Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Midnight Secrets by Ella Grace

Title: Midnight Seccrets
Author: Ella Grace
My Rating: B

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Wildefire #1
Main Characters: Savannah and Zach
Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, THE HEAT BEGINS

On a hot southern night, with a storm on the horizon, a family is shattered. Three beautiful daughters—Savannah, Samantha, and Sabrina Wilde—go on with their lives, each significantly changed, as they bear the memory of the murder-suicide that killed their parents. For years, they have stayed away from Midnight, Alabama. Until Midnight calls them home.

Savannah is the first one back, when a grueling case in Nashville leads the young prosecutor to seek shelter in the quiet of the once grand Wilde mansion. But when she finds letters casting doubt on her family’s dark, shameful past, she realizes that peace in Midnight is a shallow fa├žade and sinister secrets lurk beneath the surface. Zach Tanner, once the town’s bad boy, is now the new police chief and still has a wild hold over her. Zach can feel it, too, but he hurt Savannah once. As teenagers, they broke every rule together. Now it’s his job to keep her safe, even though he isn’t sure who her enemies are—or which ones might be his own.

My Review:
The book begins  18 years into the past with the horrific murders of the triplets parents. Then it jumps 10 years into the past to show the beautiful beginnings of Savannah and Zach's relationship. When the book jumped to present day, I was heartbroken because I was already so enmeshed and emotionally involved with Zach and Savannah's romance. To know that it fell apart for some reason was heartbreaking.  But....that what makes a good book... that angst.

What makes these two characters so rich is their background. From the age of nine, Zach virtually took care of his mom and younger brother. He did whatever he had to do to keep them fed and sheltered, not all of it legal. That developed him quite a reputation as a bad-boy, when in reality, he was the most responsible caring kid around. When he met Savannah, he saved her from being gang-raped and then the two of them embarked on a whirlwind two month relationship that ended when he had to leave for basic training. 

Savannah is one of triplets. Their parents died when the girls were ten years old, from what everyone else thought was a murder/suicide perpetuated by their father. The reader knows differently. They were the wealthy family in town and the three girls were raised by their grandfather. Now Savannah is an Asst. DA whose life may be in danger, so she returns home to clean out the house that the girls have all avoided since their grandfather's death. There she finds letters that tell her that he never believed the murder/suicide theory. He thinks his son and daughter in law were murdered. Zach is now the Police chief. 

This book is fairly complex in that Savannah is facing danger from two different areas...her work as the ADA and her digging into her parent's deaths. As such, I was kind of disappointed that the danger in the book didn't show until the last 25%. I think the suspense aspect of the story line could have been ramped way up from what it actually was. That was my one big complaint with the book. 

Every thing else was great. I liked the set-up for the triplets story line, although I'm interested to see how their business works for them in the next two books, because that seemed a little sketchy in this first book. I like that all three girls are VERY different from each other. 

I really enjoyed Zach and Savannah as a couple. The story wasn't anything new, but it was entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and getting to know them. I liked their 2 month courtship and the history so filled with so much emotion. For their story, everything about this small town worked for me. 

I'm less convinced that the small town setting will work for the next two books and the new career the girls have set, but if anyone can make it work, I am convinced that Ella Grace will be able to.  I definitely look forward to seeing how the other girls' stories play out.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Cowboy Take Me Away by Jane Graves

Title:  Cowboy Take Me Away
Author: Jane Graves
My Rating: A+

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Rainbow Valley #1
Main Characters: Shannon and Luke
Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: Forever
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
FIRST LOVE BURNS HOTTER

Rainbow Valley, Texas, has always been a refuge for animals, and Shannon North, director of the local shelter, intends to keep it that way. But with donations drying up and more pets in need of a loving home than ever before, Shannon's beginning to fear she's not the savior the shelter needs. When a tall, dark, and handsome cowboy from her past comes to the rescue, she knows that accepting his help may come with a high price: her heart.

THE SECOND TIME AROUND

Bad boy Luke Dawson shook the dust from this little town off his boots years ago. He walked away from everything...except the memory of the one night of passion he shared with Shannon. Now, a few wins away from becoming the world bull-riding champion, Luke's headed for fame and fortune. But then a crisis calls him back to Rainbow Valley, and Luke is reunited with the good girl who stole--and broke--his heart. As their rekindled relationship deepens into desire, old secrets resurface, and Luke must choose between the future he's always dreamed of and the only woman he's ever loved.

My Review:
Shannon and Luke were friends in high school. They worked together at the local animal shelter and developed a surprising bond through friendship. He was the son of the town drunk...a kid honestly just trying to survive. She was the daughter of the town royalty trying to live up to unbelievably high expectation. Their friendship developed into more and the effects from that were long-lingering since neither one of them have seen the other since that night ten years ago. 

Now Luke has come home to bury his father and hopes to put all the horrible memories of Rainbow Valley behind him. This is a town that never loved him, although he was a child that just broke my heart with how much he needed that love. But now he's made a good life for himself elsewhere. He's on the cusp of winning the National Finals in Bull-riding. On his way out of town, he's drawn to that awful house where he was so abused and it takes one final chunk out of him. The rotted boards on the porch give way and he blows out his knee...just three months before the finals. 

These characters absolutely made this book for me...especially Luke. His history is horrifying and although there are hints to it throughout the book, it's never laid out until the very end. I was bawling during that scene for this horribly mistreated little boy who turned into such an angry teen. But almost equally horrifying was that this town had to know what was going on and no one tried to help him. No one stood up for this poor child.  It's heartbreaking...and makes the transformation of Luke into the wonderful, giving adult that he is even more miraculous. This is a guy who, despite everything else, has a wonderful heart, even though he truly tries to hide it from the residents of Rainbow Valley. 

I had a little more difficulty with Shannon's character. I love who she is and what she stands for and her incredible work ethic at the shelter. She's there because she truly adores these animals and wants to make it so that they have better lives. I had a harder time with her and her lack of ability to stand up for herself....with her mother, with her parttime boyfriend, Russell. I wanted her to be stronger than that and she does eventually. That's her transformation in this book. I just had such a hard time with accepting that about her the first 75% of the book....but that's part of where all the conflict comes in for the story so I understood that. 

We can't talk about this book without talking about the animals because they are such a HUGE part of the book. Shannon runs a broke, barely getting by, animal shelter. Luke eventually comes to live and help out there while he's recovering so almost all the scenes take place there. A lot of the animals in their care have been abused and neglected and have their own personalities that add so much depth to this book. There's Manny the miniature biting horse, Fluffy the abused pit bull, Barney the three legged dog, and so many more. Jane Graves developed such a rich story through the animals...tying their abuse and neglect to Luke's abuse and neglect. It really made for a beautiful story and made me want to put some volunteer time in down at our local animal shelter. It also completely settled my reservations about getting my daughter the cat she's been wanting for her 6th birthday in a few weeks. 

This was just an amazing book. It touched me on so many levels and yes, I even cried several times. I highly recommend it!

I received an ARC of this book as a gift.

Spirit Sanguine by Lou Harper


Title: Spirit Sanguine
Author: Lou Harper
My Rating: A-



Genre: Paranormal Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Harvey and Gabe
Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: Samhain
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Is that a wooden stake in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

After five years in eastern Europe using his unique, inborn skills to slay bloodsuckers, Gabe is back in his hometown Chicago and feeling adrift. Until he’s kidnapped by a young, sexy vampire who seems more interested in getting into his pants than biting into his neck.

Harvey Feng is one-half Chinese, one-hundred-percent vampire. He warns Gabe to stay out of the Windy City, but somehow he isn’t surprised when the young slayer winds up on his doorstep. And why shouldn’t Gabe be curious? A vegetarian vampire isn’t something one sees every day.

Against their better judgment, slayer and vampire succumb to temptation. But their affair attracts unexpected attention.

When Chicago’s Vampire Boss makes Gabe an offer he can’t refuse, the unlikely lovers are thrust into peril and mystery in the dark heart of the Windy City. Together they hunt for kidnappers, a killer preying on young humans, and vicious vampire junkies.

However, dealing with murderous humans and vampires alike is easy compared to figuring out if there’s more to their relationship than hot, kinky sex.

Warning: Fangalicious man-on-man action, a troublesome twink, cross-dressing vampiress, and role-playing involving a fedora.

My Review:
Lou Harper has a completely different style of writing books and I really like it. This book is actually broken up into three novellas, but they all follow the same characters, Gabe and Harvey, in their discovery of each other and the ins and outs of their new lives together. The first book covers when they meet and it's not an easy meeting.

Gabe is a born vampire hunter. He can sense them when they are about. He's spent the last five years in Europe getting trained by his uncle and slaying every vampire he runs across. He's just come back to Chicago when he runs across Harvey, a vampire. As he tries to slay Harvey, he soon realizes that he's unlike any vampire he's ever run across before. In Europe, the vampires are vicious, unstable creatures. Harvey's normal...even cute and Gabe soon realizes that he may have to readjust his thinking, especially after their first date. The two quickly realize that they really like each other.

Gabe soon learns that most American vampires are very different than what he's used to, and now he's trying to find a way to fit that into his lifestyle, since his last five years have been consumed with killing them. He quickly finds a solution through the Chicago Vamp Boss....

I loved both of these characters, but the first glimpses of Harvey were fabulous. He's a laidback (usually), really nice guy and he just doesn't get why Gabe is trying to kill him when Harvey's gone out of his way to keep him alive. I love how sarcastic and snarky he is at the same time as being really charming. I fell in love with him almost the minute he hit the page. He's just one of those characters that you love. I visualize him as a more effeminate of the pair with Gabe being the big alpha guy. But I loved that Harvey was the one you really had to worry about when his temper got going. The two of them were such a great pairing and it's so fun to read about them as they find their way through their relationship. Gabe required more of a transition over the course of the book and loved to be able to watch that. I love that by the end of the book, Harvey was absolutely his priority...even before he realized that was the case. My heart was melting for him by the end of the book.

Another great book by Lou Harper. She officially just made my auto-buy list of authors. BTW, for those of you a little tired of vampires...try this book, I think you will be really pleasantly surprised.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Top Off Tuesday: Extreme Love by Abby Niles

Yes.
Yes, I did.
Buy this book. 
Purely so I could enjoy having it on my bookshelf.
It's even prettier in person.

Oh, and yeah, the story sounds good, too. 
But I'll probably just enjoy the cover for a few months before I actually read it.
;o)
Extreme Love by Abby Niles

Story Overview:
New body. New clothes. New men.

Used to the average Joe, Caitlyn Moore is overwhelmed when the supremely masculine Dante Jones walks into her life and expresses an interest in her. At first she pushes him away, refusing to encourage the attention of a cage fighter. Then she learns Dante has a love ‘em and leave ‘em reputation. What better way to fine-tune her non-existent flirting skills than with a male who won’t stick around? But Dante has no intention of being a practice dummy; he’s out for all or nothing. Now Caitlyn must accept Dante—violent career and all—or let him go.

Dante “Inferno” Jones has one goal: win the Welterweight Championship. At a time when focus is crucial, the last thing he needs is a distraction. Yet Caitlyn Moore becomes a challenge he can’t resist. When the light-hearted pursuit shifts to a battle to win her heart, his focus is shot. Faced with losing the biggest match of his career, Dante must decide if his extreme life also has room for Extreme Love.

***********************

Join us (Felicia from The Geeky Book Blogger and Amanda from On a Book Bender and Me) as we celebrate those gorgeous hunky covers!! Thanks to Diana from Book of Secrets for creating this fabulous button.


Felicia is hosting the linky for this meme on her blog, so come play along....

*post a cover of a hot guy 
who just happens to be topless

*then go add your link to Felicia's blog.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Promo Post: Operation Endurance by Christi Snow (me)

A year and a half ago, I set out on a journey to tell the story of the lives of six characters that lived in my head. Yesterday, the final story in that saga released....
Operation: Endurance
Book #3 in When the Mission Ends series


Story Description:
They had a single night of passion before he deployed on a risky mission.
18 hours on a mission gone very wrong was all it took to shatter all their hopes and dreams.

The hero: 
He survived 6 months of captivity and torture, kept alive by dreams of her.

The heroine: 
She thought he was dead and moved on only to have her world fall apart once again.

Two people who have been hurt more than any two people should ever have to suffer. Can they find redemption and healing with each other or will another threat shatter what’s left of them?
A tortured hero.
A grieving heroine.
A serial rapist who won’t give up.

Warning: This book features graphic sexual violence which some readers could find disturbing. 

*****************************
The last book in the series. *sob* A year and a half ago when I set off on this journey, the final book seemed so far away. As my first series, I learned some lessons along the way. 

  1. For instance, it's NOT a good idea to set up a series where story descriptions for the subsequent books are spoilers for book #1. *gah* What was I thinking? LOL!
  2. Colombia, the country is NOT spelled the same as Columbia the university. HUGE oops in book #1. Luckily, I've only had two book readers point that out. Either I'm not as dumb as I felt after realizing it, or else you all are REALLY, REALLY sweet readers. I'm thinking it's the latter reason.
  3. Leave the publishing schedule open. OMG, getting this final book out by the pub date just about killed me. BUT I set up my publishing schedule before Book #1 was even done...LOL...Lesson Learned!
  4. Buy a couple of cases of tissues when writing the final book. I knew I was attached to these characters, but I cannot even tell you how many times I sat at my laptop sobbing while typing the scenes in this book. I've easily read this book 35-50 times, I STILL tear up when reading certain sections of it.
*************************
So how about a quick excerpt? 

This scene is why I love these characters so much...they all have  such a great relationship together. This scene takes place with all 6 characters from the series. This is the night before Jake and Cassie's wedding and they are all about to head out to their respective bachelor/bachelorette parties....


“So where are you girls headed tonight?” Jake nuzzled along the back of Cassie’s neck while he waited for her answer.
Penelope, seeing that Cassie was distracted, answered, “Oh, we have the same kind of game plan that you all do.”
Jake’s head snapped up. “What do you mean?”
A frown marred Colton’s forehead.
Penelope flipped her hair. Uh oh, that was never a good sign. “Well,” she said, as if she were talking to a small child, “it’s the night before the wedding. If I understand it correctly, you all are going to a strip club.” She exchanged a glance with Julie and Cassie.
Chris wasn’t sure if they were in trouble or not, but this sure didn’t feel right. Suddenly he had ice flowing through his veins. All the men had frozen.
Penelope smiled sweetly. “We’re doing the same. There’s an all-male review club down by the Depot that I’ve heard great things about. We have reservations there.”
“Oh, hell no!” Chris exclaimed, shocked. He was as surprised as everyone else at his outburst, but seriously, this was their plan for the evening? Why weren’t they going to that nice girly wine bar they all liked so much? They couldn’t want to go watch guys strip, could they? He looked at Colton and Jake and could see they felt exactly the same way.
Cassie took a step out of Jake’s embrace toward Chris. She put her hands on her hips. “And why the hell not? If you all can go to a strip club, then why can’t we?”
“Because…” he sputtered. He had no idea. He just knew that they couldn’t do that. It was wrong. No way in hell should the girls go out to watch other guys wave around their dicks. But he could see from the angry looks on all three of the girl’s faces that his argument wasn’t going to win him any fans.
He turned for reinforcements from the other two guys, but they’d already seen the girls’ reactions and obviously sucked their balls inside their body cavity, because there wasn’t any help coming from them. He looked at the two of them and muttered, “You have got to be kidding me. You two are whipped.” He turned back to the girls who were moving toward the front door, and gestured toward their purses. “Take care of those. Someday, these guys will want their balls back so don’t misplace them while you’re out ogling someone else’s junk.” He gave another disgusted look toward Colton and Jake and stalked toward the kitchen. He needed something stronger than champagne if he was going to make it through this night.
**********************

You can find me:
Goodreads

The Series:
Book #1... Operation: Endgame

Book #2.... Operation: Endeavor

Novella (to be read between book #2 and #3)...Before the Mission Begins

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Against the Dark by Carolyn Crane

Title: Against The Dark
Author: Carolyn Crane
My Rating: A-



Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: The Associates #1
Main Characters: Angel and Cole
Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: -
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot



Story Overview:
SHE’S AN EX-SAFECRACKER FORCED INTO ONE LAST HEIST

Angel Ramirez left the safecracking game five years ago, and she’s worked hard to make amends and build an honest life. But when a beloved aunt is kidnapped, she must reunite with her girl gang to acquire the unique ransom: Walter Borgola’s prized diamonds. It’s a simple job that turns into a nightmare, thanks to a surprisingly clever—and searingly sexy—security guard named Cole Hawkins.

HE’S AN UNDERCOVER AGENT WITH BIG PLANS FOR HIS GORGEOUS THIEF

Cole is one of the Association’s most brilliant agents, under deep cover investigating a ruthless killer. He’s also running out of time: hundreds will die if he doesn’t stop the plan Borgola’s set into motion. Catching Angel is the break he needed--he promises not to turn her in if she poses as his lover and uses her unique talents to unlock the sociopath’s dungeon vaults.

But as pretend passions turn real, Cole regrets drawing Angel into his deadly game…and danger is closer than either of them could ever imagine.

My Review:

This is one of those books that as I read it, I was very cognizant of how well it was written. This is a spy/adventure/suspense novel and I loved the way that Carolyn Crane wove the story and the details of Angel and Cole's story. And I can't even pinpoint what made it so good for me, but the entire set-up of the suspense story line to the minute internal dialogue of the characters, this book just worked for me

This book is about Angel. She's ended a five year retirement from safe-cracking to do a job to save a friend's aunt...someone who's been like a second mother to her. Her team is being bribed for the Aunt's safety. To get to the safe, they have to infiltrate a party at a sleazy, scummy crime boss. Working deep undercover as security for this crime boss is Cole. He's a math nerd. He's super-smart and notices details that others don't...he's brilliant at reading people and their motives by the slightest clues. He also had a horrendous childhood, so although he's a classic nerd, he's learned the hard way how to protect himself. 

I loved the dichotomy of Cole's character. At any given time, he could pull those smarts into action and show his nerdy side, but within a few minutes, he was going all alpha and protective over Angel. It made for an incredibly sexy package...and his abs that he kept flashing at Angel didn't hurt either. 

Angel has left the business. The reason why...she doesn't want to hurt people anymore. I loved that about her. Then add in her interior design philosophy and I fell in love with her. Listening to her talk about interior design, I wanted her to come and design for me. (At this point, I'm pretty convinced that Carolyn Crane actually suffers from multiple personality disorder to be able to get this deep into her character's heads.) And it wasn't just the interior design. When Angel became part of the safe and connected with it to break into it...OMG, just brilliant writing. I was convinced...completely and totally.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing was amazing and the smexy times...OMG! Cole is lethal when he lays it on Angel (even when he's just talking her through it)...and I love that he's as close to losing it as she is even though he's thinking about everything else going on that she doesn't know about. The bathroom scene...fanning myself.

This book was a phenomenal set-up for this new series of superspies called the Associates. I can't wait to read more about them.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Awakening: Aidan by Abby Niles

Title: The Awakening: Aidan
Author: Abby Niles
My Rating: A



Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: #1
Main Characters: Jaylin and Aidan
Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: Entangled
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot



Story Overview:


Is the gift of eternal love a blessing or a curse?
After years of counseling grieving shifters, psychiatrist and
half-shifter, Dr. Jaylin Avgar has become jaded on shifter mating. She
wants to marry a human and forget about the love for eternity crap.
Then she meets Aidan O?Connell, an infuriatingly laid back shifter who
represents everything she doesn?t want. Yet, the more he pursues her,
the more she craves a future with him. Only one thing stands in her
way: death. Can she overcome her fear of losing Aidan to the one
guarantee in life?


Millionaire consultant, Aidan O?Connell knows he?ll one day meet a
woman who?ll awaken an unrelenting mating instinct. Unfortunately,
that woman is Jaylin, who has no qualms about telling him that he and
his so-called eternity can shove it. When she pushes him away, he
takes a drastic step so she can no longer escape. The close proximity
throws the instinct into overdrive. Can he control the need engrained
in him until he?s certain she will reciprocate the bond, or will a
moment of weakness doom him to hell on earth?

My Review:
This book was really good. It took a totally different spin on shifter mates and I liked it. In this world, women hold all the power in mated couples and about 1% of the time, the male's mating instinct is "off" and leaves him in a situation that will eventually lead to madness if untreated. For the males, it's completely about animal instinct, but females can reject that...even after they've bonded, leaving the male lost and alone in this mental and emotional circle that needs his mate.

Jaylin is a psychiatrist who, until about six months ago, specialized in treating shifters in this mental maelstrom. She finally reached the point where she couldn't handle it anymore mentally, because it's such an awful place to be for these bonded males. She can't deal with the stress and sadness of it all anymore. But her practice has affected her other ways too....she never plans to bond to a male because she doesn't want to do this to a shifter. The mental repercussions not only affect rejected shifters, but it also affects widowers. They can end up in a catatonic, barely functioning state.

Aidan's best friend, Liam, is a rejected shifter. He's on a mental precipice so Aidan goes to Jaylin for help....he doesn't care how much it costs, as long as she will help. But what he finds, in addition to help for his friend, is his mate. One that his cougar is clawing to get to. Suddenly Aidan finds himself feeling much more empathy for what Liam is going through....because Jaylin won't even consider him. They aren't even bonded yet and his animal is throwing a fit. The thing is Aidan is a very successful businessman....he got to that point by not accepting "no" for an answer.

Like I said, I really liked the little twists of creativity that Abby Niles inserted into this world. It made for a super-entertaining read that I couldn't put down. I read it in one sitting and then dreamed about the book all night long afterwards. I liked both Aidan and Jaylin as characters. They worked for me. I loved how Aidan refused to be put off and that it was Jaylin's empathetic heart that kept her from ever wanting to find a shifter mate. They are both good people in a situation that's really difficult to control.

I'm intrigued by Liam's situation and am kind of hoping that this is a series and we'll find out more about him in a later book. I just get the feeling that there is more to that story that we got glimpses of. 

Then there was the island getaway...I want it. I'm not a beach person, but this locale that Abby Niles envisioned sounded like pure heaven. I want to go there...NOW! 

It was a great book. I really hope that there are more coming and that this is the start of a series. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.