Review: The Millionaire Makeover by Naima Simone

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Millionaire Makeover by Naima Simone
Series: Bachelor Auction, Book 2
Publisher: Entangled: Indulgence
Genre: Contemporary Romance The Millionaire Makeover Cover
ISBN: 9781633755284
Release Date: February 8, 2016
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

He promised to stay away…but some promises are made to be broken

Plain-Jane computer programmer Khloe Richardson needs a date—one to make the prince of her dreams jealous. Maybe then he'll finally see her as a desirable swan and not the ugly duckling in the second office from the left.

But when she bids on a bachelor at a charity auction, the man she wins is millionaire Niall Hunter—who once made intense, passionate love to her and then left without a word. She's determined not to let her guard down again—among other things—around the infamous Irish lothario.

Niall never imagined his penance for one hot-as-hell night with his best friend’s little sister would be transforming her from a shy wallflower to a sultry siren. Helping her attract another man is torture...especially when he promised his friend he’d stay away. Plus, she wants forever, and he's not a forever kind of guy. But Niall can't stop wanting her. Can't stop touching her. Can't stop, period. And damn if he can remember why he has to…

It’s not often you get a Cinderella tale where the hero is both the fairy godmother and Prince Charming. Niall Hunter plays both roles in The Millionaire Makeover, and the results are fantastic. Naima Simone’s second Bachelor Auction novel is fast, fun, sexy, and tugs on the heartstrings in the best way.

Khloe Richardson had a huge crush on her brother’s best friend, but after tragedy brings her and Niall together for one hot night, Niall cuts her out of her life. Khloe wants to hate him, but when she accidentally wins him at a bachelor auction and can’t get out of spending time with him, she decides to have Niall help transform her into a desirable woman. What Khloe doesn’t know is that – to Niall – she is already the most desirable woman on the planet. But Niall made a vow to her late brother to stay away from Khloe and he intends to keep it, even though helping her attract the attention of another man is slowly killing him.

What makes The Millionaire Makeover shine are its characters. Khloe is sweet and has a generous heart, but she has no qualms about standing up for herself and telling Niall straight out what she needs. Niall, in turn, is a tortured hero who lost the closest thing he had to family when Khloe’s brother, Michael, died. There is nothing Niall wouldn’t do for Michael, but it’s clear to see that – though he thinks he’s not the kind of man Michael would want falling for his sister – Niall is exactly the man for Khloe. I absolutely loved that Niall thought Khloe was the most beautiful woman ever long before he helped her with her makeover. Her Cinderella moment is to help her see herself for the beauty she is, to give her the confidence she longs for. The attraction between them is sizzling and watching the sparks fly between them is truly fun. What grabbed me the most, however, was their emotional connection. Niall and Khloe bring out the best in each other, and the way they fit both as friends and lovers makes it easy to be swept away by their romance. Of course, Ms. Simone doesn’t make things easy on either of them. Khloe will have to decide if she can take a risk on Niall again and he will have to fight his inner turmoil, become the man she needs, and go for what he wants. Every bump in the road is worth it, because these two deserve a true happily ever after.

The Millionaire Makeover is a captivating modern-day fairytale and I absolutely adored it. Though it’s the second book in the Bachelor Auction series, it reads like a standalone tale. That being said, I enjoyed Khloe and Niall’s romance so much that I absolutely have to go back and read the first book in the series, Beauty and the Bachelor. The Millionaire Makeover is the first book of Ms. Simone’s I’ve read and I can’t wait to read more of her 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.

Review: Carolina Dreaming by Virginia Kantra

Monday, February 1, 2016

Carolina Dreaming by Virginia Kantra
Series: Dare Island, Book 5
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance Carolina Dreaming Cover
ISBN: 9780425269701
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

After escaping a disastrous marriage, bakery owner Jane Clark has convinced herself that she has everything she needs—her precious son, a thriving business, and a roof over her head. But the arrival of a handsome stranger on the island shows her exactly what she’s been missing…

The only home Gabe Murphy ever had was the Marine Corps. He's working hard to rebuild his life. It will take a special place, and a special woman, to make him want to stay.

Now Gabe is determined to prove that he's worthy of Jane’s trust—and her love. But when her past reappears, that trust will be tested, and Jane and Gabe will have to fight hard to hold onto their love and make their dreams a reality…

Two endearing characters get a shot at happiness they never thought they’d have in Carolina Dreaming. In this fifth Dare Island novel, Virginia Kantra manages to deliver a romance that’s incredibly sweet, but never edges into saccharine territory.

Gabe Murphy is a hero who has been through hell – an abusive home, war, and then jail. Despite all this, Gabe has never broken. He arrives on Dare Island because it’s the home of his best friend and he has nowhere else to go as he tries to put his life back together. Dare Island is like a dream come true for Gabe. Though people are wary of him, they give him a shot to prove himself, which is more than Gabe expects from anyone. Gabe’s past and the way he’s been treated broke my heart, but I loved watching him find a life and a home for the very first time. Best of all, Gabe finds love with bakery owner Jane Clark. Jane’s life hasn’t exactly been easy either. She escaped an abusive marriage and is now a single mom working hard to make a life for herself and her son. Jane has a huge heart and is a soft touch, but she’ll go to the mat to defend those she loves, which makes her a great heroine. She and Gabe just click right off the bat, and it’s easy to be swept away by their romance, which is by turns sensual and sweet.

I have a weakness for small town romances and Carolina Dreaming is a lovely one. Ms. Kantra’s writing style is so smooth that you slip right into the story without noticing, which made the story all the more enjoyable. Dare Island isn’t an idyllic small town (that kind of perfection would be boring), but it’s close enough that you wish it were real so you could move down there. Fans of series will love revisiting some of their favorite characters, but for readers like me who haven’t read the first four Dare Island novels, you needn’t fear – this book can easily be read as a standalone. Of course, I was so hooked by Gabe and Jane’s story that I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. If you enjoy quietly romantic stories with genuinely kind characters, you won’t want to miss Carolina Dreaming.

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.

Review: How to Wed a Warrior by Christy English

Sunday, January 31, 2016

How to Wed a Warrior by Christy English
Series: Broadswords and Ballrooms, Book 2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical Romance How to Wed a Warrior Cover
ISBN: 9781492612902
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

He's the scourge of the Season…

Reasons to quit London:
1. It’s not the Highlands.
2. It will never be the Highlands.
3. It’s full of the bloody English.

When his wild spitfire of a sister makes a scene by drawing a claymore in Hyde Park, Highlander Robert Waters knows something must be done. To forestall the inevitable scandal, he hires widowed Prudence Whittaker to teach his sister how to be a lady-never expecting to find unbridled passion beneath the clever Englishwoman's prim exterior.

Mrs. Whittaker is a fraud. Born Lady Prudence Farthington, daughter of the ruined earl of Lynwood, she's never even been married. In order to make her way in the world, she has to rely on her wits and a web of lies...lies a sexy Highlander is all too close to unraveling.

He swears he will possess her; she vows he will do nothing of the sort. Yet as passions heat, Prudence comes to realize the illicit pleasure that can be had in going toe-to-toe with a Scot.

The irrepressible Waters family is back in How to Wed a Warrior. The second Broadswords and Ballrooms story is even better than the first as ladies’ man Robert Waters falls fast and hard for a “widow” who is more than she seems.

Prudence was born and raised a lady, but after the death of her parents a scandal that tears her family’s reputation to pieces, she dons a disguise and hires herself out as a companion. Pru has got her work cut out for her with Mary Elizabeth Waters, a spirited Highland lass whose unladylike manner makes her an outcast among society. But Pru can handle a spitfire Scottish lady; it’s Mary Elizabeth’s brother, Robert, who throws Pru off her stride. It’s clear from the start that Robert wants her, and to Pru’s own surprise she’s equally attracted to him. The sexual tension between them is excellent, but between Pru’s deception and her concern over dragging the Waters family down if her secrets are revealed, the road to happily ever after isn’t an easy one for her and Robert.

Author Christy English makes it easy to root for Pru and Robert. They have solid chemistry, are both incredibly likeable characters, and their romance is both sweet and sensual. The “I love yous” do come a bit too fast to be believable, but otherwise the love story is perfectly charming. A bit of a mystery involving Pru’s family adds excitement, and (though it’s a bit predictable) helps the story move at a quick clip. That being said, while I liked Robert and Pru, and their romance was sweet, they were clearly outshone by the more vivacious Mary Elizabeth. As she did with the previous Broadswords and Ballrooms book, Mary Elizabeth steals every scene she’s in. She’s exuberant, definitely unusual for a lady, speaks her mind, and has different ideas about what’s important. She’s a strong, interesting character who’s also quietly vulnerable and I wanted desperately to learn more about her. This in and of itself is fantastic, but since it’s not Mary Elizabeth’s book it did highlight the fact that neither Robert nor Pru were as complex and engaging. Still, I enjoyed How to Wed a Warrior and I finished it incredibly excited to read the next Broadswords and Ballrooms story, which I hope will be Mary Elizabeth’s book.

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.

Review: Midnight Revenge by Elle Kennedy

Midnight Revenge by Elle Kennedy
Series: Killer Instincts, Book 7
Publisher: Signet
Genre: Romantic Suspense Midnight Revenge Cover
ISBN: 9780451474438
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Elle Kennedy Reading Order

Out of all the stone-cold mercenaries in Jim Morgan’s black ops organization, Derek “D” Pratt is the most intimidating. He is tight-lipped and covered in tattoos, and even the other guys on his team are afraid to ask him about his past. D’s been off the grid for years, but after his teammate Sullivan is mistakenly captured in his place, D is forced to come out of hiding and face his demons.

When D lands in Mexico, he’s ready to risk everything to save his friend. To complicate matters, Sofia Amaro, a feisty doctor whom D had a one-night stand with months ago, has tracked him down. And in an instant she’s unintentionally caught up in his life-threatening rescue mission.

Now D must extract not one but two people from the most violent world he's ever encountered. And one of them is carrying his child…

Get ready for a dark, gritty, heart-pounding suspense tale mixed with red-hot romance in Midnight Revenge. Elle Kennedy pulls out all the stops as stone-cold mercenary Derek “D” Pratt is thrown for a loop in this enthralling seventh Killer Instincts novel.

I didn’t expect to love D. Out of all of Morgan’s men, D has long been the most hardened, closed-off, scary mercenary of the bunch. I found him interesting before, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about him as a hero. Of course, since (1) this is an Elle Kennedy book and (2) scenes in a couple of other Killer Instincts lead me to believe we’d have some surprises in store regarding D, I eagerly dove in. I didn’t know what to expect from him other than a dark and dangerous man who was seriously sexy. What I found as the layers to his character were peeled back was a seriously fantastic hero. D is all the scary things he shows to the world, but he’s also a kick-ass hero who could make me melt at the most unexpected moments. He doesn’t want to care about people, but it’s clear his teammates mean more to him than even he understands. And with Sofia, D is almost…sweet. Yep, Derek Pratt can be incredibly sweet in his own way (who knew?). He’ll never be the cuddly type, but with Sofia he is protective, sometimes awkward, and wholly endearing. His past has scarred him almost to the point of no return, but watching Sofia bring him back and seeing their quiet moments together was fantastic.

It takes a strong heroine to capture not just the attention, but the heart of Derek Pratt. Sofia is more than up the task. She’s a doctor with a huge heart and a spine of steel. D doesn’t scare her, and when she finds out she’s pregnant after their one hot-as-hell encounter two months before, she doesn’t hesitate to track D down. Doing so lands them both in a terrible situation, but even when she’s out of her depth, Sofia doesn’t break. She’s simply a great heroine and the way she draws D out, gets him to open up to her, and shows him love is simply phenomenal. They’ve got serious red-hot chemistry and it’s no surprise that they make the pages of Midnight Revenge sizzle, but it’s their emotional connection that really stood out for me.

Romance aside, there’s a lot of action that keeps Midnight Revenge moving at a fast pace. Once I started the book, I did not want to put it down. Ms. Kennedy knows how to amp up the tension and this story is dark, dangerous, and completely enthralling. The fact that it’s Sully – one of D’s teammates – who is in danger only makes the stakes higher. Of course, the fact that it’s Sully in particular whose life is at risk means that Ms. Kennedy teases out another subplot that’s been running through the past couple of books. Yes indeed, the tension in the Sully-Liam plot is increased to an almost unbearable degree in Midnight Revenge and I absolutely loved it. It’s a testament to how strong D and Sofia are as characters that Liam and Sully didn’t steal the show completely, because those two hot mercs have me on the edge of my seat and I desperately hope they get a book of their own before I (or they) combust.

Midnight Revenge is the seventh book in the Killer Instincts series, and – if you don’t mind minor spoilers from previous books – Ms. Kennedy provides enough information that readers new to the series can easily follow along. Fans of the series are going to love the scenes involving Morgan and Noelle’s joint mercenaries and assassins team, and there are a few light moments that balance out the darkness in the tale. It should be mentioned that Midnight Revenge isn’t for everyone. The story can get incredibly dark, which is no surprise given the kinds of evil our heroes and heroines go up against in this series. In addition, scenes of sexual assault are both discussed and shown, so I wanted to give a trigger warning.

Elle Kennedy is a master of the romantic suspense genre and in Midnight Revenge her talent shines. I absolutely loved D and Sofia and I cannot wait to see where Ms. Kennedy takes the Killer Instincts series next!

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.

Review: What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden

Monday, January 25, 2016

What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden
Series: Reece Family Trilogy, Book 1
Publisher: Zebra
Genre: Historical Romance What a Gentleman Wants Cover
ISBN: 9781420137538
Re-issue Date: January 26, 2016
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Marcus Reece, Duke of Exeter, has spent most of his life pulling his twin brother out of trouble. An occasional thank you would suffice; instead, his resentful sibling forges his name to a marriage license and presents him with an unwanted wife. She's a vicar’s widow with a mind of her own who may be the first person in Marcus’s well-ordered life to make him feel…completely out of control.

Hannah can't help but curse her own idiocy. Dire straits have led her to the altar with a gentleman she hardly knows. Played for a fool, she’s embarrassed, furious, and worse, married to an equally outraged stranger—an exasperating man who unleashes all manner of emotions in Hannah, not to mention unwanted desire. Reluctantly she agrees to play the wife until he can sort out the mess. But the nearness of the undeniably attractive duke and the passion in his black eyes unsettles her well-guarded heart—making her want to do so much more than 'act' the role of blissful bride…

Marcus Reece, Duke of Exeter, likes his life orderly, which is no surprise since his twin, David, seems to cause as much chaos as he can. But David’s latest act – marrying a vicar’s widow and signing Marcus’s name in the register – goes above and beyond. Marcus doesn’t want a wife, particularly not one he didn’t marry himself. Yet there’s something about Hannah Preston that Marcus can’t resist. And as the two of them try to untangle David’s mess without causing a scandal, it becomes clear that the duke’s errant twin may have done them the greatest favor of all.

What a Gentleman Wants charmed me with its refreshingly different characters. Marcus has his world turned upside down when he finds out he’s married to Hannah, but unlike many a historical romance hero, he doesn’t blame the heroine for the mess someone else created. That doesn’t mean he’s instantly taken with Hannah, either. For her part, Hannah is a widow with a young child who took David up on his offer of a marriage of convenience in order to secure her daughter’s future so that she would never be caught in a situation like Hannah’s. And though Hannah is horrified to learn she’s been played, her spine of steel and common sense enable her to stand up to her cold, aristocratic husband. Though there’s a simmering attraction between them, neither Hannah nor Marcus give in to it. Instead, though they do their best to avoid one another, they slowly begin to learn more about one another. It’s interesting to see Hannah and Marcus peel back the layers of each other’s characters. Hannah is nothing like the ladies of the ton, but she makes Marcus come alive, breaking through the layers of ice and humanizing him. What I liked best about What a Gentleman Wants is that there isn’t heavy drama. Both Marcus and Hannah act like adults, talk when things are wrong, and slowly, sweetly fall in love. It’s a wonderful change of pace from the norm and I absolutely adored their quiet romance.

A subplot involving a counterfeiting ring adds suspense to the tale, but what appealed to me most about this book were the characters. Marcus’s sister and stepmother endeared themselves to me immediately, and even the rapscallion David managed to win me over. Marcus and Hannah’s romance is the first book in the Reece Family trilogy and I cannot wait to see what author Caroline Linden has in store for David and Celia Reece!

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.

Review: Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb

Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, Book 42
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Futuristic/Mystery/Suspense Brotherhood in Death Cover
ISBN: 9780399170898
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
J.D. Robb Reading Order

Sometimes brotherhood can be another word for conspiracy…

Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head.

Luckily Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, the NYPSD’s top profiler and a good friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas. When the two arrive on the scene, he explains that the last thing he saw was Edward in a chair, bruised and bloody. When he came to, his cousin was gone. With the mess cleaned up and the security disks removed, there’s nothing left behind but a few traces for forensics to analyze.

As a former lawyer, judge, and senator, Edward Mira mingled with the elite and crossed paths with criminals, making enemies on a regular basis. Like so many politicians, he also made some very close friends behind closed—and locked—doors. But a badge and a billionaire husband can get you into places others can’t go, and Eve intends to shine some light on the dirty deals and dark motives behind the disappearance of a powerful man, the family discord over a multimillion-dollar piece of real estate…and a new case that no one saw coming.

An attack that wounds one of her loved ones is only the beginning of what turns into a monstrous case for Lieutenant Eve Dallas. Brotherhood in Death features an intense, layered case where every victim and suspect is hiding valuable secrets and Eve must race the clock before the bodies pile up. Conspiracies abound and every twist the case takes makes this latest In Death novel even more difficult to put down.

My favorite books in the series are the ones where we have an exciting mystery and personal growth for our beloved characters and Brotherhood in Death has both. I don’t want to say too much about the case because it would spoil the book. I will say that this is the rare instance where Eve is on the job before there is even a body. Eve comes to the aid of Dennis Mira when he’s bashed on the head right after he sees his cousin wounded in their grandparents’ home. His cousin is missing and Eve has a feeling that if she doesn’t find him soon, this will turn into her next homicide case. Of course she’s right, and once Edward is found – the victim of an exceptionally violent and angry murder – things get dark fast and Eve has to unravel a host of mysteries to discover what is going on and why. Power, politics, sex, lies, and “brotherhood” all go together in this case and it’s rough on Eve and her loved ones. That the case affects Eve makes the story more powerful, upping the stakes for readers because we are connected to the story through her.

Murders and conspiracies aside, the moments that shined in the story were, for me, the more personal ones. Eve and Roarke have been married for a couple of years and though their love is as strong as ever, a disagreement between them truly shines a light on how far Eve has come over the course of the series. There are also enjoyable moments between Eve and her team, and some truly emotional scenes featuring Eve and Dennis. Dennis has popped up in various In Death books for years and his genuine kindness and caring heart have made him a favorite of mine. Brotherhood in Death connects him to one of Eve’s cases for the first time, and I absolutely loved seeing more of him. Eve’s adoration of him is incredibly sweet and the moments they have together have excellent emotional impact.

Almost every In Death book can be read as a standalone and Brotherhood in Death is no exception. That being said, much of my enjoyment in this story stemmed from reading about Eve, Roarke, and the family they have made from friends. Having dozens of books’ worth of history behind the personal scenes is part of what makes those moments shine, so for maximum enjoyment I recommend being at least a casual reader of the In Death series before diving into this tale. J.D. Robb never disappoints and forty-two books and almost a dozen novellas into the series there is no sign of Eve and Roarke slowing down. For this I’m thrilled because I absolutely love the characters Ms. Robb has created and I cannot wait to see what awaits them in the next In Death story!

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.

Waiting on Wednesday: My American Duchess by Eloisa James

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine which spotlights eagerly anticipated upcoming releases!

I've been on a historical romance kick lately, so it's fitting that my Waiting on Wednesday pick this week is from one of my absolute favorite historical romance authors. Eloisa James's My American Duchess hits the shelves later this month and it sounds absolutely wonderful :)

My American Duchess Cover Title: My American Duchess
Author: Eloisa James
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Eloisa James Reading Order

Book Description (from Amazon):

The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford — an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fianc├ęs.

But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.

The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:

All is fair in love and war.
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