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:
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!