Tag Archives: Ian

Carrie Ann Ryan’s Montgomery Ink Series Leaves Readers Permanently Marked and Wanting More

13 Aug

Ink Inspired (Montgomery Ink #.5 – Shep and Shea) by Carrie Ann Ryan (Fated Desires, February 15, 2014)

The world of romance writing is a fabulous place.

While I have zero interest in ever getting a tattoo (or solving a murder, or meeting vampires, or extracting a hostage from the clutches of a drug cartel), I get to read about fascinating characters who love the world of permanent body ink, and who fall in love during the process of considering what body art to acquire.

At least I do whenever I have the pleasure of reading Carrie Ann Ryan‘s new Montgomery Ink series.

While the first full-length book of this series, Delicate Ink, will be published on October 14th, we can enjoy the two prequel novellas to the series that she has put out to tantalize us until then, both of which take place in that most sensual of cities, New Orleans.

Ink Inspired (which, let’s be honest, should win some kind of cover art award because yikes) stars Shepard Montgomery, a talented tattoo artist with an established reputation who has created a life filled with his art, friends, and his large and loving family but who finds himself wanting more. He’s tired of the semi-drunk tourists who stumble into his shop not caring what they are about to permanently put on their bodies, and it’s this attitude that has him being brusque with the prim blonde who can’t decide what tattoo she wants. That she’s scared to death is a given, and Shep isn’t about to ink her until she absolutely sure what she wants. What he can do is pursue her despite his poor first impression, as his mid-life ennui has disappeared in her presence with one look out of those big eyes.

Shea Little can’t tell the huge, handsome tattoo artist what she wants because she has no idea. She barely understands who she is, having suffered with the constant emotional abuse of her mother and her bossy ex-boyfriend. Coming from a politically prominent and moneyed family, Shea has tried to make a life of her own working in her little accounting office and wearing her suits. She can control her immediate world even if she can’t control the negative things her mother thinks and says, and choosing ink for her body wouldn’t just be a rebellion but a big step to asserting her independence. The sexy, oh-so-dirty Shep Montgomery, however, is not within her sphere of control, although she finds his relentless pursuit of her unbelievably sexy. When she develops feelings for this gentle, scorchingly sensual man, all her efforts to create her own life might come to an end when her family threatens to destroy him.

Delicate Ink (Montgomery Ink #1 – Austin and Sierra) by Carrie Ann Ryan (Fated Desires, October 14, 2014)

Oh. My. God. Shep is the last person you’d think to pair with Shea, so naturally he’s perfect for her, since he understands and supports her work to uncover who she is and what she wants on her own time. While he knows that he’s from a different world, Shea and Shep are kindred souls who learn from one another. That Shep is more than happy to show Shea what she’s been missing regarding her sexuality, is a bonus for readers and for Shea, and I defy you to find a more heinous bitch of a mother than the abusive and manipulative villain in this story. Remember, this is an edgy hero, with plenty of f-bombs, piercings in sensitive areas, and the frequent use of the modern adjective “hella” but chances are you are going to love him as much as Shea by the last page.

This novella is skillfully written as Ryan manages to lay the groundwork for the entire series, smoothly weaving in Shep’s Colorado cousins (the focus of the series and owners of their own tattoo business), minor characters in the New Orleans shop, and hints of the Montgomery clan’s own social and political influence (albeit the less prominent and far shadier variety than Shea’s family). Shea easily could have been a cowed, naive twit, but instead she is a woman struggling against the bonds that have tethered her personality for so many years, with Shep coming at exactly the right moment to help her break free. Shep is one of the sexiest, sweetest rough heroes I’ve read in a while, and I’m certainly hoping I get to see and hear from him in future installments of the series.

Midnight Ink Box Set (seen here with the individual book covers for each of the novels contained within it) featuring stories by Jayne Rylon, Sidney Bristol, Robin L. Rotham, P. G. Forte, Eden Bradley, R. G. Alexander, Carrie Ann Ryan, and Mari Carr (Amazon Digital Services, November 18, 2014)

Ink Inspired is also a great deal, only $.99 right now on Amazon, and you can get it as one of the novellas contained in the Midnight Ink box set if there are other authors in that collection who also appeal to you (and there are some doozies in there!). I can honestly say – as a decided connoisseur of boxed sets – that I was blown away by Midnight Ink, a collaboration of the group of authors who make up the Inkheart Authors (and several of whom are in the quality romance author group, the Smutketeers). These wonderful authors developed a New Orleans tattoo parlor, Midnight Ink, figured out who the key characters were (either artists, owners, or patrons) and then each developed a story. The result is a brilliant sequence of moving, erotic, emotional stories as these men and women move to find their happily ever after (HEA) in the Big Easy.

The consistent quality and deliberate cohesiveness of the anthology makes this feel almost like one of those big Baskin Robbin’s ice cream bowls with 21 flavors – they are all delicious but each have a different (delicious) taste. Keep in mind that the various stories’ focus ranges from more traditional uber-hot romance to menage to BDSM-themed romance, but with the execution and writing quality so high, I think even readers who don’t normally choose some of those themes will find themselves reading to find out how each character takes a chance on happiness. At $5.99 for over 500 pages, it’s a good bargain, although I’ll warn you that I loved so many of these stories that I went out and bought the other books related to them to find out more about the secondary characters and relatives of the Midnight Ink characters!

Ink Reunited (Montgomery Ink #.6 – Sassy, Rafe and Ian) by Carrie Ann Ryan (Fated Desires, January 29, 2014)

One character who we did not see get her HEA in the anthology was Midnight Ink’s receptionist, Sassy Bordeaux, who played matchmaker when she saw which way the wind was blowing with each of her coworkers and clients. Luckily Carrie Ann Ryan took it upon herself to not leave Sassy out in the cold, and Ink Reunited is a wonderful tale of Sassy realizing her own dreams. This novella explains how years ago the sensitive yet brash receptionist had fallen for two very different men after running away from her abusive, wealthy home. Rafe Chavez loved Sassy from the start when his loving parents added the homeless waif to their large family and she honed her administrative skills working in the Chavez chain of auto repair stores. But Rafe never considered Sassy a sister and the heat between them became all-consuming when Rafe brought home a wealthy stranded client, young millionaire Ian Steele. The three of them fell head over heels in love with each other, but when Ian began to distance himself emotionally from Rafe and Sassy, Sassy couldn’t handle yet another massive rejection from the men in her life and she ran.

A decade later, Ian has never stopped regretting the impulsive actions of his young twenties’ self so when Rafe tells him that Sassy has been in New Orleans hiding under their noses the whole time, they commit to winning her back and renewing their relationship, this time for the long haul. To say that Sassy is shocked by their appearance is an understatement, but her heart is reluctant to risk everything – again – on these two wonderful men. As Rafe and Ian convince her of their seriousness and show her how their unconventional partnership will hold up to family and public scrutiny, an ugly specter from her past rears its head to threaten everything they are trying to rebuild.

This is a wonderful menage story with a strong focus on the emotional journey of three people who have known and loved each other for a long time. Rafe and Ian would each be a catch, but both of them together? Sassy is one fortunate woman, whose heart of gold almost undermines her future. I loved this 100+ page novella which whetted my appetite for the upcoming full-length novel in the series, Delicate Ink.

Honestly, if you haven’t already gotten Midnight Ink, I would recommend getting it and Ink Reunited, as that gives you over 600 pages of amazing, spicy New Orleans romance for under $9.00, but with each story of the anthology available independently, the world is definitely your oyster if you want to pick and chose what you think looks good. Know that part of the Inkheart Authors and the Smutketeers motto is quality romance, which means that everything they publish is beautifully formatted and edited.

Just like a tattoo, the Montgomery Ink series and its related stories are bound to leave a permanent mark on your romance reading soul, but the good news is that, unlike going under the needle, this process is painless thanks the excellent writing of Carrie Ann Ryan and her fellow authors.

Happy reading!

December Read-a-Thon: You’ll Be Courting Disaster If You Don’t Read The Scandal Before Christmas by Elizabeth Essex This Holiday Season

29 Dec

The Scandal Before Christmas (The Reckless Brides #3.5 – Ian and Anne) by Elizabeth Essex (St. Martin’s Press, October 8, 2013)

It’s always a joy to find a historical author whose depiction of their chosen time period is so accurate and detail-rich that you feel immersed in the setting. I felt like I had hit the jackpot when I finally succumbed to the charms of Grace Burrows with Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait. Then Nina Rowan’s ‘Twas the Night Before Mischief restored my faith in Victorian romance not written by Jennifer Ashley (who is a goddess with her Highland Pleasures series). Therefore, it was an additional and unexpected pleasure to discover Elizabeth Essex via her holiday novella, The Scandal Before Christmas.

I read some intriguing reviews online about this plain-duckling-turns-swan novella and, since it fit into my December Read-a-Thon format, I thought I’d give it a try. Oh my gosh!! This is a hot, sweet story that burrows under your skin and lives there for a while afterward, and it’s a lovely feeling.

The Scandal Before Christmas lands between the third and fourth full-length novels in Essex’s The Reckless Brides series. Fans of the naval angle of Horatio Hornblower are going to want to definitely check this author out as she has a strong historical background in naval detail and many of her characters have ties to the British navy. Set amid the Napoleonic Wars, this is a hard-core navy setting (no pirate fluff here) as well as with the books being linked loosely via certain characters.

Almost a Scandal (The Reckless Brides #1 – David and Sally) by Elizabeth Essex (St. Martin’s Press, July 31, 2012)

In fact, the hero of this novella served on the ship featured in the first book of the series, Almost a Scandal, where the heroine took her brother’s place to serve in the Navy and ends up falling for her superior officer. In The Scandal Before Christmas, Lieutenant Ian Worth is a victim of ill-fortune at the moment. His overbearing and heartless father Viscount Rainesford has always made his immediate heir tow the line, having dropped off second son Ian on the Navy’s doorstep when the boy was twelve and never looked back. Ian doesn’t exactly love the Navy, but it’s his career and he’s enjoyed the camaraderie of his shipmates while being able to indulge his licentious side when ashore. Unfortunately, he’s informed by his father that his older brother has had a horrible riding accident and appears to be paralyzed, negating any possibility of begetting heirs to inherit the title.

When his father tells him that Ian will have to honor his brother’s betrothal and marry the girl, the officer honed in over a decade of the Navy’s service balks, informing his father that he is already married. Not thrilled, his father nevertheless backs off and Ian is left with needing to get married in the next six days before shoving off for his next assignment. At least he’s got a plum channel dispatch job, which means he gets to return every couple of weeks to the home he loves, Gull Cottage, on the Isle of Wight. But where to find a wife when his experience is with opera singers and amenable barmaids?

Destiny provides an assisting hand when he’s joined in a tavern while drowning his sorrows by an old friend, Colonel Lesley. After hearing his predicament and asking Ian’s requirements – a quiet girl who won’t mind being left alone for long periods and who would shun the town amenities and social whirl – the good colonel informs him that his eldest daughter Anne would be perfect for him. Ian insists that Col. Lesley and his wife bring the girl to Gull Cottage so she can see what she would be getting and determine if she would like Ian enough to go through with the marriage. Ian just prays that he can be attracted to her enough to bed her.

A shot of the shoreline of the Isle of Wight – how lovely and remote is this? No wonder Anne thinks it’s the perfect place to escape her family. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The first glance isn’t promising. Anne Lesley is a plain, brown-haired, sober-gowned young woman who Ian mistook for her mother’s maid, but it’s possible she’s quiet because she can’t get a word in edgewise with such a garrulous mother. Her parents barely seem to notice she’s there and Ian can’t help but feel horribly disappointed at the thought of tying himself to such a plain mouse. Unfortunately, Anne overhears him saying so to his trusted manservant – and Ian realizes that he’s been overheard and feels horrible. In the process of apologizing to her, Ian makes a life-changing revelation, namely that Anne has a lot of impertinence and possibly passion bottled up inside of her, qualities which, when glimpsed in her eyes, suddenly bring her face to life. The chemistry that blazes up startles but pleases them both, but it’s uncertain if Ian can coax Anne to trust him amid all the lies to his father and his trampling over her feelings from the start. With the clock ticking, Ian must woo Anne to marry him to save his own hide while he also realizes that he must win her heart to save his own from breaking as he’s fallen for the woman who hides so much of herself from the world.

What I envision Gull Cottage looking like (this is an actual historic cottage you can actually rent on the Isle of Wight)…

Okay, I haven’t read the other books in this series (a condition I will soon remedy) but I can’t imagine that it’s possible to not love Ian. He is such a straight shooter, saying exactly what he’s thinking and feeling, but he’s also actually quite a gentleman who spoke in frustration at his situation when he accidentally hurt Anne’s feelings in commenting on her first impression. Ian is also a glorious, sensual beast and exactly the right person to appreciate Anne’s bottled up thoughts and emotions, making him the perfect coach to teach her all the rules of physical love. Anne’s anger understandably stems from knowing she has to leave her family before she goes officially insane (how she managed all these years with that mother is a mystery) but knowing that she would not be considered worthy of the handsome son of a Viscount. Once she understands Ian’s predicament she is all empathy, helped along by his sensual kisses and great library (which includes some racy erotic books he’s happy to share).

This novella is hot and tender with the barest hint at the holiday. I loved both the hero and heroine and thought the secondary characters were drawn with exactly the right level of depth to enhance the story but never take it over. Historical detail and language was pitch perfect with some of Ian’s less gentlemanly language and behavior easily explained by his lack of society contact and time in the Navy (and even he realizes he’s defying social mores). I liked that, while he was a bit of manwhore, he immediately recognizes that if he’s to ask a woman to be faithful to him he wants to give her the same in return (hence his desperate hope that they can be physically compatible). I was ready to move to Gull Cottage as it sounded wild, remote and beautiful, the perfect place for Anne to finally get the peace and quiet she deserved. In lieu of taking a vacation there right away (look at those pictures!), I’ll content myself with reading this wonderful novella. 🙂

At a mere $1.99 for just under 150 pages, The Scandal Before Christmas is an excellent way to sample Elizabeth Essex’s writing and realize that you may have found another great historical romance author to add to your shelves.

Happy reading!

Countdown to Christmas: Mackenzie Family Christmas Is THE Perfect Gift for Fans of the Highland Pleasures Series

17 Dec

This post isn’t going to mean much to you if you haven’t read Jennifer Ashley‘s Highland Pleasures series, one of my favorite historical romance series on the market. If you like hot historical romance, I would pose the question – why on earth haven’t you read these yet??? Gorgeous Victorian Scotsmen (nobles, no less) always on the wrong side of scandal lead dissipated, tortured lives until finding the feisty women who complete them. Humor, love, and passion abound in gorgeous settings until you’re ready to go marry the first Mackenzie man you meet.

The previous four books each focused on one of the brothers:

  • The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie featuring my favorite Mackenzie brother, Ian, who is autistic (although the time period doesn’t recognize that and simply labels him mad). He meets the wealthy widow Beth Ackerley and knows he must have her as she calms him while inflaming his senses like no other.
  • Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage focuses on Mac, the artist brother who – through his alcoholism – estranged his lovely wife Isabella. He’s sober now but wants her back and someone trying to pass off paintings in his name is the perfect excuse to show her he’s changed.
  • If Ian is my favorite, Cam is a close second, and in The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, his debauched lifestyle finds a purpose when Queen Victoria’s lady-in-waiting, the beautiful widow Ainsley Douglas, comes to help Isabella with her weekend party for the oldest Mackenzie brother, Hart, the Duke of Kilmorgan. Cam has an older teenage son, Daniel (who is wonderful – I’d marry Cam for Daniel alone), and a host of horrifying memories from his first wife who was insane. But Ainsley teaches him how to trust, and shows him that she’s happier with him and Daniel in the country with the thoroughbreds Cam trains than with jewels and parties in Europe.
  • The Duke’s Perfect Wife finally shows Hart Mackenzie, the Machiavellian political manipulator with a penchant for very specific sexual tastes, vulnerable to one woman, Eleanor Ramsay, who spurned him years ago. They’ve never stopped loving each other, even from afar when Hart finally married, losing his mouse of a wife and newborn to childbed fever. He’s been a widow for some time but when Eleanor pops into his life to avert a scandal that might cost him some of his hard won political power, he sees it as a sign he’s meant to get her back into his life.

I can’t emphasize enough how much you fall in love with these couples, and seeing each of them happy in subsequent books, with babies coming and Daniel growing up and headed to university, is so gratifying. The secondary characters, particularly of the quirky servants who surround the Mackenzies (they are an eccentric bunch) and the various in-laws offer no end of entertainment and run throughout the series.

The Seduction of Elliot McBride (Highland Pleasures #5) by Jennifer Ashley (Berkley, December 31, 2012)

So with that in mind, you can imagine how fantastic an e-novella like this is for Mackenzie fans. We see all our wonderful couples and their families, with Hart and Eleanor married for about a year and expecting a baby around the holidays. Naturally all the Mackenzies have gathered at the ducal castle, along with a host of related family members and are gearing up to celebrate Christmas (for the Sassenachs among them, the Scots make their big holiday Hogmanay, or New Year’s). Everyone is worried about Eleanor who is thirty-three and having her first child. She’s pretty uncomfortable and fairly bedridden at eight months pregnant, but it doesn’t stop Hart from lavishing her with attention even while he stays awake with the fear of losing her.

Ian is getting a lot of attention as well. He’s tracked down one of his fantastically expensive Ming bowls, this time from an elusive Russian aristocrat who was a reluctant seller, but tragedy strikes when the bowl is broken. When Ian retreats to his room, everyone worries he’s going to have another episode, but he’s secretly working on a very “Ian” gift for Beth and his children. Cam and Ainsley have their hands full with their daughter little Gavina, and Mac is painting something extra special for Isabella.

Jennifer Ashley is a master of laying the foundation for future books and she doesn’t ease up just because this is a self-published novella. When Isabella’s sister Louisa arrives and spots Lloyd Fellows, the Mackenzie born on the wrong side of the blanket to a Cockney mistress of the late earl, all she can think of is how she boldly kissed him at Cam and Ainsley’s wedding and how it was wonderful. But she’s determined to restore some of her family’s besmirched honor (between Isabella’s scandalous elopement and their father’s frittering away the family fortune, the Scrantons have a somewhat blackened name). Being interested in a common detective is not going to help Lady Louisa’s goals. (We’re going to see Lloyd and Louisa’s story in August 2013 in The Untamed Mackenzie, #5.5 in the series.)

Not far from how I picture the Mackenzie castle (although according to Ian, it’s actually more symmetrical).

Ainsley’s delicious Scottish brothers cause no end of story ideas to flow for Ashley as well. Confusingly, her brother Elliot is shown as being married, although his book, The Seduction of Elliot McBride doesn’t actually come out until December 31, 2012 (and yes, I have preordered it for Kindle delivery on the stroke of Hogmanay!). Wouldn’t that make Mackenzie Family Christmas number 5.25 in the series? I’m incredibly intrigued by Elliot without even knowing him, since his post-traumatic stress from his service in India is what gave Ainsley the ability to understand her husband Cam’s innermost demons.

Two other hints are thrown our way for future books – Daniel indicates he has a few more years to sow his wild oats while working on his engineering projects and being a scientist (and I knew from the start that this young Mackenzie was going to fall hard and young surrounded by all these men finding their true loves). His book, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (#6) has an October 1, 2013 release and I’m warning people now not to bother me that day.

Ainsley’s older brother, the widower Sinclair McBride, lost his beloved wife five years earlier and can’t seem to manage his two hellion children. The Mackenzie nanny makes it quite clear he’s got to get himself a good governess after his son sets fire to his bed (by accident). I’m guessing 2014 will have us see the publication of Rules for a Proper Governess (#7) where Sinclair and his children will finally meet their match. Ashley’s website indicates an unnamed #6.5 book in the series, so I’ll eagerly see what comes of that!

When so many authors crank out a tepid novella for a holiday tie-in, Jennifer Ashley gives us an emotionally poignant and always fun glimpse of the wild, loving Mackenzie family at Christmastime. I would say that she managed to give her fans of the Highland Pleasures series “the perfect gift.” Thanks, Jennifer!

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