Tag Archives: New Orleans

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!

M. L. Buchman Continues to Deliver Emotional Military Romance with Take Over At Midnight

17 Dec

Take Over At Midnight (Night Stalkers #4 – Tim and Lola) by M. L. Buchman (Sourcebooks, December 3, 2013)

The main feature of a good military romance for me is that it’s smart. Okay, I read the fluffy ones that are more about emotion and psychology (military hero or heroine is dealing with the after effects – physical or psychological – of their service) and those are great, but the smart ones, filled with tons of details about ordnance and training, those make me salivate. It’s like watching a great medical drama – you don’t have to know what everything means, but the language and accuracy provide layers of authenticity which ramp up the emotion and the action while engendering trust in the writer.

M. L. Buchman is a master at delivering military romance which does not stint on the real details that make combat come alive while also giving readers a hot, emotional read. I’d put him in a cage match with Catherine Mann, Lindsey McKenna, Maya Banks, and Kaylea Cross – and Buchman would totally come out on top (although they are all phenomenal writers). If you have a guy you’ve been wanting to introduce to romance and he’s a Clive Cussler/Tom Clancy kind of person, this is the series to bring him over to romance fiction!

The Night Is Mine (The Night Stalkers #1 – Mark and Emily) by M. L. Buchman (Sourcebooks, February 2012)

The Night Stalkers is one of my favorite military series because with each couple, I fall further in love with this group of kick ass helicopter pilots, mechanics and gunners. Each character is at the top of their profession, the only way they’ve made it to the exclusive SOAR group, the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, aka the Night Stalkers, who fly extremely dangerous missions, many of which never make it out of the shadowbox.

Take Over at Midnight is the fourth book in this stellar series (which I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed before). At their heart, these books focus not just on a specific mission or series of dangerous encounters in the field, but also on the interpersonal conflict between the hero and heroine, either brought on by a difference in rank (a big problem in the military) and/or a difference in background. While some of our servicemen and women come from privileged backgrounds and join for reasons fueled by patriotism, so many other people enter the military in an effort to turn their lives around or reject difficult upbringings. A source of deep-seated admiration for Buchman’s writing is his ability to dig deep into the psyche of women serving in elite combat positions, demonstrating an understanding of the personal grit they require to deal with the chauvinism encountered repeatedly on their journey to an elite unit like the Night Stalkers.

I Own the Dawn (The Night Stalkers #2 – Archie and Kee) by M. L. Buchman (Sourcebooks, August 2012)

While you don’t have to read the other books in this series to enjoy Take Over at Midnight, you’d be a fool not to. The team is led by two legendary helicopter pilots – Majors Mark Henderson and Emily Beale – who happen to be married to one another (their incredible story, with a pulse-pounding presidential espionage plotline, can be found in The Night Is Mine). Mark’s co-pilot, Boston Brahmin Archibald Stevenson is married to Emily’s crack gunner, Kee Smith, who came from the worst possible background you can imagine in East L.A. (their gut-wrenching book, I Own the Dawn, is incredible). Finally, Mark’s big Okie chief mechanic and gunner, Staff Sergeant “Big John” Wallace won the heart of Emily’s flight engineer and mechanic, Sergeant Connie Davis, despite his initially misreading her quiet personality as aloofness rather than the slight autistic streak she possesses (and honestly, their story, Wait Until Dark, is my favorite of the whole series, and I love all these books).

Wait Until Dark (The Night Stalkers #3 – John and Connie) by M. L. Buchman (Sourcebooks, February 2013)

You can imagine how hard it would be for a new person to break into these two tight-knit crews, rendered even closer by intermarriage than the average high-level team honed by combat and long-term service together. Yet that’s exactly what Chief Warrant Officer Lola LaRue must do when she finally gets a shot at being Major Emily Beale’s co-pilot in Take Over at Midnight. These two crews are not exactly warm and fuzzy, so fitting in is a challenge, particularly when her rough background of a criminal father and growing up in a New Orleans bordello makes her feel like a fraud when the doubts of her childhood creep into her head. The only person who makes any effort to be a friend is Major Henderson’s prankster gunner, Sergeant Tim Maloney, and Lola loves their backgammon games and banter.

Tim has felt like he’s been hit by a two-by-four since he spotted Lola on the deck of carrier in Poland. He didn’t know her name but he recognizes her as soon as she strips out of her flight suit and unleashes that long mane of hair. Her Creole accent and hot body leave him without the smooth moves he’s known for around the ladies, but soon her blazing zest for life have him head over heels in love. But Lola isn’t forthcoming about her past, whereas Tim tells stories about his extended loving family all the time. With her an officer and him an enlisted man, he has to tread carefully in order to not ruin their careers. With the looming danger of a Iranian mission whose tentacles extend right into Lola’s former home, Tim wonders if he can help her overcome her past to realize the future they’d have together.

Daniel’s Christmas (The Night Stalkers #2.5 – Daniel and Alice) by M. L. Buchman (Buchman Bookworks, November 2013)

Oh. My. God. I honestly couldn’t imagine M. L. Buchman surpassing Wait Until Dark, but he nailed it with this incredible novel. For two people with very different upbringings, it’s fascinating to watch Tim and Lola realize their similarities and common values and grow closer together. Nevertheless, the reader’s spectator position means that we have to watch Tim flounder when he really doesn’t understand Lola and her feelings about something more permanent and it’s pretty painful (I found myself yelling, “Not yet! NOT YET!” at my iPad). The mission is scary and all too easy to imagine as reality, and it’s great to see the characters of Emily’s childhood best friend, U.S. President Peter Matthews and his Chief of Staff Daniel Darlington III (who has his own wonderful HEA happen during a North Korean mission in the self-published e-novella Daniel’s Christmas), reappear in all their glory.

I was worried with all the pairing off that the series might be coming to an end, but there are a few interesting characters still floating around single (Emily’s friend Liz O’Malley and the uber-sexy Delta operator are two people I need to read more about) and the circumstances Buchman highlights for a specific couple mean they will be leaving for civilian life. I was pleased to spot on Goodreads that there is a new series listed on his author page, entitled Firehawks, which will clearly relate to this plot development and continue our relationship with the characters. Yay!!! The expected publication date of 2014 guarantees my pre-order opportunity will come soon.

This entire series of The Night Stalkers is a must read for anyone who enjoys military suspense and/or military romance. I’ve decided to follow this review today with one for Peter’s Christmas, (just wait an hour) an additional novella from the series showing the sexy widower President find exactly the woman meant for him. She’s something special, let me tell you, and completely deserving of the December Read-a-Thon focus. Stay tuned for that later today and in the meantime, download this series!

Happy reading!!

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