Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Pleasures of Autumn by Evie Hunter

Title: The Pleasures of Autumn 
Author: Evie Hunter
My RatingB

Genre: Erotic Romance 
Series: Pleasures #3
Main Characters: Sinead and Niall
Release Date: October 2013
Publisher: Penguin
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
When fine arts curator Sinead O'Sullivan is charged with a stealing the Fire of Autumn, a dazzling ruby with a history of violence and treachery, bail is set at one million Swiss francs.

Investigator Niall Moore is hired to stop her fleeing and to find the jewel. Niall knows Sinead's form as the feisty red-head led him a merry dance when their paths crossed once before. Despite the overwhelming sexual chemistry between them, Niall knows that he cannot trust her.

Sinead toys with Niall, refusing to tell him what she knows about the theft. An expert in interrogation, Niall uses every trick of the trade - and every tool in his erotic armoury - to get at the truth. And Sinead - just as well armed - counters his every move with one of her own.

As thief and thief-taker fight for dominance, there can be only be one winner ... but what happens when the stakes are raised and it's no longer just a jewel and Sinead's freedom in play?


My Review:

Overall, this was an entertaining and interesting read. Sinead is a stuffy, staid fine arts museum curator by day, but by night, she has a deep secret. She's a famous burlesque dancer, Lottie. 

Niall has seen Lottie perform many times and is a bit of an obsessed fan. I liked the fact that he knew Sinead as Lottie, but that also was a negative to me as a reader. If he'd only seen her perform once, I could probably have dismissed him not catching on with who she is, but he saw her perform many times and throughout the book, Sinead lets Lottie bleed through more and more. I just can't believe he never saw it, especially since he was supposed to be such a crack-shot investigator. But that aside, I did enjoy that aspect of her character. It's like she's two completely different people. Through Lottie, she lets herself get wild and brave and I loved that.

But it's her day job that gets her into trouble. As curator for the museum, Sinead handles lots of priceless items, one just happens to be an invaluable ruby...the Fire of Autumn. It's disappeared and all the evidence including video proves that the thief is most definitely her. BUT she didn't do it. As the child of a gypsy, Sinead was left alone at age 4. Her grandmother and uncle stepped in to care for her and although she swore to them that she had a twin sister, they never believed her. Sinead believes it has to be her twin who perpetrated the theft, but she hasn't seen her since she was 4, she has no idea how to find her.

This is a book that travels all over Europe and into some of the swanky but risque clubs and dinner parties of the rich and famous. It turns out the twin sisters are more alike than expected. Sinead's twin is a famous Domme, called Little Red. So she sets off to find her and spends a lot of the time impersonating her. It made for a fun, suspense filled read. 

I will admit there were flaws in the story line and little details that were simply unbelievable. But overall, I could overlook those since I enjoyed the adventure of reading the book. It's a high-action read with lots of twists and turns and a good deal of smexy fun in between.

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ethan in Gold by Amy Lane

Title:  Ethan in Gold
AuthorAmy Lane
My Rating:
 B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Johnnies #3
Main Characters: Ethan and Jonah
Release Date: October 2013
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:

Evan Costa learned from a very early age that there was no such thing as unconditional love and that it was better to settle for what you could get instead of expecting the world to give you what you need. As Ethan, porn model for Johnnies, he gets exactly what he wants—comradeship and physical contact on trade—and he is perfectly satisfied with that. He’s sure of it.

Jonah Stevens has spent most of his adult life helping to care for his sister and trying to keep his beleaguered family from fraying at the edges. He’s had very little time to work on his confidence or his body for that matter. When Jonah meets Ethan, he doesn’t see the hurt child or the shamelessly slutty porn star. He sees a funny, sexy, confident man who—against the odds—seems to like Jonah in spite of his very ordinary, but difficult, life.

Sensing a kindred spirit and a common interest, Ethan thinks a platonic friendship with Jonah won’t violate his fair trade rules of sex and touch, but Jonah has different ideas. Ethan’s pretty sure his choice of jobs has stripped away all hope of a real relationship, but Jonah wants the whole package—the sexy man, the vulnerable boy, the charming companion who works so hard to make other people happy. Jonah wants to prove that underneath the damage Ethan has lived with all his life, he’s still gold with promise and the ability to love.


My Review:
I've absolutely loved and devoured the three books in this series in the last 48 hours. While this book was my least favorite of the three, it was still really VERY good. 

Ethan is another of the emotionally wounded Johnnies boys. I think out of all the guys who work for the porn film company, he's the most vulnerable. He suffers from touch deprivation and as a result NEEDS touch to survive. He turned to Johnnies because there he could get that touch on a regular basis, it was a safe place for him, and these guys became his family. But he seems so lost and vulnerable and hurt, you just want to hold him. The beginning of the book is Ethan, who is actually Evan, during his childhood and how he turns out this way. At 5 he was sexually molested and from that moment on, his family was terrified to touch him. As the only boy, they didn't want to do anything that could be misconstrued. BUT that turned into more damage than the initial molestation could have ever had on him. It wrecked Ethan and his ability to function. 

Ethan has no illusions about what he's doing and how that's perceived by the world, but he's okay with that...until he meets Jonah. Jonah is part of an extremely loving family who have devoted their lives to helping his 17 yo sister survive her cerebral palsy. As a result of that devotion, Jonah is still a virgin at 22. For Ethan, this fact completely ruins him...suddenly he feels dirty and unworthy. There's something he does in the book that is full of such pain, I just wanted to cry for him. All of a sudden, this wonderful thing he's had with these guys that's saved him and kept him safe is wrong and dirty. Ethan feels awful about himself and won't let Jonah get near him...which hurts both of them. For Jonah, he sees how physical Ethan is with his friends and doesn't understand why he shies away from Jonah's touch. He doesn't understand that Ethan simply feels too dirty for that. Jonah is way too good for Ethan. It's painful and so emotional. 

Overall, this book was really good, but I did have a few problems with it. Like the first two books, it covered the same basic timeframe. The difference with this book is that it didn't progress any further in time... so it was all the same events in time, just from different viewpoints. While I don't mind that, in fact it's nice to see the different viewpoints, this particular book didn't tell us anything new about those events. There was only one tiny detail that we didn't know before....the sex of Chase and Tommy's new baby. I wanted more to feel a progression in the series. Also the book just seemed to kind of lose momentum at the end. There were things going on that we found out in book #2 that REALLY affect these characters, but there weren't any scenes about those changes coming to Johnnies. It's like the author just got tired of writing the book and finished before it was really done. 

I did like the book though, even with those niggling little things that bothered me. This series has been wonderful. If you like your books with angst, I highly recommend this series and I do recommend you read it in order. While they are supposed to stand alone, I think there are too many characters to just jump in. A new reader is going to get totally lost with who everyone is if they come in at book #3.

Dex in Blue by Amy Lane

Title:  Dex in Blue
AuthorAmy Lane
My Rating:
 A+

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Johnnies #2
Main Characters: Dex and Kane
Release Date: September 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Ten years ago David Worral had plans to go to college and the potential for a beautiful future in front of him. One tragic accident later, he fled to California and reinvented himself as Dex, top porn model of Johnnies.

Dex’s life is a tangled mess now, but the guys he works with only see the man who makes them believe even porn stars can lead normal lives. When Kane, one of Dex’s coworkers, gets kicked out of his house, the least Dex can do is give him a place to stay. Kane may be a hyperactive muscle-bound psycho, but he’s also a really nice guy. What could be the harm?

Except nothing is simple—not sex, not love, and not the goofy kid with the big dick and bigger heart who moves his life into Dex’s guest room. When they start negotiating fractured pasts and broken friends, Dex wonders if Kane’s honest nature can untangle the sadness that stalled his once-promising future. With Kane by his side, Dex just might be able to reclaim the boy he once was—and if he can do that, he can give Kane the home and the family he deserves.


My Review:


Wow...just wow! The first book was emotional, but this book felt more raw. These two guys need each other….to heal, to be whole. They are so good together.

Kane and Dex never planned to fall into a relationship. In fact, they truly never even planned to fall in bed together, but in a moment of need, they found mutual comfort and just simply never let go again. Seriously, this story is so beautiful just because it feels so true. Amy Lane writes incredible emotion. 

Dex is the brains behind Johnnies. He's been involved with the company almost from the very beginning. He's smart, intuitive, and at his heart, a care-giver. He takes care of all the guys in the company, from breaking them in to their first shoots to giving them a sounding board when things go bad. He cares about every single person at Johnnies, but doesn't necessarily lavish that kind of attention on himself. When he and Kane hook up, he's having an unusual vulnerable moment and he needs comfort. 

Kane isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but he is so intuitive. He reads people incredibly well and like Dex, takes care of others. When he sees Dex hurting, he steps up to provide that comfort, no questions asked. I love Kane simply in that he isn't your expected hero, but he's such an amazing one. He's someone that cares beyond all else and it was gorgeous. I loved that Kane won't stand up for himself, although he's such a dominant guy, but that Dex does it for him. He doesn't let anyone walk over his man. But honestly Kane does that for Dex too. There's a lot going on for both these men in their families and I love how they provide a united front. They are a team, even before the two of them realize it.

Both these guys were INCREDIBLE characters and I loved their story SO MUCH!! This book overlaps the first book in the series, Chase In Shadows, and all the emotional stuff going on there and I loved that we got another vantage point of all that drama...I love the guys of Johnnies and the family they've created. 

I love this world of Johnnies that Amy Lane has created. Johnnies makes gay for pay porn videos. For some of these guys, the sex is just that...sex. That's the male psyche, but this book touched on the other side of that too...what happens in that world when a committed relationship is involved? It almost physically hurt to read some of those scenes in this book and how much these two guys are hurting. But there also tends to be a lot of wounded people who choose this lifestyle through various reasons, and Amy Lane has done a gorgeous job showing the humanity of that.

I enjoyed every moment of reading this book. This is one of those that as I watched the % move on my kindle, it made me sad because I didn't want the book to end. Thank goodness, I still have book #3 to read because I'm not ready to let go of this world yet. I've already ordered paperback copies of the whole series so I can revisit it in the future.

Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane

Title:  Chase in Shadow
AuthorAmy Lane
My Rating:
 A

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Johnnies #1
Main Characters: Chase and Tommy
Release Date: February 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Chase Summers: Golden boy. Beautiful girlfriend, good friends, and a promising future. 

Nobody knows the real Chase.

Chase Summers has a razor blade to his wrist and the smell of his lover’s goodbye clinging to his skin. He has a door in his heart so frightening he’d rather die than open it, and the lies he’s used to block it shut are thinning with every forbidden touch. Chase has spent his entire life unraveling, and his decision to set his sexuality free in secret has only torn his mind apart faster. 

Chase has one chance for true love and salvation. He may have met Tommy Halloran in the world of gay-for-pay—where the number of lovers doesn’t matter as long as the come-shot’s good—but if he wants the healing that Tommy’s love has to offer, he’ll need the courage to leave the shadows for the sunlight. That may be too much to ask from a man who’s spent his entire life hiding his true self. Chase knows all too well that the only things thriving in a heart’s darkness are the bitter personal demons that love to watch us bleed.


My Review:


This was a tough book. It starts with Chase putting a razor blade to his wrist and then you move back in time from there to see how he got to that point. I'll admit, it took me a bit to get into this book because of the way that it's written. It jumps around with lots of little snapshots...into the Johnnies videos, Chase's childhood, and the things leading up to Chase's suicide attempt. For a while at the beginning, it's a bit difficult to follow it all until you settle into the style of writing on the book. 

At it's heart, this book is about Chase...a soul so tormented that you just want to hold and heal him. He had a horrific childhood and it's colored every single part of his life, but he keeps it all inside. Most of those around him have no idea what has happened to him or the turmoil going on inside him. The only person he's EVER let is is Tommy, one of the guys he's met through Johnnies. Chase is hiding EVERY single little thing about himself. He's living and engaged to a great girl who he loves, has great friends who he grew up with, and a secret gay-for-pay life on the side. It's while making those videos that he feels free for the first time in his life.


Chase is messed up and as a reader, you slowly begin to unravel how he got to this place as you watch him slowly unravel. It's painful and riveting and so freaking heart-breaking to read. Knowing that there are people out there hurting like this breaks my heart. With his horrid childhood, it would be so easy for Chase to be a douchebag, but he's not. He is fully willing to sacrifice himself for Tommy...for Mercy. He is trying to make amends for something that he has no control over. 


This was an amazing book. It was incredibly emotional as you would expect just from the story description. As a reader, you see how Chase gets to this place, but you also see his recovery and how he gets to a much better place. The scenes in the hospital are amazing and I loved how Amy Lane kept his character true...even in the face of this awful devastation, there are moments of such fabulous humor. It kept it all from becoming too morbid. I love the guys attitudes about what they do and how the world views them vs. how they know it really is. 


Everything about this book was just good. Emotional. Funny. Simply GREAT reading. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Way Home by Cindy Gerard

Title: The Way Home
Author: Cindy Gerard
My Rating: A+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: One-Eyed Jacks #2
Main Characters: Jess and Ty and JR 
Release Date: October 2013
Publisher: Gallery
Purchase Links: 
Sexual Intensity: spicy


Story Overview:
A heartwarming Christmas story from the New York Timesbestselling “true master of romantic suspense” (Romantic Times). Four years ago Jess Albert got the news that her husband Jeff was killed in action in Afghanistan, and a painful void entered her life. The more time passed, the more acutely she felt that emptiness. But when Tyler Brown, former military hero and all-around alpha male, shows up a year after she’d last seen him, Jess gradually begins to realize there is one thing that can make her feel whole again—love.

As they’re planning their wedding and new life together, Jess receives shocking news: her husband is alive, under the care of a young Afghani woman hiding him from the Taliban. Even as he sees their happily-ever-after slip away, Ty arranges for the One Eyed Jacks and Black Ops, Inc. teams to make a daring and dangerous rescue mission to bring Jeff home. The hardest thing Ty or Jess has ever done is to let the other go.

When Jeff returns to Jess, broken physically and emotionally and with no memory of their history, they try to heal their marriage and each other. But as time brings them together more as friends than lovers, an unexpected development helps them see the true way home, to the people they love.

My Review:
This review has spoilers, but it's no more than is already told in the published story description.

What an amazing story! I loved every second reading this story. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking because you watch Jess and Ty falling in love and eventually planning their lives together. It takes a lot of convincing for Jess to put herself out there like that again. But then the impossible happens...JR isn't dead. How can they not be happy about that fact...even when it means the end to their happiness? At the same time, the reader sees what is happening to JR in Afghanistan when Rabia finds him. He's in a really bad way with NO memory. She takes care of him and he comes to rely on her...but he doesn't remember the wife he has at home. 

Seriously, you know this is going to be an emotional book and it didn't disappoint. It was never so far-gone that I was crying, but it was so good. Just the suspense of how was JR going to get out? How was this going to resolve for everyone? But Cindy Gerard pulled it off...and she did so with both the One-Eyed Jack crew and Black's crew. Gah, I'd forgotten how much I missed seeing all those familiar faces and their incredible smartass attitudes on a mission. That part of the book was suspenseful and COMPLETELY PACKED with action. OMG!

The book had everything....the idyllic setting of the MN lake region and resort area where Jess now lives, the high drama, high-action of Afghanistan, and everything in between which consisted of two gorgeous love stories. I loved it and am so glad I bought this book in hardback so I have it on my keeper shelf to revisit again and again. The perfect holiday read for this military, romantic suspense loving girl!

Take Me Home for Christmas by Brenda Novak



Title: Take Me Home for Christmas
Author: Brenda Novak
My Rating: B

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Whiskey Creek #
Main Characters: Sophia and Ted
Release Date: October 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Purchase Links: 
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Christmas is a time for remembering….

Too bad all memories aren't pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town's Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he'll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he's left her to face all the townspeople he cheated….

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can't bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?


My Review:
This book could be titled "Learning How to Survive the Mistakes I've Made." Wow...Sophia's life is a mess and it makes this book a bit difficult to read. Flat out....she made the wrong choice when she was a teenager and got involved with her husband, Skip, leaving Ted behind and heartbroken. It wasn't long before she realized that, but by that time she was stuck. This book is entirely about unraveling the mess that her life has become in the 14 years since....and it's painful as a reader to watch a character hurt this much. This is definitely NOT your typical romance book. In fact, there isn't much in the way of the romantic story line until the very end...and that makes it hard, too. 

Okay, so to the story. In Whiskey Creek, there is a group of friends who meet for Friday morning coffees. Through the books, we've seen Ted and his bitterness toward Sophia. We've also seen that Sophia is in a very bad place in her marriage to Skip...he's abusive, but has a lot of money so she can't leave him because he will get their daughter. Sophia is also an alcoholic....14 years of just trying to survive a physically and mentally abusive husband, she turned to alcohol to cope. 

When they were teenagers, Ted was at college and Sophia was his girlfriend at home. Somehow she hooked up with Skip and got pregnant....but there were reasons for that. You find that out as a reader, BUT....and this is my ONE HUGE COMPLAINT about this book....Ted never knows the real reasons behind that hook-up. *gah* He needed to know that....just so there is some closure for them and what went on with them then and the hurt it caused both of them. 

But first and foremost, Ted is flat-out a nice guy. He doesn't like Sophia much anymore, but no one is willing to help her and her teenager when their lives completely and totally fall apart. They are on the brink of living in an alley and he just can't stand by and let that happen, no matter how much she hurt him, so he takes them in and gives her a job as his housekeeper. Most of the book is about Sophia trying to take control of her life again. Ted's there too and provides the strength and support she needs, but this book is really about her struggle and transformation. 

Ted is making his own bad choices, trying to stay away from Sophia and the feelings he still has for her. I had a hard time with the choices he made in this book. I understood why, but it was a mistake on so many levels and I like my heroes to be a little less human/real. So yeah, not your normal romance novel.

But with all that being said, this book was completely and totally riveting. I didn't want to put it down. Like watching a train wreck, I couldn't look away. I liked getting to read Ted & Sophia's story, but it wasn't an easy one to read. It definitely affected me emotionally, so huge Bravo to Brenda Novak...once again....amazing story telling here!

Wild Child by Molly O'Keefe

Title: Wild Child
Author: Molly O'Keefe
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series
Main Characters: Monica and Jackson
Release Date: October 2013
Publisher: Bantam
Purchase Links: 
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Perfect for readers of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson, this sizzling romance tells the story of a sexy small-town mayor and a notorious “bad girl,” who discover that home really is where the heart is.

Monica Appleby is a woman with a reputation. Once she was America’s teenage “Wild Child,” with her own reality TV show. Now she’s a successful author coming home to Bishop, Arkansas, to pen the juicy follow-up to her tell-all autobiography. Problem is, the hottest man in town wants her gone. Mayor Jackson Davies is trying to convince a cookie giant to move its headquarters to his crumbling community, and Monica’s presence is just too . . . unwholesome for business. But the desire in his eyes sends a very different message: Stay, at least for a while.

Jackson needs this cookie deal to go through. His town is dying and this may be its last shot. Monica is a distraction proving too sweet, too inviting—and completely beyond his control. With every kiss he can taste her loneliness, her regrets, and her longing. Soon their uncontrollable attraction is causing all kinds of drama. But when two lost hearts take a surprise detour onto the bumpy road of unexpected love, it can only lead someplace wonderful.



My Review:
I really enjoy Molly O'Keefe's writing voice and this book was no exception to that. On the one hand, this book is a pretty tried and true story trope with the "Wild Child" coming back home to silence some of her inner demons. Where this book got creative was with Jackson's character. Jackson is a character who needs everything about his world in this small town to work out so that he can get wild. Monica showing up in town threatens that.

Jackson is the mayor of a dying town. At the age of 29, he has spent the last decade doing the right thing, the responsible thing so that he can take care of his younger sister...and in the end, this town. Jackson is a caregiver and he doesn't want that responsibility anymore. He's ready and needs a break to do what he wants to do...to go a bit wild. Something that he hasn't been able to do in a very long time as he always puts others first...ALWAYS. The way for him to accomplish all that is to win a TV contest that will bring new industry to his town. He's positive that the notoriety of Monica threatens that.

Monica is trying to put the demons of her past to rest. She also is in desperate need of money so she decides to come home to write the book about the night her mother murdered her father. It's a night no one that lives in this town will ever forget, but they also really don't want to remember it. 

This book is about two people who have spent their lives surrounded by others, but are totally alone anyway. They each are guilty of keeping others away. I liked how that knowledge worked for them though....especially Monica when she's observing Jackson. She sees and recognizes how he pushes others away and makes a conscious effort to push past that. It gave them a connection which worked so well for them, their friendship, and ultimately their romance. They understand each other so when walls are thrown up, they know how to break them down. They have to make a concerted effort to break them down. 

The story line was interesting just because of the totally public contest that the town is participating in. And I really enjoyed that both Jackson and Monica are totally public figures who don't feel at ease in their world as it stands...there was an interesting dichotomy to that. It worked for me and I enjoyed the book a great deal. Another win for Molly O'Keefe to go onto my keeper shelf.

Top Off Tuesday: Born in Chains by Caris Roane

I bought this book spur of the moment last week in the bookstore.
I can admit, it was an impulse buy.
Purely because of this gorgeous cover.
The story sounds good, too.
But I think I'll give it a few more weeks before I read it.
It looks too pretty sitting at the top of my TBR pile.
Right beside where I work all day.
Inspiration...
Born in Chains by Caris Roane

Story Overview:
In the epic battle of vampire against vampire, one warrior's fate is bound to a mortal woman who controls him, commands him, and craves him like no other…

Chained For Life

Two years ago, the rogue vampires invaded Lily Haven's home and kidnapped her son. Now, if she hopes to see her child again, she must do the unthinkable—bind herself, body and soul, to a vampire warrior. She must choose one of the rogue army's prisoners of war and force him to do her bidding. But when she sees the warrior, Adrien, naked, beaten, and straining against his chains, it is she who is held captive…

Hungry For More

Adrien has been waiting for her. A beautiful woman who appears to him in visions. Who soothes his tortured body, feeds his erotic cravings—and quenches his thirst for blood. But Lily is more than he ever hoped for. She is the master of his destiny, and he is her willing slave. Even when she asks him to find the ultimate weapon for his enemies, he must obey her. Even if the task destroys them both, he will fight for her love, forever…

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It's so fun to see so many people get excited about this meme.
(But honestly, we're looking at gorgeous men and talking about books...how can that be a bad thing?)
If you want to play along, we have a plethora of Top Off Tuesday buttons for you to choose from:
created by Deb at HEA Romances with Kick
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created by Missie at The Unread Reader
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created by Diana at Book of Secrets

Pick one...or all and post it to your blog post.
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