Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sex and the Single Fireman by Jennifer Bernard



The toughest captain on the East Coast, single father Rick Roman has come thousands of miles to San Gabriel to put an end to the "Bachelor Firemen" media hype. But when a stunning woman he nearly hooked up with in Reno turns out to be a firefighter from his new station, Roman realizes it's going to be tough keeping the tabloids at bay.

But there's even more Sabina isn't telling him. Before dedicating her life to battling blazes, Sabina led a very different life, one that made her famous. The last thing she wants is to have her secret exposed. The papers, bloggers, and TV gossips will have a field day with that—especially when they sense the obvious sexual heat between Sabina and Chief Roman, who's torn between firing her...and falling in love with her!

*****

Jennifer Bernard knows how to deliver sexy, romantic, emotional stories, and Sex and the Single Fireman, the third installment of the Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel series is all that and more!
One of the things I most love about this author is how well she tells a story. They’re easy to read, yet compelling, and pull you in right from the start. Her characters are people we come to care about because even though they’re totally amazing, they’re also human. They're the kinds of people you live next door to, and they’re like the odd cousin that everyone wonders about. They’re the people you meet in the grocery story and the friends you wish you had… they’re people who draw you in and make you love them, every single time.

Sabina Jones is the “Bachelor” fireman in this book, and Chief Rick Roman is a man who’s trying to build a life for he and his son after losing his wife in the 9/11 attacks. That right there got my attention because we’ve all heard the tales of the real men and women who gave their all that day, and stories like this – stories of the ones left behind – never cease to touch me deeply. Whether it’s only mentioned briefly or the center of the story; whether it happened yesterday or eleven and a half years ago, it gets to me. Every single time.

Watching Sabina and Roman’s relationship grow from lust to love was heartwarming – and burn up the pages sexy. Start to finish, through the good and the bad, I couldn’t get enough of them and that thirteen year old Roman-in-training, Luke.

My thanks to Avon Books for providing me with a copy of this story in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cold As Ice by Anne Stuart


The job was supposed to be dead easy--hand-deliver some legal papers to billionaire philanthropist Harry Van Dorn's extravagant yacht, get his signature and be done. But Manhattan lawyer Genevieve Spenser soon realizes she's in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the publicly benevolent playboy has a sick, vicious side. As he tries to make her his plaything for the evening, eager to use and abuse her until he discards her with the rest of his victims, Genevieve must keep her wits if she intends to survive the night. But there's someone else on the ship who knows the true depths of Van Dorn's evil.

Peter Jensen is far more than the unassuming personal assistant he pretends to be--he's a secret operative who will stop at nothing to ensure Harry's deadly Rule of Seven terror campaign dies with him. But Genevieve's presence has thrown a wrench into his plans, and now he must decide whether to risk his mission to keep her alive, or allow her to become collateral damage....


*******

Cold As Ice is the second book in Anne Stuart's Ice series, and once again she gives us a hero who's arrogant, annoying, an ass without conscience or heart, too sexy to resist and, in a word, perfect! It's a fast paced story, one that, from the first page to the last, I couldn't put down.

I have to say, I'm a huge fan of hot, alpha males, but I wasn't sure I could get on-board with these hot gamma males, the kind that let nothing stop them from accomplishing their goal, even if it means offering up the heroine as a sacrifice to do so. But whatever it is about Anne Stuart's stories, I love these guys even as I'm hating them. I want them to die, even as I'm afraid they will. My emotions are always in a state of chaos while reading these books because the very things I do want to happen, I also don't want to see happen. See? Chaos!

I won't recap the book blurb, but I will say it's an exciting story. And pretty damned funny, too. There were times I was fanning myself, times I wanted to cry, but there were also times I was laughing and that humor caught me off guard, popping up when I was least expecting it. It helped lighten the mood of the story at times when it was needed, making the villain look like a fool and I loved that!

We met Peter Jensen in Black Ice and though we didn't see much of him, what little we were given had me wanting to get his story. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long. As I said, he's arrogant. He's an ass. He's heartless, ruthless and annoying as all get out - and I adore him!

Genevieve Spenser is equally annoying in a mouthy sort of way, but if you were stuck with Peter for any length of time, you'd get mouthy, too! She's strong, independent, and a totally awesome woman!

So yeah, another terrific installment to the Ice series, and I am soooooo glad I decided to take these books from the shelf, dust 'em off and dig in!

4.5/5 stars because as with the first book, the ending is a bit abrupt.

Black Ice by Anne Stuart


Living paycheck to paycheck in Paris, American book translator Chloe Underwood would give anything for some excitement and passion--even a little danger. So when she's offered a lucrative weekend gig translating at a business conference in a remote chateau, she jumps at the chance to shake things up.

Then by chance Chloe discovers her employers are anything but the entrepreneurs they appear, and suddenly she knows far too much. Her clients are illegal arms dealers, and one of them is ordered to kill her. But instead, Bastien Toussaint drags Chloe away, and the next thing she knows she's on the run with the most terrifying and seductive man she's ever met. What were his motives--and would she live long enough to find out?
*********


Black Ice is the first book in Anne Stuart's Ice series, and one edgy, fast paced, sexy story.
 

My first thoughts on this are, and I'm being honest, I'm not sure I've ever so thoroughly disliked a hero that I am so thoroughly in love with! Nor have I ever before thought to kill the hero and put the bad guy out of his misery, but I did a few times while reading this story! Bastien is an ass! I mean... SUCH an ass. But, Heaven help me, I love him! Chloe is a great heroine - strong, intelligent, passionate, full of life - a perfect match for Bastien's dark, bleak, nature. Without even trying, she shows him what his life is missing, and thankfully he sees it, grabs hold, and doesn't let go. Well... after he'd walked away from her a few times... then he doesn't let go.

This is actually my first Anne Stuart read, but it will most definitely not be my last. The story is very engaging. Arms dealers, terrorists, murderers, clandestine organizations, lots of blood and torture and... yeah, very engaging. I seriously couldn't stop reading once I started.

Another shout out to all my friends who've been badgering encouraging me to read this book for years. Yes, years. Someday I'll learn...

4.5/5 stars because the ending was a little abrupt.

Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire



She's hitting below the belt…

Round 1

In this corner is admittedly romantic Jenna Wilinski, who’s inherited a rather seedy boxing gym from her estranged father. With it, she can realize her dream of launching an upscale matchmaking business…provided she can take on the very intimidating—and wickedly hot—boxer who stands in her way!

Round 2

In the far corner is former pro boxer Mercer Rowley. He’s the only one who can protect his “home”—even if it is a little run-down— from his determined and feisty little opponent. But man, once the gloves come off, his hands just want to touch her everywhere…

Round 3

This matchup is too close to call. But no matter which contender comes out on top, the other is sure to enjoy every minute of it....

**********


Making Him Sweat is a sexy story, the first book in a new series and Meg Maguire’s first multi-book deal. Harlequin Blaze is the publisher, and those of you who’ve read this line in the past know that the stories are definitely hot! This book introduces us to some very interesting characters, people whose stories promise to be exciting, fun, and very sexy.

If you've had the pleasure of reading Ms. Maguire’s stories, you know that she gives a lot of attention to detail; the simple, everyday goings on in her heroes and heroines lives. It’s these things that help us see them as people, rather than just characters we’re reading about. It draws us in, has us invested, and keeps us coming back for more.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mercer Rowley! He’s intelligent, witty, passionate, and what I loved most about him – he’s grounded. He’s real. No angst, no drama, no deep dark secrets to be revealed. He’s the kind of “everyday hero” I can love.

I almost feel bad for the heroines in the books I read because I'm not as easily invested in them as I am the heroes. They have to work for my support, and then work even harder for my stamp of approval on their happily ever after. I'm telling you this because, unfortunately, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what he saw in Jenna Wilinski. She blew into town thinking she’d just shut down the boxing gym Mercer trying to make into a profitable business. Granted, she had some false impressions that had her feeling less than benevolent about it all, but there was something about her I can’t put my finger on, something … off. I didn’t fully buy into her “coming around” but hey… Mercer loves her, so who am I to complain?

The bottom line: If you enjoy reading about super sexy boxers who like to get down and dirty, then definitely give this book a try. It’s an easy, entertaining story and I’m looking forward to reading the next installment, Taking Him Down.

3.5/5 stars

My thanks to Harlequin and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston



When recent widow Georgette Thorold wakes up in a Scottish inn with a wedding ring on her finger and lacking all memory of how she came to be there, she does what any well-bred lady with a modicum of sense and a distrust of marriage would do: she panics, clocks the wickedly handsome stranger in her bed over the head with a chamber pot, and runs.

James McKenzie, Esquire has either spent the evening protecting a very na├»ve, and—dare he say it—very drunk young lady from the advances of every disreputable character in the town of Moraig, or he has gone and married a pretty, scheming thief. Not that his own head is entirely clear on the matter, but when the woman in question repays his kindness with a knock on the head, the bill for her room, and the theft of his purse, an embarrassed James is determined to track her down and show her she picked the wrong solicitor to swindle.

As Georgette sets out to discover exactly what happened during her forgotten night, she uncovers a man that seems far more a hero than a rake. But when they finally meet, instead of sweeping her into his arms and kissing her senseless, he serves her with a summons, claiming she is a thief. Now the fight is on, and the only question is was it a night worth remembering? Or a mistake they would both rather forget?

*****  

What Happens in Scotland is Jennifer McQuiston’s debut novel and an absolutely delightful story! If this is any indication of what’s to come from this very talented author, historical romance lovers are in for quite a treat!
Historical Romance is one of my favorite genres, so I'm always on the lookout for new authors and fresh story-lines. Well, What Happens in Scotland, isn't just fresh, it's romantic, sexy and lots of fun!

I loved our hero and heroine, James and Georgette. Sure, there were times I wanted to smack Georgette, or grab James by his beard and shake him, but still I could help but love them. Their attempt to try and figure out what had happened - were they married, or not? - made for some very amusing reading. The village residents are also great, and I can only imagine how much fun life would be in Moraig! They, along with a wonderful hero and heroine, and an unforgettable story, made What Happens in Scotland a delight to read!

The bottom line: Jennifer McQuiston is a very talented writer! She took what would be an unlikely happenstance and made it believable by blending it perfectly with enough emotion to draw me in and make me care about James and Georgette, and enough humor to keep it light and entertaining. From start to finish I couldn't put it down and will be looking for more by this gifted story-teller!


James McKenzie

And a note: I have to be honest, I'm taking great liberties with the author's description of James McKenzie. The truth is, I've never been a huge fan of heavily bearded men, so whenever James' beard was mentioned, this is how I envisioned him. To be even more honest, even after he shaved, I continued to lust after...errr.... envision him this way.

My thanks to Avon Books and Edelweiss for providing me with a copy of this ebook. It was a pleasure, start to finish!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seduced by the Gladiator by Lauren Hawkeye



Fierce Lilia is the rarest of commodities: a female Gladiator.

Placed in the arena for entertainment and expected to perish, she has clawed her way to the top and is now the most feared woman in all of Rome. Taught to fight and kill without emotion, the last thing Lilia ever expected to feel was pleasure. Or love.

But when Christus, a warrior with his own demons to excise, is sold to the ludus that owns Lilia, she finds herself forced to fight to stay on top—and to stay out of his arms. Yet their blood-thirsty sport unleashes a passion that threatens to consume them both...and unmask them as lovers to the rest of the ludus.

When Gaius, the twisted brother of the emperor, reveals his challenge for the Gladiators: a battle to the death for the champions of Rome, Christus and Lilia must fight to win their freedom, their lives...and each other.

*****

This was a pretty tough story to read, at times. The way slaves were treated, how humans had to fight one another to survive, just for the pleasure, the entertainment of the upper classes. Even now I’m shaking my head and the thought of it. If I didn’t know this was all true, I would think the author had a pretty twisted imagination!

But I digress.

I won’t recap the synopsis, but Seduced by the Gladiator gives us a glimpse into what life was like for slaves, Gladiators, merchants, rulers… the day to day kind of living, whether filthy and impoverished or extravagant. It’s a well written story, told in the first person from Lilia’s point of view. There was quite a bit happening right from the start, but the pace was slow due to the necessary world building and plot layout. It was all very interesting and the further along the story went, the more invested I became.

Lilia is a strong woman. Of course, she has to be. She’s the only female Gladiator and that makes her an icon for some, and a target for others. I had a hard time connecting with her at first because she’s so determined. So strong. So independent. But the more I read, the more I came to realize that in her world, to be otherwise would mean death. At this point, I not only came to care about her, but to respect her.

Christus is definitely a swoonworthy, tormented hero. He had had a good life, a wife and a child, and it had all been brutally taken away when they were slain by a neighbor who wanted Christus’s land. One thing leads to another and Christus is sold into slavery, and then, like Lilia, sold to this ludus to be trained as a Gladiator. Once he sees Lilia, the petite but fierce warrior, you can imagine how protective he became. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always a good thing, and led to more than a few problems between them.

As I said, the story started on the slow side, but once it picked up, it did so with a vengeance. The fight scenes were exciting and, when I allowed myself to think about why they were there, also heartbreaking.

And heads up! There's a lot of sex in this book, and I do mean a lot. The most explicit of it takes place between Christus and Lilia, but there are also scenes with anal sex, an orgy and even some spanking.

If you’re a fan of the movie Gladiator, or the STARZ original series, Spartacus, you’ll want to check this out. It’s gritty, brutal, barbaric…and it’s honest. It’s also a very, very sexy story, and I might even go so far as to say it’s an erotic novel. The ending is sweet, the happily ever after is well deserved – and no, they don’t have to die to get it. When I’m in the mood for something given to the darker side of humanity, I’ll definitely be looking for more from this era by this author.

You might have noticed that I capitalized the word Gladiator throughout my review. I did so out of respect for those real men and women who had no choice but to fight or die.

 Christus
This is my vision of Christus, and when the author read my review she said I nailed it!

My thanks to Avon Books for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Earl in My Bed by Sophie Jordan


The Earl in My Bed is a sweet and passionate short story, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s part of the Forgotten Princesses series and takes place between books two and three, though I can honestly say, it works as a standalone.

It was unspoken, but well understood, that Paget and her childhood friend, Owen, would one day marry, but with Owen off fighting a war a world away, and his older brother Jamie, the new Earl of Willingham close by, Paget starts wondering why Jamie can evoke such strong feelings in her heart, and her body, feelings she never had for Owen. After all, growing up, Jamie made it clear that she, a mere vicar's daughter, had no business associating with he and his brothers, so what is it about him, now... why is he tempting her with things she shouldn't want, things that have her questioning which brother she truly loves?

Poignant stories can be difficult to tell in novellas, but Ms. Jordan did a fine job here. Jamie and Paget are well matched, and their story is tender and heartwarming. There were times I laughed, times I sighed, times I fanned myself, and even times my heart broke for the child that Jamie was never able to be. I adored Paget for her insight and compassion, and for recognizing what made Jamie the boy he had been, the man he became, and for loving them both.

I hope to read more of this series, very soon, most especially Owen's story, which promises to be an emotional journey.

3.5/5 stars

My thanks to Avon Books for giving me the opportunity to read this sweet story, in return for an honest review.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lost in You by Lauren Dane


He’s faced down every demon…except one fast-talking Southern girl.

It hasn’t been easy for Joe Harris to live down his not-so-honorable past, but the military made him a better man. He’s determined to make up for past mistakes, starting with coming home to care for his ailing father.

Things are going as planned until his best friend’s little sister comes barreling into his life. Funny, quick talking, smart, beautiful, she’s a temptation he tries—and fails—to resist.

When Beth Murphy hears Joe is back in town, she makes sure she’s the first on his welcoming committee. Though he tries to pretend he’s gruff and unworthy of her, she sees the man who spoils his dog, who touches her like she’s precious. Cherished. But there’s one wall she can’t break down—the truth about what’s happening at home.

On the night the nature of his father’s illness becomes painfully, publicly apparent, Joe does the right thing—push Beth as far away as possible. But if he thought she’d go away quietly, he’s about to learn she’s made of sterner stuff.

**********

Lost in You is the second book in Lauren Dane’s Petal, Georgia series. It’s a wonderful story, poignant and heartbreaking on many levels, but truly, truly a wonderful story.
As the book opens, with Beth Murphy learning that Joe Harris is back in town and setting herself to doing everything she can to get him to see her as more than just his best friend’s little sister, I really expected this to be a fairly light, run-of-the-mill erotic romance. Well, it’s definitely erotic and it’s definitely a romance, but trust me when I tell you, it’s so much more.

Lost in You is a story about loving unconditionally. It’s about acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, and family. About opening yourself up and letting the people who love you help you, to lift your spirits and help carry your burdens. I laughed at Beth’s blatant flirting and no holds barred quest to work her way into Joe’s heart. She never gave up hope, and never stopped trying, because he was already in her heart, and she wasn't about to let him out without a fight. Joe’s story, his father’s story… just heartbreaking, but so, so inspiring, too. There were moments I wanted to smack our hero and heroine, but no matter. Their actions were, for the most part, understandable and in keeping with their circumstances.

Since this is a spin-off of the Chase Brothers series, we do get to revisit them and their families, and while I haven’t yet read those books, I wasn't confused and didn't feel like I was missing anything - well, other than some fantastic stories. But that's okay, because I will definitely be reading those now.

The bottom line: What more can I say than I’ve already said? Not much, really, except that I was totally sucked in, completely invested in the story and the people, and can’t wait to get back to Petal, Georgia again, soon!

Many thanks to Samhain Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review. It was a pleasure!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Devil's Thief by Samantha Kane


The daughter of a reformed jewel thief, Julianna Harte knows a thing or two about stealth. When the foundling home she provides for finds itself in dire financial straits, Julianna is forced to do the unthinkable. In a bit of misguided Robin Hood derring-do, she slips through the window of a wealthy rake to search for a treasure she knows is there: an invaluable pearl. But when the towering and very naked occupant of the moonlit bedroom ambushes her with a bargain—a night in his bed in exchange for the pearl—Julianna doesn’t know if it’s masculine heat or sheer desperation that makes his terms so tempting.

Alasdair Sharpe had no intention of keeping his end of the bargain. Planning to offer his little cat burglar carte blanche instead, he promptly loses himself in the delights of unexpected pleasure. But when he awakes the next morning to find his family heirloom gone, fury quickly replaces sensual languor. Of course, Alasdair is more than willing to use seduction to reclaim his stolen pearl—and find the key to Julianna’s heart.
 **********


The Devil’s Thief is the first book in Samantha Kane’s The Saint’s Devils series. It’s a fun, sexy, romantic story, opening in a most unusual way and grabbing my attention from the start. Right off the bat Ms. Kane gives us everything we need to know about Julianna’s late night break-in into Alasdair’s bedroom, and I enjoyed that because it left plenty of page time to getting to know the actual people involved in the story.

Alasdair and Julianna are our hero and heroine, and both are fun, intelligent, and romantic, and together, a very passionate couple. Julianna’s unconventional upbringing is really what sets the stage for this story and allows for the introduction of some likewise unconventional characters. The other members of The Saint’s Devils, Roger Templeton, and Sir Hilary St. John, their group’s namesake, are both truly interesting people whose stories are sure to be just as exciting and deliciously sexy as Alasdair and Julianna’s is.

One of my favorite people in the book turned out to be a seventeen year old pimp-and-fencer-of-stolen-goods whose mother of his two children is in prison for murder. But don’t let Wiley’s seedy business dealings and association with thieves and killers fool you - he’s got ethics! I can only hope he’ll get a story of his own!

The bottom line: Engaging, entertaining, fast paced and very, very sexy, The Devil's Thief is a great start to this series. Roger Templeton's story is up next and, based on the excerpt at the back of this book, promises to be another great read!

4 of 5 stars

My thanks to Novel Sidekick, Random House, and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Razing Kayne by Julianne Reeves


For two years, State Trooper Kayne Dobrescu has wanted only one thing: to understand why his wife inexplicably killed their children and then herself. Memories haunt his days and lay siege to his nights, leaving him questioning his reasons for living.

Jessica Hallstatt became a widow and single mother the night her firefighter husband died in a fiery explosion at an accident scene. While her husband may have died a hero, he left Jessica with deep emotional scars that haven't begun to heal.

When Kayne accepted a transfer to the mountain town of Payson, Arizona, he never expected to meet anyone like Jessica. From the moment he pulled her over for speeding, he was drawn in by her whiskey colored eyes and sassy dimple. But she and her children are a forever type package, and he's vowed never to give anyone the power to destroy him again. Yet fate has other ideas, throwing Kayne and Jessica together in a fight against an unknown enemy to save the life of a child—and hopefully one another.

**********

 
Razing Kayne is Julianne Reeves’ debut novel, and it’s a heart-breaking, heart-warming, heart-stopping, and sexy as hell story. It had me fighting back tears one minute, laughing the next, and kept me guessing what might really have happened to Kayne's family, right to the end.
While the plot itself is definitely exciting and intriguing, filled with twists and turns and things I never saw coming, it was Kayne and Jess who kept me turning the pages. For me, the real draw of the story is found in how deeply Kayne's and Jess's failed first marriages affected them, their attempt to leave their pasts in the past, and to make things work between them, despite the odds. In truth, while neither of their previous marriages was rosy, Kayne's was flat out gut-wrenching. I'm not sure how he was able to live those years with the demons - the horrific memories - that haunted him. He could have taken the easy way out and used his own service revolver to end his pain, but he kept on going, kept on serving, kept on existing, if not living.

Jessica is a caring, compassionate woman. Her husband died a hero, but Jess lived with the "real" man and it wasn't all that pretty. She could have become a very bitter person, but instead she focused on helping others, putting her own pain aside, and that's what I loved most about her.

The bottom line: Though not without flaws - what I felt were some unlikely coincidences - Razing Kayne is one hell of a debut novel. It's a sizzling hot, emotionally charged story with compelling characters, and even though they're both far from perfect - quick to fly off the handle, and stubborn as all get out - I found myself invested in Kayne and Jess from the start, and caring about them, each in their own right. But when they finally got together and began working through their issues and trying to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Kayne's family, that's when they became people I couldn’t help but love and cheer for. I didn't just want them to be happy, I needed them to be happy. I had to see them conquer their demons so they could have the happily ever after they both so desperately wanted – and deserved.

Nick Astenbeck's book is next in the Walking a Thin Blue Line series, and from what know of he and Sarah, it promises to an intense, poignant, and very sexy story.

3.5 stars

My thanks to Ms. Reeves for providing me with a copy of this story in exchange for an honest review. It was a pleasure!

And now for your viewing pleasure, I'll leave you with this - this is the author's visual muse for Kayne Dobrescu. His real-life name is Pedro Marugan, but all we need to know is that he one fine hunk of manliness.