Review: Hope Ignites by Jaci Burton

Thursday, March 27

Title: Hope Ignites*
Author: Jaci Burton
Series: Hope series #2
Genre: contemporary romance
Publisher: Jove
Format: ebook and print
Date/Year: March 25, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele
  
*This book was provided to reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from the publisher:

Logan McCormack likes his isolated life on the ranch, until a movie crew starts filming there. When actress Desiree Jenkins blows into his life, she wrecks it harder than the Oklahoma winds with her brutal honesty and soft touch. Des knows this is a temporary stay, but she loves the open freedom of the land, and for the first time in her life, Des feels like she might have found a place she can call home, with a man she might be falling in love with. But Logan’s heart is tougher than the soil beneath them—can she convince him that they belong together?


My Musings:

HOPE IGNITES is the second book in Jaci Burton’s new small town romance series, where each book tells the story of how a character living in the town of Hope, Oklahoma, finds his or her true love. The first book, HOPE FLAMES, introduced us to the town and several of the people living there, focusing on the McCormack brothers and their extended friends and family. Officer Luke McCormack’s romance with town veterinarian Emma Burnett was in the first book, and in this book we get to see what happens when his brother Logan falls head over heels for a genuine movie star, in spite of his own damaged feelings about love and marriage.

Because the mother of the McCormack brothers had left both her children and the town of Hope years before, never to return or even remain in contact. Her shocking departure with another man came only days after the tragic death of their father, and that had made her abandonment of them all the more deeply scarring. In HOPE FLAMES, it was Luke who had to move past both his mother’s betrayal and a previous failed marriage to trust another woman with his love. Now it’s Logan’s turn, and his is all the more difficult because he’s now the one running the family ranch, and hatred of life on the ranch was one of the main reasons his mother had wanted to leave. So why would a woman accustomed to the glamor of Hollywood and the thrill of traveling all over the world ever want to give all that up for the likes of him?

But Desiree Jenkins isn’t your stereotypical movie star. She was raised as a military brat, with her father transferred to all different sorts of places, and never got to live in one place for very long. Her life as an actress began when she got to stay at one high school long enough to discover her love of the stage. It was only when Des moved away from her family to Hollywood that hard work and more than a bit of good luck led her to a career in motion pictures. She’s been making movies steadily for almost seven years now, concerned that any sort of break would let audiences forget about her, and the movie she’s making on Logan’s ranch is just another one before the next one begins. But the idea of life on a ranch appeals to Des in a way she hasn’t experienced before, and it makes her wish she had such a peaceful unhurried place where she could settle down and enjoy its quiet beauty.

When Des encounters Logan one morning as she returns from her morning run, it’s his looks which grab her attention, and they both soon discover that the attraction is definitely mutual. But as she and Logan slowly move past their initial inhibitions to embrace an enjoyable, albeit temporary, sexual relationship, it’s going to take more than good looks and good sex to help them both realize that what they have now could last beyond the day when her movie wraps production.

Not everyone enjoys reading small town romances, and I agree that these stories can be annoyingly trite and clich├ęd if not done well. But in the right hands, a romance set in a small town can be the best sort of comfort read, one where we know what we’re going to get and can’t wait to see exactly how it will play out this time. Both HOPE IGNITES, as well as the previous book, HOPE FLAMES, are this type of satisfying romance where we root for each new couple in a place where everybody knows each other’s past and present, but nobody knows what the future might bring. Both Desiree and Logan have entirely reasonable concerns about their own future together even as their bond grows stronger, and the book never makes light of those issues, or attempts to skim past them.  In the end, however, it’s Des who has to lay her cards on the table, leaving Logan to decide which is stronger: his fear of abandonment, or his love for Des.

HOPE IGNITES shows us the best traits of a small town romance, with an ending that’s perfect for its hero and heroine. I can’t wait to see what Jaci Burton has in store the next time we get to visit a place called Hope.

Ratings:

Overall: 4 stars
Sensuality level: 3


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Review: Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran

Wednesday, March 26

Title: Fool Me Twice*              
Author: Meredith Duran     
Series: Rules for the Reckless #2    
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Pocket Books
Format: paperback, ebook  & audiobook    
Date/Year: March 25, 2014
Reviewed by: Blue

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

Summary from the publisher:

Running for her life, exhausted and out of options, Olivia Holladay wants nothing more than the chance to make a home for herself. So when she realizes that the infamous Duke of Marwick might hold the key to her freedom, she boldly disguises herself as the newest and bravest in a long line of the duke’s notoriously temperamental housekeepers. Little does she know that the wickedly handsome Alastair de Grey has very different plans for her. . . .

A MAN WITH A PASSION—FOR VENGEANCE

As his new employee, Olivia is a fearless upstart. As a woman, the daring redhead is just what Alastair needs to rouse him from darkness to the siren call of revenge. He has suffered a betrayal so deep that he will use whatever means necessary to destroy his enemies—even his brazen and beautiful domestic. But his vengeful plan fails to account for his single weakness: an irresistible and growing passion for the enigmatic Olivia.


My Musings:

Someone is out to kill Olivia. In a desperate attempt to ensure her own safety, Olivia has scammed her way into the household of the Duke of Marwick, Alastair de Grey, hoping to steal some incriminating documents that she can use to blackmail the would-be-killer.  The servants are all afraid of the Duke, the man who once had it all.  He was handsome, wealthy, and powerful.  He had a beautiful wife, and a political career on track to take him to the top.  But then his wife died of a drug overdose, and he learned that she betrayed him continually, not only sexually, but politically to his enemies.  This left him so shaken, that he withdrew from public life.  He stays in his rooms, drinking, barely eating enough to stay alive, and going half crazy.

Olivia knows that she'll need to search his quarters, so she makes the attempt to get him to leave his rooms.  Despite her own agenda, when she sees the unkempt, broken, angry man he has become, she feels sympathy. It takes a little time, but Olivia begins to get Marwick's attention, mostly by annoying him.  She chastises him, challenges him, and slowly starts him on the road back to himself.  Marwick is basically a good man, so after a few stolen kisses and a steamy encounter that takes things a little further, he knows that he needs to send Olivia away before he truly ruins her.  He lets her know this, and although she has begun to fall for him, she accepts that this is the way it has to be.  As soon as she finds the information she originally came for, she'll leave.  The opportunity presents itself when Marwick is interviewing a candidate for housekeeper.  As she is rifling through his papers, of course, Marwick walks in.

He is enraged.  The woman that he trusted, who led him back from the darkness is betraying him, just as his wife did.  He believes that she intended to use the papers to provide information to his political enemies, one of whom happens to be Olivia's father.  Although Olivia attempts to tell her story, he is having none of it.  He no longer trust his own judgment, and feels he has been made a fool of twice.  Olivia manages to flee, but now Marwick is determined to find her and make her pay, along with the other men who betrayed him.

Now begins a series of incidents and surprises that brings them back together, as unlikely allies.  Without giving spoilers, this was very well written.  I was taken by surprise by one of the unfolding events, and I love it when that happens.

While I liked and admired Olivia very much, I was totally caught up in the way Marwick was written.  Meredith Duran made me feel his despair, his grief, his rage, and then his need for revenge.  This book delivers on all levels - a great story, sympathetic and admirable protagonists, and a wonderful romance leading to a well deserved happy ever after.  I highly recommend this book, and I'm sure it's going to be another of my favorites for this year.

Ratings:

Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level: 3


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Double Review: Unwound by Lorelei James

Tuesday, March 25

Title:  Unwound*
Author:  Lorelei James
Series:  Mastered Series #2
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Publisher: Berkley NAL
Format:  e-book, trade paperback & audio
Date/Year: March 25, 2014
Reviewed by:  ElaineReads & Michele

*This book was provided to the reviewers by the publisher in exchange for honest reviews.

Summary from the publisher:

In this conclusion to the Mastered series by New York Times bestselling author Lorelei James, a man’s need for control is tested by the one woman he’ll risk everything for….

When sensei Ronin Black first encounters Amery Hardwick, the fire in her eyes ignites a sexual spark a thousand times better than the primal rush he used to get from mixed martial arts matches. She accepts his darker edges and admits to him that her desires aren’t as wholesome as he believed. And before long Ronin is grappling with emotions he’s never felt before….

Yet despite demanding Amery bare her body and soul to him, Ronin holds a part of himself back. When she learns Ronin’s secret and walks out, his life begins to unravel.  To regain her trust he must let go of his pride and prove to her that it’s more than passion binding them together. But after their private pleasures are made public, Ronin is unsure if he’s the right man for Amery. Can they face the consequences together? Or will their differences rip them apart?


ElaineReads Musings:

Lorelei James has definitely upped her game with BOUND and UNWOUND.  I love her Westerns and have been reading them for years.  With BOUND and UNWOUND, she moves into a strictly urban environment and the world of stylized rope bondage.

Ronin owns a martial arts school and is a master in many forms of fighting.  However, it is his expertise in rope bondage that is the center for his soul.

Amery coves from an ultra-religious family and has had problems with accepting her own needs.  By submitting to Ronin, she is able to free herself from the restrictions of her upbringing.

SPOILER ALERT

In BOUND, Ronin and Amery become lovers and are moving towards more.  Amery still has problems with anyone knowing about the bondage aspect of their relationship and Ronin is still keeping secrets from her.  At the end of this first book, one of these secrets blows up in his face and Amery walks out on him.

DO NOT READ UNWOUND BEFORE READING BOUND!  You will have no clue what is going on.

UNWOUND begins with the weeks following the breakup.  Both of them are in so much pain, but neither know how to reach out to the other.  Ronin begins to participate in fight competitions because he wants his outside to hurt as much as he does on the inside.  And that is how he finally reaches out to Amery.  After a fight in which he is badly injured, he shows up at her apartment.  Amery has no choice but to take care of him.  Ronin comes off as the bad guy in the relationship because he continues to keep secrets from her.  Even so, I can’t help but like him.

Both Amery and Ronin, although damaged by their pasts, come across as strong characters.  Their relationship is out of the ordinary, but still beautiful.

UNWOUND ties up the loose ends left by Bound, but I would still love more books to explore some of the secondary characters.  Maybe I just don’t want to let go of this new world Ms. James has introduced me to.

Ratings:

Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level:  4
(I would normally give this a 5 because of the bondage, but it is not sexual as much as art.)

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Michele's Musings:

This review contains spoilers for BOUND, the first book in the Mastered series. You could read UNWOUND as a stand-alone, and I’m not entirely convinced that would be a bad thing. But others might disagree.

UNWOUND, book two in Lorelei James’s Mastered series, continues the story that began in BOUND. I did not love BOUND. I thought it sacrificed both plot and character development for the sake of an absurd cliffhanger ending just to ensure a second book would be needed to supply the rest of the story. Yet the quality of its intimate scenes provided a compelling enough reason for me to want to read UNWOUND. if only to see if it would contain all the pieces missing from the first book. When I started reading UNWOUND, I did something I almost never do: I skipped to the last chapter just to make sure the happy ending was there. That’s how burned I felt by BOUND.

I’m happy to report that UNWOUND more than made up for my mixed feelings about BOUND. It did a great job of showing me exactly why its hero and heroine belonged together, culminating in a happy ending more along the lines of what I’ve come to expect in an erotic romance by Lorelei James.

When we last saw Amery Hardwick, she’d just walked out of Ronin Black’s life after finding out he had never told her about being the heir to a billion dollar multinational corporation. There were so many other secrets about Ronin’s life that he hadn’t shared with Amery, mind you, but that one was the dealbreaker for her. After the loss of Amery, Ronin has resorted to engaging in the type of underground Mixed Martial Arts fighting that he’d given up years before, presumably in an attempt to drown his sorrow with violence. But Ronin isn’t as young as he used to be, and his most recent fight has left him bleeding and semi-conscious, pounding on Amery’s front door at 2am. But why is he at her door when they aren’t together anymore? The story then flashes back to 6 weeks earlier, where we see how unhappy the two of them are apart, and how they were mysteriously brought together again on the night of Ronin’s near-fatal fight.

As Ronin and Amery’s rekindled romance unfolds in UNWOUND, we finally get everything that was withheld before: all the secrets Ronin had kept from Amery (and why), all the triggers from Amery’s past which had exacerbated her feelings of betrayal, and more of their individual experiences and motivations. They have both been guilty of assuming the worst without bothering to ask for the truth, and of letting their mutual lack of trust keep them from a more substantial emotional connection. But even as Ronin and Amery are finally being more honest and open with each other in UNWOUND, there are new betrayals yet to come, and other more dangerous secrets that could damage more than just their second chance at love together.

UNWOUND confirmed my decision that it would still be worth it for me to see Ronin and Amery find their happy ending together, despite how I’d reacted to the book which preceded it. There is a large amount of background and plot packed in this second book, but Lorelei James somehow manages to unveil everything in due time without losing track of the romance. Even the newly revealed threat against Amery fits well into the story and never overshadows the undeniable progress she and Ronin are making in learning to trust each other with more than just their individual sexual needs. I especially enjoyed how Ronin’s sister was believably transformed from a vaguely threatening enigma into a genuine friend and confidante for Amery, and someone who could provide Amery with additional insight into the part of Ronin’s past of which even he was not aware.

I may not have loved BOUND, but I’m so glad I stuck with the Mastered series and read UNWOUND. It restored my trust in Lorelei James as an author I can rely on to provide a well-written erotic romance, and reminded me that you can’t judge a writer (or even a series) by a single book.

Ratings:

Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 4
(multiple rope bondage scenes, discussion of past extreme BDSM interactions with other characters)


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Guest Author & Giveaway: Julie Anne Long featuring Between the Devil and Ian Eversea

Wednesday, March 19

http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/01/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for_292.html


A few years ago, a reader at a signing in Chicago asked me what it was like to write a connected series. How do I keep track of everyone and manage to make the characters feel so real? (which is one of the ultimate compliments you can pay an author, by the way). I managed to arrive at an analogy that both appealed to my sense of whimsy and helped me answer the question:
  
Picture me as a giant (the benign kind, not the fee-fi-fo-fum-bent-on-destruction kind), hovering the world of Pennyroyal Green, watching the villagers go about their business, day and night. I can see who's tossing and turning at night, who's stealing a kiss behind a barn, who's boarding a carriage to London to get up to only-God knows-what-kinds-of-hijinks, who's practicing writing her name with the word “Eversea” after it, over and over and over and over again. Or “Duggan.” (that was Miss Amy Pitney.) I can see Culpepper and I can see Olivia Eversea and Isaiah Redmond gazing out the windows of their respective homes, united and divided by the absence of Lyon Redmond, each pretending in their own proud, brittle ways they aren't tormented at all, even though they're fooling no one, really. 

I can see the vicar Adam Sylvaine surrounded by crushed wads of foolscap covered with rejected ideas for sermons, burning the midnight oil until his wife, Evie, slips into the room,  puts her hands on his shoulders, and tells him that if he comes to bed, she might find a way to inspire him. An invitation he's never able to resist.
   
I watched Colin Eversea lay awake in his cell at Newgate the night before he was led to the gallows, and now I can see him pause in the doorway of his house and look out over Pennyroyal Green, every inch of which he knows and loves, the way he knows the body and moods of his bride, Madeline Greenway.
  
I can see Violet Redmond the Earl of Ardmay in a state of bleary-eyed bliss, staring down at the wonder that is their baby, Ruby. I see Jonathan Redmond putting together an investment consortium to rival his father's, in preparation for his run in parliament. And at night I can see him lying side by side with Thomasina, as they murmur together over the plans for the mills.
  
I watched Ian Eversea climb that tree to the window of the Duke of Falconbridge's fiancee; I watched his ignominious exit and his walk home in the dark.
  
And now, in BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND IAN EVERSEA,  I can see Ian Eversea flirting with a certain brunette widow at a ball, completely disinterested in the young, innocent and therefore (so he thinks) dull, blushing, Duke of Falconbridge's ward, Titania Danforth, while Titania Danforth watches him from across the room and decides she will make that insufferable man notice her.
  
Three guesses whether or not she succeeds.
  
Which is where Ian's story begins. With a glance and a dance.
  
So even as I zoom in on a particular hero and heroine and the story developing between them,  I'm always peripherally aware of the other lives that tangentially touch theirs,  the other circumstances that entwine with their pasts, presents and futures. And maybe it's this awareness  helps me give each story and character texture and resonance, the way a sketch artist will add depth with a line here, a shadow there.
  
What about you? Are you curious about the peripheral characters you read about in novels?



She might look like an angel...

The moment orphaned American heiress Titania “Tansy” Danforth arrives on English shores she cuts a swath through Sussex, enslaving hearts and stealing beaux. She knows she's destined for a spectacular titled marriage—but the only man who fascinates her couldn't be more infamous...or less interested.

...but it takes a devil to know one...

A hardened veteran of war, inveterate rogue Ian Eversea keeps women enthralled, his heart guarded and his options open: why should he succumb to the shackles of marriage when devastating good looks and Eversea charm make seduction so easy?

...and Heaven has never been hotter.

When Ian is forced to call her on her game, he never dreams the unmasked Tansy—vulnerable, brave, achingly sensual—will tempt him beyond endurance. And fight as he will, this notorious bachelor who stood down enemies on a battlefield might finally surrender his heart...and be brought to his knees by love.



The author of five popular novels from Warner and eight from Avon, Julie Anne Long lives in California with a fat orange cat (little known fact: they issue you a cat the moment you become a romance novelist).  If you'd like to learn more about Julie and the books she writes you can find her at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

To celebrate the release of BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND IAN EVERSEA, Julie's publisher, Avon Books is giving away a print copy of the eight book in the Pennyroyal Green series, IT HAPPENED ONE MIDNIGHT.  Read the fine print and enter to win in the Rafflecopter form below.

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Feature & Giveaway: Need You Tonight by Roni Loren

Friday, March 14

She’s making a wish list, and he wants to be on top.

From foster kid to trophy wife, Tessa McAllen is about to reinvent herself all over again—and defy every insult her cheating ex-husband ever used against her: Selfish? She’s championing a charity. Stupid? She’s getting her degree.
 
Boring in bed?


Kade Vandergriff can help her with that one. When they encounter each other at a singles event held at one of his restaurants, Tessa blurts out that

In high school, Tessa was the popular girl who stuttering, awkward Kade fell for. But she chose another. Now, as she eagerly learns lesson after lesson, he’s going to make sure she never forgets him again.
kink is for girls who try too hard, and Kade instantly wants to show this sassy stranger how thrilling a night under his command can be…...but when he learns her name, the game changes for both of them.



Enjoy what happens next in the special excerpt below (you'll want to read the prologue & Ch 1 first):

*Note: Kade is going by the name Van in this scene (his nickname)

Her heart was thumping and blood was roaring through her veins, heating all the best spots. She couldn’t do this, right? She didn’t even know this guy. Considering a quickie with him had been risky enough. But sending her ride home and spending the whole night with him was a whole different story. “I can’t go home with you.”

He leaned down and brushed his lips along her jaw, his blond hair falling forward and tickling her cheek. “We don’t have to go anywhere but here.”

Even the simple touch had her ready to groan aloud, her body starved for this kind of night. This kind of man. How long had it been since she’d felt so desired, so utterly seduced? Maybe never. Somehow, he made it all feel so easy, so natural. Like saying no would be a preposterous notion. Even though it was the most logical answer.

But that logic angel sitting on her shoulder didn’t seem to have much fight to her tonight. No, instead there was another altogether deviant voice whispering in her ear. Stop denying yourself. You need this. You’ve earned an indulgence. A woman should not live by vibrator alone.

She took a long, shuddering breath, letting the temptation take her under. “I’ll text her.”

“Good girl,” he said, the words she’d normally find patronizing like a hot caress against her. “I’ll make sure it’s worth the trouble.”

After Tessa had sent the text and gotten one back from Sam, complete with about twelve exclamation points following her OMG, Van left for a few minutes to bring her keys down. And he must have brought them in person because Sam sent another text shortly afterward.

HOLY shit, girl. U’ve hit the hook-up lottery. Enjoy the condoms!

Tessa was still laughing when Van came through the doorway. He smiled. “What’s so funny?”

“My friend approves of you.”

He gave her a roguish grin. “I’m charming that way.”

“And she thinks you’re hot,” she said matter-of-factly. “That goes a long with Sam.”

He laughed, not bothering to deflect the assessment of his hotness, and crossed his arms. “And what do you think?”

She lifted her chin, jaunty. “I think I don’t like cocky guys.”

He stepped in front of her chair and braced his hands on the table behind her, caging her in. His expression held playful challenge when he leaned in her space. “Liar.”

She raised her eyebrows. “How would you know?”

“Because you didn’t wait a whole year only to waste a night with some guy who’s unsure of himself.” He put his lips next to her ear, his voice turning dark and ripe with promise. “I may be cocky, but I’m not going to fumble around. I’m not going to lie back and wait for you to take the lead. I’m going to feed you the best meal of your life. Bite by bite. Then I’m going to fuck you. And I promise, when you wake up tomorrow, you won’t remember the food.”




Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son.

If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts. Yeah, that's it. She is the National Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series from Berkley Heat.

If you'd like to learn more about Roni and the books she writes you can find her at her website, her blog, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads & Pinterest.

To celebrate the release of NEED YOU TONIGHT, the fifth book in the Loving on the Edge series, Roni is giving away a digital copy of the RIDING DESIRE box set to one lucky Musings follower.  US & International.

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Review: Transcendence by Shay Savage

Wednesday, March 12

Title:  Transcendence*
Author:  Shay Savage
Series: n/a
Genre:  Historical Romance, Time-Travel
Publisher:  self-published
Format:  ebook, paperback
Date/Year:  February 14, 2014
Reviewed by:  Andrea  
 

*This book was purchased by the reviewer for her own reading enjoyment.

Summary from the publisher:

It’s said that women and men are from two different planets when it comes to communication, but how can they overcome the obstacles of prehistoric times when one of them simply doesn’t have the ability to comprehend language?

Ehd’s a caveman living on his own in a harsh wilderness. He’s strong and intelligent, but completely alone. When he finds a beautiful young woman in his pit trap, it’s obvious to him that she is meant to be his mate. He doesn’t know where she came from; she’s wearing some pretty odd clothing, and she makes a lot of noises with her mouth that give him a headache. Still, he’s determined to fulfill his purpose in life – provide for her, protect her, and put a baby in her.

Elizabeth doesn’t know where she is or exactly how she got there. She’s confused and distressed by her predicament, and there’s a caveman hauling her back to his cavehome. She’s not at all interested in Ehd’s primitive advances, and she just can’t seem to get him to listen. No matter what she tries, getting her point across to this primitive, but beautiful, man is a constant – and often hilarious – struggle.

With only each other for company, they must rely on one another to fight the dangers of the wild and prepare for the winter months. As they struggle to coexist, theirs becomes a love story that transcends language and time.


My Musings:

Did you see that cover?  I did a doubletake when I saw it because I was so intrigued by the man pictured!  I had no idea what this book was about, but that cover spoke to me.  CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR is one of my all time favorite series, so I obviously have a soft spot for prehistoric romance.  After seeing the cover, I had to read the blurb.  When I saw that Ehd was a caveman, I knew TRANSCENDENCE was getting a fastpass to the top of my reading list.

The most important thing you have to wrap your brain around is the fact that Ehd lacks a Broca’s area.  That’s the part of the brain which allows us to comprehend language and speech.  No matter how intelligent Ehd is, he cannot grasp the concept of sounds being a form of communication. It’s difficult to accept, but you need to do it in order to appreciate TRANSCENDENCE.

This book surprised me!  It is written entirely from Ehd’s point of view, and he doesn’t understand language.  This means that there is no dialogue in the book.  It is entirely made up of his thoughts, his actions, and his interpretation of Elizabeth.   It’s an oddly fascinating way to write a book.  It could have been a total disaster, but it isn’t.  It’s actually so well written that it took me a while to notice the lack of dialogue.  You don’t need it when you’ve got Ehd guiding you through the book.

Ehd is a caveman.  His needs are simple.  He has been alone and struggling to survive for years.  The effort it takes for him to meet his basic needs of food, fire, and shelter are almost more than he can do alone.  Ehd is tired of working so hard for so little and is on the verge of giving up when he discovers Elizabeth.  He cherishes her from the moment he sees her.  After that, he lives to provide for her, protect her, and love her.  Ehd knows how incredibly lucky he was to find her and he is willing to do anything to make her happy and earn her love. 

It’s a little more difficult for me to say what Elizabeth feels.  I was never in her head.  In all honestly, I didn’t get to know her very well.  I can only say what my impressions of her are based on what Ehd saw.  She is an incredibly strong woman.  I say this because she worked hard and was able to quickly adapt to her new environment.  She saw how much Ehd loved her and she grew to love him in return.  I adored Ehd and the fact that she valued his generosity and wholehearted love was more than enough for her to win me over. 

As much as I loved the book, I didn’t give it 5 stars.  There were two things which knocked the rating down just a little bit.  The first was the amount of sex.  I’m aware that Ehd had a few simple needs and that sex was one of them.  I get that, but as a reader I want sex scenes to advance the plot.  They didn’t always do that, so I could have done without a few of them.  The second was the mystery surrounding Elizabeth.  In the back of my mind I kept wondering how Elizabeth found herself in prehistoric times.  Don’t make yourself crazy on that one, the mystery does get resolved in the end.  I didn’t know that though, so it bothered me throughout the book.

I had a couple minor complaints, but they were nothing compared to how much I enjoyed the book overall.  This was a book like nothing else I have ever read.  It was interesting, it was different, and it was one of the most touching love stories I have found.  This is a truly special book and I definitely recommend it. (Currently ranked the #1 seller on Amazon's Historical Romance/Ancient World list)

Ratings:

Overall: 4.25 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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Review: Bound by Lies by Hanna Peach

Tuesday, March 11

Title: Bound by Lies*
Author: Hanna Peach
Series: Bound, #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Gypsy Publishing
Format: ebook, paperback
Date/Year: January 21, 2014
Reviewed by: ElaineReads  
 

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

Summary from the publisher:

Our love is on his terms. He contacts me only through notes − unpredictable and untraceable. When we meet, he can touch me, but I’m not allowed to touch him. When we make love, it’s only after I have been bound and blindfolded. It’s the only time I truly feel alive. Which is why I play along with it. For now.

Caden Thaine is the most sinfully beautiful man I have ever seen. But more than that, his touch sets me on fire. And dear God, do I ache for him. I don’t know where he lives or even what he does. But this doesn’t scare me. My only fear is that one day his messages will stop.
I know he’s hiding something. But that’s okay. I am hiding things too. Like my real name and... who I really am. But what we have is enough. Sort of. And everything works.

Until I decide to follow him.

Soon our dark pasts will collide and I will discover just how much we are both bound by lies.



My Musings:

At the very beginning, I did not think I was going to like BOUND BY LIES.  The main character, Kitten, is self-destructive and is exhibiting that by her sexual excesses with strangers in a club. I did not feel that this was the type of book I would be interested in reading.

I am so, so glad I continued reading. 

Yes, the story begins at a very bad place, but it evolves into an intense, extremely well written, and engrossing book.  I could not put it down.

Both Caden and Kitten (I know she has another name, but that is what she is called throughout the book) have had horrible things happen to them . . . things that were not their fault.  Because of this, they both consider themselves damaged and unable to form a normal relationship.

They decide they can have a sexual relationship without knowing anything about each other.  Caden contacts Kitten with notes telling her where to meet, but she has no way to contact him. He also controls every aspect of their sex life.  She is always bound and blindfolded and she can never touch him. 

I felt like I should hate him for being such a control freak, but he is so well written that I can’t.  Just like Kitten, I want Caden to be happy.

Eventually though, Kitten needs more from Caden and these needs may drive him away.

Underlying the relationship plot (I have a hard time calling it a romance), are two mysteries: one is what happened to Kitten that has her on the run and the other is what is Caden hiding.  This is the first book in a series, so neither situation is completely resolved, but the book does not, thank goodness, end on a cliff hanger.

I will definitely read the next book, BOUND BY FEAR (2014).  I have to know how things work out between Caden and Kitten and I want to see the bad guy get his comeuppance. I really, really hate him and I feel like I have a lot invested in Caden and Kitten even after only one book.

Ratings:

Overall:  4 stars
Sensuality level: 4.5
(There is mild bondage between the two main characters, but it is the flashbacks to a previous [abusive] relationship that makes this a 4.5 rather than a 4.0)

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Review: The Dark Affair by Maire Claremont

Thursday, March 6

Title:  The Dark Affair*
Author:  Maire Claremont
Series: Mad Passions #3
Genre: historical romance
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Format: ebook and print
Date/Year: March 4, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele:  

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

Summary from the publisher:

The Victorian era was full of majestic beauty and scandalous secrets—a time when corsets were the least of a woman’s restrictions, and men could kill or be killed in the name of honor…...

Lady Margaret Cassidy left a life of nobility behind in Ireland, forsaking her grieving homeland to aid war-ravaged men in England. Still, she never expected a cruel turn of fate to lock her into an unwanted betrothal with one of her English patients—much less one as broken and dangerous as Viscount Powers.

Wrecked by his tragic past, Powers’ opiate-addled sanity hangs precariously in the balance, leaving him poised to destroy anyone who dares to utter the names of the wife and child he still so deeply mourns. So when he is forced to marry Margaret in exchange for freedom, he is shocked by the desire to earn her trust, her body, and—most alarming of all—her heart….



My Musings:

This review contains spoilers for THE LADY IN RED, book 2 in the Mad Passions series. You could try to read THE DARK AFFAIR as a stand-alone book, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

When I read THE LADY IN RED last fall, Maire Claremont was a new author for me, and I hadn’t known what to expect. Its whirlwind plot and profound emotions were almost too much for me to handle (but in a good way). I actually had to force myself to put it down more than a few times, because I was so worried about what would happen to not only its hero and heroine, but the hero’s friend Viscount Powers, whose help was essential in their plan to save the heroine from her villainous father.

Powers - a tortured and brooding man who refused to answer to any other name - shared the same brutal need for opiates that plagued the heroine of THE LADY IN RED. While her addiction had been induced during her forced captivity in a madhouse, his was entirely self-inflicted after the untimely death of his wife and child. By the end of the previous book, the heroine and hero are both safe and happy in marriage together, but meanwhile Powers has given himself over entirely to his addiction. Months later, when we first see him in THE DARK AFFAIR, he has himself been involuntarily committed to a madhouse.

Margaret Cassidy was a titled lady back in Ireland, but that couldn’t protect her from the harsh realities of famine and poverty, nor from the ongoing violence as those who starved fought back against the cruelty of their English overlords. Her gift for healing has brought her to England, where she is tasked by the Earl of Carlyle to bring his son Powers back from the brink of insanity. Back when Margaret was still in Ireland and her father was still alive, Powers had sent a letter and funds to assist those in dire need of help, asking for nothing in return. Rescuing him now from his addiction is her opportunity to repay that act of kindness, even as her attachment to him quickly moves in a more personal direction. It will take all of Margaret’s talents and indomitable will to bring Powers back not only to sanity, but to a life where he can grieve properly for what he’s lost without sacrificing himself again. But when the violence she left behind in Ireland comes to call at her front door, what ends up being at stake isn’t just their shared happiness, but their very lives.

Once again, Maire Claremont has written a story that transported me into a world more darkly intense than most historical romances, with characters I couldn’t help but root for as they were forced to trust in each other even as they should rightfully be mortal enemies. The depth of Powers’s sorrow had only been hinted at in the previous book, but here it is front and center with everything you might expect, and worse. He has abused his mind and body for so long in self-imposed guilt for the death of his wife and child that his recovery is never really certain, even as the story moves toward that conclusion. And when we find out just how they died...well, it’s definitely understandable why he has suffered so greatly, even though it’s just as obvious to us, if not to him, that their deaths should not be on his head.

It’s also clear that only someone like Margaret would even have a chance to break through the wall of anger and opiates that Powers has built all around him, and not just because of her beauty and determination. Only Margaret has the ability to focus his attention beyond his own pain and outside the bubble of privilege in which he has lived his whole life as a member of the English nobility. But it will take more than that for them to move forward with a life together, and their Happily Ever After will be won only after those who seek to defeat them are confronted one last time.

I’m sad to see the Mad Passions series come to an end but I’m looking forward to seeing what Maire Claremont comes up with next. THE LADY IN RED vaulted her into my list of favorite historical romance writers, and now THE DARK AFFAIR has firmly established her place near the very top.

Ratings:

Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5


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Review & Giveaway: Theirs to Cherish by Shayla Black

Wednesday, March 5

Title: Theirs To Cherish *
Author:  Shayla Black
Series: Wicked Lovers #8
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Berkley Heat
Format: ebook and print
Date/Year: March 4, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele

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

Summary from the publisher:

THEIRS TO CHERISH is the eighth contemporary erotic romance in USA Today bestselling author Shayla Black's Wicked Lovers series.

The perfect place for a woman on the run to disappear…

Accused of a horrific murder she didn’t commit, former heiress Callie Ward has been a fugitive since she was sixteen—until she found the perfect hideout, Club Dominion. The only problem is she’s fallen for the club’s master, Mitchell Thorpe, who keeps her at arm’s length. Little does she know that his reasons for not getting involved have everything to do with his wounded heart…and his consuming desire for her.

To live out her wildest fantasies…

Enter Sean Kirkpatrick, a Dom who’s recently come to Dominion and taken a pointed interest in Callie. Hoping to make Thorpe jealous, she submits to Sean one shuddering sigh at a time. It isn’t long before she realizes she’s falling for him too. But the tender lover who’s seducing her body and slowly earning her trust isn’t who he claims...

And to fall in love.

When emotions collide and truths are exposed, Sean is willing to risk all to keep Callie from slipping through his fingers. But he’s not the only man looking to stake a claim. Now Callie is torn between Sean and Thorpe, and though she’s unsure whom she can trust, she’ll have to surrender her body and soul to both—if she wants to elude a killer…



My Musings:

Callie Ward has been in love with Mitchell Thorpe ever since she found his BDSM club to be the perfect hiding place from the people who killed her family and framed her for their murders. Even though his feelings match hers, Thorpe is convinced that their age difference is too great to overcome, and has removed his protection so that another Dom - Sean Kirkpatrick -  can claim her instead. The new Dom is closer to Callie’s age than Thorpe, and seems to be the perfect balm for Callie’s bruised heart. But when he starts to get too close to the reasons why she ended up there in the first place, the only thing Callie can do is go on the run again. And when the two Doms who love her follow in pursuit, the battle for her heart might have to take a back seat to just keeping them all alive.

We first met Mitchell Thorpe, Master of Club Dominion, back in BELONG TO ME, book 5 of Shayla Black’s Wicked Lovers series. As the series has progressed, we’ve seen Callie and Thorpe make it obvious to everyone who sees them that they love each other, yet Thorpe continues to pull back while Callie does everything she can to force his hand. It’s only when Thorpe is witness to Callie and Sean’s most intense scene ever that he realizes how foolish he’s been to push her away for so long. It’s that same scene that convinces Callie it’s finally time to move on, as her years on the run have taught her to leave before anyone she cares about could be endangered by her presence. But this time is different, because now she has the love of two men who would rather die themselves than let her leave without them.

Callie and Thorpe’s story has been a long time coming in Shayla Black’s Wicked Lovers series, and it was just as satisfying as I had anticipated, even with the added complication of another Dom in the mix. It wasn’t until the previous book - OURS TO LOVE - that we got a hint that their romance might not be limited to just the two of them. That book featured a M/F/M menage with two brothers and their secretary who becomes their shared submissive, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise (especially with the title!) that THEIRS TO CHERISH would play out along the same lines. I’m a big fan of well-written menage romances, and this book did not disappoint in that regard. Neither Thorpe nor Sean go after Callie with the intent of sharing her, but as we learn why Thorpe could never commit to Callie (or any other submissive) and why Sean was at Club Dominion in the first place, we see how a menage relationship makes the most sense for everyone.

One of the things I enjoy most about this series is how the suspense not only propels the overall plot but also the actual romance itself. So many romantic suspense novels get so caught up in the parts where the lovers are in danger that they forget the part where we are supposed to be seeing them fall in love, but that is never a problem with Shayla Black. Every scene in THEIRS TO CHERISH was there to get us to their shared Happily Ever After, and that’s what made it such a wonderful romantic read.

With THEIRS TO CHERISH, Shayla Black has delivered yet another a smart and sexy romantic suspense story in the Wicked Lovers series that lives up to all the books that came before it. It will be great to see where this successful long-running series will take us next.

Ratings:

Overall:  4 stars
Sensuality level:  4
(BDSM, menage)

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Shayla Black is the USA Today bestselling author of over 30 sizzling contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and historical romances. She lives in Texas with her husband, munchkin, and one very spoiled cat. In her "free" time, she enjoys reality TV, reading and listening to an eclectic blend of music.

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

To celebrate the release of THEIRS TO CHERISH, the eighth book in her Wicked Lovers series, her publisher, Berkley, would like to giveaway a print copy of THEIRS TO CHERISH, to one lucky Musings follower.  (US only)  Enter to win in the Rafflecopter form below.

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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: Need You Tonight by Roni Loren

Tuesday, March 4

Title:  Need You Tonight*
Author: Roni Loren
Series: Loving on the Edge #5
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Berkley
Format: ebook and print
Date/Year: March 4, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele
 

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

Summary from the publisher:

She’s making a wish list, and he wants to be on top.

From foster kid to trophy wife, Tessa McAllen is about to reinvent herself all over again—and defy every insult her cheating ex-husband ever used against her: Selfish? She’s championing a charity. Stupid? She’s getting her degree.

Boring in bed?

Kade Vandergriff can help her with that one. When they encounter each other at a singles event held at one of his restaurants, Tessa blurts out that kink is for girls who try too hard, and Kade instantly wants to show this sassy stranger how thrilling a night under his command can be…but when he learns her name, the game changes for both of them.

In high school, Tessa was the popular girl who stuttering, awkward Kade fell for. But she chose another. Now, as she eagerly learns lesson after lesson, he’s going to make sure she never forgets him again.


My Musings:

Although I’ve enjoyed every book in Roni Loren’s Loving On The Edge series so far, NEED YOU TONIGHT is the best one I’ve read since the very first book, CRASH INTO YOU, blew me away and made me an instant Roni Loren fan. It equals that book in both the emotional intensity of the “second chance at love” trope for its hero and heroine, and in the sweetness of its HEA for a couple who could never move completely past the evil which separated them in high school until they were finally able to face it down together.

When Kade Vandergriff catches Tessa McAllen trying to crash a singles cooking class at his restaurant, he has no idea that she’s the one who turned his world upside down so many years ago. All he sees is an incredibly attractive woman whom he wants to feed and bed, and not necessarily in that order. Tessa doesn’t recognize Kade either, but is quickly convinced that one perfect night of no-strings-attached sex is just what she needs after trying to rebuild her life in the wake of her lousy no-good husband’s betrayal. When Tessa’s true identity is revealed, Kade is determined to rewrite their sad shared history into a future where she realizes what a mistake she made by rejecting him for the man who would eventually betray her. But when their ugly past returns to threaten their present happiness, both Tessa and Kade will learn that even the most malevolent evil is no match for the love they never truly lost.

As wonderful as Tessa and Kade’s story is, readers should be aware that there are themes in NEED YOU TONIGHT which are potential triggers for those with special sensitivity to issues such as high school bullying, child abuse, and rape. Both Tessa and Kade suffered brutal childhoods, which helped them bond together at first, but ended up splitting them apart when the friendship threatened their survival. When they find each other again, it’s clear that although they have both grown emotionally, the scars of the past are still as real and raw as though no time had passed at all. But Kade refuses to let his past self define his present, and he will do everything in his power to show Tessa that what they had before was just the beginning, even as the danger to their lives and love is always lurking in the background.

NEED YOU TONIGHT is a beautiful and touching romance, with plenty of the perfectly written and seriously scorching sex scenes which are Roni Loren’s trademark. It’s easily one of the finest books I’ve read this year.

Ratings:

Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level: 4
(BDSM scenes, domestic violence, rape threats, discussion of previous assault and rape)

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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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