Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Christmas on Main Street by JoAnn Ross, Susan Donovan, LuAnn McLane, and Alexis Morgan

Christmas on Main Street by JoAnn Ross, Susan Donovan, LuAnn McLane, and Alexis Morgan
Publisher: Signet
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780451419538
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
'Tis the season to fall in love in these four small towns.

In “Christmas in Shelter Bay,” New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross returns to Shelter Bay, where Kelli has long tried to keep her feelings for her friend Cole a secret. But when the local matchmakers conspire to send them to a secluded lakeside cabin, the two friends soon discover that a little love will keep them warm.

TV producer Nathaniel Ravelle knows the Bayberry Island mermaid legend is a joke— how could a statue grant a wish for true love? But when a Christmas Nor’easter lands him in close quarters with local Annie Parker, they see magic at work in matters of the heart in New York Times bestselling author Susan Donovan’s “A Seaside Christmas.”

In LuAnn McLane’s “Mistletoe on Main Street,” Clint isn’t sure how to rekindle his romance with high school sweetheart Ava—until his father bows out of playing Santa at the annual Cricket Creek holiday parade and Clint gets the chance to make this Christmas one to remember.

And in Alexis Morgan’s “The Christmas Gift,” business is booming at Bridey Roke’s pastry shop. Everyone in town stops in to sample her holiday treats. But in her spare moments, she’s perfecting a special recipe to charm the handsome new neighbor—who has his own surprise gift for her come Christmas Eve!

Christmas on Main Street Cover “Christmas in Shelter Bay” by JoAnn Ross
Shelter Bay, Book 0.5

I admit, I picked up this anthology for “Christmas in Shelter Bay.” I’ve been waiting for Kelli and Cole’s story ever since I read the first Shelter Bay book, The Homecoming. Kelli’s been in love with Cole for practically forever, but he’s been too blind to see it. Of course, both of their families can tell the two of them are perfect for one another, so with a bit of joint scheming and a snowstorm to aid them, Kelli and Cole will find themselves in a cozy cabin for the holidays. What “meant to be” couple wouldn’t fall in love in such a setting?

I love these kinds of stories, so I was immediately sucked into “Christmas in Shelter Bay.” Kelli and Cole made a great couple, but their switch from friends to lovers seemed a bit too fast to feel organic. If the story had been a bit longer, perhaps the progression of their relationship would have felt more natural. Still, fans of the Shelter Bay series should enjoy “Christmas in Shelter Bay.” Kelli, Cole, and their families are all as charming as ever and the story has holiday spirit to spare.

“A Seaside Christmas” by Susan Donovan
Bayberry Island, Book 0.5

Mermaids, magic, and a touch of mayhem make “A Seaside Christmas” a bright and bubbly story. Fate – and a bit of interference by some well-meaning Bayberry Island “mermaids” – lands an injured Nat on local author Annie’s doorstep during a storm. Close quarters and mutual desire leads to them burning up the sheets pretty fast. What’s unexpected (for both of them) is how swiftly they also fall in love.

I enjoyed Nat and Annie, but I felt their story could have used a bit more development. In addition, the supporting characters in “A Seaside Christmas” were a bit too much for my personal taste and overall the story had a bit of an erotic, yet cartoony feel. Susan Donovan’s stories tend to be wonderfully wacky, but usually there’s a touch of realism at their heart to make them feel grounded. “A Seaside Christmas” isn’t my favorite story of Ms. Donovan’s, but I do still plan on picking up her first full-length Bayberry Island novel, Sea of Love.

“Mistletoe on Main Street” by LuAnn McLane
Cricket Creek, Book 5.5

I love a good reunion romance and “Mistletoe on Main Street” hits all the right notes. Clint and Ava were high school sweethearts whose paths took them in different directions. It’s been fifteen years since they broke up, but now that Clint is back in Cricket Creek, the feelings he has for Ava and she for him are impossible for either to deny.

“Mistletoe on Main Street” is one of those stories that simply gives off the warm and fuzzy vibe. I adored Clint, Ava, and their friends and was pretty much charmed by “Mistletoe on Main Street” from beginning to end. LuAnn McLane has written a story that’s the perfect mix of Christmas and romance. Clint and Ava’s story will definitely get you in a festive mood while providing a love story that can be enjoyed all year ’round.

“The Christmas Gift” by Alexis Morgan
Snowberry Creek, Book 1.5

“The Christmas Gift” might just be my favorite story in the entire anthology! Bridey is a sweetheart of a pastry chef who has been burned by her ex and has since devoted herself to her bakery. Seth is an artist who feels like he’s lost his gift and needs to get away from the business persona he’s been forced to wear for far too long. The two of them have been circling one another for a while, but with a little nudge, their romance begins to blossom.

I hesitate to use the word, but I found “The Christmas Gift” to be adorable. There was something so sweet about Seth and Bridey that I found myself smiling time and again while reading their story. There’s a warmth to “The Christmas Gift” that I simply cannot convey in my review. I fell in love with Snowberry Creek and enjoyed watching the town’s Christmas festivities every bit as much as I loved reading about Bridey and Seth. Alexis Morgan is the only author in this anthology whose work I hadn’t read before, but after reading “The Christmas Gift” I can guarantee I’m going to be picking up the rest of the Snowberry Creek series.

Christmas on Main Street is a wonderful collection of small town romances. As with any anthology, readers are sure to like some stories better than others. Personally, I think “Mistletoe on Main Street” and “The Christmas Gift” are not to be missed, but all four stories are enjoyable. Whether you’re looking for romances to get you in the Christmas spirit or simply want to curl up with four well-written love stories, Christmas on Main Street 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.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen

Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen
Publisher: Entangled Select
Genre: Contemporary Romance Cinderella Screwed Me Over Cover
ISBN: 9781622660315
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Darby Quinn grew up loving fairytales but now she’s had it. Her “princes” have all been frogs (or worse) and she’s got the case notes to prove it. Darby is determined to protect her heart and she’ll never again pursue the dream of happily ever after. Then she meets Jake, one of her neighbors and the sexy owner of her favorite restaurant. Jake makes Darby want to throw out her rulebook and believe in love again, but every time her resolve begins to crumble, the past comes back to haunt her. Darby’s determined to push Jake away, but he doesn’t seem to want to give up on her. Could he be the Prince Charming she never thought existed?

Cinderella Screwed Me Over is a sparkling story about finding love when you least expect it. Darby is every bit as funny and cynical as the book’s title suggests. She’s been burned by love numerous times in her quest to find that fairytale perfect happily ever after. It’s no wonder she’s built up walls around her heart. When Jake – pretty much the perfect guy – practically falls into her lap, Darby does her best to keep her distance. Her attempts to not fall for Jake inevitably fail, and how could they not when he’s everything that’s kind, patient, and handsome? Really, Jake’s a modern day Prince Charming. He’s the perfect match for our sarcastic Cinderella and once she gives dating him a try Cinderella Screwed Me Over becomes utterly engrossing.

Though it contains a wonderful romance, Cinderella Screwed Me Over is really about Darby’s personal journey. Even though she’s down on love, Darby has a rather sprightly personality overall. I adored her and connected with her; Cindi Madsen does a great job of making her a relatable heroine.

Cinderella Screwed Me Over takes a bit of time to gain momentum, but once you get into it, you won’t want to put it down. Ms. Madsen delivers a funny, charming, modern-day fairytale that is sure to leave you with a smile on your face.

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.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Dark Bites by Sherrilyn Kenyon

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

I'm a huge Dark-Hunter fan and for years I've been wanting the short stories all in one collection (particularly the ones that were only available online). I'm SO excited Dark Bites is coming out next month! It even has some of Ms. Kenyon's Kinley MacGregor titles in it :)

Dark Bites Cover Title: Dark Bites
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Genres: Paranormal, Contemporary, and Historical Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Sherrilyn Kenyon Reading Order

Book Description (from Goodreads):

For years, eager fans have been clamoring for an all-in-one collection of #1 bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon’s novellas. At their enthusiastic behest, we have delivered this brand-new short story collection, including stories previously exclusive to Sherrilyn’s website, as well as an all-new, never-before seen story!

Sherrilyn Kenyon takes readers from the Dark-Hunters to the demigods, from Dream-Hunters to demons, and everything in between. Dangerous and exciting, each story is one thrill ride after the next, proving time and again how Sherrilyn has captivated millions of readers worldwide. Now, readers are invited to go deep into Kenyon’s rich and imaginative world and experience the heart-racing moments that never stop coming!

Included novellas:

From the World of the Dark-Hunters:

Phantom Lover (V’Aiden)

Winter Born (Dante)

A Dark-Hunter Christmas (Gallagher)

Until Death We Do Part (Velkan)

A Hard Day’s Night Searcher (Rafael)

Shadow of the Moon (Fury)

Where Angels Fear to Tread (Zeke)

Fear the Darkness (First Time in Print)

House of the Rising Son (First Time in Print)

Unrelated Stories:

Love Bytes

Santa Wears Spurs

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan

Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London, Book 4
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance Shadowdance Cover
ISBN: 9781455520817
Release Date: December 17, 2013
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Kristen Callihan Reading Order

Shifter Jack Talent has been through hell and has come out broken. The only way he knows how to live is to destroy the demons who tortured him. But his actions haven’t gone unnoticed. The Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals — for whom Jack is a regulator — is determined to uncover who has been killing the demons and they’ve assigned Jack to the case. This wouldn’t be a problem, except they’ve given him a partner…and she’s the last woman on earth he would ever want to be paired with.

Mary Chase is his biggest rival in the SOS, but Jack will never let her know that his disdain for her is a lie. The beautiful GIM has captivated him from the moment they met, but should Mary uncover his secrets, she’ll hate him forever. But the longer he’s around Mary, the harder it is for Jack to maintain his distance. And when their case takes an unexpected turn, Jack will have to face his past and a dangerous new enemy or it’ll be Mary who pays the price.

Shadowdance will leave you breathless! Kristen Callihan’s fourth Darkest London novel is a dark, sensual thrill ride that is sure to captivate readers from the very first page.

Jack has come a long way from the charming shifter he once was. His imprisonment and torture in the last book, Winterblaze, has forever changed him. Jack is tormented by his memories and scarred by what was done to him. My heart broke for him and those who love him the most, particularly Ian, the man who is Jack’s father in all ways but biological. The deeper I delved into Shadowdance, the more I wanted to see the caring, loyal shifter find his way back home. Mary is the catalyst for his recovery. She’s got scars of her own and hides her pain well, but there’s a vulnerability to her which made me desperate to see her happy. Despite everything she’s been through (or perhaps because of it), Mary possesses a core of inner strength you have to admire. Combine said strength with her intelligence and spirit and there’s no question as to why I think Mary’s a phenomenal heroine.

As individuals, Mary and Jack are undeniably appealing. Put them together and the sparks practically fly off the page. The two of them have incredible chemistry and their relationship is filled with witty banter, unexpected heartbreak, sizzling heat, and sigh-worthy romantic moments. Ms. Callihan hits all the right notes with these two, simple as that.

Romance and complex protagonists aside, there’s a richness to Ms. Callihan’s world building in Shadowdance that just delighted me as a reader. I never know where Ms. Callihan will take her characters or the Darkest London universe next, but I can have faith that whatever surprises she has in store will come about organically. In Shadowdance, Jack and Mary face off against new supernatural entities, plus we get to further explore beings we already know a bit about from previous books (such as the GIM). I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the story, so suffice it to say that there’s never a dull moment in this book. Even if you can guess what’s coming, Ms. Callihan will still manage to knock your socks off.

Shadowdance is the fourth Darkest London book and I highly recommend reading this series in order. If you haven’t read Firelight, Moonglow, and Winterblaze, you can probably still follow along well enough, but the book might not have the emotional resonance it would otherwise have. Fans of the series will undoubtedly be happy to see some of their past favorite heroes and heroines play supporting roles in Mary and Jack’s story. The only downside to Shadowdance is that I finished the book desperately wanting to read the next story, Evernight, because man, oh man, does Ms. Callihan lay some intriguing groundwork for Holly Evernight’s book.

It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite Darkest London book because they’re all fantastic. Shadowdance continues Ms. Callihan’s streak of delivering imaginative, emotional reads that will dazzle old and new fans alike. I loved Shadowdance and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

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.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday in Review

It’s update time again :)

Below are the newest reviews I’ve written. The master list and categorical lists on the right-hand side are updated as well.

Reviews for upcoming releases:
- Reaver (Demonica, Book 10/Lords of Deliverance, Book 5) by Larissa Ione (available 12/17/13)
- Texas Outlaws: Jesse (Texas Outlaws, Book 1) by Kimberly Raye (available 12/17/13)
- Cavewomen Don't Get Fat: The Paleo Chic Diet for Rapid Results by Esther Blum (available 12/31/12)

Upcoming reviews:
- Christmas on Main Street by JoAnn Ross, Susan Donovan, LuAnn McLane, and Alexis Morgan
- Rise of the Gryphon (Belador, Book 4) by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
- The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, and Kimberly Kincaid
- Dangerous Seduction (Nemesis, Unlimited, Book 2) by Zoë Archer
- Skies of Steel (The Ether Chronicles, Book 3) by Zoë Archer
- The Seduction of Elliot McBride (Highland Pleasures, Book 5) by Jennifer Ashley
- The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, Book 6) by Jennifer Ashley
- Mystery Man (Dream Man, Book 1) by Kristen Ashley
- Wild Man (Dream Man, Book 2) by Kristen Ashley
- Down for the Count (Dare Me, Book 1) by Christine Bell
- Down and Dirty (Dare Me, Book 2) by Christine Bell
- Bolted (Promise Harbor Wedding, Book 2) by Meg Benjamin
- Shadowdance (Darkest London, Book 4) by Kristen Callihan
- Texas Hold ‘Em (Hotter in Texas, Book 3) by Christie Craig
- Cowboy Waltz by Cameron Dane
- How to Ravish a Rake (How to Series, Book 3) by Vicky Dreiling
- Soul Weaver by Hailey Edwards
- Some Like It Hot (Rising Star Chef, Book 2) by Louisa Edwards
- Hot Under Pressure (Rising Star Chef, Book 3) by Louisa Edwards
- Scandalously Yours (The Hellions of High Street, Book 1) by Cara Elliot
- A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes by Suzanne Enoch
- Cowboy Take Me Away (Rainbow Valley, Book 1) by Jane Graves
- Trouble at the Wedding (Abandoned at the Altar, Book 3) by Laura Lee Guhrke
- One Taste of Scandal (Redcakes, Book 2) by Heather Hiestand
- Beauty Bites (Biting Love, Book 6) by Mary Hughes
- The Volatile Amazon (Alliance of the Amazons, Book 4) by Sandy James
- Breathe by Lauren Jameson
- Archer (Hard Body, Book 1) by Debra Kayn
- Since You’ve Been Gone (Welcome to Paradise, Book 4) by Elle Kennedy
- Caught Up in You (Loving on the Edge, Book 4) by Roni Loren
- Kiss of Steel (London Steampunk, Book 1) by Bec McMaster
- All Fired Up (Hot in the Kitchen, Book 2) by Kate Meader
- Keeping Secrets in Seattle by Brooke Moss
- Blood Persuasion (Immortal Jane Austen, Book 2) by Janet Mullany
- Raw Desire by Kate Pearce
- Soul Sucker by Kate Pearce
- The Fifth Favor by Shelby Reed
- Dark Witch (The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, Book 1) by Nora Roberts
- Nights of Steel (The Ether Chronicles, Book 4) by Nico Rosso
- Secrets of a Gentleman Escort by Bronwyn Scott
- This Is Who I Am (Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 7) by Cherise Sinclair
- Archangel’s Legion (Guild Hunter, Book 6) by Nalini Singh
- Heart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling, Book 12) by Nalini Singh
- Sully’s Sweet Salvation by Sierra Summers
- Primal Law (Alpha Pack, Book 1) by J.D. Tyler
- Easy by Tammara Webber
- Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: Texas Outlaws: Jesse by Kimberly Raye

Texas Outlaws: Jesse by Kimberly Raye
Series: Texas Outlaws, Book 1
Publisher: Harlequin Blaze
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance Texas Outlaws Jesse Cover
Release Date: December 17, 2013
ISBN: 9780373797844
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Gracie Stone is the mayor-elect of Lost Gun, Texas and she’s determined to be everything a model mayor should be. She’s calm, controlled, and won't let her wild past ruin her stable life. Then Jesse James Chisholm blows into town and threatens to upend everything Gracie has worked so hard to achieve. Jesse’s the black sheep of the Lost Gun community, and the man whose heart Gracie once broke. Her attraction for him hasn’t faded in the twelve years since she dumped him, but what’s more dangerous is the pull the sexy bull rider still has on her heart…

Texas Outlaws: Jesse is a sinfully sexy read that’ll draw you in from the very first page and not let you go. Jesse is a hot as hell cowboy who will make you swoon. He acts the bad boy, but underneath the toughened exterior is a man who still desperately wants to be accepted by the people of Lost Gun. I yearned to see Jesse find his place, both in his hometown and in Gracie’s life. Gracie is so determined to be everything she thinks she should be that she's missing out on all the opportunities life has to offer. I loved watching her break free of her self-imposed bondage and embrace the real her, a woman who’s a mix of the wild child she once was and the staid adult she had become. As a pair, she and Jesse have chemistry to spare. The two of them are a dynamic couple that bring excitement to Texas Outlaws: Jesse, even when they’re not hitting the sheets ;)

Unexpected moments of humor and what looks to be a series-long mystery about missing money from a bank robbery Jesse’s father was involved in round out the romance, making Texas Outlaws: Jesse a “full” story, so to speak. I enjoyed every plotline author Kimberly Raye wove in and I admit to being more than a bit impatient for the next Texas Outlaws book. Jesse’s brothers promise to be great heroes and there’s definitely one character I’m hoping winds up with Billy or Cole Chisholm. All in all, I recommend Texas Outlaws: Jesse. It’s sexy, fun, and wonderfully entertaining.

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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review: Reaver by Larissa Ione

Reaver by Larissa Ione
Series: Demonica, Book 10/Lords of Deliverance, Book 5
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Paranormal Romance Reaver Cover
Release Date: December 17, 2013
ISBN: 9781455526970
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Larissa Ione Reading Order

Reaver is a battle angel with an attitude and he’s not afraid to break the rules. Harvester is a bad girl Fallen angel who sacrificed everything to work as an undercover agent in Hell. The two get along like fire and ice, but when Harvester’s cover is blown and she’s doomed to an eternity of unimaginable torture, Reaver does what no other angel has dared to do: go deep into the heart of Satan’s fortress and steal the devil’s prize. Little does Reaver know that rescuing Harvester will be the easy part. The two of them will have the fight of their immortal lifetimes on their hands as they try to get out and halt an impending war between Heaven and Hell.

Reaver is everything Larissa Ione fans have been waiting for! Dark, gritty action meets red-hot romance in this love story that has been thousands of years in the making. You’re in for the ride of your life as Ms. Ione takes you through the darkest parts of Hell on a journey filled with an incredible number of surprises.

At the heart of Reaver are, of course, Reaver and Harvester, two characters I’ve loved since Eternal Rider (my first Larissa Ione book). Reaver is an angel with no memory of who he is beyond the past thirty years. He knows he’s the father of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and he’s fairly desperate to learn about who he was before he became Reaver. Harvester is the key to his understanding, so his mission to rescue her isn’t altogether selfless. I won’t reveal the details of what Reaver learns, but suffice it to say that he wasn’t always the angel readers now adore. Some of the shine wore off for me when it came to Reaver, but I actually liked that he’s even more complex than he was to begin with. As for Harvester, she continues to be my favorite Larissa Ione character. She sacrificed everything to protect the children of the angel she loved, and her years as a Fallen angel and spy have irrevocably changed her from the sweet angel she once was. Harvester’s both incredibly strong and deeply vulnerable, good and evil, and overall a fantastic contradiction in so many ways. Quite simply, I love her. Both she and Reaver live their lives in shades of grey and Ms. Ione gives so much depth to their characters that it’s impossible not to be drawn into their story.

The phrase “hot as hell” has never been so apt as it is in Reaver. Reaver and Harvester have off the charts chemistry that will have you turning on the A/C even in the depths of winter. Their joint past as Yenrieth and Verrine is woven into the story and though I’d have liked to see a touch more of who they once were, what’s really important is how they grow over the course of Reaver. Though it’s clear they were made for each other, the road to happily ever after isn’t an easy one. Old wounds and new obstacles threaten to hinder them at every turn, but their willingness to fight for each other and their love made me one happy reader.

As I previously mentioned, there are plot twists aplenty in Reaver. I won’t reveal them, for that would spoil much of the fun for readers. What I will say is that the war between Heaven and Hell is taken to the next level and I was blown away by the revelations of what some will do in an attempt to turn the tide in their favor. I’m pretty sure I yelled at my copy of the book once or twice. I love both the organic nature of the plot twists Ms. Ione delivers and the fact that she was able to surprise me. The only niggle I had about said surprises was that I wished for a bit more development regarding the archangel Raphael’s involvement in the plot.

Reaver is the fifth Lords of Deliverance book and the tenth book in the combined Demonica/Lords of Deliverance series. If you haven’t read any of Ms. Ione’s books before, I recommend at least reading the last two Lords of Deliverance books (Lethal Rider and Rogue Rider) before beginning this story as so much of what happens in those books affects the events in Reaver. Many past heroes and heroines have a role to play in Reaver, which will surely please fans and give them another reason to become emotionally invested to the story. The repercussions of Reaver's events will undoubtedly resonate through the next Demonica book. Whose story will it be? Oh, that I’ll leave you to discover. If the excerpt is anything to go by, then Ms. Ione has a hell of a lot more excitement planned for Demonica fans.

Reaver was my most anticipated book of 2013 and Ms. Ione did not disappoint. Harvester and Reaver’s story was well worth the wait and I hope we see much more of them as the Demonica series continues. As Reaver shows, Larissa Ione is a powerhouse author whose unique stories and characters stay with you long after you finish reading her books.

Waiting on Wednesday: Peanut Butter and Jelly for Two by Jackie Nacht

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

I admit, it was the title that first drew me to this story. When I read the description, I knew I had to have it. It looks like a wonderfully fun romance and I can't wait to read it.

Peanut Butter and Jelly for Two Cover Title: Peanut Butter and Jelly for Two
Author: Jackie Nacht
Genre: Male/Male Paranormal Romance
Publisher: MLR Press
Release Date: December 20, 2013

Book Description (from MLR Press):

The sexy chipmunk shifter isn't afraid of the dentist; he's in love with him.

Phillip has the best job working at the Paranormal Dentistry for the Fanged and Friendly. As a chipmunk shifter, Phillip has seen handsome men walk through the door but none so gorgeous as his boss and wolf shifter, Dr. Gunner Samuels. When he finds himself being manipulated by his best friend to ask the big bad wolf over for dinner, Phillip realizes his biggest dilemma, he's never cooked a day in his life, let alone meat. Can Phillip pull off a fabulous dinner for two? And has Gunner had his eye on the sexy shifter all this time?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: Cavewomen Don't Get Fat by Esther Blum

Cavewomen Don't Get Fat: The Paleo Chic Diet for Rapid Results by Esther Blum
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Health and Nutrition Cavewomen Dont Get Fat Cover
ISBN: 9781476707693
Release Date: December 31, 2013
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

So maybe you’re not flaunting the latest in saber-tooth style. Or beating your dinner to death with a club hours before you eat it. You’re a twenty-first-century woman. Life has changed drastically since your ancestors discovered fire. What hasn’t changed is how your body works. You’re still sporting the same metabolic ten­dencies as your lean, toned Paleolithic sisters. Which means that achieving a strong, healthy physique is simpler than you think.

What’s a modern woman with ancient needs to do? Return to her roots with a back-to-basics approach to eating that is tailored specifically to her nutritional, hormonal, and real-world needs. The Paleo Diet isn’t just for hard-core CrossFit­ters and meat-loving men. Today’s cavewoman can enjoy protein-rich, hormone-balancing, de­toxifying, and satisfying foods that will help her lose those annoying extra pounds, build lean muscle mass, and feel like the gorgeous god­dess she is meant to be. When you are able to understand the relationship that carbs have with your body, you’ll finally get the results you’re looking for—for life.

The ultra-feminine Paleo Chic Diet will help you hit your metabolic reset button, lose weight, and maintain your physique with a balanced, clean way of eating that won’t put your body through the same metabolic trauma that makes traditional diets so ineffective. Ready to achieve the svelte, sexy, healthy body you’re designed to have? What are you waiting for? Go wild!

The increasingly popular Paleo diet gets a female-focused guide in Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat. Author Esther Blum has a casual, friendly style of writing that makes Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat a pleasant read (I always like it when health books are both informative and enjoyable). If you’re wary of jumping into the proverbial Paleolithic water, this book is a good introduction. Ms. Blum’s “Paleo Chic” way of life is laid out in such a way that it looks doable, even for the busy modern woman. If you’re already familiar with the high protein and vegetable-rich Paleo diet, a good portion of this book will be repetitive (though the Paleo Chic diet does derivate from the traditional Paleo diet once or twice). That being said, if you’re a woman starting the Paleo diet then Ms. Blum’s chapters geared toward female hormones are well worth reading.

Almost all diet and nutrition books require outside research before beginning, and Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat is no exception. However, Ms. Blum’s research did point me in the right direction when it came to said research. Overall I recommend Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat. Ms. Blum’s writing style is appealing, the Paleo Chic diet is well thought out, and the book is an excellent motivational tool and guide to getting back in touch with our nutritional roots.

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.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: An Unexpected Gentleman by Alissa Johnson

An Unexpected Gentleman by Alissa Johnson
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance An Unexpected Gentleman Cover
ISBN: 9780425244913
Blue Ribbon Rating: 3 out of 5
Original Review Link
Book Purchase Link

With a brother in debtors’ prison and a sister and nephew to look after, Adelaide Ward feels that she has no choice but to set her sights on Sir Robert Maxwell and the security his income would provide her family. But on the very night that Adelaide believes Sir Robert will propose, something unexpected happens; Adelaide meets a charming stranger who threatens to sweep her off her feet.

Within twenty-four hours, the mysterious Connor Brice proposes and though she’s startled to discover that she’d rather marry a near-stranger than Sir Robert, Adelaide can’t risk her family’s future. Then Connor kisses her – in front of gossipy society members – and Adelaide no longer has any choice but to marry. But which man? Adelaide finds herself in the middle of a tug-of-war between Connor and Sir Robert, and she discovers that each man has secrets…secrets that involve their determination to ruin one another. To her dismay, Adelaide falls for Connor anyway. Yet how will she know if she will ever be more to Connor than a pawn in his quest for revenge against Sir Robert?

Deception and desire are the name of the game in AN UNEXPECTED GENTLEMAN. Author Alissa Johnson takes some historical romance tropes and gives them new life, delivering a satisfying romance. Connor is a man who’s had his life made hell by Sir Robert over and over again, so it’s easy to sympathize with his determination to get revenge. Though he may or may not have used Adelaide to do so – I’ll leave that for the reader to find out – Connor isn’t careless when it comes to Adelaide. He does have feelings for her and the way Ms. Johnson shows his adoration for her ended up charming me. Adelaide, for her part, is sensible and puts her family first, both qualities I respect in a heroine. That doesn’t mean she’s perfect, and it doesn’t mean she can’t be swept away by passion; after all, her initial meeting with Connor proves otherwise. I enjoyed watching these two fall for one another.

AN UNEXPECTED GENTLMEAN does start off as a bit of a slow read, but happily, it picks up. There aren’t any grand surprises, but the story works without them. I will say that I did miss the sparkle of Ms. Johnson’s AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT and TEMPTING FATE, the only other books by Ms. Johnson that I’ve read. AN UNEXPECTED GENTLEMAN didn’t have the energy of those books, which was somewhat of a pity. Still, a book that is simply a good romance is sometimes enough, and that’s just what AN UNEXPECTED GENTLEMAN was for me.

Note: My review was written for Romance Junkies and is cross-posted here with permission from Romance Junkies.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday in Review

It’s update time again :)

Below are the newest reviews I’ve written here and on Joyfully Reviewed. The master list and categorical lists on the right-hand side are updated as well.

Reviews for upcoming releases:
- The Heart of a Duke by Victoria Morgan (available 12/3/13)
- Foolish Games (Out of Bounds, Book 2) by Tracy Solheim (available 12/3/13)
- Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid by Jennifer Rae (available 1/1/14)

All other new reviews:
- Entwined (Darkest London, Book 3.5) by Kristen Callihan
- The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
- Gossamer Wing (Steam and Seduction, Book 1) by Delphine Dryden
- Jilted (Promise Harbor Wedding, Book 1) by Kelly Jamieson
- Moonlight Kiss (Cricket Creek, Book 5) by LuAnn McLane
- The Sum of All Kisses (Smythe-Smith Quartet, Book 3) by Julia Quinn

Upcoming reviews:
- Christmas on Main Street by JoAnn Ross, Susan Donovan, LuAnn McLane, and Alexis Morgan
- Rise of the Gryphon (Belador, Book 4) by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
- The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, and Kimberly Kincaid
- Skies of Steel (The Ether Chronicles, Book 3) by Zoë Archer
- The Seduction of Elliot McBride (Highland Pleasures, Book 5) by Jennifer Ashley
- Mystery Man (Dream Man, Book 1) by Kristen Ashley
- Wild Man (Dream Man, Book 2) by Kristen Ashley
- Down for the Count (Dare Me, Book 1) by Christine Bell
- Down and Dirty (Dare Me, Book 2) by Christine Bell
- Bolted (Promise Harbor Wedding, Book 2) by Meg Benjamin
- Cowboy Waltz by Cameron Dane
- How to Ravish a Rake (How to Series, Book 3) by Vicky Dreiling
- Soul Weaver by Hailey Edwards
- Some Like It Hot (Rising Star Chef, Book 2) by Louisa Edwards
- Hot Under Pressure (Rising Star Chef, Book 3) by Louisa Edwards
- A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes by Suzanne Enoch
- Cowboy Take Me Away (Rainbow Valley, Book 1) by Jane Graves
- Trouble at the Wedding (Abandoned at the Altar, Book 3) by Laura Lee Guhrke
- One Taste of Scandal (Redcakes, Book 2) by Heather Hiestand
- Beauty Bites (Biting Love, Book 6) by Mary Hughes
- Reaver (Demonica, Book 6 / Lords of Deliverance, Book 5) by Larissa Ione
- Breathe by Lauren Jameson
- Archer (Hard Body, Book 1) by Debra Kayn
- Since You’ve Been Gone (Welcome to Paradise, Book 4) by Elle Kennedy
- Caught Up in You (Loving on the Edge, Book 4) by Roni Loren
- Kiss of Steel (London Steampunk, Book 1) by Bec McMaster
- All Fired Up (Hot in the Kitchen, Book 2) by Kate Meader
- Keeping Secrets in Seattle by Brooke Moss
- Blood Persuasion (Immortal Jane Austen, Book 2) by Janet Mullany
- Raw Desire by Kate Pearce
- Soul Sucker by Kate Pearce
- Texas Outlaws: Jesse by Kimberly Raye
- The Fifth Favor by Shelby Reed
- Dark Witch (The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, Book 1) by Nora Roberts
- Nights of Steel (The Ether Chronicles, Book 4) by Nico Rosso
- Secrets of a Gentleman Escort by Bronwyn Scott
- This Is Who I Am (Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 7) by Cherise Sinclair
- Archangel’s Legion (Guild Hunter, Book 6) by Nalini Singh
- Heart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling, Book 12) by Nalini Singh
- Sully’s Sweet Salvation by Sierra Summers
- Primal Law (Alpha Pack, Book 1) by J.D. Tyler
- Easy by Tammara Webber
- Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: To Command and Collar by Cherise Sinclair

To Command and Collar by Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 6
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: BDSM Contemporary Romantic Suspense To Command and Collar Cover
ISBN: 9781611186673
Blue Ribbon Rating: 4 out of 5
Original Review Link
Book Purchase Link
Cherise Sinclair Reading Order

In the life before he was an engineer, a Dom and a Shadowlands Master, Raoul had seen plenty of darkness. But he’s never seen evil as sickening as the evil he finds in a human trafficking ring that he volunteered to help the FBI bring down. Raoul is no slave owner, but he’s more than willing to pose as one if it will help the FBI agents on the case. He has been instructed to reject all of the slaves offered for sale at the small auction he’s been invited to so that he’ll be invited to a larger auction. Despite his best intentions, Raoul throws the feds’ plans out the window when he sees Kimberly – a friend of one of the Shadowlands’ subs - as one of the slaves for sale. Raoul can’t leave Kimberly behind, so he buys her.

Kim has been physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally tortured by her captors, but she hasn’t let it break her. When Master R purchases her, Kim can’t simply put the past behind her. More challenging than coming to grips with what was done to her and the scars it has left on her body and psyche is the knowledge that her freedom came at the cost of other kidnapped women’s lives. When she learns that there’s a chance the FBI can still raid the big slave auction if she poses as Master R’s slave, Kim can’t bring herself to refuse. She’ll have to live with Raoul and learn to treat him as her Master in order to be successful. Kim figures she can live with anything if it means freeing other slaves. What she doesn’t count on is Master R’s loving brand of dominance making her feel more alive than she ever has before.

Get ready for the most emotionally wrenching MASTERS OF THE SHADOWLANDS book to date. TO COMMAND AND COLLAR is a gripping, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful book with a dominant, caring hero and an incredibly strong heroine who has been through hell and is struggling to find herself again. Author Cherise Sinclair isn’t afraid to pack a wallop when it comes to human trafficking, something I appreciate given the seriousness of the subject. The beginning of TO COMMAND AND COLLAR was almost painful to read because of this – and that’s a good thing, even though the vivid imagery Ms. Sinclair’s words evoked meant I had to step away from the book a time or two.

It was beautiful to watch Kim come alive under Raoul’s care, though the love of her friends and the aid of a psychologist should not be discounted. Ms. Sinclair doesn’t abandon the reality of what Kim has survived. But it is the struggles of healing and the awakening of passion that Kim faces while living with Raoul that makes TO COMMAND AND COLLAR touching.

What I love about the MASTERS OF THE SHADOWLANDS books is that Ms. Sinclair makes each BDSM relationship as different as the characters she creates. Raoul and Kimberly dive into a full-time Master/slave relationship. The timeline is sped up because of the slave auction. But aside from the book’s villains, the main obstacle Raoul and Kimberly must overcome, if they want their burgeoning relationship to work, is whether Kimberly wants to be a full-time submissive. Raoul has been burned in the past by a relationship gone south, and he knows he can’t be anything less than what he is, nor would he ever ask Kimberly to give him more than she wants to give. Kimberly is concerned that her time as a slave has affected her when it comes to what she enjoys in BDSM. The way in which Kimberly figures out her desires adds realism to the book, helping to bring TO COMMAND AND COLLAR further to life.

TO COMMAND AND COLLAR is the sixth book in Ms. Sinclair’s fantastic MASTERS OF THE SHADOWLANDS series. Readers new to the series will be able to follow along with the information that Ms. Sinclair provides, and fans of the series will be delighted to see all their favorite characters again. As much as I enjoyed TO COMMAND AND COLLAR, I finished the book wanting another MASTERS OF THE SHADOWLANDS story. Ms. Sinclair has me drooling over sexy FBI agent Galen Kouros and man, oh man, does she have me on the edge of my seat, wanting to know if Dom/sadist Sam will make things work with the woman who has captured his attention.

TO COMMAND AND COLLAR doesn’t have the usual sparkle – as I call it – of Ms. Sinclair’s MASTERS OF THE SHADOWLANDS books, but given the storyline, that’s understandable. What is consistent is Ms. Sinclair’s phenomenal talent for delivering engaging, gorgeous stories with fiery hot love scenes. All in all, I can safely say that fans of the MASTERS OF THE SHADOWLANDS series won’t want to miss TO COMMAND AND COLLAR.

Note: My review was written for Romance Junkies and is cross-posted here with permission from Romance Junkies.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The "Be Thankful" Initiative


The “Be Thankful” initiative urges support of our less fortunate neighbors

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family around an extravagant meal and be thankful for all the security and stability in our lives. But it’s also a reminder that a cold winter is ahead, and it is therefore important to acknowledge our less fortunate neighbors, which is why Penguin is proud to support The Maryland Food Bank, with Penguin’s first ever “Be Thankful” initiative.

#1 New York Times bestselling Penguin author, Nora Roberts was born in Silver Spring, Maryland and has a deep affinity for her home state, having set many of her more than 200 novels in Maryland. Her recent NY Times bestseller, “Thankless in Death” is a suspense thriller which centers around loved ones coming together for Thanksgiving. The brutal reality of hunger in Maryland sadly has its own frightening narrative. “I was shocked to discover that the Maryland Food Bank distributes more than 34.6 million pounds of food - the equivalent of almost 29 million meals each year - and despite that significant effort, families still go hungry in our region,” stated Nora Roberts. “I am proud to help raise awareness of this issue and to applaud the incredible work that local food banks do daily to eradicate hunger in Maryland. The holiday season is a great reminder to capture the spirit of giving thanks and helping those in need.”

Penguin would also like to acknowledge the efforts of Governor Martin O’Malley, who is committed to ending childhood hunger in Maryland by 2015. “One hungry child is one too many," said Governor O’Malley. “Because of its connection to student achievement, workforce strength, physical health, and behavioral health, we’ve made eradicating childhood hunger a priority in our State.”

“We are delighted to support The Maryland Food Bank for the first time. The negative cascading effect that food insecurity can have on a person, a child or a family, is devastating. Penguin is proud to recognize the tireless efforts of The Maryland Food Bank and its commitment to lead the fight against food insecurity and hunger,” said Leslie Gelbman, President of Mass Market Publishing, Penguin Group (USA). To mark the occasion, Penguin Group (USA) is making a $10,000 donation to The Maryland Food Bank. “There are more than 457,000 people in our service area who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and more than a third are children,” says Maryland Food Bank President & CEO Deborah Flateman. “The emotional toll of hunger is especially high during the holidays. Families are struggling to put food on the table, heat their home, and at the same time keep traditions alive, so their children feel normal – at least for one day. This gift will go a long way, and help many, many families in need.” The donation ensures that over 20,000 meals will be made available to the citizens of Maryland who are in dire need of food assistance.

You too can become involved in the “Be Thankful” initiative by donating food or volunteering; to view a complete list of the affiliated food banks and or participate in a Virtual Food Drive, please visit Feeding America’s national Food Bank Locator at


About the Maryland Food Bank
The Maryland Food Bank is a nonprofit hunger-relief organization, leading the movement to end hunger throughout Maryland. For more than thirty years, the Maryland Food Bank has partnered with communities across the state to distribute food to individuals and families in need. Through carefully-crafted programs, the food bank aims to meet the immediate needs of Marylanders while simultaneously working to find long term ways to reduce hunger statewide. Currently distributing 79,000 meals per day – nearly 29 million meals annually – the Maryland Food Bank will continue to expand its efforts until hunger ends.

The Maryland Food Bank operates from three facilities: one in Baltimore, one in Salisbury, and one in Hagerstown. Through an extensive network of soup kitchens, pantries, schools and other community-based organizations, food is distributed throughout 22 counties, including Baltimore City, and Somerset, Wicomico, and Washington counties – some of the most food-insecure regions in Maryland.

About Penguin Group (USA)
Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. member of the internationally renowned Penguin Group. Penguin Group (USA) is one of the leading U.S. adult and children's trade book publishers, owning a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Viking, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Penguin Press, Riverhead Books, Dutton, Penguin Books, Berkley Books, Gotham Books, Portfolio, New American Library, Plume, Tarcher, Philomel, Grosset & Dunlap, Puffin, and Frederick Warne, among others. The Penguin Group ( is part of Penguin Random House plc, the international media company.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Foolish Games by Tracy Solheim

Foolish Games by Tracy Solheim
Series: Out of Bounds, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance Foolish Games Cover
ISBN: 9780425266649
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Bridal gown designer Julianne Marchione is the consummate professional. But combine migraine medication with a terrifying storm and even a pro like Julianne can lose her cool at a client’s wedding…particularly when a hot football player is involved. Although Julianne wants to put her foolish one night stand behind her, she finds she can’t for long. Nearly a year later, Julianne’s infant son needs a blood transfusion, and she isn’t a match.

Will “William the Conqueror” Connelly grew up with the stigma of being an illegitimate child and he’d never wish that on anyone. Which is why he’s thrown for a loop when he finds out he has a child. Will’s furious with Julianne, but he’s not about to let anything happen to their son, Owen. Determined to do the right thing, he talks Julianne into a temporary marriage. It’s supposed to be a marriage in name only, but much to his surprise Will finds himself bonding with his unexpected wife. Will their newfound passion lead to a real marriage? Or will the ghosts of Will’s past keep him from trusting Julianne?

Betrayal, babies, and blazing hot passion - Foolish Games has it all! Tracy Solheim has delivered an engaging sports romance with her second Out of Bounds novel.

I adored Julianne from the start. She’s a wonderfully human character, meaning she’s flawed and definitely makes mistakes, but she does her best to make things right. On the flipside is Will, a hero I admit I had a hard time connecting with. For me, Will tended to be more caveman than alpha man and that just isn’t my personal cup of tea. He’s also a bit too hostile and quick to judge Julianne. I understood this in the beginning of the book, but I was disappointed that the dreamy hero of the middle of the book reverted back to his initial behavior at the end. That being said, the scenes with Will and his son endeared him to me and I liked the steam factor when he and Julianne worked past their issues and hit the sheets.

A charming secondary romance between Annabeth, Will’s mom, and Hank, the general manager of the Baltimore Blaze (Will’s team), brought a smile to my face more often than not. Annabeth and Hank’s love story was quieter, but ultimately the more powerful of the two for me. The obstacles their relationship faced felt organic to the story, whereas the misunderstandings and blowups in Will and Julianne’s marriage came across as more manufactured.

Foolish Games is the second Out of Bounds novel, but it can be read as a standalone. The hero and heroine of the first book, Game On, do appear, which should delight fans of that story. Personally, I thought the highlight of Foolish Games was Will’s teammate Brody. The sexy tight end stole every scene he was in and I cannot wait to read his book. Thankfully, Ms. Solheim isn’t making readers wait long, for Brody’s the hero of the next Out of Bounds book, Risky Game. Though Foolish Games was hit and miss for me, I’ll definitely be buying Risky Game!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid by Jennifer Rae

Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid by Jennifer Rae
Publisher: Harlequin KISS
Genre: Contemporary Romance Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid Cover
ISBN: 9781460324196
Release Date: January 1, 2014
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Olivia Matthews is ready to let loose! Armed with tight dresses and a perfect tan, the Aussie bridesmaid is ready to take England by storm. Or at least ready to have a good time at her best friend’s wedding. But from the first, nothing goes as planned. The only appealing part of the weekend is the groom’s brother, the sexy Mr. Darcy-ish Edward Winchester. Now if only Olivia could convince Edward to give into their mutual desire and enjoy a fling that could turn into so much more…

Society weddings and familial tension are a combustible pairing before you throw in an outsider, so it’s no surprise that Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid has drama to spare. Romancing blooming in the midst of a chaotic wedding weekend is nothing new, but author Jennifer Rae makes it feel fresh, thanks mostly to her leading lady. Olivia just about broke my heart. She’s always been seen as second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) best when compared to her near-perfect sister and her friends. As a result, Olivia is insecure about her looks and is determined to try and be the kind of woman men find attractive. Needless to say, it’s Olivia’s true self Edward falls for and what I liked best about Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid was watching him peel back the party girl persona Olivia wears like armor to find the woman underneath.

While Olivia herself made Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid impossible to put down, the story as a whole was a bit of a letdown. I grew frustrated with the push-pull between Edward and Olivia and their romance never quite drew me in. The secondary characters (Edward’s sister, Bunny, in particular) grated on my nerves more often than not. Still, Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid wasn’t a bad read, just not a story I think I’ll re-read. However, I liked Olivia so much that even though Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid wasn’t for me, I’ll be giving another one of Ms. Rae’s books a try.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: The Heart of a Duke by Victoria Morgan

The Heart of a Duke by Victoria Morgan
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance The Heart of a Duke Cover
ISBN: 9780425264836
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Lady Julia Chandler is tired of waiting for her fiancé to remember to marry her. She’s known Edmund, Duke of Bedford, all her life and thus has no compunction about tracking down the man in his own home and kissing him until he’s ready to post the banns. Fate seems to be smiling on Julia, for on her way to find the “Damned Duke,” she crosses paths with him. There’s just one thing she doesn’t know…

After years abroad, Lord Daniel Bryant has come home to face his evil twin, find out who tried to kill him ten years ago, and uncover the meaning of a cryptic note from his late father’s solicitor. Of all the surprises that await him, none are more shocking than his brother’s fiancée throwing herself at him. When they were younger, Daniel cared for Julia. His affection for her quickly turns into more upon meeting her again. Daniel knows he cannot let Julia marry Edmund, but if he claims her for her own, she might be caught in the crosshairs when Daniel’s unknown enemy attacks.

A dashing hero, a spirited heroine, and a crazed assailant make The Heart of a Duke a lively tale. Victoria Morgan charms readers with her delightful characters even as the story suffers somewhat from extreme predictability. It’s impossible not to like Daniel and Julia, and their romance is both sweet and quietly sensual. Where The Heart of a Duke falls short for me is in the mystery plotline. The answers Daniel returns to England to seek seemed glaringly obvious to me and every twist the story took was so blatantly choreographed that I was left feeling disappointed. As for the story’s villain, sadly Edmund was a maniacal black-hatted type, and I truly wished there had been some shades of grey to his character.

Julia’s family and Daniel’s friends add sparkle to The Heart of a Duke, particularly handsome American Brett and Julia’s sister, Emily. The chemistry between Brett and Emily left me hungry for more, and I dearly hope that Ms. Morgan plans to write a story for these two. If I hadn’t been able to foresee the book’s climax from the beginning, I think I would have adored The Heart of a Duke. As it stands, I did like romance and the tale’s good guys had me smiling more often than not. If Ms. Morgan writes a book for Emily and Brett, I’ll definitely be first in line to buy it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Genre: Fantasy The Thinking Womans Guide to Real Magic Cover
ISBN: 9780670023660
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

An imaginative story of a woman caught in an alternate world—where she will need to learn the skills of magic to survive

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman. During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty. Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

For lovers of Lev Grossman's The Magicians series (The Magicians and The Magician King) and Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night).

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is a difficult book for me to review. I was drawn to the title and premise, but ultimately found the first to be misleading and the second to be far more exciting in blurb format than in reality.

To begin with the good, Emily Croy Barker has developed a world of magic that is filled with promise. The magicians – chiefly Aruendiel – are an interesting lot and I’d have loved to have delved deeper into their characters. Unfortunately, there was a lot of missed opportunity in The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. Our guide throughout the story is Nora, the titular “thinking woman” who really doesn’t use her brain as much as she ought to. Nora is from our world and I believe she’s supposed to be the character we all identify with, but she seems to lack common sense or the ability see anything from a viewpoint other than her own (Annoyed that people in this magical, medieval-type world aren’t as progressive or “enlightened” as you? *Sigh*). I didn’t mind this in the beginning of the book, when she was enchanted by the story’s villain, but I expected Nora to grow as a character in the ten months or so she was Aruendiel’s world. That she was so easily fooled by the villain near the end of the story pained me to no end. Aside from learning a few spells and parlor tricks, Nora really didn’t seem to learn much on her journey.

I could forgive Nora’s flaws if The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic were at least interesting. Sadly, we spend most of the book’s nearly 600 pages following Nora as she does her chores and follows Aruendiel about. There seems to be no real point to much of this, and the book could have been halved without losing anything. Near the end things do pick up, but much to my dismay, the book ends with a cliffhanger of sorts. Not an interesting cliffhanger, mind you, simply one that made me double-check my book because I thought I was missing pages. None of the major plot points are resolved, and since we spend so much time watching paint dry (figuratively speaking) I felt extremely cheated as a reader.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic isn’t an entirely bad story, but it is one that suffers from a frustratingly obtuse heroine and a lack of any real direction.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

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

I'm a sucker for Jane Austen adaptations, even though they tend to be hit or miss for me. Unleashing Mr. Darcy sounds like a whole lot of fun, so I've got high hopes for it :)

Unleashing Mr. Darcy Cover Title: Unleashing Mr. Darcy
Author: Teri Wilson
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: December 31, 2013

Book Description (from Goodreads):

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty must be in want of a husband.

Not true for Manhattanite Elizabeth Scott. Instead of planning a walk down the aisle, she's crossing the pond with the only companion she needs; her darling dog, Bliss. Caring for a pack of show dogs in England seems the perfect distraction from the scandal that ruined her teaching career, and her reputation, in New York. What she doesn't count on is an unstoppable attraction to billionaire dog breeder Donovan Darcy. The London tycoon's a little bit arrogant, a whole lot sexy, and the chemistry between them is disarming. When passion is finally unleashed, might Elizabeth hope to take home more than a blue ribbon?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden

Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden
Series: Steam and Seduction, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Steampunk Romance Gossamer Wing Cover
ISBN: 9780425265772
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

As both the daughter and the widow of spies, Charlotte Moncrieffe is determined to use her training, skills, and unique dirigible to become a spy herself. Though her father objects, Charlotte is determined to serve the Crown by recovering documents her late husband hid at the Palais Garnier during the last war with France. There’s just one problem. Her father – in a bid to keep Charlotte from engaging in espionage – has convinced her superiors that Charlotte must not go to France without a proper cover. And that cover involves marriage to inventor Dexter Hardison, known as the Makesmith Baron.

Dexter only knows Charlotte through letters, but he’s fascinated by the unusual widow. When he strikes a bargain that could further his own research, he doesn’t expect to find himself falling hard and fast for his new wife. The passion he feels for Charlotte is tempered by her insistence that their marriage will only last the length of the mission. Dexter’s determined to convince her to give their relationship a chance, but can he get through the walls she’s built around her heart? If a rogue spy and a dangerous megalomaniac have their way, neither Dexter nor Charlotte will live long enough to find out.

A world of possibilities await you in Gossamer Wing. Delphine Dryden has created an imaginative universe filled with plausible technological marvels and wonderfully creative steampunkery. I was intrigued by Ms. Dryden’s alternate-history America, one where the U.S. lost the Revolutionary War and is still under British rule. The alternate-history aspect of the story added a level of uniqueness to Gossamer Wing, particularly since the story features spies.

World building aside, Gossamer Wing features two protagonists who are innately likeable. Charlotte is an intelligent, headstrong woman, and the death of her first husband on their honeymoon forever changed her. She’s determined to gain closure through her first fieldwork assignment and nothing and no one will stop her. She’s thrown for a loop, however, by Dexter. It’s impossible for her to resist the big bear of a man; physically and intellectually, he attracts her. Dexter’s inventiveness, sensuality, and patience make him a sigh-worthy hero. He’s a great match for Charlotte, but it isn’t easy for her to accept that they could have a real marriage (though I admit I didn’t always understand her logic).

Gossamer Wing is the first Steam and Seduction novel, and though it wasn’t quite as engaging as I’d have liked (I never felt emotionally invested in the story or the characters), I definitely can’t wait to read the next book, Scarlet Devices. If Gossamer Wing is anything to go by, Ms. Dryden’s world building is sure to be a gift to readers that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blog Tour: All Fired Up by Kate Meader

I can't resist a sexy as sin chef, so is it any surprise that I'm drooling over Kate Meader's newest Hot in the Kitchen release, All Fired Up? Check out the blurb and delicious (sorry, couldn't resist ;)) excerpt for All Fired Up, then keep scrolling to enter some awesome prizes from Ms. Meader's publisher, Forever!

All Fired Up

All Fired Up CoverHer sweetest mistake...
Cool as a Chicago winter, private events planner Cara DeLuca is a model of self-control . . . until she meets the one temptation she can't resist: Shane Doyle. The sexy, Irish pastry chef is too hot, too sure, too young, and after a crazy night in Vegas—her new husband. While at first Cara wants nothing more than a way out of her sham marriage to Shane, she soon finds that beneath his farm boy demeanor lies a man who can match her drive, both in and out of the bedroom. How can the wrong guy feel so deliciously right?

...Tastes so, so good
Shane has carefully structured his career and life around one goal: connecting with the family that doesn't know he exists. Marrying a woman with more issues than a magazine stand wasn't part of the plan, but melting Cara's icy exterior is so worth the detour. Now as the annulment date nears and long-buried secrets are revealed, Shane will have to fight for the one thing guaranteeing the perfect life he craves . . . the current Mrs. Shane Doyle.


“You’re hiding, Cara. There’s something happening here and you’re scared because it doesn’t fit into that neat box you’ve constructed. You thought you got the lid back on after Vegas but now the edges are straining and what you’re feeling in here”—he touched her forehead, then coasted his fingertip down her cheek, her jaw, her neck until he reached the top button of her shirt—“and in here is too big for that box.”

“Let me go,” she said, the words out of her mouth before she realized how ridiculously melodramatic they sounded. As if he were somehow keeping her prisoner on this step in this quasi-relationship. She was free to leave any time.

Then why couldn’t she move?

She backed up, but her heel caught on the step, and her vision filled with a wide-brimmed hat and shining brown eyes. Warm fingers hooked around the bare band of skin between her shirt and her jeans. His scent settled inside her, smoking through her blood.

Please, oh, please.

“Don’t hide from me, darlin’. I’ll just find you.” He brought his mouth down on hers and stole her breath, balance, and any chance she had of keeping that lid screwed on tight.

His tongue stroked hers hungrily, an insistent push that left her greedy for more. Had they kissed when they got married? Surely she would have remembered this warmth, this color, this feeling. Surely she would have remembered the bristled rough around his lips sparking her to life. Whatever happened, its imprint was lost in a sea of competing tastes and sounds from that craziest of nights. Now, she had time to savor, to taste, to enjoy a true consummation of hunger, unlike anything she ever felt for food. Who needed a full stomach when her heart was brimming to ripeness in Shane’s kiss?
All Fired Up Cover
Her improved dance moves stood her well as she pushed him back into the stairwell and then flipped against the wall of the church, the support of the brick necessary until the anchor of his body could kick in and hold her fast. Their slanting mouths twisted, mapping untrodden paths of pleasure. The push and pull of tongue-on-tongue ramped up her desire. His hard body pressed against her, slotting in from neck to knee, and she almost cried out at its perfect symmetry.

Skin. She needed to feel it. Just to check if those hard muscles contouring that henley were as defined as they looked. Yanking up his shirt, she trailed her hands across his abs and a corresponding thrill trailed across her skin as his stomach tautened under her touch. Maybe those abs were tight before but she liked to think her fingers were giving his muscles a nice workout.

At her exploration, he groaned a deep, chest-filling sound, which she took as an invitation to take things to the next level. Gripping his shirt, she tugged it higher. The shadows kept him safe from her grasping eyes, so her imagination filled in the blanks. Not an inch of fat marred that terrain. Her investigations ended at his nipples, already erect, inviting her to rub and stroke. And lick. Bending, she flicked her tongue across one stiffening bud.

So maybe she’d skipped a couple of levels.

Her gaze crept up to meet his, now trained on her mouth just scant millimeters from his chest. He was holding his breath, a forever breath she recognized because she was holding one, too. His tongue skated across his lower lip, a little puffy after their kiss.

“Please,” he rasped, needful and low.

Her hot mouth sealed over his nipple and sucked, her ears alert for his reaction, needing to know this felt good to him. When both his hands cupped the back of her neck and held her fast, she knew he liked it. When a very male sound escaped his throat, one he had been clearly shoving deep, she knew he loved it.

“Your mouth, Cara. God, your mouth.”

Now she knew he was hitching a ride to heaven right with her.

His rough fingers massaged the nape of her neck, and she moaned. And he moaned, a sound so heartfelt she felt its pulse between her legs. A feedback loop of pleasure. Gently, he drew her back and shaped her head to his palm, directing her up to face him. He was smiling, a big crescent of a grin. Making a guy smile during an intimate moment was not part of her usual skill set.

“Do you like that?” She’d always been a get-it-in-triplicate kind of girl.

His smile stretched wider. “You have no idea.”

Oh, she did. Good thing she was wearing a dark-rinse jean because her panties were so drenched she could feel the damp. He brought her in for a kiss, a long plundering one. Her blood bubbled like champagne. Drunk on him, her senses lurched toward chaos. Just like in Vegas, except tonight, there was no alcohol to blame, only an acute case of dirty lust outside a church.

Yes, she was on a fast train to hell.

Purchase All Fired Up here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Bookish

About the Author

Kate Meader CoverKate Meader writes contemporary romance that serves up delicious food, sexy heroes, and heroines with a dash of sass. Originally from Ireland, she now makes her home in Chicago, a city made for food, romance, and laughter—and where she met her own sexy hero. When not writing about men who cook and the women who drool over them, she works in an academic library. Visit her website at and follow her on Twitter @kittymeader


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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

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

I saw this on someone else's WOW a while back and it sounded like so much fun I simply couldn't resist adding it to my wishlist. I have Ms. Hawkins's Hex Hall in my TBR pile somewhere, but I'm sad to say I haven't gotten to it yet.

Rebel Belle Cover Title: Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Genre: YA Paranormal
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: April 8, 2014

Book Description (from Amazon):

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review: Entwined by Kristen Callihan

Entwined by Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London, Book 3.5
Publisher: Forever Yours
Genre: Historical Romance with Paranormal Elements
ISBN: 9781455577774 Entw Cover
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Kristen Callihan Reading Order

While his brother, Aidan, has been looked on with admiration, Eamon Evernight has always frightened people with his massive size, flame-red hair, and rumored supernatural abilities. After their father arranges a marriage for Aidan, it’s Eamon who writes his brother’s betrothed at Aidan’s request. What should have been a simple task turns unbearably complex when Eamon begins to fall for the witty Lady Luella Jane Moran. Eamon would never betray his brother, but how can he stand by and watch the woman he loves marry someone else?

Prepare to be utterly charmed by Kristen Callihan’s Entwined! Eamon and Lu will have you smiling, sighing, and falling wholly in love with both of them from the very first page.

Eamon’s a man who is dismissed by many because of his looks. It’s their loss, for he’s a talented, intelligent, and wonderfully giving man who is sure to make you envy Lu her good fortune in capturing his heart. As for Lu, she’s a sassy, fun heroine who – like Eamon – isn’t quite who she presents herself to be. It was delightful watching the layers be peeled back on both of these characters as they fell in love, first in letters, then in person. Ms. Callihan’s writing simply sparkled in Entwined and the interactions between Eamon and Lu gave me that lovely warm and fuzzy feeling.

Though Entwined takes place a few decades before Ms. Callihan’s Darkest London series, the end of the story does tie into the third book, Winterblaze. Eagle-eyed readers might recognize Eamon and Lu’s granddaughter Holly Evernight from Winterblaze, along with Eamon’s inventions which come up in said book as well. If you haven’t read the Darkest London series, you can still read Entwined without feeling lost.

Ms. Callihan never fails to entertain and Entwined is no exception. I absolutely adored Eamon and Lu and I hope we see much more of their family in future Darkest London books!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Blog Tour: Barefoot by the Sea by Roxanne St. Claire

Barefoot by the Sea Blog Tour

I loved Roxanne St. Claire's Barefoot by the Sea (see my review here), so I'm delighted to have been invited to participate in this blog tour! Ms. St. Claire's publisher, Forever, has gifted me with some absolutely wonderful content to share, so scroll down to read an interesting Q&A with Ms. St. Claire and read an excerpt from Barefoot by the Sea.

Never read any Barefoot Bay books? You're in luck! Simply comment on this blog post to enter for your chance to win a complete set of ALL FOUR Barefoot Bay books. US entries only, and please leave your email so I can contact the winner for their shipping info.

Q&A with Roxanne St. Claire

How do you come up with the names for your characters and titles?Roxanne St. Claire

Names can be fun...or frustrating! My characters brew for a long time and during that period, their names usually come to me. Sometimes I hear a name out in the world and I know immediately that has to be a character. But I have to be careful with that...I have used names of people I barely knew and then became friends with them. I’m still waiting for one of my daughter’s friends to discover I used her name as the villain in one of my old romantic suspense novels. I didn’t know the girls would become friends when they were in the same dance class ten years ago! Her name was so perfect for the bad girl villainess and now I hope she never reads that book.

When I’m stuck for a name, I dig through character name books -- I use The New Age Baby Name Book and The Baby Name Personality Survey -- to find ideas. Sometimes, as was the case with the hero of BAREFOOT BY THE SEA, I ask my Facebook Fans for ideas! They named Ian!

And, yes, I have given characters the wrong name. I usually know it a few pages into the story, but I have been known to get much further when I realize that I’m struggling with a character who doesn’t have a name that reflects their real nature or backstory. For a long time, Clay, the hero of BAREFOOT IN THE SAND, was named Elliott (all wrong for him). The heroine, Lacey, was Lily. Very early into the book, I realized that Lily didn’t capture her whimsical personality. “Lily” felt a little too elegant for this strawberry-blonde heroine who thinks her boobs are too big. Lacey felt brighter and more alive, so I changed her name before I hit chapter two. Clay took a little longer. His backstory was a moving target for a while, since he wasn’t a character that came fully formed. (Oh, I love those gifts from God!) As that hero took shape, I realized that this southern boy wouldn’t have such a northeastern name and Elliott didn’t fit him. I changed his first name to Clay and loved the transformation. I kept his last name Walker, and never Googled “Clay Walker” to learn that is a country music singer. No one ever caught that during editing, so now my hero has a famous name.

The trickiest thing about writing a series is once a name is published, it can’t be changed! So I have to be careful naming secondary or even tertiary characters...they can be a hero or heroine of their own book in the future and I don’t want to be stuck with Lucretia or Agnes. (Not that I don’t love those names -- in fact, I’m using in a book I’m writing right now!!)

Excerpt from Barefoot by the Sea

Barefoot by the Sea Cover“Tessa,” he said softly, looking from side to side for a second. “I have to tell you something about me. Something you didn’t ask in your interview.”

Interesting, since he didn’t even answer the questions she did ask. Still, she waited, dying to see where he’d go with this.

“I don’t shy away from anything,” he finally said. “When I see something I want, I get it.” He gave her a hard, straight look.

Did he mean the job as chef or…her?

“So, what are you here to get?”

“My plan is that we start all over again.” Reaching down, he lifted her hand and very slowly drew off the gardening glove, sliding one finger out at a time out of the rough canvas. She couldn’t do anything but stare at his large, tanned, masculine hand undressing her much smaller one, her throat parched and every nerve ending dancing at the touch.

“We could shake on it,” he said, dropping the glove to the ground but still holding her hand. His skin was warm. A little rough, a little dry, but very warm. “But I’d rather do this.”

He lifted her fingers to his lips, barely brushing the knuckles, the sensation shooting fireworks down her arms. “To new beginnings, pretty Tessa. A new job, and a new…” He looked up from her hand and met her gaze, his own so serious she forgot to breathe again. “Friendship.”

For a moment, she stared at him, a thousand emotions erupting like a volcano in her chest. Disbelief and excitement and desire and disbelief and longing and—yeah, mostly disbelief.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Well, I’m not really trusting by nature, so I’m fighting the sensation that you might be full of shit.”

He laughed. “I deserve a chance.”

Did he? “And you’ll probably get one, but what happened?”

He lifted both brows. “I want the job.”

“So you’re suddenly Prince Charming? After being guarded, evasive, and walking out in the middle of an interview?”

He curled his fingers around her hand and sighed with resignation. “I guess I’m going to have to do some seriously high-quality groveling.”

“Major high,” she agreed.

“Let’s start with dinner tonight. We can finish the interview.”

Obviously, he didn’t know she’d called all his references and they glowed like polished gold, and he certainly didn’t know about the wedding planners and the urgent need for a chef. Instead, he’d come to grovel and take her to dinner.

“I’ll give you time to clean up and change for our date,” he said, as if she might be looking for an excuse to say no.

As if a groveling man offering dinner and looking like a sex god fell into her lap on a daily basis.

“I thought it was an interview,” she said.

He shrugged. “You call it an interview, I call it a date.”

“I call it a pretty remarkable turnaround for the guy who suggested a one-night stand of tongue-tattooing the last time we talked about going out.”

His smile was sinfully slow and so damn confident. “Haven’t you ever changed your mind about something, Tessa? Ever looked at a situation in the light of day and realized you’d need a new approach to get what you want?”

She tried to ignore the little thrill of his words and be smart about this. “What about trust?”

He lifted his brows. “What about it?”

“Did you change your mind about the advice you gave me in the bar? Or don’t you remember when your one word about trusting you was ‘Don’t’?”

She could have sworn a little bit of color left his face.

“How else are you going to know if you should or not unless you have dinner with me?”

She couldn’t argue with that logic. Or maybe she just didn’t want to.

Purchase Barefoot by the Sea here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | B&L Books (autographed copies)

Barefoot by the Sea Blog Tour
Don't forget to comment on this post for your chance to win the entire Barefoot Bay quartet! US entries only and please leave your email so I can contact you if you win.