Review: Reasons of the Heart by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Ross Tarrant
Heroine: Francesca Lewis
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 1988
Started On: May 16, 2020
Finished On: May 21, 2020

Published in 1988, Reasons of the Heart is one of the earlier works of Susan Napier. The story begins with Francesca Lewis turning up at a cabin that was owned by her recently deceased grandfather, the cabin supposed to be a sanctuary of sorts for her to recuperate and get back on her feet. Determined to change the direction and focus of her life afterwards, Francesca however is not at all ready to run into 30 year old Ross Tarrant, her nemesis from the past.

Francesca’s painful memories come tumbling forth when she finds that she has to share the cabin with none other than Ross. Right from the start, these two rub each other the wrong way, the sparks fly, and Francesca in her bid to keep Ross at a distance, judges him by what she knew of him in the past. There is a delicious sizzle in the air whenever these two are in the same room, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single second of it.

Even though Francesca is determined to keep Ross at arm’s length, with every turn, Ross continues to surprise her, and the insults they exchange on a daily basis quickly become the highlight of her day, exasperating and arousing her in equal doses up till the point where Ross makes her see just how right they are for each other. However, for someone like Francesca who has never known what love is like, what being fully loved and accepted for herself is like, there is much growing up for her to do before she can come to terms with her love for the man who has never stopped making her feel all too much.

I loved Reasons of the Heart. There were so many intriguing aspects to the novel that I felt mesmerized and at times gleeful about the direction in which the story was headed. I do enjoy witty banter between the two main protagonists and Ms. Napier certainly delivers on that front, and is not shy on following up on the heated chemistry that is between the two.

Francesca was a complex female lead and she could be termed as a difficult character at first. Francesca running scared every single time that she felt vulnerable and/or found herself to be lacking should have gotten old real quick. But the way Ms. Napier peeled back the layers of her character, exposed her childhood and what it had meant to grow up with two grandparents who had perhaps never wanted her makes for interesting reading. Where she had paid for her mother’s choices all through her life and never really gotten to understand who she is deep inside; all of that and more made her a riveting character.

I also loved Ross to bits! He is that perfect mix of cocky, sinfully sexy, handsome, and endearing. Ross was also endlessly patient when it came to Francesca and her hangups about love and life in general. At the same time, Francesca does teach Ross a few things while she is at it, and I loved Francesca for being brave enough to face her fears while at the same time bringing Ross to his knees in the very best possible way.

I wished for an epilogue so very much when I finished this story. There was much angst in the story that I reveled in, which should have been followed through by an epilogue that would have given readers a sense of “closure” when all was said and done.

Recommended for fans of complex character driven category romances.

Final Verdict: Complex characterization, the right touch of angst, and sensuality of the kind that drives one to distraction is what Ms. Napier delivers to readers with Reasons of the Heart.

Favorite Quotes

‘I can see, Princess, that you’re not going to rest until I’ve made the obligatory attack on your virtue, so…’ He reached over and swept her across the jumbled pile and into his arms.
His mouth was a shock of warmth against hers, his large hands spreading across her shoulder blades to ensure that any resistance on her part merely rubbed their bodies suggestively together.

‘You’re flushed…’ His finger ran down to the pulse in the soft hollow of her throat. ‘…Your skin is damp, your temperature and pulse rate have increased… An invitation doesn’t have to be verbal to be explicit.’ His lids drooped, masking the intention in his eyes. ‘And if you’re so hot…’ he pulled the front of her robe apart with a single, swift movement, his hands crowding in to capture her breasts, encircling the little, stiff peaks that thrust against the soft bodice of her modest nightdress ‘.. .why aren’t these still sweetly soft?’
He bent his head and kissed the objects of his taunt with maddening precision before scooping up his blankets and backing out the door with a final salute of laughter at her furious confusion.
‘Night-night, Princess. Safe dreams…’

He broke the kiss and they stared into each other’s eyes. There was a gleam of male recognition in his that stopped her breath. Then his hands were cupping her face and his mouth fastened over hers again, gentle, teasing, yet deep and satisfying too. When she trembled, his mouth tensed and hardened, gathering her in even further, stunning her with the tremors she felt in his own body, as if it was part of hers.
‘You taste good, Frankie,’ he murmured in thick amazement, his trembling fingers finding and stroking her breasts in a way that made her kiss him back with untutored enthusiasm. He groaned.
‘Touch me, Frankie, the way I’m touching you.’

At what point had the snide insult become an endearment? Fran wondered as she put a hand flat on his chest to stop herself falling forward into the blue void of his eyes. His chest rose quick and hard against her hand, her fingers sliding through the patch of hair revealed by the opened neck of his shirt.
‘I… I can’t…’ absently, concentrating on the vibrations under her fingertips.
‘You can…’ The words formed against her lips, his tongue stroking its velvety roughness against their parted warmth, then plunging inside with a suddenness that made her head reel. The muscles of his arms bulged as his hands clenched convulsively against the wire at the inward sway of her body against the open trap of his.

She pushed a thigh between his, and he caught and held it against the centre of his body, letting her feel the rigid proof of his arousal. Yet still he didn’t put his arms around her. With a hot surge of mingled power and frustration Fran pushed her rounded breasts against his chest, crushing the taut peaks with a shudder of masochistic pleasure, her mouth widening beneath the silken search of his tongue. Both hands were now clinging to his waist, sliding up under the sweatshirt to find the damp, ridging muscles of his back. Suddenly he tore his mouth away. ‘Stay.’

‘You know… what I do up there in the air,’ he murmured in a voice that had the texture of cut velvet, ‘the “high” it gives me, is the next best thing to sex. Perhaps this afternoon was a subconscious attempt to sublimate my real need… to do this…’ He slowly eased over until he was braced above Fran’s supine body, his hips lowering to grind softly against her thighs until they parted to allow him to lie between, the rough denim weave of his jeans catching against the soft wool-blend of her slacks.
‘…and I needed you up there, with me, to share the exhilaration, the agony and the ecstasy of subliminal sex. God, Frankie, how much longer are you going to make us wait? Tell me, tell me you want me to touch you, and taste you, and feed your appetite with mine…’
With a cry of need that echoed his own, Fran arched against him.

Her wide-eyed delight provoked her lover to even greater pleasures and, when at last his strong, gentle fingers lingered, breath-soft on the delicate flesh between her quivering thighs, Fran was stormed by a violent, racking shudder that almost spilled him from his position of dominance. His hand wrapped around her hips, holding her still.
‘No…wait, Francesca…’ He sucked in his breath. ‘…slow down…’
‘I…can’t…’ She twisted helplessly, unable to control her body’s demand as he groaned against her.
‘I don’t think I can either…’ He thrust her legs apart with a possessive strength that sent a stab of pain to the core of her pleasure.

Purchase Links: AbeBooks

Review: The Hawk and the Lamb by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Jack Hawkwood
Heroine: Elizabeth Lamb
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 01, 1993
Started On: May 12, 2020
Finished On: May 14, 2020

The Hawk and the Lamb by Susan Napier was first published in 1993 and proves to readers just how exemplary an author Ms. Napier was in the romance publishing industry. I wish with all my heart that she would write again, but alas, I do not think that particular dream of mine will ever come true. I hope Ms. Napier knows the sheer joy her books have brought me during a difficult year, for which I am forever grateful.

The story begins with 25 year old Elizabeth Lamb being “recruited” by her uncles on a mission to do some detective work. What Elizabeth was hoping would be her vacation turns into a bit of a fiasco when she has to travel alone and finds herself in the company of the very man she is supposed to be spying on for her uncles.

Carrying a valuable family heirloom that she is to “return” to the rightful owners, Elizabeth finds all her attempts thwarted by the delicious Jack Hawkwood, who makes her forget why she actually traveled to Nouméa—the Isle of Hawks. Jack is unlike any man that Elizabeth has ever associated with. Given her job as a researcher and assistant to a professor of literature at Auckland University, and her one love affair having ended in disaster had basically affirmed her belief that there was no “right man” out there for every woman.

With every turn, both Elizabeth and Jack finds themselves ensnared in a web of heady desire that brings both to the point of no return. However, the fact that Elizabeth’s secret could have devastating consequences for what is budding to life between them makes Elizabeth hesitant and rightfully so on an intrinsic level, which gave the story the edge it deserved.

The Hawk and the Lamb was such a great read in many ways. I loved Elizabeth and Jack, both together and individually, and they are two people who were just destined to be together from the start. There is no denying the sparks that fly, the interest that sizzles to life on both ends, and the reluctance on the part of Elizabeth that stems from a sense of self preservation.

Elizabeth who is bookish, voluptuous, shy, and a tad clumsy was a heroine I could root for. I loved her to bits and the fact that she is loyal to a fault and tries her best at something she is so obviously terrible at won her points from me. When she starts enjoying herself with the last man on Earth who she should be doing that with, that itself comes with the sort of inner dialogue that had me snorting.

The dialogue was witty, with the heroine being independent minded enough to give the hero a run for his money and upend everything that he thought to be true. The only thing that could have made this read perfect was an epilogue.

When an author can seamlessly bring together scenes of the laugh out loud variety with seductive eroticism that speaks to readers on a whole different level, that is an author you should never stop reading in my opinion. I will always be thankful for having stumbled across Ms. Napier’s books because they certainly have managed to color my life vividly. Absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Humor with right touch of sinful sensuality interwoven with two intriguing protagonists is a potent mix; stands testament to why Ms. Napier amazes me time & yet again!

Favorite Quotes

In a last-ditch effort to assert herself Elizabeth reached out and grabbed the neat pony-tail at the back of his head and pulled sharply. The jolt should have brought tears to his eyes but to her horror he didn’t even flinch, the corded muscles of his neck hardly registering the sudden extra tension. Instead he smiled faintly and as she jerked her hand away the thin black band that had held his hair in place came with it. His hair loosened across his braced shoulders, slipping caressingly through her retreating fingers like fine, dark silk. A strand fell forward, teasing her parted lips, the feathered tip adhering just inside the moist corner of her mouth.
Elizabeth froze, her eyes dilating with renewed shock as he delicately reached inside her mouth with his blunt fingers to extract the intimate intrusion, brushing the dampened strands tauntingly across her vividly flushed cheek before tucking them safely behind his ear.
‘Do you like the way I taste, Beth?’

She sank to a crouch, placing her hands lightly on either side of his thigh for balance as she bent forward and pressed her mouth gently against the site of his injury. Her hair, caught by the breeze, blew in a soft dark froth across his hard abdomen. His skin was hot and faintly salty and her lips parted in inadvertent curiosity over the jagged scar that bisected his outer thigh.
For a stunned second he didn’t react. Then, beneath her fingertips, the muscles in his thigh bunched violently and his hand fisted in her hair, wrenching her head back.
‘What in the hell do you think you’re doing?’ he demanded hoarsely, the shock flaring in his silver eyes as he looked down at her.

Her palm felt the scrape of a stiffened nipple surrounded by the luxurious softness of his body hair and lingered there, exploring the contrast in textures. She leaned further into his kiss, instinctively teasing the tips of her breasts against his silky-hot skin, the astonishing pleasure of it all going straight to her head and making her mouth as aggressive as his.
A deep groan vibrated in his chest, making her tingle all over. His teeth softly savaged her swollen lips. The hips that had been crowding lightly against the juncture of her thighs suddenly ground harder, deeper and Elizabeth became devastatingly aware of the extent of his arousal.

His eyes glowed with a strange yellow colour, like sun trying to break through summer storm clouds. ‘So I don’t scare you?’
If her chin tipped any higher she was going to fall over backwards, but she had to do something to counteract his overwhelming physical impact. ‘Not a bit!’ she defied him.
The sun broke through, but his smile was a twist of irony and his voice disturbingly quiet.
‘Then it’s purely one-sided. Because, ma chère, you scare the hell out of me.’

The voluptuous tingling spread from her scalp to the rest of her body, further weakening her feeble resistance. She was going to bite him if he dared kiss her mouth, Elizabeth told herself dizzily, but he didn’t give her the chance to satisfy her hunger. His mouth disappointingly bypassed hers, the hands in her hair tightening to pull her head back so that he could nuzzle at her throat, the warm, moist caress finally settling against the hot pulse just under her left jaw. His tongue was wet and rough as it sanded the betraying leap of blood in her veins. She gasped, clutching his waist as he sucked gently and then bent her head the other way so that he could pay equal homage to the opposite pulse.
Only then when he had tasted her thoroughly did he seek out her mouth, murmuring thickly with satisfaction as she carried out her mental threat and sank her white teeth sighingly into the satiny curve of his lower lip. The masculine flavour of him exploded through her senses and Elizabeth didn’t realise how rough and uncontrolled she had become until she tasted the salt in her mouth and realised what she had done.

She stilled, a wild warmth flushing her body as she registered the hardness nestling against her heels that was not his thigh. Her toes curled involuntarily, scrunching the dark fabric covering his inner thigh as she realised that he was not the cool, controlled tormentor of her frightened imagination, that he was as aroused by the game she had instigated as she had been…perhaps more so.
Suddenly her misplaced confidence came rushing back. If she was trapped then so was he—far more obviously so. Why, he was practically seducing himself. This was going to be like taking candy from a baby!

He didn’t taste any different, only better, the flavour of him melting over her tongue, the first sip only exacerbating the hunger that drove her to wind both arms around his neck and twist her mouth under his, needing the co-operation that was strangely lacking. Oh, God, was her desperate eagerness turning him off? She tensed as the old feeling of shame impinged on her consciousness.
As if her wavering doubt communicated itself to him Jack suddenly threw off his passiveness and took full command of the intimate embrace, his hand cupping her jaw as he plunged his tongue into her mouth, biting and sucking at the soft innermost recesses with a gentle savagery that utterly shattered her former notions of what a kiss could be.

‘Oh, don’t-‘ she begged, as his marvellous hands moved away again and hovered, as if he was wondering what part of her to torture with pleasure next. She put her hands on his shoulders, feeling them thicken and bunch as she unconsciously guided him.
‘Don’t what? Do this?’ This time his finger hooked into the indiscreet slit in the centre of her bodice and created a wicked tension as he pulled, lifting her towards him. He bent and inhaled the fragrant heat that rose from between her breasts. Her eyes closed, her head fell back and his murmur was like tearing silk in her ears. ‘Tell me… tell me everything you like, Eliza-Beth, every wish, every fantasy and I’ll give it to you… all of it… anything, everything you want…’

‘I don’t… I want—’ Her mind struggled to reassert its ascendancy over the tumultuous revolution of her body, capable only of dealing in the simplest of one-syllable concepts. ‘Time…’
His breath was exquisitely damp and hot on her swollen nipple.
‘Time?’
The temptation to deny her brief return to sanity was almost overwhelming. The need for that moist, intimate caress was excruciatingly intense. ‘I.. .yes.’
‘Time for what?’
‘I—I don’t remember…’ Opening her eyes had been a mistake. He filled her vision, rearing over her—big, powerful, starkly aroused, his face raw with disbelief and a smouldering sexual anger. He was wild for her, she realised achingly, tenderly, and in a way that Ryan had never been. She would never compare the two men again.

As his fingers wrenched at the concealed zip in the side of her dress, Jack forced her to meet his hotly arrogant gaze.
‘Yes?’
She blazed her answer at him. Even to ask was an unendurable delay. ‘Yes, oh, yes…’
She raged like a storm in his arms, one that he rode in a triumphant frenzy of desire, tearing off their clothes as his body melted into hers, his groans and wild, erotic urgings spurring her further, faster, deeper towards the heart of the whirlwind that had turbulently engulfed them both. The first convulsive paroxysm of pleasure barely checked his extravagant pace as he pursued her from peak to peak until she cried out in an ecstasy of exhaustion.

‘No one’s ever seen me wearing it,’ she said, instinctively defending herself against the threat of that silky murmur. ‘I always wear something high-necked if I put it on…’
‘But it’s still there around your neck. Still being worn.’ He lifted his head suddenly, his eyes catching the light, and she shivered at the predatory satisfaction that was starkly revealed there, as if he were a hawk brooding over a fresh kill.
‘I want to see it,’ he demanded.
Her fist clenched over her chest. ‘You can’t have it, not here. I’ll have to unzip my dress to get it off—’
‘I don’t want you to take it off. I want to see you wearing it.’

‘Show me,’ he commanded, and stood, legs planted astride, hands hanging loosely at his sides, the picture of a relaxed man prepared to explode into violent motion at a moment’s notice.
Automatically Elizabeth turned away from the powerful image of daunting male arrogance and her eyes took in what her mind had subconsciously registered even before the light had been switched on.
Not her bedroom. His. He had brought her to his room, his territory… his rules.

Elizabeth had naively thought she knew him as a lover. Now he showed her that she was wrong, that she didn’t know him at all. He curbed and channelled her eagerness with a ruthless strength and a single-minded purpose that heightened her arousal until just the touch of his mouth brushing across her skin was an unbelievable delight, moving languidly on her, over her, in her, until she couldn’t contain the building sensation any longer and exploded in an agony of pleasure, rising and falling feverishly beneath him until he grasped her by the hips and pinned her deep into the soft mattress in a powerful, bucking spasm that arched him like a bow and released him into soaring flight with a savage shout of victory.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: No Reprieve by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Jake Jackson
Heroine: Seven Selkirkik
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 24, 1991
Started On: May 11, 2020
Finished On: May 12, 2020

Published in 1991 from Harlequin, No Reprieve by Susan Napier is a delightful and quirky read for the most part. With a psychic heroine who is a librarian, and a cynic of a hero who is a journalist specializing in exposés, needless to say the fireworks are a given when these two clash.

26 year old Seven Selkirkik is confronted by the indomitable 36 year old Jake Jackson in her home, when he turns up to warn her off on pretending to be able to help grieving families and fleecing them for what they are worth, plying them with false hopes. In a case of mistaken identity which Seven takes advantage of, she lets Jake believe what he may, until she is drawn into finding Jake’s long lost daughter.

Jake does not know what to do with Seven and how she makes him feel. Its exasperation, desire, and a sense of discomposure that he feels, even when all the facets of her character continues to draw him to her. Jake is a skeptic through and through, wary of the charlatans and false messiahs of the world who take advantage of the emotionally vulnerable. The question remains then, how will these ever reconcile their differences long enough to understand what their love is worth?

I loved the two main protagonists and the secondary characters. Seven, who strives and craves for normalcy when she is far from being average and normal, having chosen the staid profession of being a librarian just so she could remain sequestered in her little corner of the world. She craves stability, never having had that in her childhood up to a point.

While Jake is driven and dynamic in a way that is the complete antithesis of Seven, the fire that is between them is too strong to deny. Jake who should rightfully be turning away from a woman like Seven finds himself inexorably drawn towards her until they reach a point of no return.

No Reprieve reminded me of one my favorite books from Linda Howard, Cry No More, a book that I re-read from time to time. No Reprieve presents the main events in a sort of reverse manner, where it is the hero this time around that loses a child and has to come to terms with what he should do when the time comes to take that painful decision.

I loved the ending and the fact that Jake went after Seven when all was said and done. I loved how the reluctant psychic manages to chip away at the brittle walls surrounding the heart of the cynical and jaded hero, who believes love and loving only makes one vulnerable to loss. I also loved the epilogue and I delighted in seeing the changes in both Seven and Jake, with the family getting along marvelously.

Recommended for those who love a good category romance you can sink your teeth into. Ms. Napier certain delivers!

Final Verdict: Combining emotionally gripping scenes with the sensually tender, No Reprieve is a story meant to draw the reader in for an unforgettable ride!

Favorite Quotes

His mouth shifted and clung, opening her more completely, his hand cupping her face as a flickering tongue of fire darted inside her, stroking her, consuming and feeding her response until it matched his own. The hand that held hers moved behind her, pinning her wrist to the small of her back, arching her against his aggressive heat. He was hard and full, unashamed of his arousal, moving his hips in slow, thrusting circles that lifted her on to her toes as she tried to ease the ache that the relentless, grinding rhythm created inside her. When he released her captured arm it curled naturally around his clenched shoulders, her fingers spreading out across the tensed muscles, unconsciously kneading his flesh. He made a dark, harsh sound of satisfaction as he felt the sweet sting of her short, curved nails, and tasted the searing pleasure of her surrender.

‘You are sensitive…’ he murmured with greedy satisfaction, his eyes on the quivering promise of her lower lip. ‘Exquisitely so… I’ll be more gentle, I promise…’
She shook her head again and his lids narrowed. ‘Too much…’ she gasped. ‘It’s too…like, like…falling…I felt… I felt…’
His slitted eyes were as black as sin as he guided her faltering courage back on to its predetermined path. ‘What you’re supposed to feel. I was falling too, mouse, only faster… When it gets too much you don’t pull back.. .you jump!’

He held back as long as was humanly possible, his body straining savagely against its self-imposed bonds, but he wasn’t proof against the blatant seduction of her innocence, against the shocked expression of wide-eyed wonder and gasps of bliss that greeted each bold new venture. And the moment his hardness slipped between her satiny thighs, teasing at the soft, feathery cradle that rocked the heart of her, was his last moment of even near-coherent thought. No longer gentle teacher and ardent pupil, no longer strong leading weak, masculine invading feminine, they merged as equals, not falling but rising, ever faster, higher, harder, until the primitive power that propelled them exploded in a final, violent burst of glory.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: Secret Seduction by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Ryan Liam Flint
Heroine: Nina Joan Dowling
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 2000
Started On: May 07, 2020
Finished On: May 11, 2020

Originally published in the year 2000 from Harlequin Presents, Secret Seduction by Susan Napier is another hit for me when it comes to stories by the indomitable Ms. Napier. This being one of her later titles, probably a couple of years prior to the publication of her last book, Secret Seduction stands testament to how category romances can often be hidden gems that sweeps you off your feet when it comes to the world of romance.

The story begins with a ferocious thunderstorm rolling into Shearwater Island, where 26 year old Nina Joan Dowling resides. A painter by vocation, Nina has no recollection of her past and rather likes the solitude she finds amongst like-minded loners like herself who guards the privacy afforded by residing on the island on a permanent basis. The quiet and solitude that she had been enjoying is however short-lived when the storm brings a stranger to her life, a man whom she rescues from the storm.

33 year old Ryan Liam Flint comes to the island seeking answers. Finding out that the task ahead of him was not going to go exactly as he planned, Ryan plays it by the ear, pretending that he has been struck by a temporary bout of amnesia. Nina being the suspicious soul that she is, especially given the sense of unease that she feels when Ryan is around, coupled with how he invokes from her emotions that she had not felt in a long while, needless to say, it is choppy waters that these two travel through for the most part.

Nina is stubborn to a fault, and I would have to say off putting at first or rather through most of the book up till the point more details emerge as to what had taken place, how she had suffered through a tragic loss and couldn’t seem to recover properly. The past that Nina has no memory of is everything to Ryan, what keeps him determined when it comes to winning and wooing back the love of his life.

I was fascinated by how Ms. Napier brought the story around, and was caught utterly by surprise when it came to the flashbacks of the past delivering a tale I could not have predicted at all. I yearned to read more details on their shared past, the heat and energy between two people who were such complete opposites of one another, drawn to the other in a way that makes denying the connection an impossibility.

I loved the angst, the heartache, and Ryan who served to be the kind of patient, sexy, endearing, and yet alpha in the best possible of ways hero, who complements Nina in a way that no one else ever would. Getting Nina on the same page however, is another matter altogether and when the memories come tumbling forth, it was gut wrenching not to say the least.

I loved the last chapter that served sort of as an epilogue. It gives that sense of closure to readers who made it through the emotional read that this proved to be, leaving behind that soft glow of happiness when all is said and done.

Definitely recommended for those who love emotional and beautifully rendered category romances. Ms. Napier is definitely one of a kind in the genre.

Final Verdict: Secret Seduction delivers a story that is raw and powerful in many ways, of a hero who would do anything to prove to the love of his life, the beauty that is the love they have for one another.

Favorite Quotes

‘Nina?’ he muttered. He inhaled deeply and his frown was replaced by a sensuous smile of sleepy satisfaction as he identified the unique personal fragrance that spilled across the pillow. ‘Nina…’
Eyes still closed, his head dipped and his mouth homed unerringly in on hers, parting her lips in a leisurely kiss that caused a delicious chaos in her startled senses. He made a soft sound of lazy enjoyment as his open mouth moved enticingly back and forth over the succulent plumpness of her lower lip, taking tiny, nibbling bites along the ripe curve before sucking it into his mouth, creating an erotic, rhythmic tugging that made her toes curl inside her socks.

‘For goodness’ sake, it’s ridiculous!’ she said hotly. ‘What makes you think he’ll be any good at doing repairs? I doubt if he even knows which end of a hammer is which.’
Ryan’s head tilted, his hair gleaming blue-black in the sun. ‘What makes you say that?’
She spun around and grabbed up his hands, turning them over to display the palms. ‘Well, look! You’re obviously not used to manual labour. No-one who works with tools has hands this soft,’ she jeered, drawing her fingers across his smooth skin. ‘And your fingernails have been manicured.’
He looked down at her, standing between his splayed—knees, a willing captive to her strong artist’s grip. ‘I thought women liked a man to have nice hands,’ he murmured smokily. ‘You have such silken skin yourselves it seems a shame to risk damaging it with rough handling.’

He didn’t even look around the tiny flat as he took off his jacket and loosened his silk tie, his eyes moving over her flushed face and primly attired figure, lingering on the crisply concealing blouse and the lush curve of her hips encased in the tight skirt that ended halfway up her thighs. His nostrils flared as he eased his collar open and saw her gaze follow the movement, her lips parting at the glimpse of the bronzed hollow of his throat.
‘Do you have anything to drink?’
His blunt demand cloaked the crackling sexual tension with a thin veneer of sociability. Nina’s fingers tracked the side seams of her skirt, smoothing it over her hips in an unconsciously seductive gesture.

‘Did you know you never close your eyes when you have an orgasm, Nina? Not until you’ve seen me climax, too. Are you remembering how incredibly arousing it is to watch each other in the throes of an orgasm? And when we made love in front of the fire, you always wanted it to be slow and easy so that it would last a long, long time.
Sometimes we even used to have fires in the middle of summer just for the sake of pleasuring ourselves with prolonged bouts of hot, sweaty sex interspersed with refreshing romps in the pool.

The only warning she had was a faint fan of cool air across her back, and then a big body crowded into the stall behind her, joining her under the wide stream of water, a thick arm snaking around her waist and pulling her back against a nude, hairy male body, already powerfully aroused. Sharp teeth sank into her wet shoulder and a strong hand came around to knead her breasts as his thick shaft settled along the cleft in her bottom. She wriggled her hips and the hand on her breast contracted.
‘I knew you’d come,’ she whispered.
‘We’re both going to come, babe.

‘Open your legs,’ he whispered roughly into her mouth, his hands circling around her soapy navel, massaging ever lower, pressings down over the inside of her thighs until they parted for him, allowing his soap-slick fingers to crowd into the steamy space and play over the secret folds in her skin, exploring her readiness and finding the sweet kernel of budded desire.
Her fingers clawed into his flanks at the drenching burst of pleasure that pulsed hotly against his fingers. ‘Oh, Ryan…’
‘Yeah, babe, I know.

She uttered a tiny choking cry as she approached a pinnacle of sensation only to have the prize snatched from her grasp when Ryan suddenly withdrew and spun her around so that it was now her spine flat to the wall, her thighs urged up around his waist by his rough hands as he bluntly surged back into her welcoming body, grunting in triumph at the slick parting of her folds, shuddering as she instantly contracted around his pulsing hardness.
‘I love to see you watching me when you come apart. I want to watch you, too….’

Purchase Links: Amazon | Kobo | eBooks

Review: Winter of Dreams by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Jordan Pendragon
Heroine: Olivia Marlow
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 1993
Started On: May 04, 2020
Finished On: May 06, 2020

Winter of Dreams is another hit from the backlist of novels written by Susan Napier, most of which I went through during lock down and the period that followed. While a few of the titles from her backlist were misses, even then, I enjoyed reading them for the unique stories that I can always count on Ms. Napier to deliver.

26 year old Olivia Marlow is an artist who has lost her creative flow, having received a scathing review from an anonymous art critic who had earned a reputation for doing just that. Having taken ill following the scandal that ensued, Olivia is not at all ready to get back into the game and face the world. A bout of illness bringing her spirits further down, it is not until her sister forces her hand to come out and face the world again that she makes the attempt required.

When Olivia meets the 37 year old Jordan Pendragon, she wrongfully assumes that what her sister had told her about Jordan to be true. That proves to be the point which provided a lot of mirth filled scenes to the story as it developed, that is up till the point that Jordan puts those assumptions to rest by kissing her senseless.

While Olivia tries to hide from how she feels about Jordan, there is also the fact that Jordan himself holds a secret that could devastate Olivia all over again and destroy what is blossoming to life between two people who are so obviously meant for one another.

I found Winter of Dreams to be delightful in so many ways. Sexy and sinfully sensual (which is classic Ms. Napier), with a larger than life hero and a heroine who is gun-shy, who is helplessly ensnared by the web of heady desire that encapsulates them both from the onset.

Though at first the story started out a tad slow, it took off just like that and I found myself soaking in the heady sensations that coursed through me as the story progressed. I liked how Jordan and Olivia took their time to get to know each other and how that was actually reflected in the story. I loved the changes that came over Olivia as time went by, how she blossomed and bloomed into realizing her own potential and the strengths of her own character.

I have to admit however, that I loved Jordan perhaps a tad more in comparison to Olivia. I found him to be a contrasting mix of kindness, gentleness, and firmness that went well with the setting and proved to be exactly what Olivia needed in the end.

Recommended for fans of category romances, Susan Napier, and romances that stand the test of time.

Final Verdict: In Winter of Dreams, Ms. Napier brings to life a hero whose beauty lies in the remarkable facets to his character; the happily ever after that followed was a foregone conclusion.

Favorite Quotes

Olivia let the rush of fire in her blood consume the last vestige of reason. Her mouth opened helplessly under his and he consolidated his victory, roughly staking his claim inside her as one big, calloused hand splayed across the base of her spine, lifting her forward into the broad saddle of his hips. He stepped back and turned, backing her against the smooth wall, widening his stance so that he could fit her between his powerful thighs, holding her there until she was vividly aware of his heavy arousal.

His restraint became unbearably erotic as he moved rhythmically and persistently against her until she began to arch and blindly move in an echoing rhythm. He shuddered and moaned his thick approval against her swollen mouth, his rigid body suddenly quivering with a new and dangerous tension. Dazedly Olivia realised what was happening. He was making love to her through her clothes. He wasn’t just teasing now, and he wasn’t going to stop. Though they were both fully dressed, he was driving them relentlessly towards sexual fulfillment.

He straddled her completely, supporting his weight on his braced arms so that he didn’t crush her, grinding his hips softly into hers, enticing her with his erotic actions and whispered words of reckless invitation. He ravished her body with his hot, slow kisses as he ravished her mind with his wicked encouragement.
‘Come on, baby, that’s right, let go…’ he murmured as he felt her go under, dragged out of her depth by the swift cross-currents of desire, floundering briefly until she finally stopped fighting and began to flow with the inevitable tide. ‘Touch me… feel me… let me see all that passion you keep hidden inside…’

He said other things, graphically erotic things that made her blush in the dark as he stripped off the only impediments to their merging flesh, calling her ‘baby’ in a thick, harsh, voice that was almost a snarl. She didn’t care if he was using the appellation because he couldn’t remember who she was-she hardly recognised herself, and he made her feel anything but babyish. She had never realised a man could be so violently aroused that he trembled, pleaded, surrendered to a woman as if she were the stronger sex. She discovered she liked him savage and greedy and a little out of control.

Purchase Links: AbeBooks

Review: Another Time by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Alexander Knight
Heroine: Helen Smith
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 1989
Started On: May 03, 2020
Finished On: May 04, 2020

Susan Napier is an author who continually pushes the expected norms when it comes to writing romances, especially at a time during which not many authors were inclined to do so. Ms. Napier’s novels are about feminism, equal rights, and at times heroines who hold onto the concept of independence to the point where it becomes a tad annoying to read the book. But never let it be said that Ms. Napier writes conventional romances, as this title itself is testament of.

Another Time was first published in 1989 and given the concept that is explored in this book, I rightfully guessed from the onset that this would not be well received by most readers. At certain points at the beginning of the story, even I was unsure of how I felt about what was taking place, up till the point where more salient details came to light later on.

24 year old Helen Smith is engaged and getting ready for her nuptials with the help of her future in-laws. With her fiance away, Helen is not at all ready for the havoc that is wrought by the introduction of her fiance’s brother, Alexander Knight (Alex).

With a reputation that precedes him, both professionally and otherwise, Alex makes Helen uncomfortable right from the start. Alex mistaking Helen to be someone else, the woman who had haunted his dreams for the past five years makes Helen want to understand where he is coming from when he makes untoward remarks and comments that a future brother-in-law rightfully should not be making.

However, as the events unfold and more details emerge, things aren’t as straightforward as they seem to be at first. Helen who does not remember her time with Alex, is determined to do right by her fiance, even when her body clamors to be with her fiance’s brother. Forcing herself to go through the motions is made impossible by the fact that Alex is everywhere she turns, unrelenting on his goal to win back the woman he believes to be his, even if it means stealing her away from his own brother.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this novel’s premise is not for everyone. Most readers would not be able to get past the fact that Alex is seemingly the one in the wrong, when truth couldn’t be far from it. While I loved Alex as a hero, I believe his sensuality was the most well done factor in the book, something Ms. Napier excels at and amazes me with time and yet again. For a novel that was written and published in the late 80’s, Another Time certainly packs a punch with scenes of passion done so right, which is classic Ms. Napier.

While the novel lost some of its allure towards the latter half of it, I believe the key reason behind that factor was Helen herself, who could not seem to understand the love she has for Alex and vice versa. She fails to see where Alex was coming from, when what they had shared together at a certain point in time had been transcendental. I would have liked it better had Helen come to terms with her feelings, as complex as they seemed to be, and met Alex halfway when all was said and done.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this story for the most part, or at least the parts where Alex made my senses hum. I believe the ending felt more bereft due to the lack of an epilogue which would have gone a long way towards making this more well rounded.

Recommended for fans of Susan Napier and those that love reading unorthodox romances. Another Time is perhaps, not for everyone.

Final Verdict: Another Time is a novel that pushes the envelope when it comes to the genre. However, Ms. Napier’s mastery in delivering sensually charged stories is the saving grace when it comes to Alex and Helen.

Favorite Quotes

‘Who am I?’ he asked against her mouth.
‘Alex?’ The terrible implications of his words suddenly sank into her hazy brain, the ugly reality of what he was saying. ‘No—’
‘Yes.’ His tongue stroked away her muffled protest, his teeth burrowing lightly into the fullness of her lower lips, taking small, delicious bites out of her resistance. ‘Alex… you know me, don’t you? In your heart you know… I was the one who drew first blood, Angel. I was the one you turned to in your need, who showed you the glory of being a woman. And how you loved me for it…all through the long night. How hot and sweet you were, and eager, so eager to know everything. You were the most uninhibited lover I’ve ever had… my best lover… my last lover… my once and only lover…’

‘Alex—’ She clutched at him convulsively, not knowing whether she was rejecting or inviting his touch. But he knew…
‘It’s all right, darling,’ he whispered against the delicate curve of her jaw. ‘I know what you want, I know where you like to be touched, and how… I know everything about how to please you…’ And his fingers wound into her hair, pulling her head back so that her spine arched against the hand that held her hips against his arousal. His tongue tracked the blue vein that traced a creamy breast until he found the rosy crest, where he nipped and licked until her hands pleadingly cupped his head and he began to suckle with rhythmic firmness that made her almost faint with pleasure. Her legs sagged until she was cradled against the hardness between his thighs as he turned his attention to her other breast and loved it with equal fervour and skill.

‘Ssshhh.’ He covered her cries with his mouth. ‘No noise, darling, not this time… If you want to scream, do it with your body, express it all in the way you move…’
‘Greg—’
‘Lover—’ His hard mouth corrected her, his hands sliding beneath her to cup her arching bottom, preparing to make the appellation the literal truth at last. ‘I’m your lover.’ His husky whisper was as erotic as the strain of his hair-roughened thighs between hers. ‘The only lover you’ll ever need… ever want…’
‘Yes, oh, yes…’ she sobbed in sweet, passionate relief.
‘Say it… my only lover.’
‘My only lover—’
‘Tell me you’ll never love anyone else…’ ‘Never… anyone else,’ she gasped, twisting in his implacable grasp. ‘Only you…’

And then, with a single, powerful movement that stole the last of her shattered reason, he flipped her on to her back and came over and into her so hard and fast that her head spun, stretching her body into a taut bow beneath his as he wrenched her into paradise, cupping her head and pulling her face hard against his chest to muffle her helpless cries.

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

Review: Falling Angel by Anne Stuart

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Gabriel
Heroine: Caroline Alexander
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 25, 1993
Started On: May 02, 2020
Finished On: May 03, 2020

Falling Angel by Anne Stuart, first published in 1993, is a book that is “mellower” than most when it comes to Ms. Stuart’s legendary penchant for writing dark romances. Falling Angel is a Christmas themed romance, perhaps the reason why there is much lightness and hope infused with the Christmas spirit that is synonymous with the festive season.

Falling Angel begins in an unusual setting, where the hero, Emerson Wyatt MacVey III, who dies at the age of 32 finds himself given a second chance. Sent back to Earth to right his wrongs or otherwise face the consequences, thus Gabriel is “born”, who finds himself in Angel Falls, Minnesota.

26 year old Caroline Alexander (Carrie) has been living with a guilty conscious and a heavy heart for the past two years, given the havoc that she had wrought on the people of her small town. She has no time to take care of herself, much less spend time mooning over the most beautiful man to ever cross her path, someone who for some reason feels familiar to her at the same time.

With just enough details included about the shared past between Carrie and Gabriel to give the story a wholesome edge, Falling Angel is a novel that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to a heartwarming story of second chances and righting wrongs.

While I loved the story well enough, I believe that this dark heart of mine would have loved Emerson more as a hero. Emerson is the kind of hero who at first glance seems irredeemable. But if the very minute bits and pieces included as the premise upon which Gabriel’s character is built upon is anything to judge him by, I think watching him unravel would have been much more fun and heartwarming at the same time. A true Christmas miracle would have been turning someone like him into the best version that he can be. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the quirky characters, the holiday miracle, and the love that sprung forth between Gabriel and Carrie.

Recommended for fans of holiday themed romances and fans of the gentler heroes crafted by Anne Stuart.

Final Verdict: Falling Angel is a story of second chances and good cheer in every sense. There is nothing like the miracle of love to go along with the spirit of Christmas.

Favorite Quotes

He tore his mouth away and stared down at her. “More charity, Carrie?” he said. “How far does your saintliness extend? Passive kisses? Or are you willing to take off your clothes and lie down for the poor itinerant stranger in need of comfort?”
He’d managed to reach behind that calm maternal facade, and her fingers dug into his shoulders as she tried to push him away. “You’re disgusting,” she said.
“No, I’m not. I’m human. At least for now. And I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anyone in my life. But I don’t want a passive saint sacrificing her virtue. I want someone who wants me in return. I want a woman, not a martyr.”

He wanted to take his time, but she was as fevered as he was. She pulled him up between her legs, and he sank into her sleek, welcoming warmth with a muffled groan.
She arched up to meet him, wrapping her long dancer’s legs around him, pulling him in deeper still, and her hands clutched his shoulders, her mouth met his with unerring instincts, and each thrust brought him closer and closer to heaven.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: Bewitching Hour by Anne Stuart

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Nicholas Wyndham Fitzsimmons
Heroine: Saralee (Sybil) Richardson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 24, 1986
Started On: April 22, 2020
Finished On: May 01, 2020

First published in 1986, Bewitching Hour by Anne Stuart tells the story of Saralee (Sybil) Richardson and 34 year old Professor Nicholas Wyndham Fitzsimmons (Nick), who comes to Danbury, Vermont to debunk the beliefs held dear by the new age shopkeeper that is Sybil. Sybil at first believes Nick would an old professor at that and needless to say, when Nick does turn up at her shop, none is more surprised than her, most of all from the way she reacts to him at a very basic level.

Sybil comes from a family of geniuses, women who are overachievers for the most part. She is the odd one out, and having always felt out of place, it was no wonder that her marriage had proved to be dissatisfactory as well, the divorce having propelled her to move to Vermont. Believing she had found her place, the only thing that would make things perfect is for Sybil to find someone to share her life with, a man of the kind with whom she believes she would have a satisfying marriage with.

Nick fails to tick all those boxes that Sybil believes should be part and parcel of her ideal mate, and from the onset, Sybil resists at every turn from giving into him, even when she knows better. While Nick too finds Sybil infuriating and wholly sexy in a way that is indescribable, resistance is futile under the circumstances as the tension between them escalates until all of it culminates in the type of beautifully crafted sex scenes that only Ms. Stuart can deliver.

I loved Bewitching Hour for the most part. I have rarely come across books from Ms. Stuart that I didn’t particularly care for. I loved Nick; he was a refreshing change in the sense that he has a brilliant mind and insight of the kind which sees Sybil for truly who she is. He was kind and utterly sexy in a way that only exemplarily crafted heroes can be.

For some reason, Sybil continues to ignore the signs around her, not just when it comes to Nick and what he means for her future. She ignores the very real “danger” around her, for the small retirement community in which she lives, and that is one of the reasons I found it a bit hard to understand Sybil. To give credit where its due, Sybil is smart, perhaps just that she does not see herself as such because of being overshadowed by her more brilliant siblings4 all her life.

Another reason that I felt disappointed was by the lack of an epilogue or some sort of closure when it came to the “villain” in the story. The fact that the “villain” managed to escape did not sit well with me, when so much havoc and endangerment to lives had been caused by the very same person. I wanted an ending where justice was delivered in some form, but alas, I think what Ms. Stuart was going for was a “quirky” villain who would somehow be lovable at the same time? I quite didn’t feel that way, if that was what was intended.

Even with all the aspects of the story which I hoped were otherwise, I have to say I enjoyed reading Bewitching Hour. After all, in my world, Ms. Stuart is one of those authors who can seldom do any wrong.

Recommended for those who love unusual heroines and heroes who prove to be their undoing. And of course, for fans of Ms. Stuart.

Final Verdict: Two people who by all means are polar opposites find the chaotic oasis they have been searching for in each other. It is the quirky bits in between that made this a good read!

Favorite Quotes

She tried to pull away again, but he still held her firmly. “That was just to get you used to the idea,” he murmured, a thread of laughter in his voice. And pulling her into the warmth of his body, he kissed her again.
She tried to keep her mouth closed against his, but it was a losing battle. Slowly, seductively his tongue reached out, breaching her defenses, slipping into her mouth, invading her, possessing her, as his hands molded her suddenly pliant body against his. He tasted of brandy, she thought as her eyelids fluttered closed. He tasted of love.

His eyes were dancing with humor and something more. Something even Sybil had to recognize, whether she wanted to or not. “Oh, Sybil,” he said, his voice soft, “what makes you think I don’t want you? I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted anyone so much in my life.” And before she had a chance to do more than open her mouth in astonishment he pushed her down on the sofa, his mouth claiming hers as his hands held her still for his shattering kiss.
A white hot spasm of longing swept over her, one so intense that she practically cried out. Her hands reached out to pull him closer, her tongue touched his, shyly at first, then with renewed hunger, until all that existed were their mouths, twining, joining, thrusting and retreating, heat and love and desire all tumbled together.

He couldn’t resist, even if it meant blowing all his hard work. He slid one long arm around her waist, under her coat, and pulled her against him. He caught her chin with his other hand, turning her startled face up to his. “I just want to see if the potion’s still working,” he murmured, and set his mouth on hers.
Her response was gratifyingly instantaneous. Her hands clutched his shoulders, her head tilted back and her mouth opened beneath his with only the slightest pressure. Suddenly he felt slightly desperate. He pushed his tongue past her teeth, into the warm dark hollow of her mouth, and her own tongue met his, sliding against him, flirting with him, and her breasts seemed to swell and press against his chest, as her fingers clutched more tightly, and he heard a tiny little moan deep in the back of her throat. A moan of wanting, a moan of surrender.

He surged upward, carrying her with him, and for a moment she dangled there in his arms, inches off the ground, as they kissed. He was hard against her, very hard, the soft fleece of his sweatpants leaving nothing to the imagination, and she gave a small moan of panic and anticipation. Slowly he lowered her to the floor, his hands sliding down to cup her rounded hips and hold her against him, forcing her to feel his need. It was a need that matched her own.

She tried to move back against him, half in shyness, half in desire, but his hands on her shoulders held her away, and his eyes as they drifted down her nude, aroused body were as powerful an aphrodisiac as any ancient love potion.

Then he pulled her back, and his hands on her flesh were unbearably arousing. She reached for his sweatshirt again, but he forestalled her, pulling it over his head and tossing it after the nightshirt. And catching her hand, he pulled it down between them, to that pulsing maleness that was turning her dizzy with want and a primitive panic. She wasn’t used to this, she wasn’t used to him, she wasn’t sure…
He took her hand and slid it inside the waistband of the sweatpants. As her fingers curled, willingly and wonderingly, around his flesh, his hand found her, hot and damp and ready for him.

“Please,” she whispered, her face crushed against the hot, smooth skin of his shoulder. Her free hand clutched at him, the nails digging into his flesh. “Please, I can’t stand it.”
“What do you want, Saralee?” he whispered in her ear, his voice soft and low. He couldn’t be human, she thought. She had physical proof that he was ready to explode, and he could still taunt her, ignoring his own needs.
“I want you,” she said. Stupid words, how could he fail to know that? “I want you inside me. Now.”

She was trembling, he was trembling, she was crying, he was crying. Then the tempo shifted, jerked, swung crazily and exploded. Too soon, Sybil thought dizzily. Not yet. Don’t let it stop.
And it didn’t. For countless, endless moments it held, beyond reality, time and space. It held, so achingly pleasurable that it flirted with pain, then melted back into pleasure, until they collapsed together in a damp tangle of limbs and hair and heat and love.

Finally it was up to her. It was time to shatter his control as he had shattered hers, time and time again. She pushed him back on the bed, rolled him over and sat astride him, her long dark blond hair rippling down her narrow back, her brown eyes blazing in delight as this time she set the pace. When his hands reached out to cup her hips she moved them away, pressing them down on the mattress as she rocked, back and forth, teasing him as he had teased her, until he was panting and sweating, his golden eyes glazed, until he lost the last trace of his control and arched up into her downthrust, spilling himself into her with a raw, guttural cry that echoed in Sybil’s heart as her body exploded around him one last time.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Lady Sherlock, #4
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Lord Ingram Ashburton
Heroine: Charlotte Holmes
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: October 15, 2019
Started On: April 27, 2020
Finished On: April 29, 2020

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas is the much awaited fourth installment in the Lady Sherlock series. This time around, Charlotte Holmes and her ragtag band embarks on a journey to find a lost piece of art for a former lover of Mrs. Watson’s, who is being blackmailed.

The third book saw Lord Ingram Ashburton and Charlotte coming together as lovers, but alas, only as a ploy to deceive the villain into playing right into their hands. Ingram is adamant that he would not take advantage of Charlotte in that sense, even if she is more than willing to be taken advantage of.

Lord Ingram’s life revolves around taking care his two children of whom he is now the sole parent of. While he deals with the unwanted and unwarranted affections of a governess, he must also deal with his mixed feelings when it comes to Charlotte, which has always been the case when it comes to her.

While I am not much of a fan of cat-burglar variety of mysteries, I still enjoyed this for the most part, with Charlotte and her accomplices donning disguises to infiltrate a prestigious household in pursuit of the lost artwork. What I particularly did not care for was the fact that Ingram and Charlotte’s arc takes backstage to all that is central to the plot of the story.

However, at the same time, there are subtle shifts happening between Ingram and Charlotte in terms of how Charlotte starts viewing Ingram and the prospect of a more permanent future between the two. But then again, I have my doubts when it comes to how Charlotte will fare with Ingram’s children, who need a mother as well. Which was for the main part what Ingram also has mixed feelings about when it came to the governess plot in the story.

Finally, this had bits and pieces to the story which sounded so preachy in terms of women’s rights, colonialism, gender equality etc. I am all for messaging done right and properly in a story, but for me, when stories start sounding like a women’s rights leaflet, that tends to bore me to tears. I kind of got fed up of reading stories by Courtney Milan because of the very reason.

I find it quite odd when authors go against the realities of the fabric of society at that point in time in which the story is taking place and flesh out out of place aspects of characters that seems far fetched for the time. I am all for strong heroines who defy the conventions, but at the same time, one must be realistic about what one is crafting and presenting to the readers.

Recommended for fans of the Lady Sherlock series.

Final Verdict: The Art of Theft moves at a slow pace for the most part, while the other half sounds overly preachy at times, along with muted shifts taking place between the main protagonists.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | eBooks | Apple Books

Review: The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Lady Sherlock, #3
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Lord Ingram Ashburton
Heroine: Charlotte Holmes
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: October 02, 2018
Started On: April 26, 2020
Finished On: April 27, 2020

The third installment in the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas, i.e. The Hollow of Fear, begins where the second book ends, and continues several months after the fact, with Lord Ingram Ashburton being implicated in the murder of his estranged wife. For the first time since the series started, readers get to see Charlotte Holmes “emotionally” affected in a way she never has been before, even going as far as to lose her appetite for her beloved cakes and desserts.

As the story continues, readers like myself who covet Ms. Thomas’ romance novels are rewarded with just barely enough entanglements of the nature taking place between Lord Ingram and Charlotte. There is so much push and pull factor happening when it comes to Ingram and Charlotte. There is much left unsaid, much yearning, and the desire between the two at times is almost a palpable thing. For someone like Charlotte who lives inside her mind most of the time, it is rather intriguing to see Lord Ingram through her eyes, the way she views his character, their shared history, and the parts of his life that are far removed from hers.

The ending as always, “surprised” me the with who the villain turned out to be. Having watched enough movies and TV series based on the character of Sherlock Holmes, you kind of tend to think along the lines of wo would be the most unlikely villain of all.

I liked The Hollow of Fear better than the first two books, perhaps because the characters themselves are being fleshed out more through each installment and of course there is the fact that things “progress” between Lord Ingram and Charlotte in a way that had me on tenterhooks. I would always look for romance in whatever Ms. Holmes writes, and I guess I am a glutton for punishment in the way I seek out the tidbits that hints as much when it comes to Lord Ingram and Charlotte.

Though at times I wished for the story to be less intensive in terms of dialogue and included more on actual investigations, I did understand partly why the books are crafted as such. For the most part, these plots are centered around the ingenuity or cleverness and the mind games that play out based on Charlotte’s superior powers of deduction.

Recommended for fans of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and fans of Sherry Thomas.

Final Verdict: The Hollow of Fear brings important milestones to life when it comes to Charlotte and Lord Ingram. Enjoyed the twists and turns that heralded the end of this installment.

Favorite Quotes

He did not move again. Not because he might startle her—she had ever been imperturbable in these matters. But because he was startled. He had thought he knew everything there was to know about his desire. Had considered it, so long fettered and trammeled, as tame, or at least manageable.
When it had always been feral. Primal.
Her lips touched his nape, just above the rim of his collar. He spun around, cupped her face, and kissed her on the mouth, a kiss that he might never be able to stop.

He looked at her. She smoothed the back of a spoon across the jam glaze on top of the tart, returning his gaze. He stood very still—no fidgeting for him. But in the rise and fall of his chest there was agitation. Inquietude.
“Why are you nervous?”
He hesitated. “You make me nervous.”
“Why?” She was not nervous at all. “You must have done this hundreds of times—at least.”
“Not with you.”

“I have much to learn,” she said happily. “I wonder if Mrs. Watson can impart any wisdom.”
Good God. “How about I tell you exactly what I like?”
“Really?” She batted her eyelashes at him, needlessly long lashes that would have been a lethal asset had she any interest in flirting. “I’m astonished, my lord. You never tell me anything except what you don’t like.”
“In that case . . .” He placed his lips against her ear and whispered for some time.
When he pulled back, her eyes were slightly glazed. “I was rather hoping, given how starchy you are in public, that in private you might be a man of varied and somewhat depraved tastes. I must say I’m not disappointed.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | eBooks