Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie Bowman

Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides, Book 10
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250147523
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

A spirited lady facing spinsterhood. A common man with a noble mission. And a surprise that just might be waiting for them under the mistletoe in Kiss Me At Christmas by Valerie Bowman.

Bow Street Runner Daffin Oakleaf abhors Christmas. Carol singing and holiday cheer only remind him of a dark time. When a close friend calls on him for help, Daffin is happy to capitalize on the distraction. But when he learns the lovely Lady Regina is the one in danger, he’s to become bodyguard to the captivating woman...

Regina has one mission: to find a night of passion in the arms of a gentleman. Considered firmly on the shelf, Regina has given up on marriage—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be denied the pleasure married ladies experience. Daffin has long captured her attention…and when a threat calls him to her side, the sparks between them ignite. But how can a hired bodyguard find his way into Regina’s noble heart?

Lady Regina Haversham has long been holding out for a love match. But as she nears thirty, her uncle is determined to see her wed. Regina knows she cannot put off her uncle’s chosen suitor forever, but she’s determined to at least have control over who she loses her virginity to. And there’s only one man she wants: famous Bow Street Runner Daffin Oakleaf. Though he’s tempted, Daffin turns Regina down. That would be the end of it, except it seems that someone is targeting Regina. With her cousin out of town, Daffin is the one tasked with protecting her. Close quarters have a way of bringing down barriers, but given the difference in their stations, Regina and Daffin will need a Christmas miracle to get their happily ever after.

Kiss Me at Christmas is a warmhearted, sparkling holiday romance. Regina and Daffin absolutely charmed me; they’re both incredibly likeable and they have wonderful chemistry. Regina is open, curious, and kind while Daffin is protective and devilishly handsome. Physically, intellectually, and emotionally Regina and Daffin are a match and their romance builds from flirty and sweet to spicy. Yet while it’s clear they’re meant for each other, class differences aren’t always easy to overcome, even if Daffin is close friends with Regina’s cousin.

The romance in Kiss Me at Christmas makes the pages of the story fly by. But the romance is intertwined with the mystery of who is trying to kill Regina. At first, I enjoyed this subplot and had my theories about who was behind everything. Unfortunately, a mystery needs to have a satisfying – or at least logical – conclusion and this one was both unsatisfying and seemed to come out of left field. It felt manufactured for plot reasons, which was a pity because Daffin and Regina are such entertaining characters that you can’t help but feel they deserved better. This isn’t an insignificant quibble, but I still honestly enjoyed this book anyway. There’s a buoyancy to Valerie Bowman’s writing that just lifts me up whenever I read her books and Kiss Me at Christmas is no exception.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Review: Pirate’s Passion by Lisa Kessler

Pirate’s Passion by Lisa Kessler
Series: Sentinels of Savannah, Book 2
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781640636422
Release Date: November 12, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Samuel Keegan used to man the wheel of the Sea Dog over 200 years ago, but these days he’s the front man of a southern rock band. Rum and women are plentiful, but his world is changing rapidly now that his crew is back together searching for the Holy Grail to break their curse. But the quest leads him to a historian with raven hair and a wicked smile. She holds all the answers, but she could also spell death for them all.

Dr. Charlotte Sinclair works for the Maritime Museum in Savannah, an expert on ancient pirate wrecks. When a government agent requests her help in a top-secret investigation, she discovers not only is the Holy Grail real, but the lead singer of her favorite band is actually the immortal pilot of the Sea Dog crew.

The search for the Grail opens some dark secrets better left hidden, and Charlotte's life might depend on one Pirate's Passion…

An immortal pirate turned rock star, a brilliant historian with a hunger for adventure, a quest for the Holy Grail… How could Pirate’s Passion not be fun? It’s Pirates of the Caribbean meets Indiana Jones with a healthy dose of romance and secret government agencies thrown in.

Samuel Keegan is a charming rogue who enjoys his immortality and an ever-changing stream of women in his bed. The threat of losing his immortality is only dimmed by the panic he feels at risking losing his heart to Dr. Charlotte Sinclair. Keegan has lost a woman he loved once, and he feels no desire to drown in that despair again. Only he can’t seem to help himself from falling for Char. She’s an expert on pirates and knows all about the crew of the Sea Dog who supposedly died over two hundred years ago. Keegan and Char click immediately and I loved their chemistry. How things work out when one is immortal and the other not, I won’t say. But I did enjoy the ride author Lisa Kessler took these two on. Keegan is the perfect fantasy of a pirate turned rock star. He’s a gentleman and a scoundrel, and who can resist that? Not me, and definitely not Char. She’s his match in every way and their romance was sexy one moment, fun the next, and melted my heart the moment after that.

Pirate’s Passion is the second book in the Sentinels of Savannah series but you don’t have to have read Magnolia Mystic to follow along. The ongoing search for the Holy Grail – the cup that gave the Sea Dog pirates their immortality – continues in this story and we also delve further into the world of the mysterious government agency, Department 13. The quest for the cup was exciting and I was completely invested in this storyline. The rest of the world building was where the story hit a bit of a snag for me. It wasn’t quite as exciting, perhaps because it’s explored from the viewpoint of the somewhat bland Agent Bale. There was also a case of a lot being thrown in to spur further stories, which did set up some interesting prospects for future books but also had the side effect of leaving the villains in this one somewhat underdeveloped. Still, I enjoyed Pirate’s Passion overall. Ms. Kessler knows how to deliver sexy pirates heroes and adventurous, interesting heroines. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in the Sentinels of Savannah series.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Review: Picture Perfect Cowboy by Tiffany Reisz

Picture Perfect Cowboy by Tiffany Reisz
Series: The Original Sinners, Book 10
Publisher: 8th Circle Press
Genre: BDSM Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781984085863
Release Date: November 5, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Jason “Still” Waters' life looks perfect from the outside—money, fame, and the words “World Champion Bull-Rider” after his name. But Jason has a secret, one he never planned on telling anybody…until he meets Simone. She’s the kinky girl of his dreams…and his conservative family’s worst nightmare.

Jason “Still” Waters is a retired champion bull rider who lives a quiet life on his horse farm in Kentucky. At least it’s a quiet life until he has to sub in for a friend and pose naked for a charity calendar. Jason’s already out of his comfort zone when he meets gorgeous photographer Simone Levine, but then she knocks him for a loop by bringing out the secret that he’s long been trying to hide. Jason’s a dominant, but his ultra conservative upbringing makes him ashamed and afraid to act on his fantasies. But with a little help from Simone, a professional submissive, Jason may just find the courage to embrace his kinky side.

Picture Perfect Cowboy is utterly divine! It’s sexy, sweet, and oh-so-much fun to read. Jason just about melted my heart. He’s not just a drop-dead sexy cowboy (though that doesn’t hurt), he’s kind, sweet, and polite enough to make you swoon. He’s also a man at war with himself. To call his upbringing strict would be an understatement and it isn’t easy for him to overcome that and accept that (1) he’s a dominant and (2) there’s absolutely nothing wrong or bad about what he enjoys. I loved watching Simone help him come into his own, to overcome what was drilled into his head and find joy with someone whose kinks complement his own.

As for Simone, she’s a delight. She’s bright, funny, generous, and open. She’s a vibrant heroine who lit up the page and I adored her from the very first. Simone loves Jason’s brand of dominance and she’s patient, honest, and open with him. She’s a wonderfully sweet and bubbly heroine who has a spine of steel. I loved watching her and Jason explore a master/slave relationship. They’re hot as hell together, but what’s more, they click on every level. They fall in love fast and hard and it’s easy to see why – these two are made for each other.

Picture Perfect Cowboy is part of Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners world, but it easily stands alone. But never fear: Søren and Nora do appear and they are a wonderful addition to this story whether you’re an old fan or are just diving into the Original Sinners. Every book I’ve read by Tiffany Reisz has been nearly impossible to put down and this book continues that streak. Her characters are always compelling and the pages of her books seem to fly by. If you love sexy cowboys, vivacious heroines, and a sweet but kinky romance, Picture Perfect Cowboy is the book for you!


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Review: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780399587689
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn't come as a surprise–or happen in front of 45,000 people.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn't the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He's even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik's social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…

Jasmine Guillory is the master of meet-cutes. In The Proposal, a spectacularly awful proposal at a Dodgers game kicks off a sparkling romance between two smart, funny, endearing characters.

Carlos won me over in The Wedding Date and I couldn’t have been more excited for his book. Carlos has a huge and generous heart that made me sigh. And since the death of his father, he is extremely protective of the women in his family. He has a tendency to take over because he wants to take care of people, but to his credit he acknowledges this and works on holding himself in check. Carlos isn’t a perfect man, but he’s as close a knight in shining armor as possible without coming across as cardboard perfect. Nik doesn’t generally need rescuing, but even she has to admit she’s in over her head when her self-absorbed boyfriend surprises her with a proposal on the Dodger Stadium jumbotron. Escaping a stadium full of disappointed fans and a camera crew closing in is made a lot easier with the aid of Carlos and his sister. Nik and Carlos hit it off from the start, but having literally just ended a relationship Nik isn’t ready to jump into another. It was easy for me to fall for Nik. She’s smart, honest, witty, sarcastic, and independent. She’s also incredibly relatable and I had a blast reading about her.

Nik and Carlos’s romance is filled with humor and heart. Their chemistry is excellent and it made the pages of The Proposal fly by. As with The Wedding Date, this book features two people who are successful in their careers and both of them respect and value each other’s work, which I really enjoyed. The two of them fit one another like lock and key, but that doesn’t mean the road to happily ever after is an easy one. Nik has been hurt before so she guards her heart fiercely, not wanting to let herself fall for Carlos. As for Carlos, he has never truly dealt with the death of his father, a loss that has left its mark in unexpected ways. So while Nik and Carlos have no problem falling into lust, opening themselves up to love is another story. I won’t give away spoilers, but this is the one part where the story hit a big snag for me. I found Nik’s actions and reactions to be consistent all the way through the story, but Carlos takes a major left turn in character near the end of the book that felt manufactured for drama. This is a pity because it’s a clunky bit of false drama in an otherwise charming romance.

It’d be a crime to write about The Proposal and not talk about Nik’s two best friends, Dana and Courtney. They are both fantastic, fun, and exactly the kind of best friends you want to have. Though Dana finds love in this book, it’s not told from her point of view and I really, really hope Ms. Guillory gives Dana and her girlfriend (whose identity I won’t spoil) their own book or novella. And oh, do I have my fingers crossed in the hopes that Courtney gets a book. Courtney’s spirit and love of all things glittery (not to mention her cupcakes) made my heart sing and I desperately want her story. So while I thoroughly enjoyed The Proposal, it did leave me hungry for more of Ms. Guillory’s work.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review: Consumed by J.R. Ward

Consumed by J.R. Ward
Series: Firefighters, Book 1
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781501194900
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
J.R. Ward Reading Order

Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed…

By her bitter family legacy, by her scorched career as a firefighter, by her obsession with department bad-boy Danny McGuire, and by a new case that pits her against a fiery killer.

Strong-willed Anne was fearless and loved the thrill of fighting fires, pushing herself to be the best. But when one risky decision at a warehouse fire changes her life forever, Anne must reinvent not only her job, but her whole self.

Shattered and demoralized, Anne finds her new career as an arson investigator a pale substitute for the adrenaline-fueled life she left behind. She doesn't believe she will ever feel that same all-consuming passion for her job again--until she encounters a string of suspicious fires setting her beloved city ablaze.

Danny McGuire is a premiere fireman, best in the county, but in the midst of a personal meltdown. Danny is taking risks like never before and seems to have a death wish until he teams up with Anne to find the fire starter. But Danny may be more than a distraction, and as Anne narrows in on her target, the arsonist begins to target her.

From the creator of the bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood, get ready for a new band of brothers. And a firestorm.

I’ve always found J.R. Ward’s books to be compulsively readable, so it’s no surprise that I was eager to dive into her new Firefighters series. Consumed sets the stage for what looks to be an interesting series of flawed heroes and heroines on the front lines of danger. It’s also a story I have a difficult time putting a rating on.

Let’s start with Anne Ashburn and Danny McGuire, our main couple. They’re smart but reckless, brave but deeply flawed. Danny is spiraling throughout most of this book (until he’s not) and I did like the level of realism Ms. Ward shows regarding the toll being a firefighter takes on a person. Anne isn’t exactly a likeable heroine, but – though it may sound strange – that’s one of the things I liked best about this book. Heroines like Anne are few and far between compared to their male counterparts and it was actually refreshing to see a heroine who is wounded, angry, and sometimes scared. Anne came into her own over the course of Consumed in an organic way and it was easy to become invested in her story. As for the romance, I highly recommend reading the two “Wedding from Hell” prequel novellas (“The Rehearsal Dinner” and “The Reception”) before starting this book. It’s no spoiler to say that Anne and Danny start out the book in love, but obstacles (some realistic, others that felt manufactured) keep the romance spinning its wheels for a lot of the story until the adrenaline rush of the finish.

Danny and Anne’s aren’t the only points of view in Consumed. There’s also that of Tom, the New Brunswick fire chief and Anne’s brother, and Vic Rizzo, a fellow firefighter from a different station. It’s not uncommon for Ms. Ward to have multiple points of view in her books and Tom’s scenes had the benefit of fleshing out the world and the Ashburn family, adding interest to the story, and generally making sure that I will stay on the edge of my seat, waiting for his book. As for Vic, he is probably the most likeable character in this book (aside from Anne’s awesome boss and Soot the dog), but his scenes don’t add much and I’m assuming they were included because he’ll be central to future books.

After an explosive beginning, Consumed slows down a bit, hitting its stride about three-quarters of the way through. A mystery stemming from Anne’s first case as an arson investigator builds over the course of the story. I enjoyed the danger and suspense and by the end I couldn’t put the book down, only to feel a bit disappointed that things were left hanging. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in future books, but the way things ended made this book feel a bit unfinished. Because this is the first book in the series, there’s a lot of world building and introductions. I was intrigued by the messy, hanging-by-a-thread firefighters even though they definitely aren’t your typical swoon-worthy protagonists. Most of them are presented as damaged with unhealthy coping mechanisms and a bizarre disdain for anyone even slightly younger than them (the last of which I only included because it felt shoehorned in repeatedly). They also tend to all talk alike, which makes sense on the one hand but on the other I feel like something is missing without defined voices. And it’d be remiss of me not to mention the scenes with the firefighters in action. It is clear Ms. Ward did her research and it shows really well, adding realism to the story.

Consumed is intriguing and flawed, just like its hero and heroine. On its own, I had some issues with the book but I think as the series goes on I will like it better as part of the whole. As it stands, Ms. Ward’s singular writing style pulled me in and I will definitely be back for more.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Review: A Rose in the Highlands by Heather McCollum

A Rose in the Highlands by Heather McCollum
Series: Highland Roses School, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781726414654
Release Date: September 24, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

1684, Scottish Highlands

Englishwoman Evelyn Worthington is resolved to build a school for ladies in her brother's newly purchased Scottish castle. But when she arrives, not only does she find the castle scorched by fire, but a brawny Highlander bars her entry.

Clan chief Grey Campbell would rather die than see his family home, Finlarig Castle, fall into English hands, so Grey must win the battle of wills with the beautiful Sassenach who flashes a bill of sale before him.

When the war between Evelyn and Grey escalates, passions flare. But outsiders have their own plans for Finlarig. After secrets are revealed, and muskets are lit, the fates of the Campbell Clan, the school, and a possible future for Grey and Evelyn are in as much jeopardy as their lives.

When Evelyn Worthington flees England and an unwanted suitor to start a school in her brother’s newly-purchased Scottish castle, she doesn’t expect to find the castle’s previous owner to still be living there! Clan chief Grey Campbell is dark, brooding, and determined to keep his place in Finlarig Castle, which he claims was unlawfully seized by the English. Evelyn isn’t quite sure what to do about the handsome, irritating man, but she’s not about to let him ruin her future…

Get ready for an entertaining battle of wills! A Rose in the Highlands crackles with energy thanks to the excellent chemistry Grey and Evelyn have. I adored Evelyn’s spirit and her determination to set up a school where girls can learn a host of skills from reading to self-defense. She’s an intelligent woman who won’t be cowed in a time where silence and obedience were demanded of her peers. And while Grey starts out as her enemy, it’s clear these two won’t be able to resist the pull between them for long. Grey has reason to hate the English. His parents were murdered, his castle seized, and he and his family and friends were nearly killed. So even while I was rooting for Evelyn to succeed in starting her Highland Roses school, I understood where Grey was coming from in the beginning. He’s a strong, proud man, but he’s also protective and caring. He and Evelyn make a great match and I enjoyed watching them fall in love. Add in secrets, conspiracies, and a healthy dose of suspense and you have a truly well-rounded story that’s incredibly difficult to put down.

Grey and Evelyn are the heart of A Rose in the Highlands, but the residents of Killin – not to mention Grey and Evelyn’s siblings – add further life to the tale and made me look forward to more Highland Roses School books. So while I finished A Rose in the Highlands a well-satisfied reader, I’m eager to learn Scarlet Worthington’s secrets in A Rose with Thorns.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Review: Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis

Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, Book 6
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062741837
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once…

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.

It’s never a bad time for holiday cheer, especially when you’ve got a story like Hot Winter Nights to read. Lucas and Molly’s romance is funny, heartwarming, and sensual. It’s impossible not to be swept away by this sweet confection of a tale.

Molly is a fighter. She’s got grit, strength, and a spine of steel and I loved that about her. As the office manager at Hunt Investigations, she knows she’s invaluable to the team. Yet she also knows she can and wants to do more, only her boss, brother, and the other members of the team are overprotective of her, in part because of the permanent nerve damage she has in one leg. But Molly is nothing if not clever and resourceful, so when a bad Santa case comes her way, she’s determined to take it on. She knows it isn’t safe to work alone, so she talks Lucas into helping her, not knowing her boss has already ordered him to keep an eye on her. Lucas is a hero you can’t help but love. He sees and respects Molly’s skills, knowledge, and abilities and even though he’s as protective as the rest of the Hunt investigators, he supports her in her quest to become an investigator. When it comes to his attraction to her, well, the sister of his best friend is off-limits. Except close quarters make it impossible for either of them to deny the pull between them…

Both Molly and Lucas have scars – physical and mental – from their past that make them put up walls around their hearts. Though it’s obvious to readers that they’re a perfect match, their road to happily ever after isn’t an easy one because insecurities and old ghosts aren’t easily overcome. Jill Shalvis perfectly balances their internal struggles with their otherwise bright and sexy romance and I was rooting for Molly and Lucas every step of the way.

Family and friends bring additional warmth and good cheer to Hot Winter Nights and Heartbreaker Bay fans will be delighted to catch up with past heroes and heroines (though if this is your entry into this series, you won’t be lost). I adore this series with its quirky, welcoming characters and the friendships add some sparkle to the story without detracting from Molly and Lucas. The only downside to this book is that I finished it incredibly eager to read the next Heartbreaker Bay book, Playing for Keeps, and that’s not a bad problem to have.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.