Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top Ten of 2014

In 2014, I read 418 books. 
Of those, 43 were in the running for my TOP TEN.

I have definite trends in my reading likes...
25 were contemporary romance.
8 were romantic suspense.
5 were paranormal romance.
16 were m/m stories.

And several authors had TWO books on my original list:
Jaycee Clark
River Jaymes
Lauren Layne

I love doing this post, but at the same time, it's so freaking hard to narrow down.

But I did it. 
Here is the list of my 
(listed in the order I read them...links take you to my review which has purchase links)

Before & Ever Since by Sharla Lovelace

Story Overview:

Emily Lockwood has been sitting on a secret for so long, and buried so deep that she really doesn’t even think of it anymore. Why should she? She has a successful career, an ex-husband who rarely tests her patience, a mother who usually does, and a stubbornly independent grown daughter. Everything is fine, just another crazy kind of normal.

Until Ben Landry comes back to town. From childhood friends to young lovers, Ben and Emily had an unbreakable bond. Or so she thought—until he disappeared for over twenty years without explanation. Seeing Ben again triggers more than mere memories and a tug at her heart. It rips the cover off an old secret that could hurt the people she loves most.

While Emily works to keep her secret safe and her heart safer, her sanity gets a reality check. She’s been seeing things—her past played out like home movies unreeling before her eyes, visions that are making Emily see herself, her family, everyone she knew, and every choice she made, in a revealing new light and a startling new angle. For Emily, seeing her life in rewind makes her realize she has hard choices to make for her future. Choices that may redefine everyone else’s future as well.

Bonds Of Denial by Lynda Aicher

Story Overview:

Book five of Wicked Play

It's been twenty years since Rockford Fielding's father punished him for kissing another boy. Now a grown man with a military career behind him, Rock continues to deny his true desires, even while working security at The Den, the most decadent sex club in town. But after a year of watching gorgeous Carter Montgomery come and go on the arms of other men, Rock can no longer resist the cravings he's denied for so long.

Carter has just four months left on his contract with an escort agency, and he doesn't know whether to feel relieved or afraid. Being an escort is all he knows. Adding to his confusion is the way his latest client, the sexy but stoic Rock, makes him feel things he hasn't wanted in years.

One charmingly awkward date turns into two and soon the men are meeting off the clock. But with Rock in the closet and Carter unsure how to pursue a real relationship, how can they build a future both in and out of the bedroom?

Fade In by M. Mabie

Story Overview:
Tatum Elliot is a successful writer on a hit television show, lives in an Upper East Side apartment and loves her life. She wouldn’t change a thing. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a choice. She's losing her sight.

Tripping over her tongue and her heels, Tatum all too quickly realizes that the things which appeared so important before are slowly slipping away leaving room for what really matters. With the support of her best friends, family and colleagues, she begins to see that there’s much more to life… and herself.

When Ben Harris enters her life as her new personal assistant, she can’t tell if it’s his good looks and charm that are working on her libido, or his kind and helpful nature working on her heart? Whatever it is, neither one of them can resist it.

As her vision fades out, a world of love and happiness just might…Fade In.

Fade In is a contemporary-romance novel about laughing through your tears and telling life to, quite frankly, “Suck it.” This novel contains sexual situations that the author may or may not have tried at home… for your safety, of course. Research is research.

Talk Dirty To Me by Dakota Cassidy

Story Overview:

Notorious mean girl Dixie Davis is back in town and it's payback time. Literally. Dixie is flat broke and her best�make that only�friend, Landon, is throwing her a lifeline from the Great Beyond. Dixie stands to inherit his business…if she meets a few conditions: 
She's got to live in Landon's mansion. 
With her gorgeous ex-fiancĂ©, Caine Donovan. 
Who could also inherit the business. 
Which is a phone sex empire. 
Wait, what? 
Landon's will lays it out: whoever gets the most new clients becomes the owner of Call Girls. Dixie has always been in it to win it, especially when it comes to Caine, who's made it clear he's not going down easy. (Oh, mercy.) Can Dixie really talk dirty and prove that she's cleaned up her act? Game on!
Plum Orchard, Georgia, is about to get even juicier…

Exchange of Fire by P.A. DePaul

Story Overview:

Faking her death was easy, living with her past is harder, but nothing is more dangerous than falling in love… 

Sandra Walsh was a deadly sniper for the Sweet Briar Group, a covert agency with assassins for hire, until her last mission went horribly wrong, accidentally killing an innocent girl. Knowing she’s a danger to her team, Sandra goes off the grid, becoming a Shade—an agent declared dead but secretly hiding among the living. She intends to honor her vow never to pull another trigger or have contact with the spy world again. Until she meets Casper Grady…

Grady is a former Marine with a troubled past and a debt to pay. His life mission has gone from protecting the nation to helping local children and their families. The moment he meets Sandra, he knows there’s more to her than meets the eye, but he can’t help but be drawn to the mysterious femme fatale. And when Sandra’s past suddenly catches up to her, Grady is determined to protect her at all costs, no matter how dark and dangerous her secrets are.

As the danger increases, so does their intense attraction. But when they’re forced to choose between each other and the people they’ve sworn to protect, their growing love might not be enough to keep them together—or alive…

Broken by Lauren Layne

Story Overview:

Lauren Layne’s New Adult novel tells the story of a girl with secrets, a guy with scars, and a love that could save them both... or destroy them.

When Olivia Middleton abandons the glamour of Park Avenue for a remote, coastal town in Maine, everyone assumes she’s being the kind do-gooder she’s always been. But Olivia has a secret: helping an injured war veteran reenter society isn’t about charity—it’s about penance. Only, Olivia’s client isn’t the grateful elderly man she’s expecting. Instead, he’s a brooding twenty-four-year-old who has no intention of being Olivia’s path to redemption . . . and whose smoldering gaze and forbidden touch might be her undoing.

Paul Langdon doesn’t need a mirror to show him he’s no longer the hotshot quarterback he was before the war. He knows he’s ugly—inside and out. He’ll do anything to stay in self-imposed exile, even accept his father’s ultimatum that Paul tolerate the newest caretaker for three months or lose his inheritance. But Paul doesn’t count on the beautiful twenty-two-year-old who makes him long for things that he can never have. And the more she slips past his defenses, the more keeping his distance is impossible.

Now Paul and Olivia have to decide: Will they help each other heal? Or are they forever broken?

The Truth About Riley by Henrietta Clarke

Story Overview:

Riley Aylworth’s life has been completely devoid of intimate contact since a fire three years ago left him with horrific facial scarring, so when he finds an ad for a phone sex service, he decides to give it a call. Except that the number is not a phone sex service—it’s the revenge Cameron Kirkwood’s ex-boyfriend took on the uptight advertising executive after Cam forgot their anniversary and accidentally put him in the hospital. Needless to say, after thirty-nine disturbing calls seeking phone sex, Cameron is at the end of his tether and yells at his fortieth caller. What he doesn’t expect is for Riley to hit redial and yell right back.

The argument helps both Cameron and Riley vent about their issues, and when they’ve calmed down, they decide to exchange numbers and talk again. From this decision springs a friendship that, over time, grows into a gentle romance—all over the phone, because Riley is too scared to meet Cam in person. Showing a potential boyfriend his disfigured face is the fastest way to get rejected, right? Even a month of scorching hot phone sex can’t change his mind, no matter how hard Cam tries to persuade him that with their phone chemistry, the sex would be so much better in person.

Meanwhile, Cam is haunted by the scarred blond he seems to be seeing everywhere, and Riley can’t get the handsome brunet who always seems happy to see him out of his mind. It’s a shock to both men to realise that the guy they’re falling for over the phone is also the man who brightens their day with just a smile; but it’s one thing to let a stranger smile at you and quite another to let him close enough to see into your soul. If Riley can’t break down the walls in his mind and believe that Cameron loves him in spite of his scars, their relationship may be doomed before they’ve even had a chance to kiss.

Darker Water by Lauren Stewart

Story Overview:
After another painful breakup, Laney Temple finally understands that love is a fairytale and sex rarely comes with a happy ending. She's too busy for it right now anyway--she has a business to run, art to create, and candy to crush. Eventually she'll be ready to switch from her plastic-or-silicon lover to a flesh-and-blood one. But before that happens, she needs to be sure she won't feel any of those annoying emotions that make her heart do things it wasn't meant to do...

Like break

Carson Bennett is completely upfront about what he wants, and it has nothing to do with Laney's heart. Her lips? Hell yeah. Other parts of her body? You better f*cking believe it. But her heart? Nope, not even a little. Until it does...a lot. But having feelings for someone isn't allowed. It's the kind of thing you're supposed to push down deep and cover up with one-night stands, sarcasm, and booze...

Like secrets

Two people want the same thing--a commitment to nothing more than great sex in a bunch of different positions. Simple. Enjoyable. A win-win. Problem is, those two people have families and fears and pain that spill into every moment of their lives, control what they do and who they are. And if either Carson or Laney can't free themselves from the past, they'll both be pulled under by it.

*** Darker Water is a stand-alone contemporary romance that does not end in a cliffhanger.

The Boyfriend Mandate by River Jaymes

Story Overview:
Stuntman and two-time cancer survivor Memphis Haines excels at beating the odds. When he’s presented with the opportunity to help his ex-boyfriend with a charity event, he jumps at the chance to make up for the devastating way he left Tyler ten years ago. Memphis might have taken the college geek’s virginity, but the former mathelete is now a hell of a head turner. And Dr. Tyler Hall’s cool reserve is a challenge Memphis can’t resist. A self-confessed rule breaker and line crosser, he keeps turning up the heat with one goal in mind: to melt the man’s composure.

Tyler Hall sticks to one simple mandate: no more dating ex-boyfriends. Ever. He certainly isn't interested in hooking up with Memphis Haines, the ex who jumps off buildings, dodges explosions, and poses for designer underwear ads. Ten years ago, falling for Memphis changed Tyler’s life. The man’s abrupt departure turned his world inside out. But he moved on long ago. Besides, he has a clinic for the homeless to run, patients to take care of, and no time to deal with the trouble his ex brings. Memphis, however, seems determined to rehash the past. And his boxer-dropping grin, hard body, and confident charm are resurrecting ultra-hot memories best not remembered, making Tyler’s rule harder and harder to keep...

Mai Tai'd Up by Alice Clayton

Story Overview:
Looking for the perfect mix of smart, sexy, and sassy? Mai Tai’d Up continues New York Times bestselling author Alice Clayton’s Cocktail series, which began with Wallbanger and continued with Rusty Nailed and Screwdrivered.

The gossip mill in the seaside community of Monterey is churning about Chloe Patterson, the newcomer who is starting a sanctuary for rescued pit bulls. It’s rumored that she’s a former beauty queen (true) who ditched her fiancĂ© the morning of their wedding (also true). And that while she’s not looking for a new man, the good-looking local veterinarian has his eye on her. Absolutely, positively true.

When Lucas Campbell isn’t at the family veterinary clinic, he’s paddle boarding in Monterey Bay. Recently single, he’s definitely not in the market for a new relationship, but he still can’t resist taking a second, third, and fourth look at the recent arrival of Miss Golden State.

Neither Lucas nor Chloe has any interest in being tied down. Being tied up, however—now there’s a thought. But are a few Mai Tais, a moonlit night, and the music of Frank Sinatra enough to allow them both to forget their past? Let’s hope Ol’ Blue Eyes knows what he’s doing.
Mix one part tiki, one part kinky, and a splash of old black magic matchmaking, and it’s time to be . . . Mai Tai’d Up.

The Whole List of Finalists (in the order I read them with review links):
  1. Corruption by Eden Winters (rom susp- m/m)
  2. Reaver by Larissa Ione (para rom)
  3. Dirty Deeds by SE Jakes (rom susp- m/m)
  4. Tangled by Emma Chase (cont rom)
  5. Backup Boyfriend by River Jaymes (cont rom- m/m)
  6. Before & Ever Since by Sharla Lovelace (cont rom)
  7. EndGame by Samantha Wayland (erot rom- f/m/m)
  8. Bonds of Denial by Lynda Aicher (cont rom- m/m)
  9. Do or Die by Suzanne Brockmann (rom susp)
  10. Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis (cont rom)
  11. Love Like the Movies by Victoria Van Tiem (cont rom)
  12. Bittersweet Darkness by Nina Croft (para rom)
  13. Let It Go by Mercy Celeste (cont rom- m/m)
  14. Training Season by Leta Blake (erot rom- m/m)
  15. Deadly Games by Jaycee Clark (rom susp)
  16. Deadly Secrets by Jaycee Clark (rom susp)
  17. That Touch of Magic by Lucy March (para rom)
  18. Fade In by M. Mabie (cont rom)
  19. East of Ecstasy by Laura Kaye (para rom)
  20. Talk Dirty to Me by Dakota Cassidy (cont rom)
  21. Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren (cont rom)
  22. Stay With Me by S.E. Harmon (cont rom- m/m)
  23. Fanning the Flames by Victoria Dahl (cont rom)
  24. Should've Been Home Yesterday by Inez Kelley (cont rom)
  25. Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield (rom susp-m/m)
  26. Only with You by Lauren Layne (cont rom)
  27. Across the Line by Kate Willoughby (cont rom)
  28. Exchange of Fire by P.A. DePaul (rom susp)
  29. Broken by Lauren Layne (cont rom)
  30. The Truth About Riley by Henrietta Clark (cont rom- m/m)
  31. Anchored by Rachel Haimowitz (alt world- m/m)
  32. Stone: At Your Service by Rie Warren (cont rom)
  33. Dark Space by Lisa Henry (sci fi rom- m/m)
  34. His Road Home by Anna Richland (cont rom)
  35. Alex by Sawyer Bennett (cont rom)
  36. Sleigh Ride by Heidi Cullinan (cont rom- m/m)
  37. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs (para rom)
  38. Darker Water by Lauren Stewart (cont rom)
  39. Grif's Toy by Joseph Lance Tonlet (erot rom- m/m)
  40. The Boyfriend Mandate by River Jaymes (cont rom- m/m)
  41. Mai Tai'd Up by Alice Clayton (cont rom)
  42. Let Love Live by Melissa Collins (cont rom- m/m)
  43. Hour of Need by Melinda Leigh (rom susp)
2014 was definitely a GREAT READING YEAR!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Angel in Armani by Melanie Scott

Title: Angel in Armani
Author: Melanie Scott
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance 
Series: New York Saints #2
Main Characters: Sara and Lucas
Release Date: December 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:

Sara Charles is striking out on her own. With her dad out of commission, Charles Air has only one helicopter left—and only Sara to fly charters. With the family business in jeopardy, Sara needs all the clients she can get and the newest one is New York Saints team surgeon, Lucas Angelo. When an unexpected flirtation escalates into a night of pure blind passion, Sara is in agony over what she believes was extremely poor judgment on her part. She wants nothing more than to avoid Lucas. And keep her business her business. But she needs him—in more ways than one.


But there is a catch: Lucas also needs Sara. Spring training is upon him, and his schedule is madness. So he asks Sara to be his personal pilot. It’s an offer she can’t refuse. She intends to keep him at arm’s length—especially when she discovers just what different lives they have. Little does Sara know that, for Lucas, the only thing more important than business is pleasure. He only plays to win. And he intends to hit it out of the park…

My Review:

The New York Saints series...yes, I am a fan. I spotted this series over the summer just because of the gorgeous covers...and I was intrigued. I'm easy that way, but then I read the blurbs. These books are about a down-and-almost-out professional baseball team from Staten Island that has been bought by three friends. These three rich, successful guys are tied together by their love of baseball and the fact that they are really amazing guys. So amazing that they were together during a heroic incident in college that ruined all of their baseball careers. (You need to read the books to find out the details about that.)

This particular book is about Lucas, a very successful orthopedic surgeon who's juggling his surgery schedule alongside spring training. The surgeries are in NYC; Spring Training is in Florida so he's back and forth constantly. Not a great thing for a guy with a flying phobia. That's where Sara comes in. She's piloted a helicopter for him a few times. He likes her calm competency and is attracted to her so he stays somewhat distracted by her presence while they fly. He wants her to come work as a pilot for the team. 

Sara has had one awful year. Her father crashed his helicopter during a freak lightning storm and is still dealing with his injuries so she got out of the Army to come home and help with the family helicopter charter company...something that's not going so great. Luck is definitely not on her side. But Lucas is and if she will just trust him enough, she could have a really great thing here. See, Lucas is really, super rich and Sara is not. He doesn't have an issue with that, but she really does. It's a big hang-up for her dating back to her brother's untimely death.

This book sizzles. That initial scene between Lucas and Sara with the power out was scorching hot. I loved how Melanie Scott wrote that scene and explored Lucas's body with all the other senses...yes, it was absolutely just as hot as that sounds. I love stories that fall within the sports trope. This one bounces between the glitz and glamour of NYC and the summer-like atmosphere of the ball fields in spring in Florida. That kind of ambience just nailed this one for me. I loved both extremes and just thoroughly enjoyed the entire book. 

And now I'm ready for Mal's book...and I just spotted his cover for the first time today. I think it's even hotter than these first two. This is definitely a series I've bought in print so it can grace the shelves of my keeper bookcase. I love the New York Saints series and highly recommend it if you like books that fall within the sports trope like me. 

Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins

Title: Off Campus
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Bend or Break #1
Main Characters: Tom and Reese
Release Date: December 2014
Publisher: Samhain
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:

Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.

With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and gypsy-cabbing for cash, he’s ready to do just that.

But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed.

Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging.

Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself. Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.

Warning: This book contains cranky roommates who vacillate between lashing out and licking, some male/male voyeurism, emotional baggage that neither guy wants to unpack, and the definitive proof that sound carries in college housing.

My Review:
So much about this book was good. Gah, my heart hurt for both these guys who have had life kick them in the guts one too many times for how young they were. 

The story begins with Tom, who's been away from college for a year after his father was convicted of a ponzi scheme which cost the family everything. The only thing Tom still has is his car, which he uses to make money taxi'ing. Oh, and yeah it's his home too because he's been homeless for the last year. When he works, he doesn't sleep, needing to make as much money as possible. So when he arrives at college, finally making enough to re-enroll, he hasn't been asleep for 3 days and hasn't seen a real mattress in months. He just wants he really doesn't care that his roommate is completely appalled to find he has a roommate. 

Reese was told he'd have a room to himself. An attack the year before by a group of jocks has left him with PTSD and the need to nest in a safe-place. Tom's arrival screws that all to hell. But Tom isn't budging. He doesn't care as long as he has a place to sleep. So Reese comes up with a plan to drive his roommate away with a parade of blow-job partners. But Tom isn't quite straight and instead of it driving him away, it actually turns him on. 

I could feel for both these guys. They've both had a hell of a time and are definitely suffering the after-effects from that. So as they delve into a relationship...very slowly...they create an island unto themselves. I have to admit though that I loved it when Steph (Reese's friend) and Cash (Tom's friend) crash through their self-imposed walls of solitude. 

Although both these guys are angsty and made me want to hug them, they are not without flaws. Major flaws in the MC's are sometimes hard to accept as a reader. We want our heroes to be perfect and these guys just aren't. Reese isn't as understanding or accepting of Tom's issues and paranoia. He just doesn't seem to get how bad it got for Tom in the height of his father's trial. But Tom for his part, got buried way too deep in his paranoia. They both need to face their issues and neither one wants to. They want to stay in their safe little cocoon and while that works for a bit, it's not a realistic plan long-term. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I thought it was very realistic and I cheered and ached for the characters as they progressed through the highs and lows of their relationship. The supporting characters were done extremely well and just enhanced the story. I can't wait to see who else gets books in this series because there were some great characters introduced in this book. 

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