Review: Stormchaser

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: StormchaserStormchaser (Cutter Cay #4) by Cherry Adair
Series: Cutter Cay #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A story with lots of lies and deceit on the heroine’s part, the connection between the characters really works.  My complaint about the book is that her lies are forgiven way too soon.

THE STORY: Jonah Cutter is the illegitimate brother of the Cutter clan. He has a lot to prove to himself and to make himself feel that he belongs in the family. He believes he has found Atlantis and brings the skeptic Dr. Calista West aboard to prove it. Calista has agreed to come onto the project for only one reason — she is working with the Cutter’s enemy and intends to thwart Jonah’s project.  But that was before she met Jonah and begins to have her loyalties challenged.

OPINION:  This book was a fun read as it twisted in ways that I did not expect when it began.

Calista is a woman who intends to help her only family with his revenge against his enemies, the Cutters. She will help him sweep in and steal Jonah’s find.  She is a widow, but pretends to be married in order to keep herself safe from any advances by Jonah. But she doesn’t expect to find a man who she can admire and a project that might actually be the find of the century.  Nor does she expect to begin to fall in love with the one man she should keep away from.

Jonah can’t keep his eyes off Calista, but he has no intent of making any moves on a married woman.  His own family history protects him from the moral hazard — or so he believes.  Even as he knows that Calista is off-limits, he cannot stop thinking about her.

I enjoyed this book which has a twisty and unexpected plot. What Jonah has discovered and the crew’s attempts to uncover its secrets keeps moving the story forward.  I liked the chemistry between these characters and I especially liked Jonah who was a nicer guy than I expected in the beginning.

And that leads to my complaint about the book.  Calista lies to Jonah throughout the book but when her lies are uncovered, there are no real consequences for her. She is forgiven after only a short time and after no groveling on her part. Although a huge part of the plot of the book, there is no confrontation with the enemy and no serious consequences for Calista.  I just think there needed to be more considering the magnitude of the deception.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book really made me want to read the next book in the series which will be about the Cutter family’s enemy.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  STORMCHASER is the fourth book in the Cutter Cay series.  It not not necessary to read the other books first, however, because I haven’t and I didn’t feel that I missed anything.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 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.

three-stars

Review: Someone to Love

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: Someone to LoveSomeone to Love (Darling, VT #2) by Donna Alward
Series: Darling, VT #2
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The story of two damaged people who are survivors of some of life’s tragedies, this book dwells not on the sadness of their lives but how they can move forward to find joy in one another.

THE STORY:  Ethan Gallagher is a widower with two young boys.  Having met, married and lost the love of his life, Ethan is dwelling in his grief and has no intention of falling in love again.  When he meets his sister-in-law’s best friend, the two rub each other the wrong way.  Willow Dunaway is too much of free spirit according to Ethan.  From her dyed hair to her tattoo, Willow is not serious according to Ethan.  When his sons take to Willow, however, Ethan finds himself spending more time for Willow and finding out that that former high achieving high schooler has rebuilt herself after her life was shattered.  Willow is herself afraid of falling in love, but this firefighter and his two adorable children call to her heart.

OPINION:  Can I admit to really liking stories where the main characters get each other completely wrong in in the beginning?  And boy do Ethan and Willow see one another in a warped way in the beginning. Assumptions, stereotypes and just plain misunderstandings abound in the beginning.  The two end up fighting and arguing and just purely want to dislike one another.  Because, of course, they are perfect for one another but neither wants that to be true.

Ethan is a good and honest man who loved his deceased wife tremendously.  The two made promises on the infamous kissing bridge (which promises love for life), but the lifetime the two expected ended far too soon.  Buried in grief since her death, Ethan finds himself being pulled, unwillingly, into life again. Willow touches something in Ethan that he believed broken and he finds himself resenting it. He doesn’t want to feel again and he certainly doesn’t want to love.  But despite himself, he begins to fall for Willow.

Willow, herself, is closed off to the possibility of love.  A youthful mistake almost destroyed her and caused her to reinvent herself. Her safe and comfortable self discounts the possibility of truly opening herself up to weakness and love.  It is much easier for her to keep her relationships constrained and herself in control. Quirky and unique, Willow demonstrates the dangers of assuming you know someone’s story based on appearances or superficial knowledge. As Ethan (and we the readers) learn, Willow has deep reasons for being who she appears to be on the outside. Ethan and his sons begin to break down the protective walls that Willow has built and he thus challenges her control.

The romance between Willow and Ethan is so powerful because these two seem to have no chance as the book begins. They learn that they are more similar than they expected and liking one another turns to a powerful sexual attraction and eventually they have to make the leap of faith to trust love.  Even if there are no guarantees.

WORTH MENTIONING:  For fans of the first book SOMEONE LIKE YOU, there is a little special surprise for you too!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEONE TO LOVE is the second book in the Darling, VT series.  The romance in this book is independent of the other book in the series, but the main characters of this book do appear in the prior book.  This book can be read as a standalone.

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: Last Night with the Duke

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: Last Night with the DukeLast Night with the Duke (The Rakes of St. James, #1) by Amelia Grey
Series: The Rakes of St. James #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION:  The highlight of this book is the interaction between the hero and heroine which is sexy at times and full of banter. The book was adequate as a story but it just didn’t grab me.  Three stars for me is a book I don’t mind paying for, but will probably be one I only read once.  I did like it enough to want to read more of the series.

THE STORY:  Benedict Mercer, Duke of Griffin, needs a chaperone for his twin sisters.  This is especially important because Griffin’s past misdeeds threaten his sisters as someone might be seeking to ruin their season as revenge for Griffin and his friends youthful adventures.  Griffin comes to Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency seeking to hire a chaperone and finds Miss Esmeralda Swift.  Esmeralda is the daughter of a viscount but her mother’s scandalous second marriage has left Esmeralda with a younger sister to raise and herself outside of society.  She doesn’t want to accept the duke’s offer, but she needs the money.  The close proximity the two end up in draws them closer together and asks them both to take some risks.

OPINION:  The hero and heroine quickly have an attraction to one another but are limited by their circumstances. Both are honorable people who don’t want to overstep the bounds of the chaperone/employer relationship. Griffin is very conscious of his power status and unwilling to compromise Esmeralda while she is his employee.  Esmeralda takes her chaperone position seriously and doesn’t want to risk Griffin’s sisters by having their chaperone become a scandal.  This creates tension and conflict between the characters.  And through their conflict, the two engage in intellectual foreplay and force a partnership to help Griffin’s sisters.

For me, the relationship between the two characters was the best part of this story.  I did find the word craft of the story a bit tedious at times and I was tempted to turn pages too quickly to get on with the story.  Nothing in this book was bad, but I was not excited by the story enough to want to jump to read it again.  Rather, I digested the book and went on.  That being said, I enjoyed the story enough to want to read the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  One duke down, two more to go!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE is the first book in the Rakes of St. James series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

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

Review: The Duke

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: The DukeThe Duke (Victorian Rebels, #4) by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Life, with all its perils and torments, still belongs to the living. We have a responsibility to live it. You should not waste it by giving over to bleak despair.”

FINAL DECISION:  Once again a wonderful exploration of the darkness that lies in men’s souls and the possibility of love and hope to heal.  A battle between two strong characters make this a worthy addition to the Victorian Rebels series.

THE STORY:  Three years ago, the life of Collin “Cole” Talmage, Duke of Talmage, seemed charmed until his family was killed and he ended up betrayed by one he trusted and imprisoned for a year in a Ottoman cell. What kept him sane during that year was his memory of his encounter with “Ginny” a sweet prostitute with whom he spent his last night in England.  When he is returned to England, emaciated, recovering from torture, and missing hand, he almost dies until an impertinent nurse Imogen Pritchard risks her position to get him the treatment he needed.  Now two years later, Cole has learned to live with his missing hand but his spirits reside in darkness.  He has been searching unsuccessfully for Ginny. He has also been watching the widow next door, Lady Anstruther, who managed to convince an elderly man to marry her with him dying soon after.  Ironically, Lady Anstruther is the nurse who saved his life. What Cole doesn’t know is that Imogen is also the “Ginny” for whom he has been searching.

OPINION:  Another fabulous entry in the amazing Victorian Rebels series, Byrne continues her exploration of the darkness in the human soul and how that darkness can be softened with the power of love and hope.

“I’ve spent so long searching for her, and yet I fear that I’d pass her in the street and not recognize her.”

As the book opens, Cole has just begun to take the hits to his golden boy status.  He inherits the title because of the death of his family.  When he meets and beds Ginny, he doesn’t recognize her as the frightened and desperate woman she is, but he does find something peaceful and comforting with her.  Enough such that a year of torture and hellish conditions made her his touchstone. He has never forgotten her and is determined to find and rescue her.   Perhaps because the memory of Ginny was what helped Cole keep his sanity.  The year in prison changed Cole.  And he is still suffering from the emotional after effects of his horrendous experiences.

“He didn’t need the help of the devil. Case in point, these fits of wrath and unreasonable terror that made Cole want to do unspeakable things. These moments when what he feared the very most was himself…He was barely keeping himself together. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt peace or pity. No, that wasn’t true. He could remember. It has been precisely three years ago. With Ginny.”

Although people see the physical results of Cole’s time as a prisoner, it is the emotional damage that is the most significant. He has been keeping himself together by way of “regulation, convention, and order.”  It is ironically Imogen who threatens to break Cole’s will.  She challenges him by shaking his control. Cole first attacks her because he believes her a villain for marrying a sick and elderly man. She is a woman who should not be living next door to him at all. She seems to be flaunting the very rules that Cole wants to rely upon. While she shakes his control, she also is giving him purpose and a sense of hope even as they argue and engage in combat.

“But the countess Anstruther met his dark look with a mulish one of her own. God, it had been a long time since he’d felt so frustrated, so infuriated. It was…rather glorious.”

I loved Cole. He is a good man who was drawn far into the darkness. He has struggled to survive and doesn’t know how to begin to live again. Although he has relied upon order to control his anger and pain, he really is an unconventional soul who responds to Imogen’s own unconventional nature.  What he really needs is for Imogen to gather him into her arms and comfort him…he just doesn’t know it.

I usually love the heroes most in a romance, but in this book, I think Imogen was my favorite character. She begins the story by allowing herself to be a victim, but gains strength and purpose as the events of her life spiral out of control. By the time she and Cole meet again, Imogen has found a purpose in her life. She is determined to do all she can to help those who need a hand up — especially vulnerable women and children. Acutely recognizing her own savior in her deceased husband, she will use everything she gained as a result of her marriage to help others.  But, that comes with a cost.  She must keep secret from Cole her beginnings as Ginny because she fears that the revelation of her secret will destroy all her good works. Because she must keep her secrets, there is no chance for her and Cole to have a relationship, no matter how much she wants one.

Imogen has managed to keep hold of her hope and lightness despite the pain and travails of her life. It is her kindness and gentleness that calls to the pain in Cole and it is his pain that calls to her to comfort him. From their first meeting, she feels his pain (which only increases due to his capture and torture). Her spirit is called to him to heal and protect. But I also loved that Imogen is no pushover.  She is determined to do her charity work (even if it costs her Cole). She is stubborn and artistic and fierce. She will do what she must to protect those she loves.

“if she believed in everything, it was that everyone deserved a second chance.”

The journey that Cole and Imogen take involves chance.  The chance to reveal their true damaged selves to one another. The chance to move from darkness into light and hope.  These two need three chances to actually find their happy ending, but by the time it comes, the two have earned their peace and happiness.

This was a beautiful romance and a great addition to a series that I have loved. I was also gratified to see all the couples from the previous books make appearances here. There is a real community of people developing and I hope that this trend continues in future books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  For fans of Inspector Morley, there are indications that his story is turning in new directions.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DUKE is the fourth book in the Victorian Rebels series.  This romance is self contained although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 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-half-stars

Review: Somebody Like You

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: Somebody Like YouSomebody Like You (Darling, VT #1) by Donna Alward
Series: Darling, VT #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Those who stood on the bridge and sealed their love with a kiss would be together forever.”

FINAL DECISION:  A book with a wonderful sense of heart, I absolutely loved this one.  Wholesome and sweet with just enough humor and angst to keep the story exciting, my first Donna Alward novel made me immediately preorder the rest of the series so that I can find out the fates of the other characters.

THE STORY:  Laurel Stone has returned to her hometown after a failed marriage which necessitated a change in careers.  Laurel now owns the Ladybug Garden Center which is reconnecting her with the outdoors that she loved growing up.  Laurel’s return to Darling also ends up reconnecting her to Aiden Gallagher who broke her heart when they were a teenagers.  Aiden is now a police officer in town.  Aiden and Laurel have a long history together and, in fact, they are legends because they are depicted in the most famous picture in town.  As small children, Aiden and Laurel innocently kissed on the Kissing Bridge where legend holds that those who kiss there will be together forever.  Now the town wants to update the photo using Aiden and Laurel again, but Laurel is in no mood to cooperate.

OPINION: A lovely, heart warming small town romance, SOMEBODY LIKE YOU was a book that I read only because it was offered to me to review.  I accepted the chance to review the book intrigued by the Kissing Bridge and the idea that two people who were photographed on it as children get a chance at romance as adults.  Sometimes I just have to take a wild chance and see what happens.

I’m happy to report that this was a wonderful book.  Funny, sweet, and heartwarming.  Once I began reading it, I couldn’t put it down.  The story satisfied something in me that likes the gentle and real relationships.  (I love angsty dramas but this book isn’t that type of book.  Instead, this book feels like sweet and cold ice cream on a summer’s day — recognizable and incredibly satisfying).

Laurel is a woman recovering from the end of a marriage that made her question all her assumptions about her own future and happy endings.  She is generous and willing to help others even to her own detriment.  She is unwilling to purposely hurt others and that had led her to be taken advantage of by some…but it also opens her up to being wonderful in helping those who genuinely need assistance.  I loved that she is a normal woman who is struggling to determine what she wants from life.  She works hard, is charitable and has to work through her mixed emotions for not only Aiden but her ex-husband.

Aiden is so much a normal guy that I never expected him to become one of my favorite romantic heroes.  Like so many of us, he made mistakes as a teenager.  In his case, it resulted in him hurting Laurel which is something he never intended to do. He is considered the goofball of his family, but like so many clowns, his humor hides a sensitive soul. Aiden is a man who wants to make a difference out of the genuine goodwill in his heart. Caring for a homeless man, solving small town disputes and crimes, and being an important part of his family is a normal day for Aiden.  Laurel and her pain and love brings out Aiden’s desire to care for her.

I loved the romance between Aiden and Laurel. Two people who have known one another all their lives, their interactions have been a series of getting to know one another and then moving apart.  Their romance seemed to have possibilities as teenagers, but immaturity sent them spinning out into the world with other relationships.  Meeting again as adults, the two know one anther but don’t truly know the inner self of the other.  But this time, Aiden and Laurel begin to discover the true self under all the superficial.  Aiden sees the generous and hurt woman under Laurel calm facade and Laurel discovers the deep and caring man under Aiden’s humorous surface.

I’m all for large romantic gestures, and Aiden’s final one made me sigh and smile and read again.  When I began the book, I had expectations and I liked how the book played with those expectations, turned them around and then surpassed what I expected from the final scenes.  Bravo!

The town of Darling manages to feel both incredibly normal and real and also quaint and a typical small town.  The characters are quirky and bring a tremendous amount of humor to the book.  I just knew when I finished this book that I had to read the next books in the series.  And so I shall…see my reviews soon.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book doesn’t contain explicit “on screen” sex and is perfect for those who might want a less graphic and yet entirely satisfying romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEBODY LIKE YOU is the first book in the Darling, VT series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 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-half-stars

Review: Waiting for an Earl Like You

Review: Waiting for an Earl Like YouWaiting For an Earl Like You (Masters of Seduction, #3) by Alexandra Hawkins
Series: Masters of Seduction #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on January 3rd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This book was fine, but I never felt compelled to find out what happened.  The story moved too slowly to build up interest and the premise of twin switching without the heroine knowing the difference seemed too unlikely unless the men dressed identically all the time.

THE STORY: Justin Reeve Netherwood, Earl of Kempthorn nicknamed Thorn has a twin brother Gideon.  The two have been at odds for years. Now that Gideon has returned from his travels, a woman from their childhood has returned to their lives.  Miss Olivia Lydall has been friends with Gideon for years. When she seeks him out asking for advice, Gideon kisses her instead. What Olivia doesn’t know is that it is actually Thorn who is kissing her.  Thorn can’t tell her but intends on nudging her away from any potential interest in Gideon.  Unfortunately for Thorn, he wants her for himself but can’t tell her the truth.

OPINION:  The premise of this book interested me, but the execution left me finishing the book but having little interest in reading more.

The idea of a man impersonating his twin and falling for a woman while he becomes twisted in his own lies seemed intriguing as a premise.  But the execution of the story left me stopping and starting this book and instead of being wrapped up in the story, I started nitpicking it.  I never got past the idea that a grown man could impersonate his own twin brother again and again — while the two men were in the same place.  I kept thinking that either these men strangely dress identically as adults or the heroine must be incredibly unobservant.

I never could care very much about these characters. The idea of the reserved, brooding brother being in love with the woman who has a friendship with the reckless more open brother seemed interesting, but I didn’t like Thorn much for how he was entirely willing to impersonate his brother. He didn’t seem as heroic because it seemed that he had no good reason for doing so other than the fact that he and his brother have switched before.

This was an okay read.  The story itself was well written and there were some very funny moments, but it isn’t a book I would pick up again.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are appearances by characters from the other books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WAITING FOR AN EARL LIKE YOU is the third book in the Masters of Seduction series.  I have not read any of the other books in the series. This book works fine as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2 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.

two-stars

Review: Intense Pleasure

Review: Intense PleasureIntense Pleasure by Lora Leigh
Series: Bound Hearts #14
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on January 3rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

“Their weakness.”

FINAL DECISION: A menage story, but more than that.  This is a great suspense story with some hot sexy moments with two brothers and their fellow agent thrown in.

THE STORY: After years of working as an agent, Summer has had enough.  But when her identity is revealed and an enemy intends to eliminate her, two men who worked closely with her for years come to help her.  Falcon and Raeg are half-brothers who share their work and their women.  Now they want to protect Summer and there is a strong attraction between them all.  But Falcon and Raeg have secrets of their own and it might mean that having summer will break the brothers apart.

OPINION:  This book is grounded in the suspense story of the man hunting Summer and also the secrets that Falcon and Raeg have. There are two dangerous stories at play here and plenty of action to satisfy readers.

Summer is a complex woman.  A longtime agent, she can take care of herself.  Yet Falcon and Raeg are surprised by the woman they see when she is with her family. She is sexually attracted to both men and willing to engage in a relationship that many would see as extreme and yet Summer is also entirely emotionally attached to these two men from the beginning.  She is hurt by the standoff nature of Raeg. She is also haunted by the necessity of her killing the woman she thought of as her best friend — even though the woman betrayed Summer and resulted in the enemy who is hunting Summer now.

Falcon is the most approachable of the brothers. Charming and easy going is what people see in him and yet he also possesses a dominant side which comes out with Summer.  I loved that Falcon likes brushing Summer’s hair.  That attribute is so sweet and yet so sexy. He is the more open of the brothers to Summer’s allure. Although he wants his brother as part of their relationship, he insists that Raeg be an equal partner and not absent himself emotionally from the relationship.

Raeg is especially haunted by the brothers past.  While Falcon can accept that they might not be able to hold Summer forever and yet wants what he can have today, Raeg is afraid of emotionally opening himself up.  He is the dark, brooding, jerky brother. His dominance is dark and especially strong. It is his emotional journey which makes up most of the romantic conflict in this story.

The relationship in this book is complex. The two brothers are different and each fulfills something different for Summer. Having a triangle romance emotionally is a difficult enterprise especially where there are secrets and difficulties that the brothers are not revealing. Half of this book is about the developing relationship between the three main characters and the remainder is the suspense story which keeps the plot moving quickly.

The one weakness of this story is that what happened with these characters before the beginning of this book appears central to the connection between these characters (working together and being “friends” for eight years) and yet that building of the relationship is completely absent.  Everything happens offstage and thus truly feeling the connection between these characters is more difficult to feel for the first half of the book.

Despite this, I enjoyed this book and it fits right in the Bound Hearts series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a MMF romance with an emotional as well as a sexual relationship between each of the men and the woman.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  INTENSE PLEASURE is the fourteenth book in the Bound Hearts series, but this book can be read as a standalone.

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: Wicked Pleasure

Review: Wicked PleasureWicked Pleasure by Lora Leigh
Series: Bound Hearts #9
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on April 24th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Filled with angst and drama, this is my favorite of the series. Cam is a tormented man desperately trying to keep the woman he loves without revealing his pain and torment. Sexy and emotional, this is a well rounded book.

THE STORY: Jaci Wright has loved Cam Falladay since she was a child but for seven years she has been running from Cam and his twin brother Chase.  When she was twenty one she thought that she was finally going to get the night she wanted with Cam until she found out that Chase is part of the deal. Her current job for the Club (unknown to Jaci the Club is a menage club) brings her back into the Falladays sphere.

OPINION:  This book depicts a difficult relationship.  Cam and Jaci love one another from the start of this book but both have secrets. In Cam’s case, his secrets prevent him from having a normal relationship with Jaci. He cannot sleep with a woman, cannot hold and comfort her, and he needs to keep himself emotionally removed during sex. Despite this, Cam is a strong man. He has survived and managed to cope as well as he could.  Now Jaci is demanding more that survival from Cam and his coping mechanisms are crumbling.

The two have a very difficult relationship journey in this book. Abuse, pain, shame, despair, love, desperation, desire are all explored in this book.  Jaci is incredibly strong in this book.  It is her love, her devotion, her ability to love Cam even when he is acting like a jerk that centers this book. Her willingness to accept Cam’s limitations even for a short time and yet continue to push his boundaries makes this book.

The menage relationship is also more complicated here. Jaci and Chase are friends, and they both love Cam. The menage relationship is exciting for them but it is also a way for both of them to connect with Cam who keeps himself closed up most of the time. The menage is neither one where there is a romantic love between the woman and the two men nor one where the man is just a third functionary. Chase, Cam and Jaci have an emotional connection that goes beyond sex but doesn’t involve romantic love between Jaci and Chase. Leigh is pushing and exploring different versions of the menage relationship as the Bound Hearts series continues.

I enjoyed this book.  Sexy and hot, it also has a deep emotional core between the characters.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book has a MMF menage within a MF relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WICKED PLEASURE is book 9 in the Bound Hearts series.  This book can be read on its own.  The series is connected only by the appearances of characters. The story is self contained.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Legendary Lord

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: The Legendary LordThe Legendary Lord (Playful Brides) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #6
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on November 1st, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 318
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Funny and Yet Deep Emotional Undertones

FINAL DECISION:  A man must take the risk to get what he wants and a woman who must upset expectations and disappoint others.  THE LEGENDARY LORD starts with two people who are obviously meant for one another but have to fight their own natures to be together.  Funny at moments but emotional as the two are seemingly destined to be apart. I loved the characters and the resolution.  A winner!

THE STORY:  Christian Forester, Viscount Berkeley, has many women friends but no woman to call his own.  Every woman he might be interested in becomes his dear friend instead.  Retreating to his hunting lodge in Scotland, Christian doesn’t know how to proceed.  When he arrives, he is held at sword point by a beautiful young woman who turns out to be Sarah Highgate, a woman who has run from her arranged engagement to a marquess.  Now Sarah is beginning to have regrets for her flight because she realizes that she will disappoint her parents and be ruined.  Christian realizes that he can be a friend and help Sarah avoid scandal and return to London.  In exchange, Sarah offers to give Christian advice on how to change his image and become a Legendary Lord — the gentleman of the season — in order to find a wife.  The problem becomes that Christian soon realizes that the woman he really wants is the one that he truly can only be a friend to — Sarah.

OPINION:  A hero who convinces the heroine to return to an arranged marriage and then regrets it.  A heroine who wants to find love but is convinced to settle for the approval of her parents.  These two are seriously mixed up.  That is what makes them interesting because they are both struggling against convention and expectations.

Christian is a man who has made a habit of saving women and becoming friends with them.  Unconcerned about town life, Christian is only serviceable in dress and he is more friendly than flirty.  When he meets Sarah, she offers to help remake his image — and she does.  As with image, however, Christian remains who he truly is.  As Sarah discovers, there are reasons that Christian remains single that has nothing to do with his clothes or image.  I loved Christian because he is kind and supportive and he treats women well.  I like that he has women friends (characters from the prior books in the series that he has helped) and he treats them as equals.  They treat him as a beloved brother who they needle and care for.

Sarah was more difficult for me to immediately like because she starts out in such a great spot — having taken a chance to run from her arranged marriage, but then experiences regret such that she is willing to return to her fiance to satisfy her parents (who I heartily disliked!)  The question I had to ask was what other choices did Sarah really have.  Sarah’s opinions don’t matter to her parents because society accepted that.  To reject her parents’ choice would mean that not only would Sarah lose the love of those she cared about but her physical and financial security as well.  It’s not easy being a rebel without support.

The story of Christian and Sarah is ultimately about commitment — about putting yourself out for those you love — about taking huge chances.  These two people who mostly play it safe, but there can be nothing safe in love — especially when you have to risk scandal to be together.

Christian and Sarah have different types of risks and challenges in their relationship.  As much as Christian says he wants to marry, he is afraid of emotionally risking himself. As much as Sarah says she wants love, she is afraid of the approbation of her parents and society.   Both claim to want to love, but neither wants to take the first scary step.

Balancing the mild angst in this book is humor from the heroines of the prior books in the series.  As they scheme to push Sarah and Christian in the right direction, I laughed at their meddling ways and urged them on when it appeared that Sarah and Christian might miss their chance to be together.

I find it immensely satisfying to read about characters that I like and who I can identify with.  Neither of these characters wants to be in the limelight.  I can imagine them leading a happy and quiet life together after the pages of this book end and living happily ever after.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Keep an eye out for a romance that is certainly on the horizon with Sarah’s brother.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE LEGENDARY LORD is the sixth book in the Playful Brides series.  While there are appearances by continuing characters of the series, this book gives you everything you need to know and thus is a complete standalone as well.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: It Must Be 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: It Must Be ChristmasIt Must Be Christmas: Three Holiday Stories by Jennifer Crusie, Donna Alward, Mandy Baxter
Series: , Billionaire's Club #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on October 4th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

This is an anthology of three previously released novels/novellas all themed around Christmas.

HOT TOY by Jennifer Crusie

The story is cute and sweet. There is only the beginning of a romance since the story is so short, but it is a nice Christmas treat.  Trudy Maxwell, college librarian, is on the hunt for the hot Christmas toy for her nephew when she encounters Nolan Mitchell. Trudy had thought that Nolan was “the One” until after three dates, he didn’t call her again. Now Nolan wants another chance, but Trudy doesn’t want to risk herself again.  This is a cute and sweet Christmas romance with some twists. When the story started, I didn’t expect where the story would go, but it kept the plot interesting. The romance was cute and funny as Nolan followed Trudy around trying to convince her to give him another chance. The weakness was that the story was so short that there wasn’t much to the characters and the plot dominated.  Rating: 3.5 Stars

CHRISTMAS AT SEASHELL COTTAGE by Donna Alward

Dr. Charlie Yang gets some surprises for Christmas.  First, the man who she has been watching from afar ends up at the same church as her preparing for the Christmas season.  Charlie has been attracted to the ex-SEAL Dave Ricker but it is easier to imagine at a distance than risk her heart with a man who seems her opposite.  Second, Charlie and Dave find an infant left in the manger and Charlie finds herself unable to turn away from the little Christmas miracle.  The story had such promise. There were several stories that could have been explored: uptight doctor versus free thinking man, second families, the found baby.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that any of these stories were truly explored.  Instead, I kept waiting for something to happen in the book.  I don’t mind slow, thoughtful stories, but I want some payoff.  The first half of the book was Charlie saying this guy can’t be right for me; the second half was Dave saying, I don’t think want the same things.  I never really got any connection with these characters; I never truly felt that we explored the characters emotional foibles.  I just ended up with a “eh” feeling at the end.  Rating: 2 stars.

CHRISTMAS WITH THE BILLIONAIRE RANCHER by Mandy Baxter

Nate Christensen has an inheritance from a father he could barely stand.  He doesn’t want the inheritance or all that goes with it.  Chloe Benson comes to the memorial intending to ask for money for her charity. Instead, she ends up hooking up with Nate.  This is a sexy, sexy book.  I loved how the two first have an instantaneous attraction that moves to emotional connection and love.  For such a short length, this story has energy with characters that I really connected with.  I ended up just wanting to read more about these two. It is a tricky proposition to make sex so central to the beginning of a relationship and yet allow the characters to develop an emotional connection that feels deep and real.  Baxter walks that line very well.  I liked this book so much that I ended up buying to stories of Nate’s brothers as well.  Rating: 4 stars.

four-stars