Review: My Heartache Cowboy by Z.A. Maxfield

Wednesday, February 19

Title:  My Heartache Cowboy*
Author: Z.A. Maxfield
Series:  The Cowboys #2
Genre:  Contemporary MM Romance
Publisher:  Penguin Group
Format:  ebook
Date/Year:  January 21, 2014
Reviewed by:  Andrea
 

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

Can love conquer all?

Jimmy Rafferty and Eddie Molina go way back at the J-Bar ranch. They’ve worked together, bunked together, camped out, and drank together. So how has Jimmy failed to notice that Eddie is gay? Eddie has not failed to notice that his friend has a serious drinking problem, and he’s determined to help Jimmy kick the booze cold turkey.

Taking him up to a snowbound cabin to detox, Eddie is confronted with Jimmy’s fierce denial. But the pains of withdrawal are nothing for Jimmy compared with the heartache of denying his true feelings and his deep longing…for the one man who cares for him more than anyone else on earth.


My Musings:

Note:   Even though My Heartache Cowboy is the second book of the series, it could be read as a stand alone. 

I feel as though I need to confess a few things before I start on the review.  Just so you all know, I don’t have a thing for cowboys.  If anything, I try to avoid cowboy books.  I also have a very strong aversion to alcoholics, and Jimmy is an alcoholic.  That made for two strikes against this book before I even started reading.  There was only one thing which could overcome those two things, and that’s the author.  Z.A. Maxfield is one of my favorite romance authors. I was willing to read about things I don’t like just because of her, she’s that good.

In book one, MY COWBOY HEART, Jimmy and Eddie were secondary characters and spent most of their time in the background.  In MY HEARTACHE COWBOY, you get to know them so much better.  Jimmy is an out of control alcoholic who is at risk of losing everything because of his drinking.  His long time friend and coworker, Eddie, decides to take matters into his own hands.  He kidnaps Jimmy, takes him to a secluded cabin and then proceeds to force the reality of the situation down Jimmy’s throat.  Through tough love, he gives Jimmy uncensored honesty and no choice but to suffer through the agony of detox.

I’ve got very little sympathy for addicts.  They manipulate, they lie, and they violate the trust of the people who love them.  You can imagine my surprise when I found myself not only sympathizing with, but also identifying with Jimmy.  I wanted this man to turn his life around, and was pulling so hard for him throughout the entire ordeal.  I fell for this man even though I knew it was setting me up to be disappointment if he failed.  That alone is a testament to character development.  The author made me care about a man I didn’t want to let into my heart. 

It has been obvious since the first book that Eddie and Jimmy have a unique relationship.  They bicker like an old married couple but are inseparable.  The only thing lacking was the physical relationship.  That began to change in this book, and the catalyst of that change was a man named Don.  The chemistry between these three men was palpable.  A good threesome is hard to find, but Z.A. Maxfield nailed it in this book.  Seriously, I had to take a break from reading to go change my underwear.  Eddie, Jimmy, and Don were that hot!

I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed this book.  It wasn’t just the hot sex, although that was definitely a part of it. :) I cared deeply about all three of these men.  Jimmy and Don had to force their way into my heart, but they did and I love them all the more for it.  I felt Jimmy’s torment and frustration when faced with conquering his addiction.  I felt Eddie’s desperation while watching the man he loved destroy himself.  I had so much respect for the way Don not only brought Eddie and Jimmy together, but how he always knew his position in the relationship and knew when to step back.

This book pushed me into uncomfortable territory on more than one occasion.  I love when a book does that.  I don’t care if this is only January, MY HEARTACHE COWBOY is going on my “favorites of 2014” shelf.  I highly recommend this book.

Ratings:

Overall:  4.75 stars
Sensuality level: 4
(M/M/M, toys, bondage, and very steamy scenes)

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Review: Betting on You by Sydney Landon

Friday, February 14

Title: Betting On You*
Author: Sydney Landon
Series: Danvers series #4.5
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher:  Berkley InterMix
Format: ebook, audio book
Date/Year: Jan 21, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele
 

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

Living the life of a rich socialite was never in Mia’s plans, much to the chagrin of her wealthy parents.

She’s made her own way, studying computer science at Brown and snagging a coveted position with Danvers International after graduation. Her plan to avoid parental involvement seems to be going well until her mother buys her a date at a charity auction—with the hot resort owner who she’s been eyeing on her latest work project.

Seth never mixes business with pleasure, but something about Mia drives him to distraction. Giving into his desires for just one night will hopefully clear his head enough to keep his hands off her during office hours.

But when one mind-blowing night turns into weeks of flirtation, frustration, and companionship, Mia realizes that their workplace fling may be developing into more—and that Seth might be the perfect man she’s been waiting for…


My Musings:

Although BETTING ON YOU is the latest entry in Sydney Landon’s popular Danvers series, the connection between its hero and heroine with the rest of the series is tenuous, at best.

Seth is the charming and successful local businessman from FALLING FOR YOU (book 3) who was used by Beth to make Declan jealous after their relationship-ending fight. Mia is a new character to the series, introduced as an IT specialist working for Danvers on an installation project for Seth’s office. She moves in the same circles as Seth, thanks to her own family’s placement in local society, but is determined to make her own way in the world and not be dependent on them, or any man they might recommend.

When Seth and Mia first meet in the room where Mia is installing computers, their instant connection is obvious, but both choose to try to overlook it for sanity’s sake. But when Mia’s mother uses her charity bachelor auction to throw Seth at Mia in a way she can’t ignore, the result is some incredibly hot sexual encounters that neither of them wish to end. Yet their liaison would be a real threat to Mia’s hard-won job at Danvers for as long as Seth is still a client on the project she leads. They both agree to hold off until the office installation is complete, but during that time, Seth starts having doubts about what Mia might be expecting once they can be together again. Can a real relationship work between them, or is it just too much, too soon?

There’s no denying that Sydney Landon can write great sex scenes between characters that we want to root for. But what was missing for me in BETTING ON YOU was a sense that the hero and heroine really wanted this future for themselves. Seth, especially, was a great disappointment to me in both word and deed. He was the one who had pushed Mia into what he was certain they both wanted, and assured her their desire was mutual. Yet the minute he had to cool his jets and wait until it was safe for both of them, he started behaving like someone who had really just been looking for sex all along, despite everything he’d been saying. Mia seemed more grounded and realistic about what their relationship had actually been, and was hurt by Seth’s behavior but prepared to move on with her life. Yet when he finally realized that he needed to make things right with her, it seemed like her forgiveness was just a little too easily given.

All the problematic elements of this story including the insta-lust and the rushed ending could have been avoided with a longer story, but this is a novella, and those are the traps so many of them fall into. For me, BETTING ON YOU was a nice quick love story with some very well-written sex scenes, but I’m hoping that any future Danvers books will take the time needed to establish a more enjoyable and plausible happy ending for everyone.

Ratings:

Overall: 3 stars
Sensuality level: 4
(light BDSM, semi-public sex)


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Review: Falling Light by Thea Harrison

Thursday, February 13

Title:  Falling Light*
Author: Thea Harrison
Series:  Game of Shadows #2
Genre:  paranormal romance
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Format:  paperback & ebook
Date/Year:  February 4, 2014
Reviewed by:  Andrea

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

Having finally reunited, and fought off The Deceiver for now, Mary and Michael race up the Michigan peninsula to meet Astra before police forces catch up with them. But the closer they get, the less Mary is willing to trust a woman who by her own admission will do anything to finish The Deceiver – even if it means killing Michael and Mary to try again in another life. As they face their final battle unsure if they can trust either side, Michael’s loyalties are tested, making him vulnerable just when Mary needs him most.



My Musings:

Thea Harrison has made a name for herself with her ELDER RACES series.  It’s a fantastic series, and I have reviewed and recommended many of those books in the past.  The problem with having such a successful series is that people expect any subsequent series to be similar.  That is absolutely not the case here.  The GAME OF SHADOWS series is nothing like ELDER RACES.  I cannot stress that enough, they are completely different types of books!

Mary and Michael are aliens from another planet.  Long ago, they followed "The Deceiver" from their home planet when he escaped.  They have been reincarnating and living as humans ever since.  When they die and are reborn, they retain their memories and abilities. The down side is that they lose decades as they must reach maturity, reacquaint themselves with their purpose, and find each other again. Throughout their many lifetimes, they’ve continued their fight with The Deceiver.  In RISING DARKNESS, Michael and Mary had finally reconnected and were forced into a near disastrous battle with The Deceiver. 

FALLING LIGHT continues right where the RISING DARKNESS left off.  Mary and Michael are recovering in the aftermath of their battle with The Deceiver.  They are in a mad rush to get to Astra, their guide and mentor.  There, they hope to find a brief period of safety where they will have a chance to heal, regroup, and come up with a plan. 

Honestly, I’ve struggled through this series.  I had read many reviews saying how different this series was from ELDER RACES.  I thought I understood that going into it and was prepared.  I wasn’t.  First of all, the is a big difference in the types of romance.  There is very little romance between Michael and Mary.  They are soul mates, so they meet and instantly connect.  The chemistry between them is supposedly instantaneous, but I never felt it.  Hot and sexy this series is not.  Their mission of destroying The Deceiver is a long and convoluted tale.  Mary lived most of her current life without knowing her true identity, so she is working to figure everything out as she goes.  The reader is learning the tale right along with her.  It makes for a confusing and frustrating tale when you don’t understand the big picture or the motives behind some of the characters. 

On a personal level, I had some issues with Mary and Michael.  They were difficult to connect with.  I never gained a full understanding of them, and I didn’t particularly like them.  In fact, right up until the end I was almost hoping Mary would die in the fight because she irritated me so much.  The romance between these two was a complete miss for me from start to finish. 

There are some great things about this series.  I really enjoyed the fine details.  Mary was a healer and I found her process of healing fascinating.  I could see the cell walls repairing, the bones mending, and the skin regenerating.  I was also a really big fan of Nicholas.  I don’t want to give an spoilers so I’ll just say that I loved his storyline.  The war between Astra and The Deceiver was also quite interesting once I understood why it was happening.  I only wish I had understood it sooner.

If you can’t tell, this book, and the series as a whole, was hit and miss for me.  There were things I really liked, and some things I didn’t like at all.  In the end, it was just OK for me.

Ratings:

Overall:  2.75 stars
Sensuality level: 3


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Review: Up From the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Wednesday, February 12

Title:  Up From the Grave*
Author:  Jeaniene Frost
Series:  Night Huntress #7
Genre:  Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Romance
Publisher:  Avon Publishing
Format:  paperback, ebook & audio book
Date/Year:   January 28, 2014
Reviewed by:  Andrea
 

*This book was borrowed from my local library for review.

Summary from the publisher:

There’s always one more grave to dig.

Lately, life has been unnaturally calm for vampires Cat Crawfield and her husband Bones. They should have known better than to relax their guard, because a shocking revelation sends them back into action to stop an all-out war…

A rogue CIA agent is involved in horrifying secret activities that threaten to raise tensions between humans and the undead to dangerous heights. Now Cat and Bones are in a race against time to save their friends from a fate worse than death…because the more secrets they unravel, the deadlier the consequences. And if they fail, their lives—and those of everyone they hold dear— will be hovering on the edge of the grave.


My Musings:

It is finally here, the last book of the NIGHT HUNTRESS series.  This book, UP FROM THE GRAVE,  is one I was both looking forward to and dreading at the same time.  If you have yet to read this series, now is the perfect time to do so.  You can start with book 1 and binge read through the rest.  You no longer have the deal with the agonizing wait the rest of us had to deal with as we waited for the next book to be released. 

If you’re new to the series, you might be wondering what makes the NIGHT HUNTRESS series so incredibly fabulous?  Well, that’s not the easiest thing to pin down.  First, there is Cat.  She is the fierce, smart, and imperfectly lovable heroine.  The balance to Cat’s sometimes irresponsible risk taking is her even more fierce and extremely sexy husband, Bones.  You are going to love them together!  They fight their enemies, they love each other, they laugh with their friends, and above everything else, they live their lives with an exuberance you can’t help but enjoy.  This series is the perfect gateway drug into the paranormal and urban fantasy world.  It’s a little bit of each without being too “out there” for those new to the genre. 

So, getting back to UP FROM THE GRAVE.  Once again, I’m left wondering how to review a book without saying anything specific about the plot.  The blurb is carefully worded to give you an idea of what to expect without giving away the big, giant spoiler which is the focus of this entire book as well as the reason for Cat and Bones sailing off into the sunset at the end.  Read the blurb and try to read between the lines.  I’m going to leave it at that because I certainly don’t want to give it away. 

As much as I loved this book, I have to admit that I was a little bored in the beginning.  Cat and Bones were up to their usual sexiness and ass-kicking, but I wasn’t as invested, a.k.a. obsessed, as usual.  I can’t give you a specific reason, I just know I wasn’t 100% feeling it.  And then it happened...   This is a spoiler free review so I’ll just say that there is a game-changing and life-altering revelation a little more than halfway through.  That changed everything for me!  I was completely taken in after that.  I was feeling Cat’s terror and anger, I was feeling her desperation, and I was feeling the overwhelming love between Cat and Bones.  It was an absolutely perfect ending to a fabulous series.  I highly recommend it!

Ratings:

Overall:  4.5 stars (I knocked off half a star because the beginning was slow.) 
Sensuality level: 3

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Review: Jaded by Anne Calhoun

Tuesday, February 11

Title: Jaded*
Author: Anne Calhoun      
Series: Walkers Ford #2
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Berkley
Format: ebook and print
Date/Year: February 4, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele 

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

They can’t hide from desire…

After life as a cop in Denver leaves him burned-out, Lucas Ridgeway returns to Walkers Ford, South Dakota, to serve as their chief of police. He’s hoping to start over with a clean slate and avoid any emotional entanglements—even after his next-door neighbor kisses him senseless. Alana is passionate, dedicated, and most importantly leaving town soon. So why not have some fun?

Alana Wentworth comes from a larger-than-life political family, yet all she wanted was to be a librarian. Then after an embarrassing marriage proposal from Mr. Not-For-Her, she jumps at the chance to live her dream for a few months. She wasn't supposed to get involved with the community—or sexy, troubled Lucas. But when the time comes for Alana to put Walkers Ford behind her, she’s not ready. And Lucas may not be ready for her to go….


My Musings:

The small town librarian and the police chief. It may be a cliche, but JADED shows us why it works. When you live in a town as tiny as Walkers Ford, everybody knows your business. We saw how destructive that could be in UNFORGIVEN, the first book in this series, and fear of those repercussions is reflected in the behavior of our hero and heroine when JADED begins.

Alana is one of those people who choose a small town as a place to hide from their responsibilities back in the big city. She’s spent her whole life hiding from others, content to let her famous sister be the public face of their family’s foundation while she works tirelessly behind the scenes. It wasn’t until their mother pushed a family friend to propose marriage that Alana finally fled her privileged life in Chicago for a place where she could directly influence the lives of people in need. What Alana didn’t count on was a landlord who would make her regret her decision to leave Walkers Ford when the job was done.

Lucas grew up in Walkers Ford, but had left years before to be a cop in the big city of Denver, returning only after he believed his actions had led to the death of a young man he’d mentored there. After a bitter divorce and the descent of his beloved cousin into drug addiction, Lucas has become too cynical to believe that love was worth the trouble it could bring, even as he embarks on a secret fling with Alana.  But as she prepares to leave Walkers Ford for good, he has to decide if he can take one more chance on love and on her.

Anne Calhoun’s UNFORGIVEN was one of my top ten best reads of 2013, so I was especially excited about reading this next book in her new Walkers Ford contemporary romance series. As much as I enjoyed its over the top drama and angst, I was relieved to see the level was dialed back a bit here in JADED. We have a hero and heroine who are both spending all their time doing everything for everyone else in their lives, but unlike the stars of the previous book, neither of them seems to have an unhealthy level of self-loathing. Still, the fear of small-town gossip keeps them from going public with their liaison and feeds into their respective worries that the other isn’t looking for anything beyond a temporary fling.

Lucas and Alana are brought together by their shared inability to keep their hands off each other, and their intimate scenes are loaded with sexual chemistry and undeniable passion. As their affair progresses, the responsibilities they each have threaten to tear them apart. But the love they find with each other helps Lucas and Alana reach the balance they both need in their lives and begins to heal the pain which had brought them to Walkers Ford.

What Anne Calhoun shows us in JADED is that you can’t do your best for others if you won’t give yourself the same amount of consideration first. It’s a lovely return visit to Walkers Ford and bodes well for the next book in the series.

Ratings:

Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5


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Joint Review & Giveaway: Bound by Lorelei James

Friday, February 7

Title:  Bound*
Author:  Lorelei James
Series: Mastered series, #1
Genre: erotic romance
Publisher: NAL Trade
Format: ebook, paperback & audiobook
Date/Year: February 4, 2014
Reviewed by: ElaineReads & Booklover
 

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

Former small-town girl Amery Hardwick is living her dream as a graphic designer in Denver, Colorado. She’s focused on building her business, which leaves little time for dating—not that she needs a romantic entanglement to fulfill her. When her friend signs up for a self-defense class as part of her recovery after an attack, Amery joins her for support. That’s where she meets him.

Ronin Black, owner of the dojo, is so drawn to Amery that he takes over her training—in public and in private. The enigmatic Ronin pushes Amery’s boundaries from the start, and with each new tryst, Amery becomes addicted to the pleasure and to him. But when Amery senses Ronin is hiding something, she questions her total trust in him, despite the undeniable thrill of his possession….

Elaine's & Booklover's  Musings:

Elaine:  I have read several of Lorelei James’ western novels and I always enjoy them.  This is the first book I have read by her set in a totally urban environment and it is obvious her talent is not restricted to a particular genre.  In fact, I think this is the best book of hers I have read.

Booklover:  Same here ;)  I am a big Lorelei James fan so I will read just about any romance she writes.  I have to say that I think that the urban setting (Denver, CO) was a refreshing change.  I didn't know what to expect since this book seemed out of the norm for the author.  Ms. James did write about a BDSM relationship in Cowboy Casanova, but I thought it was lacking a bit.  But that is not the case with Bound.  I agree I think Bound is the best book Lorelei James has written.  I was completely obsessed with Ronin and Amery for weeks!

Elaine:  Amery comes from an ultra religious background and her father was both physically and emotionally abusive when he did not feel she met his standards.  She escaped to college as soon as she was able, but her upbringing still inhibits her sexually.

Ronin is a martial arts expert and sparks fly between them as soon as they meet.  He is very secretive and obsessed with control in all areas of his life . . . particularly his sex life.  He is a master of the art of rope bondage which reflects his Japanese heritage.

Fortunately, Amery is excited about being bound and enjoys her sexual relationship with Ronin.  Unfortunately, her background causes her to be ashamed of her feelings.  She believes there is something wrong with her because she enjoys the bondage.

All of this could be overcome if Ronin would just open up to her. He keeps so many secrets, Amery cannot believe he really cares about her. 

Booklover:  This is a two book series.  According to the author the first book, Bound, focuses on Amery, and the second book, Unwound, focuses on Ronin.

Bound is all about Amery and how she struggles to embrace her relationship with Ronin and learning what her boundaries are. She had a previous relationship that only seemed to enforce her inhibitions, She's inexperienced in love and her sexuality (but not a virgin) but Ronin relentlessly pursues Amery despite her reservations and hang-ups.  There is immediate and undeniable chemistry between the two and sparks fly practically from page one.

Ronin pushes Amery to be the person she is meant to be, both sexually and professionally.  He demands her trust, her submission, and desires her love.  And through their romantic encounters, most including using Shibari and other erotic bondage techniques, he tries to bind her to him while keeping secrets from her. However, because Ronin doesn't share himself with her like she needs she questions everything about their time together and it's heartbreaking, for both of them.

Elaine:  Let me repeat, I loved this book.  I had heard of rope bondage, but I did not know that much about it.  Now, I can visualize the beauty of it and understand how it might be a part of Dom/Sub relationship. Mostly though, I see it as a form of living art.

The sequel, Unwound, is due out on March 25th and I cannot wait.  The ending of Bound definitely left me on edge and I want to know how Amery and Ronin work out their problems.  I know it will be another page turner to read.

Booklover:  Bound is the most sensual romance I have read in a really long time.  Not just because it is an erotic romance, but because of the beautiful way rope bondage is portrayed in this story.  I've read romances that had bondage in it before, but nothing like it was portrayed in Bound.  And while Ronin is a Dom, he's unlike any other Dom I've read before  either. Mainly because it's not all about a sex club, or sex for that matter.  It's really more of a deep need for him to express and embrace who he is at his very core.  Shibari is spiritual for him, and his binds are artistic expressions.

Because it was a Lorelei James story I knew I had to read it, but she just blew me away with the sensuality, the characters, and their story in Bound.  And Ronin.....quite frankly, is one of my favorite heroes (ranks up there with Jamie Frasier).  I LOVED LOVED LOVED him!  Flaws and all.  I loved Amery and him together.  I loved everything about this book so much that I am confident that it will make my best of the year list at the end of 2014. LOVE.

I don't ever re-read books.  There are just too many other books that I want to read, that I never re-read.  I re-read Bound, and I might just read it again (yes, for the third time).  Bound left me with a serious book hangover, and I loved every minute of it!  No other book I had in my TBR measured up or captured my interest like Bound did.  I think I started and stopped reading about seven other books before caving in and reading Bound again.   I rarely have this kind of reaction after reading a story, but a re-read status is the best recommendation I could ever give a book.  Simply put, Lorelei James proves that she is a Master of erotic romance with Bound.

Yes, the book does end unfinished, but that is because it continues with Unwound.   I wasn't upset by that because that means I get more of Ronin and Amery.  Bound is about 400 pages.  Unwound is approximately 384 pages.  The Mastered Series promises to be 784 pages of romance perfection!   I more than Highly Recommend Bound, it pushed all of my favorite romance buttons!  Like Elaine, I can't wait for Unwound!!!



Ratings:

Elaine Overall: 4.5 stars (Definitely a re-read, but I did not like the cliffhanger ending.)
Elaine Sensuality level: 4.5 (Except for the rope bondage, the sexual relationship was fairly vanilla.)

Booklover Overall:  5 stars (This is definitely one you will re-read, and I happened to really enjoy the ending.  I thought it was brilliant because now I can't wait for Unwound!)

Booklover Sensuality level:  4 (rope bondage, extremely intense sensual/sexual relationship.  It's hot, and has some of my favorite intimate scenes...ever!)

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Lorelei James is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Blacktop Cowboys and Rough Riders series as well as the steamy new Mastered series.  She lives in the Black Hills of western South Dakota with her family.  Visit her online at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

To celebrate the release of Bound, the first book in the Mastered series, Lorelei's publisher, Berkley is giving away a print copy of Bound to one lucky Musings follower.  (US only)  Enter to win in the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


 


 



*Seductive Musings is an Amazon affiliate and receives a very small referral fee for purchases made via the links on the blog and through the Seductive Musings Amazon Store. Read the full disclosure here.

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Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

Thursday, February 6

Title: Romancing the Duke*
Author: Tessa Dare
Series:  Castles Ever After #1
Genre:   Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon
Format:  Paperback, ebook
Date/Year: Jan 28, 2014
Reviewed by:  Blue
 

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

In the first in Tessa Dare's captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .


As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens.  She never doubted romance would be in her future, too.  The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off.  One by one by one.
  • Ugly duckling turned swan? 
  • Abducted by handsome highwayman? 
  • Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and... Heh.

Now Izzy's given up yearning for romance.  She'll settle for a roof over her head.  What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who's never even been kissed?

This one.


My Musings:

Ransom Vane, The Duke of Rothbury has been living a reclusive life for the past seven months, hiding out in one of his remote estates, Gostley Castle.  This former arrogant rake was scarred and nearly blinded as he pursued his runaway fiancee, believing she was being abducted rather than leaving him of her own free will.  Now his pride won't let him show himself in society again.  He plans to stay in solitude, in his run down castle.  His solitude is interrupted by the appearance of a girl, who tells him she is supposed to meet a Lord Archer there, to find out about a bequest left to her by her godfather.

Isolde "Izzy" Goodnight is famous for being the little girl in the wildly popular "Goodnight Tales" penned by her father for over a decade.  Though she is now twenty six, she still has a large following of fans who love her.  But her father's recent death has left her destitute and homeless.  She receives word that her godfather has also died, and has left her a bequest.  She is to meet Lord Archer at Gostley Castle to receive it.  Hoping that the bequest is enough for her to live on, she spends the last of her money to travel to the castle.

Lord Archer informs Izzy that her bequest IS the castle itself.  This does not sit well with Ransom, as he is the owner, and he is living there.  But Lord Archer has legal papers, and until things are sorted out, Izzy is not leaving.  It appears that in Ransom's absence from town, his solicitors have been steadily stealing from him, and have illegally sold his home.

Izzy has long since given up her dreams of love and her own family.  She is plain, and has never had a suitor.  Yet, she stands up to the Duke, offering to let him stay at the castle if he pays rent.  When he steals a kiss, she tells him that it's her first kiss and he had better do it again and get it right, the way she dreamed.  When Ransom holds her, all he is able to see is a cloud of dark hair, and her red lips.  He finds her beautiful, and tells her so.  They eventually become lovers, but they have a lot to work through for their happy ending.

Before his injury, Ransom was not a very good person.  He had no close friends, was very arrogant, and did not believe in love.  We later learn that he didn't feel worthy of love, and the reason why is a sad story indeed.   Now, though, he proves himself to be a knight in shining armor.  Also coming to the rescue is a legion of fans of the Goodnight Tales, calling themselves the Moranglian Order.  This was so well done, being fun and whimsical, without being ridiculous.  (It reminded me of devoted fans dressing up and attending a Trekkie convention in today's world.)

This book had it all - wonderful protagonists, a unique story, humor, romance, some steamy scenes, and a very well done happy ending.  I loved these two characters.   I finished ROMANCING THE DUKE with a smile and a sigh, and I know this will be one of my favorites of this year.  This is the first book in a new series, Castles Ever After, in which Izzy's godfather bequeathed castles to several of his  goddaughters.  I can't wait!

Highly recommended.


Ratings:

Overall:  5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5

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Review: Payoff by L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov

Title:  Payoff*
Author: L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov
Series: Market Garden #6
Genre:  Contemporary MM Romance
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Format:  ebook
Date/Year:  February 3, 2014
Reviewed by:  Andrea
 

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

Tristan and Jared have got it made. When they aren’t raking in the cash together at Market Garden, they’re burning up their own sheets and getting closer by the day. But something isn’t right. Tristan’s on edge, and Jared doesn’t understand why.

Before they can hash things out, their services are requested by none other than Rolex. And Rolex doesn’t just want to be a bystander this time. He wants Jared while Tristan watches, and he’s more than willing to pay for it.

But Tristan’s reached a breaking point, and even that huge wad of cash might not be enough to keep tonight’s arrangement from crashing and burning.



My Musings:

Note:  PAYOFF is book #6 in the MARKET GARDEN series.  I would not suggest attempting to read this as a stand alone.

Tristan and Jared are rentboys at "Market Garden", a high end brothel in London.  They started out, way back in book one, as nothing more than coworkers.  There was a spark of mutual attraction, but neither one was too keen on mixing their personal and professional lives.  That all changed when Rolex showed up and was willing to pay the big bucks to have both of them.  Over the course of the series, an intense personal relationship between Tristan and Jared has developed, but they’ve kept the status quo of their professional relationship.  PAYOFF is where the personal side and the professional side of Tristan and Jared’s lives come to a standoff. 

PAYOFF kept the high standard set by the previous books.  Rolex deciding he wants to participate with Tristan and Jared is what forces everything to come to a head.  What happens is in turn frustrating and then sexy as hell. 

I think I’ve become addicted to MARKET GARDEN.  It’s the most delicious series of hot little novellas, and I can’t get enough of it. I’m not a fan of books which are more sex than plot, but these books are at least 50% sex.  What makes it work for me is that the plot is built through the nights spent working at Market Garden, which is mostly sex.  You get to know Tristan and Jared as they work.  You get to see what’s happened in their lives since the last time you saw them at Market Garden.  It’s a unique and interesting way to develop a storyline. 

I have no idea what magic these authors have concocted to make this series work so well, I just hope they keep it up!

Ratings:

Overall: 4 stars
Sensuality level: 4


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*Seductive Musings is an Amazon affiliate and receives a very small referral fee for purchases made via the links on the blog and through the Seductive Musings Amazon Store. Read the full disclosure here.

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Review & Giveaway: Letting Go by Maya Banks

Wednesday, February 5

Title: Letting Go*
Author: Maya Banks
Series: Surrender Trilogy #1
Genre:  contemporary erotic romance
Publisher:  Berkley
Format: print and ebook
Date/Year: February 4, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele 

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

Josslyn found perfection once, and she knows she’ll never find it again. Now widowed, she seeks the one thing her beloved husband couldn’t give her. Dominance. Lonely and searching for an outlet for her grief and wanting only a brief taste of the perfection she once enjoyed, she seeks what she’s looking for at an exclusive club that caters to people indulging in their most hedonistic fantasies. She never imagined that what she’d find is the one man who’s long been a source of comfort—and secret longing. Her husband’s best friend.

Dash has lived in an untenable position for years. In love with his best friend’s wife and unwilling to act on that attraction. He’d never betray his best friend. And so he’s waited in the wings, offering Joss unconditional support and comfort as she works past her grief, hoping for the day when he can offer her more.

When he finds her in a club devoted to the darker edges of desire, he’s furious because he thinks she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. Until she explains in detail what it is she wants. What she needs. As realization sets in, he is gripped by fierce, unwavering determination. If she wants dominance, he is the only man who will introduce her to that world. He is the only man who will touch her, cherish her…love her. And the only man she’ll ever submit to.


My Musings:

LETTING GO is the story of a woman who already found and lost her perfect love, but has decided after three years of lonely mourning that it’s time to go after the one thing that was missing in her otherwise perfect marriage. Josslyn will never forget Carson and the once in a lifetime love they shared. But both Carson and his sister Kylie suffered unspeakable abuse from their alcoholic father and could never have understood the need Josslyn had for a man to take charge in the bedroom and bring her both pleasure and pain. Three years is a long time to mourn. It’s time for Josslyn to find someone who will dominate her sexually in the way her late husband never would.

After Carson’s tragic death, Dash was the solid stable core at the center of Josslyn’s upside-down life. As her husband’s business partner and best friend, he has worked hard to ensure that she was taken care of in all ways, except the one he most desired. For unknown to anyone except Josslyn’s late husband, Dash has been head over heels in love with her since the moment they met. It was his misfortune to fall in love with his best friend’s girl, but to his credit, he never acted on those feelings or even gave her a hint he felt that way about her. Now that Josslyn is finally ready to put her marriage in the past, Dash will stop at nothing to make sure that she becomes his. He was prepared to take his time and move slowly toward his goal, even if it meant ignoring the Dominant side of his personality, That all changed when Dash saw Josslyn walk into a private BDSM club on the arm of another man. Could Dash have her as both his love and his submissive? Or would Carson’s memory always be an obstacle between them?

One of my favorite erotic romance series last year was the Breathless trilogy by Maya Banks, so I was happy to learn that she had another one planned for this year. Just like with that series, the Surrender trilogy features a group of interconnected characters with overlapping storylines but each book can still be read as a stand-alone story. This first book does a good job of setting up all the relationships between this group of friends and provides clues to how the other two books will progress without turning into a data dump. A special bonus for readers of Maya Banks’s Sweet series is the appearance of Damon Roche and "The House", his members only BDSM club in Houston. This trilogy takes place in that world so I’m looking forward to more glimpses of those beloved characters in the next two books.

For me, the best part of LETTING GO was how Maya Banks portrayed the perfect tension between Josslyn’s needs and Dash’s insecurities. Just because they want to make things work doesn’t mean that their new life together is without problems. The problems they face are exacerbated by their inability to fully share what they are feeling, and the initial disapproval from their friends and loved ones only makes things worse. Josslyn’s struggle to embrace her new life with Dash feeds into his irrational sense of competing for her love with the ghost of her dead husband. Their individual fears and doubts inevitably lead to a terrible misunderstanding, and it takes a near tragedy to finally force them to communicate more fully so they can have the happy ending they both deserve.

LETTING GO is a beautifully written depiction of how a widow and her late husband’s best friend learn how to move forward as a couple while honoring the memory of the man they both loved. It features Maya Banks at her best, with the heart-rending emotions and scorching sex scenes her readers have come to expect. Kylie’s story is next in, GIVING IN, and I can’t wait to read it.

Ratings:

Overall:  5 stars
Sensuality level:  4
(intense private BDSM scenes between the hero and heroine, one semi-public BDSM scene involving a second man) 

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Maya Banks is the #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today and bestselling author of the Surrender Trilogy.  Her other chart toppers have included erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and Scottish historical romance.  She lives in the South with her husband, three children and a variety of pets. 

If you'd like to learn more about author Maya Banks and the books she writes you can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

To celebrate the release of LETTING GO, the first book in her Surrender Trilogy, her publisher, Berkley, would like to giveaway a print copy of LETTING GO, to one lucky Musings follower.  (US only)  Enter to win in the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway





*Seductive Musings is an Amazon affiliate and receives a very small referral fee for purchases made via the links on the blog and through the Seductive Musings Amazon Store. Read the full disclosure here.

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Review: Melting the Ice by Jaci Burton

Tuesday, February 4

Title: Melting the Ice*
Author: Jaci Burton
Series: Play by Play series #7
Genre: contemporary erotic sports romance
Publisher: Berkley
Format: ebook and print
Date/Year: February 4, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele 

*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

Carolina Preston has only one goal in mind—launching her new fashion line. She needs only one last thing to make it perfect—hockey phenom Drew Hogan. But Carolina and Drew have a history that goes back to their college days, and Carolina doesn’t want the embarrassment of her past to cloud the brightness of her future.

Drew is eager for the chance to show Carolina he isn’t the boy who hurt her back then, but a man now, with the skills necessary to melt the icy exterior of her cold heart.



My Musings:

MELTING THE ICE is the latest entry in Jaci Burton’s long-running sports romance series and although I have only read the first Play By Play book, I had no problem picking up this one as a stand-alone. The setup for the hero and heroine combines two of my favorite tropes - best friend’s little sister and second chance at love - so I was confident going in that it would be a good read.

Carolina had always had eyes for Drew back in college, but his Big Man on Campus status combined with her shyness and inexperience kept her from making the first move. When she successfully propositions him at an off-campus graduation party after having a few too many, she experiences the first and best sex of her life. But when Drew tosses her aside the next morning without apology, Carolina chalks it up to a bad life decision and swears never to give him another chance to hurt her. Years later, her life is completely devoted to the launch of her new fashion line, and she barely has any spare time to sleep or eat, let alone moon over the guy who got away.

Drew has never forgotten his one night of bliss with Carolina and realizes his behavior afterward will make it hard for her to ever trust him again. Back then, he was young and dumb, afraid of committing to one woman when he was working toward a professional hockey career. Carolina has done her best to avoid Drew ever since then, but when her brother Gray suggests him as the perfect model for her new menswear line, she’s in no position to object.  Older and wiser, Drew realizes this is his best opportunity to go after what he stupidly tossed away before, and make Carolina his for good.

What I always appreciate about Jaci Burton’s romances is how she provides just the right amount of back-story for her hero and heroine. She’s adept at showing exactly what brought them to this moment and helping readers empathize with them through all their setbacks on the way to their happy ending. Both Carolina and Drew have so many things going on in their lives that could easily derail their romance in addition to the giant obstacle of their drunken college hookup. But as they first realize that their attraction hasn’t faded, then decide to take advantage of it for as long as it might work out, we also see that there is genuine love there, and that ultimately nothing can get in the way of their happiness if it’s what they both want.

The best part of MELTING THE ICE for me was what wasn’t there. There wasn’t an evil ex-girlfriend trying to break them apart, or someone trying to steal Carolina’s designs before her big show, or a tabloid trying to use their public moments together to embarrass her father before an election. There was just the growing love between Carolina and Drew as they learned to trust each other and themselves, while the world went on around them. It wasn’t boring - the moment when Gray discovers that his best friend and baby sister are together is especially fun - but it wasn’t overwrought with angst and drama, either. That’s what made Melting the Ice another great Jaci Burton story, and reminded me that I need to go back and read the other books in the Play by Play series!

Ratings:

Overall:  4 stars
Sensuality level:  3.5


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*Seductive Musings is an Amazon affiliate and receives a very small referral fee for purchases made via the links on the blog and through the Seductive Musings Amazon Store. Read the full disclosure here.

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My FREE Kindle Quest

I've wanted a Kindle for what seems like forever, but haven't been able to afford it (and that's saying something since I can justify the cost of just about ANYTHING that I really want). I've tried winning one in one of the many giveaways that have taken place over the couple of years, but with no luck :( So I've decided to take matters in hand so to speak :) I've now decided that I am going to accumulate enough Swagbucks from my Swabucks searches to buy one...so in essence my new Kindle will be FREE...funded entirely by my internet searches done on Swagbucks. I'll keep you informed of the Great Kindle Quest below (in case you're interested....if not feel free to just skip over this part, but really who wouldn't be interested in a FREE Kindle?)
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