January 30, 2015

REVIEW, EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: The Distraction (The Body Works Trilogy #2)


The Distraction (The Body Works Trilogy #2), by Sierra Kincade
To Be Published February 3, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: e-ARC, provided by NetGalley
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Anna Rossi knows that opening your heart only gets you hurt. But Alec Flynn is just too good to resist…

It’s been three long months since Anna’s seen Alec, since he saved her life and lit up her soul with unquenchable desire. Being without him has left her on edge, but his bravery has motivated her to change her life and go after what she’s always wanted—a job where she can help people. She can’t wait to show Alec the woman she’s become in his absence, or to prove how much she’s missed him…

Three months away has done nothing to slake Alec’s need for Anna. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made his life any less dangerous. The last thing he wants to do is hurt Anna, but if giving her up is the only way to save her, he’s not sure he can do that either. He’s determined to have her for as long as he can. Except his past is creeping up on him faster than he knows, and this time he may not be able to keep her from becoming collateral damage…

I would say that if any couple I've read about could be described as combustible, it's Alec and Anna. Chemistry... well, that would put what these two have to shame. And with the connection that this couple has with one another, you want nothing more than to see them happy and settled together. Sadly, it seems that Sierra Kincade is determined to kill me slowly and make me wait for their happy. The Distraction sent me wildly shifting from fist pumping to panty adjusting to tear wiping. Ah - my kind of book. 

It's been three months since Alec has seen Anna. During that time, Anna has taken steps to better herself and to make things ready for when Alec returns. Despite their intense connection, when he does show up again, things are awkward and tense. Getting to know one another again and even better than before is hard, but love like they have can't be contained forever. Unfortunately, Alec is still playing a dangerous game and keeping lots of secrets, both of which make forging a healthy relationship difficult. As Anna tries to manage her new career and her big feelings for Alec, she begins to lose herself a bit. Just as she decides he's worth any price, she's faced with a price that just may be too steep after all. 

What would you do for love? What would you risk? It's an incredibly romantic notion to automatically assume that there is no price too great. Anna seems to be a woman of the world. I mean, with everything she went through in The Masseuse and all that she discovered through her association with Alec and his employer, it's understandable that she's a little jaded. And, yet, when it comes to Alec, her love and passion for him overtakes everything. 

Alec has a lot of his plate. He's being pulled in so many different directions by so many different people. I felt so much for him in The Distraction. It's obvious that he wants nothing more than to just be... with Anna. She is his rock and safe place amidst the craziness in the rest of his life. She supports him, cares for him and loves him completely. And he is so protective of her. After the danger they've already experienced together, he wants her safe more than anything else. He's even willing to walk away to give that to her if need be. 

You might think that the danger and subterfuge encountered in The Masseuse has passed, but in reality, it's only gotten started. Anna is constantly being put in danger, but no one is quite sure by whom. These two just can't catch a break! When they should be reacquainting, they instead are having their homes broken into, being followed on the street and attacked anywhere and everywhere. It sucks so much. 

But, when they are together, holy crap are they TOGETHER. The passion and chemistry leaps off the page and nearly brings you to tears. These two are sexy and hot and they set my lady bits on fire. There is no shortage of sexy times in The Distraction. 

Everything comes to a head at the end during a truly explosive and scary encounter. There are twist and turns that I never saw coming. And a finale that broke my heart. Thank goodness there is another book coming in this series, because now I need Sierra Kincade to put my heart back together. 


     Alec laid me on the bed, kissing me in a long, tender way that pulled at my heart.
     “Don’t move,” he whispered. He disappeared into the shadows and I rose to my elbows, brows creased in concern when I realized he’d gone into the closet. Surely he wasn’t there to get the rope. When I’d said I wanted to try again I’d meant I needed him, not that I was ready to be tied up.
     He returned with two silk neckties—things I’d seen him wear when we first met. A lump formed in my throat as he sat on the edge of the bed, holding them in his fist.
     “Alec, I don’t want to ruin any of your fantasies tonight.”
     His thumb whispered across my cheekbone.
     “You didn’t ruin anything,” he said. “I don’t have a fantasy where you’re afraid.”
     His words eased my mind but not my body; I still shivered when the tip of one of the neckties tickled my belly.
     “Stay with me a little longer,” he said. “I swear, I won’t hurt you.”
     I nodded, knowing that he didn’t mean physically, but mentally. Still anxious, I laid back down.
     “I did this wrong before.” His voice was soft and low, and wrapped around me like a warm blanket. “Let me try to fix it. If it’s too intense, just say the word.”
     I considered this. “Okay.”
     The silk slid up my shoulders.
     “I should have asked for your trust first,” he said.
     Goosebumps rose on the side of my neck as the tie passed lightly over it.
     “You have it,” I said.
     He trailed the material up the side of my cheek, and then slowly covered my eyes. As he reached behind my head to tie it, his lips found mine, and he kissed me for a long time, until the nerves scattered and in their place was something more demanding.
     He drew back.
     “I should have told you that I’ll bring you back from anywhere I take you. I won’t leave you, and I won’t let you go.”
     I gasped as he lifted my left wrist. He massaged the tender skin at the base of my palm, then kissed it. His tongue flicked over the red marks and I jerked, hypersensitive to his caress.
     I concentrated on my breath, but was unable to feel Bobby’s restraints binding me as the tie slipped around my forearm. I waited for him to lift my wrist over my head to fasten it to the bed frame, but he did not. As I felt through the darkness, I found that he’d tied the other side to his own arm, the knot loose enough to turn or slip free if necessary.
     His fingers wove through mine, feeling their way over the pads of my fingers. When our hands clasped, I shuddered, feeling somehow more joined to him than I did with him inside me.
     “Alec,” I whispered. My senses were more acute with the wrap around my eyes. I could hear every compression in the mattress as he moved, feel the heat of his body as he adjusted his position to sit beside me. Desire throbbed low in my belly. I became desperate to know where he would touch me next.
“I should have told you I love you, Anna,” he murmured. “Because I do. I love you so much it hurts.”
     I stilled.
     “I can feel you inside me.” He moved our clasped hands over his heart, squeezing tightly. “When you’re in pain, I can’t breathe. And when you’re scared, I want to kill the man who did it, even if that’s me.”
     What he said slayed me. I wanted to take off the blindfold, see his eyes, but I didn’t need to. The truth was right there in his touch.
     “Forgive me,” he said.
     I couldn’t speak, my throat was so tight. Instead I nodded, and he rested his forehead on my shoulder. He kissed my chest, right above my heart. And then my shoulder, and then higher—at the base of my neck.
I siphoned in a quick breath. The softest touch there was enough to ignite my senses.
     “Is this okay?” he whispered.
     “Yes.”
     He lightly pressed his lips just behind my ear and it felt like lightning zapping straight into my core. My back bowed, and my free hand squeezed the comforter. He shifted positions, and his tongue swirled just below my collarbone. The cool air did nothing to ease the heat rising inside of me. I began to pant, turning feverish as he held back what I needed. Feather-soft, his closed lips brushed over my shoulder, a brief whisper only. I quaked beneath him. My back dropped down hard enough to make the mattress bounce.
     “What are you doing?” I asked.
     He moved our joined hands, twisting his wrist so that my palm rested against the back of his hand. With our fingers overlapped, he drew a slow circle around my other breast. I pressed down, urging him to touch me more firmly, but he withheld.
     “Watching you,” he said.
     My cheeks flushed. “Do you like that?”
     He guided our hands lower, and switched positions again, so that his hand was behind mine. When we reached his jeans, he pressed my hand over him, so that I could feel his answer.
     His groaned as I reached for the button at the top of his fly.
     “Not yet,” he said tightly. “Just let me touch you for a while.”
     What happened next was like nothing I’d ever experienced. He felt me, every inch of me. With his lips. His tongue. His fingertips, and sometimes mine. Each kiss took me higher, drew me tighter. Time ceased to exist. All thoughts vanished. There was only my body, trembling from the inside out, throbbing with a need so powerful tears soaked the blindfold to my temples.


 

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January 29, 2015

ARC REVIEW: Rough Justice (Sinner's Tribe Motorcycle Club #1)


Rough Justice (Sinner's Tribe Motorcycle Club #1), by Sarah Castille
To Be Published February 3, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's
Format: e-ARC, provided by NetGalley
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) IT TAKES A GOOD, STRONG WOMAN

Raised in a motorcycle gang, tough, beautiful Arianne Hunter has always dreamed of a normal life. But no sooner does she escape her father’s domineering grasp than she wakes up to find herself in a rival gang’s clubhouse—at the mercy of the dangerously sexy Jagger Knight.

TO TAME A MAN WHO’S HELL ON WHEELS.

The alpha leader of the notorious Sinner’s Tribe, Jagger Knight is all muscle, all biker, and all man. But somewhere inside this hard tattooed outlaw, Arianne senses a kindred spirit—and she can’t ignore their tempestuous attraction. Can she beat him at his own game in a revved-up blaze of glory? Or will their passion spark a war that’s the end of the road for them both?
No matter how many times I hear a Romeo & Juliet story about star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of the line, it never gets old. I really think it's one of my favorite types of love stories. It's awesome when you're reading, and the HEA seems so far out of reach. Yet, there's this glimmer of hope that drives you forward. Rough Justice was a book like that. Add in the fact that instead of wearing tights and a tunic, Jagger wears leathers and a cut. Instead of swooning and fawning, Arianne can shoot better and play pool better than a pack of leather-clad scary bikers. And, now you can see how Rough Justice is like Romeo & Juliet on steroids. 

The night of a rival club's brutal attack on a Sinner's Tribe property, Jagger, who is the Sinners' leader, and his club mates nab one of the attackers. They are all surprised to find out it's a woman - a pretty one with lots of experience in dealing with bikers. Turns out, she's the rival club's president's daughter. And, those first few moments with Jagger were all both of them needed to know they were meant to be in each others' lives. But, her dad isn't going to allow that to happen, and members of Jagger's club aren't too happy about him sleeping with the enemy either. Their affair may ignite a war that no one can survive.

I'm a big fan of MC books. These guys are hardened and wild and dangerous. When they do something, they go big. They are fierce in every way. Jagger is the epitome of all these things. he's a former military guy, as are many in the Sinner's Tribe. They are as manly as men come. He tries not to get too close to women - he learned that lesson the hard way. Plus, it's hard for him to find just the right one. She has to be tough enough to survive the MC life, soft enough to care for him and the other members of the club, and smart enough to navigate the political waters both within her own club and in interactions with other clubs. 

Arianne was raised in the MC life, so she knows it inside and out. Her father, although also an MC president, is as far from Jagger as you can get. He's ruthless and cunning and evil. He has no trouble beating down or killing people who get in his way, no matter if they're family or not. He put Ari in harm's way time and time again, and eventually, she grew to hate the MC life. And, who could blame her? She's got the skills to live the life, but after the abuse her father put her through, and the abuse she saw many others in her club go through, including her own brother, she was determined to eventually escape the life. 

I imagine it's hard to change plans you've worked so long and hard to implement. Ari had been working for so long to line everything up to get her and her brother out. And then came Jagger at the worst possible time. What does she listen to - her head that tells her the MC life is dangerous and she needs to get away? Or, her heart that tells her that the life is in her blood and all she needs is the right man to share it with? 

Jagger is continually impressed by her. I loved how he was equally at war with himself over Ari, although, for different reasons. On one hand she was the perfect woman. She challenged him, but not in public. She was passionate and intelligent and so brave. She has all the skills needed to be an MC president's Old Lady. And, yet, she's a member of the rival club. The club ALWAYS comes first. So, how could he ever trust her? I admit - I'm glad I wasn't in Jagger's shoes. This guy doesn't think with his heart. He can't afford to. But, he couldn't deny that he wanted her so badly. 

Rough Justice is told in dual POV. It's a brutal look at the outlaw MC life, too. There's danger and death. But, there's also light moments too. Ari and Jagger are great together. They have a lot of intensity and passion in their relationship, and that shows on the page. I look forward to more stories from the Sinner's Tribe guys.
 

January 28, 2015

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Three, Two, One

Three, Two, One, by J.A. Huss
Published January 28, 2015
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult dark erotic suspense
To Buy: Amazon 
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) ONE GIRL

Battered, barefoot, and huddled under a bookstore awning in the pouring rain, Blue only knows one thing. After fifteen months of captivity, finally… she is free.

TWO FRIENDS

Self-made millionaires JD and Ark are not out to save anyone when they stumble upon a wet and shivering girl one early Sunday morning. But when you sell sex for a living and salvation rings your bell… you answer the call.

THREE SOULMATES

After years of searching, love lifts the veil of darkness, and three people—with three very big secrets—find themselves bound together in a relationship that defies the odds.

Or does it?

Love. Lust. Sex.

This trinity might be perfection… but not everything should come in 3’s.

When JA Huss decides to go dark, she really goes balls to the wall. I’ll admit – I don’t usually do dark. I don’t mind the suspense – it’s the pall that sort of hangs over you like a blanket as you read that really gets to me. I prefer romance and grand gestures and happily-ever-afters. Especially the HEAs.

But, see, here’s the thing about Julie Huss. I’ve read enough of her books to know that she believes in all those things too. And, the one thing she’s taught me is that just because a book is dark does not automatically preclude it from the romance that I love. You just have to look a little harder to find it.

Three, Two, One deals with some heavy stuff – prostitution, suicide, depression, cults and drug use to name a few. But, in the midst of it all, there IS love. It may be a bit untraditional – triad relationships are not the norm – but there are these moments of light strategically scattered among the dark that make all the difference. They loosen the breath you didn’t realize you were holding and drive you forward toward the ending that will make everything all right again.

Ark’s, JD’s and Blue’s story opens on a cold, rainy Denver morning as Ark and JD stumble across Blue shivering on a stoop. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but there was so much symbolism in that first meeting. Blue was so wet and cold and lost. And then, there was Ark – like a ship in the night who showed up to shield her and take her away from whatever it was that had hurt her. Ark’s and JD’s job is to capture sex on tape – specifically public sex – and sell it to fund their own public sex website, due to launch in a few weeks. Initially, Blue was a possible candidate. She quickly became something much more.

There was something about Blue that made JD and Ark want to take care of her. They take her back to their place, and over the next few weeks, a new relationship is formed between the three of them. Can one person romantically love two people at the same time? I think the answer to that is purely subjective. In the case of Ark, JD and Blue, the answer is… sort of. All three grow to love one another, but it’s all different types and based on different feelings and experiences. It’s especially challenging for Ark. He was the most reluctant to get on board with the triad relationship, because although he definitely loved Blue, his love for JD was different. And Ark knew – a relationship based on that imbalance could never survive for long.

And the secrets – yeah, those aren’t usually healthy in any relationship either. And these three have secrets in spades. None of them fully trust each other enough to let them out. Because these secrets? They’re game-changer secrets. We get little glimpses into what may have been in these three’s pasts along the way. They’re like bread crumbs leading you down a dark path to something at the end that you just know will be truly awful. And, for all of them it is. When all the subterfuge was over and the secrets finally came out in their entirety, I was floored. I couldn’t have seen earlier on how these three seemingly different lives could end up being so connected.

This is something I’ve come to count on from Julie Huss. Her plots don’t seem complex at first glance. On the surface, Three, Two, One is a story of three damaged people who hook up and have some ridiculously hot sex before it all goes to shit. But, then, when everything is revealed, you’re left gaping like a fish because you NEVER saw the big picture until it was smacking you in the face. I love that about her books.

Three, Two, One is told in dual POV – Blue’s and Ark’s. Initially, I thought it interesting that JD’s POV was excluded. Much later in the story, I understood why. This is a pretty steamy book, too. The m√©nage scenes are not for the faint of heart – my goodness, but was Ark intense. He was dark hotness personified.

Three, Two, One will leave you sad one minute and happy and hopeful the next. It will set your girlie bits aflame and make your jaw drop in shock. It will keep you guessing and freak you out. And, in the end, it will amaze you.

January 27, 2015

REVIEW: Protecting What's His (Line of Duty #1)


Protecting What's His (Line of Duty #1), by Tessa Bailey
Published February 23, 2013
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
Format: paperback, purchased
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) She’s running from the law, and the law wants her bad.

The opportunity was just too damn delicious for Ginger Peet to pass up. The purse full of money she finds—$50,000 to be exact—could give her and her teen sister the new start they need. So she grabs the cash, her gothy sibling, and their life-sized statue of Dolly Parton, and blows outta Nashville in a cloud of dust. Chicago, here we come...

Turns out, Chicago has some pretty hot cops. Hot, intense, naughty-lookin’ cops like Derek Tyler, who looks like he could eat a girl up and leave her begging for more. And more. Tempting as he is, getting involved with the sexy homicide lieutenant next door poses a teensy problem for a gal who’s on the lam. But one thing is certain—Derek’s onto her, and he wants more than just a taste.

And as far as he’s concerned, possession is nine-tenths of the law.

I have heard Cora Carmack talk a lot about her love of all things Tessa Bailey. In fact, many members of Cora's street team sing her praises loudly. And, yet, I had never read anything by her. Then, her name shows up on the author list for Apollycon next month, and it was the perfect nudge I needed to get on the Tessa Bailey bandwagon. At the time of this writing, I've now read four of her books, and there is no going back now. I'm well and fully hooked. 

When consulting the street team for the best book to start with, the resounding consensus was Protecting What's His. In it, Ginger and her little sister make a bold move to escape their horrid mother and the life of squalor in which they were living. The girls move from Nashville to Chicago with nothing but their clothes and a statue of Dolly Parton. Their new apartment comes with a cranky, but hot, neighbor, Chicago detective Derek Tyler. He's annoyed, and yet intrigued by Ginger. He decides that he's going to make her his one way or another. He didn't anticipate how involved he would want to be in her life. 

Protecting What's His went by so fast for me. Part of it is because the book is pretty short. At less than 200 pages, I finished it in one day with no problem. But, truly, it wouldn't matter if the story wasn't engrossing. And I absolutely lost myself in Derek's and Ginger's story. Ginger's strength of character was awesome. She did what needed to be done to take care of herself and especially her sister. It had to have been hard and scary, and yet she made the move, got a job and essentially became her sister's mother. 

Thank goodness for Derek. He sort of insinuated himself in Ginger's life, and she didn't have much choice in the matter. He was exactly the push she needed to really live. They had fantastic chemistry together. Derek is a detective, so he's got this serious alpha protective thing going on. When he suspects Ginger is in danger, he goes to extreme lengths to make sure she's okay. And, it's not as if I wasn't already taken with him by that point. That man has a pretty face and a dirty mouth. 

Derek's and Ginger's love story, albeit short, was no less epic. Ginger's sass and Derek's take-charge attitude were an explosive combination, coupled with the threats that loom from Ginger's past, and you have a story you absolutely can't put down.
 

As it turns out, I'm going to meet Tessa Bailey in a month or so when I see her at Apollycon! I'll have my copy of Protecting What's His so that she can sign it for me, and I can fawn over her a bit because she's just that awesome. Want to know more about Ms. Tessa Bailey?

ApollyCon Featured Author: Tessa Bailey

Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.

Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband of seven years and three-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.



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NYPD detective Seraphina Newsom will avenge her brother’s death at any cost. Even if it means insinuating herself into a rough, Brooklyn street gang and going so far undercover, she’s not sure she’ll be able to get out. Every minute she spends in their midst means the clock ticking down on her life, especially when she overhears something that could get her killed.

Bowen Driscol is the heir to a crime enterprise. He never asked for the job, but with his father behind bars, he has no choice but to step in and keep the operation running. But when the NYPD blackmails him with a piece of damning information in exchange for aiding an undercover cop, he finds himself on the other side of the law for the first time in his life.

Bowen knows the danger Sera is in, and keeping her safe trumps saving his own ass. The problem? She can’t know he’s on her side. And there's the matter of the seriously inconvenient heat sparking between them that's incinerating his resistance. But Sera only sees Bowen's past, and men like him are the reason her brother is dead. If they're to get out alive, he'll have to risk exposing the man beneath, and hope to hell he doesn't blow the whole operation in the process.


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January 26, 2015

NEW ADULT MONDAYS: Tall, Tatted and Tempting

The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

Tall, Tatted and Tempting (The Reed Brothers #1), by Tammy Faulkner
Published June 17, 2013
Publisher: Night Shift Publishing
Format: e-book, purchased
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) She’s locked up tight. But he might be the key.

Logan Reed is tall, tatted and tempting. Kit’s a woman with a mean right hook and a secret.

Kit wants a tattoo, but Logan sees more than she intends to share in the drawing of the tat she wants. He sees her in ways no one ever has.

Logan’s not disabled; but he hasn’t spoken in eight years. He hasn’t needed to. Until he meets Kit.

Logan doesn’t know everything about Kit. Kit doesn’t know anything about herself, until she has to sacrifice all she ever wanted to save what’s most important to him.

Sweet baby Jesus. I think I've met my favorite new adult couple ever. It is so rare for me to read a book and not want to throttle one of the MCs (usually the girl, if I'm going to be honest) at least once during the course of the book. Not here. And, don't take that to mean that there's very little drama. There's plenty of that. Intrigued? Want to know more? Read on, my friend.

Logan sees Kit and wants her immediately when she walks into his tattoo shop. Her reaction to his advances intrigues him more than it should, and he finds himself seeking her out and offering his help when it's clear she needs it. But, Kit is hiding something, and the more Logan gets to know her, the more he wants her to trust him with all her secrets. When she does that, though, it could tear them apart. 

Can I just tell you how much I loved the first meeting of Logan and Kit? So, she walks into his tattoo parlor wanting a tat. He thinks she's hot and touches her in a slightly inappropriate place. Now, whenever I read about this happening in books, the girl always shivers and gets all hot and lustful. Really? A strange (albeit hot) dude touches your chest without your permission, and you're cool with that? Kit decks him. In the face. It was awesome. 

So, Kit is very self-sufficient. She has to be since she lives on the streets and plays her guitar for quarters. There's a story there that is slowly brought to the front. She has a family, but why she's separated from them isn't known until the end. Suffice it to say, Kit is completely awesome and amazing. I love everything about her. She never leads Logan on. She tries so hard to keep on an even level with him. She's so brave to leave everything she has behind and live on the streets rather than compromising her morals and convictions. Kit is my hero. 

And Logan. Wow. He's been deaf since he was young, so he's had to fight an uphill battle just to be like everyone else. He can talk, but refuses to do so. His brothers are his life since his parents are dead. He would do anything for them. Matthew is very sick and so Logan and his brothers work their tails off to earn enough money to afford his treatments. Logan is a provider and a caretaker, which is why, when he sees Kit panhandling in the subway with her guitar, those instincts kick in with her too, and he just can't leave her alone. 

Never once during this book did I become irritated or annoyed with either Logan or Kit, which I have to say, is a very rare thing. Characters in books are always doing stupid things, right? For once, these two did everything right. That's not to say there was no drama or problems to overcome. Particularly at the end when Kit is faced with a near impossible choice. I was riveted to the pages, even when I knew what her plans were. The full repercussions of her choices are not realized in this book. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I was so taken with this couple and the side characters that I immediately purchased book 2 and continued reading. Safe to say, I'm hooked on the Reed Brothers. 

January 23, 2015

REVIEW: I Belong To You (Inside Out #5)

 

I Belong To You (Inside Out #5), by Lisa Renee Jones
Published November 18, 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books
Format: e-book, obtained from NetGalley
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Master…

Being that person, that man is how I define myself, how I allow the rest of the world to define me as well. And now, with a terrible loss shredding me inside out and someone trying to destroy my family to punish me, control is more important than ever. It is everything. It is what I need. It is all I need. Or maybe I just need…her.

Oh, how far the Master has fallen. Mark is different in I Belong To You than he was when he first met Sarah in the first book of this series. And, yet... he's still the same in some ways. Still domineering, overbearing, douchey. And, yet, we get to see him in a different element in I Belong To You, as he rushes to his mother's side to help her as she undergoes treatment for cancer. 

It's clear from what we've learned of Mark so far that he's a man who needs to be in control. He didn't earn the name Master in Rebecca's journals for nothing. After Rebecca's death, Sarah's attempted murder, Allure's closing, Mark's legal battles, and now his mother's illness, the man has been put through the ringer. He's lost himself in Crystal, the manager of his mother's New York gallery, a few times before, but thinks any sort of meaningful relationship with her is doomed. She's as dominant as he is. And, he can't fall in love again. Look what happened the last time.

It's impossible to not feel bad for Mark. How much crap can be piled on one guy at a time? On the heels of him finally being cleared of suspicion in Rebecca's murder, he has to run to New York to be with his mother, who isn't well. They're close, and seeing Mark the Son was eye-opening. He's completely different from Mark the Master and Mark the Boss. He's softer and kinder, yet still demanding. THIS is a Mark I really loved. 

Crystal is pretty awesome. She's so confident and sure of herself. She's an amazing business woman, and despite the fact that Mark makes her head spin, she still manages to keep it on straight when she's around him. For the most part, anyway. She knows she's not immune at all to him, but she also knows he's not in a right place at first for a relationship. She refuses to be dominated. And, she definitely won't be calling anyone Master. Rock on, Crystal. 

But the best thing about Mark and Crystal is that they find a way to meet somewhere in the middle. Mark sheds some of his dominance and lets Crystal take over when things just get too heavy for him. And, Crystal recognizes Mark's need to control something in his life, and since she cares about him, she gives him that power over her sometimes. It's a give and take that eventually makes Mark realize that, despite how much it might hurt sometimes, that love is worth it. That, even though he lost Rebecca and even though he has some crazy guilt over what happened to her, he can't go through the rest of his life denying himself someone to love. Especially when someone so perfect for him is standing right in front of him.

While Mark is trying to take care of his mother in New York, he's also still trying to do damage control with the Ava situation on the West Coast. Chris and Sarah have run to Paris, Ava has disappeared, and Mark is not only trying to find her so that he can get some answers once and for all, but he's also trying to find her accomplice, a really nasty hitman who seems to be gunning for Crystal. His fear for her life activates his protective instincts, which appear to be his undoing when it comes to Crystal. When he allows himself to care for her and her well being, he's done for.

The ending of I Belong With You was super exciting. And, although it seems like we tie up more and more loose ends in each book, there are always still some hanging out there. Since this was the final full-length novel of the series, I had hoped for some more closure in some areas, particularly in regards to Ella. But, I'll take the closure we get on Mark and Crystal's relationship. It ended just perfectly. 

 

January 22, 2015

REVIEW: Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3)

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3), by Stephanie Perkins
Published August 14, 2014
Publisher: Dutton
Format: hardback, gifted
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Etienne. Cricket. JOSH. Boy, does Stephanie Perkins know how to write 'em. Isla and the Happily Ever After brings the story of these three boys back full circle, as we return to the city where it all started - Paris. 

Isla has had a crush on Josh for, like, EVER. But, he never noticed her. And then he had a girlfriend... and STILL never noticed her. Until one fateful summer day in NYC, while under the influence of pain meds, Isla runs into Josh in a coffee shop, and she actually strikes up a conversation with him. That leads to a friendship, which leads to... more. You'd think Isla would be ecstatic, and she is. But, some old insecurities die hard, and in Isla's case, they may just prove that love isn't enough.

My gosh, I love these books. I admit, I don't usually go for the YA contemporary romance genre. I've dabbled here and there. Tried a little Dessen. A little Kenneally. They're just a little too fluffy for my tastes. But, I am completely addicted to Stephanie's writing and her characters.What is it about her that sets her apart from the others? 

Isla and the Happily Ever After was so witty and sweet. I laughed a lot. I cried too. I was completely sucked in to the story from the beginning. Isla was an unlikely heroine. Painfully shy and introverted, she has set boundaries for herself when it comes to others. The only person she's close to is her BFF, Kurt, a high-functioning autistic guy with a love for maps. People don't understand him, and because she's always with him, they don't understand her too. I think it's too much work for Isla to always defend him or explain him, so she just accepts her lack of friends or social life. The only thing she's not happy about is not having the courage to approach Josh, whom she has loved for years. 

As it turns out, her perceptions of Josh are not entirely accurate. That one night when her guard is lowered enough to start a conversation with him was the start of something great. All Josh needed was a little nudge that Isla had never been able to provide before. Their romance took off very quickly, and seriously, it was the absolute BEST. He was sincere and sweet and attentive. He's an artist and somewhat of a writer, so he's creative and spontaneous too. He was just what Isla needed. 

Isla has a hard time with Josh's life away from school. She gets too far inside her head and convinces herself that she doesn't belong in his world of politicians and fancy parties. She doesn't listen to Josh. And because of that (and some boarding school shenanigans), she and Josh are separated. 

Josh, however, is the absolute best hero, because he never gives up. The end brings Etienne and Anna, Cricket and Lola and Josh and Isla together at the same place in Paris during the Olympics for a truly epic series finale. I have loved learning about these couples so much. The characters were lovable, the stories compelling, and the HEAs PERFECT.   

January 21, 2015

COVER REVEAL: All Played Out (Rusk University #3)

I can't believe that we're already on to book #3 in Cora Carmack's Rusk University series. ALL PLAYED OUT releases May 12, and today I get to show you the cover! I have to tell you - of the three books in the Rusk series, this cover is my favorite. You'll see why...

 

All Played Out (Rusk University #3), by Cora Carmack
To Be Published May 12, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Pre-Order: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

(Synopsis) First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A’s? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? …..yeah, about that….

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay... Scratch that. She knows she hasn't had the full college experience).

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt... again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.

Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she's never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he's willing to take the chance when it's more than just a game.

Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.

So, what do you think? Does that cover just make you feel all happy and tingly inside? I have even more good news for you today. In case you're not familiar with Cora's Rusk University series, you can catch up now until Feb. 2 for PENNIES. 

 
ALL LINED UP, Book 1
Amazon ** Barnes and Noble ** iTunes
 
ALL BROKE DOWN, Book 2
  Image Map

January 20, 2015

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: In His Keeping (Slow Burn #2)

In His Keeping (Slow Burn #2), by Maya Banks
To Be Published January 27, 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult paranormal romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) #1 bestselling author Maya Banks continues her suspenseful and steamy Slow Burn trilogy with this second book-a twisting tale featuring a strong yet vulnerable heroine in danger and the sexy alpha hero who must save her.

Abandoned as a baby to a young wealthy couple and raised in a world of privilege, Arial has no hint of her past or who she belonged to. Her only link lies in the one thing that sets her apart from everyone else—telekinetic powers. Protected by her adoptive parents and hidden from the public to keep her gift secret, Ari is raised in the lap of luxury, and isolation. That is, until someone begins threatening her life.

Beau Devereaux is no stranger to the strange. As the head of Deveraux Security, he’s more than familiar with the realities of physic powers. So when a family friend approaches him about protecting his daughter, he’s more than ready to jump on board. What Beau isn’t prepared for is the extent of his attraction to his beautiful and powerful client. What began as a simple assignment, just another job, quickly turns personal as Beau discovers he’ll do anything at all to protect Ari. Even if it costs him his life.


I love it when book #2 in a series exceed the bar set by book #1. It doesn't happen that often. Does the phrase "sophomore slump" mean anything to you? Well, I actually liked IN HIS KEEPING more than its predecessor, Keep Me Safe. In thinking back, that assessment was created by a few key things.

In In His Keeping, Arial's exposure of her telekinetic powers and the subsequent kidnapping of her parents, brings her to Devereaux Security, and specifically, to Beau Devereaux. It immediately becomes clear that her life is in danger in more ways than one, and Beau makes it his personal mission to see to her safety. As he learns more about her, he learns how special and brave she is, which succeeds in what he thought was impossible - he falls in love with her. But, Arial's tormenters won't give up looking for her, and their resources are seemingly endless. 

So, those things I mentioned as to what made In His Keeping a fantastic second book? Well, number one is, nearly no sex. 



Okay, let's back up a sec. Yes, I know Maya Banks can bring on the sexy. (Trust me - I'm reading Rush right now, and *fans self*.) It's one thing I've counted on when I read her books. Alpha male - check. Gripping story - check. Tons of hot sex - CHECK. In His Keeping features an intense emotional connection between Ari and Beau. It's clear that they fall for each other pretty quickly. And, Beau's drive to protect her at all costs was completely swoon-worthy (there's that alpha male). 

But, the fun times beneath the sheets were nearly completely absent. Now, before you write this book off, hear me out. It didn't even register with me that Arial and Beau had only had one sexual encounter and a teeny bit of dirty talk until I had finished the book. See, if there isn't a ton of sex, it becomes clear that the story has to stand on it's own feet. The sexual tension and connection between the characters has to be there. And, the fact that the distinct lack of sex didn't register with me until I was formulating my thoughts for this review is telling. 

And, this brings me to the second reason as to why In His Keeping was a fantastic second book. The paranormal aspect in his one was ratcheted way up. 


If I'm going to be honest, the paranormal part of Keep Me Safe was a little dark, depressing and creepy. Arial's ability in In His Keeping is just freaking COOL. And, it's pretty old-school too. No modern twist on an old idea. Arial is a girl who can do things with her mind. She can move stuff (with "stuff" being things like guns, people and cars), cut off people's air, blow things up, all with her thoughts. She's like a naive, pretty Darth Vader. The reader gets lots of opportunities to read about Ari in action. She uses her powers to save herself, to save Beau, and to exact revenge on some really nasty bad guys. This chick is my hero. 

And, she really is a hero. She may have been sheltered her whole life by her parents, and she may not have a ton of worldly experience, but she is fiercely loyal and dedicated to the people she loves. She tries to sacrifice herself again and again to save her parents and Beau. And, Beau, being the alpha male protector that he is, is staunchly against any and all of her efforts to do so. I loved reading their exchanges in those moments. Both were so singularly focused on saving loved ones. They really were perfect for one another. 

In His Keeping is told in dual POV, and I loved getting inside Beau's head, particularly at the pivotal moments in the story. We see Caleb and Ramie in this story, but almost nothing from Caleb's and Beau's other siblings, Quinn and Tori. There was a lot of focus on a new member of Devereaux Security - Zack. I REALLY liked him. I hope we see more from him in future Slow Burn books. 

Maya Banks does a great job with the paranormal, the romance, and the suspense in In His Keeping. It's a triple threat that together makes an exciting book. 

Giveaway

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January 16, 2015

I Have To Get This Off My Chest...

I Have To Get This Off My Chest...

One of my 2015 blogger resolutions was to do more non-review posts. I have thoughts. Lots and lots of thoughts. I'd love to hear yours too. Today, the thing on my mind is

Books to Movies

So, right around the corner is the debut of the movie version of this little book called FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. As I troll Twitter and Facebook and poll my friends who’ve read the series, opinions on this seem to fall into two camps. There’s the “OMG, I CAN’T WAIT” group, and the “I HATE JAMIE DORNAN AS CHRISTIAN GREY, SO I REFUSE TO GO SEE IT” group.


And, it got me thinking about this whole books-to-movies phenomenon that seems to have really taken off in recent years, thanks to the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises. Is it a good idea? Should Hollywood keep doing it? To answer those, you should ask yourself a few questions.

Question 1: Does casting matter?
Okay. Full disclosure, right? I tend to get pretty annoyed at how much emphasis some place on casting. There are some that get so worked up about it, that they make the decision to skip the movie version of a beloved book simply because they can’t picture the casted actor(s) in the roles of their favorite characters. Can I tell you something?

THEY ARE ACTORS.


They are getting paid millions of dollars to make you believe they are who they say they are. Don’t underestimate their abilities, and don’t pass judgment without having first-hand knowledge. Case in point – Sam Heughan.


When I learned he was going to play Jamie Fraser in the television production of Outlander, I was scratching my head. I just couldn’t see it, but then, I love Jamie so much, I don’t think ANYONE would’ve measured up. I was thinking, “He’s too old. His hair isn’t right. He’s not ‘big enough’ for the part.” Thank goodness my hang-ups didn’t prevent me from watching, because on screen, Sam Heughan absolutely embodied Jamie Fraser. I found myself not noticing the physical discrepancies at all. His acting and the acting from the supporting cast more than made up for them, and I found myself absolutely believing he was Jamie.

Sure, I would’ve probably preferred someone different to play Christian Grey. But, I’m confident that if the producers get everything else right, it won’t matter. Jamie Dornan seems to be a good actor from what I've seen, and as long as he embodies the essence of Mr. Twitchy Palm, I'm confident it won't matter what he looks like.

Question 2: Book first? Or movie first?
For me, Harry Potter will always look like Daniel Radcliff. This is because I watched the first few movies before I ever opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I read all seven books quickly, and managed to get them all done before the first Deadly Hallows movie came out. But, still. As I was reading those first books, I had the movie actors in my head.


Although it may spoil the ending of the movie for you, I definitely think that reading the book first is the best way to go. You can formulate your own opinions of how the characters should appear. And, it gives you good background information when you watch the movie, since they inevitably need to leave out some things.

There are a few instances where I know I would’ve enjoyed the movie, had I watched it first. The Percy Jackson movies, for instance. The effects were good, and the story was interesting. But, the movie was NOTHING like the book, and therefore, ruined for me. So, there is that.


Question 3: Is it possible for the movie to actually IMPROVE upon the story?
I do think it's possible for a movie to actually be better than the book. But, it's super hard to get there. Take, for instance, Mockingjay.



Who here was not a big fan of the final book in the trilogy. Go ahead - don't be shy. It's fine to admit that it just didn't live up to the awesomesauce that was The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Katniss had turned into a whiny baby that was too riddled with guilt and despair to do anything about her situation without being forced. She was a shadow of the strong young woman we were introduced to.

The movie portrayal of Katniss in Mockingjay, however, was So. Much. BETTER. Was it just me, or did Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of her make Katniss seem so much stronger? I'm so looking forward to the final Mockingjay to see what else is improved. I'm hoping the very ending. Like, the epilogue. Some true happiness from Katniss would be nice.

So, here's what I want to know from you:

1. Does casting matter?
2. Book first? Or movie first?
3. Is it possible for the movie to actually improve upon the story?
4. Do you plan to go see 50? (Because, I'm totes going to be there.)

January 15, 2015

REVIEW: Deliverance (The Courier's Daughter #3)

Deliverance (The Courier's Daughter #3), by C.J. Redwine
Published August 26, 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Format: hardback, purchased
Genre: young adult dystopian
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Everything hangs in the balance, and nothing is certain: Rachel has been kidnapped by enemy forces and is being taken to Rowansmark while Logan, imprisoned and awaiting trial, is unable to leave Lankenshire. Separated from each other and their Baalboden comrades, each must find a way to achieve what they desperately want: to rid their world once and for all of the Commander and the tech that controls the deadly Cursed One.

Fighting through her pain and embracing the warrior she’s become, Rachel will do whatever it takes to escape her enemies’ clutches and join Logan in his fight. But when she learns a secret that changes everything, she realizes that escaping Ian and his tracker friends is no longer an option if she wants to save the people she loves. Instead, she’ll have to destroy Rowansmark from the inside out—if she can survive the journey through the Wasteland.

Logan needs allies if he wants to thwart Rowansmark’s power grab and rescue Rachel. But securing allies will mean betraying his beliefs and enlisting the help of the man he hates more than anyone: Commander Jason Chase. Driven by his fierce love for Rachel and his determination to make their world safe, Logan may be just the weapon the city-states need to defeat the Cursed One.

But as Rowansmark bears down and uneasy alliances are tested, will Rachel and Logan’s love for each other be enough to surmount the unbelievable odds against them?


What a wild ride to the finish. The Courier's Daughter trilogy was an unexpected thrill for me in 2014. I initially picked it up because the covers are so beautiful and haunting. I thought it was a fantasy book, and in some ways it is. But, in actuality, it's a dark dystopian full of evil men and scary monsters. Threaded throughout, though, has been this epic love story between a warrior girl and a brilliant boy. DELIVERANCE, the final book in this fantastic series, puts an exclamation point on Rachel's and Logan's relationship and illustrates in harsh, blaring visions that love really can conquer all. 

Rachel and Logan are once again separated. Rachel is in the clutches of the despicable James Rowan, while Logan is forced to team up with the Commander to rally support from the other city states to wage war on Rowansmark and get Rachel back. Both of them are biding their time, missing each other and making plans for revenge. The final showdown between Rachel, Logan, the Commander and Rowan is coming, and one way or another, Rachel and Logan plan to see it through to the end. 

I had problems in previous books with Rachel's attitude. After experiencing so much tragedy and loss, she closed in on herself and chose to focus only on her anger and thirst for revenge. It hurt her relationship with Logan, who is the only person that she can really truly relate to. He's the man she loves, and she couldn't even tell him how she was feeling. 


The wonderfully amazing Quinn helped get Rachel back on the straight an narrow, though, and in Deliverance, she's a whole different person. Now THIS Rachel is the one I thought was so incredible in the beginning of book 1. She faces some really, REALLY hard stuff in Deliverance. James Rowan, Ian and the rest of the Rowansmark trackers don't think too highly of her. They torture her. It was awful. And, yet, she doesn't descend back into that dark place again. She keeps her mind fixed on Logan and what awaits them on the other side of all this. 

Logan is now and always has been singularly focused on one goal - get his people to safety so he can focus on more important things. Like Rachel. His thoughts are always on his girl. It seems like every decision he makes in Deliverance is with rescuing her in mind, especially now that his people have been taken in by Lankenshire. He is even willing to ally with his most hated enemy for her. That's some serious love there. 


All three books in this series have been utterly brutal. C.J. Redwine doesn't hold back. In all three books there are deaths of some pretty central characters. Many of them were very emotional. I've shed tears multiple times over the course of reading this trilogy. Deliverance is no different. It's the final showdown. Of course there are going to be deaths. With every death of one of Logan's people came a sense of sadness and pride. Sadness because I really connected with so many of these characters, and I didn't want to see any of them go. Pride because many of them went out in a proverbial blaze of glory, committing some selfless act to save others. So. Many. Tears. 

And the end - holy smokes. It was one crazy thing after another as we saw Rachel, Logan and the refugees of Baalboden band together to take down Rowansmark, the Commander and the Cursed Ones. It was exciting and gripping and nail-biting. I loved every single minute of it. The ending is satisfying in all the best ways. 

I'm so glad I read this series. I'm looking forward to seeing what new awesome thing C.J. Redwine has waiting for us. If it's even close to how good the Defiance series was, it's a sure thing.

January 14, 2015

REVIEW: The Masseuse (The Body Works Trilogy #1)

The Masseuse (The Body Works Trilogy #1), by Sierra Kincade
Published December 2, 2014
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Format: e-book, purchased
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Anna Rossi lives by one simple rule: don’t get attached, don’t get hurt. But Alec Flynn doesn’t play by the rules…

Anna never takes on a massage client without screening him first, but the paycheck offered by billionaire Maxim Stein is too good to turn down. Stein is the richest man she’s ever laid her hands on, and despite the risks, she trusts that she can take care of herself. After all, she’s handled difficult clients in the past. What she isn’t prepared for is getting caught in a compromising situation by Maxim’s tall, dark, and gorgeous bodyguard—or the desperate desires he awakens in her…

Alec is dangerous. The mysterious, hard-bodied man is completely irresistible and won’t be refused, no matter what walls Anna puts up to protect herself. But as Anna falls fast for his careful ministrations and mind-blowing skills, she begins to realize that giving herself over to a man with so many secrets isn’t just putting her heart at risk—it’s endangering her life…


I must confess that, at first glance, I dismissed THE MASSEUSE because it seemed like it would be a tawdry cheap thrill. Masseuses have that sort of reputation, right? 

What can I say? I'm an idiot. 

In The Masseuse, Anna Rossi's services are needed at rich sleaze ball Maxim Stein's home. While there, she gets lost and has a run-in with his bodyguard, the mysterious Alec Flynn. That brief meeting stays with Anna, as does their magnetic connection, and after a few chance meetings, Anna and Alec begin a hot affair. The burden of confession doesn't fall evenly though, as Anna shares her heart, body and all her dirty little secrets with Alec, and he shares almost nothing. The lack of balance causes problems, least of which is mistrust on Anna's side. And, the worst of which is that someone seems to be gunning for Anna now, and she has no idea why.

So yeah. I'm a dumbass. I had no idea this book had so much depth and suspense and intrigue locked within its pages. Yes - Anna is a masseuse. But, truthfully, that fact is not a major part of the story. I was very quickly - almost immediately, actually - caught up in Alec's secrets and lies and the near impossible task of discerning whether his apparent feelings for Anna were real. Anna's profession became almost an extraneous detail. 

Alec was my favorite part of The Masseuse. He was frustrating and infuriating and completely wonderful. There is a lot more to him than what meets the eye. In the beginning, he appears so aloof and uncaring. Like he's chasing after Anna just because he thinks she's hot. As in all the best stories, it may start out that way, but once they have some shared near death experiences, some ridiculously hot sex and some deep pillow talk, real feelings develop. 

And, that's when things get really messy. Anna falls hard and fast and has to come to a decision about Alec's lack of full disclosure. He allows her in just a bit, and she's so desperate for that connection with him, she clings to those details he offers up and uses them to justify his continued presence in her life. Except, there comes a time when even that isn't enough for her. And, that time comes when it appears he's cheating on her. 

Alec and Anna's relationship is passionate and intense. Their chemistry was wicked awesome, and something I could read about every day. The Masseuse is told entirely from Anna's POV, which is kind of a bummer. I mean, I get why - all of Alec's secrets would've come out so much sooner if we had his voice in the book as well as Anna's. But, this is one instance where I would love an eventual companion novel to showcase what's going on in that beautiful head of his.

There's a lot going on in The Masseuse. All the lines get blurred, and no one is sure who to trust. But, the one thing you are sure of by the end is that Alec and Anna love each other, and although things end a little on the hairy side, you feel good that they will come out of it all on top. Of course, this is only book one in a trilogy, so on the other hand, there's still plenty of time for one or both of them to screw things up. Thank goodness.

January 13, 2015

REVIEW: Hero

Hero, by Samantha Young
To Be Published February 3, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: e-ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Pre-order: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
 

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Alexa Holland’s father was her hero—until her shocking discovery that she and her mother weren’t his only family. Ever since, Alexa has worked to turn her life in a different direction and forge her own identity outside of his terrible secrets,. But when she meets a man who’s as damaged by her father’s mistakes as she is, Alexa must help him.

Caine Carraway wants nothing to do with Alexa’s efforts at redemption, but it’s not so easy to push her away. Determined to make her hate him, he brings her to the edge of her patience and waits for her to walk away. But his actions only draw them together and, despite the odds, they begin an intense and explosive affair.

Only Caine knows he can never be the white knight that Alexa has always longed for. And when they’re on the precipice of danger, he finds he’ll do anything to protect either one of them from being hurt again…


Samantha Young has this uncanny knack for creating these super hero guys that are larger than life. Caine Carraway is infuriating, antagonistic and damaged. But, when it matters, he becomes this blazing white knight willing to take on the world to save the woman he loves. How can you not love a guy like that?

I know Samantha Young from her On Dublin Street series, which I love so much. It all started with Braden Carmichael, the original white knight. He's kind of set the standard, you know. They're big shoes to fill. Luckily, Caine is packing some pretty big feet. About halfway through HERO, I was saying to myself, "Braden who?"

Caine Carraway's life was destroyed when the man who his mother had been having an affair abandoned her in a hotel room to die of an overdose when he was only a young teenager. Twenty years later, he comes face-to-face with that man's daughter, and he's at war with himself. He's taken by her, but he hates everything she represents too. When her circumstances cause her to grovel for a job, Caine thinks this will be the perfect opportunity to torture her. He didn't expect for her to grow on him so quickly. And then when Alexa is in danger, Caine realizes how much he needs her. 

I can appreciate Caine's hatred of Alexa in the beginning. He has all this displaced anger over the awful things that happened to him when he was a child. He's learned to rely only on himself as he was pushed through the system and then remade himself to be a success. Alexa is a threat to his carefully erected facade. She represents all the bad things to Caine. She's a wild card. 

The one thing Caine didn't count on was how resilient and persistent Alexa could be. She too has faced all the bad things and lived to tell about them. She, however, is not rich and successful. Her only remaining family can't let on that they know her because of the stigma her last name carries with it. She is alone. She has nothing to lose. 

I loved that Alexa sought out Caine in an attempt to rectify the sins of her father. It's not really her responsibility to make things right, but she tries anyway. To me, that shows that Alexa has a good heart. She feels so badly that the actions of her father caused Caine so much pain, and she wants to try and make it better in any way she can. She becomes his personal assistant both out of necessity - hey, it's a nice paycheck and she needs the money - and out of a perceived obligation. She knew it would be rough, but she was willing to stick it out. 

Rough isn't even in the ballpark. Caine was relentless. He was awful to Alexa at first, and it made me loathe him for a time. But, it seemed like once he got all that initial ire out of the way, he became someone softer. And, then when he gave into their attraction, things really got interesting. Caine eventually comes to realize that the sins of the father should not be visited upon the son, or in this case, the daughter. Alexa's life was destroyed as well. Caine has his millions to keep him warm and the adoration of an entire city. Alexa barely has her apartment and is a pariah. Yet, she stays in an attempt to grow some roots and make a life. Once Caine sees all this, his respect for Alexa grows. 

Caine is your typical alpha male type. He's gorgeous and brooding and ridiculously over protective. He bosses Alexa around, not only on the clock, but off it as well. When Alexa's safety is compromised by an unknown person, Caine is in his element, assigning security and sending transportation and telling her when she can and can't leave. And Alexa is just so thankful that someone finally gives a damn. 

Caine and Alexa are amazing together. Their passion and love is almost a tangible thing. Once Caine got over himself, they were such a fantastic couple, complementing each other perfectly. Where Caine is hard and demanding, Alexa is soft and forgiving. But, they're both very strong and very strong willed. I loved that about both of them. 

I'm almost sad this is a stand-alone. I would have loved to read more about this couple. For now, though, it's good enough that I had one book with Caine Calloway. But, if Samantha Young ever wants to write a follow-up novella, well, I wouldn't be upset.