance in a small number of pages.

The subtitle “Wicked Whispers” is your first clue as the nature of these stories. Words and speaking are a key piece in every plot – whether it’s unexpected naughty talk, writing a sex scene, reading a sex scene or practicing phone sex. It’s a great construct for the collection and each story was of excellent quality, to the point that I would cheerfully purchase the writing of any of the authors in the future.

“I is for Indecent” by Christina Thatcher

Annie is captivated by the image of the astonishingly good looking Stefan Cox in the wedding album of her friend and boss, amazed that someone that good looking can also be a talented architect. She scoffs when she hears that he is interested in meeting her, having admired Annie’s award-winning jewelry designs, but ends up at a dinner party where Stefan asks to see her again. Knowing she’s way out of his league – the man should date supermodels or corporate CEOs – she declines.

He doesn’t take no for an answer. Showing up at her jewelry studio, Stefan charms her into giving them one dinner, largely by gently and explicitly telling her exactly what he was thinking during the dinner party. Annie can’t believe that she’s this turned on by a man who hasn’t even touched her, but she agrees to the invitation. The dinner and what comes after is just as erotic, if not more so, but Annie isn’t convinced that the man she nicknamed “Adonis” has enough in common with her for it to last more than one night.

Great, richly drawn characters and some serious sexy talk make this short story a delight. It’s easy to understand Annie’s assumptions but the reality of Stefan is even more charming and lovable than his hot appearance.

“J is for Jaded” by Maggie Wells

Vaughn Hatch is the sexy, tattooed bad boy who sits in the booth of the recording studio Julie Poplin frequents when doing her voice over work for audiobooks. When he makes an offhand remark about her child acting, she’s crushed. She thought he of all people would appreciate building a second career and working past people’s assumptions. Vaughn used to be a guitar rock star before his lead singer overdosed and the band fell apart. He’s built a recording studio with an outstanding reputation but clearly he can’t respect what Julie does for a living.

It’s actually just the opposite. Vaughn lives for his time with Julie, listening to her sexy voice relating the steamy romance novels she’s become famous for bringing to life. He senses she might be attracted to him, but when she begins reading the latest work – a hot BDSM story – and accidentally uses Vaughn’s name instead of the hero, he knows he’s got her. But Julie makes clear that it’s just sex to her and Vaughn wants something more. Can they build a second act together?

Maggie Wells is able to dig into deep emotional territory very quickly and it was downright painful to witness Vaughn willing to have angry “just sex” with Julie (thank God for the following scene!). Two wounded individuals coming together and realizing that they are each just what the other need, despite appearances, is a wonderful trope and this well-written story hit every major chord, to the point that it read like a much longer story.

“K is for Kickstart” by Ginny Glass

Sophie Maddox has a major case of writer’s block and an even worse crush on her sexy, funny editor Oliver Gibson. As luck would have it, her laptop dies minutes before her editor calls to check in on her word count. Rather than accept her excuse, he orders her over to his house to use his computer…really late at night.

Oliver fell first for Sophie’s writing and then for her. He’s giddy at having her in his home like he’s always dreamed but his reinforced restraint falls to the wayside when she confesses to having a problem writing the sex scenes with her new hero. When a typo brings both their feelings to light, they begin a night of writing – from real life inspiration – that both hope will have a happy ending.

How could anyone not love Oliver? Brainy, loves books, handsome, funny and happy to worship Sophie from afar because they are friends and he’s worried about putting pressure on his favorite author and losing her. That Sophie was secretly using him as inspiration for her new hero? Priceless, and their writing session/sex scene was so hot I was fanning myself!

“L is for Lessons” by Emily Cale

Chloe always loves spending time with her friend Bethany, especially after Chloe’s painful and expensive divorce, a divorce made tougher by the fact her ex used her reason – that she’s a lesbian – to make sure Chloe got nothing past the bare minimum of child support. With her daughter growing like a weed, Chloe is sincerely worried about making ends meet and can’t help but notice that part-time dance instructor Bethany is always sporting the latest designer purses and has plenty of cash. When she works up the courage to ask her how she manages it, she gets an astonishing answer. Bethany is a phone sex operator.

Chloe, despite her shyness, is desperate enough to consider the profession and Bethany bolsters her courage explaining the many benefits – like great pay and flexible hours. But Chloe and Bethany both realize that Chloe needs a practice call before she does her interview, so Bethany dials her up. The result sends both women reeling with a desire they’ve tried to ignore, but it might be just the wake up call they need.

It’s wonderful to see a sexy F/f romance in an erotica collection and both Chloe and Bethany were wonderful characters who clearly care for one another, first as friends and then as perfectly matched lovers. Hot and sweet, I thought this was a great addition to the anthology.

Enthralled Anthology Adds Great Novella to Iron Seas Series…and Much More

6 Jul

Enthralled by Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day, Meljean Brook and Lucy Monroe (Berkley, July 2, 2013)

Based on the image I clearly chose to lead this post with, as well as the fact that I can’t not blog about additions to the Iron Seas series, which readers know I consider the best steampunk writing currently published, it’s rather obvious which novella propelled me to pre-order the Enthralled anthology the moment it became available on Amazon.

That said, I was thrilled to discover that the list price – which I will always pay for a Meljean Brook book – was more than fair after I cheerfully had devoured each story in the volume. I had read Lora Leigh before and enjoyed her Breed series so she was no surprise, but consider me a newly minted fan of Alyssa Day and Lucy Monroe!

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Lora Leigh – “The Devil’s Due” (Breeds #28)

Tempting the Beast (Breeds #1) by Lora Leigh (Ellora’s Cave, 2008)

Can you believe that Lora Leigh’s Breeds series has had 28 installments? God love this woman and her ability to create romance and intrigue around science gone awry. To be honest, the Breeds series books have often proven a little too much for me. The sex is blazingly hot, but the heroes are usually too alpha – bordering on asshole level of alpha – with their animal counterparts so close to the surface as to dominate much of their decision-making. Heroines run the gamut from strong women to wishy-washy vacillators, but the most interesting aspects of the stories come from the network of villains inhabiting the labs that knowingly created and tortured these people. As the series has progressed, they’ve gone from hidden entities to a group of people enjoying nation status similar to that of Native Americans tribes, so there is no an overlay of government interest which helps propel story lines.

Gorgeous Devil has a reputation like the angel of death (to see him is to know that you are about to die) yet one glimpse of sixteen year old Katie and he knows she’s his mate. Unfortunately for everyone, the red-headed and talented Katie is a special Breed, one whose genetics do not kick in until she is in her early twenties. She reads as human, yet years later gets taken to a human hospital because she’s experiencing a 107 degree fever with her Breed qualities emerging. This fact inspires a conniption by the paranoid government in Ireland and also puts her between the sight lines of crazy anti-Breed proponents. Feeling betrayed by her parents, who knew her secret yet chose not to tell her, she agrees to go to the United States to live in the Navajo compound with other shifters, some of whom Katie considers friends. That the stunning man known as Devil is around, clearly avoiding her, is bound to lead to not only a confrontation but the acknowledgment of the unbelievable desire Katie feels whenever she is around him.

Honestly, this novella posed more questions than it answered, which is clever on the part of Leigh who will undoubtedly address the “lost but still living fathers” issue in a full-length novel. Even with my not having read every Breed book to date, this story was an enjoyable read with compelling characters and a quick-moving plot filled with intrigue.

Alyssa Day – “The Curse Of The Black Swan” (League Of The Black Swan #1.5)

The Cursed (League of the Black Swan #1) by Alyssa Day (Berkley, May 7, 2013)

While the title of this novella might seem like a ballet romance gone very, very wrong, in actuality Day’s writing felt like one of the reinterpreted fairy tales I enjoy, maybe with a dash of urban fantasy thrown in. This makes perfect sense since the League of the Black Swan series is categorized under urban fantasy and has all the elements necessary – a secret area of Manhattan (known as Bordertown) dedicated to shifters, demons and fae, dark magic and intentions looming around every corner, and naturally a good/evil battle that threatens to bring the world down around everyone’s ears. In other words, awesome!

This novella begins with a beautifully written prologue detailing a curse brought about by the moon. A lovely young woman, in a desperate effort to save herself from a marauding leader bent on her submission, sends a plea to the sun and moon to which she sings daily. The moon chooses to save her, but exacts the payment of every third night the woman turns into a black swan and must sing all night long to the moon, with each eldest daughter of her line taking over the duty.

This is not a recipe for happiness. Brynn has made a good name for herself with her pet grooming business in Bordertown, but has stayed far, far away from any man that she might deem really tempting. She feels out of control every third night when her curse compels her to make her way to the Black Swan fountain and sing and she has no wish to inflict her curse on a daughter.

Firefighter Sean O’Malley is having a rough night when he stumbles across a beautiful swan singing in the midst of bordertown. Not only is he keeping his fire demon identity a secret (prejudice abounds regarding them), but a murderer is setting dangerous fires around the city with lives lost as a result. On top of that, Sean’s loving mother has just received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Yet all those troubles get pushed to the back of his mind when the singing swan morphs into a stunning, very naked woman. One who agrees to go to a local diner to get something to eat with Sean.

Sean might be Irish, but he’s not been blessed with a silver tongue with the ladies, so he’s worried about convincing Brynn to see him again. She walks away from the diner having enjoyed herself so much that she clearly spells out she never can see handsome Sean ever again. But fate has other plans when he appears on her business doorstep with a cranky Persian with gum in its tail. Seeing these two work their way through all obstacles to their happy ending (plenty of witches to help with those moon curses, FYI) is wonderful and very sexy to boot. I’ve ordered a copy of the first book in the series, The Cursed, and if this novella is any indication, I’m going to enjoy every page.

Meljean Brook – “Salvage” (Iron Seas #3.5)

Here There Be Monsters (Iron Seas #0.5 – Mad Machen and Ivy’s story) by Meljean Brook (Berkley, August 2010) – this book has a clear connection to “Salvage” with both protagonists referenced by Thom explaining his time away

Despite my adoration of all things Meljean Brook, it’s a fact that I hate reading reunion romance stories. Estranged couples just rub me the wrong way (I know that it makes no sense), so it’s a testimony to how much I trust Brook that I didn’t hesitate to dive into the story of Thom and his wife, Georgianna.

Thom was always a quiet and steady man, appearing on Georgianna’s father’s doorstep with his skeletal iron arms after the tower fell and the masses were freed from the Horde. Working with her father, he learned the art of salvaging while also wooing Georgie when he was not out at sea. When she agreed to marry him, she thought she was getting a man who understood that she wanted a husband “who would hold her in his arms at night”, but Thom left her – after three disastrous nights of their marriage – to go back to sea.

Four years later, Georgie is astounded to discover his body washed up on shore near her home. He’s horribly wounded and the bug fever that sets in might very well kill him, but she’s shocked to discover that his skeletal arms have been replaced with fully functioning ones of a lovely grey metal. Nursing him back to health, it’s clear that he plans on leaving again right away, this time to spare Georgie from the pirates which took his salvaged treasure and sunk his ship and submersible. She’s not about to let him leave without a proper divorce and, inflicting further pain in her heart, he agrees.

Thom cannot get over how Georgie is even more beautiful than when he left her four years ago. He didn’t want to reveal his shameful behavior under the Horde to this lovely woman who had lived in relative safety, but after her father encouraged him to go out and make a fortune for Georgie, he was obsessed with doing so, particularly when it occurred to him that he might be able to pay for real arms, ones that would hold Georgie at night. Thom is horrified to discover that her parents died soon after he left, leaving her alone, but his horror is nothing to pain he feels when she asks him for a divorce. But they are both snatched by the rich bounder who injured him and took his gold before they can go to town to file the paperwork.

Captive aboard the ship, Georgie and Thom are united in their desire to escape, and their proximity to one another inspires another kind of desire. As the couple finally reveals their past and innermost feelings, they tear down the wall built over the years to find that they are two people still very much in love. Committed to fighting for a future, they each do what they must in order to go home.

I had tears in my eyes at the misunderstanding between two naturally reticent people and loved the fact that Brook interjected all the drama and heartbreak with some very real moments of humor. Her writing goes right to my heart every time and this is an outstanding addition to the Iron Seas series. For anyone who hasn’t read the novella telling the story of the pirate Mad Machen and the talented Ivy Blacksmith, take a look at the Burning Up anthology for the novella which tells their story in “Here There Be Monsters” or wait until October of this year for the stand alone novella to be published. Ivy and Mad Machen are both referenced and tied to Thom during his time away from Georgie.

Lucy Monroe – “Ecstasy Under The Moon” – (Children Of The Moon #4.5)

Moon Awakening (Children of the Moon #1) by Lucy Monroe (Berkley 2007)

I love shifter romance (particularly great series like Jennifer Ashley’s Shifters Unbound) but I was intrigued with the idea of the usual constructs regarding shifters finding mates and tension between breeds in an older setting. In the highlands of Scotland, the shifter clans, long estranged from one another and now interwoven with humans who are usually kept ignorant of their true nature, are finally beginning the formal motions of re-establishing ties between the species.

Una lives a life of self-imposed solitude among her her Eagle shifter clan and is shocked and fearful when her king and their spiritual leader announce that a convoy of wolves will soon arrive to live among them. Una was captured by wolves years ago who tortured her for sadistic fun and her father was gravely wounded as a result, losing his eye and his ability to fly in his eagle form. Her fear and guilt have kept her from taking her role as a protector and warrior in her clan and she cannot keep the panic at bay as the wolves arrive.

Bryant is a wolf who believes in his leader’s intentions of reuniting the clans. With recent matings falling between shifter clans and even with humans (and so perfect that the couples are dream tied to one another), he believes that healing the rifts between species to be of benefit to everyone. When on his first night in the eagle village he falls asleep only to meet a lovely woman who kisses him on the spiritual plane, he knows that his life is going to take a drastic turn, one he welcomes.

But Una is not convinced. Her dream self is far more bold and does not experience the panic of being trapped as she does in real life. She does not deny that Bryant is handsome, compelling and gentle. When she finally drums up the courage to meet him in person, she knows that he must be confused by her reticent demeanor compared to her ease with him in their dreams. His patience with her prejudiced father does not go unnoticed by her, just as Una’s interest in Bryant does not go unobserved by her all-too-aware mother, who is happy to help both her daughter and husband accept a mating that was clearly meant to be.

Bryant was a fantastic character who was very easy to fall in love with right alongside the lovely and damaged Una. Patient and caring with firm convictions and a sense of honor, he was exactly what a strong hero should be, and the fact that he turns into a gorgeous wolf who climbs into Una’s treehouse to sexily consummate their relationship (after he has killed the remaining men who hurt her) is icing on the cake. I fell so in love with Monroe’s writing that I promptly ordered several of the books from this series and can’t wait for them to arrive. I have a feeling I will greatly enjoy reading about shifters in her well constructed world!

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The title for this anthology could not have been more appropriate – each of the couples are truly “enthralled” with one another, but I think the real magic is going to come from the readers, when they fall under the spell of each talented author as they read the four novellas in the work. Many thanks to all of them (and to Berkley publishers) for such wonderful additions to these series.

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