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December Read-a-Thon: Fangs, Fur and Mistletoe by Selena Blake Offers True Love, Paranormal Style, for the Holiday Season

11 Dec

Fangs, Fur & Mistletoe (Mystic Isle #1 – Coco and Grayson) by Selena Blake (Ecila Media, December 1, 2012)

I had read and enjoyed a few of the novels from Selena Blake‘s Stormy Weather series, (including the holiday novella from that group of books, A Cajun Werewolf Christmas, currently available for free on Amazon) so when I saw that she had a paranormal series set on an island that provides sexy Club Med services for paranormal creatures – and that the series occurs at Christmas – it seemed like an excellent candidate for my December Read-a-Thon.

Granted, there are few references to the holiday season in this wonderful novel, but it’s Selena Blake, so, who cares? Fangs, Fur & Mistletoe (love the title!) is the first book in Blake’s Mystic Isle series, centered on a group of female vampires belonging to the same Parisian coven who decide to head to the playground of the paranormal set for a little holiday relaxation.

It’s easy to see why Blake’s Mystic Isle series is her top-rated collection of books on Goodreads – the first novella-length installment has a tough job ahead of it. Fangs, Fur & Mistletoe not only tells the story of our first couple, vampire Coco and her long-lost enemy, werewolf Grayson, but it must also set up the other four women who will be the future heroines of the other books of the series. Not easy to do in approximately 100 pages!

Yet Blake pulls it off, beautifully. Coco Jeffres is fascinating – one of the few black vampires in existence, she is pureborn of two vampire parents. Although she’s lived for well over a century, she combines a modern sensibility with loyalty and old-world values. A little glum from having broken up with her boyfriend, Dmitiri two months ago (she’s glum because she knew it went on too long), she’s looking forward to Mystic Isle as a place to have hot rebound sex and finally shake off her doldrums.

Tropical beaches (albeit moonlit ones - Coco is a vampire after all) abound in this steamy holiday romance. (Public Domain image via Pixabay)

Tropical beaches (albeit moonlit ones – Coco is a vampire after all) abound in this steamy holiday romance. (Public Domain image via Pixabay)

The last person she expects to run into is the grey-eyed, uber-hot werewolf she encountered on the battlefield one hundred and eleven years ago. Sworn enemies then, she never forgot the overwhelming feeling that swept over her in his presence. Now that their kind no longer fight one another as a rule, who is to say what could happen? The thought that he might be here with some stacked werewolf female is more depressing than sex with her ex, but Coco cannot stop thinking about the man she’s never forgotten.

Grayson West is at Mystic Isle alone, hoping for a little sun and relaxation prior to shipping off on another mercenary mission. While he had definitely planned on a hookup or two as part of his itinerary, seeing the blue-eyed, chocolate skinned vampire who fascinated him on the battlefield over a century ago has taken his breath away. He’s never forgotten her and watching other men circle around her in the Mystic Isle bar makes him want to stamp his possession on her until it’s obvious she belongs to him.

While Coco and Grayson don’t attempt to deny the heat between them and find themselves falling for one another with astonishing rapidity, dangers lurk in the form of Coco’s loyalties. Grayson feels too much to be kept hidden away like a dirty secret, but the histories of Coco’s good friends and coven members come into play on this sensual isle and may change all their destinies.

Where to start? Both Coco and Grayson are outstanding characters – with all the backstory necessary to set up the series, I could not believe how well Blake manages to sketch their characters. Their fighting history is extremely sexy, as is Coco’s loyalty to her coven members, particularly the scarred new vampire Izzy who has good reason to hate werewolves. Each of the women on vacation is equally as interesting and mysterious and I cannot wait to see them find their mate, particularly the cool and celibate Valencia (who will have her story published in 2014).

Blake’s sex scenes are also flaming hot and fulfill the definition of great sex scene writing, with plenty of emotion and character development packing the pages. You will not need to turn up your thermostat with this book on your e-reader!

An outstanding start to an intriguing series, Fangs, Fur & Mistletoe is a great addition to your pile of holiday romance reads. Get it in your to-read queue for some tropical holiday fun and try some other Selena Blake while you are at it. You won’t be disappointed!

Happy reading! 🙂

December Holiday Read-a-Thon: Gifts of Honor Duology Offers Heart-wrenching Heroes and the Holiday Season

1 Dec

Carina Press holiday anthologies are always a go-to for me during December – I’ve never read one that contained a saccharine story, and the credit goes to editor Angela James who always manages to find authors who combine great characters, heart-warming settings, and the true spirit of the holiday.

Gifts of Honor is no exception, except authors Stacy Gail and Rebecca Crowley add the twist of two military heroes so damaged by their service that they are unable to give the women they love the relationship she deserves. Or so they think.

I’ve loved Stacy Gail since last December when I devoured her steampunk holiday romance novella Crime Wave in a Corset, followed by her awesome science fiction novella How the Glitch Stole Christmas. Since then, I’ve read a bunch of her paranormal angels books as well as her contemporary Ugly Ducklings Finish First, and I can confidently say this author has chops since she seems to be able to excel in all genres and still keep a fresh voice and utilize truly unique story ideas. Rebecca Crowley is a newer author of contemporary romance, so it was great to sample a holiday story from her to see what she would bring to this theme. She did not disappoint!

Note that while both stories are offered in the duology Gifts of Honor for under $4.00, you can also get each one individually for around $2.50, if one sounds like it appeals and not the other. The individual links under their specific book cover will take you right to that story, if that’s your preference. But considering the quality of both of them, you’d be wasting your money to not by the duology. Just sayin’.

Starting From Scratch by Stacy Gail

Starting from Scratch by Stacy Gail (Carina Press, November 21, 2013)

Lucy Crabtree is busy at her job baking all the holiday treats for her small town’s Sweet Shoppe and is just managing to hold it together. Her ex-husband, Sullivan Jax, has finally moved home after his lengthy stay in military rehab where he’s been recovering from a head trauma, a trauma that had him waking up with no memory of Lucy or their marriage.

The only thing she’d prayed for was for Sully to come back alive.

She should have been more specific.

Their marriage had been rocky with his last deployment with the Rangers, a deployment he had barely told her about, leaving her with a lot of anger and once again crushing her dream of them finally making a home and family together. Now she had to look forward to the awkwardness and gossip surrounding the fact that they’d undoubtedly be bumping into one another.

Sullivan Jax would be the first to admit that his ex-wife is heart-stoppingly gorgeous but he also knows that a woman that beautiful deserves to have a life free of a man who can’t even remember her. It galls him to no end that he has begun remembering so many of the details of his childhood and time in the military, but this woman is a just a big, painful blank spot.

That he also has developed an insane craving for cookies – cookies that smell just like the scent that clings to Lucy whenever he sees her – must just be a weird side effect of the season. But one taste of Lucy’s mouth and all thought of cookies gets pushed aside. This is what he’s been craving all along. But while he thinks he might be falling in love with his wife all over again, Sullivan also realizes that he might be the one person she never wants to be with, as he’s already torn her heart to pieces.

This story had everything – great characters, mouth-watering food (always part of the holiday romance genre), and a small-town setting perfect for the backdrop of the holiday spirit. Yes, it’s utterly gut-wrenching to place yourself in Lucy’s shoes, but Gail does an outstanding job of outlining the pressures deployed soldiers and their spouses both face, specifically focusing on how this element eroded Lucy and Sullivan’s marriage. I loved it when Lucy’s good friend and mechanic, Coe read her the riot act of how she had always been the one giving and Sullivan the one taking. Lucy’s understanding of what she did and didn’t do in her marriage showed her growth as much as the pieces of his mistakes in his marriage coming back to Sullivan.

Sullivan’s instinctual response was the most fascinating, first from the standpoint of screaming every time he saw her in the hospital to his despair whenever she would run away from him in their town. Gail does not shy away from the heat in this story, and there were times I thought Lucy’s cookies were going to bake on the counter based on how hot it got in the kitchen with this couple! Most sigh-inducing was the final realization that Sullivan had always loved Lucy as much as she did him and that he wasn’t going to give up in winning her once again, which leads me to the quote that had me falling in love with this big former Ranger:

“I’ve learned the hard way that being careless with you, hurting you, is the quickest way into hell,” he grated, and self-condemnation edged the words in bitterness. “But I understand. It’s okay. You’re gun-shy with me now, so I won’t push you into anything you don’t want to do, or feel. And I don’t expect all the pain to magically vanish just because I remember you now. We both went to war, and we both have battle scars that are going to take time to heal.

“But I have so much hope for the future, Lucy,” he added as he pressed her hand to his mouth, and the passion that vibrated in his tone made her throat clench. “A year from now, I hope you’ll have agreed to be my wife and we’ll be trying for our first baby. I hope a month from now you’ll trust me enough to want to live with me so that you can get used to sharing your life with me again. I hope a week from now you’ll believe me when I say I love you, instead of looking like you suspect I’m playing some kind of cruel trick on you. And I hope that by tomorrow, you’ll be able to smile at me without sadness.”

Gail, Stacy; Crowley, Rebecca (2013-11-21). Gifts of Honor: Starting from Scratch\Hero’s Homecoming (Kindle Locations 1788-1796). Carina Press. Kindle Edition.

Starting from Scratch contains the sweetness and spice of the heroine’s Pfeffernusse cookies with enough heat to bake them, proving Stacy Gail is a romance writer who can encapsulate human emotions so well that readers feel like they’ve grown as people when the final page is turned. This is a must-buy!

Hero’s Homecoming by Rebecca Crowley

Hero’s Homecoming by Rebecca Crowley (Carina Press, November 21, 2013)

College professor Beth Tate always thought of herself as a sturdy Midwestern woman until she bumped into Captain Chris Walker when he filled in for an absent archivist at Fort Riley. He was a six foot stud in uniform and she was more than stunned when he looked at her like he wanted to eat her up.

For four days they had a hot affair and while she was willing to let it just be a fling, not wanting to burden him with expectation prior to shipping out to Afghanistan, Chris wanted more. They exchanged long, thoughtful emails and had sweet phone calls for four months and then…nothing. A terse email after a couple weeks of radio silence merely saying that things weren’t going to work out and the most powerful relationship of her life had ended.

Getting a call months later at Christmas from the same Captain who broke her heart, and Beth is literally rendered speechless. With a blizzard blowing in and his parents stuck at their ranch meant Chris needed a ride to a hotel from the airport and could Beth help? Saying yes just to get a good look at the man who would have the gall to behave like this, she’s stunned to see a scarred serviceman with clouded eyes and a cane. Much to the horror of the Christmas crowd at the airport, she promptly cracks him across the face with a slap that should have sent him back overseas.

When Chris realized that the suicide bomber who killed his friends had taken his sight, one of his first thoughts was breaking up with Beth. Not because he didn’t love her but because he knew that she would unflinchingly take on the burden of his disability and she deserved more. He wanted to just disappear from her life so she could find a good man to have a normal life with, but instead he ends up having to call upon her since he has no one to help him with finding a place to stay. Having been worried about her pity, her serious slap quickly dispels that notion. But as they are forced by circumstances to stay at her house, Chris gets a glimpse of what he might still actually be able to have. But his physical scars are nothing compared to the emotional ones he gave Beth, who might not be able to take a chance on him once more.

Wow, was I impressed with this story! Crowley not only gives us two complex characters but imbues both of them with a very understandable emotional evolution. Chris, when confronted with the reality of Beth and her honest reactions, realizes that the grey existence he has mapped out for himself might be completely opposite the one she feels him capable of and that helps him believe more in himself. Beth has to confront the fact that she is just as much in love with Chris as ever, while also trying to understand his physical injuries and PTSD and ponder if she can trust him enough in his state not to throw her to the curb again.

Both situations are so believable but the turning point is Chris’ epiphany about what Beth has gone through, and his acknowledgement offers the final linchpin in her decision to go forward. Hero’s Homecoming is an emotional read that kept me riveted, turning each page to discover if this man and woman could overcome the obstacles and embrace the happiness within their reach, if they are just brave enough to take a chance.

With the quality of both stories in Gifts of Honor, I think you’d be crazy to not buy both books in the duology for $4.00 rather than only one story. Stacy Gail and Rebecca Crowley have both penned contemporary military romances that bring home the idea that the holiday season is about hope and the renewal of life with love at the center.

Have a super holiday season!!

Naked Sushi by Jina Bacarr a Yummy Addition to Cosmo’s Red-Hot Reads Collection

15 Oct

Naked Sushi by Jina Bacarr (Cosmo’s Red-Hot Reads by Harlequin, October 15, 2013)

I’m beginning to appreciate the diversity of voices in Harlequin’s recent partnership with Cosmopolitan magazine‘s Red-Hot Reads ebooks. Tawny Weber, HelenKay Dimon and we all know how I think Lauren Dane’s Cake should win an award it was so awesome…this is quite the lineup of very different authors, all of them with a distinct readership. It’s a smart approach and I love smart.

When I saw Naked Sushi available on NetGalley and that it had the Cosmo Red-Hot Reads brand in the corner, I was intrigued enough to give it a try although I had never read anything by Jina Bacarr.

Bacarr has a somewhat zany style in this 90 page novella, starting the book in media res with our heroine, Pepper, stretched naked on a sushi table at a high scale Japanese restaurant trying to get the attention of her former boss and horrified to see the man she had sex with in the copy room of her programming company taking a tuna roll off her thigh.

The scene quickly dissolves to take us back to the beginning of the adventure, focusing on Pepper the brainy computer programmer who loves her job but not her witch of an office manager. She drops back into work one night only to find a hot guy in the copy room who she thinks is the new person just hired. They end up having one steamy sex scene before Pepper accidentally triggers an alarm and her copy buddy makes his escape after having his orgasm but right before she has hers. Ouch.

This is frustrating in more than one way, particularly after her bitchy manager, who is perpetually jealous of the pretty, capable Pepper even though she wears thick glasses and oversized flannel shirts, is the one to discover her bare-assed and shaking with need attempting to tidy the room. When the paper scattered every which way is revealed to be the company owner’s tax returns, Pepper is instantly fired without a reference. Angry at both the lover who left her high and not dry as well as the situation, Pepper shifts into sleuth mode and tries to get back her job. What she finds is that the mystery guy carries handcuffs….for a living…and that things are way more complicated than even she could imagine.

I wasn’t initially sure that I liked the style of this book, with the way it jumped around a bit on the timeline, until I realized that it had the flavor of a more steamy Stephanie Plum novel, with Pepper’s antics reminding me of that level of screwball luck. Granted, Pepper is a talented computer hacker but her FBI agent love interest walks the edge of obnoxious before melting for Pepper’s charms. I liked the vulnerability built into her backstory when we find out why she didn’t go through the entire application process for law enforcement, and adored the denouement of the final take-down. Granted, this is the most unprofessional FBI unit ever, with the hero having sex on the job and his sexually manipulative boss content to flash cleavage and make remarks about the hero’s intimacy with Pepper, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. Despite the cover blurb, both the POV of the hero and the heroine are given.

Naked Sushi is priced a little high for a 90 page novella – at the $3 mark – and considering I can get a full-length category romance Harlequin book for this amount, I worry that the publisher’s decision is going to put people a little off purchasing it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novella very much and felt that Bacarr lived up to the sensual promise inherent in such a provocative title.

Happy reading! 🙂

A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence Delivers Compelling Romance in a Great Desire Package

12 Oct

A Beauty Uncovered (Secrets of Eden #2) by Andrea Laurence (Harlequin Desire, October 1, 2013)

When you pick up a Harlequin Desire novel you know exactly what you are going to get. Feisty, stunning heroines partnered with gagillionaires with strong alpha tendencies and enough baggage to open their own Samsonite store.

Unfortunately for me, I never had read an Andrea Laurence book prior to A Beauty Uncovered, and I’m glad I finally remedied that mistake. Laurence has mastered the classic approach to category romance – the above elements, minimal additional characters, and, in her case, a compelling story arc for her Secrets of Eden series.

Based around a group of now highly successful men and women who all had the same loving foster parents, this second book in the series focuses on reclusive billionaire Brody Eden. He’s handling the situation of his personal assistant wanting to head off on a two-month cruise to celebrate her fortieth wedding anniversary. Luckily for him, her goddaughter is ready to take over and sign the necessary confidentiality agreement. That she’s an utter bombshell comes as a shock to this horribly scarred man who has arranged his entire life to interact as little as possible with the world.

Undeniable Demands (Secrets of Eden #1) by Andrea Laurence (Harlequin Desire, January 1, 2013)

Samantha Davis is startled at not only the ridiculous level of security around her new boss but at how lonely this attractive, damaged man is. His megawatt smile is rare but she wants to see it more, and she readily admits to her attraction for him. But Sam has been burned in her prior job, when she succumbed to having an affair with her boss – who turned out to be married to the head of accounting who arranged for Sam to be promptly fired.

All the great elements of a Desire romance are present with great clothes, trips, jewelry, etc. but Brody has a lot less of the obnoxious alpha behavior than is usually found in this type of category romance. His emotional damage from the circumstances of his disfigurement are clearly communicated but not belabored. Sam had a poor experience but she’s a bright, intelligent, incredibly giving person who is exactly what Brody needs to begin to think about a future different from the life he is currently living.

The reasons to love Brody are numerous. He adores his golden retriever, is a great brother with very normal relationships with his family, and admits to a beautiful woman that he’s a virgin! While this is the second book in the series about the foster siblings, it is completely unnecessary to have read the first book to understand the larger story arc. This terrific romance has a great couple and just enough angst to provide conflict but not so much that you are completely wrung out reading the last page. I’ll be purchasing other Andrea Laurence books for sure after A Beauty Uncovered!

Fatal Strike by Shannon McKenna Shoots for Heart with Pulse-Pounding Romantic Suspense

11 Oct

Fatal Strike (McClouds & Friends #10) by Shannon McKenna (Kensington, September 24, 2013)

I’m finding that the authors who emerge as some of my favorite writers are ones who aren’t afraid to push the category envelope. Whether it’s the explosion of ebooks which allows publishers to promote new novels under a variety of categories (versus the bookstore model where there was only one shelf a book could sit upon) or just reader demand, stories that involve multiple elements make me putty in the hands of a good writer.

Shannon McKenna’s McClouds & Friends series is just such an example. I fell in love with a NetGalley copy of One Wrong Move, instantly intrigued by her combination of romantic suspense, paranormal elements and an alpha hero teetering on the edge of asshole. Her writing is tight and suspenseful with McKenna unhesitant in continuing detailed story arcs of villainous bad guys and their evil henchmen who must fall (or at least retreat) in the face of the McClouds and their allies in each book in the series.

Fatal Strike not only met all my expectations but it melted my inner marshmallow with the evolved hero, Miles. It’s been easy to love gentle Miles over the series as he assisted the McClouds with his high tech wizardry and suffered at the hands of McCloud in-law, the slutty Cindy, who would always cheat on him until he cut her loose. But the final showdown in One Wrong Move left Miles in a coma after brutal torture with psi-powers and he has emerged a changed man.

In his opinion, it’s not been a change for the better. His psi-ability is now off the charts, and while he has invented an elaborate shield in his mind in an attempt to initially protect himself (and now to control his ability), he nevertheless is constantly being fed physical and environmental data that has elevated him from techno-geek to official badass, finally unleashing all the skills the McClouds have attempted to teach him for his own protection over the years.

The only thing that makes him feel better as he lives in the wild and hide from his friends is when the image of Lara Kirk – the woman Miles searched for over the course of months and never found – slips right through his defenses and comes to visit. She’s a beautiful dream and one so erotic that their encounters exceed any actual physical sex he’s ever had, but she’s also a symbol of how crazy he’s become and her recurring presence has him pondering how long he has before his friends have to commit him to a mental hospital.

One Wrong Move (McClouds & Friends #9) by Shannon McKenna (Kensington, June 2013)

A major wrinkle in his thinking is that Lara is not a dream. By focusing on her over all those months of searching, Miles unknowingly created a back door for her to enter his mental refuge and his shield is just that – a refuge of safety – to Lara as well. She’s being held and tortured with psi-drugs developed by a man bent on “saving humanity” from itself, and part of that plan appears to be unleashing Lara’s powers. She doesn’t know who the erotic sex god who occupies this lovely Citadel is exactly, but he’s the only thing that helps her cling to sanity.

It’s only when a series of events reveals to each of them that this isn’t fantasy – the realization which helps Miles free Lara from her prison – that their dream world becomes a living nightmare. Because even with their strong psychic connection and intense physical attraction, a man continues to stalk them, bent on using both of them to kill thousands if not millions of people.

Is there anything sexier than the geek turned total alpha hottie? (Don’t answer. That was a rhetorical question.) Of course not! Miles, who we know is a love of a guy, is so damaged and yet trying to do the right thing even when no one around him understands, that your heart breaks right at the beginning of this book. I found myself clinging to Lara as much as Miles did because I understood that to each of these broken people, the other person was going to be their refuge and their salvation.

McKenna’s ebook bundles of the early books in the series are terrific deals in your local library isn’t carrying them (or you just want them on your ereader!).

Lara was a terrific heroine who had just as pure a heart as Miles and yet whose fragility masks intense strength, even when she wasn’t ready to see it herself. I love it that she always called Miles on his bullshit (McKenna never writes a hero who doesn’t at some point turn into a complete asshole – for good reasons in his head, but still) and that she could love him even when she was angry at his behavior. There are a few scenes that make you want them both to see a therapist, but they are luckily the work of the situation and hardly a permanent dynamic. McKenna also possess a real talent for the three-dimensional villain, who has you understanding his twisted motives even while you’re busy hating his nefarious plans.

I’m sure with Fatal Strike the tenth book in this long-running series some readers might be hesitant about jumping in. Don’t be. McKenna has the talent of writing each of her books in such a way that while you recognize other characters clearly have their own back story, you do not need to have read those books in order to appreciate the novel in question. Fans of the series will love the appearance of so many of the previous couples and their burgeoning families, however, with their presence much more visible than in One Wrong Move.

It’s worth mentioning that McKenna has bundles of the first books in the series available for ereaders, with the first five going for under $15 or the first seven books costing a smidgen over $20, both excellent deals as her books run in the 350 to 400 page range. I think readers who love paranormal psychic storylines and/or lovers of romantic suspense will both find so much to admire and enjoy in Shannon McKenna’s McClouds & Friends series. Walk don’t run to your bookseller or library to pick up a copy!

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!

Cover Release of Laura Kaye’s Latest in the Hearts of the Anemoi Series – East of Ecstasy

18 Sep
Laura Kaye, an amazing writer and just look at her - she's pretty and friendly, too!

Laura Kaye, an amazing writer and just look at her – she’s pretty and friendly, too!

Have you read Laura Kaye‘s books? As someone who has read everything she has ever written, allow me to let you know that her books are like a fresh can of Pringles. You may tell yourself you are only going to eat one, but they taste soooo good going down that before you know it, you are tapping the bottom of the container over your head and crumbs are raining on your t-shirt.

I love her Vampire King’s novella series and I believe that she writes some of the best military romance heroes on the market, but Laura Kaye first won my heart when I came across a NetGalley copy of the first book in her Hearts of the Anemoi series, North of Need. I devoured it and placed it in a review with another book about a snowbound couple, but North of Need lingered with me in a way the other novel didn’t. I purchased every other one of her books and any time another book in the Anemoi series came out, I read it before the book got cold in my Kindle.

North of Need (#1 Hearts of the Anemoi – Owen and Megan) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, May 2012)

Each book in this series stars a god who can wear human form (incredibly hot human form, in case you’re interested in that detail, ahem) who controls the weather. For those of you enjoying the fruits of a classical education, the series name might tickle your brain – the Anemoi were the minor gods in the Greek lexicon who controlled the winds. Since the Greeks firmly believed that these gods could take the form of a winged man – or a stallion, which is damn appropriate for Kaye’s brand of hot romance – these novels manage to pull off being accurate along with succeeding in a creative modernization of an ancient mythology.

West of Want (#2 Hearts of the Anemoi – Zeph and Ella’s story) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, July 2012)

In addition to the circumstances by which each individual god comes to meet the woman who is finally going to heal his wounded heart (you don’t get to be a few millennia old without a decent amount of baggage), there is a story arc across the series involving some god politics. All the wind gods have the same father, who seems to have played favorites, and one of the wind brothers, Eurus, has gone rogue and is wreaking havoc around the world as a result. Each brother, who takes seriously his role in maintaining the earth’s balance and the weather under his purview, tries to mitigate Eurus’ influence, with the range of opinion ranging from “let’s try to save him” to “he needs to be exterminated.”

South of Surrender (#3 Hearts of the Anemoi – Chrys and Laney) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, May 2013)

Every book showcases a unique couple and Kaye places the immediate obstacle to the couple’s happiness right off the bat – that gods and humans are not supposed to be together (and that the women are not supposed to know about them or receive any kind of healing power). The pairings still carry the signature mark of Laura Kaye no matter what genre she happens to be writing in – the characters are so real they step off the page, the sex is blazing hot and incredibly emotional, and the plot is well drawn, not the phoned in conflict that occasionally inhabits romance that uses supernatural beings. Each brother is so different from his siblings (largely due to the way their father has treated them) and as a result each woman who wins their heart is unique as well. While all the heroines are strong and smart, they come to the relationship with different expectations and fears, and it’s a joy seeing these gods begin to care about someone on this intimate level.

East of Ecstasy (#4 Hearts of the Anemoi - Devlin and Annalise) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, April 22, 2014)

East of Ecstasy (#4 Hearts of the Anemoi – Devlin and Annalise) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, April 22, 2014)

Here’s where we get to the big reveal! Laura Kaye sent out a call for bloggers interested in helping show the cover of the fourth book in the series, East of Ecstasy, which will be published on April 22, 2014. So here it is. YOWZA! North of Need was not only my first Laura Kaye novel, it was also the first book I read from Entangled Publishing, and when I realized who had produced the book, I truly began to believe that smaller presses could give the Big Six (now the Big Five) publishers a run for their money. Looking at these covers, I think you can see what I mean, and East of Ecstasy continues the trend of *fans self* a highly appropriate representation of our wind god heroes. Here’s the cover blurb:

Annalise Fallston made peace with postponing her big-city dreams to care for her ill father, but lately she’s been filled with a restlessness not even her beloved painting dispels. Worse, the colors don’t speak to her as they always have, and all her efforts produce dark, foreboding images of a dangerous man and a terrifying future.

Devlin Eston, black-souled son of the evil Anemoi Eurus, is the only one who can thwart his father’s plan to overthrow the Supreme God of Wind and Storms. But first, Dev must master the unstable powers he’s been given. Distrusted and shunned by his own divine family, he never expected to find kindness and passion in the arms of a mortal.

But Devlin’s love puts Annalise in the path of a catastrophic storm, and in the final Armageddon showdown between the Anemoi and Eurus, sacrifices will be made, hearts broken, and lives changed forever…or lost.

Another hot god with father issues/tentative handle on his new powers, a sensitive artist who has some psychic ability, and a “final Armageddon showdown” – are you serious?!? This has me thinking that April is waaaayyyyy too far away because I want this book yesterday! Since the characters and story arc build throughout the series, I would recommend reading these novels in order. Keep in mind though that Entangled – while it produces print books – specializes in delivering affordable ebooks to readers. None of these books are expensive in ebook form, usually falling between three and six dollars each for full-length (around 400 pages) work. With Kaye’s amazing writing and Entangled’s outstanding editing and cover designs, this series is a must-read for people who love a paranormal element in their romance.

My thanks to Laura Kaye for writing such a great series and for letting me showcase the new book cover and thanks to Entangled’s killer art department for giving me yet another amazing cover (okay, yes, the chiseled abs are fantastic, but I also love the watermark of the compass and the backdrop that fully plays into the story – these are smart, beautiful covers). So to say I’m looking forward to reading East of Ecstasy is a British-like understatement, so I’ll instead encourage anyone who hasn’t yet read these books to get on it. Run like the wind, people, and go grab them. You won’t be sorry! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending August 4th

4 Aug

Upcoming Books

For fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, the next book, Takedown Twenty, will be available as of November 19th, so pre-order your 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.

FYI, I mentioned the other week that Jaci Burton was coming out with a new series and the first book, Hope Flames, was going to out this fall. She just announced on her website that the publisher moved the date out to January 7, 2014 *shakes fist* because they think it will be more successful in that time slot. Far be it from me to deny success to Jaci Burton, but one solace was the publisher will be offering 200 copies of the book to random readers in November. A new novella, Holiday Games, for the Play-by-Play series will also be out by November 19th, starring none other than hot baseball player Gavin Riley and his favorite agent and wife, Elizabeth, as they reflect on a year of trying to unsuccessfully make a baby. Their full story can be found in the second book of the series, Changing the Game, and visiting with the Riley clan, particularly during a holiday, is always worthwhile. I think I’ll review this novella for my December holiday-themed posts. 🙂

Fun Stuff

It’s easy to forget all the great people in the world of romance who spread the word about how awesome our genre really is. One of them is Bobbi Dumas who has designated August “National Read a Romance” Month, and WOW am I glad she did! Take a look at her Read-A-Romance website to enjoy three famous romance writers posting daily (so that’s 93 best-selling authors for the month) about why they think romance is so important, while also entering the weekly contests for amazing prices like e-readers and romance novel collections (print and electronic). If you are interested, there’s even a grand prize drawing and you just need to write a short essay about why you think romance is so important to qualify to win an iPad mini and 31 Grand Central Forever ebooks! Twitter users, follow hashtag #RomanceMatters for plenty of updates and posts from name writers.

Ever wonder at what goes into making a great historical romance cover? History Hoydens shares the process with Isobel Carr’s latest self-published work and you’ll be dazzled at the process and the options. With great resources like Seductive Designs (Take a look at some of these covers! Yowza!) and The Illustrated Romance providing base stock images for authors to play with, New York publishers are going to have self-published works give them a run for their money. Do yourself a favor and glance at Illustrated Romance’s main page where you can see their image and the final book cover design to really appreciate the process.

Regency readers and writers be aware, there were LOTS of naughty terms for sex back in 1811, when the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue came out in England. The witty magazine Mental Floss has put together seventeen terms ranging from genteel to baffling for bow-chicka-wow-ow times from this resource. I’m going to see how many I can weave into casual conversation.

Great Deals

I’m really beginning to enjoy the themes of some of these awesome ebook bundles writers and publishers are pulling together! This one, Wicked Firsts, gives you six books by six different authors with every story involving a “first” – someone one of the characters lost their virginity to, doing something sexually adventurous for the first time, a first tattoo with your lost love as the artist, etc. Available as of August 19th, these novella length stories (total page count for all six is 450 pages so we’re looking at a 75 page average length for each one) are being offered for the asking price of $.99 for all of them, but this price will only be for the first week of publication, so move quickly. Since this includes such writing powerhouses as Elisabeth Naughton, Cynthia Eden and Alexandra Ivy, you are getting a lot for under a dollar!

Did you know that Overstock.com and Amazon are having a massive book price war? Overstock is currently underselling Amazon by 10% on a huge number of titles. Take a look at the romance section and see if there’s anything on your wish list that’s currently discounted. It has to be a paper book, but this might be the time to check on those backlist items or new releases you’ve been dying to have on your shelf.

Sunday Romantic Reflections: Upcoming Books, Deals and Fun Stuff You Might Have Missed (Week of July 21st)

21 Jul

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Sigh. I don’t know if you were as disappointed and angry in the “final” Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Ever After, as I was (I’m still formulating that post in my head and it’s scathing) but just to milk even more money out of dedicated fans, the “final” book in the series that’s meant to wrap up all the characters is available for pre-order. After Dead, to be published on October 29th of this year, is not even a narrative story, but rather a listing of characters with a description of what happened to them. Yes, I’m disgusted with myself that I already pre-ordered it, but am calming myself with the promise that I’ll write a fan fiction version of the ending that series deserved. Enjoy bathing in $100 bills, Harris!

The excitement has begun building for the fabulous Laura Kaye’s next novel, Hard As It Gets, including a cover blurb endorsement by none other than J. K. Ward! Kaye’s writing is as addictive as crack for me, in particular, Her Forbidden Hero, and one of my favorite re-reads, Hearts in Darkness, so any book by her immediately goes in my Kindle and bumps my other to-reads down a notch. This new novel builds on her ability to take damaged, military heroes and pair them with the woman who will rock their world to its core and shake loose their emotions. Hard As It Gets also kicks off a new series for Kaye, Hard Ink, described on Goodreads as “A romance series about four ex-soldiers who run a renegade operation against an organized crime ring out of the back of a tattoo shop.” This first installment will be out in late November (do you smell the Thanksgiving turkey burning from neglect yet?) with the second book publishing the following year.

Fun Stuff

heartcondom_127721723While my condom in romance novels post was aimed at younger romance readers when I wrote it, a recent article by Vice.com detailing the epidemic in sexually transmitted infections among the senior crowd proves that the retired demographic needs plenty of education, too. I still remember touring the Villages in Florida (a retirement complex the size of Manhattan) with my resident grandmother and being given the hairy eyeball by a restaurant host because he thought I might be one of the many hookers that plague the community. (Be warned, if you’re 32 and in a sundress, you’ve got a “twenty dollars for a trip around the world” label attached to you.) My horrified grandmother informed me of the astronomic sexually transmitted disease rates, fueled in large part by the wicked combination of Viagra, a women to men ratio in the gent’s favor, and way too much free time. Yikes.

Wonder what kind of childhood produces a romance writer? The wonderful people at the Popular Romance project have produced a four minute video of interviews with writers like Nalini Singh, Jill Shalvis, and Caridad Pinerio, discussing their hometowns, parents, and families. 

For Writers and Interested Readers

mystery-69453_640In the wake of J. K. Rowling‘s recent outing as the well-regarded detective novelist Robert Galbraith, BookRiot posted an interesting article about the reasons extremely famous people have chosen to use pseudonyms when publishing books. The information is an interesting contrast to most romance authors, who usually chose a pen name because they are worried about censure or discomfort from their employers or are trying out a new genre and want separate branding in order to not confuse dedicated readers.

Dear Author has written a treasure of a post, taking the finalists for the RITAs “Best First Book” category and listing read-a-likes from more established authors who are similar. You might just find a new favorite in this crew and the information she includes is incredibly fun to read.

Great Deals

Lisa Renee Jones is offering an amazing deal on three full-sized books in her Tall, Dark and Deadly series – the first two books of the series and a full-size bonus book related to the characters – for only $.99! That’s almost six hundred pages for under a dollar and it’s Lisa Renee Jones. Considering that there are eight books in this series about a security firm run by a trio of brothers, it’s a clever idea to get you hooked and a great way for readers to figure out if they’d like to purchase the others with little risk.

If it’s wicked hot erotica you’re after, no deal is going to beat the Alpha Bad Boys Box Set released this week, containing over 1300 pages covering seven novels by authors like Shayla Black & Lexi Blake, Olivia Cunning, Lisa Renee Jones, Selena Blake, Eliza Gayle and Cat Johnson. For $.99 (!), you get such erotica favorites as 1) Black & Blake’s first book in their Masters of Menage series (which I love despite the names), Their Virgin Captive; 2) the first two books in Cunning’s One Night with Sole Regret series, Try Me and Tempt Me; 3) Jones’ first book in The Cinderella Chronicles, One Night Forever; 4) Ask for It by Selena Black about the NFL player who has retired and is finally going after the journalist he’s lusted after for years; 5) the first book in the Purgatory Masters series by Eliza Gayle, Tucker’s Fall;  and 6) a sexy menage story by Cat Johnson about a society girl banished to Colorado only to find herself surrounded by gorgeous brothers in Educating Ansley. Any one of these stories is a bargain at $.99 to say nothing of getting all of them for that price.

Entangled Publishing is offering an amazing deal on their Indulgence line of ebooks (a group of novels on par with category romance like Harlequin’s Presents or Desire lines – lots of alpha males!) where they are discounted from their usually reasonable price of $2.99 down to $.99 each! Take a look at the Amazon Kindle deals page dedicated to them and enjoy.

Sarah MacLean is a historical romance writer who has yet to produce a book that isn’t at the top of her genre. For a limited time, the first book in her By the Numbers series, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (the novel that began the numbers trend and list fixation in Regency romance) is available at the discounted price of $1.99 for its ebook form. If you haven’t read this series, you might be in danger of having your romance reader card revoked. Take a taste and see if you can manage not to devour all three books (and then move on to Maclean’s other series). I bet you can’t read just one!

Also in the realm of amazing historical romance ebook deals is author Tessa Dare, whose classic A Week to Be Wicked is currently being offered at $.89 – I didn’t even know Amazon sold books for less than $.99! This is the second full-length novel in her acclaimed Spindle Cove series, so you may very well like it so much that you avail yourself of the one of the other five books that make up this beloved Regency location that locals have nicknamed “Spinster’s Cove.” Be warned, you won’t find ladies who are going to stay unmarried for long here!

Candace Haven’s Take It Like a Vamp Brings Serious Fun to Paranormal Romance

5 Jun

I’m beginning to think that Candace Havens is some kind of romance Renaissance woman. Not only is she a prolific romance writer of many subgenres (contemporary, paranormal, Steampunk) but she also writes nonfiction (popular culture related), appears on a regular radio show, does numerous in person and online workshops, and was just appointed an editor at Entangled Publishing. Is there anything she can’t do?

After listening to her wonderful Fast Draft workshop via RWA conference recording, I was smitten with how delightfully funny she was. I’m a public speaker who strongly believes that if you get your audience to laugh and relax, they are going to retain much more of your message while enjoying the experience. While I’ve read other books by Havens (yay, Model Marine!), Take It Like a Vamp was the first book of hers I’ve read that seemed to incorporate her brash, sweet, Southern sense of humor and it added a great layer to what was already a good story.

Casey Meyers knows she’s a lucky woman. She gets to live in her former uncle/now aunt’s high end apartment next to her newfound best friend, Nick Christos, while working at being a successful graphic designer at an up-and-coming firm. Nick is kind, powerful, and is a great friend – that he’s serious eye candy is just icing on the cake. But it’s getting a little painful to see him go out with one supermodel after another when Casey knows that she’s never going to have that body or be his type. Still, she wouldn’t give up his friendship for the world and she gets the sense that this uber-rich powerful businessman doesn’t have too many really close friends, so she’s going to enjoy their relationship and only dwell on what she can give him (okay, except for when it’s just her and her vibrator, Mr. Nick, then all good intentions are put aside for fantasy land).

Nick thinks he might be going insane. He knows he can’t have Casey as anything more than a friend. She has no idea that he’s a vampire and one of the most powerful ones in the world, holding a major position on the council which has allowed him to keep peace between his kind and humans for a couple of centuries. But an outdated tradition decrees that he needs to select a wife in the first two hundred years of his job and the clock is running out. The other council members will select a wife for him if he doesn’t pick one, but all he wants is Casey. When his interest in her endangers her life, he knows this is the opportunity to make her his, but he has no idea how to have a real relationship and his ineptitude could botch the one thing that means the most to him.

This was a fun book. Nick’s hotness was only matched by his cousin Linc’s (please tell me his book will come out!) and it was nice to see a supernatural hero who was not the total brooding alpha male, but something a little softer and occasionally awkward. Nick takes more than a couple missteps in his relationship with Casey and, as doubting as she is that he really has feelings for her, she calls him on his behavior every time while still being understanding. My only wish was that he had a little less control around her – I wanted to see some more sexing to go with all that fun verbal byplay!

Take It Like a Vamp was a terrific reminder for me to go out and purchase more Candace Havens books. Any author who can have me grinning like a lunatic through most of a romance novel is someone I want to read more of!

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