Friday, October 28, 2011

SEAL of My Dreams, an Anthology

Note - All proceeds from the sales of this anthology have been pledged to the Veterans Research Corporation, a non-profit foundation supporting veterans medical research.

I’m going to be honest here; SEAL of My Dreams is one of only two anthologies in which I’ve actually read every single story in the book, and certainly my favorite anthology of the two. With this collection I've discovered new authors, revisited favorites and enjoyed every minute of it! Some of the stories were a little emotional, while others were lighthearted and sweet, but they all had one thing in common – honorable, romantic, sexy SEALs who always do the right thing, regardless of the cost to themselves.

I want to start by talking about the Foreword by Robyn Carr – I seldom even bother to read the forewords in any book, but of course I had to do so this time because Robyn Carr is such a wonderful author and a truly great lady. I had tears in my eyes before I had even read the first story because of Ms. Carr’s words, her feelings echoing mine to the letter. Here, in part, is what she had to say:
I seem to be spending a lot of time in airports lately, and I use much of that time approaching military men and women traveling in battle dress uniform and wearing suspiciously dusty, beat up boots.

With mist clouding my vision and a lump in my throat, I thank them for their service and, when I do so, because I’m not intimate with unit insignias, I have no way of knowing if their job has been to take out the free world’s worst enemy or count paper clips. And in point of fact, what is important to all of us is that our faithful men and woman who serve are there for us, defending our freedom and liberty, in whatever capacity they are able. What matters is this—every single job in the Armed Forces is essential, is honorable, is worthy of the highest praise and deepest gratitude. Every raised voice is needed, every hand lent to the task and every heart committed.

Which brings me to this—while the volume you hold pays tribute to the Navy SEALs, the proceeds from these works of the heart will benefit all military men and women. No one involved in this project will profit except the Veteran’s Research Corporation, a non-profit foundation supporting medical research for veterans. The money this project earns will directly benefit our veterans from all branches, all units, all missions. God bless and keep them, one and all.
Something else I seldom do when reading anthologies is write a review for each story, but each story in this book deserves one, because while the names and places might be fictional, I know beyond a shadow of doubt, that these things have happened to someone, somewhere. Some of the quotes might make no sense to you, but for one reason or another, mean so much to me. If you want to skip this part, just scroll to the bottom.

Without further ado, I offer my thoughts, for what they’re worth, though nothing I say can do the real men and women who have lived these stories honor.

1. Coming Home by Jami Alden - This is a sweet, sometimes sad story about the importance of forgiving, forgetting, and letting yourself love.
It had taken ten years of heartbreak and shared tragedies to bring her back to his side, and no way was he ever letting her go.
2. Baby, I’m Back by Stephanie Bond - Okay, this one made me cry, both tears of joy and tears of gratitude. A great story about friendship, love, life in a small town and US Navy SEAL Dogs.

3. SEALed Fates by Kylie Brant - I enjoyed this story a lot, but I do think it would have worked better as a full length novel, or a novella because the subject matter was just too much to deal with in a story this short and have us be completely invested in the characters. That said, I have to share this quote, one that when read with the entire scene had me laughing.
“I can’t see . . . wait!” The girl’s next words were laced with disappointment. “That’s not a seal, Matt. It’s just a man.”

“Is too a seal.”

“Where’s his ball, huh? A seal can sit a ball on his nose, and . . . and clap his flipper things. Where’s his flippers?”

With a bit of maneuvering Cort went down on one knee and studied the thin tube of black plastic sticking out from the fence.

“Not that kind of seal, dummy. A seal is like a soldier. He can blow stuff up and jump out of helicopters.”

Maybe once, Cort thought. Not anymore. That part of his life was over. And he still didn’t know what the hell he was going to fill the emptiness with.
4. Going Dark by Helen Brenna - This story started off on a sour note for me, so I had a hard time connecting with this heroine who ditched our hero when she’d gotten what she wanted from him. Over time we learn that she had good reason for it, but I didn’t have enough time to forgive her for hurting him.

5. Finding Home by HelenKay Dimon - I enjoyed Hal and Megan's story. It was action packed, romantic and left me wanting to know more about their relationship.

6. SEALed With A Kiss (A Black Ops., Inc. story) by Cindy Gerard - I am a huge Cindy Gerard fan, and so this revisit to the BOIs was a real treat. It was heartwarming, romantic and just what I need to tie me over until the next book. I sure do love me some “Doc.”
“And put some swim trunks on, would you?” she added when he still hesitated. “I don’t want any curious fishies mistaking my favorite dangly parts for dinner.”

He laughed and pushed to his feet. “Since they’re my favorite dangly parts, too, I’m happy to oblige. Be right back.”
7. Panama Jack by Tara Janzen - Okay, this story didn’t grab me, and I actually found myself skimming. Remember when I said that some of the quotes would mean nothing to you, but would mean something to me? This is one of them:
“Powell,” she said, obviously coming to a decision about him. “Alanna Powell, but you can call me Lani.” She stuck out her hand.

“Lani.” He took her hand in his and gave it a firm shake, grinning. “Corday. Squidbreath Corday, but you can call me Flipper.”
8. Wrapped and SEALed by Leslie Kelly - This was a great little story! So sweet, romantic and funny! I always swoon for these big, bad SEALs when we watch them brought to their knees.
Tanner Boudreau wasn’t intimidated by much.

He’d endured the seven months of grueling torment that the U.S. Navy called BUD/S training, capped off by a hell week to rival Dante’s. He’d swum waters frigid enough to stop a man’s heart. He’d seen battle. He’d leapt out of planes and dangled from helicopters and crawled through caves as dark as a demon’s soul. And while all of those experiences could—and had—caused a twinge of anxiety here or a moment of concern there, none had ever really scared him.

But this? This intimidated the hell out of him. “Gram, I just don’t—”

“Oh, Tanner, it would mean so much to me,” his elderly grandmother said, casting him one of those melting, I’m-just-a-weak-old-lady looks. “I’ll be so disappointed if you say no.” And that was it. He was done for. Because she’d dragged out the “d” word.
And I’m not going to tell you exactly what his assignment was, suffice it to say, Tanner would probably have chosen the hell of battle to what his grandmother was asking of him!

9. Worth the Risk by Elle Kennedy - I really enjoyed this story, and it’s because of Jason, a man devoted, a man so in love, that he was willing to spend years waiting for the woman he knew was ‘the one’ to figure out that he was her ‘one,’ too.

10. Twenty-One Hours by Alison Kent - There are quite a few romantic suspense authors that I haven’t read before, and this anthology introduced me to many of them. Alison Kent is one of those who is new to me, but I’ll definitely be reading more of her writing. I enjoyed this story, another one about loving someone so much, you’re willing to wait years and years if that’s what it take to be with them.
“I’ll be here a few more days. We’ll talk. Make a plan. We’ve got time.”

He shook his head. “I wasted sixteen years. I’m not wasting a minute more. You know that, right?”

“I do,” she said.

It hit him, then, like a shot to the center of his chest, that he wanted to hear her say that while their friends and families, and hell, even his team, looked on, while she wore a long white dress, flowers in her hands and in her hair.

He brought her to him, kissed her hard, fierce and possessive. “I love you, Teri. All these years. I kept you with me.”

“Oh, Shane. I love you, too. I never forgot you. Not for a minute.”

“I’m going to make sure you never do.”
11. Not Waving But Drowning by Jo Leigh - This story was okay, not one of my favorites, though I do love me some tormented and tortured heroes. In this one, though, the heroine, Renee, made the hero, Dan, seem weak to me.

12. Her Secret Pirate by Gennita Low - This quote had me laughing because no matter how hard I try, when I think “Pirate,” I think Captain Jack Sparrow.
The first order of the day was to follow instructions, go with his team to get the pirates before they turned on the news and found out Rebecca Powers was the Ambassador’s daughter. That was what initiated the “imminent danger” decision; the media was naming names and in this day and age, it seemed that even pirates checked their Twitter accounts while terrorizing the seas.
13. SEALed By Fate by Marliss Melton -
Operation “Dumb Broad” was underway.
Marliss Melton is one of my favorites when it comes to Romantic Suspense. She can write a story like nobody’s business, one that leaves you wanting for more, and this one did exactly that. If Sam and Madison don’t get a full story, I’ll be one unhappy camper!
If not for her, he’d be headed for Malaysia now as part of the team tasked to take out an infamous Malaysian arms smuggler. Instead, he was playing nursemaid to a humanitarian aid worker who didn’t have any sense of self-preservation. This mission had “Complete Waste of Time” stamped all over it, damn it. Sam hadn’t fought to become a SEAL so he could waste his time. He’d done it to be part of something meaningful. And this was so not it.

What annoyed him most was if Miss Scott were anyone other than the daughter of the President’s golfing buddy, Sam and his squad would be well on their way to Malaysia right now. He’d renamed this mission “Operation Dumb Broad” in honor of her idiocy.
14. Signed, SEAL’d, Delivered…I’m Yours by Christie Ridgway - This story had some funny, sweet scenes written by another ‘new to me’ author. After reading this story, though, I checked out Ms. Ridgway’s backlist and will definitely be reading more of her books!
“I think my dad is eating all the stuff you baked for me.”

She had the cutest dimple in her right cheek.

“There’s more where that came from.”

“There’s more everything,” Josh promised. “I love you.”

Mandy nodded, and reached into her pocket to pull out a fat, loopy gift bow that she balanced on the top her head. “I love you, too. Merry Christmas, Josh. I’m yours.”

The words sounded like music to him, and then he realized they were. Holding her close again, he whispered into her ear. “Right back at you, sweetheart. Signed, SEALed, and delivered.”
15. Dog Heart by Barbara Samuel - This story was another one about US Navy SEAL Dogs, and such a heartbreaking one. I wonder why it is that we never hear about the canine soldiers who are so devoted to their handlers that they’d never balk at giving their lives to protect those who need protecting. I found this to be a beautiful story of healing bodies and hearts.

16. Whirlwind by Roxanne St. Claire - Roxanne St. Clair is another author whose writing I love, and this story was no different. It's got to be hard to pack so much story into a so few pages, and while I enjoyed this one, I would have loved it more had it been a full length novel.

17. Holding On by Stephanie Tyler - This was a funny, heartwarming revisit with the heroes of her Hold series, taking place six months after the end of Hold On Tight.
“Rough trip home?”

“Not so bad,” he said.

“Why are there chicken feathers coming out of your pocket?”

“Just be grateful the walk home in the storm washed away the smell.”

“Most of it,” she teased.
18. Letters To Ellie by Loreth Anne White - What a way to end the book. This one had me sobbing with its heartbreaking story of a hero who was so wounded he was almost beyond help, and another hero who didn't make it home. These are the stories that break my heart, because I know they’re true, and like Max, I hope that the men who have lived through what he has, have someone like Ellie to come home to.

I want to thank all of the authors who contributed to this book. Your stories touched me, made me laugh, made me cry, and made me sigh. But most of all, they've given me a chance to publicly thank the men and women who serve:

You risk your lives on a daily basis for people you might never meet, and people who may not even appreciate your sacrifices. The things you do may go unnoticed or unwanted now, but generations to come to will remember you and thank you, the men and women who they never met. God Bless and keep you all.

I'm going to close with some words from Ellie, the incredibly strong, devoted and loving heroine from the final story in this anthology, Letters to Ellie.
“While the goal is to leave no man behind, the reality of war is that sometimes our heroes don’t come home. Sometimes our soldiers go Missing in Action, become Prisoners of War. Their fate unknown. But we dare not forget them.” She paused, struggling to keep the huskiness of out of her voice. “We dare not stop trying to bring them home...”
 My sincerest 'thank you' to Netgalley and Bell Bridge Books for providing me with an ecopy of this amazing book. 

Buy at Barnes and

Monday, October 24, 2011

Divide & Conquer by Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux

Divide & Conquer is the fourth book in the exciting M/M Romantic Suspense series, Cut & Run, and yes, we have another winner!

In this installment, FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back in Baltimore dealing with riots, robbery and anarchists. It’s a volatile situation - to say the least, and it just keeps getting worse. Despite the Bureau’s attempts to bring law and order back to the city, chaos rules. And as if that weren’t bad enough, our beloved heroes find themselves the targets of a self-important madman who has little regard for human life - especially theirs.

I don’t often find myself so attached to the characters in a book, but there’s just something about Ty and Zane that I can't resist. Somewhere along the way they stopped being merely inked words on the page and became living, breathing people. Are they flawed? Oh, yeah, but those flaws only make them that much more endearing. And despite their stubborn, hurtful and sometimes clueless words and actions, there’s this easy, comfortable dynamic to their relationship – when they’re not beating the crap out of each other, that is – and that’s what keeps me coming back for more. Well, that and moments like this:
Several heartbeats of quiet passed before Zane spoke. “First time I saw you, after I got over hating you, I knew,” he said, echoing Ty's words, “I knew I'd fall in love with you.”

Ty shivered all over, torn between the comforting warmth of Zane's words and the cold terror of impending crush injuries. He couldn't get in any air to speak.

“I laughed at myself,” Zane continued, a hint of pleading in his voice, “and then I denied it, and then I did everything I could to prove myself wrong, but it didn't work.”

“I know, Zane,” Ty whispered, though he had to admit the words brought a certain level of relief he hadn't realized he'd needed.

“Ty.” Zane's even, soothing tones finally broke on the short gasp of his name. “I love you and I'm scared I'll lose you. Please don't leave me alone in the dark.”
With their hilarious banter one minute and these moments of heartbreaking vulnerability the next, these men have positively captured my heart. I laugh with them, cheer for them, and even shed a few tears - but most importantly, I am head over heels in love with Ty and Zane.

And I've been giving a lot of thought to the cover image, and while it, minus the band-aids, comes directly from one of the scenes, it also speaks volumes about Zane and Ty's relationship. The two halves might be together, but they're barely together. We've all heard the saying about putting a band-aid on the wound when major surgery is needed? That describes their relationship perfectly, especially in this book. Terrific cover choice! 

The bottom line - Divide & Conquer, like the previous books in the series, has everything I look for in Romantic Suspense – a great storyline, amazing characters, burn-up-the-pages love scenes and a heartwarming, believable romance! I don’t know how they do it, but Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux consistently bring all kinds of wonderful to this series and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have found these authors. If you’re looking for a fantastic M/M series, heavy on the romance but not lacking in sizzle, then you definitely need to read these books!

Divide & Conquer was provided by in behalf of Dreamspinner Press.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fish & Chips by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Fish & Chips is the third book in the M/M Romantic Suspense Cut & Run series, and another fantastic read!

In this installment, FBI Special Agents Zane Garrett and Ty Grady are assigned to impersonate two high ranking members of an international antiquities smuggling ring. Now, in the previous books, Ty and Zane have done a pretty good job of keeping their personal relationship under the radar of their co-workers, and just as well because they themselves aren’t sure about where the relationship is going. But when it turns out that the men they’re impersonating are an openly gay, married couple, it gives our beloved heroes a chance to find out what it’s like to be an out-and-proud gay couple, themselves.

Wow, I don’t know what it is about these stories, but I got hooked from the very first page of the very first book and haven’t looked back. Not terribly surprising since Ty and Zane are perfect for each other and an absolute pleasure to read about. I love how alpha they both are because it brings a whole new level of romance to romantic suspense. While there used to be this silent struggle between them – a struggle I’m not even sure they were aware of – over who was controlling the direction of their relationship, they’ve finally settled into their roles as partners, both on the job and off, and I have loved watching every single minute of it. They are so fiercely protective and devoted to each other, and yet both so vulnerable and afraid of risking their hearts, and the closer they get to the love word, the more their vulnerabilities show. And then that just makes me all the more protective of them!

As you can probably tell by this and my previous reviews of the books in this series, the stories are very much character driven. I find myself fascinated not only by the great story plots, but by the dynamic of Ty and Zane’s relationship. In many ways, they remind me of two of my very favorite non-couple best friend males, Butch and Vishous from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Although Butch and V are already in committed relationships with females, they have something in common with Ty and Zane, and that’s their need to be together. It’s not merely a 'want.' They are 100% essential to one another's existence. I honestly believe that if something were to happen to either one of them, the other wouldn't be able to go on. Slowly but surely, the one left behind would self destruct, or just fade away, because a person just can't exist without their heart.

Okay, enough rambling and failing miserably at waxing poetic. The bottom line – Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux have done it again! I am totally hooked on this series, and madly in love with both Ty and Zane. Apart they are perfection, albeit a flawed perfection, but together they are each the vital half that completes the whole that is the amazing pairing of Ty and Zane.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sticks & Stones by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Sticks & Stones is the second book in the exciting M/M Romantic Suspense series, Cut & Run. In this installment, given mandatory vacation time to try and rid themselves of the lingering effects of the harrowing serial killer case they’d worked on previously, Ty and Zane head to Ty’s hometown in West Virginia. With his father, brother and Zane, the four men set out on what was supposed to be a recreational hiking trip through the mountains that instead turned out to be a grueling fight for survival. As events unfold we get deeper into Ty’s mind and how his dark years as a Marine Recon still haunt him, but those flashbacks that some might call nightmares very well could be what saves all of their lives. This book also gave us a firsthand glimpse into the Grady family dynamic, and it wasn’t always pleasant. As I was reading I often found myself thinking, “Thank God he has Zane there to help him.” But all that said, as hard as some of it was to read, it’s the whole sum of Ty’s life that has made him the man he is today, and I wouldn’t want him any other way.

The bottom line - Sticks & Stones is another great story and Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux have once again left me with a smile on my face. They’ve somehow managed to create these two incredible characters whose witty banter and, more-often-than-not, pain-in-the-ass mind-sets have me both laughing out loud and wanting to shoot them! They’re so imperfect that they are, in fact, perfect! Together, that is. This is a heartwarming and steamy story, but make no mistake about it, this is a romance in every sense of the word! And as I’m sitting here writing this review, so many thoughts are running through my head, so many things I want to tell you. 

But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll leave it for you to discover for yourselves the amazingly awesome duo that is Ty and Zane.

This book was provided free to me by in behalf of Dreamspinner press, in exchange for an honest review.

5/5 stars 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cut & Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Cut & Run is the first book in the Cut & Run series and I was totally blown away! I’d never read anything by authors Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux so wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but seriously… this one grabbed me from the first page and never let go. Cut & Run has turned out to be one of the best Romantic Suspense books I’ve read this year, and has become one of my favorite M/M romances, too.

FBI Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett couldn’t be more different - total opposites, in fact, so when they’re ordered to partner up to hunt down a vicious serial killer terrorizing New York City, things do not go smoothly. It’s a dirty case and getting dirtier by the minute when it becomes apparent that the killer is probably someone within the Bureau. Both men just want to get the job done, and it’s about more than catching a killer; they can barely stand being in the same room together and want this partnership over. But when things take a turn for the worse and they find themselves targets, they have no choice but to cut the crap and work together so they don’t end up dead.

This book had it all – great story, amazing characters, steamy love scenes and an honest, believable romance! Ty and Zane’s witty banter and, often times, pain-in-the-ass behaviors had me both laughing out loud and wanting to strangle them! They were sometimes warm and caring and other times bullish and obnoxious, but in the end, I fell hard for both men and can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

Cut & Run was provided by in behalf of Dreamspinner Press. This had no influence on my rating or review. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Deadly Descent (Bagram Special Ops) by Kaylea Cross

As his family left the graveside Devon stood there, rigid in the cold, staring at her ex-boyfriend’s coffin.
 I’m so sorry, Ty. So very sorry…

Deadly Descent is the first book in the Romantic Suspense series, Bagram Special Ops by Kaylea Cross, and it’s also my first experience with this author’s writing. I was excited to read this story because the central characters are not who we typically see in this genre – SEALs, Rangers, Black Ops Agents, etc.; rather these men and women are working on the medical side of things. I found it to be a very fascinating story from this standpoint alone and was thrilled that Ms. Cross gave us such a deep look into their lives and missions. I had absolutely no idea what they faced at any given time, and I while I hold the greatest respect for all military men and women, I now have a deeper respect for those whose job it is to save the lives of the SEALs, Rangers, Black Ops Agents, etc., and who put their own lives on the line to do so. Without their know-how and their bravery, who knows how many more men and women would be lost.

I absolutely loved our hero and heroine, Cameron Munroe and Devon “Spike” Crawford who are brave, honorable people. Cam is an Air Force Pararescueman whose job it is to go into dangerous situations and provide medical aid to those wounded in the line of duty, or those innocents caught in the crossfire. What he does out there can make the difference between life and death. Dev is a Black Hawk pilot who also goes into dangerous situations to evacuate those wounded and transport them back to the base hospital for further medical care. As with Cam, how well Dev does her job can mean the difference between saving a life or losing one.

Minor plot spoilers that are given in the prologue -
As this story opens, Devon is called out on an emergency mission to evacuate some wounded soldiers, however flight conditions are at their worse and she has to make the gut wrenching decision to return to base without the men. But what choice did she really have? She wasn't the only person on that Black Hawk; she had her crew to think of, too. She’s upset, angry and second guessing herself for abandoning the flight, and that only gets worse when she learns that one of those men died before he could be extracted. And for her, worse yet - that man was her boyfriend, Ty.

Ty and Cameron had been best friends, so the loss was especially devastating for him and only complicated by the fact that from the first time he’d met her, Cam had known that Dev was the one for him. And he also knew that Dev felt the same way because their mutual attraction was undeniable. Of course they never acted on their feelings - they were too honorable for that, but Cam had waited long enough and decided it was time to broach the very sensitive subject.  Unfortunately, Dev was not ready.  End Spoilers  
  As this story opens, Devon is called out on an emergency mission to evacuate some wounded soldiers, however flight conditions are at their worse and she has to make the gut wrenching decision to return to base without the men. But what choice did she really have? She wasn't the only person on that Black Hawk; she had her crew to think of, too. She’s upset, angry and second guessing herself for abandoning the flight, and that only gets worse when she learns that one of those men died before he could be extracted. And for her, worse yet - that man was her boyfriend, Ty.

Ty and Cameron had been best friends, so the loss was especially devastating for him and only complicated by the fact that from the first time he’d met her, Cam had known that Dev was the one for him. And he also knew that Dev felt the same way because their mutual attraction was undeniable. Of course they never acted on their feelings - they were too honorable for that, but Cam had waited long enough and decided it was time to broach the very sensitive subject. Unfortunately, Dev was not ready. End Spoilers
A good bit of the early pages were devoted to the necessary character and world development, but I never found it dull or tedious. In fact, as I said before, I loved learning about another branch of the military and seeing how it operates on and off the battlefield. And while it is emotional at times, the story that unfolds is not dark and depressing. There’s much, much more to Deadly Descent than what I’ve told you so far, but I don’t want to give anymore away other than to say the last half of the book had me on the edge of my seat, heart pounding. We get a close up look at what it’s like to come under fire, to have the enemy close on your heels and not know if you’re going to make it out alive. And did I mention I stayed up until 4:00AM to finish this??

The bottom line – If you want a story full of detail, action, passion, sexual tension, heat and romance, this is a great one to go with. I am beyond thrilled to have found another author who knows how to write Romantic Suspense and make it just that – both romantic and truly suspenseful. The characters are amazing people who I couldn’t help but cheer for and their story was heartwarming and intense. I will most definitely be reading more by Kaylea Cross. In fact, just today I purchased her entire Suspense Series and can’t wait to dig in!

5 of 5 stars!!

This ebook was provided by in behalf of Carina Press. This had no influence on my rating or my review.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh

There is a lineage of blood that ties mother to child, a lineage that can never be broken. And it is this lineage the queen used to cast her children away from Elden, to safety, so they could one day return and reclaim their stolen birthright.

It was a mother’s last loving gift, yet the Blood Sorcerer boasts even now that Queen Alvina failed, that he twisted her magic at the end so that instead of finding safe harbor, the heirs of Elden fell into death. There is no one left alive to contradict him.

—From the Royal Chronicles of Elden, on the third day of the Reign of the Blood Sorcerer

Lord of the Abyss is the fourth and final book in the Royal House of Shadows series and one of the sweetest, sexiest, most romantic books I’ve read in a very long time. It doesn’t often happen that I find myself in love with both the hero and the heroine, but Micah and Liliana are amazing people who I couldn’t help but adore. Both tortured by pasts very different from one another are yet so very much alike in their single mindedness and honor, and they will do the right thing regardless of the cost to themselves. They are, quite simply put, the stuff legends are made of.

The world that Nalini Singh created in this installment of the series was awesome. The creatures, the beings… Mouse, Jissa and Bard, I loved them all, even the ghosts who roam the halls of the Black Castle! And speaking of the Black Castle, the lore surrounding it and the Abyss is magically fairytaleesque and so vivid. In my mind’s eye I could see every room, every plant, every food, every… everything and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what would happen next. I was totally captivated by the entire tale and as I read I felt somehow honored to be privy to their thoughts and feelings.

Now, about the story. In the previous books, Lord of the Vampires, Lord of Rage and Lord of the Wolfyn, we learn that when their kingdom was attacked by the Blood Sorcerer, Aelfric and Alvina, the King and Queen of Elden, fought for all they held dear, willing to give up their lives if needed to protect their children, their kingdom, and all who dwelt there. When they realized that they were going to die, their final act was one of love, one last effort to protect their children by weaving a powerful spell which sent the four royal heirs, Nicolai, Breena, Dayn and Micah, into different realms in hopes that one day they’d find their way home and defeat the Blood Sorcerer. Each book tells the story of one of the siblings and their journey back to Elden, not knowing exactly what they’d find when they got there.

The way the story develops throughout the first three books, I expected a battle of epic proportions in Lord of the Abyss, but when the battle actually takes place, it really wasn’t much of a battle at all. And much to my disappointment, there was little interaction between these siblings who are seeing each other for the first time in twenty years. Twenty years apart and yet there was no celebration! Or at least, not one we were invited to. So while I loved the story overall, truly loved it, I was very disappointed that we didn’t see some kind of grand reunion, or even a so-so reunion… but there was really nothing much at all, and that’s my only complaint about the book. Had it not ended so abruptly, this would have easily been a 5+++ star read, but even with the ending as it is, I’m still rating this 5 stars, and adding Micah and Liliana to my Top Couples Of All Time shelf.

The bottom line – I still breathe a sigh of contentment when I think of Micah and Liliana, and how very happy their story made me. Dark yet hopeful, tragic yet joyous, Lord of the Abyss is one of my very favorite stories and I know, without a doubt, I’ll be reading it time and time again.

My sincerest thanks to and Harlequin books for providing me with a copy of this wonderful ARC ebook.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pride & Passion by Charlotte Featherstone

“BEYOND THE MIST, the darkness and shadow, he waits, reaching out through a veil of gossamer threads—‘your future,’ he whispers, ‘your destiny.’”
There really is something magical about Charlotte Featherstone’s writing. Her stories are truly romantic, erotic, passionate, exciting…and definitely captivating. I find myself feeling as though I’ve been swept away to another time and place, and once I’m there, I never want to leave. Her characters are exciting, complex people whose stories I can’t wait to learn - people who I care about and cheer for.

Pride & Passion is the second book in the Brethren Guardians series, continuing mere weeks after book one, Seduction & Scandal ends, and we follow Adrian, Black and Alynwick as the need to find the villain known as Orpheus reaches a near fevered pitch. Kidnapping, threats and murder… Orpheus will stop at nothing to bring down the Brethren!

I absolutely adore Adrian, the Duke of Sussex. I found him to be both physically and mentally strong, mysterious and oh, so very sexy.
“I haven’t forgotten the chalice. I would take care to fill it,” he whispered wickedly, “to put my lips to it and savor what flows from it.”

It aroused her, at the same time it made her laugh. “That is a very naughty analogy, your grace.”

“I’m a gutter rat,” he whispered against her lips.“We’re known to be crass and licentious. Shall I show you?”
Indeed, there’s nothing like a tortured hero with a hidden past to get me all tingly, and Adrian is definitely that! From the first page to the last, I couldn’t get enough of him and would gladly bring him home and love him until his painful past is forgotten.

Lucy, on the other hand, is a heroine that I just couldn’t connect with, and it took me some time to get into the story because of her.
She was afraid. So damn afraid of the feelings inside her. Conflicting thoughts and emotions. Passion. That was all she had wanted. But this… What she was feeling had nothing to do with passion, and she wanted to run from it, to hide behind the veneer she had erected.

Empty, soulless creature. You want only passion because it’s all you can feel. Because it makes you forget that inside you there is nothing.
In Seduction & Scandal, I found her to be annoyingly selfish and immature, and in fact, I didn’t like her then, and I'm only slightly fonder of her now. Her seemingly haughty behavior kept me from being pulled in right away and it wasn’t until the final chapters of this book that she had a sudden transformation which, in the context of the story was okay, but for me, it came too late. For Pride & Passion to have been a solid 5 star read, I needed this to happen much sooner than it did so that I could have had more time to adjust to and accept the “new and improved” Lucy. But still, since Adrian is perfection incarnate, and his choice is Lucy, how can I possibly hold a grudge against her?

The bottom line - While there were a few moments that had me feeling like I had missed something somewhere, overall Pride & Passion is a very sexy, emotional, exciting story that had me on the edge of my seat and dying for the next installment! I don’t often read books with cliffhangers, so I don’t know how you people do it! What do you do to make the time pass faster? I need to know!!

Pride & Passion was provided by in behalf of the publisher, HQN Books.This had no influence on my rating or my review.

4.5/5 stars

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Gladiator's Master by Fae Sutherland and Marguerite Labbe

“Do not mistake gentleness for weakness, or confuse mercy with the inability to take care of my own.”
The year is 27AD and Caelius has come to his villa in Fidena, the villa he recently inherited from his late uncle. Craxus had been a self-indulgent man and had allowed his slaves, gladiators and in fact, all of his property, to fall into ruin. He gave no thought to those who depended on him, spending his coin on hedonistic pleasures and giving little care to the future, but now he's dead and it falls on Caelius to put things back in order. As his uncle's overseer showed him around the property, Caelius was both angry and saddened at what he finds:
Priscus wrung his hands as he led Caelius out to where the men had lined up to wait. They were an even more miserable-looking bunch up close, ill-fed with the pinched expressions and hollowed eyes of men who had lost muscle and weight. No doubt thanks to his uncle and his coin-pinching ways. Why feed slaves three times a day when he could feed them once and drink away what he saved?

His uncle hadn’t held to the same philosophy that the rest of the family did. That they had a duty to their slaves as much as their slaves had a duty to them. Still, he had not expected abuse on such a sickening, infuriating scale.

“They’re skin and bones! And filthy! What has happened to the coin I sent for food, fresh water and a medicus to see to their health?”

One of the gladiators lifted his head, genuine surprise flashing in his blue eyes. His brows furrowed as if he was questioning Caelius’s sincerity. After what he had likely endured at Craxus’s hands, Caelius didn’t blame him. His eyes wandered over the group and then came back to the gladiator, and their gazes caught. The man held his stare for a moment before lowering his eyes again.
To me, that passage speaks volumes to the kind of man Craxus had been and the kind of man Caelius is, and even though he is a slave owner, just as his uncle had been, I still found myself being drawn to him and wanting to know more about this Dominus.

Gaidres had lost so much to the greedy, arrogant Romans. He had nothing that mattered left; no family, no property, nothing but bitterness, and the only thing he had to live for was finding revenge against those who now ‘owned’ him. As far as he was concerned this new Dominus was no different from the last, and not to be trusted. While this man's words of outrage surprised Gaidres, he knew them for what they were - just words. He might have a new Master, but nothing else had changed except that now it was Caelius who would pay the price for what had been taken from Gaidres.

The Gladiator’s Master is the first story I’ve read taking place in ancient Rome during the legendary days of the Gladiators, and authors Fae Sutherland and Marguerite Labbe did a wonderful job of bringing that period of history to life. I enjoyed reading about the social classes, the ways of life, and the struggles of both the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots,’ but what really drew me in was the relationship between the slave, Gaidres, and his Dominus – or Master, Caelius. I found myself sympathetic for both men, who each in their own way was a victim of their times. They both had rules to follow, their lives being governed by laws and social status, and when it came right down to it, both were slaves, just to different masters.

While this story is incredibly hot, the sex scenes burning up the pages, what I loved most was the depth of emotions these men felt for one another; anger, hate and distrust, compassion, friendship and love… and I have to say that The Gladiator’s Master is one of the best M/M erotic historical romances I’ve read, and I will definitely look for more by these authors.

This ebook was provided free of charge by in behalf of Carina Press. This had no influence on my rating or my review.