Friday, November 30, 2012

Shades of Gray by Maya Banks

P.J. and Cole were sharpshooting rivals on the same KGI team and enjoyed a spirited, uncomplicated camaraderie. Until the night they gave in to their desires and suddenly took their relationship one step further. In the aftermath of their one night stand, they’re called up on a mission that goes terribly wrong, and P.J. walks away from KGI, determined not to drag her teammates into the murky shadows she’s poised to delve into.

Six months later, Cole hasn’t given up his search for P.J., and he’s determined to bring her back home where she belongs. Bent on vengeance, P.J. is on a mission that will plunge her into a serpentine game of payback and make her question everything she’s ever believed in. Cole—and the rest of their team—refuse to let her go it alone. Even if it means sacrificing their loyalty to KGI and their very lives…


Shades of Gray is the sixth book in Maya Banks’ KGI series and one incredibly exciting, sexy story. Fast paced, emotional… this book took me on a rollercoaster ride of feelings and I loved every minute of it!
I read this ARC not quite knowing what to expect. I do know that Ms. Banks’ is a very talented writer but I hadn’t yet ventured into this series and, as I have discovered, that’s a terrible shame I plan to rectify right away. I was instantly drawn to P.J. and Cole, and their chemistry - both sexual and as good friends and teammates - was so, so believable. It was comfortable, and …. right. From the first page to the last, I wanted them to be together - no,I didn't just want them to be together, I needed them to be together, and that doesn’t happen for me often, especially with characters I’ve never met before.

Another thing that doesn't often happen for me is becoming as attached to the heroine as I am the hero. Let's face it, we don't often find the heroine playing such a compelling, leading role in romantic suspense, but it happened in a big way in this book. P.J. not only holds her own, she really shines.

And the story – wow! Talk about exciting and emotional… at times so damned heartbreaking I was sobbing tears of anger - an honest to God ache in my chest from trying to hold back the tears, and at other times so happy I couldn't stop smiling… poignant, passionate, romantic... I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t want it to end but couldn't stop myself from reading, didn't want it to end but needed it to end so I’d find out what happened!

The bottom line: I really can’t say enough good things about this story. Romantic, sexy, fast paced and gripping, Shades of Gray has turned out to be one of my very favorite romantic suspense reads this year, and I cannot wait to read more!
5 of 5 stars!

My thanks to Affaire de Coeur Magazine and Berkley Sensation for providing me with a copy of this ARC for review. What an incredible pleasure it was!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets...

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them... even her heart.


 A Rogue by Any Other Name is the first book in Sarah MacLean’s The Rules of Scoundrels series and from the first page to the last is filled with emotion – happiness, heartbreak, passion, romance – a truly fabulous story!

I often find, with historical romances, that the rules society has placed on the women can make them seem mousey and pathetic, so I love it when an author takes those women and makes them strong enough to laugh at their peers – or at least gives them enough gumption to not care so much about what society thinks that they conform to what’s expected of them. That always makes for some funny, sexy stories, and that’s what Ms. MacLean has done with A Rogue by Any Other Name.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Love By Numbers series – in fact, I’ve often said that if I could choose to be any heroine from a historical romance novel, it would be Lady Calpurnia Hartwell from Nine Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake. She’s strong, independent, feisty, funny… I’d be her in a heartbeat, but to be honest, I feel that way about most of Sarah MacLean’s heroines. Rarely do I get as attached to the heroine of a story as I do to the hero, but with this author’s books, I always do. 

But I digress….

Our hero, Michael, Marquess of Bourne, is horrible! He’s not just an ass, he’s a pain in the ass! And I adored every single bit of him! You just know that in the end, he’s going to get his, and watching it come about is just so much fun! We go from him devising his plan for revenge, then watching him carry it out, knowing that he never considers - not even for a moment - that it won’t go as flawlessly as he expected. Then we see, bit by bit, the transformation; the shock when he starts to question his motives, his feelings, his true wants and desires. I absolutely love watching this transformation!

Our heroine, Lady Penelope Marbury, truly is my kind of woman. As I said above, Sarah MacLean is one of the few authors who can write heroines who are as perfect as her heroes. Penelope is, in some ways, a victim of her times, but she doesn’t let those suffocating rules of society keep her from having an “adventure”. I LOVE this about her! She reminds me somewhat of Lady Calpurnia, and perhaps that’s why I adore her so much. She didn’t sit about whimpering or simpering as she did her needlework, waiting for something exciting to happen. Nope! She found ways to create her own excitement. I love how she took life by the horns and didn’t let go!

And the story! Oh, my goodness! Take a rake – or in this case, a rogue – and give him a truly compelling, believable reason for revenge and toss in an innocent, but not naïve, heroine, and you have the makings of an incredible story, and that’s what this one is. Twists, turns, heartache and happiness – never a dull moment and I adored every word!

The bottom line: It probably goes without saying, but I can’t say it enough – I love this story! It was filled with emotion and had me laughing, sighing and fanning myself, start to finish. Sarah MacLean is one of the few “auto-buy” authors on my list, and books like A Rogue by Any Other Name is why.

I am soooo looking forward to the next book in the series, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover and cannot wait to watch Penelope’s sister, Lady Philippa Marbury, match wits with the man known only as Cross, the bookkeeper of the The Fallen Angel gaming hell. That is a story guaranteed to deliver everything I crave in historical romance, and a story not to be missed!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One Fine Fireman by Jennifer Bernard

One Fine Fireman is the first book in Jennifer Bernard’s The Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel series and a sweet, steamy, romantic story!

First, a little background to the series title: Due to an event over 150 years ago, the firefighters assigned to this firehouse are cursed to never find love. The curse surrounds the true (supposedly) story of mail order bride Constancia B. Sidwell and says that one of the first volunteer firemen in the area, Virgil Rush, had been corresponding with Constancia B. Sidwell who was eager to start a new life in the West. Like many women of the time were doing, she hopped on a mail coach to travel across the country to meet her future husband, but before she could reach him, a gang of robbers attacked. The story goes on that she fell in love with the leader of the gang and never thought about poor Virgil again, and Virgil, subjected to the unrelenting teasing of his fellow firefighters, vowed that from that day forward, San Gabriel firefighters would suffer the same rocky road to romance that he did.

Now, that really has nothing to do with the storyline, but it’s a fun “backdrop” to the series, so I wanted to share that with you.

But on to the story itself!

Kirk, nicknamed Thor by his fellow firefighters because of his tall, handsome, Viking god looks, has been pining away for Maribel, the sweet waitress who works at the diner he and the other men of the San Gabriel Firehouse visit. For six years he’s been going there for his coffee, and for six years he’s uttered no more than a handful of words at time when he sees her. Kirk is shy, and she’s engaged. He’s moving, and she’s engaged. He’s a cancer survivor who knows there’s always a risk of reoccurrence and doesn’t want to burden anyone with that, so he’s mostly stayed clear of relationships, but there’s something so special about Maribel that he just can’t keep from developing feelings for her. But… she’s engaged!

Maribel loves it when the men of the San Gabriel Firehouse stop in for coffee, especially the good looking blond, Kirk. He’s incredibly sweet and he always purchases her handmade ornaments and other goodies. She can't help but be attracted to him, but she knows it can't go anywhere because she's engaged. Not that she'd ever think of cheating on her fiancee Duncan! They've been engaged for years and she's sure he's finally ready to set a date... but Kirk is... out of her league. And besides, she's engaged!

But when a precocious little boy and an adorable stray dog bring she and Kirk together, sparks fly and Mirabel starts to wonder why she's never felt for Duncan the things she's feeling for the sexy fireman. And Kirk... well Kirk isn't about to let this chance for a life with the woman he's loved from afar pass him up.

As I already said, this is a sweet, entertaining read. I enjoyed the story, the romance, the characters, and even the small glimpses we're given into the other firefighters. It's a quick, feel good story that left me with a smile on my face and looking forward to reading more in this series, soon!

My thanks to Edelweiss and Avon Books for providing me with a copy of this story! It was a pleasure!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey

A second shot at first love…

After college, Ryan Kowalski decided to leave Whitford, Maine, rather than watch Lauren Carpenter marry another man. Now his siblings need his help to refurbish the family-owned Northern Star Lodge and he's forced to face the past sooner rather than later when he collars a vandal—and learns the boy is Lauren's son…

The last person Lauren needs back in her life is Ryan Kowalski. With a bitter ex-husband and a moody teenage son, she has enough man trouble already. But her son needs to learn a few lessons about right and wrong, even if Lauren has to escort him to Ryan's door every day to work off his crime.

With all this close contact, Ryan and Lauren can't deny the chemistry between them is as powerful as ever. But can a few searing kisses erase their past and pave the way for a second chance at true love?


All He Ever Desired is the fifth book in the Kowalski Family series and another enjoyable story. I can tell you, without hesitation, that Shannon Stacey is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors, and this series is must read for me. The stories are sweet, passionate, humorous, and often focus on valuable lessons, reminding us of what is most important in life; Love, family and integrity.

There are so many things to love about this story! Revisiting the Kowalski clan as they come together for Paige and Mitch’s wedding made for some fun times. Watching Rose and Andy grow closer – Rose’s snarky (for Rose) comments and Andy’s obvious affection for her. Meeting Lauren’s troubled teen age son, Nick, and getting a glimpse into the man he’ll become. And most especially, Ryan and Lauren, the stars of this story.

Ironically, my favorite part of this story is also my least favorite. Like the cover blurb tells us, a lot of years have passed since Ryan made Lauren an offer she was obviously able to refuse, and both moved on with their lives, though neither ever forgot the other. Circumstances have brought them together again, so with all those years behind them and nothing to stop them, they’re finally ready to take a chance on each other and see what the future might hold.

And this is why it's my favorite part: I loved how real it felt. How we watched their struggle - Ryan's to approach Lauren again after having already been shot down once. It might have been 16 years ago, but the wound she inflicted to his pride, and his heart, is still fresh. And Lauren's struggle to take a chance and allow someone into her life again, especially a man like Ryan Kowalski who makes her feel things no one, not even her ex husband, had ever made her feel.

And this is why it's my least favorite part: It's heartwarming, at times poignant and inspirational, but by the very nature of this story, it also causes some lag in the flow and pacing. Not to the point of distraction, mind you, but for me it was there and that's the only thing keeping this from being a 5 star read.

So now I'm very much looking forward to Josh's story and finding out if he can make his own dreams come true. He's been the one person holding everything together while everyone else was off following their own dreams and now it's his time to shine. And then there's Liz's story, too. That girl's had it rough and it's time that she have a chance at love, whether she realizes she wants it or not.

The bottom line: Like all the books in this series, All He Ever Desired is a romantic, steamy, funny, feel good story. The devotion to family and community gives these books that small town feel that I adore, and the characters - their lives and loves - are what keeping me coming back for more.

My thanks to and Carina Press for providing me with a copy of this book for review. As always, it was a pleasure.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Unraveled by Courtney Milan

Smite Turner is renowned for his single-minded devotion to his duty as a magistrate. But behind his relentless focus lies not only a determination to do what is right, but the haunting secrets of his past—secrets that he is determined to hide, even if it means keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Until the day an irresistible woman shows up as a witness in his courtroom…

Miranda Darling isn’t in trouble…yet. But she’s close enough that when Turner threatens her with imprisonment if she puts one foot wrong, she knows she should run in the other direction. And yet no matter how forbidding the man seems on the outside, she can’t bring herself to leave. Instead, when he tries to push her away, she pushes right back—straight through his famous self-control, and into the heart of the passion that he has long hidden away…


Every so often I go through my Goodreads book shelves, making sure they're nice and tidy; books listed on all the right shelves, star rated and reviews written. That's what I was doing today, and imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had not written my review for this book! I was floored. Simply shocked that I had forgotten to do so.

Well, it might have been quite some time since I read the book, and though I had forgotten to write the review, I have not forgotten the story, or how much I adored Smite Turner and Miranda Darling!

Unraveled is the third book in the Turner series and the story I had been most anxiously waiting for, and oh, how I loved this story! Every word, every sentence, every page, every… well, you get the idea. I loved it! Smite’s story, even more than Ash’s and Mark’s, tore me up. It’s emotional – heartbreaking, gut wrenching, poignant, inspirational, romantic and very sexy. It’s all the things I've come to expect from Courtney Milan’s stories and much, much more.

Because this is one of those stories that delivers on every level, I’m going to break it down and ramble a bit.

Smite Turner – AKA, Lord Justice. Honorable, just, compassionate, wise, worldly, naïve, devoted, romantic and so very sexy. Tormented, vulnerable, strong, determined, perfectly imperfect and so very wise. Smite is all of this, rolled into a handsome bundle of manly delectability who I wanted to bring home and love all the pain away. He is my kind of hero!

Miranda Darling – AKA Darling. Clever, funny, independent, compassionate, worldly and yet naïve. In all the things she was, and even those she was not, she’s perfect for Smite! Her stubbornness was both annoying and admirable, and I absolutely adored her!

The story – Fun, exciting, surprising, fast paced, and not the same ol’, same ol’ historical romance. I loved how Miranda’s problem, and Smite’s inability to ignore it, brought them together, helped bring out the very best in them, and each other, and gave them the chance to achieve the happily ever after they were both so deserving of!

The bottom line – If you love historical romance and want your stories to have incredible characters, people who come to life and grab hold of your heart and never let go, then you simply must read Courtney Milan’s Turner series. Each story is amazing, and sure to leave you with a smile on your face and a contented sigh in your soul. Trust me on this – you won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Way to a Duke's Heart by Caroline Linden

Charles de Lacey, Lord Gresham, is running out of time, running from his responsibilities, and running from love.

Destined to be a duke, Charles de Lacey has led a life of decadent pleasure, free of any care for propriety or responsibility. It comes as a terrible shock to learn that he might be stripped of everything, thanks to his father's scandalous past. He has no choice but to find the blackmailer who would ruin him—and his only link to the villain is a woman who may be part of the plot…

To save his fortune and title, he vows he'll stop at nothing—in fact, he's all too eager to unravel the beautiful, tart-tongued Tessa Neville. She intrigues him and tempts him like no other lady ever has. With only his heart to guide him, and keenly aware that his entire future is at stake, Charles must decide: is she the woman of his dreams, or an enemy in disguise.


The Way to a Duke’s Heart is the final book in the The Truth About the Duke trilogy and a fun, charming story. Scandal, mystery, romance and blackmail make up this tale, and I enjoyed every minute of it! This is my first taste of Caroline Linden’s writing and a truly pleasant experience. The characters, their lives and circumstances, kept me invested and wanting to know more about them, especially the scandal surrounding Charles’ rightful – or not – claim to the Dukedom. 

And speaking of Charles, I found him to be clever, insightful, immensely charming, and most definitely sexy, too! But aside from all this, I think what I loved most about him were his insecurities and uncertainties because they made him an imperfect hero, one I wanted to bring home and love until he could see in himself the man that I saw in him! Charismatic, flawed, honorable and sexy... Charles is the kind of hero I love in my historical romance reads.

Tessa is a truly great heroine, one I felt connected to early on. Unconventional, independent, compassionate and loving, she might have been stubborn but she was never annoying – okay, maybe occasionally annoying, but nothing I couldn’t cope with! She felt deep love for her family, and shame for what she had put them through, and so she spent her life trying to prove herself and win back their respect. I loved this about her! She didn't whimper and whine about the things that had happened. There was no “Woe is me!” simpering. She knew what had to be done and then set about putting everything to rights, thus restoring her family’s faith in her! Though I have to say, I'm not entirely sure she had ever truly lost it.

In addition to the wonderful leading couple, there was an awesome supporting cast, but my favorite was Tessa’s clever, elderly companion, Eugenie, who stole the show a time or two.

Before closing, I want to reiterate - Although this is the third book of the trilogy, it really does work well as a standalone. Ms. Linden did a fabulous job giving us the back-story without it feeling forced or dictated. That said, I will most definitely be reading the prequel, I Love the Earl and the first two full length novels, One Night in London and Blame it on Bath, and look forward to reading more by this very talented author!

The bottom line: While there were areas the story lagged a bit, The way to a Duke's Heart is a brilliant work of twists and turns that never felt contrived or predictable. I’m very impressed that, although I hadn’t read the first two books, I never felt lost or as if I had missed something. The relationship and the romance built at a comfortable pace and I found myself cheering for Charles’ and Tessa’s happily ever after and when they reached it, knowing it was a love meant to be.

3.5/5 stars

My thanks to HarperCollins/Avon Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.