Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Unraveled (Turner #3) 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…

Unraveled is the third book in the Turner series and the story I'd been most anticipating!

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!

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!

Click here to purchase Unraveled at Amazon

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

One-Eyed Dukes are Wild (Dukes Behaving Badly #3) by Megan Frampton


When does proper behavior deserve a deliciously improper reward?

The scandalously unmarried Lady Margaret Sawford is looking for adventure—and is always up for a challenge. Her curiosity is aroused by a dangerous-looking stranger with an eye patch, an ideal companion for the life she longs for, no matter what Society might say. So when the piratical gentleman turns out to be a duke—and just as boringly proper as any other nobleman—she can't help but incite him to walk on the wild side.

Well-heeled, well-mannered, and well beyond any interest in society's expectations, the Duke of Lasham is tired of being perfect. Margaret's lush beauty and gently laughing eyes are an irresistible temptation to embrace the imperfect—and her. But if a little misbehavior is appealing, unleashing his wild side is completely seductive—as long as the lovely Margaret is the object of his passion.

One-Eyed Dukes are Wild is the 3rd book in Megan Frampton's Dukes Behaving Badly series, and yet it's the 1st in the series I've read. That didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story as I was able to follow along, never feeling like I'd missed something for having not read the previous books. And though it took a bit for the story to really grab hold, once it did I was thoroughly captivated!

I have to say this right up front - Margaret is one of the most refreshing leading ladies I've read in a good, long while. In fact, I felt a connection to her in that we both have similar ideals and goals, the difference being that she risks life and limb to champion the women who come to her attention, and I both loved and envied that about her!

The Duke of Lasham - the One-Eyed Duke - is just too cute - as in 'cheek squeezing' adorable! I fell hard for him and for all his flaws and insecurities. I couldn't help but cheer him on as he set his sites on Margaret and did whatever needed to be done to make her his.

One of the things I most enjoyed was the natural way the relationship between Lasham and Margaret progressed. It built slow but this made it believable, and at no time did it feel forced. Maybe because they spend so much time together, this slow build never dragged things out, and that made for a beautiful story!

Bottom line... this is a fun, sexy, romantic story. It's also poignant and thought-provoking at times, and proves that true love truly can overcome any obstacle... if you let it!

An ARC was provided by Avon Books. In appreciation I am giving them an honest review.

Click here to purchase One-Eyed Dukes Are Wild at Amazon

Monday, December 28, 2015

Untamed (MacKinnon's Rangers #2) by Pamela Clare

Charged with a crime they didn't commit, the MacKinnon brothers faced a death sentence until they agreed to serve the British Crown in the colonies and take up arms against the French. Allied with the Indian tribes who lived beside them in the wilderness, the Scottish Highland warriors forged a new breed of soldier...

MacKinnon's Rangers

Though forced to fight for the hated English, Morgan MacKinnon would no more betray the men he leads than slit his own throat—not even when captured by the French and threatened with an agonizing death by fire at the hands of their Abenaki allies. Only the look of innocent longing in the eyes of Amalie, a convent-bred French lass, could make him question his vow to escape and return to the Rangers. And soon the sweet passion he awakens in Amalie has him cursing the war that forced him to choose between upholding his honor and pledging himself to the woman he loves.

Keeping this short:

This is the 2nd installment of the MacKinnon's Rangers series and was every bit as good as the 1st, if not better! In this story loyalties are tested and we learn that not everything is as it seems.

In a way very few authors can do, Pamela Clare has given us characters who are so much more than fictional. Morgan and Amalie are living, breathing people I care about, and the story-line is, once again, unique to the "Highlander" genre.

Without a doubt, start to finish, Untamed is a fast paced, funny and sexy read! I've said it before and I'll say it again... Pamela Clare writes some of the best stories out there and if you haven't yet given her a try, you're missing out on great times!

Click here to purchase Untamed at Amazon

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Surrender (MacKinnon's Rangers #1) by Pamela Clare


A hand-picked cadre of warriors, they had the fierce courage of their Scots forefathers, combined with the stealth and cunning of the Indians who lived beside them in the wilderness. Battling the French in a no-holds-barred combat, they forged a new brand of honor, became a new breed of men...MacKinnon's Rangers

Iain MacKinnon had been forced to serve the British crown, but compassion urged him to save the lovely lass facing certain death at the hands of the Abenaki. He'd defied his orders, endangered his brothers, his men and his mission, all for a woman. But when he held Annie's sweet body in his arms, he could feel no regret. Though he sensed she was hiding something from him, it was too late to hold back his heart. In love and war, there are times when the only course of action is...Surrender.

Back in 2010 I had the extremely good fortune to discover Pamela Clare, an author whose gift for storytelling is amazing. In fact, in my opinion, she's unsurpassed in the historical romance genre. Surrender was my first Pamela Clare read, and I liked so much that before I was even finished I ordered the next in the series, Untamed. There are many thing to love about the MacKinnon's Rangers series, most especially the refreshingly unique setting for a historical romance. These “Highlanders” are living in the American Colonies, fighting for Britain against the French and the Native Americans. They belong to an elite military group called The Rangers, with Iain MacKinnon as their leader. He’s honorable, strong, independent, rebellious and not someone you can easily manipulate. He is an alpha male in every sense of the word and when he wants something, he always finds a way to get it, as Annie found out when he set his sights on her.

Annie is a spunky woman who demands propriety in all things – when it suits her. The last few years have been difficult for her. After her father and brothers’ deaths in battle she and her mother, out of necessity, go live with her uncle. He is an intense man who demands obedience in all things – especially the bedroom – where his sexual appetites run to the darker extremes. When Annie witnesses her mother’s death at the hands of her uncle, Annie runs away, only to be found, imprisoned and shipped to the colonies where she becomes an indentured servant. Circumstances arise that cause Annie’s and Iain’s paths to cross, quite literally. This is when the story really takes off.

In addition to Iain, we have Conner and Morgan MacKinnon, Iain’s brothers by blood, and Joseph, Iain’s Native American brother by choice. All of the males in this story are alpha and very worthy of their own stories.

While I truly did enjoy both Annie and Iain, what surprised me was how intriguing I found Lord William Wentworth, this story’s antagonist. He has blackmailed Iain and his brothers into serving the British crown in this war by threatening to have them hanged on false charges of murder. His actions, his motivations and his demeanor remind of another favorite “bad good-guy,” Jonas Wyatt from Lora Leigh’s Breeds series. As in Jonas’ case, I’m dying to read Lord William’s story! Some of the interactions between him and the brothers are laugh out loud funny and among my favorite moments from this book.

If you haven't yet read Pamela Clare's brilliant style of telling a story, you're missing out on some the best stories out there!

Click here to purchase Surrender at Amazon

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Kindled Winter by Rachel L. Demeter


A week before Christmas, Jeseca Reed sets off for Blue River, Oregon—her childhood home and a vault of tender memories. However, fate takes an unexpected turn when she’s left stranded in the mountains’ vast, untamed wilderness. Desperate and alone, she seeks shelter at a cottage and finds herself in the arms of a mysterious stranger.

Dr. David Drake was once a renowned cardiovascular surgeon. But a devastating tragedy has left him scarred both inside and out, unable to use his hands to operate again. For the past five years, his Blue River cottage has been his sole escape—a safe haven where he can shut out the world, bury himself in his grief, and reunite with his son’s memory.

Together they are summer and winter. Fire and ice. And yet a poignant connection forms between them. Jeseca awakens David and thaws his heart with a romance hot enough to melt snow. But before David and Jeseca can fully embrace each other, they must wade through darkness and confront the ghosts of their pasts …

Equal parts steamy and heartfelt, A Kindled Winter brings the spirit of the holidays to life with a passionate story of second chances and healing love.

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” — Dale Evans

Ms. Demeter asked me to review her book, A Kindled Winter, and one look at her book description told me this would likely be an emotional read. I was right. In fact, these two amazing people - Jeseca and David - both suffered tragic loss in their pasts, which made parts of this story heartbreaking.

Honestly, A Kindled Winter starts out darker than your usual holiday stories, but that darkness made the light, when it came, that much brighter. That much more beautiful. The pacing was sometimes a bit on the hurried side, but this story warmed my heart and reminded me of the miracle of true love, and the magic of Christmas.

An ARC was provided by the author and in appreciation I’m giving her an honest review.

Click here to purchase A Kindled Winter on Amazon

Friday, December 25, 2015

Wishing You a Blessed and Joy Filled Christmas!

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Pirate for Christmas: A Regency Novella by Anna Campbell


What is vicar’s daughter Bess Farrar to do when the dashing new earl, the man gossip paints as a ruthless pirate, kisses her the day they meet? Why, kiss him right back, of course! Now Lord Channing vows to claim the lovely firebrand, despite interfering villagers, a snowstorm, scandal, and a rascally donkey. The gallant naval captain’s first landlocked Christmas promises mayhem – and a lifetime of breathtaking passion.

Wooing his vivacious lady, the new Earl of Channing finds himself embroiled with matchmaking villagers, an eccentric vicar, mistaken identities, a snowstorm, scandal, and a rascally donkey. Life at sea was never this exciting. The gallant naval captain’s first landlocked Christmas promises hijinks, danger, and passion – and a breathtaking chance to win the love of a lifetime.

A Pirate for Christmas
is a romantic, fun, passionate Regency novella written by one of the genre's brightest stars. I smiled, I sighed and even giggled my way through this holiday tale and, as always, look forward to whatever it is Anna Campbell dreams up next!

Click here to purchase A Pirate for Christmas on Amazon

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Three Nights with a Soundrel (Stud Club Trilogy #3) by Tessa Dare


The bastard son of a nobleman, Julian Bellamy is now polished to perfection, enthralling the ton with wit and charm while clandestinely plotting to ruin the lords, ravish the ladies, and have the last laugh on a society that once spurned him. But after meeting Leo Chatwick, a decent man and founder of an elite gentlemen’s club, and Lily, Leo’s enchanting sister, Julian reconsiders his wild ways. And when Leo’s tragic murder demands that Julian hunt for justice, he vows to see the woman he secretly loves married to a man of her own class.

Lily, however, has a very different husband in mind. She’s loved Julian forever, adores the man beneath the rakish façade, and wants to savor the delicious attraction they share—as his wife. His insistence on marrying her off only reinforces her intent to prove that he is the only man for her. Obsessed with catching a killer, Julian sinks back to the gutters of his youth, forcing Lily to reach out with a sweet, reckless passion Julian can’t resist. Can her desire for a scoundrel save them both—or will dangerous secrets threaten more than their tender love?

Wow, Three Nights with a Scoundrel wraps up the Stud Club Trilogy and all I can say is, I never saw that coming! I’m not exactly sure how I can review this book without going on and on and on, and then give away too much of the plot and the truth about who killed Leo! I know others have managed to write wonderful reviews, but I’m at a loss. Please bear with me as I ramble my way through this review.

I’ve always loved Leo’s idea of the Stud Club, and figured he started it just to be magnanimous, to be a good person. I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Leo created this club for the very reasons he claimed he did – so that everyone could belong, not just those who are wealthy and accepted by society, but also for those who are not, and with the circumstances of his death being revealed, I admire him all the more for it.

I definitely adore Julian, which was something I wasn’t sure would happen. He came across as quite the unlikeable guy in the previous two books because of the way he put on airs, as he seemingly considered himself better than those around him. Well, now we understand why, and I’ve come to love him both for the man he is, and the man he is not.

I also loved Lily, her quiet nature, unobtrusive – yet so very smart, such an amazing lady. She was underestimated by everyone around her, even those who knew her best, thinking that her deafness meant she was somehow less able to manage things or to take care of herself. So this opportunity we had to get to know the real Lily was such a treat! In addition to her wisdom, she was so full of love, so giving and understanding that not only was she able to function on her own, she was able to look out for and take care of everyone around her. Even when they didn’t think they need her to.

I think the Stud Club and the mystery surrounding Leo’s death was an excellent foundation for this trilogy. We watch as his family and friends try to deal with this generous man’s tragic death, with some coping better than others. The truth is, sometimes there’s no way to understand, no resolution that can make us better able to accept the loss. Sometimes that’s just the way it happens. We can’t always gain an understanding of why fate steps in and changes a life's direction, or takes a life, but it happens and those left behind to grieve often times never give up searching for answers – answers they never find. Or get the answers they don’t quite expect. Such is the case with Leo’s death. Those dearest to him who so desperately needed the truth learned that the truth, that knowledge they gained doesn’t necessarily help because their pain still exists; their loved one is still gone. The real challenge they face is learning to go on, living their lives in a way that would have made Leo proud.

My only regret as this trilogy comes to an end, is that even though we did get to know him better in this book, we didn’t get to spend, in my opinion, enough time with Leo. He was a male most worthy of his own story and a happily ever after. With whomever he chose.

Click here to purchase Three Nights with a Scoundrel at Amazon

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Twice Tempted by a Rogue (Stud Club Trilogy #2) by Tessa Dare


The daring members of the Stud Club are reckless gamblers and no strangers to risk--until love raises the stakes in Twice Tempted by a Rogue.

Luck is a double-edged sword for brooding war hero Rhys St. Maur. His death wish went unanswered on the battlefield, while fate allowed the murder of his good friend in the elite gentlemen's society known as the Stud Club. Out of options, Rhys returns to his ancestral home on the moors of Devonshire, expecting anything but a chance at redemption in the arms of a beautiful innkeeper who dares him to take on the demons of his past--and the sweet temptation of a woman's love.

Meredith Maddox believes in hard work, not fate, and romance isn't part of her plan. But when Rhys returns, battle-scarred, world-weary, and more dangerously attractive than ever, the lovely widow is torn between determination and desire. As a deep mystery and dangerous smugglers threaten much more than their passionate reckoning, Meredith discovers that she must trust everything to a wager her heart placed long ago.

The second installment of the Stud Club Trilogy almost didn’t feel like part of the series at all due in part to the fact that we really hadn’t gotten to know Rhys St. Maur very well at all in One Dance With A Duke, so in this book he seemed to me to be a totally new character. In addition to that, the continuing storyline revolving around Leo’s death didn’t really come into play until the latter part of the book. I didn’t mind any of this because Rhys’ and Meredith’s story was strong enough to stand on its own merit and kept me interested from start to finish.

Meredith is, unfortunately for me, my least favorite type of historical romance heroine. She was annoyingly independent and bossy. She basically ran the whole village and that just didn’t set well with me…however, that’s my problem and no reflection on the story or the author’s writing… it was just who she was. But as the story progressed and I learned more about her background, I began to understand her better and could see that her “in charge” attitude was more of necessity than just a desire to be the boss.

Rhys St. Maur, on the other hand, is my favorite kind of hero – scarred both physically and emotionally. Eleven years spend in the service of the Crown can really take its toll on a man and it surely did on Rhys. When he finally decided to return to his ancestral home, Buckleigh-in-the-Moor in Devonshire, to face the demons of his past and take up the responsibilities he’d ignored for all those years, he did so knowing that he wouldn’t be very popular and likely not welcomed at all. He was right. But he had no intention of allowing the less than warm welcome to dissuade him from what he knew he had to do. He was a man who’d faced and defeated death over and over, despite his best efforts to the contrary. So, if he had to live, he’d decided he’d go home and do what he could to right the wrongs done by his family.

It was quite an interesting twist to watch Meredith and Rhys butt heads when it came to marriage – he wanted to marry her, she just wanted sex. Smart man, Rhys – he held out for marriage! Well… he held out for a good long time, anyway!

Now, I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally read a book where the “deep, dark secret” really was deep and dark and worthy of a tormented character. All too often authors fail their readers by writing characters whose brooding nature and sexual intensity are due to some horrific event or events in their past. We become invested in these characters as people and forgive their brutish and oft times uncivilized behavior because we know they had it rough and need to be loved until they are all better – well, that is until we actually learn what said “deep, dark secret” is, only to become really miffed because it doesn’t fit the circumstances at all. I mean, these men are really, really messed up! I expect to find out that whatever screwed them up is really, really bad and not just that they didn’t get the black pony they wanted for Christmas when they were 12, and we’re expected to believe that’s why they’re dark and brooding! This is not the case with Twice Tempted by a Rogue, and in fact, both Rhys and Meredith have “deep, dark secrets” that, in my humble opinion, vindicate them both from their intolerable behaviors and even made me more understanding of Meredith’s desire to single handedly save the entire village. What surprised me was that her secret was every bit as compelling as Rhys’ and made her refusal to marry him understandable. I loved how the author created a “blame” that was powerful enough to make their guilt and self deprecation believable. Brilliant storytelling, that!

I enjoyed this story very much and was truly surprised by the revelation that leads us into the third and final book, Three Nights with a Scoundrel. I’m truly looking forward reading more by Tessa Dare.

Click here to purchase Twice Tempted by a Rogue at Amazon

Monday, December 21, 2015

One Dance with a Duke (Stud Club Trilogy #1) by Tessa Dare


In One Dance with a Duke—the first novel in Tessa Dare’s delightful new trilogy—secrets and scandals tempt the irresistible rogues of the Stud Club to gamble everything for love.

A handsome and reclusive horse breeder, Spencer Dumarque, the fourth Duke of Morland, is a member of the exclusive Stud Club, an organization so select it has only ten members—yet membership is attainable to anyone with luck. And Spencer has plenty of it, along with an obsession with a prize horse, a dark secret, and, now, a reputation as the dashing “Duke of Midnight.” Each evening he selects one lady for a breathtaking midnight waltz. But none of the women catch his interest, and nobody ever bests the duke—until Lady Amelia d’Orsay tries her luck.

In a moment of desperation, the unconventional beauty claims the duke’s dance and unwittingly steals his heart. When Amelia demands that Spencer forgive her scapegrace brother’s debts, she never imagines that her game of wits and words will lead to breathless passion and a steamy proposal. Still, Spencer is a man of mystery, perhaps connected to the shocking murder of the Stud Club’s founder. Will Amelia lose her heart in this reckless wager or win everlasting love?

I’ll start out by saying that I’ve seen reviews and comments by people who thought the Stud Club idea for a plot was dumb, boring, and lacking believability, but I actually thought it was a great jumping off point and foundation for the trilogy. After all, when you think about it, it’s not too hard to believe that there would be the need or desire for a men’s club in which membership was not based on which side of the tracks, or in this case, which side of the ton you were born on. And, while we never meet him, it made me respect and care for the late Leo Chatwick, the Marquess of Harcliffe, whose idea it was to start the club, because even though he was one of the wealthy ones, he knew that money didn’t make the man, and valuable and lasting friendships could be formed between people of all classes. As Julian Bellamy, one of the three remaining members of the Stud Club so passionately and eloquently tells us when speaking to one of the others, “It’s naught but luck. Simple, dumb, blue-blooded luck is all that separates a man like you from a man like me. Leo understood it. He never thought himself the better of anyone. That’s why he created this Club, made its membership contingent on the kind of good fortune that comes after one’s birth, not before it.” What a great, unique idea for a storyline!

I enjoyed Spencer Dumarque, Duke of Morland well enough even before he deserved it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about him that reminded me of Clayton Westmoreland from Whitney, My Love. Spencer Morland is a very intense, demanding man. He wants things his way and doesn’t mind using his ducal status to get it. He demands respect and does only what he wishes and has a difficult time fathoming it when someone isn’t intimidated by him—likely because it doesn’t happen that often! He’s aloof, mysterious, brooding and all the other things that a man must be if he expects to be worth his weight in whatever it is a Duke’s weight is worth. Whew! Say that 20 times fast without taking a breath! He isn’t necessarily my favorite kind of hero, one who suffers some physical scars as well as emotional ones, but yet, there was just something about him that captured my heart and my imagination and I knew from the start that I’d end up falling in love with him. I was right. *sigh*

As far as heroines go, Amelia d’Orsay was ok. A 26 year old spinster, she’s strong, resourceful, stubborn, capable, and intelligent and with a list like that, you’d think I would have adored her. But sadly, I wasn’t drawn to her and never felt a real connection or attachment. I can only guess that it’s because she seemed to lack much compassion towards the people who really deserved it, except Lily, and she is quite gullible where her brother, Jack, is concerned which made for some frustrating times. It somehow just didn’t fit that this incredibly smart woman, so, so insightful and full of common sense, just couldn’t see beyond her love and devotion for him to see what a sniveling, whiny little miscreant he is. Instead, she kept making excuses for him, constantly bailing him out of trouble, never even considering that she wasn’t helping him at all. I wasn’t sure how this would turn out, but finally, very near the end we get our answer:

Slight Spoiler: This takes place when Amelia, finally “gets it” about her brother, when Jack fails to offer his coat to a shivering, pregnant young woman: Strangely enough, Amelia was glad of it. That small example of thoughtlessness might be inconsequential compared to his other misdeeds—but it was this final ounce of selfishness that tipped the scales. For many months, she’d believed she could save her brother if only she loved him hard enough. But she saw her error clearly now. She’d accused Spencer of being insular, but Jack was the one incapable of seeing beyond his own grief. Other men lost brothers, friends, even children and wives—and still avoided abject dissolution. Why Jack had stumbled into the chasm when others managed to skirt it, she would never know. But she finally understood it was beyond her power to pull him out. This epiphany of hers was so totally believable to me, because I’ve had those sudden, painful moments of clarity where family is concerned myself. Anyway, this is where Amelia redeemed herself and ceased being a one-dimensional character in a book and became someone I could cheer for, someone I could respect and someone deserving of a happily ever after with Spencer, a man I adore. End Spoiler

The supporting cast of characters, Lily Chatwick—Leo’s sister, Claudia, Lord Ashworth, and Julian Bellamy, I found to all be people with compelling enough backgrounds to warrant their own stories. I know that Ashworth and Bellamy (with Lily as his happily ever after) will have books of their own, but I’m hoping that we’ll see enough of the Morland clan to learn what ultimately happens with Claudia, Spencer’s ward. Then of course there’s Jack d’Orsay, and frankly, I’d be perfectly fine never hearing his name again.

I have to say that what I suspect was the main storyline – the murder mystery – was secondary to me. I was more interested in what I saw as a tale of the classes. About those who “belong” in proper society and those who don’t. I really like the way Tessa Dare approached it, because let’s be honest here, it’s a theme that’s been quite written to death, but by using the idea of the Stud Club, she gives us a unique, interesting and funny twist to a “done to death” plot in historical romance novels. I enjoyed Ms. Dare’s writing style, her unique turn of phrases and her ability to take situations which might normally seem like just more of the same old, same old, and made them fun, interesting and burn up the pages hot! Can anyone say “piquet?” LOL

Overall, I enjoyed One Dance with a Duke and Spencer is the latest addition to my All Time Favorite Top 10 Heroes list. And even though I’ve heard a couple of less than appealing things about Twice Tempted by a Rogue, the second book in the Stud Club Trilogy, I’ll keep reading because I want to know what happens with Ashworth, Bellamy, Lily and Claudia, I want to find out who killed Leo and ultimately, what becomes of the Stud Club.

Click here to purchase One Dance with a Duke at Amazon

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss #1) by Nalini Singh

Blurb: A bad boy wrapped in a sexy, muscled, grown-up package might be worth a little risk…

Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media’s harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction.

A one-night stand with the hottest rock star on the planet, that’s all it was meant to be…

Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he’ll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own. Sex and sin and sensual indulgence, all with an expiration date. No ties, no regrets. Too late, Molly realizes it isn’t only her body that’s become addicted to Fox, but her heart…

As a longtime fan of Nalini Singh's work, I began reading Rock Addiction fully aware that it isn't her usual Paranormal or Sci-Fi story (which I love), rather, this is an edgy, sexy, New Adult/Contemporary Romance tale. But I have to admit, while I was fully expecting something different from the Guild Hunters and Psy-Changeling type stories, I was hoping she'd bring the same level of unique world building she's become so famous for to the Rock Kiss series. Again, I have to admit, I didn't get what I was hoping for in that regard, and I guess it's not too surprising because when a story line's been done to death - as bad boy rock stars have been - it's going to be tough coming up with something fresh.

That said, without a doubt, Nalini Singh knows how to tell a story and make it riveting, exciting, passionate, and romantic. While Rock Addiction isn't perfect it's a good start to the series and I'm looking forward to reading more - though I hope Ms. Singh can find a way to put her own unique mark on the genre.

ARC provided by the publisher, TKA, via Netgalley!

Click here to purchase Rock Addiction at Amazon

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Blood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy #1) by J.R. Ward

Blurb: Paradise, blooded daughter of the king’s First Advisor, is ready to break free from the restrictive life of an aristocratic female. Her strategy? Join the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center program and learn to fight for herself, think for herself…be herself. It’s a good plan, until everything goes wrong. The schooling is unfathomably difficult, the other recruits feel more like enemies than allies, and it’s very clear that the Brother in charge, Butch O’Neal, a.k.a. the Dhestroyer, is having serious problems in his own life.

And that’s before she falls in love with a fellow classmate. Craeg, a common civilian, is nothing her father would ever want for her, but everything she could ask for in a male. As an act of violence threatens to tear apart the entire program, and the erotic pull between them grows irresistible, Paradise is tested in ways she never anticipated—and left wondering whether she’s strong enough to claim her own power…on the field, and off.

For years now it’s seemed that the WARDen (J.R. Ward) has been taking the Brotherhood down a different path, a path I found myself less and less wanting to follow. The stories became more Urban Fantasy than Paranormal Romance and, as became painfully clear in The Shadows, the WARDen’s idea of true love and happily ever afters was morphing into something I wanted no part of. But being a loyal fan and unwilling - or unable - to give up, it was with some trepidation and a whole lot of cautious optimism that I began reading Blood Kiss because, after the travesty of The Shadows, I wasn’t sure I’d ever enjoy a Black Dagger Brotherhood novel again. I didn’t preorder, I didn’t read reviews, I didn’t chat it up with fellow BDB lovers…I avoided any and all discussion as much as possible. Until, that is, I peeked at my Goodreads’ friends comments (thanks, Beanbag and Lenore) and decided to bite the bullet and give it a chance.

I’m so glad I did!

Perhaps because Blood Kiss is the first in the new Black Dagger Legacy spin-off series The WARDen was able to really return us to the Brotherhood we all came to know and love way-back-when. Maybe she finally quit the Rice Krispies and went with a higher fiber cereal… who’s to say. Whatever the reason, I’m thrilled to be able to say that I really enjoyed this story and page after page saw shades of the Black Dagger Brotherhood that I love and have missed over the past several books. There were moments that felt New Adult-esque, and at other moments I thought the writing was simplistic, but the truth is, it’s not the writing that's simple, it's that this story isn’t complicated and all over the place. We’re back to a single couple happily ever after, while also spending quality time with Butch and Marissa, and Vishous. The other Brothers and their shellans make appearances, too, and I loved that!

The bottom line? Blood Kiss isn't perfect but it's an entertaining story and a solid start to the series. If things continue on this way, I think fans of the original books will enjoy the Black Dagger Legacy!

Click here to purchase Blood Kiss at Amazon

Friday, December 18, 2015

In His Shadow (The Tangled Ivy Trilogy #1) by Tiffany Snow

Ivy Mason is hiding—from her past, from herself, and from anyone who could love her. The only kind of love she’s ever known hurts, leaving scars on her body and soul. Now, her world may be boring and predictable, but that’s exactly what she wants. Until Devon Clay walks into her life.

A lonely man in a deadly profession, Devon works as an agent for an underground British agency known only as the Shadow. Nothing about him is safe or ordinary. The danger that consumes his life turns into an addiction Ivy can’t resist...even if it proves fatal.

As Ivy’s past begins to catch up with her, she wonders if love really is the twisted thing she’s always thought it was. Maybe it could be more with this man, who’s shown her that she doesn’t need to protect herself from everyone. Is what she feels for Devon worth the risk? He may save her heart or break it, if she manages to stay alive.

Now I understand why Tiffany Snow has such a devoted following! In His Shadow is intriguing, exciting, fast paced, and very sexy. Even though I'm not (normally) a fan of stories in which the romance isn't 'resolved' in a single book, this one worked for me, and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Purchase In His Shadow at Amazon

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood #13) by J.R. Ward - Betrayed by a Breakfast Cereal


Two brothers bound by more than blood fight to change a brutal destiny in the heart-wrenching new novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by #1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward.

Trez “Latimer” doesn’t really exist. And not just because the identity was created so that a Shadow could function in the underbelly of the human world. Sold by his parents to the Queen of the S’Hsibe as a child, Trez escaped the Territory and has been a pimp and an enforcer in Caldwell, NY for years- all the while on the run from a destiny of sexual servitude. He’s never had anyone he could totally rely on... except for his brother, iAm.

iAm’s sole goal has always been to keep his brother from self-destructing- and he knows he’s failed. It’s not until the Chosen Serena enters Trez’s life that the male begins to turn things around... but by then it’s too late. The pledge to mate the Queen’s daughter comes due and there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no negotiating.

Trapped between his heart and a fate he never volunteered for, Trez must decide whether to endanger himself and others- or forever leave behind the female he’s in love with. But then an unimaginable tragedy strikes and changes everything. Staring out over an emotional abyss, Trez must find a reason to go on or risk losing himself and his soul forever. And iAm, in the name of brotherly love, is faced with making the ultimate sacrifice...

WARNING! This review is loaded with spoilers explaining why I feel angry and betrayed by this story. Stop here if you don't want to know, in detail, what happens to Trez and Selena.

No, I'm serious - there are a ton of spoilers here.

Still reading? You sure you want to do this?

Last chance!

Okay, but you were warned!

All. Bets. Are. Off!

I have such incredibly mixed feelings about this book, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get them sorted out. Sometimes a story will gut me, and The Shadows did just that. In truth, I don’t remember a time I cried myself to sleep over a book – but I did this time. It was at moments laugh out loud funny, window fogging steamy, sweetly romantic, and profoundly tragic.

I always say that an author should write a story the way that story comes to him or her, and I stand by that. However, that doesn’t always mean I’ll like the story they felt compelled to tell. Well, the story as The WARDen felt compelled to tell it was done so brilliantly, but this is one of those times when I did not like the story itself. This is not how the Black Dagger Brotherhood series started out, and not since Phury and Cormia’s book have I felt so cheated out of a happily ever after!

The first 60ish% of the story was amazing. I loved every bit of it and had been thinking, “THIS is the way it should be! THIS is what made me fall in love with the Brotherhood so many years ago!!” Rhage’s one-liners, Lassiter’s eccentric, fallen self, V and Jane’s quickie in the clinic, and Manny and Rhage’s trip to Caldie, everything read like the original books and I was thrilled, and captivated, was falling in love with my Boys all over again! I was basking in all that Caldwell happiness… until it happened and I was devastated.

In a blog post explaining why things went the way they did (click here to read the full post), The WARDen said that if she tries to write a story any other way than the way her Rice Krispies give it to her, it shuts down. Goes blank. She either tells it the way it comes to her, or it can’t be told. I get where she's coming from, and honestly, as I kept reading late into the night because I needed a miracle… something to fix the unfixable, even as Trez was up on that pyre with the body of his beloved Selena, I waited. Needing something, anything to make this right. At the same time, I knew if she pulled a rabbit out of her hat and presto'd the happy ending for Trez and Selena, I would have been disappointed and still miffed that Wellsie died and Jane is now Ghost, MD.

On one hand, I gotta hand it to her; she stayed true to her Rice Krispies and made it real. On the other hand... it became painfully clear to me that when I'm reading to escape and waiting for - and expecting -the happily ever after that’s going to give me hope that true love exists and can overcome any obstacle… I don't want real. Real. Sucks!

And, if this truly is the way Trez and Selena’s HEA was 'meant' to play out, it should have played out in a different series, in a different world. A world where no one expects happily ever afters…A world where it's okay for an author to spit on romance.

The bottom line…

In the real world things can be horrific and unfair and brutally tragic, which is why I read romance - I want to escape the reality that can be ugly when loved ones pass from our lives. This book is not true romance - not the kind I've come to look forward to from this author. Sure, iAm and the Princess got hooked up, but if that’s supposed to make me feel better, it's a failure of EPIC proportions! Their HEA sucked. They got the shaft in the happily ever after department and it in no way made up for or eased unforgivable debacle that was Trez and Selena’s story.

Am I ready to throw in the BDB Towel? Nope! Well, not yet anyway. I’m still too invested in the Brothers to turn my back now, but as I said, all bets are off. This book scared the hell out of me because the Black Dagger Brotherhood is no longer a series I can count on to make me forget the ugliness of the real world, if only for a little while. I will always be on guard, always wondering who will be offered up as a sacrifice to the all mighty Rice Krispies next.

And that is every bit as heartbreaking as Ward's desecration of Trez and Selena’s not-at-all happy happily ever after.

Click here to purchase The Shadows at Amazon

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Storming the Castle (Fairy Tales 1.5) by Eloisa James


What Miss Phillipa Damson needs is a good, old fashioned knight in shining armor. What she has is a fiance she never wanted and a compelling urge to run away. But if she manages to escape, will she find her happily ever after?

Storming the Castle was such a sweet, funny, touching, steamy, romantic story, and I’m so glad I read it! I had grown very fond of Wick in A Kiss at Midnight, and while this story was definitely too short, I was happy to see him in action again.

And as we had in A Kiss at Midnight, we get another very strong, enjoyable heroine in Phillipa, who knew her own mind and wasn’t afraid to do whatever necessary to live her life on her own terms. Together, she and Wick made a very charming, sexy couple who were both so deserving of their own happily ever after.

It was such a treat getting to revisit Kate and Gabriel, and of course Great Aunt Sophonisba whose most brilliant scenes were those she spent well into her cups. I must say, however, I was saddened that there wasn’t a single reference to the rats, Caesar, Freddie and Coco!

I can’t wait to see what Ms. James has in store for us in the next installment of the Happily Ever Afters series, When Beauty Tamed the Beast.

Purchase Storming the Castle by Eloisa James at Amazon

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Rogue Not Taken (Scandal & Scoundrel #1) by Sarah MacLean

Lady Sophie’s Society Splash

When Sophie, the least interesting of the Talbot sisters, lands her philandering brother-in-law backside-first in a goldfish pond in front of all society, she becomes the target of very public aristocratic scorn. Her only choice is to flee London, vowing to start a new life far from the aristocracy. Unfortunately, the carriage in which she stows away isn’t saving her from ruin . . . it’s filled with it.

Rogue’s Reign of Ravishment!

Kingscote, “King,” the Marquess of Eversley, has never met a woman he couldn’t charm, resulting in a reputation far worse than the truth, a general sense that he’s more pretty face than proper gentleman, and an irate summons home to the Scottish border. When King discovers stowaway Sophie, however, the journey becomes anything but boring.

War? Or More?

He thinks she’s trying to trick him into marriage. She wouldn’t have him if he were the last man on earth. But carriages bring close quarters, dark secrets, and unbearable temptation, making opposites altogether too attractive . . .

Sarah MacLean is one of the few authors whose stories will, without fail, take me on a wild ride of emotions, so it came as no surprise to me that this first in her new Scandal and Scoundrel series did just that. The Rogue Not Taken had me laughing and crying and clenching my hands in fists of outrage because Sophia and her sisters grabbed hold of my heart from the start and never let go. And when you add a roguish scoundrel like King to the mix, things become (fanning myself) interesting, to say the least!

From the first page to the last, The Rogue Not Taken is a delight to read! Well... a delight and steamy and funny and thought-provoking and heartbreaking and hopeful… it’s absolutely everything I've come to expect from Sarah MacLean’s amazing gift for telling a story!

I can promise you this, dear readers of my review… this is going to be a fabulous series!!!

An ARC was provided by Avon Books. In appreciation I'm giving them an honest review.

Click here to purchase The Rogue Not Taken at Amazon

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Annie's Song by Catherine Anderson


Annie Trimble lives in a solitary world that no one enters or understands. As delicate and beautiful as the tender blossoms of the Oregon spring, she is shunned by a town that misinterprets her affliction. But cruelty cannot destroy the love Annie holds in her heart.

Alex Montgomery is horrified to learn his wild younger brother forced himself on a helpless "idiot girl." Tormented by guilt, Alex agrees to marry her and raise the babe she carries as his own. But he never dreams he will grow to cherish his lovely, mute, and misjudged Annie; her childlike innocence, her womanly charms and the wondrous way she views her world. He becomes determined to break through the wall of silence surrounding her; to heal... and to be healed by Annie's sweet song of love.

At the time I bought this book I hadn’t yet read anything by Catherine Anderson, nor had I ventured into the world of American Western Historical Romance but because so many of my Goodreads friends were raving about it I cave in and ordered it. Day after day I checked the delivery status and as soon as it arrived - as I often do - sat it on my To Be Read shelf, which over time morphed into a Too Many To Ever Be Read shelf. Sadly, Annie’s Song got pushed to the back and was, I'm ashamed to admit, forgotten. Fortunately - albeit years later - it fit right in with one of my monthly reading challenges, so I picked it up, dusted it off, and dug right in.

And then kicked myself silly for having waited so long to read it!

See, the problem was that I was concerned that the story would be overly dark and angst ridden so I was waiting to be “in the mood.” I mean, honestly, it has the makings of a gut wrenching, heart breaking story, and while there certainly are some tense moments, as well as some sad ones, overall Annie's Song is amazing, uplifting and a true joy to read. I shed both tears of sorrow and tears of happiness. There were moments that made me laugh out loud and those that made me so, so angry I wanted to scream. The way the story is told is real, the reactions of the characters - while shocking at first - are believable because they were honest and in keeping with accepted medical beliefs and practices of the times. So while I definitely found myself frustrated at some of their narrow-mindedness, I also came to understand where they were coming from.

So yes, this is an emotional story and in the end I came away feeling incredibly enriched by Annie’s Song, and had found another book for my Keepers shelf, a new couple to add to my Favorite Couples shelf, and another author whose books I’m looking forward to reading.

The bottom line? Annie’s Song turned out to be so much more than I had hoped for. This story is incredibly romantic, deeply passionate - both emotionally and physically, and has a happily ever after that I can believe in because Alex and Annie truly deserve it. That happily ever after didn’t come easily though - they had to work for it, fight for it, and that made it all the more sweet when they finally got it.

Click here to purchase Annie's Song on Amazon

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Bourbon Kings (Book #1) by J.R. Ward

For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.

Normally I adore JR WARD's storytelling - especially her Black Dagger Brotherhood vampire series - and I've never DNF'd (did not finish) one of her books before. One might assume it's because of the genre - The Bourbon Kings being contemporary "romance" - but that's not the case here. In fact, I loved her earlier contemporary romances - which really were romances - written as Jessica Bird and can't wait for some of those stories to continue. Not holding my breath, though...

So, what's the problem, you ask? Well, here's my take on this first installment of The Bourbon Kings...

First, let it be known that I went into this story with no 'high expectations' so that's not the issue. Honestly, the short and bittersweet of just didn't draw me in. The world JR WARD created just didn't do it for me. I wasn't a fan of of the night time dope-opera, Dynasty, and couldn't give a frog's fat ass who shot J.R. Other than the narrator's luscious voice there was nothing to keep me invested, nothing that had me excited about - or mildly interested in - continuing.

And that kinda breaks my heart.

When book 2 comes along, and if it can be read as a standalone story, I'll give it a shot. This is the WARDen, after all.

Purchase The Bourbon Kings at Amazon

Friday, December 11, 2015

Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques Audible's Great Courses) by Professor James Hynes

Blurb...Whether you're huddled around the campfire, composing an email to a friend, or sitting down to write a novel, storytelling is fundamental to human nature. But as any writer can tell you, the blank page can be daunting. It's tough to know where to get started, what details to include in each scene, and how to move from the kernel of an idea to a completed manuscript.

Writing great fiction isn't a gift reserved for the talented few. There is a craft to storytelling that can be learned, and studying writing techniques can be incredibly rewarding - both personally and professionally. Even if you don’t have ambitions of penning the next Moby-Dick, you'll find value in exploring all the elements of fiction.

From evoking a scene to charting a plot to revising your drafts, Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques offers a master class in storytelling. Taught by award-winning novelist James Hynes, a former visiting professor at the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop, these 24 insightful lectures show you the ins and outs of the fiction writer's craft. Get tips for developing believable and memorable characters, explore how to craft plausible dialogue that serves the purposes of your narrative, compare the advantages of different points of view, and more. A wealth of exercises will inspire you to practice the many techniques you learn. Professor Hynes is an able guide, showing you what has worked for him and other novelists, and pointing out pitfalls to avoid. Writing Great Fiction is truly an exceptional course for anyone interested in storytelling.

This audio lecture was more than I had expected it to be, but not what I needed it to be. There's a lot of great detail given to writing techniques such as point of view, plotting, capturing your readers's attention and things like that, but I was looking for something more basic. Something less geared toward the mechanics of writing, and more focused on theories and ideas such as finding your muse, using your own experiences to flesh out a story...simple examples that would have hopefully had me me saying "Aha! Great idea! I can do that!" but there was nothing like that. James Hynes, the author/lecturer, used examples from what he called "great classics", citing authors I had never heard of before which added to my lack of interest in much of what he was trying to tell us.

Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Any Duchess Will Do (Spindle Cove #4) by Tessa Dare

Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed this season—or any season—but his diabolical mother abducts him to “Spinster Cove” and insists he select a bride from the ladies in residence. Griff decides to teach her a lesson that will end the marriage debate forever. He chooses the serving girl.

Overworked and struggling, Pauline Simms doesn’t dream about dukes. All she wants is to hang up her barmaid apron and open a bookshop. That dream becomes a possibility when an arrogant, sinfully attractive duke offers her a small fortune for a week’s employment. Her duties are simple: submit to his mother’s “duchess training"... and fail miserably.

But in London, Pauline isn’t a miserable failure. She’s a brave, quick-witted, beguiling failure—a woman who ignites Griff’s desire and soothes the darkness in his soul. Keeping Pauline by his side won’t be easy. Even if Society could accept a serving girl duchess—can a roguish duke convince a serving girl to trust him with her heart?

Any Duchess Will Do is romantic, sexy, poignant, funny… it’s all the things I’ve come to love about (and expect from) this author.

Historical Romance fans – trust me on this; if you haven’t yet read the awesomeness of Tessa Dare, you haven’t read some of the best the genre has to offer. Her stories are always humorous, always steamy, always thought provoking, and always end in a beautiful happily ever after!

Click here to purchase Any Duchess Will Do at Amazon

About Spindle Cove: Spindle Cove, nestled in a peaceful corner of Regency Era England, has long been known as "Spinster Cove," due to its preponderance of unwed ladies of "delicate constitutions"--and that's the fictional setting for a delightful historical romance series by Tessa Dare.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Once Upon a Winter's Eve (Spindle Cove 1.5) by Tessa Dare

Violet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises her voice. She endured bitter heartbreak in perfect silence. The gentlemen aren't beating down her door.

Until the night of the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, when a mysterious stranger crashes into the ballroom and collapses at Violet's feet. His coarse attire and near-criminal good looks would put any sensible young lady on her guard. He's wet, chilled, bleeding, and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue.

Only Violet understands him. And she knows he's not what he seems.

She has one night to draw forth the secrets of this dangerously handsome rogue. Is he a smuggler? A fugitive? An enemy spy? She needs answers by sunrise, but her captive would rather seduce than confess. To learn his secrets, Violet must reveal hers and open herself to adventure, passion, and the unthinkable... Love.

Warning: The heroine packs a pistol, the hero curses in multiple languages, and together they steam up a cold winter s night.

I'm keeping my review short and sweet, just like this novella - Spindle Cove is a wonderful series, and Once Upon a Winter's Eve is an absolute delight! Romantic, steamy, exciting and witty, a truly entertaining story!

Click here to purchase Once Upon a Winter's Eve at Amazon

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Kiss on Castle Road (Lavender Island) by Lauren Christopher

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” —Anaïs Nin

This quote... this pearl of great wisdom... is never more true than it is in The Kiss on Castle Road. Both our hero and heroine are amazing people who, in one way or another, are holding themselves back from all that life has to offer. They're both so good, so compassionate, so caring and yet... so insecure in themselves - in who they want to be, who they can be, and who they already are.


Natalie has always been the fun Grant sister: the one with the constantly packed suitcase and the zest for life. But this carefree existence is wearing on her. When her oldest sister, Olivia, invites her to Lavender Island for three months, Natalie jumps at the chance to look after her niece, prove she’s not irresponsible, and take a much-needed vacation from men.

Her “mancation” takes an unexpected turn when she spots a group of sick sea lions and calls on microbiologist Elliott Sherman for help. Elliott is everything Natalie is not—quiet, studious, and geeky. Yet there’s a simmering sexiness under those glasses that she’s quick to notice. And Elliott finds himself taken with her gorgeous free spirit. Despite their chemistry, outside forces threaten to keep them apart—including a secret Natalie has never shared. Can the allure of Lavender Island and its quirky residents open her heart and lead her to lasting love?

I really enjoyed this sweet and somewhat steamy romance. Elliott and Natalie are wonderful! Their relationship grew slowly, but in a believable and healthy way, and even though there was an instant attraction they didn't jump into bed right away, which is something I found quite refreshing. The Lavender Island world is a thoroughly entertaining place and setting for the fun supporting cast of quirky senior citizens to wreak havoc and make magic happen. They had me laughing out loud.

The bottom line: There's just so much to love about The Kiss on Castle Road! Lauren Christopher writes small town romance beautifully, and I am thrilled to have another contemporary romance author to gush over!

An ARC was provided by Montlake Romance and Netgalley. In appreciation, I'm giving them an honest review.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ashley Bell (Ashley Bell #1) by Dean Koontz


At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea. Searching for Ashley Bell, ricocheting through a southern California landscape that proves strange and malevolent in the extreme, Bibi is plunged into a world of crime and conspiracy, following a trail of mysteries that become more sinister and tangled with every twisting turn.

Dean Koontz has been a favorite author of mine since reading Watchers in 1987, and then following Odd Thomas from his ‘birth’ in 2003. To say Mr. Koontz knows how to tell is story isn’t doing him justice because his stories are so much more than just words on a page, and Ashley Bell is further testament of that.

As I’m sitting here writing this review I’m both shaking and grinning. I feel like I’ve just stepped off Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, literary edition. Ashley Bell is an ‘edge of your seat, nail biting, heart-pounding, who dunnit’ that will have your mind reeling and, in the end, leave you breathless and desperate for more! This is the Mystery/Thriller genre at its best!

An ARC was provided by Random House Publishing Group via Netgalley. In appreciation I’m giving them an honest review.

Purchase Ashley Bell: A Novel at Amazon

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity by Marc Zender

At just over 5,000 years old, writing is actually a relatively recent invention. It has become so central to the way we communicate and live, however, that it often seems as if writing has always existed.

But the question remains: Who invented writing, and why?

In these 24 fascinating lectures, you'll trace the remarkable saga of the invention and evolution of "visible speech," from its earliest origins to its future in the digital age. Your guide is an accomplished professor and epigrapher who whisks you around the globe to explore how an array of sophisticated writing systems developed, then were adopted and adapted by surrounding cultures.

Along the way, you'll visit the great early civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, Japan, and the Americas, and you'll see how deciphering ancient scripts is a little like cracking secret codes - only far more difficult.

You'll be spellbound as you hear accounts of the breathtaking moments when the decipherment of ancient scripts broke centuries of silence. And you'll marvel at fascinating objects once shrouded in mystery, including the iconic Rosetta stone.

Writing and Civilization offers the chance to not only discover the history of ancient writing systems, but also the rare opportunity to actually hear those scripts read aloud and to learn the meaning of their messages hidden in plain sight.

I enjoy listening to Audible's The Great Courses series of books. This one started out slow... lot's of background information... but the narrator is excellent and at the 30% mark, I was hooked!

There are so many interesting facts and so much information about how languages and writing styles came and went, and I would have enjoyed this much more if there had been lecture handouts with graphs and images, but still all in all a great course/lecture.

The one thing that shocked me was learning that The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy proposed in 2009, and now adopted by 45 of the United States, does not mandate cursive instruction. Only keyboarding is required.

So, what happens when/if there's a time, generations from now, when something happens - like a solar flare - that shuts down electrical grids and there are no keyboards to type on? How will people communicate? Also, think about what that means. Cursive is a dying art form, and someday your grand-kids will be asking you to show them what writing looks like.

Purchase Writing and Civilization at Amazon

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What Happens at Christmas (Millworth Manor Series Book 1) by Victoria Alexander

You are cordially invited to Christmas at Millworth Manor. . .

Camille, Lady Lydingham, requests the pleasure of your company at a festive house party, as she endeavors to coax a marriage proposal from Prince Nikolai Pruzinsky of Greater Avalonia. The hostess's relatives will be in attendance--in this case, a troupe of actors hired to impersonate a proper English family in order to fool the Prince.

Gate-crashing, distractingly handsome first loves like Grayson Elliott are most unwelcome. Games will be played. Motives will be revealed. Mayhem may ensue.

And hearts will be won--and lost--in the most romantic, magical season of all

What Happens at Christmas is such a fresh, amusing story! The characters are quirky, the story is unique... I really enjoyed it. Elizabeth Wiley does the narration and she has a lovely voice, and while she gave a lively performance, I had trouble distinguishing between characters - including, at times, the men from the women.

Overall, a fun holiday read!!

Purchase What Happens At Christmas at Amazon

Friday, December 4, 2015

Visions of Heat (Psy-Changeling #2) by Nalini Singh and Angela Dawe

Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous - aching need...exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D'Angelo can take the form of either man or jaguar, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar's instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith's sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced - and keep her from Vaughn.

This world that Nalini Singh has created is amazing. Absolutely enthralling! I love the way the stories unfold, the trials, the triumphs... it's a brilliant world, overall.

This particular story was a bit slow to start, and I had some problems getting into it. But once things started rolling, I was hooked and couldn't get through it fast enough.

I'm in the minority here, but I wasn't as impressed with Angela Dawe's narration this time. She does a great job with the Psy... their lack of emotion, the awe in their voices as they begin to see the world the way it really is... she's great with them, but I'm having problems with her portrayal of the Changelings.

I highly recommend this series to fans who like steam with their Sci-Fi and Urban Fantasy.

Purchase Visions of Heat at Amazon

Thursday, December 3, 2015

His Heart's Desire (Loving Hearts #1) by Julianna Douglas

Rebecca Anderson always dreamed of happily-ever-afters, but those dreams were shaken when she had to leave vet school to nurse her dying mother. They were completely shattered when her boyfriend betrayed her in the cruelest possible way. Crushed and lonely, Becca seeks out the one person she knows she can trust–her best friend, Ethan.

Successful CEO Ethan Montgomery has loved Becca since the day he met her while volunteering at a local animal shelter. Seeing her emotionally broken on his doorstep stirs his protective instincts. He tenderly cares for her, but knows that Becca will need time and space to heal her battered heart.

When Becca realizes that the white knight of her fantasies has been right in front of her this whole time, she begins to dream again of her future–one that includes Ethan. But their undeclared love is put to the test when Ethan's wealth and power, as well as a woman from his past, threaten to tear them apart. Will a surprise invitation from Ethan finally fulfill all of Becca's romantic fantasies and prove that only she is...His Heart's Desire?

His Heart’s Desire is Julianna Douglas’ contemporary romance/new adult debut novel. It’s a sweet, romantic, steamy story of friends taking a chance on becoming much more.

This really is a sweet story. I enjoyed getting to know Becca and Ethan and watching their relationship grow as they overcame the obstacles standing in their way – Becca’s stubbornness in not wanting to accept Ethan’s help, and Lindsay’s bitchfest and constant maneuverings to steal Ethan from Becca. While I do like some relationship drama in my reading, the Lindsay level of drama annoyed me to no end and I could have done with less of that. In fact, it's one of those things that can ruin any story for me, that's how much I dislike it.

In my opinion it started a little slow and there were things that could have been left out which would have allowed things to flow at a more comfortable pace. That said, I did enjoy His Heart’s Desire. The writing is well done, without an overabundance of glaring mistakes inherent in debut novels, which made me very happy!

The bottom line…

Though not without some minor flaws, Ms. Douglas has a quite a knack for telling a story. I'd even venture to say that with a bit more experience under her belt she has the potential to be an amazing author. I’m looking forward to finding out what she’ll do next!

Purchase His Heart's Desire on Amazon