Tag Archives: BDSM

Tangled Up Duology Lives Up to Its Cosmo Red Hot Read Label

11 Jun

Tangled Up (containing Crossing the Line by Megan Hart and Burned by Sarah Morgan) (Harlequin, May 27, 2014)

I’m a big fan of Harlequin’s Cosmo Red Hot Reads line – these novellas seem to take the best contemporary romance authors on the market and deliver scorching, emotional stories for an incredibly affordable price.

Tangled Up follows this tradition by housing the work of two bestselling authors, Megan Hart and Sarah Morgan, who both managed to blow me away in the course of 224 pages. Luckily for readers, you can either purchase Tangled Up in trade paperback form for around $8.00 or, if you have an ereader, get each story individually for around $3, ladies choice.

Want to hear more? (The answer is: yes, you definitely do.)

Crossing the Line by Megan Hart

Crossing the Line by Megan Hart (Harlequin: Cosmo Red Hot Reads, May 27, 2014)

Caitlyn Fox has slogged away in her new job for about eight months without her sexy boss Jamison Wolfe noticing her. He’s a testy control freak who, granted, has grown an amazing business with his best friend from high school. Together they have managed the PR for some of the most important businessmen and women in the world but are expanding to celebrities who are, let’s face it, much messier. When Jamison’s business partner experiences pregnancy complications and has to be put on bed rest, Caite knows this is the time to not only show that she can handle the new clients she’s brought in, but to show Jamison she can handle him as well. In. Every. Way.

Jamison can barely remember the last time he dated, and, quite frankly, it was barely worth it. Worrying about choosing the wrong five star restaurant, flowers when she wanted chocolates, etc., took away the fun from sex with the high maintenance women he’s chosen in the past. Yet spending time managing three high profile reality TV stars with Caite, who makes it look effortless, has him realizing that not only is she not the least bit afraid of his wounded grizzly bear attitude but that she also is comfortable ordering him around. And he likes it.

When Caite’s pushiness involves her own pleasure, Jamison is stunned to realize it delivers his as well, but taking their powerful connection and games into the office results in Jamison being humiliated in front of the people he needs to look strongest for. Can he work through his shame and reclaim Caite or will he lose her to someone not afraid to unapologetically want what she has to give?

Ah, Megan Hart. This author doesn’t know how to write a bad book (and, I’ve discovered after meeting her in person at my local Lady Jane’s Salon Wilkes-Barre Scranton, she’s also an extremely funny person who wears sexy boots and sparkle fish-net tights!). The dynamic between Jamison and Caite is demanding but incredibly tender, and I appreciated how, in a world of BDSM romances featuring Catherine wheels and violet wands, this relationship didn’t cave to the usual trappings or even wear that label despite it’s obvious power exchange. Instead, Caite’s taking control offered Jamison the chance to let go in one area of his life and minister pleasure to the woman who had become everything to him. I adored them both and found my heart in my throat for the last quarter of the book when I worried they weren’t going to make it.

Burned by Sarah Morgan

Burned by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin: Cosmo Red Hot Reads, May 27, 2014)

Okay, I raved about Sarah Morgan’s preceding Cosmo Red Hot Read, Ripped, which starred a horrifying heroine wardrobe malfunction at a critical point in her ex’s wedding. Hayley Miller had experienced a shitty childhood and an unfortunate collection of boyfriends (including the winner getting married) so having the broody, Italian Nico Rossi spring into her life ended up delivering a fabulous happy ending. The second most awesome relationship in that book however was with Hayley’s sister, Rosie, the tough talking, martial arts practicing trainer, who worked for Hayley’s happiness even while she looked for love in all the wrong places herself.

In Burned, we find out why Rosie is so bad at choosing men. In the opening scene, Rosie is out with her boyfriend, Brian, at a nice London restaurant when she realizes he’s dumping her because she’s “not feminine.” It’s humiliating enough without it happening in public, especially after she realizes that the man just seated with his gorgeous date at the adjacent table is none other than martial artist and film star, Hunter Black, her first love who brutally abandoned her when she was eighteen. Running out of the restaurant results in Hunter having to come to her rescue and take her home, but even after Rosie’s sister Hayley unloads some home truths on his very broad shoulders, Rosie can at least curl up into a ball and tell herself she’ll never have to see him again.

Until he shows up at her work the next day. As her boss.

Ripped by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin: Cosmo Red Hot Reads, December 2, 2013) – Hayley Miller and Nico Rossi’s fabulous story.

Oy. It turns out the chemistry between them is even more incendiary than it was when she was just a kid and that’s saying something because it was smokin’ hot back then. Yet, Hunter is an adult now and Rosie has changed drastically from the clingy teen she really doesn’t blame him for leaving. When Hunter makes it clear that he still wants her, Rosie decides to have a weekend of nothing but sex and let the man who no one has ever measured up to in the bedroom show her what he’s got. The problem arises when she realizes that no one has ever measured up to him outside the bedroom either, and her pesky heart is going to be just as shattered when she walks away, because there is no way she can live through Hunter moving on one more time. That Hunter and her sister might have different ideas never even factors into her thoughts until she’s confronted with what could be a spectacular chance at happiness, if Rosie is brave enough to take it.

Sarah Morgan specializes in brooding heroes whose level of sexy could induce small seismic events and Hunter Black is no exception. Like Ripped, Burned is written entirely from Rosie’s perspective, something that usually pisses me off to no end, but in the hands of a master like Morgan, I just cheerfully turn the page. Rosie is a fun badass who has been made to feel terrible that her fragile exterior doesn’t match her tough, independent interior but Hunter has always loved her for exactly who she was. The two of them rediscovering the changes each has made as an adult, and realizing their connection is stronger than ever because of their growth, is both breathtakingly sexy as well as heart-wrenching, particularly because the hurt Rosie experienced may provide the ultimate obstacle when it comes to taking a chance on lasting love. I wished I could have seen a little more Nico, so I’m going to hope that Sarah Morgan considers a holiday novella or indie short story featuring both these wonderful women getting the wedding proposals I know are in their future!

Whether you purchase Tangled Up in paperback or the ebook versions of each novella, you won’t go wrong giving yourself the gift of two phenomenal stories by gifted authors.

Happy reading! 🙂

 

December Read-a-Thon: Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin Delivers Emotion and Eroticism to a Blended Holiday

14 Dec

Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin (Carina Press, November 21, 2013)

The Jewish holidays are always given short shrift in the ocean of holiday romance that comes out this time of year, and it’s really a shame (I think I need to write a sexy, Hanukkah romance to prove to myself that it can be done more often). When I spotted Matzoh and Mistletoe, a novella by Jodie Griffin, I was elated to have a Jewish protagonist. What took me aback was how beautifully emotional this BDSM holiday romance was, and by the last page, Jodie Griffin had made a new fan.

Rebeccah Rickman is used to volunteering her time on Christmas and Easter at her local police precinct. For the last five years, she’s fulfilled her family’s tradition of doing a mitzvah, a good deed, by riding in the same car as First Officer Jeremy Kohler. Since she was a married woman, she’s managed to keep her attraction to him a secret, simply reveling in his company. Handsome, smart, dedicated and with a wicked sense of humor, he’s the total package. She’s seen him in the best and worst of situations observing him in his job during their time together.

Unfortunately for her, she’s been through a lot in the last several months, including an ugly divorce brought about by physical abuse suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, who had very specific ideas about what a “nice Jewish girl” should want in the bedroom (and out of it). Rebeccah has been made to feel guilty about her own desires and her time with a therapist has made it clear that her ex’s verbal abuse of her has left scars during the course of their years together. But she’s taking hold of her life and living it the way she wants, and that just might include Jeremy, if he’s interested.

Jeremy is no saint; he’s volunteered for Christmas and Easter duty because it was the two days of the year he has gotten with the chestnut-haired beauty doing a good deed. He’s actually forbidden the other officers to request her, keeping Rebeccah all to himself, although he knows she’s off limits as a married woman. When he’s startled by her tired but beautiful face and obvious weight loss, he asks her what’s wrong and is angry to hear that she’s been single for nine months – nine months without him knowing she was free for him to pursue. Seeing her reaction to his anger makes him realize an inkling what she’s been through, and her experience might be exactly what could keep them from acting on their attraction to one another.

Public domain image of mistletoe via Pixabay

Throughout much of history, mistletoe was seen as an embodiment of the divine male essence – which is why you kiss under it today. (Public domain image of mistletoe via Pixabay)

That’s because Jeremy is a Dom in the bedroom and while Rebeccah is a natural submissive with inclinations clearly geared toward that life, her abuse makes her associate the word “submissive” with anything but pleasure. Jeremy has never been with a woman who didn’t already know all about the lifestyle, and never with anyone with a history of abuse. He’s not sure that this woman he would risk everything for can adjust to his needs in the bedroom, even if she admits that it’s what she has always fantasized about. Just as Jeremy would never ask Rebeccah to be anyone other than who she is, he can’t be someone he’s not.

For a 100 page novella, this story managed to be outstandingly full-featured, with Rebeccah and Jeremy shown as compelling characters you instantly like and cheer for, yet each carrying baggage that presents an obstacle to their happily ever after. I liked that Rebeccah referred to her therapy and was conscious of how she was reacting to certain triggers based on her past with her ex-husband. Equally as helpful, Jeremy had clear experience and training regarding domestic situations, as well as being an experienced Dom, which has its own set of communication guidelines. This combination made it obvious that he was doing everything he needed to in order to set boundaries and help Rebeccah feel comfortable. The BDSM piece was a little more intellectual with some very interesting psychological twists I didn’t expect, and it made the sexual intimacy truly illustrative of the couple’s growing feeling for and trust in one another.

At a mere $2.51, I would recommend every erotic romance reader who wants something other than the small-town Christmas story (and I love those too, but change is good) to trot to their nearest e-bookseller and grab Matzoh and Mistletoe.

Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 7, 2013

8 Dec

Upcoming Books and Recent Releases

Tracey Devlyn, whose Nexus series combines amazing historical romance AND romantic suspense, debuted the cover of the fourth book in that series, entitled Latymer. Not available until early January 2014 and worse, not available yet for pre-order (!), this volume represents Devlyn’s personal journey to continue to her series without her previous publisher of Sourcebooks, and I’m damn glad she decided to continue it (and it looks like Avon picked up the series for its digital line – woohoo!). The snippet she included in her newsletter (check out her website to subscribe to it) shows us our hero is a lord with a son he loves determined to ferret out a spy, something he should be quite good at considering his previous work for the Foreign Office. At the mercy of both French and British authorities who want him dead, I have a feeling that Nexus is going to have to help Lord Latymer and his son, and I’m guessing it might be a female spy (perhaps one he knew before?) who is going to lend a hand. Cannot wait!

Jill Shalvis is beloved by contemporary romance fans everywhere, particularly for her Lucky Harbor series. Those readers will be pleased to note that she’s just announced the 9th full-length novel, Once in a Lifetime, will be published on February 11, 2014 (oh, ho! Just in time for Valentine’s Day) and will star the tortured soldier Ben McDaniel and the “trouble with a capital T” Aubrey Wellington who is trying to set her life on the right path with Ben the perfect person to help. Okay “helping” him might involve a bit more with such a hot, brooding guy but making amends involves getting a little dirty, doesn’t it? Pre-order it for a great price ($5.40 right now for the paperback edition!) right now.

Tawny Weber just released her Christmas novel, Naughty Christmas Nights, this past week, which brings together two excellent things – Christmas and lingerie. When two people attempt to land the sexy underwear account for a major department store, rivalry is a natural outcome. But Hailey’s Merry Widow lingerie line is all about playfulness and sensuality while Gage Milano wants out of his family’s business so he needs to prove it’s all about sex, period. Is the heat between them simply lingerie induced, or is their more this holiday season? Things are certainly heating up…

Also released this week is the novella in Katherine Ashe‘s The Prince Catchers series, Kisses She Wrote, about a scandalous earl who discovers that a wallflower’s diaries are filled with the fantasies of him kissing her, and he’s damn intrigued. This holiday season might be filled with wishes granted if they both can surrender to the potential between them. At only $.99, this novella belongs in everyone’s present pile!

Contests and Giveaways

Adrianne JamesThe Enlightening (Book #2 in the Mackenzie Duncan series) is part of a package available for you to win via your Goodreads account. The Tempering (Book #1) is actually also included in paperback edition as well as some lovely Adrianne James swag to celebrate the series. Featuring a Harvard freshman, Mackenzie Duncan, who is attacked by a wolf and changed against her will, this series deals with the aftermath of her change, with book 1 showing the sinister underbelly of the pack who welcomes her with open arms and book 2 illustrating that life on the run with two werewolves who both want to win your heart can be more complicated than it sounds. Enter before December 9th for your chance to read this series for free!

S. E. Gilchrist, the science fiction romance author of Dark Warriors fame, is offering a giveaway in honor of the 1st anniversary of her first publication, including such prizes as gift cards and books from her backlist, so go check it out and join in the celebration and enter before the 23rd of December to see if you could have a little something extra in your Christmas stocking. Congratulations, S. E. Gilchrist!

Category romance fans who like their millionaires of Russian extraction and their princes remote bastards waiting to be melted by the right woman will want to be sure to enter the giveaway for Kate Hewitt‘s The Prince She Never Knew, a Harlequin Presents about an arranged marriage that could become something much more, bundled with Kholodov’s Last Mistress, about a scarred wealthy Russian completely ensnared by an innocent American tourist, so much so that he tries to push her away only to realize that he needs to get her out of his system. Submit your entry before December 11th to win.

For readers who love their small-town romances near the ocean, you’ve probably already read and loved Rachel Herron‘s Cypress Hollow Yarn novels, but in case you haven’t gotten to the fourth book of the series, Cora’s Heart, or you’ve been wanting to dip a toe into this series, it’s available via a Goodreads giveaway if you enter before December 13th. With the heroine a farmer who has lost her mother and husband to the point where she tries to plan everything in her life, a hero – her late husband’s cousin and the man she loved before – is bound to mess up her agenda, particularly when he has a plan of his own.

It’s hockey season and people know how much I love Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series, so I’m naturally looking forward to the February release of her next novel, Melting the Ice. About a fashion designer whose brother suggests she use her college flame, now a hot NHL player, to showcase her latest creations, I’m going to enjoy seeing this successful player prove to his former girlfriend that he’s changed for the better. The best news? I might be able to win a copy early (and so could you) by entering the Goodreads giveaway before December 13th.

Another upcoming book you could win an early copy of is the eighth book in Shayla Black’s Wicked Lovers series, Theirs to Cherish, which isn’t due to be published until March 4, 2014. This BDSM romance has an element of romantic suspense threaded through its sensual tale as the heroine is an heiress who has been on the run for years, finding Club Dominion the perfect hideout. She’s fallen in love with the club’s Master but when her plan to make him jealous with a Dom who wants her submission backfires and she finds herself falling for two men, she ends up endangering her heart along with her life when a killer comes calling. Enter before December 13th to win!

Ranae Rose just published the fourth book in her Inked in the Steel City series, Abiding Ink, but fans of tattooed heroes and heroines can win a copy if they enter the giveaway before December 15th. Perfect for the holiday season, this story centers on a tattoo artist who volunteers in a hospital ward and the hot nurse who doesn’t want to fall for him, but can’t help herself, even when it makes her want to run away. Gimme!

Fun Stuff

Take a look at the great video clip from Popular Romance Project featuring an interview with Princeton postdoctoral fellow, An Goris, a wonderful Dutch woman who went from failing English as a 15 year old to writing analyses about romance fiction, a turnaround she largely credits to her love of Nora Roberts, at the time more available in English than in Dutch. Guess who is her featured author of her dissertation?

Did you know that category romance doyenne Caitlin Crews has been releasing a new Presents novel, His Wife by Christmas, chapter by chapter on Harlequin’s website…for free? That’s quite a Christmas present – use your Send to Kindle app (which can be installed in your browser’s bookmarks) to get it on your e-reader if you prefer reading on that screen.

Great Deals

Best-selling author Cynthia Eden has the first book in her Purgatory series, The Wolf Within, currently on sale for $.99 (and free for Prime members who want to have it as their loaned book for this month). FBI Agent Duncan McGuire is committed to defending the world from monsters as part of the Bureau’s Para Unit, but when he survives a werewolf’s attack only to begin to change into a monster himself, he’s more than horrified. He fights tooth and nail not to have Dr. Holly Young be the one assigned to care for him – the attraction between them is fierce and his feeling has only intensified with his body’s changes, and she’s the last person he wants to hurt. Except that Holly has been hiding her own differences, but their situation is about to get even more complicated as the monsters circle around them, and it’s unclear if their new feelings for one another can survive the onslaught.

Mary Jo Putney‘s Lost Lords series is hugely popular, so historical romance readers who would love one of her book in ebook form or who simply want to sample her writing should run and grab Loving a Lost Lord, currently only $1.99 on Amazon. This novel, the first in her series, has everything a historical romance reader could want – a duke, amnesia, a fake marriage, and two very sexy protagonists – so grab it now!

Since readers of Mary Jo Putney are often also fans of Sabrina Jeffries, cross-over readers will want to check out What the Duke Desires, the first in her new series, The Duke’s Men, currently down to $1.99 on Amazon. With the overarching theme of a disinherited younger son of a viscount who opens an investigative agency with his illegitimate half-sister Lisette, the first book focuses on a duke who receives word that his older brother, presumed dead after a kidnapping, might still be alive, and traveling with Lisette posing as his wife reveals much more than information about his long-lost sibling.

It must be the season for discounted historical romance, as Lorraine Heath‘s final installment in her Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy, Lord of Wicked Intentions, is also on sale for $1.99. A lord who has been on the run since he was young escaping a nefarious uncle determined to rob him of his birthright and a young, innocent woman who is the illegitimate daughter of an earl is a recipe for a satisfying romance, particularly when the lord in question makes her his mistress and she’s determined to have all of his love.

In time for the holiday season is the paranormal deal of Selena Blake‘s novella, Fangs, Fur and Mistletoe, currently free on Amazon. The first in her highly rated Mystic Isle series, set on an island which is a playground for paranormal creatures wanting to relax. When a vampire meets up with the hunky werewolf who was her enemy a century ago, her sexual drought is just about to end, especially when the werewolf in question realizes he has a chance with the blue-eyed temptress he hasn’t been able to forget over the decades. It’s free, people!

Laura Griffin‘s suspense novel, Twisted, the fifth book in her Tracers series, is also only $1.99 right now and fans of romance fiction featuring police and FBI protagonists need to hustle over and grab it. A lovely rookie police officer in a small Texas town worries that the case that seems like it’s tied with a bow isn’t all that it seems, an instinct confirms when a handsome FBI profiler appears with new information. But just when it seems they are in hands distance of catching a killer, the hunters may become the hunted.

Have a great week and happy reading!! 🙂

Lauren Dane’s Federation Chronicles Aren’t Just Great Erotic Science Fiction, They Are Amazing Science Fiction. Period.

30 Nov

Undercover (Federation Chronicles #1 – Brandt, Sera, and Ash) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2008)

That isn’t to say they aren’t erotic – they are damn erotic – but so much of erotic science fiction is heavy on the unusual penises or having some earth woman show an alien what love really is (and hey, I’m not judging since I read it). What gets missed in that emphasis is kickass world-building with deep conflict and political machinations which highlight the flaws in society, while hopefully giving the reader insight into the inequities in their own world.

Lauren Dane does all this in her Federation Chronicles. And she does it so well that it leaves me reeling and wanting more.

You do have to be comfortable with the erotic part, and a reader unused to a high level of steamy might find the first book a baptism by fire since it involves not just two people, but three and is heavy on a BDSM dynamic. But in case you’re worried this is going to be “who puts what in where,” don’t be. This is Lauren Dane, the writer who gave us contemporaries like the Brown Siblings series and the Chase Brothers series, and paranormal series like Cascadia Wolves, the de La Vega Cats and the recently concluded, terrific Bound by Magick series. Triads pop up all the time in her writing, sometimes accepted by the culture, sometimes not, and she deftly highlights those tensions while infusing the relationship with such emotion that you are cheering for everything to work out (and it does, thankfully, since it’s a romance novel!). While Dane has written this series so each book can be a stand-alone, with world-building like this, I’d strongly recommend reading all of them in order to truly appreciate the story arc.

Public domain image via Pixabay

Public domain image via Pixabay

The Federation is actually a federation of universes (or ‘verses as the citizens refer to them) settled by humans descended from Earth colonists generations upon generations ago, with a network of official Portals linking vast distances to shorten travel and enhance commerce. Comprised of millions of people and controlled by Houses, a handful of powerful families wield sole control over the masses. Think of the Houses as medieval aristocracy in terms of power and financial control and you won’t be far off. Members of the Houses are “Ranked,” meaning they possess tremendous status and privilege in addition to vast quantities of wealth at their disposal. While ranked men and women can have affairs with unranked people, it’s extremely limited in nature, with the more prominent ranked having to enter political marriages arranged (or at least approved) by the head of their House. Naturally with this arrangement, the men often have unranked mistresses, basically courtesans, and Ranked women are raised to think only of enhancing their family’s status through marriage as their destiny.

The first book, Undercover, focuses on Lieutenant Sera Ayers, an outstanding operative for the Federation military, known for using her facility with languages and cultures to good effect in undercover operations. Coming from an extremely modest background, she’s worked hard to find her place, but has finally achieved a level of respect from her superior officers and her peers and assembled a crack team which she leads successfully. When she’s called into her CO’s office and told that her team has been reassigned to someone else so she can work with the two men in front of her on a secret assignment, she’s both stunned and enraged, primarily because the one man, Ash Walker, is the ranked jackass who stole her heart ten years ago and then shredded it with the offer of becoming his official mistress when his arranged marriage was announced and finalized. She ran from him then and she’s going to run from him now, but not before landing a terrific punch to the face.

Ash Walker knew Sera was likely to still be angry with him, even after a decade apart, but he didn’t expect this strong a reaction. He’s never stopped loving her and while he knows that she is perfect for this mission, he also knows that he’s hoping that he can show her that they can finally have a future together. His sham of a marriage fell apart after only a few years, and the best thing he got out of it was the man sitting next to him, his once brother-in-law, Brandt Pela, who is not only his best friend but his occasional lover as well. Ash suspects – no, he knows – that Sera might be the final piece to bring the three of them together, if she would just lower her defenses.

Image purchased under a web license from Shutterstock

Image purchased under a web license from Shutterstock

Brandt Pela might also be a wealthy ranked man but he sees what Ash stubbornly doesn’t, that Sera was so shattered by Ash’s treatment of her years ago that her lack of trust endangers their mission, especially since Ash constructed their cover so that Sera would have to pose as his mistress. Brandt knows that Sera is astonishingly beautiful and obviously a terrific soldier. Since he quickly decides he wants something more permanent with her as well, he offers to have her be his mistress on the mission, with the clear understanding that they will have to have sex and that the world they are traveling to is going to expect him to share her with Ash.

Sera hates Ash (and her reaction to him after all these years) but she doesn’t have a choice in this assignment. With the good-looking and considerate Brandt trying to make it work with switching the proposed roles, she accepts his offer, knowing that this mission is dangerous both physically and to her heart. When she discovers that her understanding of Ash’s choices ten years ago was not as clear as it should have been – and that the betrayal they are slowly uncovering on their assignment strikes at the heart of Ash and Brandt’s families – Sera decides she will do whatever it takes to fight for her world, even if it means having her heart broken all over again, this time by two ranked men.

I’ll be honest, this book is the most painful of the entire series for me to read since Sera and Ash are still both so raw from their loss of one another, even if it has been a decade. Sera was young and naive, at least to the point that she didn’t understand that Ash’s marriage involved the livelihood of tens of thousands of unranked people like her. Ash is an entitled ass who still doesn’t get it, but he is so in love with Sera and so tender with her as her relationship with Brandt develops that she is able to take the risk and be with him once more. Both Brandt and Ash are dominant, which works fine as Sera loves being a submissive to them (only in the bedroom, however), and the M/M action between Brandt and Ash *fans self* is quite steamy, even though Sera is their ultimate focus. Even though BDSM is not my thing, Dane writes it so well that it was clear the dynamic was about satisfying everyone’s desire to express their love and affection for one another, so it never made me uncomfortable.

I was so wowed by how Dane managed to figure out an HEA for these three since I spent a large part of my first reading desperately trying to brainstorm how on earth she could solve the problem of their status inequity. Yet these two ranked men use everything at their disposal to follow their hearts and find happiness, while also shedding the cover they’ve held for years of dissipated playboys, enabling them to be honest about both their undercover military service while at the same time honest about their love for Sera and each other. As tough as the first half of the book is, the last 30 pages always initiate a gigantic burst of warmth in my chest as it all comes together!

Relentless (Federation Chronicles #2 – Abby and Roman) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2009)

The second book in the series, Relentless, is actually my favorite (by a close margin, but still manages to move ahead). Centered on the Federation’s home world of Ravena, the focus of power and commerce in this polarized world. The powerful heads of houses and their heirs meet in councils to discuss issues and events, and the recent exposure of corruption in the houses of Walker and Pela (fortunately by two honored sons from those houses in the military) have stirred unrest among the unranked.

Heading it is the beautiful and dynamic Abbie Haws, a respected barrister and head of an organization which seeks greater representation for the unranked among the Houses. Abbie considers herself fortunate when she can get one of the House’s personal assistants to return her calls, but she draws attention when a nursemaid to one of the Houses is accused of stealing and fired, coincidentally right before she would qualify for her pension and retirement. The ranked members of the House involved are incensed, and Abbie is almost attacked in the courthouse. That near assault draws the attention of the most powerful man in the Federation, Roman Lyons, the head of House Lyons.

Lauren Dane mentions in her acknowledgements page that she wanted to specifically thank actor Daniel Craig since he was her inspiration for Roman Lyons, and I defy you not to think of that sexy actor as you fall for Roman. Married incredibly young at the age of 17 in a political union, Roman produced two wonderful sons quickly and then watched their mother waste away to a disease brought on by her last birth. Serious and intense, Roman has the weight of millions on his shoulders with literally the responsibility of hundreds of thousands of people directly working for the benefit of House Lyons.

Daniel Craig (the sexy beast). Whether he’s playing James Bond on screen or Roman Lyons in my head, he brings sensuality and incredible strength of purpose to the role. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

So naturally he’s astonished when he meets the troublesome Abbie Haws in his office to discover that the two of them have an immediate, combustible chemistry, one he has literally never experienced before and which ends with her having an orgasm within 10 minutes of their meeting. (That is my kind of meeting!) The two of them recognize that there is something there but the need for privacy is vital as the press getting a hold of any whiff of anything between them would be disastrous. Considering the work Abbie is doing, work that Roman grows to respect and wants to foster, her reputation would be horribly undermined with the taint of sexual connection between them. Roman also knows that as the head of House Lyons, it’s his duty to negotiate another political marriage and strengthen his House.

Knowing that there is no future is no guarantee of not falling in love. Abbie takes Roman undercover to see the lives of the unranked he controls while she gains insight into the unbelievable pressures and responsibilities he has. The Roman Abbie discovers is a man who adores his two sons and is incredibly loyal to the people who work for him. In turn, Roman discovers the truth behind Abbie’s many scars and realizes that a woman who has every reason to despise the ranked instead confronts them daily working to forward the rights of average person. The more each of them uncover, the more amazing their connection, and a hopeless love develops between them, one that they both know must end. For Roman the agony is knowing he will have to deal with everything in his life without the joy and fire that is Abbie grounding him; for Abbie it’s knowing that she will need to go on with her life seeing Roman on the vids (video) and hearing about him at every turn, particularly after he’s married to someone else.

Image purchased with web license via Shutterstock.

Image purchased with web license via Shutterstock.

Oh. My. God. There is no way you don’t come away adoring Abbie – the love she has for her family (and they for her), her handling her narcissistic and idealistic father, the older brother who almost went to jail for her before accepting a military position instead, the ex-fiancee who has remained a good friend. Particularly after hearing the crucible she went through at such a young age when she was assaulted, you will be ready to get BFF necklaces and take her out for a drink! Roman is actually her perfect match, as her playful demeanor offers him an outlet he never before possessed and his intense support with no agenda other than helping her is a welcome relief from the many people who demand a piece of her. Their heat is off the charts – muy caliente – and when that sensuality is combined with the tenderness between them, it’s enough to break your heart, particularly knowing how doomed they are.

Which brings me to the number one reason why I think this book should be made into a movie. Of all the books (and the whole series would be an incredible movie franchise if middle America wouldn’t flip out at the M/M action and the triad relationships), the ending of this book, literally had me standing up shouting “Yes, YES!!” the first time I read it (and I still do a fist pump with each subsequent re-read). Dane just surprises the hell out of me with her ability to pull an emotional yet believable HEA out of what previously appeared to be thin air. Suffice it to say that you’ll be so much more in love with Roman than you were before, if that’s possible.

Insatiable (Federation Chronicles #3, Phantom Corps #1 – Daniel and Carina) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2010)

The third book, Insatiable, stars none other than Abbie Haws brother, Daniel, who works for Roman Lyons’ chief military officer in what’s known as the Phantom Corps. In fact, Dane has created a mini-trilogy within the larger construct of the Federation Chronicles, continuing the story arc of political corruption within the Federation and demonstrating how the brave men and women of this elite undercover force ferrets out information and eliminates threats to the universes.

This book brings in a fascinating angle to the series’ story arc of the growing threat to the Federation by exposing us to the threat inherent in Imperial territory. The Imperial ‘Verses are the direct competition and insidious enemy of the Federation although no conflict is officially declared. One of the most powerful men in this ‘verse is a sick bastard by the name of Fardelle, who is about to marry off his twenty-three year old daughter Carina to further cement an alliance with one of his underlings.

Carina has perfected the facade of a shallow, stunningly beautiful woman just waiting to be married off to further her father’s agenda. Her mother, Fardelle’s first wife, has worked quietly behind the scenes to undermine her husband and support her children at every turn, for all the good it’s done her.  Her oldest son literally disappeared and his name stricken from all records and portraits, her youngest son died suddenly of a mysterious and virulent illness, and now her daughter is to be married to a violent lecher who will make the rest of her life a hell. Stealing vital data chips from her husband’s home office, Carina’s mother convinces her to accept the coded data as a subdermal chip, intrinsically linked to her body’s system so that in order to extract the data, Carina must be alive. Contacting Federation forces, Fardelle’s wife arranges for an operative to ferry Carina to Federation territory and safely out of her father’s hands.

Carina agreed to be the carrier thinking that this would undermine her father’s evil while helping her and her mother escape, and she’s dismayed at the last minute by her mother’s announcement that she plans to stay behind. Carina fleeing a horrible marriage is believable versus the more treasonous implications of the two of them disappearing. When the handsome but bossy operative Daniel Haws arrives in disguise, Carina can tell she’s in good hands even if the agent in question treats her like an utter moron.

Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay

Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay

Daniel is shocked at not only how beautiful Carina Fardelle is, but how her public face of a vapid, shallow daughter of wealth completely disappears and in its place is that of a vibrant and capable young woman eager to experience the world and feel her freedom. He must get her out of Imperial territory alive, however, and back to Ravena where the information on her chip can be decoded. Fardelle is suspected of trafficking in bioweapons with the goal to attack Federation outposts and the human costs could potentially be in the millions. Yet as he and Carina evade Imperial forces with the help of his fellow agents, Daniel finds himself sexually and emotionally pulled toward this brave young woman, all the while knowing that when they return to his home planet she will be inundated with proposals of marriage from ranked men. But Carina didn’t escape her father’s control to not take the reins of her own destiny, and she knows her future includes Daniel, if he can let go of his belief system to see it.

Dane does a terrific job showing us the phenomenal pressures of Carina’s life, pressures which force her to don an impenetrable mask in order to avoid detection. But although Carina is a virgin, she is a sensual, slightly naughty one with a propensity for voyeurism, so she has plenty of tricks up her sleeve and she plans on trying all of them with Daniel. There is no way for Daniel to resist her for long, at least not once his instincts confirm that this bold, courageous woman is the real Carina, and he knows she may just be one person he can never let go. I loved them as a couple, adored their heat, and felt that the sense of imminent threat to the Federation was so well done, I wasn’t sure what was making my pulse pound more – Carina and Daniel’s sexy times or the urgent need for them to get her information back to Ravena ASAP! Meeting the other members of the Phantom Corps helps understand the dynamics of their operation while introducing us to a few key people, namely the heroes of the next two books.

Mesmerized (Federation Chronicles #4; Phantom Corps #2 – Andrei and Piper) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2011)

The first fellow Phantom Corp agent with his own book is Andrei Solace, the enigmatic assassin who helped Carina and Daniel get to Federation territory. Now in Mesmerized, with the escalation of animosity from the Imperial forces a growing rumor – particularly with their use of mercenaries to traffic bioagents and ammunition – Andrei is sent back to his home planet to investigate. There is one mercenary in particular who he never forgot and who he is sure will help the Federation. But seeing her means confronting his past and, more importantly, having the strength to walk away…again.

Piper Roundtree thought Andrei might have died when he disappeared at age 17 and it broke her young heart. Always best friends, their affection for one another became an all-consuming young love which had them taking one another’s virginity. But Andrei and Piper both lived a hardscrabble existence on the wrong side of the law, and while Piper had her siblings, Andrei was alone after his mother died and his siblings were taken away. After his arrest, the Roundtrees never saw him again, only comforted by the occasional packets of credits marked with a single “A” that helped them survive in their isolated compound during the hard years.

But when Andrei turns out to be the mysterious sniper who just saved Piper and her family from annihilation at the hands of Imperial soldiers pressuring her to ferry illegal cargo, Piper has the realization that nothing has changed regarding her feelings for Andrei. Yes, he’s now a man when she loved the boy, but realizing the work he’s done and how he has made himself into a deadly soldier only makes her more determined to show him that he is loved exactly for who he is. Andrei knows that who and what he is will only stain this incredible thing that he has with Piper, but he can’t help needing her, even when he knows he should push her away.

Andrei was a sexy beast in Insatiable and had a demonstrated wry sense of humor, but seeing him revisit his painful past is worth it to find Piper again. She is so upbeat and stubborn (both in the best possible way) and most importantly, she knows him well-enough to understand all the shame and worries he brings to their renewed relationship, allowing her to blast past those barriers one at a time. For Andrei, being an assassin and spy is so much of who he is (and that part of him that he doesn’t want Piper to know) that for him to see her actively take part in his life – using her shady contacts, her ability to bluff and her amazing piloting skills to help him and the Federation – is this eye-opening moment where it occurs to him that his vocation doesn’t have to be separate from the love of his life. I adored them both and cheered for them to figure it all out, even when the ending of the book broke my heart with Piper’s loss during the plant raid.

Captivated (Federation Chronicles #5 ; Phantom Corps #3 – Vincenz, Julian and Hannah) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2012)

That final mission in Mesmerized had a big impact on more than just Andrei and Piper. In Captivated, we see the story begin back at the raid, as Vincenz Fardelle (Carina’s older brother who disappeared and then enlisted in the Phantom Corps) helps raid the plant in an effort to discover more about his father’s Imperial plans for bioweaponry. As he is making his way through the deserted labs, he spots a naked, filthy woman, clearly tortured, in one of the glass cells. Glancing at the lab’s information to insure that she is not infected or dangerous, he’s angered and horrified to discover that she has been subjected to an experiment for over a year at being deprived of touch or interaction of any kind other than experiments involving pain or violent treatment. He scoops her up and takes her to the transport to get her out of that hellhole prior to its detonation.

The woman, who is identified as scientist Hannah Black, is naturally terrified of doctors of any kind, reminded all too much of the experiments and pain inflicted upon her in her captivity. Vincenz, who has rejected his father’s name and taken his mother’s surname Cuomo, is in a relationship with fellow Phantom Corps member Julian Marsters. Brought together soon after Julian lost his best friend in the attack on Ravena in Insatiable, Vincenz and Julian discovered that their love for one another has pushed back the darkness they each carry. Perhaps because of this, they empathize with Hannah’s struggle to fight to gain back the pieces of her shattered memory and personality, immediately protecting her from the Federation doctors who want her in a hospital under their care.

In the weeks after her rescue, Hannah feels nothing but frustration at her fragmented intellect combined with intense affection for the two gorgeous men who protect her. Deprived of human touch for so long, golden Vincenz and the dark Julian keep her sandwiched between them at night, making sure one of them is always close by for her to hold if she needs them during the day. When it becomes clear that she was kidnapped for a reason by the Imperial scientists, Hannah agrees to undergo a painful experimental treatment which will hopefully amplify the piecing together of her memory in order to help the Phantom Corps with information. In the process, a part of herself she thought permanently lost – that of sexual desire – returns with a vengeance and is embarrassingly directed at the handsome soldiers who saved her.

While Vincenz and Julian may have begun their acceptance of Hannah into their home based on the need to protect her, the weeks of witnessing her daily bravery have deepened their feelings into much more and they both admit to each other that their feelings are quite carnal. Helping Hannah reclaim this part of herself as well is nothing but a pleasure to all three of them, but with Julian still withholding a part of himself over grief for his friend and Vincenz facing his father’s demons in an important mission, Hannah wonders if the feelings she has for these two men will have to come to an end.

Public domain image via Pixabay

Public domain image via Pixabay

Okay, this is the book practically tied with Relentless as my favorite of the series. Vincenz and Julian are both hot and sweet with one another – brainy, hunky soldiers with dark pasts who nevertheless find something precious and wonderful in one another. The development with Hannah is all the sweeter for them not realizing it was anything they needed or wanted, they just woke up one day realizing that her happiness was incredibly important to them and that she was a woman whose beauty, inside and out, made her an intrinsic part of their relationship.

Hannah is an amazing character and I think Lauren Dane is nothing short of masterful the way she conveys how Hannah’s brain has morphed into something truly different, yet how that change has simply revealed the core of her amazing personality. Seeing Piper and Andrei again was a pleasure, particularly when they both explain how Vincenz and Julian are seriously stepping in it and hurting Hannah. There’s no way you don’t have a smile on your face when Andrei lectures the two of them on how to treat a woman! Dane offers great further development of threat from the Imperial forces and a really exciting denouement when we return to the compound from which Carina escaped back in Insatiable. There is joy and heartbreak in the final showdown, but once again, an unexpected HEA that makes you cheer for this triad and the future they have together.

While Dane has made clear that while she is busy juggling other projects in 2014 (and I’m looking forward to them!), she’s is planning at least two more books in the series – Wil (the hot head of the Phantom Corps who we have already seen flustered by a woman back on Ravena) and Deimos (Roman Lyons oldest son who I carry a crush for based on how much he loves his father and how he wants to help Abby). Her website states that she’s hoping their books will come out in 2015, but luckily for us, these five books are so amazing that whenever I get itchy for fabulous science fiction, I just reread them!

There All Along by Lauren Dane and Megan Hart (Berkley, December 3, 2013)

I did want to address the cost of the books – the ebook editions are strangely expensive (like around $11) which I don’t understand at all, but there are mass market paperbacks for each of them with a normal price of $6, and honestly, whatever you pay, they are utterly worth it. I have most of mine in paper format, but considering where they rank in my list of favorite series, I’m going to slowly add the ebook versions since I like to have both formats for books I consider to be romance classics, and these fit the bill.

Many thanks to Lauren Dane for being such a kickass writer that she can do multiple genres with aplomb. She has another (what sounds like) science fiction story (unrelated to the Federation chronicles) coming out this week in a duology with Megan Hart, There All Along, and Dane’s story “Land’s End” about a lone gunman and the woman who’s town is attacked, sounds amazing – I’ve already pre-ordered it!

If you enjoy science fiction, love science fiction erotic romance, or just plain love Lauren Dane, do yourself a favor and get the Federation Chronicles on your to-read list ASAP. This a phenomenal series by a phenomenal writer – you’ll love it!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 13, 2013

13 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

A new addition to the Cosmo Red Hot Reads partnership with Harlequin is Everything You Need to Know by HelenKay Dimon. Jordan McAdam is jaded enough when it comes to men to administer a DC website detailing the hottest bachelors – including rating them on the manners in and out of the bedroom. When the opportunity presents itself to get the “hands on” dirt on elusive hottie Forrest Redder, they both wonder if and when his stats will get posted, or if Jordan might finally realize that some men are worth keeping to herself. Publication date October 15th!

While we are waiting patiently for the first book in author Jaci Burton’s new Hope series to come out, she continues to tantalize by releasing the book cover for the second one, Hope Ignites, complete with a link to pre-order! This contemporary series appears to have heart-warming themes of home and family in a rural environment, but with Burton at the helm, I’m sure that there will be plenty of emotional sexy times as well.

Cara McKenna is releasing her new book, Unbound, this week on October 15th, a contemporary featuring a woman trying to find herself after some major life changes (including losing over 100 pounds) by taking a three-week hike in the Scottish Highlands. What she doesn’t plan is finding a self-imposed hermit, forced to take in an injured woman. When her flirting and upbeat attitude begin melting away his defenses, both find themselves wondering if they can face their fears and find a future…together.

The next book in paranormal doyenne Larissa Ione‘s Demonica series is going to be Reaver (the 10th book in the Demonica series and the 5th in the Lords of Deliverance), and fans will be pleased to note that Amazon has currently discounted the paperback price to $4.80 if you pre-order this book prior to its release date of December 17th.

Thea Harrison is about to release the next novel in her Elder Races series, Kinked in early November.  One of the most popular dragon series in paranormal romance (and yes, there are plenty), this novel features two Sentinels who despise one another who are thrown together on a reconnaissance mission only to find their conflict – and passion – coming to a head. They need to discover a way to resolve their differences, and quickly, as their entire kingdom is at risk. This book is down to $4.79 if you pre-order the paperback copy from Amazon.

I’m going to have to do a blog post on historical romance author Bertrice Small who is still cranking out books at 75 years old. How awesome is that? Her latest is an addition to her The Silk Merchant’s Daughters series, and Lucianna – the tale of a beautiful Italian widow who comes to the attention of an English Earl captivated by her intelligence and looks while in the country on a mission for King Henry VII – is the next novel in the series, just released on October 1st . When her well-meaning family schemes to get her to England to pursue the attraction and find some happiness, Lucianna must confront what she really wants from her life rather than hiding from it.

Contests and Giveaways

I loved Dee J. Adams’ Adrenaline Highs series, so I’m happy to see that not only did she put out another book this summer, Against the Wall, the first in her new High Stakes series, but that it also currently has a giveaway on Goodreads to boot. A wrongfully imprisoned man is out for revenge against the person who put him there and he must team with a young woman who can give him access to her employer – in exchange for the safety of her kidnapped family. Sounds like Adams is giving her usual brand of page turning suspense! Enter before October 15th to win.

Historical thriller writer Tracey Devlyn is having not one but two giveaways this month! While her web contest is giving away the three books in her Nexus series plus a custom bookmark, her no-holds-barred Rafflecopter giveaway could have you winning an iPad mini if you help her promote her latest (and totally terrific) book, A Lady’s Secret Weapon. You can earn entries toward the iPad by entering the necessary information on either the Rafflecopter link on her website or on her Facebook page. Enter before October 31st for both contests.

Suspense maven Stephanie Tyler specializes in crafting terrific military heroes and her new Section 8 series is up to her usual mark. Based around a former Navy SEAL whose father was part of a secret operation named Section 8, now the government has given the order for all operatives and their families to be eliminated and it’s a race against time to save the innocent. The second book in the series, Unbreakable, is due out in early November and there is a contest to win a copy on Goodreads if you enter prior to October 18th.

Fun Stuff

I adore the blog Book Riot, particularly for featuring all the great reading-related clothing and accessories in the world, but know this wonderful resource has their own t-shirt, emblazoned with the terrific logo of “READ HARDER”. And you should! Only $20 and you could be exhorting this message to the people in your life.

Just in time for Halloween literary style are this pair of adorable custom made Edgar Allen Poe flats from CustombyKylee on Etsy. Only $50, this will have you quoting “The Raven” whether you are thinking of your high school English teacher or The Simpsons Halloween episode version (which is also pretty fabulous).

Just when I think it’s impossible for me to drool more over Kate Spade and her wonderful offerings, she proves me wrong! Case in point, her new library-inspired bag line, including the chuckle-worthy Required Reading Bon Shopper tote bag, printed with a colorful old-fashioned card catalog. Granted, it’s Kate Spade so this puppy is going to set you back about $228, but a girl can dream, right?

Great Deals

Shifter fans who have not yet read Rhyannon Byrd’s Dark Wolf Rising will be pleased to note that it’s available for free from Amazon right now. When a powerful wolf who has always steered clear of human females and mated within his pack instead finds an irresistable woman snooping around the pack’s land in the hope of finding her kidnapped sister, all previously held ideas get examined..and are found wanting.

Historical author Julie Anne Long’s The Perils of Pleasure is discounted to only $1.99 right now, so fans of Regency rogues arrested for murder and rescued by beautiful mercenaries with their own agenda might want to run over to Amazon right now and pick it up.

Fans of BDSM queen, Joey W. Hill will be thrilled to see that her Natural Law novel is currently available for free on Amazon. When a strong detective goes undercover at a BDSM club he’s glad to discover the Dominatrix willing to help him uncover the murderer in their midst, but she might also uncover some rather disturbing revelations about this cop’s sensual desires, and what he might really want.

That’s it for this week. Happy reading, everyone! 🙂

Lauren Dane’s Delicious Series Combines Friendship, Food and Hot Romance

24 Jul

Cherished by Maya Banks and Lauren Dane (containing Book 1 of the Delicious series “Sway” – Daisy and Levi’s story) (Berkley, August 2012)

Lauren Dane is undoubtedly at the top of the pack when it comes to erotic romance; she’s an author who can be counted on to supply some key basics to any story. Her work is deeply psychological, filled with strong women and the men who grow to love and worship them, in an atmosphere filled with internal conflict and with characters surrounded by rich, caring friends. Yet, for all these consistencies, each one of her many books (and I’ve read a lot of them) is as unique as the characters who inhabit them – characters who you feel could step off the page and hold a conversation with you. But talking might just be overrated since Dane is renowned, and rightly so, for her romance novels burning up the erotic end of the spectrum, rife with love scenes so hot you’ll think your e-reader is developing an electrical problem.

Her Delicious series is set on the picturesque spot of Bainbridge Island, next to Seattle, where a group of friends (Gillian’s good friends from Dane’s Brown Siblings book, Never Enough) have a long-standing supper club, one that becomes a thriving business for several of them. In the dual anthology Cherished, Lauren Dane starts off this series with the novella “Sway”. Levi Warner is tired of his brother’s fiancee making demands of their family leading up to the wedding, particularly when one of them is that every member of the wedding party attend dance classes. Levi knows how to dance but is happy to take lessons when he catches sight of his partner, a tattooed, vintage-dressed, twenty-something Daisy Huerta. She’s one of the dance instructors and her beauty stimulates Levi as much as her intelligent bright eyes and the way her body submits to his on the dance floor. They are both left a little breathless, but with Levi almost twice her age in his early forties, he knows she’s not for him.

Beautiful Bainbridge Island has a bridge, but the picturesque ferry is a popular way to get there.

Convinced they inhabit different spheres, he’s surprised to see her in the foyer of his friend and lawyer Cal Whaley’s building supervising an art installation. Daisy is elated to see the sensual older man whose air of command got her blood flowing in their dance class. She wants to run her hands through that salt-and-pepper hair and see if his dominance extends to the bedroom as well, but he’s clearly shying away from her. When they finally do spend some time together, she can practically smell Levi’s affluence but they both put aside their possible incompatibility in order to explore what’s between them.

Levi cannot resist this incredibly talented young woman whose confidence and art ability puts her in an older emotional class than her age of 24. With Daisy, Levi is able to be himself in the bedroom, a dominant, and like a true Dom, he cherishes and lavishes pleasure on his sub. He knows his loving but prominent family would never accept the artsy Daisy yet he cannot stay away from her. With his disaster of a first marriage behind him, he doesn’t want forever, but Daisy is not shy about calling Levi on his avoidance of mixing her with his life and family. His reluctance might force him to lose the person who has come to mean everything to him – who lets him be exactly who he is with no pretense.

I’m going to honest that BDSM holds zero interest to me but, like lots of other sexy times in romance novels, if there is emotion and character development in the midst of that sexual practice I’m happy to read it and see how it advances the plot. Levi and Daisy in the bedroom would be a good way for someone unsure about BDSM stories to dip their toe in the water since they are both so tender and exciting with one another that the sex is less about collars and rope and more about two people revealing their innermost selves and finding they are a perfect match.

“Sway” is also a great introduction to Lauren Dane’s style of writing, which I adore. Yes, everyone has a certain amount of emotional baggage but, with the rich setting of Bainbridge Island and Seattle as a backdrop, these people work through their internal conflicts to find the love they so richly deserve.

Tart (Delicious series #2 – Jules and Cal and Gideon’s story) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, November 2012)

The second book in the series, this time the full-length, 350+ page novel Tart, focuses on one of Daisy’s good friends and business partners, baker Jules Lamprey. She owns the bakery of the same name and part of her expansion with her catering friend Mary Whaley is that they both want to start using local suppliers for more of their goods. Jules heads out to one of her favorite farmers, Patrick Carter, only to discover that his gorgeous grandson Gideon has moved back to help his grandfather. One look at Jules and Gideon zeroes right in on her, wasting no time going to her bakery and making his interest clear. They embark on a hot, sexy relationship that Jules feels is the icing on her cake until one BIG complication rears its head.

That complication comes in form of her best friend, Cal Whaley. Cal has loved Jules since he kissed her when she was fifteen and he was seventeen, but numerous relationships with men and women later and he suddenly realizes that Jules isn’t waiting for him anymore. Seeing the intensity of her relationship with Gideon goes way beyond her usual approach to dating, he corners her outside the bakery and gives a scorching kiss, one that sets her back on her heels and pisses her off.

Cal has had seventeen years to make a move on her and she came to terms with him not wanting her when he starting dating guys. When he also started dating women, however, Jules was hurt since she clearly wasn’t good enough for him to be with romantically, and now he has the nerve to kiss the stuffing out of her just when everything is amazing with Gideon. She storms back to the farm to tell Gideon what happened with Cal following in her wake, only to have Gideon shock the hell out of both of them.

Be warned, the amazing food in both Tart and Lush will make you hungry (and wish that these women were your friends).

Be warned, the amazing food in both Tart and Lush will make you hungry (and wish that these women were your friends).

Gideon knows that Jules is it for him. His failed marriage behind him, he has a clear view of what he wants and needs and this kind, blond beauty with her cadre of loyal friends and demanding family is his future. When Jules bursts into his house upset, with her best friend Cal on her heels, explaining how Cal kissed her and that she responded, Gideon applies his own brand of logic to the situation. Gideon doesn’t want to lose Jules and knows there is a serious spark with this man who has been in her life since she was small. He doesn’t want to be the reason that Jules loses someone important to her and, truth be told, Gideon has had plenty of relationships with men as well as women. Cal is gorgeous so Gideon suggests that Jules and he open the relationship to include Cal.

That was the last thing Jules expected to hear. She has seen successful triad relationships like that of her friend and famous bass guitarist Erin Brown with her two partners (whose phenomenal story is the first of the Brown siblings series, Laid Bare). Could she possibly do one and particularly a relationship with two such dominant males as Cal and Gideon? Her immediate family has abandoned her, one person after another, and the thought of Cal and Gideon maybe preferring each other in the long run and leaving Jules behind is a very real fear for her.

Without my knowing how many actual committed triad relationships there are in the United States, it’s had for me to know what’s normal, but there is something incredibly realistic about Lauren Dane’s writing when it comes to these committed situations. Gideon, Jules and Cal are wicked hot and sexy together, but their issues, fights and vulnerabilities are incredibly realistic as is the reaction of some of their family members to the announcement of their partnership. Yet where other books who’ve gone for “realistic” in menage relationships have seemed so unromantic to me, Dane makes these relationships filled with love and tenderness (and heat, yowza) where loyal friends and family just want the people involved to be happy and can see how good they are for one another. Having known so many women like Jules, who are so confident in every area except that of caring for their selfish family members, it was a joy to see her grow with the encouragement of Cal and Gideon into a person who can set boundaries and demand a healthy relationship from everyone in her life.

Lush (Delicious #3 – Mary and Damien’s story) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, April 2013)

Overlapping the events in the last third of Tart is the hot fling between Mary Whaley, Jules’ best friend and business partner, and the uber-sexy rock drummer Damien Hurley, detailed in the third book of the series, Lush. Damien is in town for all of the wedding festivities of his good friend and rock legend Adrian Brown to his English fiancee Gillian, and he is immediately taken with all of Gillian’s lovely female friends. One in particular, the curly-haired brunette siren Mary Whaley bowls him over with her sensuality and her talent. She makes it extremely clear that she would be happy to have a hot little fling with Damien. One taste of Mary and Damien realizes that she’s even more delicious than her food, and once will not be enough for him.

Mary is incredibly busy caring for her thriving business and a relationship with one of the most notorious playboys in rock doesn’t even cross her mind. But Damien keeps calling and texting her, building a real friendship with her – one that she’s happy to say includes benefits when they see one another. Spending a little more time together has her uncomfortable and astonished at the behavior of the women he encounters on tour. Damien keeps reassuring her that its her he wants but with them both so busy, Mary has her doubts that this powerful attraction between them can develop into more.

It’s impossible not to love Damien and Mary. Damien is so determined to finally have something real with this incredible woman but he has to face the reality of his past. That he comes from a down to earth family (many of whom are in the band with him) who have seen him at his best and worst helps keep him on track and making progress with Mary, but he’s aware the lifestyle sucks when it comes to relationships. Mary is a wonderful strong woman with talent flowing out of her pores. Yet she’s not afraid to stand up to her overbearing friends who think they are protecting her from the hurt Damien could potentially inflict upon her with his rock star ways. I’m hoping Damien’s scathingly hot brothers will continue the series since the Hurley family has plenty to offer Dane’s readers! *fans self*

Lauren Dane not only delivers emotionally pitch perfect romance time and again, but she’s capable of doing it in practically every genre. While she rocks contemporary erotic romance with her Brown Siblings series (I’ll have to do a post on it, it’s that good and there’s a new book coming out in October), paranormal romance like her Cascadia Wolves shifter series or her newer Bound by Magick series, and even science fiction in the form of the Federation Chronicles (which kicks total romance ass, btw). If you’re feeling a little hungry for erotic romance with amazing characters, take a taste of Lauren Dane’s Delicious series and enjoy!

A Good BDSM Introduction: The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden

9 Jul

I’m going to be honest here. BDSM isn’t my thing, but I always enjoy well-written erotica, since the point of erotica is writing sexually explicit material that advances the plot, usually one of self-discovery and/or a relationship between two people.

I was elated, therefore, to find upon reading a NetGalley copy of Delphine Dryden‘s new enovella, The Theory of Attraction, that she has touched on all points. This is a sexy, lengthy novella about one woman’s discovery of a type of relationship she had no knowledge of, complete with explicit, caring scenes that advance the relationship between the hero and heroine.

This story is told solely from Camille’s perspective and while anyone who reads this blog knows that I am far from being a fan of the first person, in this case it works. Camille is on a journey of self-discovery since she has no idea that she’s a submissive and through the sex scenes we see with our hero, Ivan, that he grows both in confidence and in his feelings for Camille. The point of view is pitch perfect in this case.

Camille has been a neighbor and friend to Ivan for a couple of years now, but only recently has she noticed that the brusque astrophysicist is actually, well, kind of luscious, particularly when he goes running shirtless in the Texas heat wave they are experiencing. A stickler for a timetable, she sets her clock by Ivan’s routine, but she’s finding their mutual geek friends more and more annoying – she wants to spend time with him one-on-one.

Not that she thinks Ivan notices. Cami doesn’t believe Ivan sees her as a woman, but she’s wrong. Ivan probably would fall on the autism spectrum with his perpetual struggle to read human behavior (shades of The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie here). It isn’t that he can’t do it if he sets his mind to it, its that he doesn’t see the point. Knowing that in order to get ahead at the university he needs to demonstrate an ability to mingle and schmooze fundraising opportunities, he asks Cami to give him lessons in how to be social.

As Cami spends time with Ivan she suspects he not only knows that she’s dressing differently to entice him but that he’s actually flirting with her a little. Her suspicions are confirmed when she takes him for a trial run with friends to a movie. He hints that he knows what she’s doing but she doesn’t understand what she might be in for. Confronting him about it has him boldly spell it out for her. Unlike the lack of experience she has assumed he has, he actually is very experienced, but like everything in his life, Ivan has to be in control. Ivan is a dominant.

Cami only has the barest understanding of what this means and the more he explains to her, the more she wants to try it, for a specific reason.

I wanted to see him feeling things. I wanted to see him have feelings so strong he couldn’t hide from them. Couldn’t control his reactions. I wanted to make Ivan Reynolds completely lose his shit. Barring that, I would settle for Ivan making me completely lose my shit, which seemed a lot more likely.

And they both do exactly that. Ivan trains Cami to be the perfect submissive, introducing her to all sorts of toys and restrains, floggings, etc. But rather than be frightened at any of it (he naturally teaches her how to use a safeword before starting their relationship), she is incredibly turned on by his knowledge and his arousal at being in control.

He called it taking, but I felt as though he were giving me these things, these actions, like pieces of himself. Challenging me to receive these odd gifts, because they were all he had to give. His attention, his regard. His respect, which was the strangest thing of all, because I had expected to feel degraded at some point in all this and instead I felt valued beyond measure. Cherished. Strong.

The Lamplighter’s Love by Delphine Dryden (Ellora’s Cave, September 9, 2011)

I could care less about all the BDSM play but Dryden’s uncanny ability to beautifully show the evolution of emotion through sex is fantastic. It’s this ability to tap into emotion that makes this book such an excellent introduction to BDSM stories for someone unfamiliar with the dynamics. A novice reader can learn along with Cami while also understanding the reciprocity of shared emotion that ideally accompanies this relationship. I’m not totally surprised at Dryden’s mastry. I read her Steampunk enovella, The Lamplighter’s Love and was impressed by the world she created but most of all the dynamic of master and teacher portrayed in that work. It seems to be a specialty of hers!

Delphine Dryden also has a terrific website which an example of what a great author website should be – obvious social networking links, a stunningly beautiful design, her books clearly highlighted and easy to find. It’s not a shock then to read in the author credits on the novella that she designs websites in her spare time. I was also pleased to see such a gorgeous cover for the book (I’m so tired of mediocre erotica covers), but then, that’s Carina Press for you. Their covers are always terrific.

So if a friend says they don’t understand the whole BDSM thing or isn’t willing to fork over full price for Fifty Shades of Grey without knowing more, have them try this great value for the money enovella first to see if they like it. At under $4, it’s a bargain for someone wanting to see if this type of romance is for them.

%d bloggers like this: