Tag Archives: Hard As You Can

Disgraced Special Forces Heroes, Courageous Heroines, and Sexy Ink Combine to Make Laura Kaye’s Hard As It Gets A Must Buy

27 Nov

Hard As It Gets (Hard Ink #1 – Nick and Becca) by Laura Kaye (Avon, November 26, 2013)

I have been waiting for months for this book to come out (and was soooo thankful its debut occurred on my Thanksgiving vacation). I’ve qvelled about Laura Kaye’s writing ability, particularly her way of transforming damaged military heroes into men with a mission regarding the woman they love, and Hard As It Gets is no exception.

Becca Merritt can’t handle losing one more family member. This brave ER nurse lost her mother as a child, her older brother to a heroine overdose and her Special Forces father on a dangerous mission in Afghanistan, and now her younger brother Charlie is missing. Yes, he’s always been a paranoid computer genius, but when they argued during a secure online chat session, he claimed that he had uncovered evidence that implicated their father in something horrible. Becca had argued with Charlie that he needed to let his animosity toward their dad go, but he signed off with a cryptic message to get help.

A message which landed her about twelve minutes from her house at a Baltimore tattoo parlor emblazoned “Hard Ink.” Asking for Rixey manages to get two brothers, but it’s clearly older brother Nick who was the one who could help Becca. His whole demeanor screams Special Forces, but the chill in his eyes when he turns down any prospect of helping her makes Becca feel she is totally and utterly alone. A little more warmth in those green eyes and Nick Rixey would have been a walking sex god, but she’s gotten through worse and she’ll do it again.

Nick Rixey is a man drifting. A silent partner in his brother’s tattoo parlor, he’s been going through the steps as an apprentice to get a license he began before enlisting after 9/11. For years, the military and later Special Forces were his life, until he and his team were betrayed by their commander, Colonel Merritt. Six good men died and more were wounded, but the greatest ignominy was Nick and his surviving men having fabricated offenses planted in their files so they could be run out of the military with dishonor. Feeling responsible and recovering from having his lower back and pelvis shot up in the ambush, Nick has avoided his former team and anything having to do with the FUBAR situation that got him home. The gorgeous blond who looked at him with such hope in her eyes may be barking up the wrong tree, but even Nick knows that it’s not her fault that her father was a traitor, something she clearly doesn’t realize.

Even though he sent her away, Nick listens to the little voice telling him something isn’t right. Two nights of recon on Becca Merritt’s house indicates that she’s clearly scared of something, and the second night demonstrates her valid feelings when Nick rushes into her home in time to scare away an intruder who was waiting for her at home. The wrench in his gut at the thought of something happening to her, combined with her telling him that her brother may have found something nefarious against her father, tells Nick that not only does he have to help keep this beautiful woman safe and find her brother, but that doing so might hold the key to clearing his name and the names of his fellow survivors.

Hard As You Can (Hard Ink #2 – Shane and Crystal) by Laura Kaye (Avon, February 25, 2014)

While attempting to fight the rising heat between them, Nick calls his team members back together and a happy reunion it’s not. Worse is that now the people he’s been trying to hold at arms length, his brother Jeremy and Becca, aren’t having it, forcing Nick to face his inner demons and realize that a new day is dawning, one in which he can finally face what happened and fight to get back his sense of self with the people who care about him at his side. To open himself will mean risking everything, but only by doing this can he win more than he ever imagined.

Nick and Becca are terrific characters and considering this is a the first book in the series, Laura Kaye had a LOT of ground to cover. Not only did she lay the hot foundation between Nick and Becca who have more in common than they initially realize, but she also set each of the characters of the members of the Special Forces team, the employees of Hard Ink and Becca’s brother Charlie. Since several of these individuals will undoubtedly star in their own book down the line, it’s important to get a sense of who they are and their backstory up front, and Kaye succeeds without ever making the reader feel like they are suffering through an info-dump.

The larger story arc of their betrayal at the hands of Becca and Charlie’s father is extremely interesting to me, mostly because I can’t help but doubt tremendously that he really did it. Do I believe everything transpired the way Nick and his crew said it did? Yes, definitely, but for a Special Forces colonel with an upstanding record, no known vices, and a son who died of a heroin overdose to turn to aiding opium traffickers in the mideast? I don’t see the psychological motivation, although I see a big one to work secretly to undermine it, and that whoever in the military is dirty would want to disgrace his team and cover his tracks. Just saying.

The next book in the series, Hard As You Can, will focus on Southern charmer, Shane McCallan, and the red-haired beauty who helped the team at the strip club during Charlie’s extraction. Awesome! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy (and since it’s going at under $5 for either the Kindle or the paperback version, I’d encourage interested readers to do the same) and have got the February 25th release date on my calendar. Easy’s novella, Hard to Hold Onto, is scheduled for the late summer, and computer genius and amputee Marz (who I confess is my favorite) will have his full-length novel, Hard to Come By, come out right around this time next year, making me have another terrific Thanksgiving, I’m sure!

Laura Kaye has begun her new series in a big way, and the only thing “Hard” about them is waiting for the next one. Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 22nd

22 Sep

Upcoming Books

While I’m still waiting for Laura Kaye’s new book, As Hard As It Gets, to come out in late November, I’m delighted that the cover and blurb of the second book in this new series has been released. As Hard As You Can looks just as yummy not only in terms of the chiseled muscles and hot tattoo on its cover, but also for it’s plotline.

Lovers of small town romance should mark their calendar for Lizbeth Selvig’s new offering, Rescued by a Stranger, which comes out October 1st. I love a romance when one side of the couple blows into town running away from something, only to find the community tugging on his or her heartstrings. That this hero fits the bill and is driving a motorcycle only making it that much sweeter. *vroom*

It’s a rare delight when you an enjoy a historical romance involving American heiresses in London, but luckily for readers who do, Laura Lee Guhrke is planning on an entire series of them, starting with When the Marquess Met His Match, to be published on October 29th. A stone-broke Marquess gets cut off by his father for dissolute behavior, only to have to turn to the premier matchmaker in order to find a bride in a hurry – maybe one of the American heiresses shopping for a title. Only the matchmaker, who herself was one of those same Americans prior to her marriage and subsequent widowhood, won’t take him on as a client. What’s a desperate nobleman to do? Charm the matchmaker into marriage, naturally.

Kristen Ashley just announced that the latest book in her Colorado Mountain series, Jagged, is available for pre-order and the cover is definitely an improvement on past books in this series, reflecting the quality of the prose much more accurately. In this latest offering from Carnal, Colorado, a past love returns needing to convince the woman he left behind that he’s a changed man, but after his walking away and the devastation she’s recently endured, can she trust him again? With a cover blurb from Maya Banks, I think people will be lining up to order this novel long before the November 1st publication date.

Paranormal doyenne Kresley Cole announced this week that she’s jumping on the serial bandwagon with a three part erotic romance, The Professional, to be released in three parts this December. I’m sooooo not a fan of the serial (I read way too fast and don’t like to be kept waiting), but for a writer as good as Cole, I’m willing to make an exception, particularly since she’s smart enough to keep the publication dates close together, with everything coming out within a month.

Jennifer Ashley (who makes the Great Deals section with her bundled Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries) has her Shifters Unbound series fans waiting with baited breath for the upcoming books in that series, including the next full-length novel, Wild Wolf. Luckily for all of us, it’s recently been targeted by Amazon as one of the discounted paperback pre-orders, now listed at the price of $4.79. Snap it up! It will make the waiting until April 1st almost bearable knowing it was such a great deal.

Fans of J. D. Robb‘s Death series need to note (if they haven’t already) that the thirty-seventh book, Thankless in Death, just came out September 17th. Rabid fans of Eve Dallas and her sexy husband Roarke will find themselves watching their favorite couple dealing with not only his big Irish family but a family who wasn’t so lucky – they ended up murdered – and Eve must unravel the pieces before the killer strikes again.

Contests and Giveaways

I love historical romance when the hero/rake finds a beautiful woman who seems respectable on the surface, but secretly has “underground contacts” that make her far from a shrinking violet – Tracey Devlyn’s third book in her Nexus series, A Lady’s Secret Weapon, fits the bill! Lucky for me, the Goodreads giveaway ending September 27th, is giving away five copies so I have a chance to win it! If not, the book comes out October 1st.

Everyone is more than aware of my love for anything written by Lauren Dane so I’m excited that her next book in the Brown Siblings series, Drawn Together, not only is coming out October 1st, but has a Goodreads giveaway (deadline September 26th). With the complex heroine of the non-monogamous tattoo artist Raven and Jonah Warner (whose dominant brother, Levi, we’ve already fallen for in the novella Sway, found in the Cherished anthology), I know that Dane’s writing will make me fall for these two just as I do every other couple (or triad) that she writes.

The wonderful Paranormal Romance blog is giving away three copies of the recently released Twilight Hunter, the first book in Kait Ballenger’s new Execution Underground series (and it looks freakin’ awesome!). All you have to do is leave a comment on the post by September 26th, naming your favorite bad boy. Not an easy task with so many of them out there to love, but it looks like we might all have another with werewolf hunter Jace McCannon!

Category romance fans are always looking to find a new great author to follow, so if you fall into this category, you may want to try the I Heart Presents blog’s giveaway of The Divorce Party by Jennifer Hayward, last year’s winner of the So You Think You Can Write contest. Simply leave a comment on the blog post about what inspires you by October 3rd to enter.

Fun Stuff

The people behind Klever Case know what they are doing when it comes to customized Kindle covers. Whether you want your new paperwhite to look like a classic hardcover book (Dracula and The Great Gatsby are popular) or your looking for a just a generic book cover, these are your best bet. You can even customize the bookplate inside! While this is a British company, the additional two pounds for shipping for US orders is hardly prohibitive. And they make them for all major ereaders, including the iPad mini. Just be careful you don’t put your ereader on a shelf and then forget it doubles as a book now!

Gracious! It seems 3D printing has taken an understandable turn in the naughty toys department. Whether the gentlemen in your life gets laser scanned for his…um…replica, or whether you help him with the creation the old fashioned way (warning: the Clone-a-Willy kit is very messy), the end result will be an exact replica to keep you company when he isn’t able to. No, there will not be accompanying pictures for this one! ;-D

Media literacy is incredibly important, particularly when sex education is involved. As I mentioned in my post about condom use and romance novels, all too many students are leaving high school early or attending schools where abstinence education is paramount, resulting in a lack of understanding of how our bodies work and preventing diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Compounding the problem is the rampant misconception regarding sex and what a “normal” body looks like, a lack of understanding that many sexuality professors lay at the feet of easily accessed pornography. To counter it, a hilarious video using kitchen foods has been created to help people understand the realities of sexuality versus the porn version. Be warned, you will laugh out loud!

Avid readers might empathize with librarians who just love reading so much, that they choose awesome tattoos which reflect their passion. Whether it’s a tarot card, the symbol for library or just their favorite Dewey Decimal number, the quirky magazine Mental Floss has put together quite a few of them for your viewing pleasure. Not willing to make that kind of a commitment? Publisher’s Weekly reviewed a great book of temporary tattoos which might be more your speed.

I’m a gigantic fan of Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling series (HUGE fan) so it was fun to see the video from her recent booksigning where she talks not only about how we are all going to have to wait for the books about the younger changelings (nertz!) but how she feels that she’ll be writing this series into her nineties. From your mouth to God’s ears, Nalini!

Anyone within travel distance of Princeton, New Jersey may want to check their calendar to see if they are free on Thursday, October 24th and Friday the 25th. Princeton University is hosting The Popular Romance Author: A Symposium on Authorship in the Popular Romance Genre, beginning with a keynote on Thursday night starring literature professor Kay Mussell and romance author Jennifer Crusie. The keynote is free and open to the public, and there is only a small fee for the various panels and presentations of the academic papers presented on Friday, so see if your calendar has an opening for what sounds like an educational couple of days. Kind of appropriate the Princeton mascot is a tiger, eh? Mrrrrrooooowwww.

I’m a huge fan of the free MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) offered through various services, and I have to say that Coursera is my favorite. For enthusiastic readers, there always seems to be a course available to take your understanding to the next level and two are starting up soon that might interest readers of this blog. The University of Michigan has a Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, The Modern World course that looks great – beginning with fairy tales and taking the reader chronologically up through 19th century horror to the modern era (Bradbury, LeGuin, Doctorow). For historical fiction readers and writers, Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction not only has a roster of great reading and analysis, but the second half of the course has award-winning historical fiction authors teaching about their techniques and methods. And it’s FREE. Both courses clearly state on the information pages how many hours per week they take and you can do the exercises or not – remember it’s free. This is no guilt learning at its finest!

Great Deals

Suspense maven Lisa Gardner’s first Family Secrets novel, Maggie’s Man, is on sale at the ebook price of only $2.99. First published in 1997 under her Alicia Scott pen name, this trilogy stars three half-siblings attempting to uncover the truth about their shadowed family. In this first installment, Maggie Ferringer gets a lot more than jury duty when she reports to the courthouse, and is instead taken hostage by Cain Cannon, who was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend six years ago. He wants revenge and Maggie is coming along for insurance, but soon their relationship turns a corner and it’s uncertain who is the captive.

Everyone knows my love of Jennifer Ashley, whether it’s her stellar historical romance Highland Pleasures series or her heart-pounding paranormal novels from the Shifters Unbound series, but were mystery lovers aware she has a great historical mystery series written under her other pseudonym, Ashley Gardner? The Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series now offers the first four books bundled together for only $.99 for people who would like to sample this different side of a talented author.

Shannon McKenna is a terrific suspense writer and I loved her novel, One Wrong Move, for it’s taking a highly unlikeable uber-alpha hero and revealing his internal marshmallow self when it came to a heroine with a highly scarred past. Now this well-written novel is on sale in ebook form for only $.99. While it’s book nine in McKenna’s McClouds and Friends series, you need zero acquaintance with the other books to enjoy it (although I’ll warn you that you’ll find yourself snapping the others up after this steamy adventure).

Speaking of awesome suspense, Lori Foster is going to debut her book Getting Rowdy in just a couple of weeks, and it would serve you well to nab the previous book in her Love Undercover series, Run the Risk, considering it’s reduced to $1.99 for the Kindle version. These are angsty, hot reads with plenty of danger and heroes who underestimate the sexy heroine only to realize she’s their perfect match. You will NOT be sorry you tried them – I promise!

What a terrific week for readers! Enjoy, everyone. 🙂

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