Friday, June 27, 2014

Once Upon a Tower

Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James

Gowan Stoughton, Duke of Kinross and Chief of the Clan MaacAulay, is responsible for a very large Scottish estate, but business brings him to England and to a ball thrown by his colleague, the Earl of Gilchrest. He is not too fond of simpering English misses or English fops, but he cannot keep his eyes of his host's enchanting daughter, Lady Edith. Gowan has no idea that Edie is actually quite sick and the quiet and ethereal beauty he delights in is caused by her illness. The Earl accepts Gowan's proposal on Edie's behalf, and as a good daughter Edie concurs with his decision, but she has no remembrance of her dances with the Duke. To get to know him, and to ensure they are compatible, she begins a correspondence with him, making clear her expectations of their marriage and divulging more about herself. Gowan is surprised to learn his fiance has quite the sense of humor and is very opinionated about certain matters including where she sees their marriage going. Realizing that marriage is about compromise he is able to compromise some of what he wants, but he is quite determined that there marriage will be consummated as soon as possible. When he returns to London he makes it clear to Lord Gilchrest that he expects to expedite the marriage.

Edie finds herself tremendously attracted to her future husband and their courtship, taking place after the engagement, makes her quite eager for the wedding night. Gowan is also a virgin, having seen his father whore his way around Scotland and his own mother sleep around, but is anxious to please his wife. Unfortunately it is quite painful for Edie and instead of telling Gowan, she follows her step mother's advice and fakes it for the first several times they have sex. Edie is not pleased that there are servants constantly around her and Gowan and they never seem to have a moment's privacy, but she likes that Gowan allows her to play her cello. Edie is a an accomplished cellist and music is her life and Gowan appreciates her talents and would never take it away from her. When he accidentally discovers that she has been faking her pleasure he feels betrayed and angry and runs away after saying some very harsh things to Edie. Edie's stepmother makes it clear that he is just as much to blame and when he returns the two of them must work together to patch things up and determine that they can indeed find mutual pleasure in each other's arms.

Edie and Gowan were both incredibly young, 19 and 22 respectively, and, at least in Edie's regard, incredibly sheltered. I have definitely come to enjoy the romance novels that have both the hero and the heroine a little older than that, although Gowan had real life experience that made it easier to overlook his age. My biggest problem with getting to truly connect with Edie was her passion for the cello and how she regarded that as the most important thing in her life; perhaps because of years of being forced to practice instruments and listening to others do so, I just cannot understand a passion for musicianship and I wanted something more from her. I liked that she was "friends" with her step-mother, but even their interactions proved how immature Edie was and she really did not do all that much, just had a lot of thoughts on her father's marriage. Gowan was more likable, and despite numerous references to his temper and yelling, it really wasn't shown in the book and just made Edie look ridiculous for constantly referring to it. He had immense responsibilities and always did his duty making him a bit of a stick in the mud, but also admirable.

They were certainly attracted to each other, but the sex was just god awful, mostly because we were treated to it from Edie's point of view and she was not enjoying it. While I understand there had to be some sort of conflict, I really did enjoy reading so many scenes where the heroine was in such pain. I sympathized with both of them in this regard; him for feeling inadequate and her for feeling like she had to hide the truth from him and the way they handled it made sense to me. Their discussion at the end, where they both took responsibility and agreed to work it out together was very mature and showed that they could work well together. The side plots involved her father and step mother's marriage and I would honestly have liked to see more of that and how they resolved it. The most jarring aspect of the book was when Gowan easily allowed the Gilchrest's to adopt his orphaned sister; I was left with my jaw hanging open.

Rating: An enjoyable, if incredibly long read, about two young people falling in love, but I could not entirely relate to either of them and felt there were a lot of hiccups in the story.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Devil Wears Kilts

The Devil Wears Kilts by Suzanne Enoch

Ranulf MacLawry, Marquis of Glengask, has no love for the English, and he has enough problems with the Highland feuds without worrying about the English aristocracy. His sister, Lady Rowena, however desperately wants a season and she is determined to make it happen even if it will upset her brother. Lady Charlotte Hanover is shocked when her mother's friends' daughter appears on the door step, but since her sister, Winnie is already being sponsored for a season, Rowena is welcomed into the fold. The three women make plans for the London season, even if Charlotte has no intention of finding herself another suitor; her fiance had been killed in a duel he had initiated over a small slight. Since then, Charlotte has maintained her distance from men, and her dislike of male pride, temper, and violence has only solidified. Ranulf races to London to rescue her sister and is shocked when Charlotte insists he rein in his temper and allow his sister to finally enjoy her life. After his initial horror wears off, Ranulf finds himself intrigued by the beautiful and outspoken Englishwoman. However, his mother had been English and had suffered greatly at the hardships of the Scottish life, and he fears that the same would happen to Charlotte.

He decides to attend the same balls as Charlotte and Rowena, but quickly realizes that his Highland ways are not very well received. Members of the ton do their best to tempt him into making mistakes and losing his temper, and the situation does not improved when the leader of the clan he has been feuding with decides to take things to the next level, threatening Ranulf and those he loves. Charlotte finds herself falling for Ranulf, sneaking out to see him, and enjoying a man's company for the first time since her fiance died. But she is worried about his inability to keep a level head, and the violence he displays. He knows her fears, and tries to placate her, but the life of a Highlander is different than that of a city bred English fop, and he knows that he needs to show his enemies his strength or wish losing everything. Together they will have to sort through their intricacies of their situation and find a way to find their happily ever after.

I absolutely loved both Charlotte and Ranulf. Charlotte was well rounded and managed to be independent and assertive, outspoken and friendly, without ever falling into the dreaded "sassy" trap. She had ideas of her own, she cared deeply for those who were important to her, and her life experiences shaped her views. She was scared of love and of the type of man Ranulf was, but she was also open to learning more, to experiencing more that life had to offer. Ranulf was hard headed and could be ruthless, but he too cared deeply for his family, and his motives behind all of the behavior that Charlotte found so objectionable, were truly well explained. He did have a side to him that would frighten Charlotte, but she helped him tame it, and he helped her understand that he could never live the life of an Englishman, just accepting insults to his person, because the safety of his clan depended on him being a man who could intimidate others. I felt like both of them changed for the better because of the other and they truly came to understand and accept each other.

Charlotte and Ranulf spent a great deal of time together in various social situations and alone, so it was quite clear that they were very well suited for each other. There was definite heat between the, and not just when they were arguing although they did argue a bit, but the payoff was really not as good as I had expected. The sex was lukewarm and infrequent, sad considering the attraction these two were supposed to have for each other. I very much enjoyed the side plots involving Rowena and her crush on her brother's friend, the unrequited love that drove her to run away to London in the first place. There was also a story involving Highland feuds, which was it's own subplot in its' own right, but also served to make it clear how precarious Ranulf's position was and why his particular personality was so important in order for him to keep everyone safe.

Rating: Two wonderfully written characters who I could really tell were in love with each other and could see having a meaningful and lasting relationship.



Friday, June 13, 2014

The Countess Conspiracy

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Sebastian Malheur is infamous for his lectures on Darwin's theory of evolution where he shares his experiences with plant genetics and breeding. He is both admired and hated, but it is not the rejection that frustrates him, but rather that the ideas and results he is presenting are not his own. Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury, has been fascinated by plants and genetics since she worked alongside her father and she is enjoying her freedom away from her controlling mother and her husband. As a woman she knows her ideas would never be accepted, so she and Sebastian decide that he will be the public face of her ideas. The two work tirelessly to help Sebastian learn Violet's new theories enough to present them to others and for a while this works well for both of them. Unfortunately, Sebastian soon grows tired of taking credit for others ideas, and by his own brother regarding him as a public nuissance. When his brother discovers he is sick, and about to leave his son and orphan, Sebastian is horrified that his brother considers him him an unsuitable guardian for the child and is planning on leaving him to an aunt. Sebastian has always been fun loving, and everyone sees him as perpetually happy and easy going, and he feels like it is time for him to reveal a new side.

Violet is heartbroken when Sebastian reveals that he no longer wants to be a part of Violet's scheme, and their friendship is on the verge of unravelling. The situation is made worse when Sebastian shares his deep seated feelings for Violet, and it brings forth memories of Violet's own very unhappy marriage where her husband forced her to conceive multiple times even after they all ended in miscarriages and the doctor even said that she could not survive any more pregnancies.  But Violet is determined to share her ideas with the world, even if it means opening up her heart, and Sebastian is overjoyed to finally have a chance with the woman he loves. He does try to branch out, tries to prove himself to his brother, but Violet is the only one who truly understands him and soon Violet comes up with an idea that will allow Sebastian to keep his honor, and allow her to share her discoveries. Violet will have to overcome her fears and her rigid and meticulous upbringing, while Sebastian will have to accept that he can be both the worthy gentleman and the fun loving rake before they can have their happily ever after.

I was conflicted in my feelings about both Violet and Sebastian because at times they were so likable and admirable, but at others they did things that were just ridiculous and impossible to excuse. Violet's fears about intimacy, her adharance to her strict upbringing, and her dedication to her work all made me like her. However, the extent to which she rejected Sebastian, even after all they had been through and it was clear he would never hurt her, negated the intelligence she had in so many other areas. In addition Violet proved herself to be too much of a pushover where her manipulative sister was involved and I could not respect that. Sebastian has loved Violet for years, and I liked how happy he was and how he wanted to make something of himself. His determination to impress his brother was heartbreaking but also frustrating as it was so clear the man would never change his mind. Both of their faults were incredibly human, stemming from a desire to never be hurt or to be loved, and they made both of them well rounded characters. I believe it was just the extent that these things were dragged out that made me grow tired of them.

Their relationship was conducted off page far too much for my liking as they had both really fallen in love with each other by the time the book began and I am never a fan of that. They certainly spent a lot of time together, much of just the two of them and it was clear why they had fallen in love. I guess I am just a sucker for a romantic, or really any kind of, meeting between the two protagonists. Because of her fears there was almost no sex in this book at all and the few romantic meetings between them felt flat me and really did nothing for me. I felt like there could have been a lot more because of their history together, but it was clear these two did not have a huge uncontrollable passion for each other which was a little disappointing. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of this novel was Violet's relationship with her controlling and very very proper mother, especially when a very shocking secret is revealed.

Rating: A slow moving, not very exciting book, with two very human and relatable characters slowly coming to the realization that they are meant for each other.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Heart's Desire

My Heart's Desire by Kate Pearce R

Caroline Lyndhurst was widowed in a boat accident that left much of her body covered in burn scars, and even though her time of mourning is up, she is very self conscious and continues to live in seclusion at her sisters house. When her sister throws a house party, Jasper Lord Mansell arrives and he has plans to bring Carolin out of her self imposed exile. He had been in love with Caroline for years and now that she is widowed and a suitable period of mourning has past, he is determined not to let his second chance slide by. Caroline cannot believe that anyone would be interested in her, but Jasper uses every possible opportunity to lure Caroline into private corners where he wastes no time in showing her that her scars do not stop him from wanting her. Caroline must learn to accept herself before she can allow someone else to truly love her and she is able to do that with Jasper's help.

This was a novella in the same anthology as "The Gift" and I admit that that story is quite the tough act to follow, but leave it to Pearce to manage splendidly. I loved that Caroline was insecure about her appearance and had something to genuinely be insecure about. I especially loved that Jasper didn't ignore her flaws, but embraced them and saw them as a part of her, and not something just to be overlooked. He was an amazing romance novel hero and I love the second chance story line that he'd been in love with her for years. The sex was incredibly hot, as expected, and Caroline and Jasper worked together incredibly well and made a perfect couple.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Gift

The Gift by Samantha Kane

Jeremy and his best friend, Rhys, were taken as prisoners of war at the Bey of Algiers, and were tortured while awaiting payment of their ransom. In prison, the two become even closer, but they connect over their mutual love of Jeremy's wife, Cordelia. Cordelia is in love with her husband, but she has always been in love with Jeremy as well, and when the two return she is overjoyed. The situation between the three of them begins awkwardly as Cordelia wants both men, and both men are interested in her. Jeremy and Rhys have agreed that they will both be Cordelia's lovers and both men love each other as much as they love Cordelia. Cordelia is embarrassed about her desires, and Rhys is terrified that Cordelia will reject him, but Jeremy knows his wife enjoys carnal activities enough that she will welcome Rhys into her bed. On their first night back Cordelia is worried that she will hurt her husband by making her desire for Rhys known, but luckily for her, Jeremy is definitely a take charge kind of guy, and he has no problem making his own desires known. Just as he had predicted, Cordelia wants to share her love with both of the important men in her life, and the three of them agree to engage in polyamorous relationship.

This was a very short novella that was quite obviously leading up to only one thing, but the way in which the story got to the inevitable threesome was very well done. There truly was a relationship between the three characters; between Cordelia and Jeremy, Cordelia and Rhys, and even Jeremy and Rhys. That made the eventual happily ever after more realistic and understandable and made it seem like they really could have their happily ever after. Rhys had demons that scared him, and Jeremy had his fair share as well, and Cordelia had enough guilt over her feelings for Rhys, that the three of them were all able to heal each other. The threesome was incredibly hot, and there was one scene with just Jeremy and Cordelia that was just as sexy. Jeremy was pretty dominant throughout both scenes, which I understood as he was watching his wife have sex with another man. I really liked finding this historical erotica, that went beyond just sex and managed to squeeze character development and true relationships into the story.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Unravelled

Unravelled by Courtney Milan

Miranda Darling grew up with a band of traveling actors, but when the troupe fell apart she took in a young boy as her ward, and now she is just trying to get by on the streets of Bristol. Unfortunately the best way to do that was to enlist the help of The Patron, and now Miranda finds herself unable to back out of doing favors for this mystery person. Her latest favor brings her to court, where Justice Smite Turner recognizes from another visit to his courtroom while she was pretending to be someone else. Smite follows her, and Miranda is terrified that he is on to her and asks the Patron to release her, however instead the Patron sends her right back into danger, and right back into Smite's arms. Smite knows Miranda is in quite a straight, she is undernourished, she can't control Robbie, and she is dangerously close to getting herself arrested and running out of money. Smite has earned the nickname "Lord Justice" because of his dedication to finding the truth behind all the charges brought before him, unlike his predecessors who assume everyone is guilty. However, he has dark memories and secrets about his childhood with a crazy mother and an an older brother who ran off to India and a younger brother he grew up having to protect.

Smite finds himself thinking about Miranda incessantly, but he knows he is not cut out for anything lasting of permanent. He offers her a position as his mistress and Miranda is just desperate enough to take it, especially after he offers Robbie a job as an apprentice on a ship. The money and the future is too much to turn down, and Miranda agrees, even knowing that this could end up hurting her immensely. Their first night together is everything Miranda dreams, until the end when Smite, in a desperate attempt to show that he does not need her, walks away and leaves her alone at the end and Miranda realizes that her heart is engaged. When the Patron hurts Robbie, Smite turns to his estranged family to try to help Miranda, but he feels that the best way to keep her safe is to send her away, even if it means he never sees her again. Miranda cannot bear to leave him, so she decides on her own method of dealing with the Patron. Smite and Miranda must fight off powerful enemies to ensure their happily ever after.

Miranda was a wonderful heroine to read about because she was caring, but not sacharine, she was independent but also not afraid to ask for help, she did what she needed to in order to survive on the streets, but she didn't become hard or sarcastic. In a way I would say she was a perfect heroine, precisely because she was imperfect. I liked how she faced her life, and how she wasn't pampered, but was still a woman with standards and hopes for the future; none of the high flung hopes with no chance of coming true, but realistic. Smite was a very tortured hero, and his past was certainly enough to send chills down my spine, but it feels like the world of historical romance has an unspoken contest between authors to see who can make the most horrific past for the hero to explain away why he's afraid of commitment. I admired his dedication to justice and it was certainly very ahead of his time, but the book did take some very advanced views of social issues that would be quite out of place in the Regency period (and might still be today to some people).

Smite wasn't mean to Miranda, but he did make it clear they couldn't have a relationship, and of course it was because he wasn't good enough for her or because his past prevents him from ever forming an attachment with anyone. I really enjoyed all of the time they spent together, even before their romantic relationship started, because they got along so well together, with none of the fighting or banter that so many authors use to show a connection between protagonists. They had common interests, they were both strong willed and independent and they certainly worked very well together in the bedroom. Their sexual relationship was very hot and was a really great addition to show why their relationship worked so well. The Patron played an important part in the story and there was quite a lot of how Miranda would escape from his clutches and, of course, a kidnapping plot at the end, but with the nice little twist of Miranda rescuing the man.

Rating: I enjoyed the book and the relationship and the plot about the Patron. I do, at times, wish that Milan's novels were more faced paced, but her writing was, as always, superb.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Anything He Wants

Anything He Wants: Atonement by Sara Fawkes

Lucy has found her happily ever after in billionaire CEO Jeremiah and there sex life is roaring, but Jeremiah is distracted by work problems and Lucy is worried. Even a very sexy trip to a BDSM club owned by Gabriel Steele isn't enough to make Jeremiah forget about his work. Between work and his mother picking on her, Lucy is worried that her happily ever after is getting torn assunder. When she can finally get Jeremiah's attention the sex between is as hot as ever and the two have no problems experimenting in the bedroom. Things are so frustrating that Lucy contemplates going to Borneo with her friend to help run their charity. When she finally confronts him, Lucy remains calm and collected and merely tells Jeremiah that she misses him, instead of giving in to her natural instinct to yell and shout. He finally reveals the big secret he has been keeping from her; he is quitting the job that he loathes and he encourages her to follow her dreams of helping people and tells her to open up her own charity right there in Manhattan. Their future is wide open in front of them and the cherry on top is a romantic proposal on the night of Lucy's birthday.

This was another very short novella and the opening scene in a BDSM club was rather off putting and confusing as it was obvious Jeremiah had not discussed what was happening with Lucy. Even though he didn't push her to do anything, it was unnerving that he would spring something like that on her, especially since their sex had apparently never progressed to anything like what they were seeing. I really enjoyed reading about how the two of them dealt with the difficulties in their relationship; perhaps that made it more of a real relationship for me as the entire relationship building process took place in a previous book. The two dealt with some very serious issues and they handled them really maturely and I wish the book had been more about that. The sex was pretty hot, not as scorching as I expected from this series, and the scenes in the club just were not my thing at all. There were also far too many name droppings from previous books and allusions to them which I never liked.

The Vampire Design

The Vampire Design by Vivi Anna

Emily Brooks is a naive young artist who has never been able to harness her talents. When her best friends decide to backpack through Europe she decides to go along in hopes of meeting her favorite reclusive painter, Xavier. Xavier paints women in the throws of pleasure and his paintings sell for millions of dollars and when Emily hears he is at a club she jumps at the chance. He invites her to a masquerade ball and lures her into his painting studio where she discovers his newest painting is missing a subject. He asks her to pose and while she is lying there on the sofa she is overtaken by lust and he captures the moment perfectly. While the two are making love she realizes that he is a vampire and in the heat of the moment she begs him to bite her. Afterward while he is falling asleep he asks her to stay, but when she awakens in the morning he is gone and she is heartbroken. But Xavier saves the day and comes back for her and she decides to stay in Germany and paint now that she has found her passion and make love with her beautiful vampire.

My synopsis above literally included every single thing that happened in this incredibly short novella. There was no character development, no real relationship, and I found Emily's reaction to discovering the man she's sleeping with is a vampire to be a little too ridiculous. She has no fear or anything, rather she is turned on, and while I realize that Twilight has taught us not to fear vampires, it was just too crazy that she had not a care at all about this creature that could kill her. And that she didn't at first think the fangs were false- like it was a natural jump from sharp teeth to vampire. The sex was incredibly hot obviously, but because the novella was so short there was not a lot of it. I did enjoy the happy ending at the end and how, while it wasn't permanent obviously (since he's immortal) it was a nice way for them to continue their relationship.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Chose a Cowboy

How to Choose a Cowboy by Daire St. Denis

Tessa Savage goes to a ranch to relax and enjoy some nice time, but she does not expect to find two incredibly hunky cowboys who rev her libido. Wade is big, brooding, incredibly handsome and can bring her to a melting puddle with just his words even while teasing her and stringing out the pleasure. Conner is fun loving and adventurous and a relationship with him would be far easier with Conner, but Tessa has no idea who to choose! Wade is domineering and controlling, and perhaps just what Tessa needs, but Conner's flirtatiousness is impossible to turn away from. For a week the three of them sizzle up the pages and on her last night, Tessa knows she finally wants to get what she has been desiring for so long. This is an "interactive" novel and the reader is allowed to choose which cowboy she wants Tessa to end up with, but of course nothing is quite like it seems in this novella where everyone gets exactly what they want. Although the ending may not quite be everyone's happily ever after, it is precisely what Tessa and her two hunky cowboys need.

This novella wasn't too short but there was no pretense that it was about anything but Tessa getting some delicious loving from two hunky cowboys. Tessa lives her life on the go and doesn't settle down and Conner and Wade's proclivities have chased off women in the past, but these background pieces of information are skirted over and aren't really explored as problems they need to work through. Wade is a complete dominant and their are strong themes of dominance and submission throughout their scenes and some bondage, however there is very little of the S&M part of BDSM. The sex scenes are incredibly well written and very hot, really scorching the pages but not for the faint of heart and far from historical romance territory. I also did not like how there was not a happily ever after really and I learned that Tessa features in several other novels and has an apparently insatiable libido. Interesting story, that I would have liked more if it had ended in a relationship.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taken By Storm

Taken By Storm by Opal Carew

When her car stalls on the highway, Jessica is almost run ver by a very attractive man on a motorcycle who insists he take her back to town. Storm is everything Jessica is not, adventurous, spontaneous, and wandering, while Jessica likes her small-town life in Bakersfield where she is surrounded by family and she is safe and sound. But Storm's wild bad boy ways hold an unbelievable appeal for Jessica, while Jessica's innocence and happiness make Storm contemplate things he would have found unthinkable before her. Storm plays in Jessica's brother's band and she soon learns that dating a musician comes with lots of little annoyance, including groupies and road trips and her relationship with Storm is still new when he leaves for a week. Jessica wonders if she did something to drive him away, while Storm realizes that Jessica is just what he needs to finally stop wandering.

This novel was incredibly short and there really wasn't time for much in the way of getting to know the characters or really in the way of relationship development either. Jessica is a small town girl who likes things steady and safe, while Storm is the ultimate bad boy with no ties to anyone and plenty of tattoos. The book was an average good girl-bad boy story to the point that it became a little stereotypical and they were both so set in their own little "type" that it was hard to see what they saw in each other. Once the opposites attract haze wears off, I just didn't really see there being much left for these too. For a short novella there was a nice amount of very hot sex and it was a nice change just to go back to a couple instead of a the more kinky stuff from the previous books in the anthology.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Three Little Words

Three Little Words by Lauren Hawkeye

Malachi Hunter and Adele Cavanaugh are complete opposites as he is pre-law and she is a wild child, complete with tattoos and dyed bright red hair, but the two nonetheless strike up a friendship and soon a heated sexual relationship. But Malachi is still stuck with the mindset that he needs a perky blonde to help his career, while Adele's insecurities and belief that she could never be good enough for someone like Malachi. When his fraternity brothers make an offhanded joke, their relationship is shattered and Malachi goes off to law school, while Adele drops out of school to work in a cafe. Two years later Mal moves back into town and becomes roommates with Dorian, a member of the band Three Little Words. When Dorian sees Adele in the cafe the attraction is intense and immediate, but she is shocked to go back to his place and see Mal and even more stunned when it only takes one instant for both of them to realize that things are not over between them. Dorian is surprised that he doesn't feel jealous about Mal and Adele's connection, and makes it clear to Mal that he has no problem if they continue seeing each other, while Mal feels the same. Soon Adele is caught up in a very happy triangle with both of her hunky men and she finally feels safe enough to reveal a tragic incident in her past. Both Dorian and Mal know how lucky they are to have found such a wonderful lady and agreed that she was definitely worth twisting societal norms for.

There was a really good amount of character development for such a short novella, however the characters themselves were caricatures. Mal was the fraternity with the posh background who needed a stereotypical lawyers wife, Adele was the "bad" girl with the semi-abusive past who took her frustration out on the world by getting tattoos and dropping out of college, while Dorian was the aimless musician who apparently made a living playing shows in a college town. I would have liked more intricate characters who didn't conform to boring stereotypes. However, I was completely drawn into their relationship and how it developed, which was odd because I admit I am not usually a fan of three-person relationships. While I cannot declare it was a lasting relationship, the book certainly made it clear that a relationship was certainly possible, and even a happy possibility, for them. For a threesome erotica, this novel was surprisingly tame, and definitely could have been a lot hotter, but I actually enjoyed it better this way because it made it clear that the focus was really on the relationship between the three of them. Overall this was a really fun read that changed my perspective of what a true threesome novel could be, but next time I hope to like the characters more.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Complete Abandon

Complete Abandon by Julia Kent

Six months ago Laura gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and since then her life has centered around the baby, to the exclusion of all else, including her very handsome partners, Mike and Dylan. Mike and Dylan are frustrated at Laura's sudden lack of interest in anything sexual, despite their best attempts to get her hot and bothered. Laura's friend, Josie, recommends they check out her e-reader and they are stunned when they find that she's been reading tons of erotica, including some very kinky things. They decide to take Laura up to a ski "cabin" while Josie and her boyfriend Alex spend time with the baby. Alex hopes that this will convince Josie that she's ready for more in their relationship. Once at the cabin, Laura is hurt when she realizes that they've read her e-reader and continues to worry about her baby. Luckily, Mike and Dylan have come prepared with plenty of the gizmos and gadgets from her stories. Slowly, they break down Laura's reluctance and put her insecurities about her post-baby body to rest and break out quite a few of those toys they brought. Soon, Laura is back to her usual outgoing and adventurous self and Dylan and Mike are more than happy to reap the rewards of their work.

This was a sequel to a previous novel that I hadn't read, so I found myself with a complete lack of investment in any of the characters. That means I really didn't care about any of the characters at all and wasn't interested in their problems or what they were going through. The entire book was about sex from beginning to end, and I guess the relationship part of the story was covered in the previous book which meant that all this book was left with was horny people who wanted to have sex. This would have been somewhat acceptable if the sex had been any good, but it surprisingly wasn't. Besides one erotic scene between Alex and Josie, the rest was just blah, despite the use of sex toys and two hunky men. And call me a prude, but I felt it weird that in a threesome there was not any discussion at all of what the two men were thinking and how the whole situation really worked, but perhaps that was covered in the previous book. Overall this was a pretty awful story that may have been made better by reading the prequel, however I certainly don't feel inspired to do so after reading this.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Yield to Me

Yield to me by Sarah Castille

Marcy is an aspiring MMA fighter with dreams of making it big, but she is having some issues breaking through to the top. Her gym director hire's Jax, a former fighter, to be her coach, and Jax quickly realizes that Marcy has trouble when is submission holds. After practicing with her he knows that she has trouble fighting through it because her true nature is to submit to a dominant, which is problematic as he is desperate to become her dominant. A few rounds on the floor has both Marcy and Jax hot for each other and him convinced that her true submissive nature, and her tendency to fight it means she will never be a truly successful MMA fighter. When he confides in the owner of their gym, Marcy is furious and goes after Jax, but the resulting fights leads both of them to a hot, sweaty, and naked round in the ring. Marcy's secrets are revealed, including her past relationships that failed because of her need for domination and Jax knows that Marcy deserves much better than a trainer who can't stay in one place for more than couple months. His leaving leaves Marcy heartbroken, but she still wants to prove him wrong about her fighting abilities. Both know they have found something special in the other and must give up their fears of rejection to find happiness with each other.

I was initially skeptical of this story because of the MMA fighting aspect of it, but I was quickly proven wrong. Marcy and Jax were both incredibly well developed characters, and not just for a novella. Marcy's past played an important role in her frustration and her inability to admit to her true sexual nature. I admired her dedication to her craft and her eventual ability to admit her problems and it was incredibly moving at the end when she showed how she had truly come to accept herself. Jax's fear of commitment was, granted, a romance novel stable, but I was able to overlook that cliche because of how dedicated he was to Marcy and truly did just want the best for her and his guilt when he felt that he wasn't doing all that he could for her. The two were close throughout the story and I could really see how they would get along in a true relationship. The sex was absolutely scorching and these two burned up the pages with some kinky sex, but it was also tender and full of love, which was a truly great combination. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and the two strong leads and their loving, and incredibly sexy, relationship made this book well worth reading.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Yours to Take

Yours to Take by Cathryn Fox

Rebecca Andrews is a lawyer whose relationships always fizzle and her best friends decide what she need is a trip to Fantasy Island. When billionaire Quinn Montgomery finds out that the lawyer who beat him at court in a sham of a trial, is set to take a private flight to Fantasy Island, he decides a little revenge, and a little heat, is in order. As a dom Quinn recognized the signs of submission in Rebecca and he knows his own private island is the perfect place for her to succumb to her darkest desires. Rebecca is furious and scared when she discovers Quinn's trick, but also quite turned on and desperate to discover what Quinn has in store for her. Over the course of the weekend Quinn pushes Rebecca's sexual boundaries and she discovers why all her previous relationships had not worked out. However, when the weekend is over, Rebecca fears that their relationship is over as well, until Quinn makes a very romantic gesture that makes it clear their sexy dominant/ submissive relationship is just beginning.

Rebecca was the typical uptight lawyer who just needed to let down her hair and lose control and I found that character a little too stereotypical. Quinn was just a billionaire hero who liked very hot and kinky sex. Unfortunately that truly is as far as the character development went in this incredibly short story. The relationship was developed about equally as well and consisted mainly of the two of them having lots of sex. The sex was quite hot and very kinky, but avoided any of the more harsh aspects of BDSM role play and could be easily consumed by someone new to the genre. Overall this was a well written story that needed a few dozen more pages to make the relationship real to me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First Sinners

First Sinners by Kate Pearce

Ian, Earl of Westbrook, is asked to investigate possible treason at the Perry estate and so he attends their house party in the guise of courting their younger daughter. However, it the older sister, Faith Perry, who catches his eye and his interest, especially when he walks in on her in the library masturbating and reading a dirty book. Faith has always been the good daughter and she plans to spend her life as a bookish spinster, but decides that this could be her one chance to experience the sexual pleasure she has been reading about. Ian is all too willing to help the beautiful young explore her sexuality as she appears very eager to experience everything, but he also knows he needs to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Faith is also worried about mysterious happenings at the estate, but doesn't view Ian as trustworthy enough to confide him. The two are put in a dangerous position when they catch each other searching out something mysterious, and while it does turn into some remarkable sexy time for them, it also leads the villain out into the open to threaten their lives. When Ian fears he may lose Faith, he knows that their relationship is about more than sex and he wants to spend the rest of his life loving, and making love to, her.

This novella was incredibly short and there really was not a lot of relationship building going on, but what was there was fairly strong, if very heavy on the sex. I really liked Faith for being a bookish and in control of his life and willing to take on an adventure. Her decision to engage in sexual activity with Ian was definitely not realistic for the time, but totally in keeping with her character and I rather admired it. Ian was a typical rogue with quite a sexual past, but he was also half-Indian and had a bunch of baggage because of his upbringing and dual cultures and because his exotic-ness has led him to become quite the catch for ladies of the ton. The sex was scorching and varied and was definitely the glue holding them together and had tinges of submission and dominance. Their relationship also formed as the investigating the smuggling, and while it was interesting and certainly provided an air of mystery, it didn't distract from the story. Overall this was a very hot read that could have used some more development of their relationship, but was excellent for what it was.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Kiss for Midwinter

A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

As a young girl Lydia Charingford is seduced by a married man and becomes pregnant, and only the doctor and his assistant, Jonas Grantham, know the truth. Years later, Lydia is living at home with her parents after an engagement is called off and Jonas is the town doctor and decides it is time to marry. Without remembering her from the long ago night, he knows she is the one because of her happy nature and ability to not fawn over one of the most eligible men in town. Lydia knows exactly who he is and has no intention of marrying him and is determined not to let his intrusive into her life make her unhappy. Jonas pursues Lydia for months and nothing he does seems to win her over so he makes a deal with her: he will show her around and if she can find the happiness in everything he shows her she wins a forfeit, but if he wins then he gets a kiss. Jonas takes Lydia on his rounds; to visit a prostitute with several kids, a young boy with a broken leg, and Jonas' senile father who is a hoarder. When she wins he agrees to never speak to her again, but the wager has brought up the past for Lydia and she finally has to confront her feelings about the miscarriage. Jonas has always known that Lydia is the perfect match for him and now Lydia is coming to the realization that the outspoken and blunt Jonas will always be there for her.

I absolutely loved both of these characters and thought they were so perfect for each other. I loved that Lydia was a genuinely happy person and enjoyed life. I liked that she had issues from her past that she had to work through and that Jonas was the one to help her through them. I loved how blunt Jonas was about sexuality and the truth of the world and the conversations they had were hilarious, but also showed how well suited they were and were so honest and forward thinking. Jonas was wonderful and could see himself truthfully, including his flaws such as his compartmentalizing everything in his life. His relationship with his father was touching and so beautiful to read about, and I liked that Lydia helped him through some of his problems. There was some sexy moments, but the book was far more about their emotional connection and while the sex was hot, it was not the focus of this book at all. Overall this was a wonderful book with two very well written characters who had a beautiful relationship. Milan's writing was spot on as usual, if a little slow moving at times.




Friday, March 14, 2014

Lost in a Royal Kiss

Lost in a Royal Kiss by Vanesa Kelly L

Linnet St. Clare leads a busy life taking care of her younger siblings while her widowed mother looks after the royal nursery. Her life also brings her into repeated contact with Sir Anthony Tait, the handsome trusted advisor to the royal family. Linnet has been in love with Anthony for some time, which is convenient because he has decided she will make the perfect wife for him. When circumstances throw them together, Anthony knows it is time to make his move but his passion for Linnet causes him to lose control and Linnet runs away. Luckily Anthony's position means he has immense power and Linnet is forced to turn to him for help once again, and he knows he has one more chance to prove himself worthy of her. But Linnet's dedication to her family, and Anthony's sure-handedness once again throws their happiness in jeopardy and both of them will have to admit their feelings, and make a few sacrifices, before they can find their happily ever after.

This was a very short little novella and much of the meeting and falling in love took place before the actual book, which was a little disappointing. I loved how both of them had such important responsibilities and respected the other's positions. Linnet and Anthony made a great couple and worked so well together to solve the problems that life threw in their way. They were certainly very attracted to each other and the book had several really hot sex scenes, especially considering the length of the story. A little too much was made about the magical-ness of the "L" word and the book was obviously a set up for the next books in her series. However their happily ever after was well deserved and I could really see how their relationship would work.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Duke's Sweet Revenge

The Duke's Sweet Revenge by Jamie Salisbury

George Stoddard, future Duke of Sussex, refuses to believe his father when he claims that Lady Jane Campbell is bad news, but is confronted painfully with his father's truth when he discovers that Jane and his brother Jonathan, conspired to kill the Duke and frame George for the murder. Years later George returns to England, determined to stop Jonathan's marriage to Lady Sarah Davies, whose supposed fortune will prop up the Sussex coffers, as George holds the loans on the Sussex estate. Sarah is in her own financial straights after her father's bad investments and her brother's memory problems, and she is marrying Jonathan so that her vast dowry can pay off the Davies' debt. George kidnaps Sarah on the way to the wedding, planning to hold her only until after the wedding. For the week she is his captive, Sarah falls for the handsome highwayman who goes by "my lord." Her attempts to escape him, including drugging him, bashing him over the head, and escaping out the window in the rain, ignite his temper, but he never loses it with her and he refuses to allow his desire for her get in the way of his mission, even while unable to resist a passionate kiss.

When the date of the wedding passes, George lets Jane go, but not before warning her about Jonathan's true intentions. Jane calls of the wedding with Jonathan, but agrees to pretend things are still find to placate society. Meanwhile Jane discovers who George really is and George continues trying to gather evidence against his brother. He finds that he cannot stay away from Jane, even though he knows she deserves so much better than him and feels massive amounts of guilt over everything. Jane knows that she could make George back into the man he used to be and is determined to help him clear his name, even if it means making dangerous decisions. George is furious at himself, and at Jane for putting herself at risk and for continuing to go out into society even while he remains convinced that he will never marry her. Jonathan is becoming suspicious of Sarah asking questions and enlists the help of his henchmen to put a stop to it, by any means necessary. It will take the love of a good woman to help George work his way out of his conundrum and to feel like he belongs in real society and deserves a happy life.

Sarah is a likable heroine because of her dedication to her family, her love for her mentally disturbed brother, and for her common sense approach to most of her life. Unfortunately the one area of her life she doesn't approach with common sense is her relationship with George, because she falls, and succumbs to a man who treats her abysmally for much of the book. George's demons certainly excuse a fair amount of awful behavior, but his treatment of Sarah is reprehensible. He uses her like a whore at times, and then hugs her loves her which is something someone very manipulative would do. He accuses her of sleeping around and froths at the mouth at the thought of her marrying someone else even while insisting he will never marry her. What brought this book down an entire heart for me though was Sarah's completely stupid behavior with regards to her own safety. She knows that Jonathan is dangerous and possibly deadly and that someone is after her, and yet show ventures out on her own. I couldn't even excuse her because she was just trying to help George.

Their relationship was toxic for much of the book with George pushing him away because of his dangerous tendencies and past, punctuated with brief moments of passion that ended with him treating her poorly again. I just did not see how they would function normally as George spent the entire book worried about hurting her to the point that he hurt her even more. His obsession with how dangerous he was got old very quickly and ended up being next to nothing. Some of the more interesting parts of this book were told from Jonathan's, and other villains, point of view, but the ending to that subplot was abrupt and confusing. Supposedly Jonathan was caught red-handed, but I couldn't figure out how. There was a secondary romance involving a woman who eventually married Jonathan and another man, and she acted just as stupidly and naively as Sarah and I ended up disliking her quite a bit and wondering how pathetic a man would have to be to fall in love with someone that ridiculous.

Rating: Despite it's problems, I was prepared to give it 3 hearts, but the stupid decisions made by the heroine and other woman (repeatedly) dragged this book down to a VERY low 2 hearts.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Luckiest Lady in London

The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

Felix, the Marques of Wrenworth, has buried his emotions and become the Idea Gentlemen by showing only his strengths to the rest of the world. Louisa Cantwell needs to marry a wealthy man as her mother's annuity will run out upon her death and she needs to provide for her other sister's, especially her youngest, Matilda, who is epileptic. She has narrowed her choices down to only a couple man, and has quite deliberately crossed Felix off of her list of choices because he is so far above her station and she does not waste her time. Felix notices right away that she has dismissed him and it is such a unique experience that he can't help but be both miffed and intrigued. He finagles his way into her company and while there is certainly a spark, he knows that she still veils her interest in him. He knows that his attraction for her won't be satisfied with mere friendship so he offers her the position of his mistress and then tells her unsavory details about the two different men she is currently thinking of marrying. Louisa wants Felix desperately but refuses to become his mistress, but just as she about to succumb to his unsavory proposition Felix decides that the only way to deal with his infatuation is to marry her.

Both Felix and Louisa look forward with great anticipation to the wedding night as their entire courtship had contained some barely veiled references to adventurous bed play. Felix's childhood was filled with his father's desperation over Felix's mother's inability to love and he has carried the fear of rejection with him ever since and wears his shield of strength against any signs of weaknesses, including love. When he discovers that he is indeed falling for her and that Louisa could use sex to control him and he starts to push her away. Louisa is heartbroken to realize that she has the marriage she had hoped to avoid, especially as Felix makes it clear that he does not care for her. It takes a house party to remind Felix why he wanted to marry her and to discover that falling in love can be the greatest sign of power and not the weakness he has always feared. Unfortunately Louisa discovers his nefarious plans to get her to become his mistress and she believes his protestations of love are selfish in nature. Felix will have to prove he can care about someone more than he cares about himself for Louisa to be able to admit her love for him in return.

Thomas' books are always a tad on the subdued side and have a lot of emotional upheavel that creates a lot of angst and second thoughts and passion. Her characters lend themselves to rocky relationships because of past hurts, both in previous relationships and in their current one. Louisa's cold and calculated method of going about finding a husband, instead of making me dislike her, made me admire her because of her confidence and her common sense in realizing what she needed to do to save herself and her family. I especially liked how open she was about her sexuality and her expectations about sex, and how she wasn't scared of admitting to her needs and desires, but only with Felix. It really showed that they were comfortable and trusting of each other. Felix's fear of love was understandable because of the incredible back ground and development Thomas did of his childhood, which was much more comprehensive than the typical hero back story and was done with Thomas' trademark thoroughness. It made my sympathasize with his fear instead of thinking him hardhearted.

Felix and Louisa spent a lot of time throughout the novel together; good times, bad times, and in between times. They flirted, they flirted some more, they moved in together and arranged a house party together, they gave each other the cold shoulder, they purposely tried to hurt each other, they called a truth and put on a happy face, they couldn't keep their hands off each other, they deal with betrayal, and they finally were able to recognize their own feelings for each other. It was a truly remarkable way of showing how well they would work together on a daily basis and how they would deal with the ups and downs of any relationship. The sex between them was hot and frequent and was both at times romantic, heart breaking, and sexy and it was a really nice way to bring together two people who were very sexually attracted to each other and very open about their sexual needs and wants. I really liked how the phrase "I Love You" didn't solve all of their problems and Louisa and Felix both demanded more from each other.

Rating: This book perfectly hit the spot for me and I loved both Louisa and Felix and found their relationship perfectly well written.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Romancing the Duke

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

Isolde Ophelia Goodnight lives in the mind of millions of Englishman as the beautiful and imaginative daughter of famous storyteller Harry Goodnight, but the reality is quite different as Izzy is plain and destitute. When she receives a letter that she has inherited a Gostley Castle, she rushes there only to find that the very handsome and mysterious, Duke of Rothbury, is in residence and the former owner is in no hurry to give up his familial estate. Ransom Dane has shut himself up in his crumbling and decrepit castle ever since a duel with his former fiance's new husband left him scarred and mostly blind. He is not a fan of this loud and energetic woman taking over his life and trying to force him into society and his castle into the 19th century. Izzy knows this is her last chance as she is completely without funds and the fan's of her father's novel, while numerous and generous, are not people whom Izzy enjoys depending on. When Ransom realizes that something must be horribly wrong with his solicitors and his funds, he hires Izzy to read his correspondence and discover the truth of what has been going on.

Ransom is not at all impressed with Izzy's army of fans, who still believe she is the little girl from the stories, but is quite impressed with Izzy herself. What little sight he has left and the way that she is helping him acclimate to real life now, makes him wonder if he is deserving of the love the world has denied himself since his mother died in childbirth. But Izzy has hope for him and as she fixes up his castle, and provides quite the temptation to him, he starts to believe that their is hope for him as well. When Izzy's fans, the Moranglian Army, comes to visit, Ransom wants her to claim her independence from the little girl from the fairy tales. But when Ransom's solicitors attempt to take control of his fortune by having him declared insane, it will take Izzy, Ransom, and the entire Moranglian army to carve out a happily ever after for Ransom and Izzy.

This story was Beauty and the Beast with some twists that nicely avoided the whole Stockholm Syndrome element as Izzy was free to leave whenever she wanted. Izzy was very interesting and I love how she was independent and capable, but also felt a need to live up to the expectations of her father's fans by pretending to be something she wasn't. It was both frustrating and admirable, but was well explained by Dare who is remarkable at writing characters motives and back stories. Ransom was definitely dark and brooding locked up in his crumbling castle, determined to shut himself off from the world. He was both heroic, especially when some truths about him are revealed, and difficult to like because he repeatedly pushed Izzy away. However, there were many times when he showed how wonderful he was by sticking up for Izzy and only wanting what was best for her, even if he did come across as surly while he was doing it.

Izzy's exuberance and positive outlook in life, even with all that life has thrown at her, was in direct contrast to Ransom's inability to see anything but the worst in everyone and everything. With Izzy's help, he was able to overcome a lot of that, but it just seemed a little off that two people who were so different could form a real connection. They spent quite a lot of time together, fixing up the house, getting to know each other, flirting madly, and preparing for the competency hearing and I really liked seeing how they acted together under so many different circumstances. There was a lot of heat between them, and they were always madly flirting and making inuendos about sex, but there was truthfully very little sex and it was rather boring and not what I expected from Dare.

Rating: Two very different protagonists who had an almost unbelievable romance, but I did like the modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Frost of Springtime Book BLAST!!!


The recent release of The Frost of Springtime, by debut author Rachel L. Demeter, transports readers to the war torn streets of nineteenth century Paris. Driven by paradoxical characters, steamy encounters, and a compelling storyline, it’s a bittersweet tale of revolution, redemption, and the healing power of love. Described as “poignant,” emotionally devastating,” and “beautiful,” The Frost of Springtime is sure to please historical and romance readers alike. Available now in both eBook and paperback. Currently Amazon Prime members can read the Kindle edition for free!

Publication Date: February 14, 2014
Black Lyon Publishing
Formats: Paperback, Kindle eBook
Genre: Historical Romance/Historical Fiction

To rescue her was to rescue his own soul.

On a cold Parisian night, Vicomte Aleksender de Lefèvre forges an everlasting bond with a broken girl during her darkest hour, rescuing her from a life of abuse and misery. Tormented by his own demons, he finds his first bit of solace in sheltering little Sofia Rose.

But when Aleksender is drawn away by the Franco-Prussian war, the seasons pass. And in that long year, Sofia matures into a stunning young woman—a dancer with an understanding of devotion and redemption far surpassing her age.

Alongside his closest friend, Aleksender returns home to find that “home” is gone, replaced by revolution, bloodshed, betrayal—and a love always out of reach. Scarred inside and out, he’s thrust into a world of sensuality and violence—a world in which all his hours have now grown dark, and where only Sofia might bring an end to the winter in his heart.

Inspired by the 1871 Paris Commune, The Frost of Springtime is a poignant tale of revolution, redemption, and the healing power of love.

Read an Excerpt

The heat of their bodies mingled as one. With each breath, Aleksender drank in the sweet essence of his beloved ward. His mind swam with unorthodox visions and desires. He inclined his head, lost to the power of her nearness, entranced by everything that was Sofia.

“Alek, my Alek …”

Each word infused Aleksender with a delicious and undeniable warmth. Intoxicated by roses and wintertime, he found it difficult to speak, difficult to think. Breathless, he swallowed and met the haunting depths of her eyes.

“Please,” she dreamily murmured, “I want you to kiss me again…”

Watch the Trailer

BUY THE BOOK!
Amazon Kindle (free in the Prime Lender's Library!)
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Black Lyon Publishing

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and high school sweetheart of ten years. She enjoys writing dark, edgy romances that challenge the reader’s emotions and examine the redeeming power of love. Imagining stories and characters has been Rachel’s passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mom would jot them down for her. She has a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances.

Whether sculpting the protagonist or antagonist, she always ensures that every character is given a soul. Rachel strives to intricately blend elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some common themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness.

Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words.



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The Frost of Springtime
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Friday, February 28, 2014

Duchess by Chance

Duchess by Chance by Wendy Vella

When the Duke of Stratton finds himself deeply in debt at the gambling table to notorious cardsharp Spencer Winshcomb, he is desperate enough to wager his own son's hand in marriage to Spencer's entirely inappropriate daughter, Eva. Daniel finds out about his father's promise at the old Duke's deathbed and is none too pleased at this turn of events, but is determined to fulfill his duty and prove himself better than the old Duke. Berengina Winschomb finds herself very intimated by her new husband, but counts herself lucky to escape her abusive father and older brothers. Daniel knows better than to take his frustration out on his new, very young wife, but he can't help but make his displeasure known. Eva want to be a good wife to the Duke, but is not sure how to go about doing it, especially once he makes it clear they will not have a real marriage with children, even if he is required to consummate the marriage. But Daniel is not expecting his new wife to be so beautiful, or to find himself wanting to protect her from those who want to harm her, and make her happy by protecting those she loves.

Still determined to maintain his distance from his wife, he heads to London after their consummation, but finds that he misses her. When he finds that someone from her past has paid her an unwelcome visit, he rushes back to the country to encourage her to come to town with him. Eva is terrified of how she will be accepted in London society and wants to rusticate in the country, but she knows it is for the best and she owes Daniel after he rescues her younger brother from her father's clutches and sending Reggie to Edinburgh. Daniel is quickly proved right once they arrive in London as Eva becomes the toast of the season and finds herself making new friends easily. Unfortunately, her father has decided to use her new connections and wealth to benefit himself, and his friend has decided that Eva belongs to him. She will need to open up and trust her new husband so that they can work together to fix the mistakes of their past and face the future.

I'm always excited to try new authors, especially when amazon has nice sales on the Kindle versions. Eva was incredibly young and naive, and made decisions that were ludicrous at best and dangerous and stupid at second best. However, her dedication to her younger brother and the servants who worked for her, was admirable, even if it did, at times, seemed like a forced method for gaining the readers' respect. Her age was definitely a problem for me in this book, because at a very sheltered 18 I just couldn't see her holding her own with a duke, even if his age was never mentioned. Daniel was a confusing jumble of dichotomies. He hated his father, but had to follow through with his father's last wish. He didn't want to like his wife, but she was beautiful so he couldn't help himself. It definitely made him a more realistic person, and I really liked how he completely avoided hurting Eva and never blamed her for what happened between them. I also liked how he did work hard to keep those she loved safe.

Eva and Daniel spent a lot of time together, so I could sense a real relationship between them, but Eva just remained rather two dimensional to me. There was some sex between them, sporadic throughout the book, but it was usually very short and was darkened for me because of their odd relationship. What really bothered me about this book was Eva's unbelievably stupid decision not to tell Daniel about her father's blackmail and the threats against her. It started midway through the book and I couldn't help but roll my eyes and cringe at the blatant attempt to manufacture a problem between two people who were growing to love each other with no obstacles. The dialogue in this book was just ridiculous and completely unrealistic; things that no one would ever say. While I normally can overlook a few too flowery words, this book was just flowery nonsense from beginning to end and made me cringe. The distance of time has given me a better look at this story, but at the time the dialogue really drove me inane.

Rating: A wonderful first effort, but a better, more likable heroine and realistic dialogue will be what Vella needs to work on to continue righting great romance.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Heiress Effect

The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan

Miss Jane Fairfield is the richest woman on the marriage market, but she has no intention of marrying any time soon, and her merchant background has already made her fodder for the gossip mill. She needs to remain unmarried so she can continue to live with and protect her younger sister, Emily, who suffers from minor seizures and their uncle allows her to be "experimented" on by doctors. She decides to let her independent nature and outrageous tastes rule over her and soon she is more well known for saying whatever comes to her mind and wearing unbelievably atrocious outfits than she is for her immense dowry. One of the men she's managed to upset with her blunt honesty is Lord Bradenton, who happens to hold a powerful and prominent role in Parliament. Mr. Oliver Marshall ha spent his entire life trying to prove himself and to earn a place in Parliament, even if it often meaning shoving down his own emotions, and his goal is to one day be Prime Minister. Brandenton tells Oliver that he will throw his considerable influence behind Oliver's attempt to extend the franchise, but only if Oliver will humiliate Jane publicly, in return for a slight she visited on him.

Oliver has always thought of himself as better than that, and he cannot imagine intentionally hurting someone else who has done him no wrong, but the promise of so much support is more than he can turn down and he agrees to Bradenton's request. His first meeting with Jane is not what he expected as she is much more intelligent and self-assured then her facade has lead him to believe, and Jane can't help but be drawn to Oliver. She thinks his status as a society outside, because he is a duke's bastard, even if he is acknowledged by his half brother and thinks of his adopted father as his true father. Through several meetings, Oliver becomes more and more convinced that he could never hurt Jane because he is falling in love with her, but he also knows that marrying her would be political suicide and so when the time comes, he does not embarrass her, but does allow her to walk away from him after no more than a kiss. However, he promises to always be there for her, and when an emergency arises with her sister, he is the only one she trusts and Oliver realizes he cannot let true love slip through his fingers again.

Jane was a nice change of pace from Milan because while she still had the haunting past and the familial issues, she also was outrageous and flamboyant in a way that was impossible not to like. Instead of coming across as naive, Jane came across as someone who thought her way out of big problem and wasn't afraid of putting her own reputation at risk to help those she cared about. Oliver's past was so well developed and, even while disagreeing with many of his choices, I could understand why he did the things that he did. I loved his epiphany at the end when he realized he was tired of always being "safe" and knew that he wanted to live dangerously and take a chance on Jane. While normally the idea of characters just being "drawn" to each other, which is different than sexual attraction, is laughable, Milan always manage to pull it off with skill, because she is so great at writing well rounded character emotions and thoughts and the reader really can see why the characters are just "drawn" to each other.

Their relationship was very well written and the two spent quite a lot of time together and I loved that they were always honest with each other, if not always with themselves. I could really tell that these two belonged together and would suit each other and work well in everyday situations. There was not a lot of steam in this story and only a couple rather short, and unexciting sex scenes towards the end of the book, which was definitely disappointing as I felt like these two could have scorched up the pages- especially given her outrageousness and his stuffiness. There was also a secondary romance between Emily and a student at the nearby university, which came with lots of strings attached because she has seizures and is still under the control of her guardian, and because he is Indian. That relationship is short and sweet and ends on a funny note with him turning back Emily's uncles' fears back on him.

Rating: This was more fun than many of Milan's stories, but featured her hallmark wonderful writing and well developed characters who are perfect for each other.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Duchess War


The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Because he is a duke, Robert Blaisdell, Duke of Claremont, everyone assumes he will be haughty and unconcerned about those beneath his station. In fact Robert is all too aware of his unearned status at the top of society and is dedicated to improving the lives of those his equals typically trample upon. He is called to a small manufacturing town to help put down the threat of unions, but Robert has no plans in aiding the corporations. His father had been a cold and uncaring man and Robert will do anything he can to avoid becoming one as well. The local army captain believes that shy spinster Minerva Lane is behind the onslaught of new union papers and doesn't believes she is up to no good behind her shy exterior. Minerva is hiding a secret, but it is certainly no desire to be a rabble rouser. Her tumultuous childhood, where her huckster father had her dressing up like a boy, only to abandon her when the ruse was discovered, has lead her fearful of attention of any kind. She lives with two "aunts" who graciously accepted her into their home, but knows that their financial generosity cannot last forever and that she will one day have to wed.

Robert knows that Minerva has nothing to do with the unions, but is equally sure that she is hiding something and he desperately wants to know what precisely that is. With the captain breathing down her neck and trying to prove that she is behind all the local problems, Minerva realizes she will have to find someone to marry in order to avoid having her past exposed to everyone. Using his investigation into her as an excuse to spend more time with her, Robert and Minerva work together on some of the projects her ladies Hygenic Society is sponsoring and he slowly begins to unravel the secrets of her past. When the army captain moves forward with his witch hunt against, Robert knows there is only one way to put her above any potential for prosecution or suspicion. Minerva hopes that, with time, she and her husband, can know each other well enough to fall in love and only when are their secrets are exposed will they both be able to find happiness with each other.

This book was very slow moving, and like all of Milan's book, relied on more descriptive prose than on actual dialogue, and while I do normally appreciate this style of writing since she does it so successfully, when used with two such already rather unhappy characters, it made the book darker than I prefer. Minerva's deep secrets were hinted at throughout the book, but the pieces did not really fall completely into place until near the end, and while it was intriguing at first, it became a little overdrawn for my taste, and I just wanted to know what had happened. Whenever anything has a buildup like that it is destined to be a disappointment because nothing can live up to those expectations. However, her upbringing helped explain so many of the confusing aspects of her personality and seemed very realistic for someone who had been through so much. I admired her resiliency and her journey toward become a woman full of confidence, and appreciated her loyalty towards her friend and her aunts.

Robert's dedication to helping the working man was admirable, but also rather a roundabout way of going about it, as he could simply have raised the wages of his own employees instead of causing trouble and endangering people. His background was shrouded in mystery, unless you had read the prequel in which case the foreshadowing seemed ridiculous. Minerva and Robert spent quite a lot of time together, however most of it was spent in serious discussions or other matters that didn't really do a great job of showing how they would get along on a daily basis. There was very little sex and almost no real chemistry or steam between the characters, which is a common theme in Milan's book and always something that irks me as I feel it would add some much needed levity.

Rating: I admired the characters, but did not really see how they would work together in a relationship, and found the book rather slow.