Review: Naughty Bits Part II: The Training Session by Joey W. Hill

Tuesday, May 20

Title: Naughty Bits Part II: The Training Session*
Author: Joey W. Hill
Series: n/a
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Penguin
Format: ebook
Date/Year: May 20, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele
 

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

Summary from the publisher:

Fear is no match for lust in Joey W. Hill’s sexy new novella about a woman who sheds her shame to embrace her pleasure…

Madison may have ditched her well-ordered Boston life to run Naughty Bits, her sister’s North Carolina lingerie shop, but she didn’t expect to throw herself into such chaos—or to become intimate with the sexiest man she’s ever had the pleasure of meeting. After spending a night observing a submissive’s training session, Madison is ready for Logan to teach her how to feed her own deep fantasies—and get rid of all her lingering fears…

Madison’s aching desire to submit is unlike anything Logan’s ever experienced before, and he’s determined to be the man to make her relinquish control. Still, Logan’s unsure if Madison is ready to take that first step to becoming his—until she shows up at his door ready to be commanded. Luckily for them both, Logan’s got more than a few surprises up his sleeve that he knows she’ll enjoy…



My Musings:

Wow. After I finished reading Part 1, I knew when Logan and Madison’s first real scene together was going to be amazing, but THE TRAINING SESSION blew me away. I think it helped Madison to have Troy there as a buffer while she got used to seeing Logan in his true element as a confident and unforgiving Dominant. The first quarter of Part 2 is this training session where Troy learns how to control his reaction to what he receives from both Logan and Madison, although by the end it wasn’t clear where Troy’s training stopped and Madison’s started. When the scene is over, Madison realizes she can’t go back to the person she was before. Not just in terms of her sexual nature, but in the way she approaches life as a whole.

As Madison lets go of all her old rules and expectations, she begins to relax more within herself, starting to feel more liberated even as she grows closer to Logan. This freedom to embrace her true nature without fear immediately improves her interactions with customers who come into the Naughty Bits shop. Not only does her new approach result in better sales, but more importantly, she can now sell customers what they really need, even when they don’t know what that is when they first walk in. Madison’s new open attitude also gives her the courage to walk right into Logan’s hardware store next door to request a second date. Logan assures her there will be no sex, but by the end of their first evening alone, there will be no question about what is yet to come. For the only rule Madison has now is what her sister said in her last letter: Trust Logan.

Every expectation I had for this next installment was more than fulfilled, as I loved seeing Madison finally take the necessary steps to liberate herself from all the bad memories and inhibitions that had held her back her whole life. Not only does she learn to stop fearing what she feels, but in the process, she learns to be the person that her shop customers need to guide them toward their own emotional and sexual liberation. Each scene between Madison and Logan showed exactly how he is slowly leading her to trust both herself and him to always take care of her completely. As for me, I will continue to trust Joey W. Hill that each future installment of NAUGHTY BITS will be just as compelling as the previous ones.

Ratings:

Overall:  5 stars
Sensuality level: 4.5
(multiple BDSM scenes with 2 and 3 people, including oral sex and anal play)


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Review: Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh

Friday, May 16

Title:  Shield of Winter*
Author:  Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling series #13
Genre:  paranormal romance
Publisher:  Berkley
Format:  hardcover & ebook
Date/Year:  June 3, 2014
Reviewed by:  Andrea
 

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

Summary from the publisher:

Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest iand most difficult mission of his life.

For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake…

Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she'll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold.


My Musings:

This book is part of a series and is best enjoyed when read in sequence. I would strongly advise against trying to read this as a stand alone.

Silence has fallen and the Psy race is in chaos.  An uncontrolled disease is slowly taking over sections of the NetMind.  Once infected, it can send those affected into a mass psychotic and murderous rage.  If it’s not stopped, it will destroy the entire Psy race.  Kaleb Krycheck has an idea which may save the Psy, but he desperately needs help.  He believes that the long hidden and sidelined Empaths are the key to healing the NetMind.  It’s a bold and dangerous move, as a particularly dangerous segment of the Psy are set on eliminating anyone within the E classification.  Kaleb cannot ask the vulnerable E-Psy to step up without offering them protection.  For that, he turns to the Arrows.

Ivy is one of the E-Psy asked to help.  As a child, her Silence was always fractured.  As a teenager under the old system, she was rehabilitated.  It left her mind fragmented and barely functioning.  It has taken years of hard work under the protective shields of her parents for Ivy to mend the damage done to her mind.  When a cold and lethal Arrow appears with the proposal from Kaleb, it gives Ivy hope that maybe she isn’t as broken and useless as she was led to believe.  What they’re asking of her is an unbelievably dangerous and difficult task, but one she is willing to take on if it will give her the chance to regain everything which was stolen from her as a teen.

Vasic is a familiar character to those of us who follow this series.  He is the ultimate Arrow, but lately he has been showing signs of cracking.  Those close to him can see that he is dangerously close to the point of self destruction.  They decide that Kaleb’s new project is perfect for Vasic.  He can lead the mission, protect the vulnerable E-Psy, and will benefit from the emotional stability naturally extended to those in close proximity of them.  What nobody counted on was the connection between Ivy and Vasic.

If you’re a fan of the Psy-Changeling series, you’ll know that most of the books have a strong romance which runs alongside whatever crisis is causing strain among the three different races trying to live together in relative harmony.  SHIELD OF WINTER is no different.   While the romance between Ivy and Vassic is strong, most of the other plotlines struggled to hold my interest.  I think my biggest issue was that there was so much going on and too many people involved.  The many plotlines also had varying levels of development.  Therefore, I was pulled into some and had only a minor interest in others. 

I desperately wanted the focus to be on the disease of the NetMind and the actions of those involved to stop it.  I hated it when I found myself resenting some of the characters I had formerly loved because they didn’t seem to be doing anything to stop the violence and deaths of so many innocents.  For example, I was angry with Sasha Duncan through most of the book.  She is a cardinal E and has the most developed E talent within the Psy race, yet it took her until almost the very end to take an active role.  Most frustrating of all was that I don’t think my anger at Sasha was the author’s intention.  I believe it was simply a result of too many plotlines and characters being packed into the story.  Honestly, it would have taken an epic book to fully develop every plotline and give everyone involved their due. 

While the romance between Ivy and Vassic was quite good, the rest of it fell short for me.  I had a difficult time connecting with a few of the characters and was angry with a couple others.  With all of that going on, I wasn’t able to fully get behind the fight to save the Psy race.  I was frustrated by the lack of action on the part of the E’s and that made portions of the book feel as though they were dragging.  I did enjoy SHIELD OF WINTER, but it was close to being equal parts frustrating and interesting.  If you’re a fan of the series, you should definitely read it.  Just don’t get your hopes up too high.

Ratings:

Overall: 3.25 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5


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Review: Ghost Seer by Robin D. Owens

Thursday, May 15

Title: Ghost Seer*
Author:  Robin D. Owens
Series: Ghost Seer, #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Format: ebook
Date/Year: April 1, 2014
Reviewed by: ElaineReads  
 

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


Summary from the publisher:

There’s just something about Clare. Apart from the ghosts…...

When her eccentric aunt passes away, no-nonsense accountant Clare Cermac inherits more than just a small fortune. She receives the gift of communicating with ghosts. While Clare may not believe in spirits, it’s hard to overlook the shadowy talking dog appearing on her bed or spectral cowboys tipping their hats to her in the streets of Denver. And when she locks eyes with sexy—and living—Zach Slade, there’s certainly no ignoring him either.

A former deputy sheriff, Zach is leaving a painful past behind in Montana for a new life in Denver as a private investigator, a job that has him crossing paths with beautiful Clare. Not that she minds. After the restless ghost of a Wild West gunman demands her assistance, Clare finds herself needing Zach more and more—and not just for help.


My Musings:

I am no stranger to the writings of Robin D. Owens.  I discovered her Celta series several years ago and absolutely love them.  Her “fams” in particular are wonderful.  I was delighted to discover she was starting a contemporary series with GHOST SEER.

Clare was thrilled to inherit a fortune, including a beautiful old home, from her weird Aunt Sandra, but was not happy at all when she found out there was a catch.  Along with the money came a gift . . . the ability to see and interact with ghosts.  Clare is an accountant.  She is very practical and rational.  She does not believe in ghosts!  Unfortunately, this is not a gift that can be returned.  If she does not help the ghosts “cross over,” she will either weaken and die or go insane.  She is trapped!

Zach is an ex-cop, but only because he was badly injured in a shooting and unfit for active duty.  He does not want to be a private cop because he has always served the public.  He doesn’t want to only help people who can pay for his help. Oh yeah, he doesn’t believe in ghosts either.  So, of course, they meet and are immediately attracted to each other.  Clare definitely needs Zach’s help, but he’s not sure he wants to get involved with a crazy woman.

Zach and Clare are obviously the main characters, but my favorite character is Enzo - a ghost dog that used to belong to weird Aunt Sandra.  His purpose is to help Clare learn her new job of ghost seer.  That’s when he’s not chasing squirrel essence in the park of course.

I loved this book and cannot wait for the sequel, GHOST LAYER to be released in September.  My only criticism is I thought the sex scenes (and they were really good sex scenes) went on too long.  I was ready for the plot to move on.

Ratings:

Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level: 3


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Review: Once Upon a Billionaire by Jessica Clare

Wednesday, May 14

Title:  Once Upon A Billionaire*
Author: Jessica Clare
Series: Billionaire Boys Club #4
Genre: hot contemporary romance
Publisher: Penguin (InterMix)
Format: ebook
Date/Year: April 15, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele

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

Summary from the publisher:

The Billionaire Boys Club is a secret society of six men who have vowed success—at any cost. Not all of them are old money, but all of them are incredibly wealthy. They’re just not always as successful when it comes to love…

As a member of the royal family in a small European country, Griffin Verdi’s presence is requested at the wedding of the century. The scholarly billionaire feels out of his depth in social situations, so a good assistant is required—especially when dealing with royal etiquette.

Unfortunately for Griffin, he’s stuck with Maylee Meriweather, a pretty, charming, and thoroughly unsuitable woman who doesn’t know a thing about high society—but she sure can kiss. Her lack of polish may sink Griffin, because after all, even his money can’t buy class. But through Maylee’s eyes, he’s starting to appreciate the simple things in life—if simple means the most complicated woman he’s ever met.

Maylee is everything Griffin isn’t—and everything he wants—if he can let down his guard and step outside his sheltered world…


The Billionaire Boys Club is breaking all the rules. Don’t miss other novels in the series from InterMix.


My Musings:

Jessica Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club is a relatively new romance series that I’ve enjoyed from the very beginning, with a 5 star read for me in its second book, BEAUTY AND THE BILLIONAIRE. So it’s with great sadness that I have to say ONCE UPON A BILLIONAIRE was so not of the same quality that if it had been the very first book, I probably wouldn’t have continued with the series. Although the romance ended up in the right place when all was said and done, its ill-conceived hero and heroine affected my enjoyment of their HEA to the point that I almost feel guilty for having liked any of it at all.

Griffin Verdi, aka Viscount Montagne Verdi, younger brother of the Duke of Calcaire in the ruling family of Bellissime, is a member of the Billionaire Boys Club, but that’s all due to his own financial skills, not his royal bloodline. His snooty family all but disowned him after he moved to America, but they’re still happy to spend the money he sends them. All he asks in return is to be left alone with his work and his passion for archaeology, but even that is more than they can manage. Now that he’s required to attend his beloved cousin’s wedding as she becomes the first Bellissime Crown Princess to marry a commoner, it’s just Griffin’s bad luck for his sole personal assistant to be too sick to accompany him there. Desperation forces the proud billionaire to turn to his good friend and fellow club member, Hunter, for help. And payback is what prompts Hunter’s girlfriend, Gretchen, to surprise Griffin with the one woman who could unsettle him to the point of madness.

Maylee Meriweather may hail from a no-account Arkansas trailer park, but that doesn’t mean she can’t handle her boss’s last-minute call to help Griffin on his trip. She doesn’t have the fancy clothes, fancy laptop, or fancy anything to keep up appearances in Griffin’s circle. All she has is a can-do attitude, plenty of gumption, and an otherworldly ability to take away a person’s pain after a burn or other related injury. But when nervous flier Maylee mixes mojitos with her “happy pills” on Griffin’s private plane, her bedraggled appearance and drug-induced behavior threaten to end any chance of them getting along before they even land at their destination. Still, there’s something about Maylee that Griffin can’t seem to resist. If he could just manage not to insult her with every word out of his mouth, they might find something together that goes well beyond their temporary working relationship.

The plot of ONCE UPON A BILLIONAIRE is a fairly standard romance trope:  egotistical billionaire is thrown together with a sweet tempered woman totally below his standards, they clash on superficial differences but eventually succumb to their mutual physical attraction, ending up with an HEA only after the prerequisite Big Misunderstanding. It’s light and fluffy and utterly predictable, unlike the last two books in the series, and yet that’s not what bothered me so much. What made me nearly stop reading more than once was how both the hero and heroine were so broadly defined that it bordered on offensive in some spots.

Let’s begin with our billionaire hero, Griffin Verdi. From the first page of ONCE UPON A BILLIONAIRE, he comes across as the worst sort of condescending rich guy, barely civil to the other men he considers friends, and outright rude to Hunter’s girlfriend, Gretchen. It’s true that Gretchen gives as good as she gets, but it’s not like Griffin isn’t capable of basic courtesy to anyone not in his inner circle. Or is he? We’re led to believe that this innate boorishness stems from his royal upbringing, and yet he has a constant inner monologue about how much he hates his own relatives taking advantage of him and others without even so much as a simple thank you. So why wouldn’t he try to behave better than the people he resents? I suspect it was all in support of the conflict between him and his intended heroine. And yet for me, Griffin was nothing more than a faded copy of a Harlequin Presents hero. The arrogance and incivility were there, but any compelling reasons why a woman would find him irresistible in the face of such nonsense were missing in action. Even so, Griffin’s portrayal wasn’t half as problematic as what was in store for Maylee, the woman he supposedly learns to love.

Maylee Meriweather isn’t just from another world, she’s from an entirely different universe. Any woman not born and bred as royalty would be a challenge for Griffin, but a hick from the sticks is beyond the pale. Yet what I objected to wasn’t the extreme contrast per se, but the way Maylee was written as a cartoon character straight out of Dogpatch USA. She’s already a personal assistant to another billionaire, but she dresses like a bag lady and keeps track of her boss’s schedule on Post-It Notes. Every other word out of her mouth is “Lordamercy!” and she loves to tell everyone she meets that she was named for her Nana and PeePaw. Later we learn that her younger sisters are named Alabama and Dixie after their Daddy’s two favorite songs. (What, no brother named Skeeter?) Best of all, Maylee is a self-proclaimed “burn talker” who helps injured people by asking them to give the pain to her as she rubs the location of their burn. (Of course she is.)

This ongoing litany of outrageous personal details prompted a constant side-eye from me as the book went on, especially once it became obvious that Griffin would have been a complete jerk to Maylee without them. It really wasn’t necessary to portray her as an egregious example of nearly every possible stereotype of young women born and raised in the American South. And yet all that was missing by the time we met Maylee’s beloved drooling hound dog in Mama’s trailer back home was a moonshine still in the backyard and a visit to the local Waffle House. But because Maylee is the personification of the sweet but naive girl fresh off the turnip truck, she’s also able to win over every other person she meets with her kind and considerate demeanor, and even manages to help the Crown Princess of Bellissime herself with a curling iron burn on the night before the big wedding. Maylee also secretly hands out cash tips to everyone providing services to Griffin on his behalf, even though we’ve already been told that she’s barely getting by financially due to her need to send most of her salary to her family back in Arkansas. It’s this deep-seated kindness that ostensibly makes Maylee such a great personal assistant in spite of all her shortcomings in appearance and social behavior. It’s also apparently why she continues to take care of Griffin in spite of the cruel way he treats her right up until he decides she’s worthy of his affection after all.

Just because Maylee also gets the good end of the sweet Southern girl stereotype doesn’t make the rest of it even remotely acceptable. And just because Griffin finally pulls his head out of his ass after seeing himself in his mother and brother’s poor treatment of Maylee doesn’t mean his earlier abominable behavior is in any way excusable. There’s a way to depict a romance between a hero and heroine from vastly different worlds without potentially insulting readers, and then there’s what this book did. But I’m not quite ready to give up on the Billionaire Boys Club series, and I’m hoping very hard that the next book, ROMANCING THE BILLIONAIRE, will be a triumphant return to form. I don’t think I could handle this level of disappointment again.

Ratings:

Overall: 3 stars
Sensuality level: 3


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Review: It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

Tuesday, May 13

Title: It Happened One Wedding*
Author: Julie James
Series: FBI / US Attorney #5
Genre: contemporary romance
Publisher: Jove
Format: ebook, print, and audio
Date/Year: May 6, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele 

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

Summary from the publisher:

SHE KNOWS BETTER THAN TO SAY “I DO”

After a humiliating end to her engagement, investment banker Sidney Sinclair is done with commitment-phobic men. But when her sister winds up engaged after a whirlwind courtship, she’s thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of sexy playboy she wants to avoid—the gorgeous best man. She’s stuck with him, for better or worse, until her sister walks down the aisle, but that doesn’t mean she has to give in to his smooth advances, no matter how tempting they are…

BUT HE MAKES IT HARD TO SAY “I DON’T”

Special Agent Vaughn Roberts always gets his man on the job and his woman in bed. So Sidney’s refusal to fall for his charms only makes him more determined to win over the cool and confident redhead. Only what starts out as a battle of wills ends up as a serious play for her heart. Because the one woman who refuses to be caught may be the only one Vaughn can’t live without…


My Musings:

Julie James’s FBI / US Attorney romance series is yet another one that I’ve been intending to catch up with, even though I’ve only read the first (excellent) book so far. But when a fellow reviewer posted on Twitter about how much she had enjoyed reading IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING, I knew I wanted to read it immediately. And just as I had anticipated, my impulsive jump into this latest book in the series was rewarded with a delightful romantic confection that will finally get me to make time to read all the books preceding it.

Sidney Sinclair had always taken pride in her ability to determine the best course of action based on all available evidence. But when her self-confidence was shaken by her fiance’s betrayal, Sidney chose to move on from that debacle for a new challenge in her career, the one thing that’s never let her down. So when her latest first date with yet another guy more interested in himself quickly crashes and burns, the last thing she wants is the attentions of an irresistibly handsome man who’d been observing her from the sidelines. She wouldn’t have even remembered their brief encounter if she hadn’t discovered only moments later that they were about to become family. But as she and her soon-to-be brother-in-law are constantly thrown together as the wedding draws near, Sidney slowly starts to let down her guard, at least in the bedroom, though not quite allowing herself to hope that this man might be the one she’s been looking for all along.

Special Agent Vaughn Roberts knows that in his line of work, it’s better to keep romantic relationships short and sweet. Any woman who would make the mistake of thinking he could offer more than a few weeks of hot sex isn’t anyone Vaughn would want to know better. It’s in that spirit that he makes a move on a hot redhead who clearly hadn’t had any luck with the guy she’d just dispatched from the coffee shop. And when the redhead turns him down flat, Vaughn doesn’t let it bother him much, at least not until she’s introduced to him an hour later as the sister of his own brother’s fiancee. Now the challenge of getting past Sidney’s rules for acceptable men is all that Vaughn can think about, not realizing that she’s working her way into his life as much as he is in hers. But how can two stubborn people get past the rules they’ve set up for themselves to embrace a true love that always seems to be just out of reach?

Even though I haven’t read all the books in this series, I never had any problem with IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING as a standalone story. The character development for Sidney and Vaughn was handled almost seamlessly, as we were shown exactly what motivated their actions, even as they were both confronted with facing why they couldn’t trust each other to be the person they need. As the story progressed, it became obvious that it was good that Sidney had rejected Vaughn’s initial advances. If she’d said yes, they would have had a brief intense affair, only to be faced with seeing each other at every family gathering for years to come. Being forced to interact as friends and allies in the family wedding plans was the best possible way for both Sidney and Vaughn to accept their own needs as something to embrace, rather than hide away from forever. By the time they finally realized that they were meant to be together, each had already proven to the other all the ways they were perfectly matched, making their own HEA so touching and real that I was crying and laughing in equal amounts during the last few chapters of the book.

IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING is proof that a contemporary romance featuring a high-powered business executive and successful FBI Special Agent doesn’t have to rely on over-the-top suspense or hackneyed battle-of-the-sexes conflict to make it a book you’ll never forget. It also features some of the most effortless dialogue you’re likely to find in a contemporary romance, and scenes that could be funny and sad without ever descending into slapstick or pathos. If this is what I can expect as a reader of Julie James, then I’ll be adding her to my author auto-buy list, for IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Ratings:

Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level: 3


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Review & Giveaway: Since I Saw You by Beth Kery

Friday, May 9

Title: Since I Saw You *
Author: Beth Kery
Series: Because You Are Mine #4
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Berkley
Format: ebook, print & audio
Date/Year: May 6, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele
 

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

Summary from the publisher:


In the “exceptionally hot” (USA Today) Because You Are Mine, Beth Kery redefined what’s possible, what’s desirable, and what’s forbidden between a man and a woman. It’s time to go further...

When enigmatic billionaire Ian Noble sets Lin the task of “taming” his brilliant yet half-savage brother Kam Reardon, she eagerly accepts. She’s more than curious about the solitary genius and everything she’s heard about him. During their electric first meeting, her fascination increases a hundredfold. Kam practically oozes raw sex appeal. Lin is interested...very interested. But does her intense attraction and willingness to go places with him she’s never gone before in the bedroom really have to do with Kam? Or is her carefully hidden desire to blame for wanting a man she knows she can never have?

An elusive outsider, Kam avoids intimacy, yet never shies away from satisfying his erotic appetites. But there’s something different about Lin—a reserve he’s anxious to break. She’s a woman he’s eager to take his time with…and possess completely. A sophisticated beauty like her would never want him anywhere but in bed, but he finds himself unable to resist her.

Immediately Lin’s smooth facade is undone by Kam’s overwhelming masculinity and by his irresistible erotic demands—a lesson in subjugation that leaves Lin confused, reeling, and open to things she never thought possible. Now, as the unpredictable nights between them grow darker, Lin and Kam are certain of only one thing: they’re made for each other.


My Musings:

This review may contain spoilers for previous books in the Because You Are Mine series. You can read this book as a standalone, but I believe you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read the other books first.

When I found out there would be one more book in Beth Kery’s Because You Are Mine series, I wondered if it could live up to the others, especially now that Ian and Francesca had finally gotten their HEA. But I should have known Ian Noble’s brother Kam would have no problem bringing the same intensity to his romance with Ian’s coolly efficient right-hand woman that I’d come to expect in this series, and not just because he’s practically his half-brother’s double. For despite all the similarities between Ian Noble and Kam Reardon, Kam is most definitely his own man, and that’s what makes him irresistible to Lin and to this reader as SINCE I SAW YOU brings this wonderful series to a satisfying close.

My impression of Kam in the previous book, BECAUSE WE BELONG, was that of a man who didn’t give a damn about what anyone thought of him. After all, he already shared a common blood bond with his two half-brothers, Ian and Lucien, thanks to the criminally insane father. But unlike Ian and Lucien, Kam had been in direct contact for most of his life with the evil man who’d spawned the three half-brothers and many more like them. Only by appearing to reject his own beloved mother could Kam protect her from that man’s retribution, but in the process, Kam began to doubt his own ability to love and protect anyone else in his life. There had been another woman he’d thought loved him for himself, but she’d ultimately let him down. So when Kam first spots Lin Soong walking toward him for a prearranged business meeting in SINCE I SAW YOU, he has remind himself no woman like her would ever want a life with him, even as he knows he must get this woman in his bed as soon as possible. But as Lin becomes an all-too-essential part of his new life in Chicago, can Kam keep himself from crossing the line between business and love?

Unlike Kam, Lin has spent her entire life keeping her own wants and desires locked safely away where they can never derail her successful career and devotion to Ian Noble, the only man she ever thought she wanted. Lin already knew even before Ian had found love with Francesca that he’d never be more to her than her boss and friend. But when she sees Kam Reardon for the first time, his physical resemblance to the man she can never have nearly takes her breath away. There are other similarities in personality and temperament, but it’s Kam, not Ian, who will stop at nothing to make Lin his own. Now Lin has to decide if it’s worth blowing up her carefully constructed life for someone who is either the best or worst thing that has ever happened to her.

Lin had been portrayed throughout the series as an emotionless superhuman, so it was gratifying to see her reactions to Kam as he quickly shook her sense of self down to its foundation. Even as she attempts to “civilize” him, he continues to expose the wildness she’s spent a lifetime keeping locked away. The passionate result of their physical alliance soon terrifies them both. But as they realize just how similar they really are, it’s trust that Lin and Kam need to find with each other, for only then can love survive whatever happens next.

What I loved the most about SINCE I SAW YOU was how the romance between Lin and Kam was the driving factor for the entire story, even as the various external pressures loomed large in the background. After the rollercoaster suspense of the previous book (which I did enjoy immensely), it was a relief to discover that what was most important in this book was learning more about what motivated both Kam and Lin in their lives up to the point when they first saw each other, and how they needed to trust their feelings for each other now over what had hurt them both in the past. Their understandable concerns about a lasting commitment may have led to the Big Misunderstanding that nearly split them apart, but it made sense in what had been slowly revealed during the story. Best of all, both Kam and Lin were able to realize their mistake in time to produce a beautiful scene of mutual apology leading to their own satisfying HEA.

SINCE I SAW YOU is a captivating example of a romance between driven personalities from different worlds who share a common goal of success in both business and love. It was a beautiful conclusion to one of my favorite recent series, and my only regret was that it had to end.

Ratings:

Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 4
(multiple D/s scenes with main characters including semi-public sex, anal sex, and bondage)

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Review: In Want of a Wife by Jo Goodman

Thursday, May 8

Title:  In Want of a Wife*
Author: Jo Goodman
Series: Bitter Springs
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Format: paperback, ebook, hardcover, audiobook, audio cd
Date/Year: May 6, 2014     
Reviewed by: Blue 

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


SHE HAS NOWHERE LEFT TO TURN
      
 Jane Middlebourne needs a way out. In 1891, life in New York is unforgiving for a young woman with no prospects, especially when her family wants nothing to do with her. So when Jane discovers an ad for a mail-order bride needed in Bitter Springs, Wyoming, she responds with a hopeful heart.

HE HAS EVERYTHING TO LOSE

       
Rancher Morgan Longstreet is in want of a wife who will be his partner at Morning Star, someone who will work beside him and stand by him. His first impression of the fair and fragile Jane is that she is not that woman. But when she sets out to prove him wrong, the secrets he cannot share put into jeopardy every happiness they hope to find….


My Musings:

Jane Middlebourne has been living with her reluctant cousin, Frances, since she was orphaned.  While treated as a family member in public view, she was treated more like a servant in private.  Frances also has a tendency to be less than generous with her own children, and one of them, Alex, concocts a scheme with Jane which they believe will gain them some funds.  The scheme doesn’t go as planned, and has serious and tragic consequences for Jane.  It’s much later in the book that we find out just how awful this incident was.

Needing to leave her cousin’s household, Jane replies to Morgan Longstreet’s advertisement for a mail order bride in Wyoming, far away from New York.  Since Jane is small, and somewhat frail looking, she sends a picture of her sturdier cousin instead of her own.  When she gets off the train to meet Morgan, he finds her attractive, but has doubts about her suitability for this rougher life.  They decide to take a day to get to know each other a little before they commit to the marriage, and Morgan deposits her in the local hotel.

The author does a great job of conveying the awkwardness of the initial meeting, and showing the uncertainty they both were feeling.  Jane is really desperate here, as she has no alternate plan, and not a lot of money if Morgan decides not to marry her.  I like very much how Jane maintained her dignity and did her best to convince Morgan that she was strong and ready and willing to take on being a rancher’s wife.  Morgan is definitely the strong silent type.  He behaves like a gentleman, but at the same time, doesn’t reveal much of himself.  They decide to go ahead and marry, and Morgan takes her home to his ranch.  Trying to be considerate, Morgan tells Jane that he’ll sleep separately until she gets used to him and knows him better.  Jane, of course, feels undesired.

Their journey from strangers to lovers takes a winding path.  I liked both of these characters very much.  Jane has strength of character, honesty, and she works very hard to make the ranch into a home.  It takes longer for Morgan to reveal pieces of his past, and it contains some things not to be proud of, and some horrible things done to him.  He is determined to be a better man, and I can only admire him.  Of course, when they finally appear to be heading toward their happy ever after, Morgan’s past comes back to put their new life in jeopardy.

Generally, I’m not a fan of westerns, but I am a fan of Jo Goodman.  This book did not disappoint.  The two main characters were strong and memorable, their romance was slow building and satisfying, and the villains were dealt with in the way they deserved.  I recommend this book, and will be picking up “The Last Renegade” and “True to the Law,” the first two books in the Bitter Spring series.

Ratings:

Overall: 4 stars
Sensuality level: 3


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Review: Bite Me by Shelly Laurenston

Title: Bite Me*
Author: Shelly Laurenston
Series: Pride series, #9
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Brava
Format: ebook
Date/Year: March 25, 2014
Reviewed by: ElaineReads

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

Summary from the publisher:

Livy Kowalski has no time for idiots. When you shapeshift into a honey badger, getting through life’s irritants is a finely honed skill. Until she gets stuck housing her nutso cousin and dealing with her dad’s untimely and unexplained demise.

That’s where Vic Barinov comes in—or his house does. Vic can’t step outside without coming back to find Livy devouring his honey stash and getting the TV remote sticky. It gets his animal instincts all riled up. But he’ll have to woo her at high speed: all hell is breaking loose, and Livy is leading the charge…


My Musings:

I’ve never met a Shelly Laurenston book I didn’t like and this book is no exception.  As I have said in a previous review, do not read these books out of order.  There is so much back story going on that you will miss half the fun if you just start with this one.  Believe me!  You will not regret reading all of these books from start to finish.  As a matter of fact, I recommend you start with PACK CHALLENGE to get the full story.

Anyway, on to the gushing.

Livy and Vic are introduced in the previous book WOLF WITH BENEFITS.  They are secondary, but definitely not minor characters . . . especially Livy.  We finally find out that Livy is a honey badger shifter which are considered rare by the other shifters.  They’re really not.  They just like to stay well hidden.

Honey badgers are predators, but with even fewer rules to follow. Even the other shifters are scared of them. Livy is no exception to her species reputation, but because of her longtime friendship with Toni (a jackal from the previous book), Livy is not quite as bad as most of her species.  She has directed her passion into her photography and does not feel the same need to steal or maim as the rest of her family.  Unless, of course, someone she cares about is threatened.

Vic is a hybrid grizzly/Siberian tiger with all the idiosyncrasies of being a hybrid.  In his human form, he is mostly bear, but wait for when the feline comes out.  He is a totally different personality.  That is when things go out of control . . . Vic’s or anyone else's.

The really bad guy from the last few books, a full human, shows up and Livy and Vic get involved in the hunt for him.  The wolves, felines, and bears have been hunting him for years without success. However, now that the honey badgers are involved . . . well, things go differently in this book.

A number of new characters are introduced in BITE ME, but many of our old friends show up as well.  I have no idea where she will go with her next book, but I have hopes for the Reed boys.  Reese in particular needs his own book.

My only complaint about this series is that she does not write them fast enough.  There is generally a new book released each year.  Personally, I think one a month would be more acceptable.  That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Ratings:

Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5
(Does a tail count as a sex toy?)

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Review: Naughty Bits Part I: The Lingerie Shop by Joey W. Hill

Tuesday, May 6

Title: Naughty Bits Part I: The Lingerie Shop*
Author: Joey W. Hill
Series: n/a
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Penguin
Format: ebook
Date/Year: April 15, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele
 

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

Summary from the publisher:

Madison is a control freak with one wish—to lose control. Her hidden submissive cravings have led to a string of disastrous relationships. So when she inherits her sister’s North Carolina lingerie shop, Naughty Bits, she jumps at the opportunity to dump her boring finance career and bad history and try her luck down South.

But before Madison can settle in, she catches the attention of the owner of the neighboring hardware store. Sexually dominant Logan Scott can see the hunger for command in Madison’s eyes and is anxious to help unleash her submissive desires. He presents her with three very tempting gifts—handcuffs, erotic cards, and an open invitation to join him at a submissive’s training session.

Faced with the realization that she can’t sell fantasies to her lingerie customers without embracing her own, Madison accepts Logan’s offer. Now, she’s about to discover just how far her desire can take her…


My Musings:

Serial novels have been a popular trend in romance for a while now, and frankly, it’s one I’ve grown tired of. These days I’m limiting myself to serials written by my favorite authors, and with no more than five parts. NAUGHTY BITS qualifies on both counts, although I’ll admit I would probably waive the five part rule for Joey W. Hill. She’s one of my all-time favorite writers of contemporary BDSM erotic romance, and this first installment, THE LINGERIE SHOP, has already assured me that her talent for plot and character development will lend itself well to this new format.

As you might expect, most of THE LINGERIE SHOP is setting up the premise for why our heroine finds herself running her late sister’s sex boutique in Charlotte instead of being back in Boston at her boring but safe finance job. Madison and her sister Alice had exceptionally close until the day Alice pushed too hard about Madison’s sex life (or lack of one) and Madison responded by moving away and avoiding all contact. It took Alice’s terminal illness and subsequent death to force Madison back to Charlotte and the shop she’d always mocked. Now all Madison has is the store, her memories and her regrets. But Alice’s bequest extends beyond the building and its contents. She’s also made sure that Madison will finally find sexual submission with a man who can make it all happen. It’s now up to Madison to decide if she’s ready to finally accept the gift her sister always wanted her to have.

The man that Alice has found for Madison is Logan Scott: hardware store owner, woodworker, and sexual Dominant. Even before Madison knows who Logan is and what he will mean to her, she’s mesmerized by his looks and demeanor. She knows he represents what she’s always both wanted and feared. Logan knows Madison been too afraid to embrace her submissive desires, but that the decision must be hers, and hers alone. All he can do is point her in the right direction and hope that he can earn her trust along the way.

In THE LINGERIE SHOP, we see how Madison had always been threatened by Alice’s embrace of her own sexuality, even though Alice was right about why the men in Madison’s life had never measured up. We also see how Logan had fit into Alice’s life and why he is the perfect man to help Madison embrace her hidden self. By the time we reach the end of this first part of NAUGHTY BITS, we have a good idea of how our heroine got here and what our hero has to do to make her his by the end of the final installment.

What I loved best about THE LINGERIE SHOP was how it neatly avoided the problems that have made me burned out on serial novels in the first place. So many of the serials I’ve read have consisted of a relatively simple plot, doled out in tiny portions that either end on an insane cliffhanger, or at what appears to be a predetermined page length, regardless of where the story is at that point. But THE LINGERIE SHOP has absolutely none of these problems. First of all, it’s well over a hundred pages, qualifying as a novella in its own right. And it ends at a logical stopping point, after Madison has used Logan’s offering of the erotic cards and handcuffs, and sets the stage for THE TRAINING SESSION, Part 2 of NAUGHTY BITS. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Ratings:

Overall: 5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5
(several BDSM-related discussions, brief descriptions of BDSM club activity, heroine’s solo sexual activity and related thoughts/dreams)

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Review: Giving In by Maya Banks

Title: Giving In*
Author: Maya Banks
Series: Surrender Trilogy #2
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Format: ebook/print/audio
Date/Year: May 6, 2014
Reviewed by: Michele
 

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

Summary from the publisher:

Kylie sees the way Jensen looks at her. The dark promise in his eyes. That rough edge of dominance she knows he possesses. But dominance is the one thing that frightens her above all else. She and her brother barely survived a childhood steeped in violence and abuse. She could never give up total control and submit to a man. Especially a man like Jensen. Could she?

Jensen sees the shadows in Kylie’s eyes. Knows he has to tread very carefully or risk losing any chance he has with her. All he wants is the opportunity to show her that dominance doesn’t equal pain, bondage or discipline. That emotional surrender is the most powerful of all, and that to submit—fully to him—will fulfill the aching void in her heart in a way nothing else ever will.


My Musings:

This review may contain spoilers for LETTING GO, book 1 in the Surrender trilogy. You can read GIVING IN as a standalone, but I believe you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read the previous book first.

GIVING IN continues the story of a group of friends and family devastated by the untimely death of Carson Breckenridge and how their lives have changed since then. In the previous book, we saw Carson’s best friend finally acknowledge his long-suppressed feelings for Carson’s widow after three long years of mourning. Here in GIVING IN, Jensen Tucker, the man who replaced Carson as partner in his successful management consultant firm seeks to rescue Carson’s still-grieving sister from the emotional black hole she’s been in for most of her life. What neither Jensen nor Kylie could have anticipated was that Jensen needed rescuing just as much as Kylie, and that together they would find the path toward real healing and true love.

Kylie Breckenridge and her beloved older brother Carson had already survived a horrific childhood, thanks to his success at planning their escape and unwavering determination to keep them both alive. But Carson is gone, and Kylie feels abandoned all over again. Now there’s no one who can understand what she went through and why she can’t bring herself to live the full and happy life he’d always wanted for her. What Kylie doesn’t realize is that there is someone who senses what she feels and what she really needs, and it’s the one person who makes her angry enough to fight for what she wants, even as she resists him every step of the way. That person is Jensen Tucker.

Jensen may have only recently arrived in Kylie’s world, but he can already see that letting her continue to drift through life would be the same terrible mistake that her late brother and their friends have already made. Now Jensen is determined not only to drag Kylie out from behind her walls of self-protection, but to seek her complete emotional surrender to him as the only man who can protect her from everything she’s been hiding from for much too long.

Although I’m a big fan of how Maya Banks incorporates BDSM into many of her other books, including LETTING GO, it was just as satisfying to see GIVING IN focus more on the non-physical aspects of Dominance and submission, and how one can provide the emotional grounding for the other, even when the roles are switched. Jensen is willing to do just about anything to prove to Kylie that he can be trusted unconditionally, including suppressing his innate desire to dominate her. But Jensen’s need to be Kylie’s protector is tangled up in the damage from his own violent childhood from which he’s never completely recovered. When this unresolved trauma triggers Jensen into doing the one thing he’d promised Kylie would never happen, his heartbreaking decision to keep her safe becomes the catalyst for her to finally give him the surrender they both need for a genuinely happily ever after together.

GIVING IN is a remarkable story of two damaged souls who find their perfect counterpoint in each other. It never flinches from showing the long-term effects of domestic violence and child abuse while always keeping the delicate romance between its hero and heroine front and center. Up next is TAKING IT ALL, and it will finally address all the problems we’ve seen between Chessie and Tate caused by his repeated work-related absences. As sad I as I’ll be to see the Surrender trilogy end, I still can’t wait to read it.

Ratings:

Overall: 4.5 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?)
Goal: $119
Current Swagbucks Amazon Gift Card balance: $90.00
If you'd like to learn how you can earn Swagbucks and earn your own Amazon Gift Cards to buy books, a Kindle or other merchandise sold at Amazon contact me and I would be more than happy to tell you how I plan to go about it. (just so you know you can earn both Amazon.com and Amazon.ca gift cards on this rewards site)
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