Review: Only Pleasure: Part Two

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

Review: Only Pleasure: Part TwoOnly Pleasure: Part 2 by Lora Leigh
Series: Bound Hearts #10
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on November 8th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  After the developments of the first part of this novel where the sexual relationship between Kia and Chase began, this book is about the emotional connection developing between them.  I feel that this book is the guts of Chase’s emotional journey but you have to read the last part to know what happens.

THE STORY:  Kia and Chase have entered into a sexual relationship that involves a third person.  Kia has decided that merely being involved with Chase sexually is not enough for her and demands that if he wants to see her, they must have something more than sex.  Chase who has spent years distancing himself from intimacy doesn’t know how to respond when he thinks he should stay away from Kia but can’t resist her.

OPINION:  I liked this portion of the book because Chase is really beginning to be challenged here.  He thinks that he has everything figured out but he can’t seem to get Kia out of his mind.  Kia also begins to change here.  She is done being a doormat and instead demands what she wants.  This portion is Kia’s empowerment and Chase’s downfall.  Just as he begins to want her more than he expected, he is now afraid that he needs her more than she needs him.

I like these characters as they are developing their relationship both in the bedroom and out.  This portion of the book also pushes forward the suspense story as Kia is in danger.  The question is who is trying to hurt her and why.

By the time this part finished, I was certainly read to read part three to find out what happens.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Please read my review of part one before reading this review.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This is the second part of the full novel which has been divided into three parts and thus must be read together.  The book ONLY PLEASURE is book 10 in the Bound Hearts series.  This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

The Right Kind of Rogue Excerpt

CHAPTER TWO

“How in Hades’s name can you drink at this hour of the morning, Highgate?”

Hart tossed back his brandy, swallowed, and laughed at his brother-in-law’s words. The two sat across from each other at Brooks’s gentlemen’s club. It was decidedly before noon. The only reason Hart was up at this hour was because he’d promised to meet Lord Christian Berkeley. His brother-in-law rarely asked for favors and Hart suspected this meeting was his sister Sarah’s doing, but he would humor the viscount just the same.

“Berkeley, old chap, you don’t know the half of it.” Hart clapped the viscount on the back. “Helps with the devil of a head left over from last night, don’t ya know?”

Berkeley lifted his teacup to his lips. “No. I don’t. But I’ll take your word for it.”

That reply only made Hart laugh harder, which made his head hurt more. Hart liked his brother-in-law a great deal, but the man was decidedly humdrum when it came to amusements. Berkeley rarely drank, rarely smoked, and preferred to spend his time at his estate in the north of England or his hunting lodge in Scotland. Berkeley enjoyed quiet pursuits like reading or carving things out of wood much more than the amusements London had to offer. But Viscount Berkeley was a good man and one who clearly adored Hart’s sister, and that was what mattered.

The viscount had gone so far as to dramatically interrupt Sarah’s wedding to a pompous marquess and claim her for himself, thereby not only proving his commitment to Sarah but also saving Hart from having the self-involved Marquess of Branford as a brother-in-law. Overall it had been quite a fortunate turn of events for everyone. Everyone except Hart and Sarah’s enraged, thwarted parents, that is.

Berkeley tugged at his cravat. “How are your—ahem— parents getting on?”

Hart cracked a smile. “Still angry, of course, even after all these months. You and Sarah made a good decision, staying up north for the winter. Gave Father and Mother time to calm down.” His father’s anger at having a scandal mar his family name and his daughter marry a mere viscount as opposed to a marquess who had the ear of the Prince Regent had barely abated over the winter, but no need to tell Berkeley as much.

Berkeley leaned back in his chair and crossed one silk-stockinged ankle over an immaculately creased knee, his hands lightly clutching the arms of his chair. He shook his head. “They’re not calmed down, are they?”

“A bit.” Hart stopped a footman and ordered another brandy. “Don’t worry. They’ll be civil when they see you. For Sarah’s sake.”

“Well, that’s something. Are you seriously ordering another drink?”

“Are you seriously surprised?” Hart scratched his rough cheek. He’d been running late and hadn’t bothered to ask his usually drunken valet to shave him this morning. For Christ’s sake, that man drank more than he did. Not exactly someone he wanted near his throat with a straight razor. “Besides I have quite a good reason to drink today.”

“Really?” Berkeley tugged at his cuff. Ever since Sarah had taught him how to dress properly, the viscount was much more attentive to his clothing. He was downright dapper these days. “Why is that?”

“I’m getting married.” Hart emitted a groan to accompany those incomprehensible words.

Berkeley’s brows shot up. He set down his cup and placed a hand behind his ear. “Pardon? I must have heard you incorrectly. I thought you said married.”

The footman returned with the drink and Hart snatched it from the man’s gloved hand and downed nearly half of it in a single gulp. “I did,” he muttered through clenched teeth, wincing.

“You? Married?” Berkeley’s brow remained steadfastly furrowed, and he blinked as if the word were foreign.

“Me. Married.” Hart gave a firm nod before taking another fortifying gulp of brandy.

“Ahem, who is the, uh, fortunate lady?” Berkeley lifted his cup back to his lips and took a long gulp, as if needing the hot drink to banish his astonishment.

“I haven’t the first idea.” Hart shook his head. He was giving serious thought to the notion of ordering a third brandy. Would that be bad form? Probably.

“Now you’re simply confusing me,” Berkeley said with an unmistakable smile on his face. With his free hand, he pulled the morning’s copy of the Times from the tabletop next to him and scanned the headlines.

Hart took another sip of brandy and savored it this time. “I haven’t made any decisions as to the chit yet. I’ve merely announced to Father that this is the year I intend to find a bride. The idea of marriage has always made my stomach turn. After all, if my parents’ imperfect union is anything by which to gauge the institution, it’s a bloody nightmare.”

“Why the change of heart?” Berkeley asked.

Hart scrubbed a hand through his hair. The truth was, he wasn’t less sickened by the prospect of marriage these days, but he couldn’t avoid the institution forever. At some point he’d have to put the parson’s noose firmly around his own throat and pull. Wives were fickle, and marriages meant little other than the exchange of money and property. His own father had announced that fact on more than one occasion. His parents treated each other like unhappy strangers, and his father had made it clear that they were anything but in love. That, Hart supposed, was his fate. To live a life as his parents had in the pursuit of procreating and producing the next future Earl of Highfield. So be it, but was it any wonder he’d been putting it off?

“Seeing Sarah marry had more of an effect on me than I expected,” Hart admitted, frowning at his notquite-empty glass. “And if you ever tell anyone I said that, I’ll call you out.” He looked at Berkeley and grinned again.

“You have my word,” Berkeley replied with a nod. “But may I ask how it affected you?”

Hart pushed himself back in the large leather chair and crossed his booted feet at the ankles. “I started thinking about it all, you know? Life, marriage, children, family. I expect you and Sarah will be having a child soon, and by God I’d like my children to grow up knowing their kin. My cousin Nicole was quite close to Sarah and me when we were children. Nicole’s marriage isn’t one to emulate, either. She hasn’t even seen her husband in years. Last I heard, she’s living somewhere in France, childless. By God, perhaps I should rethink this.” Hart pulled at his cravat. The bloody thing was nearly choking him what with all of this talk of marriage.

Berkeley leaned back in his seat, mirroring Hart. “Perhaps you should focus on the positive aspects of marriage. I assure you, there are many.”

“Believe me, I’m trying,” Hart continued, reminding himself for the hundredth time of the reasons why he’d finally come to this decision. God knew it hadn’t been an easy one. “Whether I like it or not, it’s time for me to choose a bride. Sarah is my younger sister. While she wasn’t married, it all seemed like fun and games, but now, well, seems everyone is tying the proverbial knot these days what with Owen Monroe and Rafe Cavendish marrying. Even Rafe’s twin, Cade, has fallen to the parson’s noose.”

Just this morning when Hart had woken with a splitting head for the dozenth time in as many days, he’d thought yet again how he needed to stop being so reckless. He wasn’t able to bounce back from a night of debauchery nearly as quickly as he used to when he was at university. Seeing Sarah marry had made him consider his duties, his responsibilities, and his . . . age. For the love of God, he was nearly thirty. That thought alone was enough to make him want another brandy. It was his duty to sire the next Earl of Highfield, and duty meant something to him. What else mattered if he didn’t respect his duty? Hadn’t that been hammered into his head since birth by his father, along with all the dire warnings not to choose the wrong wife?

“It’s true that several marriages have taken place lately in our set of friends,” Berkeley replied, still leisurely perusing the paper while sipping tea. “But I thought you were immune to all of that, Highgate.”

“I have been.” Hart sighed again. “But I’ve finally decided it’s time to get to it.”

Berkeley raised his teacup in salute. “Here’s to the future Lady Highfield. May she be healthy, beautiful, and wise.”

“Thank you,” Hart replied. He tugged at his pythonlike cravat again.

Berkeley regarded Hart down the length of his nose. “Any ladies catch your fancy?”

Hart shook his head. He braced an elbow on the table beside them and set his chin on his fist. “No. That’s the problem. I’m uncertain where to begin.”

Berkeley let the paper drop to his lap. “What sort of lady are you looking for?”

Hart considered the question for a moment. What sort of lady, indeed? “She’ll need to be reasonable, well connected, clever, witty, a happy soul. Someone who is honest, and forthright, and who isn’t marrying me only for my title. Someone who doesn’t nag and has an indecently large dowry, of course. Father puts great stock in such things. Not to mention if I’m going to be legshackled, I might as well get a new set of horses out of the bargain. I’m thinking a set of matching grays and a new coach.”

“Oh, that’s not much of a list,” Berkeley said with a snort. “

I don’t expect the search to be a simple one, or a quick one.” The truth was Hart had no earthly idea who he was looking for. He only knew who he wasn’t looking for . . . someone like his mother. Or the treacherous Annabelle Cardiff. He wanted the exact opposite.

Berkeley tossed the paper back onto the tabletop. “Knowing your father’s decided opinions on such matters, I’m surprised he hasn’t provided you with a list of eligible females from which you may choose.”

Hart rolled his eyes. “He has. He’s named half a dozen ladies he would gladly accept.”

Berkeley inclined his head to the side. “Why don’t you choose one of them then?”

Hart gave his brother-in-law an are-you-quite-serious look, chin tucked down, head tilted to the side. “I’m bloody well not about to allow my father to choose a bride for me. Besides, after seeing you and Sarah, I hold out some hope of finding a lady with whom I’m actually compatible.”

“Why, Highgate, do you mean . . . love?” Berkeley grinned and leaned forward in mock astonishment.

“Let’s not go that far.” Hart took another sip of his quickly dwindling brandy. That’s precisely what confused him so much. He knew love matches existed. He’d witnessed one in his sister’s marriage. On the other hand, her choice had so enraged his parents, they still hadn’t forgiven her. Hart didn’t intend to go about the business of finding a wife in quite so dramatic a fashion. Love matches attracted drama. However, his parents’ unhappy union was nothing to aspire to, and he’d nearly made the mistake of marrying a woman who wanted nothing more than title and fortune before. It was a tricky business, the marriage mart, but he’d rather take advice from Sarah and Berkeley than his father. The proof of the pudding was in the eating, after all.

Berkeley laughed. “What if you fall madly in love and become a devoted husband? Jealous even. Now, that would be a sight.”

“Jealous? That’s not possible.” Hart grinned back at Berkeley. “I’ve never been jealous. Don’t have it in me. My friends at university used to tease me about it. No ties to any particular lady. No regrets.” He settled back in his chair and straightened his cravat, which was tighter than ever.

“We’ll see.” Berkeley took another sip of tea. His eyes danced with amusement.

“I was hoping you and Sarah might help me this Season.

Sarah knows most of the young ladies. She also knows me as well as anyone does. Not to mention, the two of you seem to have got the thing right.”

Berkeley glanced up. “Why, Highgate, is that a compliment on our marriage?”

“Take it as you will.” Hart waved a noncommittal hand in the air. He avoided meeting Berkeley’s eyes.

Berkeley settled further into his chair. “I shall take it as a compliment, then. I have a feeling Sarah would like nothing more than to help you with such an endeavor. She fancies herself a matchmaker these days.”

“Will you two be staying in London for the Season?”

“Yes. Sarah wants to stay and I, of course, will support her, at least as long as I can remain in the same town as your father without him calling me out.” A smirk settled on Berkeley’s face.

Hart eyed the remaining liquid in his glass. “I’ll be happy to play the role of peacemaker to the best of my ability.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Berkeley inclined his head toward his brother-in-law.

“Who else is Sarah matchmaking for?” Hart sloshed the brandy in the bottom of the glass.

“She’s not merely matchmaking. No. To hear her tell it, she has an important mission this Season.”

Hart set down the glass and pulled another section of the Times off the table and began scanning it. He’d talked enough about marriage for one day. Odious topic. “A mission? What mission?” he asked, merely to be polite.

“To find Meg Timmons a husband.”

Hart startled in surprise, grasping the paper so tightly it tore in the middle. Tossing it aside, he reached for his glass and gulped the last of his brandy.

Meg Timmons. He knew Meg Timmons. She was Sarah’s closest friend, the daughter of his father’s mortal enemy, and a woman with whom Hart had experienced an incident last summer that he’d been seriously trying to forget.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

 

Review: Only Pleasure: Part One

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

Review: Only Pleasure: Part OneOnly Pleasure: Part 1 by Lora Leigh
Series: Bound Hearts #10
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on November 1st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This is a good start to the book.  I know that this book was not originally intended to be broken up into three parts so the story is incomplete here, but I enjoyed the relationship developing between Chase and Kia.

THE STORY:  Two years ago, Kia Rutherford’s life was shattered when her husband tried to force her into a threesome.  Now things have changed as Kia meets up with Chase Falladay, the man she has thought about for years.  When Chase and his friend Khalid take her on a car ride, she finds herself in the middle of a threesome that she had rejected with her ex-husband.  But the truth is that Kia has always had feelings for Chase but she fears that he only wants the sexual relationship from her while she wants something more.

OPINION:  This portion of the book focuses on the beginning of the relationship between Chase and Kia.  While Khalid is part of the menage, the emotional relationship is clearly between Kia and Chase.  The two begin their sexual relationship in this portion of the book.  As this portion reaches its conclusion, the question is whether or not their relationship will be something other than sexual pleasure.

As the book begins, Chase is a man who doesn’t want attachments after he was betrayed by a woman.  While he cannot stay away from Kia, he tries to convince himself that he is only interested in the sexual relationship.  Yet Chase cannot help but be possessive of Kia.

Kia is a woman who was shattered and has kept herself away from others for two years.  Her intense relationship with Chase begins to thaw her emotions.  She begins to try and take back her life after the destruction her ex-husband wrought.

There are two dramatic plot stories also involved in this book.  There is the continued stalking done by Kia’s ex-husband.  There is also the revenge related to the death of the woman that betrayed Chase.

This short portion gives readers a good taste of the Bound Hearts series, but it needs to be read as part of the whole book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book, like the Bound Hearts series, contains a MMF menage.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This is part one of a three part division of the original novel. The novel is book 10 in the Bound Hearts series.  This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Ruled

Review: RuledRuled (Outlaws, #3) by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #3
Published by Berkley on November 1st 2016
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Life was so much easier when there was nobody around you to give a damn about.”

FINAL DECISION:  I think this might be the best menage book I’ve read.  There is a relationship between all three characters and I truly felt that these three had a real relationship by the end of the book.

THE STORY:  Rylan has done everything he can think of to attract Reese, the leader of a group of outlaws.  Despite an outlaw society that has no problem with meaningless sex, Reese won’t have anything to do with Rylan.  Rylan realizes that the key to Reese might be her second in command, Sloan.  Reese won’t give into her attraction to Rylan because she wants him too much and doesn’t trust her instincts with him.  Reese knows from experience the dangers of an attractive magnetic man.  She prefers to concentrate on her people and get her sex from meaningless encounters.  Sloan has stood by Reese’s side for years.  Although he has always wanted her, he knows that any hint of sex between them would destroy their relationship.  As Rylan, Reese and Sloan work to defeat the Enforcers that threaten the lives of the Outlaws, they are also drawn into a relationship that might destroy all that already exists between them.

OPINION:  Boy, this book is hot!  And even better, this book has a great emotional connection with all three of the menage partners.  Unlike the previous menages in the Outlaws series, this is not merely an extra sexual partner.  No, indeed, these three characters have an emotional connection to one another that leads to a true relationship between all three of them.

Reese was my favorite character.  She is a strong and dominant leader but her strength comes from her caring nature.  Reese is the matriarch of her people.  Reese puts her people above her own needs, which is one reason she has refused Rylan for so long.  Part of Reese’s journey is this book is finding out that she can be a whole person with relationships without it threatening her leadership.  In reality, her being whole can enhance her leadership.

Rylan initially seems like a happy-go-lucky fellow.  But he, as is true with all the Outlaws, has a darkness in his past.  Rylan is important in the story as the catalyst who changes the relationship between Reese and Sloan.  He is funny and sexy and the most outwardly emotional of the trio.  While he starts out wanting some good times, Sloan and Reese bring some needed stability and purpose to Rylan’s life. He’s a man who has hidden his caring under his devil may care attitude.

Sloan is the quiet rock of the trio.  He has stood by Reese being her right hand man while desperately wanting her.  He knows that any hint of sex between then would destroy their relationship. Sloan is not willing to risk what he has.  He is self-sacrificing, willing to do anything to help Reese even if that means denying what he wants most.

This book does a great job of balancing all the relationships.  Most menage books I have read focus on one couple or the woman’s relationship with each of the men.   This book is a perfectly balanced triangle.  Rylan’s introduction into the group allows the relationship between Reese and Sloan to develop even as Rylan creates his own relationship with Reese and Sloan.  The emotional and sexual relationship develops between all three of these characters — there is no emphasis on one part of the trio.  I got the real sense that these three need all of them in order to work.

The hotness of this book just keeps on:  Reese with Rylan (Hot!), Reese with Sloan (Hot!), Rylan with Sloan (even hotter!), Reese and Rylan and Sloan (blistering hot!).  What I liked best was that all the hot sex was really grounded in the emotions that developed between these characters.  All three of these characters have experienced pain and loss but in their relationship, they find happiness and completeness.

I loved this book and can’t wait for more Outlaws books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a true menage relationship with both an emotional and sexual relationship between all three of the participants.  This book has MFM, MM and MF.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  RULED is the third book in the Outlaws series.  The book can be read as a standalone but there is an overarching story that is richer if you have read the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Pleasured by a Duke

Review: Pleasured by a DukePleasured by a Duke (Regency Unlaced 7) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Unlaced #7
Published by Smashwords Edition on October 28th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 122
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable little novella that is hot.  The short nature of the story doesn’t allow for much characters development but the characters of Sebastian and Tia are fun in their interaction with one another.

THE STORY:  Sebastian Falkner, Duke of Stowmont, is a rake who ironically keeps getting unwanted wards.  Having just gotten rid of one, he finds himself guardian to a seven year old boy.  And this child comes with his adult step-sister.  Horatia “Tia” Chelford is a self-described mousy woman whose betrothed was killed in Waterloo.  Believing that she has lost her chance for love and marriage, Tia has dedicated herself to her step-brother.  While the duke intends to rid himself of the opinionated and mouthy Tia as quickly as possible, Tia intends on finding a way to stay.  At the same time, Tia and her stepbrother are in danger from the person who murdered Tia’s stepmother.

OPINION:  I’ve come to enjoy Mortimer’s Regency Unlaced series which are generally short novellas with an emphasis on the hot sex.  The stories focus on the sexual relationships and the characters tend to be in situations which heightens the tension in that relationship.

This book follows in that formula.  The characters are set in the beginning.  Sebastian is a man who never expected to be a duke but has taken on the role with a disdain for society.  He cares deeply for his family, including his illegitimate half-brother who acts as his secretary.  When he is given the guardianship of a young boy, he intends to fulfill his duty but doesn’t want anything to do with the older sharp-tongued step-sister — until he can’t resist her.

Tia is a woman who has lost everything except her younger step-brother and is willing to do anything to stay with him.  She has loved and lost and she accepts her limitations.  When she has the opportunity to find some happiness, she is willing to take it — even if society would not approve.

I liked this book.  My one complaint is that everything is wrapped up too quickly and too neatly.  I wanted a bigger confrontation on Sebastian and Tia’s relationship or a bigger part for the villain in the story.  Instead, things are just resolved too quickly (in a couple of pages) and that left me wanting in the story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The duke’s illegitimate half brother looks to be getting his story next.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  PLEASURED BY A DUKE is the seventh book in the Regency Unlaced series.  It can be read as a standalone.  The only connection to the prior books are the mention of other characters in the epilogue.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Hold Me

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

Review: Hold MeHold Me (Cyclone Book 2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #2
on October 25, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 306
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Maria: “It’s just a part of me.  I learned long ago to avoid the mountaintops of life.  Sure, it’s fun to get to the top. But storms come and lightning strikes, and it’s no fun being exposed on top of the world in those moments. Daydreams are great, but an established salary and health benefits have to come first, thank you.”

Jay: “If we hadn’t managed to hate each other first, Em would have been it for me. I failed to see her on every conceivable level. How do I admit that?”

FINAL DECISION:  I wanted to like this book more.  Parts were brilliant and moving and parts just felt like distant.  Jay started out unlikable and I don’t know that he ever evolved enough for me to truly like him.  But there was enough in it for me to give it another chance.  Maybe a re-read in a year or two will change my mind.

THE STORY:  Jay na Thalang is driven.  A professor at Berkeley, he has focused on his work to the exclusion of all other relationships in his life.  When he meets Maria Lopez, a student, he first insults her, and then knows that she is a distraction but insists that he is not interested.  But he is interested.  The first terrible meeting between Jay and Maria sets the standard for their combative relationship.  Maria is cautious and Jay’s dismissal of her hurts even though she believes him a jerk.  What neither of them knows is that they have been corresponding and flirting for months.  Maria secretly runs a doomsday blog and Jay has been commenting and communicating with Maria.  The two have an online friendship that might be turning into something else and an offline hate relationship that might not be something they can overcome.

OPINION:  There was much that I liked about this book.  Both Jay and Maria are smart, sarcastic and imperfect.  I love those angst filled romances where two damaged people find love.  I loved the online relationship aspect where the two are themselves and open in ways that they can’t be in real life.  I also liked how the two strike bad sparks off one another in real life where they make assumptions and fail to see the truth of the other.  This is especially true for Jay who thinks himself progressive and yet makes assumptions about Maria which hurt her.  I really liked that the relationship between these two is messy and imperfect and so honestly real.

Maria is a woman who is always waiting for those she cares about to reject her.  She writes an apocalyptic blog which is apropos because she is always waiting for disaster to strike.  She fears asking too much of others and herself because life has given her disappointment.  She is trans but while an essential part of who she is, it isn’t the focus of the story except in how the reactions of others (especially her parents have effected her).  I loved the quirks of her nature: she eats soup for her comfort food, demands the reusing of cream cheese containers as tupperware and wears high heels so high they make my ankles hurt just thinking about them.

Jay was harder for me to like and I never am sure that I ever fell in love with him as I like to do with characters.  He treats Maria abominably the first time they meet because he makes assumptions and is more concerned with his own career than the human being in front of him.  While many romantic heroes are jerks at times, Jay just continued to be jerky for too long.  Jay has his reasons for his behavior, but even so it doesn’t excuse his behavior.  For me, things just got fixed too easily: with Jay’s parents, with Maria.  Perhaps he didn’t suffer enough for me or maybe I didn’t see enough of Jay acting good to counteract the bad.  For whatever reason, I couldn’t connect enough with Jay in order to make the romance superlative.

I liked this book and there was some beautiful writing in it.  This is a book that I would read again to see if it was my own expectations that stopped me from really loving it.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book takes place in the college town of Berkeley.  As a Cal grad, I was happy to see the school and town so well depicted.  This book reminds me of what I love about Cal.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOLD ME is the second book in the Cyclone series.  It is a standalone which does not require reading the first book in the series although characters from that book appear.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Archangel’s Heart

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

Review: Archangel’s HeartArchangel's Heart (Guild Hunter, #9) by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter #9
Published by Berkley on November 1st 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“He was hers. She was his. And together, they were something far better than either one of them was alone.”

FINAL DECISION:  Goes deeper into Elena’s background in unexpected ways.  This book is a tightly drawn suspense story, political thriller and a very human story about surviving and rising above the past.  Plus, there is a very settled and sexy couple: Elena and Raphael.

THE STORY: This book continues the focus on guild hunter turned angel Elena and her archangel lover Raphael.  Things have been quiet since the disappearance of Lijuan, the Archangel of China (who also happens to be crazy dangerous).  A year has passed and because no one knows whether she lives or has withdrawn from the world and is sleeping, there is uncertainty.  An ancient order of angels called the Luminata calls the Cadre together to make a determination of what to do with Lijuan’s territory.

Attending the Luminata requires Raphael and Elena to travel near the place of her grandmother’s birth.  There, Raphael and Elena must deal with dangerous archangels, mysterious threats, strange events surrounding the Luminata. Elena also hopes to find out more about her past and that of her family.

OPINION: The Guild Hunter series returns to focus on Elena and Raphael.  I have to admit that I love the Elena and Raphael books most in the series.  This book, thankfully, doesn’t involve problems in the relationship between Elena and Raphael (that remains increasingly strong) but rather Elena’s own history.

This book continues the overarching series story regarding the Cascade, Lijuan and the possible end of the world.  While this book doesn’t have a romance as its organizing feature, it doesn’t need one.  This book delves into the adventure and politics of the Guild Hunter world — but reserves its emotional core for Elena’s discovery of her own family’s past.

There is a dark suspense story involving the Illuminata who are a mysterious addition to the series.  Elena ends up investigating what is going on with this mysterious group and their connection with her own family.  That story keeps the pace of this book quick and the pages turning.

While the suspense story keeps the books hopping, the theme explored in this book is about how the past makes us who we are and how one can overcome the pain of the past to go forward.  Multiple characters in the book have to deal with their past — the question is how will they respond.  This is most present in Aodhan who is recovering himself after years of separating himself from those he loves.  The events in this book challenge his recovery and he must make a choice.  The series has been an increasing interaction between those of Raphael’s world and Elena.  In this book, we see the developing relationship between Elena and Aodhan, which has its own contours.

Singh goes deep into the emotions of her characters and even as the events feel dark and dangerous, her characters possess a lightness and beauty that gives the book heart.  I always love reading Singh’s books because even when things seem bad for her characters, they maintain a likeability and a lightness of spirit that overcomes all the darkness.

The events of this series appear to be approaching a crescendo and this book provides a little breather that allows the exploration of character and relationships.  Elena finds out the truth about her mother’s family which has been shrouded in mystery.  I’m glad I didn’t know where this book was going because I enjoyed the resolution which provided a happy ending in an unexpected arena.

Without giving away the secrets of this book, I can say that this book is about survival and overcoming darkness.  So many characters express this theme and it leaves such a good feeling that I dread that more darkness is on the horizon for these characters.

For fans of the series, this book gives more background on the characters you love and gets everyone in the right place for the next stage in this series.  There are no new romances but much happens in this book that illuminates where the characters are now and where they have come from.

WORTH MENTIONING:  We learn more about Aodhan.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ARCHANGEL’S HEART is the ninth book in the Guild Hunter series.  This series builds upon each of the prior books in the series and thus should be read in order.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Archangel’s Heart Excerpt

Excerpt from ARCHANGEL’S HEART by Nalini Singh – releases November 1, 2016

9780451488008_archangels-heart                 nalini-singh-photo-by-shay-barratt

Raphael’s response was silent, his wing brushing hers as he . . .

“Raphael!” The damn archangel had dusted her.

Glittering, sparkly stuff stuck to her, delicious beyond compare when she parted her mouth and it licked onto her tongue. Her thighs clenched. “This is not funny!” She glared at him even as arousal flooded her system, but he was laughing too hard to care.

Her heart, it just stopped.

Even now, the Archangel of New York rarely laughed and never like this. Until she could see the youth he must’ve once been, with eyes of a wild, astonishing blue that asked a woman to laugh with him. She’d never before seen him as truly young. How could she? He had so much power that it pulsed in his every touch, burned in his skin.

Hauling him close to her with her hands fisted in the cream linen of his shirt, she took a kiss, took him. He sank into her, his wings sweeping up to wrap around her until all she could sense was Raphael, all she could taste was him. And angel dust. The special blend he’d created just for her.

He pushed one hand into her hair, fisting it as he wrapped his other arm around her waist and backed her up against a wall. Something fell with a dull thud. Maybe the vivid painting of wildflowers that had just been put up, all the art having been taken down during the repainting.

Elena loved that simple piece Honor had found in a thrift shop, but right now, it could’ve been a priceless artwork by the Hummingbird and she wouldn’t have cared. She was far too happy to be pressed up against the hard warmth of her archangel tip to toe after spending the previous night on watch. No time for shenanigans with Dmitri away and Illium off-shift, Aodhan assigned to patrol the sea border, and Raphael dealing with the overall security situation.

She’d flown a proper defense grid, both to stay in practice and because none of them could afford to be blasé with the Cascade an unpredictable foe that could unleash itself at any moment, smashing the world back into chaos and, possibly, war.

Today, however, the others were on‑shift and she could kiss her lover. He burned hot, Raphael, but he was a crashing sea in her mind, a tumultuous, passionate storm that swept her up and thundered through her veins.

We can talk to Dmitri later, she sent to Raphael, sliding her hands up the ridges and valleys of his chest. Let’s go upstairs to our suite.

“A‑hem.”

She tried to ignore that pointed cough that held a biting amusement.

Raphael’s lips smiled against hers. I think my second has other ideas.

 

Posted by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin

Random House Company. Copyright © Nalini Singh, 2016.

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Review: A Night of Forever

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

Review: A Night of ForeverA Night of Forever (The Disgraced Lords, #6) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #6
Published by Loveswept on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  An enjoyable end to the drama of the Disgraced Lords series, the romance between Arend and Isobel has much angst and distrust on Arend’s part.  Isobel must get beyond the shields that Arend has erected while an enemy intends to destroy them both.

THE STORY:  Arend Aubury will do anything to protect the only people he trusts, his fellow Libertine Scholars.  After all his friends have suffered from the person who is trying to destroy them all, Arend knows that he is next and he is ready.  He suspects the stepdaughter of their enemy, Lady Isobel Thompson and intends on keeping a close eye on her.  When Isobel approaches him with her own suspicions about her stepmother, Arend agrees to work with Isobel — while secretly suspecting her.  Isobel wants a marriage like her friends, but can’t seem to ignore the dangerous Arend.  A fake betrothal hides their investigation but also ignites a strong passion between Isobel and Arend while they question motives and evade their enemies.

OPINION:  This book brings the series story regarding the Libertine Scholars enemy to a close. This book overlaps the fifth book in the series, A TASTE OF SEDUCTION. I enjoyed this book because Arend and Isobel are an intriguing match with a significant amount of angst.

Arend is a man who thinks himself unworthy.  He has lived in poverty, been abused, betrayed and as a result has a difficult time trusting anyone.  Even his attraction to Isobel is something that he distrusts.  At the same time, Arend is loyal, caring and willing to sacrifice himself for those he cares about.  His guilt and shame and fear prevent him from having an open relationship, but he cannot seem to resist Isobel.

Isobel is a woman who has been tainted by her stepmother’s evil, but still sees the good in people, especially Arend.  Even as Isobel is warned away from him, she finds him irresistible. Isobel is strong willed and willing to go after what she wants.  She can also stand up to Arend which is important.  Most significantly, she believes in Arend’s goodness and is determined to make him see it as well.

I liked the relationship between Arend and Isobel because many times Isobel is the strong one if the relationship which is a reversal from traditional roles.  Arend has the poor self-image and abusive background and it is Isobel who must help him accept himself and believe that he is entitled to a good future.

I enjoyed this book as a closure to the series (even though there will be some spin off books).  I thought that there was enough about the other characters to see where their lives are going without overwhelming the story and the overarching storyline was neatly wrapped up as well.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Although this book completes the continuing story in the Disgraced Lords series, Evans states that there will be some future connected books wrapping up the romances of other characters in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A NIGHT OF FOREVER is the sixth book in the Disgraced Lords series.  The romance can be read as a standalone although there is an overarching story in the series that finishes in this book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Author Interview and Giveaway: Valerie Bowman

The Legendary Lord (Playful Brides) by 

We want to thank THE LEGENDARY LORD author Valerie Bowman for agreeing to answer our Top 10 Romance Questions!

Question 10:  What is your favorite romance book and why?

Judith McNaught’s Once and Always. I’ve read it SO MANY TIMES. It’s my favorite because I’m completely in love with the hero, Jason Fielding. *swoon*

Question 9:  Your books are set in the Regency Period.  What attracts you to that historical period?

The fun of it! The Victorians seemed quite dour and sad, but the Regency was full of parties and happiness and good times. A perfect setting to place happily ever afters. What’s not to love?

Question 8: How do you spend your time when you are not writing?

Reading, watching reality TV or PBS, and spending time with my family including my 1 year old Schnauzer, Huckleberry.

Question 7:  Your newest book is THE LEGENDARY LORD.  What can you tell us about this book?

This book has been a long time coming. The hero, Christian Forester, Lord Berkeley, has been a character in the Playful Brides series since the beginning and he’s finally getting his story. Just like all the books in the Playful Brides series, it’s inspired by a famous play. This one was George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Christian asks the beautiful, betrothed belle of the Season to help him find a wife. Guess what happens?

Question 6:  THE LEGENDARY LORD is sixth in your Playful Brides series.  Do you think a reader needs to know any background from the prior books before reading THE LEGENDARY LORD?

Nope. All the books are standalone and can be enjoyed individually. I always ask a new reader to read each book to ensure that if there are any questions that need to be answered (from the other books), they are worked out before the book publishes.

Question 5:  Christian Forester, the hero of THE LEGENDARY LORD, has a bit of a problem in that women have seen him more as a friend than a romantic hero.  Why do you think readers will fall in love with Christian?

Christian is sooo lovable. He’s an introvert, quiet, a bit shy, intelligent, kind, loving, giving. My kind of hero! I loved writing his character because so many heroes are bold and charming. Christian is more of the best friend who you slowly (and perhaps unconsciously) fall in love with. One of my favorite romantic comedies is Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. I see Christian as being like the Topher Grace character in that movie.

Question 4:  Sarah Highgate, the heroine of THE LEGENDARY LORD is willing to marry a man she doesn’t love to please her family.  Why do you think woman are sometimes willing to give up personal happiness to please others?

I would like to think in 2016, Sarah would never do such a thing. But in 1816, it was not something you could easily do, get out of an engagement to marry someone you love vs. someone your parents have chosen for you. Sarah was deeply loyal to her family and knows what her duty has been since birth. She’s horribly torn when she discovers she’s fallen for the wrong man.

Question 3:  Your books are often known for their humor, but I greatly admire the deep emotions in them.  How do you approach the balance between humor and emotion in your books?

I write the books I would want to read and for me that’s funny but also with some angst thrown in for good measure. I really spend time trying to capture both, make sure they’re both there.

Question 2:  What can readers expect from you after THE LEGENDARY LORD?

I’m working on the final books in the Playful Brides series. Never Trust a Pirate comes out in Spring 2017. It’s about Cade Cavendish, who readers met at the end of his twin brother’s book, The Irresistible Rogue. The series will definitely end with Delilah Montebank’s story (after she grows up, of course).

Question 1:  What is the one word you would use to describe THE LEGENDARY LORD?

Fun! << I hope all my books can be described that way, actually.

Thank you so much for having me, Sheila!

We got a preview copy of THE LEGENDARY LORD and the Top 10 Romance Books review can be read here.

To celebrate its release, we have been lucky enough to get two (2) copies of THE LEGENDARY LORD to giveaway to readers.  Enter below and we will choose two winners on November 7th.  Sorry, US addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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