Tag Archives: cop

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!

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance a Great Addition to the World of Gothic Romance

30 Sep

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance (Entangled: Flirt, September 30, 2013)

One area of romance I feel is horribly neglected is gothic romance. Because gothic is by its nature a subset of horror literature, not only does a reader experience chills similar to that of a mystery or thriller, but there is a looming sense of evil and death which pervades the story, often with the setting itself providing an additional character (and it’s usually the villain).

Sarah Ballance’s new novella, Ruby Hill, certainly fits the bill, with an estranged couple (both investigators in their own way) and a haunted insane asylum harboring a serial killer. Ballance gives us lovely, spooky writing – the kind where the sentences feel good in your mouth while they send shivers down your spine – making this novella the perfect way to launch a ghost-filled October. Since I read and re-read tons of paranormal to get me in the Halloween mood, I was elated to find Ruby Hill to be a great way to get me in the mood for the upcoming holiday. Move aside, Pinterest!

The story opens with the arrival of our hero, Corbin Malone, a cop whose boss, frustrated by a rash of unsolved murders centered on an abandoned Victorian lunatic asylum, has decided to let in a group of paranormal investigators to see what they could find out on the “ghost” front. The police want to prove that there isn’t a ghost killing the victims, and this seems like the best (and least confrontational) way to go about it. The two major problems for Corbin are that 1) his brother Cash died in this exact spot six months ago and 2) the lead investigator is none other than Ashley Pearce, the woman who he kicked out of his life when he lost his brother.

Ashley Pearce has built a reputation as a solid paranormal investigator who not only tracks ghosts but can speak to them as well. She knows she’s not to blame for Cash’s death, but that fact doesn’t make the rejection by the man who she loved any less. She has strong ties to Ruby Hill (her great-grandfather was one of the founders) and is dismayed that this place she loves has taken on an overtone of evil. With the death of not only Cash but two beautiful young women, the police are baffled since all victims died of cardiac arrest with not a mark on them…as if they were scared to death.

Corbin has never believed in the paranormal, a fact that was the only tension between him and Ashley while they were together. When he establishes the connection that each of the victims (including his brother) all were descended from people who worked at the asylum, Corbin knows he has to get himself and Ashley to safety as they both fall into the same category and are therefore a likely target for a serial killer. The only difference is that while he believes he’s dealing with a live person, Ashley is even more certain that they are going to confront a dead one.

Decaying, abandoned insane asylums are PERFECT locations for a gothic novella!

Ballance paints a vivid picture of the hospital as an entity out for revenge, with the characters experiencing waking nightmares and conditions that fill your nostrils with decay while you are reading. The dynamic between Ashley and Corbin is poignant and rife with the tension of the situation, particularly as he denies again and again what he sees because it doesn’t fit with his belief system. By not believing in ghosts, he shows no respect for Ashley and her work, possibly leading to a personal rift that could cost both of them their lives.

I noticed on Goodreads that there were some reviewers who believed that the story felt unfinished or that the romance wasn’t strong enough. Okay, it’s true there was nothing more than some hot reunion kissing, but quite honestly, the asylum was disgusting and I would have looked serious askance if they had gone further in such an unhygenic environment!

If it were any other subgenre but horror, I could understand the reviewer complaints better, but Ballance does a pitch perfect job of crafting a horror story in Ruby Hill. Yes, there is a romantic element between these two lovers who have really never let go of each other and Ballance’s choice was to play up the gothic piece, which she does beautifully. The author’s main goal in a gothic romance novel is to get the couple out alive and relatively unscathed so they can go off (into the sunrise, in this case) and craft a happily ever after. Done. Romance readers are all about expectations however, so it’s possible that some people expected more on the romance and less on the gothic. I’m really pleased with the gothic emphasis, personally!

Entangled’s Ever After imprint (designed to deliver short stories and novellas between 20,000 and 40,000 words) is giving away some terrific prizes in honor of these debuts. I’ve put the links to the Rafflecopter giveaways at the bottom of the post, so be sure to enter them after you take a look at the descriptions. Lots of gift cards to your preferred bookstore to win as well as some cool jewelry and yummy gifts!

Here are a few of the stories they are releasing this week, covering a variety of genres, including the one I just reviewed:

Find Your Ever After in Under An Hour

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance

From her earliest memories, Ashley Pearce has been drawn to Ruby Hill Lunatic Asylum, and she’s not the only one. Decades after the abandoned hospital ended its institutional reign of torture and neglect, something lurks in the shadows. Since she’s a paranormal investigator, it’s Ashley’s job to find out what.

Crime scene expert Corbin Malone doesn’t believe in ghosts. A born skeptic, he has no interest in entertaining the hype surrounding the mysterious deaths at Ruby Hill, but he won’t turn his back while more women die. He agrees to an overnight investigation, never expecting his first encounter would be with the woman he pushed away a year ago. But when he discovers Ashley is a target, he learns his greatest fear isn’t living with his own demons, but losing her for good.

One Thousand and One Nights by Ruth Browne

Sheri spends her days fighting zombies and her nights chained to a wall, earning her every breath by telling stories to her captor Aleksy—stories that make them both forget the ruined world. Sheri could put up with the conditions—at least she knows her sister is safe in the community Aleksy leads—until she realizes she’s falling for him…even though he wants her dead.

When Aleksy allowed Sheri and her sister into his compound, he didn’t know about the zombie bite on her back. It’s only a matter of time before she turns into one of the rising dead and threatens their existence, but Aleksy has a secret need for Sheri and her stories. For everyone’s safety, he chains her to his bedroom wall, hoping for just one more day. But how long will the community allow Aleksy to ignore his own rule: always kill the infected. Always.

Mercy by Jan Coffey

Julia Klein’s life has begun to unravel—her daughter Amy has been suspended from school, Julia is about to lose her job, and her boyfriend Garrett is being transferred thousands of miles away. Overwhelmed, she and Amy leave for a weekend at a rambling old colonial inn. Julia never suspects that Garrett, desperate to find a way to keep Julia in his life, has decided to surprise her by joining them. Nor does she expect her daughter to befriend a mischievous ghost…or that she herself would be possessed by the malevolent spirit of a long-dead mother.

As a dark secret emerges, Julia, Amy, and Garrett find themselves pitted in a fight for survival against a savage presence that intends to resurrect/repeat/relive a horrible crime committed two centuries ago. And this time, Amy and Julia will be the victims.

Haunted Chemisty by Lindsey Loucks

When bookish college co-ed Alexis heads to the laundry room in her new apartment, she runs into Ian Reese, the chem lab partner she crushed on all last semester. And the guy who stood her up on their first date. But she’s down for an awkward reunion, and no better place than her creepy laundry room.

Ian has every intention of making amends, but just when Alexis begins to trust him again, a new threat calls more than their future together into question. A ghost from the apartment’s past is hellbent on revenge, and if he wants to get his girl, he’ll have to get the ghost first.

Wish Upon a Star by Michelle McLean

Ceri McKinley never stopped wishing that her ex-fiancé Jason Crickett would come back into her life. But when he finally does, he comes with a request that puts them both—and all of humanity—into jeopardy.

Jason only wants two things: to bury his brother properly and to convince Ceri to trust him again after he jilted her. But when Ceri agrees to help him get his brother back, they end up fighting for their lives as a zombie uprising threatens them all.

Northern Light by E.J. Russell

Nothing gives art fraud investigator Luke Morganstern a bigger rush than busting forgers, the low-life criminals who dare victimize true artists. But when his latest job sends him to a remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, he’s stunned to discover the alleged forger is his former lover, Stefan Cobbe, the most gifted painter Luke has ever known.

Stefan, left homeless and destitute after the death of his wealthy partner, doesn’t exactly deny the forgery — he claims he doesn’t remember, an excuse Luke can’t accept.

But Luke’s elderly client suggests Stefan may be telling the truth and presents another possibility – a dark presence in the woods, a supernatural fury simmering for decades. Luke must face down his fear of the uncanny – and admit his feelings for Stefan – if either of them is to survive.

Not to Be Missed Giveaways!

A skeleton key necklace and $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble a Rafflecopter giveaway

A vintage sailing ship brooch and $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A really cool looking Wish necklace and $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A fantastic pottery handwarmer mug with Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate mix (yum!) a Rafflecopter giveaway

I definitely felt like Ruby Hill was a terrific addition to the world of gothic romance, one so good that I’m now jonesing for other spooky-poo books to get me into the mood of gusting autumn leaves and the start of crackling fires in my living room fireplace. Thanks, Sarah Ballance, for getting me off to such a great start for the season! 🙂

You’ll Find Yourself Getting Rowdy With Lori Foster’s Latest Addition to Her Love Undercover Series

24 Sep

Getting Rowdy (Love Undercover #3 – Rowdy and Avery) by Lori Foster (Harlequin, September 24, 2013) – ebook version out October 1, 2013

Oh, boy. I have been waiting for this book to come out ever since I read the first novel in Lori Foster‘s Love Undercover series, Run the Risk, starring the oh-so-sexy Logan Riske, a detective pretending to be a construction worker in order to seduce the mousy Pepper Yates into revealing her brother’s location.

Far from a wallflower (although she cultures that appearance), Pepper turns out to be a sexy firecracker and Logan falls hard and fast for her. But one of the best parts of the book is the close relationship Pepper has to her brother, Rowdy Yates (aren’t these great names?). Rowdy is an unparalleled manwhore happy to drown past demons in the women who regularly throw themselves at his feet.

Run the Risk (Love Undercover #1 – Logan and Pepper) by Lori Foster (Harlequin, October 2012)

Yet Foster’s brilliance is the slow development of Rowdy over the course of the first two books. In Run the Risk, we see Rowdy simultaneously as the police see him (through Logan’s eyes) as a smart, shady guy with a crappy childhood who has walked both sides of legality with his business dealings, but also through Pepper’s point of view, as a big brother who has literally protected and cared for his sister against the neglect of alcoholic parents since she was a child, all the way through to the threats she faces as an adult.

Rowdy’s anger at Logan’s ignorance of the actual situation (and how that lack of knowledge endangers Pepper) stems from worrying about his sister’s safety, as well as the fact that Logan is a cop. Rowdy and Pepper have had enough experience with corrupt cops and neglectful social workers to be wary of anyone claiming to be an authority. His anti-authority attitude is an important piece of Rowdy, as he’s found it far more effective to skirt the law and take matters into his own hands.

Bare It All (Love Underground #2; Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor #5 – Reese and Alice) by Lori Foster (Harlequin, May 2013)

Further character development of Rowdy takes place in the second book of the series, Bare It All, which Foster has connect to her equally as wonderful Men Who Walk The Edge of Honor series (about a private group who goes after human traffickers). Its hero, Reese Bareden, is also a good cop who is friends with Logan Riske. The one woman in his new building not throwing herself at him is the one he most wants to know, but Alice Appleton is only beginning to recover her life after being kidnapped and held for months. Reese must slowly win her trust, both physically and emotionally, and he is oh-so-patient while doing it that you can’t help but fall in love with him.

Throughout Bare It All, Rowdy is the peripheral character who not only provides comic relief (along with Reese’s dog) but also ends up – almost against his better judgement – counseling Alice through some of the sexual decisions and moves she wants to make with Reese. It’s not long before it’s incredibly obvious that this man – for all his good looks, charm, and bad boy persona – has the soul of an avenging angel when it comes to children or women who have been set up by life to be hurt. His friendship with Alice, who sees right to the heart of Rowdy, demonstrates that women can be more than relatives or booty calls for him, even if he doesn’t see that yet.

With there being so much to Rowdy in the early books of the series, fans of Love Undercover have been waiting with bated breath to see how his HEA could possibly play out. Enter Getting Rowdy, the novel devoted to Rowdy and his feisty, red-haired bartender Avery – a woman who has been resisting his advances and forced to watch him hook up night after night with the latest floozy. Once Rowdy gets it into his thick head that Avery has been refusing him because she wants to not be replaceable, that she wants him to show her that she’s worth a little bit of a wait, he’s more than willing to do it. For this woman who he thinks about all day and night, he realizes his “once and done” rule regarding women and sex is not going to apply.

When You Dare (Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor #1 – Dare and Molly) by Lori Foster (Harlequin, April 2011) – Since the second book of Love Undercover is the fifth book of Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor, readers who enjoy one will undoubtedly enjoy the other. Cross pollinate your shelves!!

I’ll admit that I was more than a little worried (Was Rowdy a sex addict? Could he be monogamous?) but it became clear that sex for him was more a confluence of learned behavior and ready accessibility with so many woman falling into his hands like ripe plums. Avery changes all Rowdy’s rules, and that’s as it should be.

Yet the beauty in this book comes primarily from Avery, who – despite her worries that a piece of her past has resurfaced at the worst time – really sees Rowdy in all his damage and takes that understanding a step further in giving him the kind of space he needs. She knows that their time together will end because he doesn’t do relationships, but she also knows that he’s special enough that she refuses to do anything but treasure their time together. She doesn’t lie to him (and we understand why she holds on as long as she can to what happened to her) or prevaricate and I love when he keeps demanding that she tell him she loves him, even when he’s incapable of saying it back.

Lori Foster has managed to push every emotional button in this novel, succeeding in living up to my extremely high expectations of this novel, which is saying something because for this character, I wanted everything. I’m interested to see the theme of love undercover continue with Logan’s brother Dash pushing his luck with Logan and Reese’s Lieutenant, Margo Petersen, in the next book of the series, Dash of Peril, due out at the end of March 2014.

This is a fantastic series worth reading (and re-reading in my case), with Getting Rowdy currently holding the “best book” title in it. Do yourself a favor and get a little rowdy while reading this series. You will not be sorry you did. 🙂

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