Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Ugly Young Thing by Jennifer Jaynes

Ugly Young Thing by Jennifer Jaynes
Series: Grand Trespass, Book 2
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Thriller Ugly Young Thing Cover
ISBN: 9781477827352
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Sixteen-year-old Allie has already experienced a lifetime of horror, having lost her mother and serial killer brother to mental illness.

Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana, Allie ends up in foster care and is placed with Miss Bitty, an eccentric but kindly older woman who shows her a new direction and brighter future.

But Allie’s new life takes a devastating turn when young women in the area start turning up dead, and she begins to see shadowy figures outside her bedroom. As Miss Bitty grows inexplicably distant, a nagging voice makes Allie wonder if death has found her yet again…or if it never really left her at all.

Ugly Young Thing is a dark psychological thriller tinged with sadness. Author Jennifer Jaynes has a strong, compelling voice that had me reading late into the night.

Allie’s life has been filled with trauma, abuse, and murder from day one. After the death of her mother and brother (both serial killers), Allie finds herself utterly alone and without resources. When a second chance with a kind foster mother presents itself, Allie’s suspicious. My heart broke for Allie; she’s emotionally scarred, has a distorted sense of herself, and is simply so painfully young to have been through all she has. I wanted to see her get the help she needed to start the healing process. Even as she finds that with Bitty, her foster mother, things take a turn. Another serial killer is on the loose and it seems like Allie will never be able to find peace.

To say much more about the plot of Ugly Young Thing would be spoiling the story, for the fun of a mystery or thriller is watching events unfold. We get several points of view, though Allie and the killer are our primary storytellers. Ms. Jaynes does a fantastic job of fleshing out both of them even as she keeps you guessing as to who the killer is. I love a thriller that keeps me on the edge of my seat, and the suspense is definitely high in Ugly Young Thing. The only real niggle I had about the story was the ending. I was left with questions that continue to bother me, yet at the same time I have to admit that the ending was effectively haunting.

Ugly Young Thing is the sequel to Never Smile at Strangers, but it can be read as a standalone. I haven’t yet read Never Smile at Strangers, but even knowing major plot points of that story I’ll still be picking it up. Ms. Jaynes knows how to write an edgy, compelling thriller that will have your heart pounding. I can’t wait to come back for more!

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Once and Always by Julia Harper

Once and Always Tour

I'm a big Elizabeth Hoyt fan, so it's no surprise that I was incredibly excited to pick up her new contemporary romance (written as Julia Harper). Once and Always releases today and I'm excited to be a part of the blog tour! You can read my review of Once and Always here, but make sure you come back to read an excerpt from the book and enter the giveaway hosted by Ms. Hoyt/Harper's publisher, Forever!

About Once and Always:

Small town cop Sam West certainly doesn't mind a routine traffic stop: speeding ticket, stern warning, and sayonara. With a whopper of a blizzard closing in, that's all he has time for. But the lawbreaker he pulls over is anything but typical. From her mile-long legs to her razor-sharp wit, Maisa Burnsey is like nothing Coot Lake, Minnesota, has ever seen...and she's about to take Sam on the ride of his life.

Whoever said blood is thicker than water probably wasn't related to a former Russian mobster. But an innocent mix-up and rumors of stolen diamonds soon have the Russian mob taking an unusual interest in the sleepy little town-and Maisa facing heated scrutiny from a certain tall, dark, and handsome deputy. Sam's dazzling blue eyes beg her to reveal all her secrets, but how much should she tell? Getting snowed in with the sexiest lawman in the frozen north may not be the worst way to decide...

My Review | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | BAM! | iTunes | IndieBound | Google Play

Excerpt from Once and Always

Day One

Shit. Maisa Burnsey’s heartbeat did a little stumble as the familiar police car halted behind her. She pushed up her chunky black glasses. Every damned time she passed through Coot Lake, Minnesota she got stopped.

In her rearview mirror she watched the tall trooper climb from the squad car. He sauntered toward her Beetle, loose-hipped and long-legged, as if he had all the time in the world. And like the good guy in a black-and-white western, he wore a stupid cowboy hat.

Maisa snorted softly.

He stopped by her car door, his pelvis framed by her window exactly at eye level, as if he was showing off the bulge of his package.

Not that she was looking.

There was an American flag on the left breast of his padded navy uniform jacket, a metal badge on his right, and below that a name tag that read WEST. One gloved hand rested on a lean hip, behind a holstered gun. His upper face, obscured by mirrored sunglasses and the cowboy hat, was stern and intimidating. His lips, though, were wide and almost soft, the top just a little fuller than the bottom. The man had a mouth that was beautiful enough to make a woman ache just by looking.

Maisa straightened her spine and glared at him. Okay, she could do this.

He twirled his gloved finger to tell her to roll down the window.

She opened it, letting in the freezing January wind. “What?”

He nodded. “Hey, May.”

His voice was deep and gravelly, like he smoked, though she knew for a fact that he didn’t.

Maisa,” she snapped automatically. She wasn’t going to think about the last time he’d called her May. “This is the fourth time you’ve stopped me here.”

“Maybe you should quit speeding.” That beautiful mouth quirked. “Or quit running away.”

“I’m not running away,” she lied, poker-faced.

“Darlin’, you’ve been running away from me since last August.”

Maisa felt her teeth click together. “I’m talking about pulling me over for speeding.”

His wide mouth curved. “I’m not.”

She breathed deeply. Evenly. God damn it, meditation was supposed to make her less angry. “This is entrapment.”

“Now,” he drawled, his small town accent broadening, “I don’t have any fancy un-ee-versity learnin’, but I’m pretty sure entrapment is if I falsely lure you into breaking the law—”

“What do you call a speed trap, then?”

“—which, since I didn’t make you drive well above the speed limit—”

Once and Always Cover“And that’s ridiculous as well.” She scowled. “The limit’s seventy everywhere else but this stretch of highway.”

He shrugged. “Still fifty-five here.”

“Well, it shouldn’t be. There should be better things for you to do than lie in wait for some poor driver who hasn’t noticed that the speed has gone down so you can pounce.” She stopped to inhale.

He looked at her. “Like what?”


“What should I be doing instead?”

She licked her lips. God damn it. Did he have to stand so close? “Doing your job.”

“This is my job.”

“Following me isn’t your job.” She could feel the heat mounting her neck with her anger. Oh, to hell with it. “Speeding isn’t why you stopped me and you know it. You’re harassing me.”

There was a pause as if she’d broken some obscure rule in their game. The wind whipped icy snow against her car, making the vehicle sway.

He didn’t even flinch, steady as a granite monument to male stubbornness.

“That right. You know, you don’t have to take this route every month when you drive up from Minneapolis.” His voice was terribly gentle, and she had a flash of him straight-armed over her, his mouth wet, his voice a gravel whisper as he’d murmured, Like that? And shoved inside of her, quick and hard and confident.

One night. One night last August she’d let him in. It’d been hot and muggy, and her uncle’s cabin hadn’t had any air-conditioning. She’d booked a room at the Coot Lake Inn and then gone to the only bar in town to have a cold beer. Sam had been there, looking way too sexy in faded jeans and a T-shirt so thin she could see the outline of his nipples when the condensation on his beer bottle had dripped on his chest. He’d bought her another beer and flirted and she’d thought, Why not? Why not just one night? So she’d brought him back to her tacky motel room and let him undress her and kiss her and make love to her, and in the morning she’d woken with her heart already beating too fast in panic. She’d dressed without showering, grabbed her bags, and left him there, still asleep on his belly, his wide shoulders bare and erotic in the stark morning light.

It’d been a mistake. One terrible, unforgettable mistake.

She exhaled through her nose, glancing away from him, feeling suddenly sad and vulnerable.

She hated that feeling. “This route is the easiest way to my uncle’s house.”

“Uh-huh.” He didn’t even bother to sound like he believed her, which was just insulting. “And me being the cop on duty most of the time along this stretch of highway has nothing to do with it.”

Yes.” She was going to chip a tooth if she ground down any harder.


Maisa. Look, just give me the goddamned ticket and I’ll be on my way.”

She could see him shift his weight from one leg to the other out of the corner of her eye. “Your brake light’s out.”

She swung back. “What?”

Once and Always CoverHe nodded his head at the back of her car. “Right rear.”

Maisa started to crane her neck to look before she realized how silly that was. “Oh. I’ll get it fixed.”

“’Preciate that,” he drawled. Did anyone else drawl in freaking Minnesota? “But I’ll have to cite you in the meantime.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Sam!”

That got a gloved finger sliding his mirrored glasses down just enough to see the flash of his electric blue eyes. “Well now. Glad to hear you remember my name.”

She didn’t give herself time to think, just slipped the knife between his ribs, quick and nasty. “Of course I remember, Sam. It’s not a big deal, you know. You were a good lay, but that’s all you were.”

For a moment everything seemed to still along the stretch of lonely highway. The land was nearly flat here, rolling farmland broken by small clumps of trees. The wind was relentless, blowing across the prairie in winter. In order to survive it those trees had to be tough, hardy, and tenacious.

Maybe tenacious most of all.

Sam sighed and took off his glasses and she thought obscurely that he’d never hide those eyes if he had any idea what the sight of them did to women. He was thirty-three, but he had lines around his eyes as if he’d been squinting into the sun—like Clint Eastwood looking for the bad guys on the open plains. Except Sam had already found the bad guy and was too stupid—or too bullheaded—to know it.

“You practiced that in front of your bathroom mirror, didn’t you,” he said, flat.

Of course she had. No way was she letting him in again. Sam West was just too dangerous to her peace of mind—and heart. “Just give me the ticket.”

He leaned one arm on the car roof just over her head, bending to look at her through the window. The position put his face close enough to hers that she could smell mint on his breath.

She tried not to breathe, refusing to look at him again. If she could just get away, if he’d just let her go, everything would be okay.

Once and Always CoverShe could freehand a dozen dress designs in one night, she could set a dart so perfectly it’d make any woman’s ass look like gold, but she couldn’t deal with the emotions Sam West made her feel.

She. Just. Couldn’t.

“Listen, May,” he said, too near, too damned intimate, “I won’t give you a ticket this time. Just be—”

The sound of a revving engine came from behind them on the highway.

Sam looked up.

“Fuck,” he murmured, and in one graceful movement vaulted onto the hood of her car. He slid spectacularly across the surface on one hip, just as a little red car tore past, so close it rocked the Beetle in its wake. The red car’s taillights flashed as it braked for the curve, tires squealing. But the car just kept going straight. It slapped into the packed snow at the outer curve, climbing the embankment, nose skyward, engine squealing before suddenly cutting.

In the silent aftermath Maisa stared, open-mouthed with shock.

Then she remembered Sam. He was no longer on the hood of her car. She couldn’t see him anywhere. Panic crowded her chest as she began battling the car door handle.

Oh, God, oh, God, please don’t let him be hurt.

About Elizabeth Hoyt/Julia Harper:

Elizabeth HoytElizabeth was born in New Orleans but grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was fortunate to be able to travel extensively as a child, visiting St. Andrews, Scotland; Germany; France; and Belgium. She spent a year in Oxford, England and was a summer exchange student to Kawasaki, Japan.

Elizabeth has a BA in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and, as a result of having no clue what to do with her life thereafter, a career history as a barista, a (terrible) sales clerk, a Wisconsin Revenue Service data entry slave, and an archeological field work grunt. Fortunately, Elizabeth married relatively young and produced two children who kept her busy until her mid-thirties. At about this time, when her youngest was entering Kindergarten, Elizabeth’s mother hinted that perhaps Elizabeth should get a Real Job.

Sadly, Elizabeth was so delusional she thought writing a romance novel might qualify as a Real Job.

But! Five years later, to everyone’s surprise, she actually sold that romance novel (The Raven Prince) and began a rather successful career as a Romance Novelist. This was most fortunate since Elizabeth is singularly unqualified to do anything else but Make Up Stories.

Since then Elizabeth has written eighteen books to critical acclaim: The Prince Trilogy (The Raven Prince, The Leopard Prince, and The Serpent Prince); the Legend of the Four Soldiers series (To Taste Temptation, To Seduce a Sinner, To Beguile a Beast, and To Desire a Devil); and the Maiden Lane series (Wicked Intentions, Notorious Pleasures, Scandalous Desires, Thief of Shadows, Lord of Darkness, Duke of Midnight, Darling Beast, and the upcoming Dearest Rogue.) She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Julia Harper (Hot, For the Love of Pete, and the upcoming Once and Always.)

Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with three dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the ever faithful Mr. Hoyt.

Find Elizabeth Hoyt/Julia Harper on the Web: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


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Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: The Deal by Elle Kennedy

The Deal by Elle Kennedy
Series: Off-Campus, Book 1
Publisher: Elle Kennedy
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance The Deal Cover
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Elle Kennedy Reading Order

She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy…
Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she'll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

…and it's going to be oh so good
All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he's worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn't going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

The Deal is flat-out fantastic! If you don’t already read Elle Kennedy’s work (and you should), her first New Adult romance is one that should make fans of the genre sit up and take notice. The Deal is brimming with energy, excitement, love, and heartbreak. Add in the crackling chemistry between its two leads and some seriously snappy dialogue and The Deal is everything I could want in a book.

Hannah is an intelligent, talented young woman who is mature for her age, but not so mature as to be unrealistic. She’s also a rape survivor, one you have to admire for her strength and determination not to let what happened to her control life. I instantly adored Hannah; she’s a fleshed-out heroine with amazing strength and heartbreaking vulnerability. She’s also knocked off her feet when Garrett blows into her life like a whirlwind. And speaking of our hero…how can I do him justice? Garrett is a modern-day rogue – hockey royalty with an overabundance of charm and the talent, looks, and brain to back it up. He is so much fun to read about that I’m pretty sure I had a grin on my face for most of The Deal. Garrett may not be perfect, but he’s a perfectly fabulous hero. His attitude made me laugh, but his caring heart and hidden wounds sealed the deal in terms of making him irresistible. Hannah may mistake Garrett for a dumb jock, but the whip-smart History major quickly proves her wrong. He’s struggling with one particular class and in order to stay on the hockey team he needs Hannah’s help. Though she doesn’t want to tutor him, Garrett has a way of getting under her skin and convincing her to help him study. I loved watching these two become friends. So much so, in fact, that when the sexual tension started to boil over I put the book down for a bit because I was so worried it wouldn’t be as much fun once the two of them moved from friends to lovers.

I needn’t have worried. Ms. Kennedy masterfully delves deeper into Hannah and Garrett’s characters as they fall in love. Their sparkling chemistry continues to dazzle, but there’s added layers of depth to the story when Hannah and Garrett open up to one another. It’s a testament to Ms. Kennedy’s talent how The Deal can go from sexy to fun to emotionally raw, all so smoothly that you can’t stop reading because you have to know what will happen next. Every obstacle Garrett and Hannah face, every scar that is revealed adds to their journey both as individuals and as a couple.

It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite Elle Kennedy book, but The Deal is definitely high on that list. Garrett and Hannah will make you laugh out loud and then touch your heart. Their story is sexy, charming, and simply wonderful. I loved The Deal from beginning to end and I cannot wait to read the next Off-Campus novel!

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

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Soulbound by Kristen Callihan

Soulbound Tour

I LOVE Kristen Callihan's Darkest London series! Every book is smart, unique, and utterly addictive. The latest story, Soulbound, is no exception. Soulbound releases tomorrow and it's just plain awesome :) Don't believe me? Check out my review, but make sure to come back and scroll down for an excerpt from Soulbound and a giveaway from Ms. Callihan’s publisher, Forever!

About Soulbound:

Soulbound CoverOnce two souls are joined…
When Adam's soul mate rejected him, there was more at stake than his heart. After seven hundred years of searching, his true match would have ended the curse that keeps his spirit in chains. But beautiful, stubborn Eliza May fled-and now Adam is doomed to an eternity of anguish, his only hope for salvation gone…

Their hearts will beat together forever
No matter how devilishly irresistible Adam was, Eliza couldn't stand the thought of relinquishing her freedom forever. So she escaped. But she soon discovers she is being hunted-by someone far more dangerous. The only man who can help is the one man she vowed never to see again. Now Adam's kindness is an unexpected refuge, and Eliza finds that some vows are made to be broken…

My Review | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | BAM! | iTunes | IndieBound

Excerpt from Soulbound

Eliza sat back on her heels, while Adam merely stared at her as though he had all the time in the world. “Fine,” she said. “Three weeks. I free you and you help me.” She gave him a warning look. “I’ll need your word that you will help me, that this” she waved her hand between them, “isn’t merely a way to trick me into freeing you.”

“This business was your idea, woman,” he said with affront.

“Nevertheless, I’ll need your word.”

The demon’s nostrils flared with a sharp exhalation. “My word then.” Eliza did not look away from him, and he glared back in obvious exasperation. “What now?”

“I’m merely considering if I ought to trust your word,” she said.

A low growl rumbled in his chest as he bared his teeth. “I keep my word, whether I want to or not. My word is my bond. Honor, Miss May. Unlike you, I have it.”

Soulbound Cover“How dare you—”

“How dare you?” He craned forward, the muscles along his shoulders bunching. “Not so long ago you broke your promise of fealty. To me!”

“Oh, yes, how quick you are to remind me.” Eliza leaned close, grinding her teeth to keep in a shout. “You enjoy being quick, don’t you?”

His thick, dark brows furrowed. “What in the bloody blazes are you talking about?”

“You gave me all of ten seconds to make a choice.” Eliza’s fists ached from clenching them. “And what a choice. I was dead, my body sliced open, my blood on the ground. I would have done anything, anything,” she thumped her fist to her chest, “to get back my life.”

“So that makes it better?” he snapped back in outrage. “Desperation gives you leave to go back on your word?”

“No. That is not what I meant.”

“Then you agree that you bloody well have no honor—”

“You never explained what was involved. You never said I’d be chained to you, like some animal, for the rest of my days,” Eliza shouted. “I was told I would be a GIM. I was ready to serve you in that manner. You knew full well that’s what I believed. If anything, you swindled me!”

All at once, he sagged, though he still eyed her with resentment and distaste. Well, she had a healthy helping of those feelings for him too.

“Tick, tock, Eliza,” she mimicked. “You rushed me because you didn’t want me to think things over.”

When he broke eye contact, his hard jaw twitched.

“I’m correct, aren’t I?” Ire and a red rage surged up within her. “And you have the brass to sit on your high horse and talk of honor. Well let me tell you something, demon. There is little honor in forcing a person’s hand. Or using your power to coerce those weaker than you.”

A black scowl twisted the demon’s face as he glared at some distant point. “Fine. May I continue, or have you more complaints to heap upon my head?”

“Please do continue,” Eliza granted.

His golden gaze flicked back to her. “I want to kiss you.”

“No.” The word burst out of her with force. “Absolutely not.”

Unfazed, Adam shrugged. “Unless you have something to offer in exchange for your freedom, Mellan and Mab will, as you say, merely hunt us down, and you’ll be back to where you started.”

“Then I shall find out what he wants.” Eliza straightened her back. She could do that. She must. Like hell was she going to kiss this demon.

Adam simply gave her a slow, wicked half-smile. “Fortunately for you, lass, I already know what he wants. What they both want. More than controlling you. More than torturing me, even.”

“Then why in blazes haven’t you used it to secure your own freedom?” Eliza blurted out.

“I’m only alive because they cannot break me into revealing where this item might be.” The belligerence burning in his eyes was gone in a blink, replaced by a look of pure cunning. “However, I might be persuaded to help you use the knowledge. All I require is— ”

“Fine,” she snapped, irritation getting the best of her. “I’ll kiss you.”

Silence fell, and Adam stared at her with those eyes of his. Devil’s eyes. Eyes that made a woman forget herself. Heat rose up over her breasts and crawled along the back of her neck. Eliza grasped her skirts, her fingers twitching. She would kiss him. Kiss a man who had brought her nothing but irritation. Maybe she’d bite him to boot.

Soulbound CoverHis chest, gleaming with sweat, rose and fell in a soft pattern. A bead of perspiration broke free from the top of his shoulder and ran down along the firm rise of his pectoral muscles, straight toward the dark nub of his nipple. All this time arguing with him, she’d forgotten his state of undress. Not so now. She’d have to press up against those hard muscles, touch his skin. Eliza wrenched her gaze back to his face, and his sinful lips curled in a knowing smile.

“You know,” he said casually, “I believe I shall pass for the moment. I’d rather it be when you aren’t wearing such a sour face. Kills a bloke’s ardor, you realize.”

Eliza blinked. And then his meaning hit her. “Why you…rutting…cheap, trickster…”

He laughed, a flash of even teeth. “Come now, Eliza, fret not.” He stopped then, that obnoxious smile growing and heating with promise. “I’ll take that kiss soon enough.”

She rose to her feet in a rustle of skirts. “And I’ll be sure to bite that wicked tongue when you do!”

She marched out of the cell, slamming it behind her, as he began to laugh again. Bastard. She might just leave him here to rot after all. His laughing taunt echoed through the dark. “Now that I know tongues are involved, I’ll be sure to collect.”

About Kristen Callihan:

Kristen CallihanKristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she'd rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewers' Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book, Firelight, received RT Book Reviews' Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher's Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.

Find Kristen Callihan on the Web: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


Enter here to win a set of Darkest London books, including Soulbound!:
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: The Sweetheart Secret by Shirley Jump

The Sweetheart Secret by Shirley Jump
Series: Sweetheart Sisters, Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance The Sweetheart Secret Cover
ISBN: 9780425264522
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Colton Harper, Rescue Bay’s resident physician, gave up his wild ways years ago, in exchange for a straight and narrow life. But then a one-night stand comes back to haunt him when the intoxicating woman he left behind shows up in Rescue Bay.

Once upon a time, fiery Daisy Barton was Colt’s wife—and still is, thanks to a paperwork glitch. Now she’s here in Rescue Bay, with a once-in-a-lifetime chance at a fresh start—renovating a crumbling B&B. The catch? The loan she needs requires her “husband’s” financial backing.

Colt wants to turn Daisy away, but when he sees her coax a smile from his cantankerous grandfather, Colt realizes maybe she can help him, too. It’s the perfect arrangement—until the sparks start flying. Suddenly Colt realizes he’s still head over heels in love with Daisy, and that he’ll have to risk everything…or risk losing her forever.

I love a good reunion romance and The Sweetheart Secret is a charming one. Despite the way Daisy comes blazing back into Colt’s life, The Sweetheart Secret is truly an aptly-titled story – it’s sweet as can be, but it also has some heartbreaking secrets that keep Daisy and Colt from moving on from the past and into the future they clearly deserve.

Daisy is a woman who flits from one job to the next, never truly settling down. Colt, on the other hand, is a man who once let go and paid a high price for it. Because of this, he’s gone to the other extreme, tamping down on any joy in his life. When Daisy bursts back into his life with a plan for renovating her family’s inn, Colt is thrown for a loop. He wants Daisy, to be sure, but he also thinks it’s a terrible idea. The two of them are just the right amount of opposite to make their attraction a blast to read about. It’s clear they fit one another perfectly, and you know if they can both move on from the past they’d make a dynamic couple. I enjoyed watching them slide back into love and their solid chemistry made the pages of The Sweetheart Secret breeze by. And if one romance isn’t enough, author Shirley Jump adds in a few more, most notably one involving Daisy’s cousin, Emma. Emma’s storyline had so much potential, but it never felt fleshed out. This was a pity, for I liked Emma and had she been given a bit more attention and was woven into the story more, her storyline could have been fantastic.

The Sweetheart Secret is the third book in the Sweetheart Sisters series, but as I have not yet read The Sweetheart Bargain or The Sweetheart Rules, I can safely say that Colt and Daisy’s story can be read as a standalone. The residents of Rescue Bay are all strong supporting characters – sometimes a bit too strong for me. The meddling Greta and her cohorts are clearly meant to be good-hearted, if a touch zany. Call it reader preference, but for me Ms. Jump took them a bit too far, turning quirky into caricature. To me they detracted from Daisy and Colt, but perhaps this goes back to not having read books one and two in the series, as I didn’t come into the book adoring Greta. However, I did like Colt’s grandfather and Daisy’s cousin along with the less oddball Rescue Bay residents. What’s more, what I saw of the previous Sweetheart Sisters heroes and heroines has me looking forward to reading The Sweetheart Bargain and The Sweetheart Rules. It won’t be long before I return to Shirley Jump’s Rescue Bay.

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.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: Soulbound by Kristen Callihan

Soulbound by Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London, Book 6
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance Soulbound Cover
ISBN: 9781455581665
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Kristen Callihan Reading Order

Once two souls are joined…
When Adam's soul mate rejected him, there was more at stake than his heart. After seven hundred years of searching, his true match would have ended the curse that keeps his spirit in chains. But beautiful, stubborn Eliza May fled-and now Adam is doomed to an eternity of anguish, his only hope for salvation gone…

Their hearts will beat together forever
No matter how devilishly irresistible Adam was, Eliza couldn't stand the thought of relinquishing her freedom forever. So she escaped. But she soon discovers she is being hunted-by someone far more dangerous. The only man who can help is the one man she vowed never to see again. Now Adam's kindness is an unexpected refuge, and Eliza finds that some vows are made to be broken…

Soulbound is an utterly addictive read. Every book in the richly-drawn Darkest London world has been wholly original and smartly done and Soulbound is no exception. I loved how author Kristen Callihan kept me on my toes, never knowing what would happen next to Adam and Eliza.

Adam, the creator of the GIM, has been a somewhat mysterious character up until recent books and it was truly delightful peeling back the layers to his character. Adam is a good man who has done his best with the life fate – and interfering supernaturals – has given him. That doesn’t mean he always does the right thing. He screwed up with Eliza in the past, stealing her away and keeping her bound to him out of fear. He deserved to lose her before, but Adam atones for what he has done and shows his true self both to Eliza and to readers. Eliza, in turn, is a tougher nut to crack. She holds herself away not just from Adam, but from readers, and it’s a bit harder to form a connection with her for much of the book. This is not to say I disliked Eliza – I admired her strength and honor – merely that she wasn’t as much a stand-out character as the previous (amazing) Darkest London heroines have been. As for Adam and Eliza as a couple, I love that Ms. Callihan didn’t rush their romance, but rather let the love story unfold organically. There’s instant attraction, but distrust and anger keeps them from acting on it until they know each other better. By the end of Soulbound I wanted nothing more than to see these two get the happily ever after they deserved.

Ms. Callihan delves deeper into her Darkest London world in Soulbound. We learn even more about the GIM and how deep their connection to Adam runs. I won’t spoil the story, so suffice it to say that since several beloved Darkest London characters are GIMs, the danger Adam is in takes on a new level of urgency. Ms. Callihan really ups the stakes in this story. There are fae villains whose obsession with Eliza and Adam will make your skin crawl. There are also intriguing revelations that impact not only the events of Soulbound, but the series as a whole. Though you can enjoy Eliza and Adam’s story on its own, I highly recommend reading the previous Darkest London stories (Firelight, Moonglow, Winterblaze, the novella “Entwined,” Shadowdance, and Evernight) first. So much of what happens in Soulbound builds upon the foundation set by the rest of the series.

Soulbound is a book I did not want to put down. I’m always so excited to read a Darkest London story because I know it’s going to be unique and engaging. Adam and Eliza’s book had me reading late into the night until I could stay awake no longer, and of course I had to pick it up to finish it upon waking. I cannot get enough of the Darkest London world and I’m already on the edge of my seat, waiting for Forevermore!

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, February 11, 2015

Review: Once and Always by Julia Harper

Once and Always by Elizabeth Hoyt writing as Julia Harper
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary Romance Once and Always Cover
ISBN: 9780446550635
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Elizabeth Hoyt/Julia Harper Reading Order

Small town cop Sam West certainly doesn't mind a routine traffic stop: speeding ticket, stern warning, and sayonara. With a whopper of a blizzard closing in, that's all he has time for. But the lawbreaker he pulls over is anything but typical. From her mile-long legs to her razor-sharp wit, Maisa Burnsey is like nothing Coot Lake, Minnesota, has ever seen...and she's about to take Sam on the ride of his life.

Whoever said blood is thicker than water probably wasn't related to a former Russian mobster. But an innocent mix-up and rumors of stolen diamonds soon have the Russian mob taking an unusual interest in the sleepy little town-and Maisa facing heated scrutiny from a certain tall, dark, and handsome deputy. Sam's dazzling blue eyes beg her to reveal all her secrets, but how much should she tell? Getting snowed in with the sexiest lawman in the frozen north may not be the worst way to decide...

A sexy, determined deputy who’s head over heels in love with a gun-shy dress designer – how could I resist? Author Julia Harper drew me in from the start with Sam and Maisa and I was ready for a fun ride. The two of them have a history, one I wish we’d seen in flashbacks because it serves as a solid foundation for their love story. Maisa, whose family isn’t all on the up-and-up, has abandonment issues thanks to her father and is concerned about letting Sam into her heart only to have him leave her. She needn’t worry, for Sam is absolutely crazy about her and man, he’s a hero to make you swoon. I loved each layer of Sam’s character Ms. Harper revealed, and I only wish Maisa had been as well developed, for she showed a lot of promise.

Once and Always both delivers and doesn’t, for it’s a satisfying romance with interesting characters, but the story ultimately falls short of its potential. The book starts off with contemporary romance staples: a hero and heroine with great chemistry and an impending storm in a small town. But strangely enough, once Ms. Harper gives the story her own spin by adding in the Russian mafia and a crazy suitcase switch with stolen diamonds, the story falters. The issue I had with Once and Always was that it was trying to be too many things at once – steamy romance, screwball comedy, action with the mafia and a High Noon-lite showdown – and none of these things blended well with the other. No storyline or character (except Sam) is fleshed out as well as they could be, which was a pity. A tertiary plotline involving a romance between secondary characters Karl and Molly had potential to be lots of fun, but alas was underserved by limited page time and only ended up detracting further from Sam and Maisa.

Julia Harper is perhaps better known as Elizabeth Hoyt, whose historical romances I absolutely adore. The two names are definitely appropriate, as Ms. Harper’s writing style is very different in Once and Always compared to, say, Wicked Intentions. I liked Once and Always, but perhaps knowing how much better Ms. Hoyt’s books usually are dampened my spirits a bit. All in all, if you want to suspend disbelief and simply enjoy a fast-paced story with some action, steam, humor, and an adorable dog (Otter the Dog is fabulous), I’d say you can’t go wrong with Once and Always. It may not have been my cup of tea overall, but it has promise and I’ll definitely be back for more Julia Harper books.

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, February 10, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: A Scoundrel by Moonlight by Anna Campbell

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

I LOVE Anna Campbell's books. Honestly, so long as her name is on it I'd pick up the book because I'm just that hooked on her writing. That being said, her upcoming Sons of Sin novel, A Scoundrel by Moonlight, sounds like a historical romance lover's delight and I can't wait (and on a shallow note, isn't the cover gorgeous?).

A Scoundrel by Moonlight Cover Title: A Scoundrel by Moonlight
Series: Sons of Sin, Book 4
Author: Anna Campbell
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Anna Campbell Reading Order and Reviews

Book Description (from Anna Campbell's website):

Anything can happen in the moonlight...
Justice. That's all Nell Trim wants-for her sister and for the countless other young women the Marquess of Leath has ruined with his wildly seductive ways. Now she has a bold plan to take him down... as long as she can resist the scoundrel's temptations herself.

From the moment Nell meets James Fairbrother, the air positively sizzles. Yet for all his size and power, there's something amazingly tender in his touch. Could he really be such a depraved rogue? The only way to find out is to beat the devil at his own game... one tempting kiss at a time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday in Review

It’s update time again :)

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

Reviews for upcoming releases:
- Obsession in Death (In Death, Book 40) by J.D. Robb (available 2/10/15)

All other new reviews:
- Cowboy Take Me Away (Rainbow Valley, Book 1) by Jane Graves
- The Last Quarrel: Episode One by Duncan Lay
- All Fired Up (Hot in the Kitchen, Book 2) by Kate Meader
- Unforgettable (Country Roads, Book 4) by Shannon Richard
- Undressed (Country Roads, Book 4.5) by Shannon Richard

Upcoming reviews:
- Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews
- Skies of Steel (The Ether Chronicles, Book 3) by Zoë Archer
- The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Mackenzies & McBrides, Book 6) by Jennifer 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
- Soulbound (Darkest London, Book 6) by Kristen Callihan
- The Professional: Part 2 by Kresley Cole
- The Professional: Part 3 by Kresley Cole
- 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
- His Game, Her Rules by Charlene Groome
- Once and Always by Julia Harper
- Captured (Fallen Siren, Book 0.5) by S.J. Harper
- Reckoning (Fallen Siren, Book 2) by S.J. Harper
- One Taste of Scandal (Redcakes, Book 2) by Heather Hiestand
- Darling Beast (Maiden Lane, Book 7) by Elizabeth Hoyt
- Beauty Bites (Biting Love, Book 6) by Mary Hughes
- The Volatile Amazon (Alliance of the Amazons, Book 4) by Sandy James
- Breathe (In Vino Veritas, Book 2) by Lauren Jameson
- Linger (In Vino Veritas, Book 3) by Lauren Jameson
- When the Rogue Returns (The Duke’s Men, Book 2) by Sabrina Jeffries
- How the Scoundrel Seduces (The Duke’s Men, Book 3) by Sabrina Jeffries
- If the Viscount Falls (The Duke’s Men, Book 4) by Sabrina Jeffries
- Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen
- The Sweetheart Secret (Sweetheart Sisters, Book 3) by Shirley Jump
- Archer (Hard Body, Book 1) by Debra Kayn
- Before You Break (Between Breaths, Book 2) by Christina Lee
- Caught Up in You (Loving on the Edge, Book 4) by Roni Loren
- Kiss of Steel (London Steampunk, Book 1) by Bec McMaster
- Keeping Secrets in Seattle by Brooke Moss
- While You Were Writing (Watkins Pond, Book 2) by Virginia Nelson
- Raw Desire by Kate Pearce
- Soul Sucker by Kate Pearce
- The Fifth Favor by Shelby Reed
- Laugh (Burnside, Book 2) by Mary Ann Rivers
- Festive in Death (In Death, Book 39) by J.D. Robb
- Blood Magick (The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, Book 3) by Nora Roberts
- Nights of Steel (The Ether Chronicles, Book 4) by Nico Rosso
- Secrets of a Gentleman Escort by Bronwyn Scott
- Still the One (Animal Magnetism, Book 6) by Jill Shalvis
- Archangel’s Legion (Guild Hunter, Book 6) by Nalini Singh
- Archangel’s Shadows (Guild Hunter, Book 7) by Nalini Singh
- Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss, Book 1) by Nalini Singh
- Takeover by Anna Zabo

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb

Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, Book 40
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Genre: Futuristic/Mystery/Suspense Obsession in Death Cover
ISBN: 9780399170874
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
J.D. Robb Reading Order

Lieutenant Eve Dallas walks the thin line between love and hate in this fabulous 40th thriller from #1 New York Times–bestseller J. D. Robb…

Eve Dallas has solved a lot of high-profile murders for the NYPSD and gotten a lot of media. She—and her billionaire husband—are getting accustomed to being objects of attention, of gossip, of speculation.

But now Eve has become the object of one person’s obsession. Someone who finds her extraordinary, and thinks about her every hour of every day. Who believes the two of them have a special relationship. Who would kill for her—again and again…

With a murderer reading meanings into her every move, handling this case will be a delicate—and dangerous—psychological dance. And Eve knows that underneath the worship and admiration, a terrible threat lies in wait. Because the beautiful lieutenant is not at all grateful for these bloody offerings from her “true and loyal friend.” And in time, idols always fall…

I’ll say it right up front – I loved this book. Obsession in Death is a monstrously entertaining story of obsession, murder, love, and family. J.D. Robb is a powerhouse author whose talent for creating complex, interesting characters and relationships is on full display in this fortieth In Death novel.

Murderers have fixated on Eve in the past for one reason or another, but never before has someone been so wholly obsessed with her. Every case, every friendship, every aspect of Eve’s life is being picked apart by someone and for once Eve is at a loss. It’s almost impossible to figure out who is using her as their reason to kill and the manner in which the killer’s obsession escalates gives Eve a very real reason to fear that her loved ones are in danger. It was fascinating to see Eve so completely thrown off her stride. Her level of celebrity is something she’s always brushed off as a minor nuisance. However, now that her time in the spotlight has potentially made her the object of an unbalanced individual’s worship, she can no longer brush it aside. This case and the obsessed killer make Obsession in Death a twisted, fascinating tale.

Though this book can be read as a standalone, it truly is an In Death fan’s delight. The nature of the case forces Eve to look back on her life and work starting from the very first book in the series. As a reader, this was an extreme pleasure, for it really allows you to see how far Eve has come both as a cop and as a person. The case puts the spotlight on Eve and her personal relationships, showing the growth of a woman who only had Mavis and Feeney at the beginning of Naked in Death to someone who has not only a husband she loves but a whole family over her own making. The killer’s method of picking victims also means there are callbacks to previous In Death books (Rapture in Death, Conspiracy in Death, and Portrait in Death to name just a few). It’s a trip down memory lane that’s seamlessly woven into the new case. You don’t have to have read any prior books in the series in order to follow along, but there’s definitely an added layer of entertainment revisiting past cases provides.

There’s so much to love about Obsession in Death and I barely scratched the surface. Even though this is the fortieth book in the series (and Eve and Roarke’s fiftieth outing when counting novellas) Obsession in Death feels as fresh and exciting as the first novel. Ms. Robb never stops letting Eve, Roarke, and their loved ones grow as characters and Obsession in Death beautifully highlights how far everyone has come. I could not put this book down and I simply cannot wait to see where Ms. Robb takes Eve and Roarke 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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Cowboy Take Me Away by Jane Graves

Cowboy Take Me Away by Jane Graves
Series: Rainbow Valley, Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary Romance Cowboy Take Me Away Cover
ISBN: 9781455515196
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Rainbow Valley, Texas, has always been a refuge for animals, and Shannon North, director of the local shelter, intends to keep it that way. But with donations drying up and more pets in need of a loving home than ever before, Shannon's beginning to fear she's not the savior the shelter needs. When a tall, dark, and handsome cowboy from her past comes to the rescue, she knows that accepting his help may come with a high price: her heart.

Bad boy Luke Dawson shook the dust from this little town off his boots years ago. He walked away from everything . . . except the memory of the one night of passion he shared with Shannon. Now, a few wins away from becoming the world bull-riding champion, Luke's headed for fame and fortune. But then a crisis calls him back to Rainbow Valley, and Luke is reunited with the good girl who stole-and broke-his heart. As their rekindled relationship deepens into desire, old secrets resurface, and Luke must choose between the future he's always dreamed of and the only woman he's ever loved.

Cowboy Take Me Away is one of those books that’ll twist your emotions up like you wouldn’t believe. Both people and animals are desperately in need love in Jane Graves’s first Rainbow Valley novel. I’m pretty sure I cried more than once while reading this book, but Ms. Graves makes all the heartbreak worth it in the end.

Luke Dawson is a bull-riding champ with a two-ton chip on his shoulder. His horrible childhood left its mark on him and returning home to Rainbow Valley isn’t exactly beneficial to helping him move on. Most of the townspeople look on him with suspicion because of his behavior as a teenager, but I loved Luke. He’s got a big heart and is so wonderfully caring that I wanted to see him find peace and happiness. Shannon’s one of the very few people Luke ever let in his heart and she broke it back when they were teenagers. A busted knee that leaves Luke stuck in Rainbow Valley brings them back together, but it’s definitely not easy for these two hard-headed people to get together. Shannon is running herself into the ground trying to save all the animals that come to her shelter while also trying to live up to her mother’s expectations. The burdens she carries threaten to drown her and at times make her a bit abrasive. I admit, it was hard for me to like Shannon because her attitude could be so off-putting. That being said, she grew on me over the course of the book and once she allowed herself to relax she and Luke were great together. Their romance was slow to build but I liked watching them develop as individuals as they fell in love.

The scene-stealers in Cowboy Take Me Away are undoubtedly the animals. Ms. Graves’s love of animals shines through in this story and, as I previously mentioned, I cried more than once while reading this story. The animals Shannon and Luke rescue have been through so much that it was imperative they too get their happy ending. My absolute favorite thing about Cowboy Take Me Away was the way the town of Rainbow Valley embraced animals and celebrated their love of them.

While animals are easily given second chances by the residents of Rainbow Valley, people aren’t given the same courtesy. This is where I had a bit of trouble with Cowboy Take Me Away. When reading a small town romance, I enjoy falling in love with the town and the supporting cast of characters. The folks of Rainbow Valley often came across as small-minded and judgmental – not exactly endearing. I grew annoyed with a number of supporting characters over the course of the story and at times couldn’t imagine how Ms. Graves could give Luke a satisfying happily ever after in this town. That being said, there were some stand out (in a good way) characters who give me hope that Rainbow Valley can grow on me in future books.

Cowboy Take Me Away will tug on your heartstrings, but Luke and Shannon’s journey is one worth reading. I’ve got my fingers crossed in the hopes that Ms. Graves will write more books for Luke and Shannon’s friends.

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

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review: Undressed by Shannon Richard

Undressed by Shannon Richard
Series: Country Roads, Book 4.5
Publisher: Forever Yours
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781455590445
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Shannon Richard Reading Order

She knows the rules of the game…but she can't resist his moves

Publicist Abby Fields’s career is on the rise. And with failed romances in her past, she has no time for men. When a job opportunity opens up with a sports team in Florida, Abby eagerly packs up and heads south. Yet after a work event in Mirabelle, Florida, Abby finds herself in the arms of a hockey player whose heartstopping smile leads her to the steamiest night of her life…

Logan James is hot on and off the ice. With his team on an epic winning streak, life couldn't get better…until he meets Abby, the fiery redhead assigned to protect his team's image. Now Logan’s finding it difficult to concentrate on anything other than getting Abby undressed. But after a secret is leaked to the press, the taste of betrayal opens old wounds. If they can't learn to trust each other, they may risk losing more than their hearts.

Undressed is my favorite Country Roads story to date! Shannon Richards has packed a heck of a lot into this sinfully sexy novella – it’s interesting, heartbreaking, compelling, and of course, red-hot.

I have a weakness for hockey player heroes and Logan is definitely drool-worthy on and off the ice. But he’s more than a hot bod with skills, he’s a man with a generous heart and a heartbreaking secret he’ll do anything to protect. Logan hasn’t really wanted to get close to anyone in years because of his past (for reasons I won’t spoil), but Abby gets under his skin and makes him come alive for the first time in years. And it’s easy to see why. Abby is a heroine with brains and determination to spare. She handles sexist coworkers along with sometimes uncooperative hockey players and doesn’t blink an eyelash. Logan, however, throws her off her game. Her contract forbids her from getting involved with any of the guys on the team, but there’s something about Logan that Abby simply can’t resist. And when she finds out that he wants her as well…watch out because Undressed gets down and dirty in all the best ways. The chemistry between Abby and Logan is fantastic and I simply could not put their story down, entranced as I was by these two.

Of course, even when hero and heroine fit one another perfectly things aren’t going to be easy. There’s workplace politics, old wounds, and the ever-present press that will challenge Abby and Logan. The only thing that kept Undressed from being the perfect read for me was the inevitable reveal of Logan’s secret to the world. You can tell it had to happen for plot point reasons, but the how of it left me disappointed. Without spoiling what happens, I can say that someone as smart and aware as Abby should have seen what was coming. That being said, it was the only blip in an otherwise superb romance.

Undressed is part of Ms. Richard’s Country Roads series, but it can be read as a standalone. I’ve been reading this series completely out of order and I had no problems at all. Fans of the series should love the cameos made by their favorite characters, and of course, Abby’s best friend, Paige (of Undone), is a key supporting character. As much as I loved the Mirabelle crowd, Ms. Richard has me even more excited to read books about Logan’s siblings, characters new to the series. I’ve got my fingers crossed in the hopes that Adele and Liam will get books of their own.

Undressed is fast-paced and engaging with characters you have to adore. I absolutely loved Abby and Logan and I cannot wait to re-read their 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.