Review: Jacked Up

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: Jacked UpJacked Up (Birmingham Rebels, #3) by Samantha Kane
Series: Birmingham Rebels #3
Published by Loveswept on January 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the series.  This one has a developing relationship between three people who have never had a menage relationship before but find themselves falling in love with one another.

THE STORY: Sam Taylor and King Ulupoka are teammates on the Birmingham Rebels football team.  Sam is a war veteran with PTSD and guilt from the death of his comrades and hasn’t had sex with a woman since his return because he worries about his nightmares. King convinces Sam to break his celibacy and King agrees to stay in the room to make sure that Sam doesn’t have an episode.  The problem is finding a woman who would agree to such an arrangement.  The two end up meeting Jane Foster, an ER nurse who has been the “good girl” all her life.  When she meets Sam and King, she is attracted to both of them and decides to agree to their scheme to break her “good girl” mold. The night opens them all up to new possibilities.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book. I really felt these three characters as they worked towards building a three way relationship. None of the characters had previously been in an menage relationship before and weren’t looking for that when the book begins.

Each character has their own journey in the book as the trio winds their way towards a satisfying relationship.  King is the most open to the idea of the menage. He is a big hearted friendly man.  He is the most open sexually to the idea based on his past experiences. But even King has to work out the idea of what are the proper boundaries of a relationship with three participants.

Sam is quiet and closed in. He is trying to work through his issues and he finds that King and Jane balance him in different ways.  While Sam has never had a relationship with a man, he begins to realize that his relationship with King is more than friendship. While Sam struggles with three problems (1) his PTSD and the fear that gives him for any relationship; (2) his attraction to King and (3) the menage.

Jane has her own struggles. She has classified herself as “good girl” and fears the idea of taking action that challenge that view of herself. Thus, even when she wants the menage relationship, she can’t contemplate being involve with such a public relationship with these two famous men. She ends up being the catalyst in the relationship and brings all three players together.

I thought the baby steps that these characters have to take in defining what they want in their relationship was interesting and more realistic. There are many issues they have to navigate between them and I liked seeing them have to think about and address how the relationship is going to work. I thought this book addressed the complications well.  The book could also be considered “beginners menage” and I liked seeing people work through the difficulties and complications.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a true menage with MM, MMF and MF involved.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  JACKED UP is the third book in the Birmingham Rebels series.  This book can be read as a standalone but there are recurring characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Star-Crossed Lovers

Review: Star-Crossed LoversStar-Crossed Lovers by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time #5
Published by Loveswept on December 13th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 244
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Classic Hatfield/McCoy, Romeo and Juliet tale about two people who were born to hate one another and yet fell in love. The story also has a romantic suspense element as the two need to discover who wants to make sure that hate prevails.

THE STORY:  A modern day Romeo and Juliet.  The Logans and the Stuarts have been enemies for five centuries. In every generation there is an opportunity for the families to avoid the feud or make it personal and more bitter.  Michele Logan and Ian Stuart unexpectedly meet on a tropical island away from the feuding families and while there is no personal enmity between them. there is a wariness caused by the feud.  There is also a deep attraction.  The question is whether they can overcome the feud or be completely subsumed by it.

OPINION:  I’m a sucker for the family feud stories. This one is particularly well done as Michele especially feels the programming done by her family to hate the Stuarts — including Ian. There is the real chance that love is not enough to overcome five hundred years of hate. The story also has a little romantic suspense element as the question arises what is actually happening between these families in the present day.

Angst, drama, suspense, two people destined to be apart but drawn inexorably together. Just my kind of catnip.  I read this book when it was originally published and I had forgotten how much I liked it then. It expanded my idea of what a good romance could be when it was written.  The romantic suspense with just a bit of magic became the direction that Kay Hooper went when she stopped writing pure romance.  This book shows the beginning of her journey in that direction.

This book was written as an “extra-long” category series book and thus doesn’t have the full complexity one might expect from a full length novel, but I seriously liked the drama between the characters, their intense desire to hold on to the love that it developing between them and the little bit of good fortune that comes their way.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book was previously published in the early 1990s.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  STAR-CROSSED LOVERS is book 5 in the Once Upon a Time series (although it was published 6th).  The series is only loosely connected by the matchmaker who briefly appears in each book so each book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Very Ruby Christmas

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 Very Ruby ChristmasA Very Ruby Christmas by Lavinia Kent
Series: Bound and Determined #4.5
Published by Loveswept on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 96
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Especially for fans of the series, this novella wraps up Ruby and Derek’s story, gives some hot and spicy moments with beloved characters from the Bound and Determined series and also pushes the series forward into a new era.

THE STORY:  This novella takes place before the epilogue of RAVISHING RUBY.  In this book, Ruby (who is the owner of a brothel) is trying to organize her life to be able to leave London with Derek, the man she loves.  The story takes place at Christmas time and is a bit of a last hurrah to Ruby’s reign as madam.

Ruby’s inability to sell her brothel is causing some problems for her and Derek.  Into this difficult time, Ruby’s half sister arrives on her doorstep.  Her sister in in desperate straits and Ruby feels that something else may come between her and Derek.

OPINION:  I adore Ruby.  I’ve followed her story through the entire Bound and Determined series (where she has been a matchmaker for the couples) and especially enjoyed the story of her and Derek.  This novella adds some information to their story but doesn’t disturb their happy ending (which occurred in RAVISHING RUBY).

This novella add something significant to Ruby and Derek’s story.  Ruby is a woman who has made her own way in the world.  Although she loves Derek, she still has not surrendered to their happy ending.  She continues to make contingencies after being disappointed by men in her past.  She seeks to protect herself when reality insists that she take a chance and rely on the man she loves.

Ruby is such a complicated character.  This novella shows many facets of her.  She is a woman who has successfully run a brothel.  She cares about the women who work for her.  She manages difficult men.  She is separated from her legitimate half-siblings, but desperately wants family connection.

This novella serves to wrap up Ruby’s story and launch a new story for Ruby’s brothel.  Anyone who enjoyed the Bound and Determined series should read this novella.  It’s like a Christmas present (if Christmas presents were sweet and hot and sexy and definitely spicy).

WORTH MENTIONING:  A foresee a story about Madame Blanche in the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A VERY RUBY CHRISTMAS is book 4.5 in the Bound and Determined series.  It can should be read after at least RAVISHING RUBY which tells the story of Ruby and her captain’s love story.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

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

Review: A Taste of Seduction

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 Taste of SeductionA Taste of Seduction (The Disgraced Lords, #5) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #5
Published by Loveswept on August 16th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 283
Goodreads
three-stars

“Your leaving broke my heart, and it’s been broken ever since.”

FINAL DECISION:  This book was a difficult one for me to rate.  While I liked parts of it and was deeply engaged, at times I was frustrated by the repeated dramas and the necessity of knowing what has happened in prior books.

THE STORY: Lord Hadley Fullerton, the second son of a duke, had his heart crushed five years ago when the woman he loved, Evangeline Althorpe abandoned him to marry for a title and money.  Now when Hadley is on the verge of entering his own marriage, Evangeline has returned.  Now a widow, Evangeline insists that she never left Hadley willingly.  Hadley doesn’t know what to believe but he knows that he is in danger from the enemy who has been after him and his friends.  Danger and secrets abound in this story as Hadley and his friends try to unmask their enemy and Hadley tries to determine the truth of what happened five years ago.

OPINION:  This book was a mixed bag for me.  I enjoy angst filled stories and this one has great possibilities.  Hadley and Evangeline have such a sad story.  Even when this story is resolved, there is still some sadness because not everything can be fixed.  I didn’t mind this.

The problem is that this book desperately needs a view in the future where readers can be assured that everything is wonderful in the end.  Otherwise, there is a lingering sadness that makes the happy ending somewhat tainted.  Such an epilogue, however, is impossible with the way this book and series is structured.  There is an ongoing storyline about the enemy of the men. This book ends on a cliffhanger as to that story.  Therefore, none of the stories in this series are truly resolved yet.  My hope is that the final book of the series will resolve all the lingering issues, but that doesn’t help a reader that starts and ends with this book.

I don’t mind a series where there is a continuing storyline that requires the reading of prior books.  In fact, I enjoyed this book enough to want to read the prior books in the series and continue on to the next book.  For a reader, however, who starts here, there will be some things that are missing or don’t make sense immediately.

I enjoyed the relationship between Hadley and Evangeline.  Because there is no real internal conflict between the characters (they loved one another as the book begins and it never ends), there is a lot of external conflict.  In order to keep them apart, problem after problem arises.  There were just too many things for me.  Rather than so many issues, I would prefer that the conflicts be fewer and deeper.  I eventually got tired of Hadley and Evangeline not talking to one another for artificial reasons.  After a misunderstanding pulls them apart, I would expect that these two would highly desire complete openness between them.  Instead, they continue to act independently causing more problems.

So why did I give the book such a good rating?  The book has a fascinating story with strong characters. I liked them and wanted to read more.  The impulse I had to want to start again from the beginning of the series demonstrates that this book is worth reading.  I would just recommend starting the series from the beginning.  Once I have read this book again in context, my opinion overall might change.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book ends on a cliffhanger as to the ongoing storyline and sets up the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A TASTE OF SEDUCTION is book 5 in the Disgraced Lords series.  I have not read the other books in the series and while I figured most of the ongoing story out, I believe this book would be better after reading the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Angel in Scarlet

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: Angel in ScarletAngel in Scarlet (Bound and Determined, #4) by Lavinia Kent
Series: Bound and Determined #4
Published by Loveswept on June 28th 2016
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

“I want to trap a man.”

FINAL DECISION:  Kent once again has a great balance between erotic sexual encounters and the building of an emotional connection between the hero and heroine.  I enjoyed the trip and think this book a great addition to the series.

THE STORY:  Angela Ripon wants revenge on the man who she thought intended to ask for her hand in marriage but instead rejected her.  For this purpose, Angela goes to Madame Rouge (Ruby) a brothel owner to find out how to make this man desperate for her so that she can reject him.  Ruby tells Angela that she must shed all her inhibitions.  Matthew Harkness, Earl of Colton never intended to hurt Angela, but his tastes don’t run to sweet vapid innocents.  Then Angela approaches him and he begins to wonder if she might indeed be the woman he needs.

OPINION:  Romance books that slip towards the erotica category sometimes substitute hot sex for emotional connection between the characters.  Kent’s Bound and Determined series has done a great job of using the hot sex to explore and heighten the emotional connection between the hero and heroine.

As Angela and Matthew discuss the limits and desires that each of them have, they learn to communicate with one another.  Their relationship begins before the novel starts and ends because of lack of communication and assumptions.  As Angela claims to want revenge on Matthew, the truth is that she cannot let go of the connection she felt with him.

Adventurous and a bit wicked, Angela felt her joy suppressed by Matthew’s perceived betrayal.  While she tells herself that she wants revenge, her willingness to participate in Matthew’s proclivities demands trust.  Although the two begin without much trust between them, their sexual exploration develops and then deepens the trust between them.  As their sexual relationship becomes more intense, their emotional connection blossoms and flowers. I especially liked how Matthew curbs his own desires in order to synchronize his desires with Angela’s willingness. Ultimately, the sexual relationship between Matthew and Angela is about trust and caring and the unity of desire.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There is a minor MMF scene.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ANGEL IN SCARLET is the fourth book in the Bound and Determined series.  This book can be read as a standalone although other characters from the series make cameo appearances.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars