Review: HIM by L. L. Ash

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Blake Hamel
Heroine: Bay
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 14, 2020
Started On: January 19, 2021
Finished On: January 19, 202121

HIM by L. L. Ash is a recommendation I came across in my quest to read romances that feature huge age gaps and follows tropes similar to that of Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas & some of my other favorite reads that I have read along those lines.

The story starts with the heroine Bay moving into her best friend Georgia’s home, who lives with her 35 year old father Blake Hamel. Blake agrees to the deal because he has missed out on a lot when it comes to Georgia’s life, with the nasty split between him and his ex having driven a wedge where he wanted none when it comes to his daughter.

Even though Bay does not want to be a burden to anyone and does more than her fair share of everything around the house, she cannot help but feel like she is not wanted, especially with the way Blake tries to avoid her at first. Blake for his part, is in sheer agony from wanting something he shouldn’t, from having illicit thoughts featuring him with none other than his daughter’s best friend.

But once Georgia moves out in a stint to exert her independence and walk the path as approved by her mother, that serves to be the tipping point in the relationship which comes to light between Bay and Blake. Even though Blake tries to resist, he is no match for the more tender variety of emotions that Bay invokes in him, and before they both know it, both of them are too emotionally vested in each other for it to be easy to walk away from.

I loved both Bay and Blake and the story that unfolded, even though there existed much potential which could have been explored to deepen the impact on readers. I liked the fact that Ms. Ash knew how to maneuver around the subject with sensitivity that did not leave the reader with a sour aftertaste when all was said and done.

Recommended for fans of romances featuring protagonists with huge age gaps and taboo tropes.

Final Verdict: Ms. Ash does a splendid job in bringing to life the love between Bay and Blake, with just enough characterization & sensitivity in the mix to do the trope justice.

Favorite Quotes

My hand reached down and fingers folded around his length as he hissed in pleasure.
“I need you,” I whispered into his ear again just as I met my slit with his cock, dropping onto him as we both groaned at the meeting.
“Fucking hell,” he moaned as I hit bottom, balls to my ass as we got used to the thickness and tightness of him inside me.
His eyes lifted again, meeting mine with a fire burning hot like blue flames.

His cock was at my entrance in moments, and with his tongue still in my mouth, I pulled his hips until he was inside me, filling me almost to bursting.
“Fuck me,” I breathed between kisses.
So he did.
He hiked up one of my knees in his hands, planted his on either side of my hips, and thrust into me so hard the entire bed jostled, hitting the wall with a bang and a squeak. It was
pure heaven.

“I need you to go faster, babe,” he said breathlessly.
I sat back instead, pressing my hands onto his thighs behind me as I arched my back to give my body a little more support as I increased in speed. His hand grazed up my belly and clutched a breast, squeezing and pulling on the nipple as pangs of sharp pleasure spiked through me with each movement of our hips.
“You’re so fucking beautiful,” he breathed just before he groaned and lifted his hips even more until my knees left the bed and I fell forward onto his chest.

My eyes closed again as I moved so slowly, grinding more than rocking. Evidently it wasn’t enough for him. He sat up, legs crossed as I sat back onto his thighs. Our lips met in consuming heat as his hands pulled me closer onto him, then up and down at the pace he wanted as my legs wrapped around his waist. I was happy with the help since my body was limp already with my first release, but I could feel a second orgasm burning through me like a shooting star.
He snarled and bucked just as my mind exited my body again in waves of bliss, but they crashed back together as my back hit the ground, warm cum landing flat on my chest as he reached his release above
me.

“This is mine,” I told him in a whisper. “This is my choice.”
His eyes met mine just as I sank down on him, skin to skin. Blake’s face tightened in a mixture of tortured pleasure, a hummed moan breathing over my lips as his eyes squeezed shut.
“You don’t know what it’s like, Bay,” he breathed as I rode him.
Coherent mind was long gone by that point. All I wanted was harder, faster, hotter.
“If you got pregnant and you had to be with me because of it…”
I pressed my hand over his lips, grinding hard before giving him my simple finality.
“I wouldn’t marry you just because I got pregnant, Blake,” I whispered. “And it’s too late anyway. Whether you want it or not, I’m going to marry you. Do you understand that? You’re mine. Every single part of you, you’re mine.”

His fingers bit into my flesh as he growled, finishing inside me just as I reached my tipping point, heat suffusing through my belly and breasts, I came. He was cursing again, his head digging into the pillow as my nails made little angry crescents in his shoulders until the intensity passed, settling me into weightless afterglow.
I sat there, still on him as he was still in me, us both panting and sweating and holding tightly onto each other. Then his eyes met mine, and I could immediately see that something had changed; shifted. Determination stared back at me instead of confused uncertainty.
Yes, he was mine.

“You know,” he whispered, his fingers brushing across my lower back until he had a handful of my butt in each hand. “Ever since I got this thing, I’ve wanted to take the woman I loved on this ride.”
“But you didn’t know me,” I whispered back, my breath hitching as his lips teased mine, just brushing faintly against me but not giving up any kisses.
“No, but I was preparing for you. I just didn’t know it was you yet.”

Purchase Links: Amazon

Review: His Harlot by S.M. LaViolette

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Victorian Decadence, #1
Publisher: Crooked Sixpence Press
Hero: Edward Fanshawe
Heroine: Nora
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: May 05, 2020
Started On: January 02, 2021
Finished On: January 09, 2021

S.M. LaViolette’s foray into erotic romance comes in the form of the Victorian Decadence series, the debut book of which is entitled His Harlot. These books are unlike any erotic romance books I have read (not that my experience is that vast), but I like character driven erotic romance just as much as anyone who loves the sub-genre. Ms. LaViolette certainly pulls no punches when it comes to writing these stories, and irrespective of those things that I did not understand (perhaps due to my conservative nature that is inherent in me), I did enjoy the major arcs as the story unfolded for the most part.

41 year old Edward Fanshawe is a regular customer at the Madame Tosca’s exclusive establishment for gentlemen where Nora works. Though not exclusively, Edward had been visiting Nora for the last eight months, during three months of which he had seen her and no other. During the period their sexual games had intensified with every encounter. Nora is an odd creature, someone whose body is as lithe as a young boy’s and yet feminine in a way that drives Edward just a little crazy.

Edward is horrified at the mere thought of being too dependent and obsessed with Nora, something which he seeks to avoid at all costs. His need to see those rare moments during which Nora lets him see into her emotions, by driving her hard sexually is the one aspect of their sexual escapades that leaves Edward more scared than he lets on. Having grown up at an orphanage, steeped in poverty, Edward has worked hard to get where he is, and he has plans that points him in the direction of finding him a respectable wife and getting himself an heir.

Nora makes him want the impossible, and unlike in “normal” romance novels where the hero would reluctantly offer for the heroine’s hand in marriage, what Edward offers her is to become his mistress. For Nora who has been in love with Edward, it is not an offer that she has to think much about it. Accept it she does, and then she finds out that that Edward plans on achieving his life goals with her by his side.

Nora is someone who likes sexual depravity. Since she had been fourteen years old, Nora had known that she was differently wired. Wanting freedom from the shackles of marriage, she had left life as she had known it and made it on her own – working at the whorehouse had been a means to an end of sorts, where she knew her sinful nature served her well. Meeting Edward and falling in love had been the one thing that had made her question her life choices, but Nora knows that marriage and respectability are two words that would never be applied to her.

His Harlot is a novel that depicts how two people so lost in their depraved games to heighten sexual intimacy, each equally afraid of giving away the fragility of their feelings for one another, hurt other people in their lives to the extent that one might perceive it to be unforgivable. There is a lot of pain that both Nora and Edward undergo before things get better, a lot of growing up that each does as individuals to understand the ramifications of their decisions when it came to each other.

Being an erotic romance, there were plentiful scenes of sex involved of course, but Ms. LaViolette has achieved what few authors perhaps can in such a setting – given emotional wholesomeness alongside with development of secondary characters to a point that makes you want to learn more about them. But funnily enough, me being the book quote lover that I am, did not really find much affinity with the scenes of passion in the story as it unfolded, perhaps because most of it were to do with Nora and Edward finding sexual pleasure at the cost of someone else’s emotions.

Furthermore, I had a hard time understanding Nora’s life choices – I just could not perceive how a woman brought up in a loving household (there were no indications of it being anything but) could just be okay with servicing men for sexual pleasure. I know that we are all wired differently, but that was just something I could not wrap my head around. We all pursue the fulfillment of our baser desires to different extents; our life choices often get messed up along the way as a resultant effect of those desires as well. But I guess regardless of my personal opinion, everything did work out for Nora and Edward in the end. I even rooted for them from a certain point onward, the painful period of separation giving that right touch of penance perhaps for their earlier behavior.

One key takeaway from the series – was everyone sex crazed in the Victorian era? Or is that just me? I certainly did not understand the need to have sex with everything that moves, but that is how most of the characters came off in the story. But enticing they are, and I am definitely going to read more of where this came from.

Recommended for erotic romance lovers; Ms. LaViolette is certainly talented in writing plentiful when it comes to inventive sex scenes and delivering wholesome goodness while at it.

Final Verdict: His Harlot is unlike any erotic romance I have read, taking the reader on a journey of sensual depravity that meets a lot of hurdles on the road to the happily ever after.

Favorite Quotes

“Look at us,” he ordered, their eyes meeting in the glass. He pumped his hips, relishing the sight of his powerful body covering hers. “We look like two animals in rut,” he said, demonstrating again but harder, devouring the pain and lust and—yes, if he wasn’t mistaken—jealousy on her face. “We’re two of a kind,” he whispered in her ear. “Two mutts who like to fuck like the animals we are.” He thrust again, very close to his climax now. “But my wife, Nora, she will be a purebred.” His dark eyes held her pale ones in thrall: black and white just like this room—their room.
“And I’ll pump my seed into her purebred cunt and breed my mutts inside her gold-plated womb.” He leaned close enough to kiss her ear. “And you’ll have to watch and suffer and want.”
He gave one last vicious thrust and they came at the same moment, Nora climaxing as he spent deep inside her, tears streaming from her eyes.

There was no finesse, no gentleness. He sucked her into his mouth and ravaged her, the thick middle finger of his hand slamming into her hard, his thrusts deep and remorseless.
Nora plunged her fingers into his thick white hair, holding him firm while she ground herself against him, spreading wider and fucking his tongue, his lips, even his rough chin, which scratched skin that was almost virginal it had been so long since it had last had contact with anything but her hand.
Not like Edward, who’d been fucking and whipping women other than her all along. The familiar swirl of lust and jealousy filled her belly and overflowed into her womb, her body pounding with a primitive throbbing for hi
m.

“My poor Nora,” he whispered, his hips resuming their pumping, his hand briefly grazing her wet cheek. “You’ve missed this just as much as I have.” This, being a thrust so brutal it almost choked her. He chuckled at the sound. “I can see you’re out of practice and in need of my firm hand and hard cock.” He held her head in an unbreakable grip while he drove into her with increasingly savagery, plunging cruelly, with no care but for his own pleasure, pushing her dangerously close to the edge.
“No,” he ordered harshly.
His selfish command was more powerful than the most exotic aphrodisiac and almost sent her over the edge. But her body, if not her mind, responded without question to his mastery.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Review: Look the Part by Jewel E. Ann

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Flint Hopkins
Heroine: Ellen Rodgers
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 27, 2018
Started On: December 26, 2020
Finished On: January 02, 2021

Look the Part by Jewel E. Ann is the kind of romance that reaffirms the romance reader’s belief in the genre amidst too many lackluster reads pushing different agendas that are the popular norm of the times we live in. It is the kind of story that echoes in your heart long after you are done, memories of how you felt when you were deeply engrossed in the story, the kind you cherish months and years later, the reason why it lands in your favorites folder, to be revisited somewhere down the line.

32 year old Ellen Rodgers is a music therapist who signs a new lease for an office space, and her landlord turns out to be Flint Hopkins, who is a lawyer, who requires absolute silence to get his work done. From the get go, sparks fly between the two, reluctant as Flint maybe to acknowledge the fact. He wants to cancel the lease and get back his peace of mind, not just from the music or the “noise” that comes from his tenant’s floor, but from the way Ellen has a habit of ruffling his feathers, touching him, and making him want, testing his very resolve.

Ellen is more stubborn than Flint gives her credit for, and things become “messier” when Flint’s son Harrison finds an affinity with none other than Flint’s enemy number one. In the end, every single second spent in each other’s company drives them inexorably closer to that tipping point from which there is no turning back. But it is no smooth sailing for these two when each carries enough baggage and heartache to last them a lifetime. It takes a lot from both of them to find equal footing on their journey towards happily ever after and every excruciating minute I would say, was worth it.

I loved, loved, loved my first book by Jewel E. Ann to pieces. This book had everything going for it; main protagonists who are both lovable in all the ways that matter. Flint *fans self*, is the kind of hero that makes readers swoon with effortless ease. He steps into the story and your eyes just start shooting hearts all over the page. He has the kind of confidence that turns heads, the looks to go with it, and a demeanor that may keep most at bay, but not Ellen.

I loved the broken pieces within Flint that needed healing. He needed to forgive himself more than anything else, the guilt that keeps eating him from inside out being the biggest factor that keeps him from moving on, ten years since the fateful event of his wife’s death. He is a man grieving and at the same time stuck in a moment in the past, and he has no intention of budging from where he is for anyone.

Ellen is the antithesis to what Flint is in many ways, but the sorrow that fills every crevice of her broken heart is no less significance. A failed marriage has left its mark deeply ingrained, and she cannot help but want Flint with everything she is, even when she should know better. Touching Flint is Ellen’s way of reaffirming the essential bits and pieces to her, and Flint certainly does not make it easy when every delectable inch of his is laid bare for her taking.

I also loved the secondary characters in the novel that gave the story the wholesome edge it needed from at times the darkness that loomed in the story. There is so much angst interwoven that it sometimes felt like there was a football field lodged in my throat – but I reveled in it, loved it, and craved the feelings that were coursing through me with every fiber of my existence. There was guilt and yearning. There were broken hearts and fractured souls. But amidst it all, there was love and healing that went hand in hand which made this story stand out!

Recommended for fans of unforgettable romances featuring heroes that makes your hearts beat just a tad faster and heroines who make you smile through happy tears!

Final Verdict: Look the Part by Jewel E. Ann takes the reader on an incredible journey that demands nothing less than total surrender. There is nary a word nor character that I would change in this book!

Favorite Quotes

I jerk the button and zipper to his jeans, humming against his mouth. He shoves my shirt off my shoulders and yanks my bra down, palming my breasts as my hand slides down the inside of his briefs.
A low growl vibrates his chest. When was the last time I unraveled a guy with the touch of my hand? I don’t remember and that’s just sad.

“Let’s go.” She slides out of the booth.
I toss cash onto the table and follow her out the door, feeling guilty for the lack of any conversation over the past hour. “I’m sorry for not saying much—”
She whips around and grabs the lapels to my jacket, pulling me around the corner to the alley. She kisses me. Her hands take mine, and she guides them to her waist. “Touch me,” she whispers over my mouth.
“Where?” I take a step forward until her back presses to the side of the brick building.
“Anywhere …” Her breath is labored and desperate as she licks and sucks the skin between my ear and the collar of my jacket. “Everywhere … just … touch me.”

If I lean in three inches, our lips will meet. I like his lips, and the way he’s looking at mine leads me to believe the feeling is mutual.
“Thank you for bringing him home.”
He smells like herbs, like I imagine a chef might smell. I’m hungry. I’d settle for him, but I don’t think he’s on the menu tonight. I don’t know if he’ll ever be on the menu. He’s that dessert on the dessert tray that no one ever gets to eat because it’s just a display.

“Flint …”
“Shhh …” I nip at the skin right below the perfect curve of her ass, warning her to be quiet. She smells like the forbidden and tastes like my newest addiction. My hands work her skirt up her torso and over her head. With a firm yank it releases her arms, taking her shirt with it. I discard them behind me as well.
She turns. I take a step up, putting my face level with her perky tits. Glancing up to meet her drunken gaze and parted lips, I grin, unfastening her bra and tossing it over my shoulder.
Fucking perfect.

“I may have planned on sex … but I sure as hell never planned on you.” I ease her to her feet, and she sits on the bed, unfastening my pants with way more patience than I have at the moment. My hands take over, discarding the rest of our clothes before claiming her mouth again, pressing my body against the soft, warm curves of hers.
She tastes like forgiveness and feels like freedom. And she sounds like a prayer, humming against my mouth—not a moan, an actual tune that I don’t recognize.

I hop off the counter and take the pan to the drawer under my stove top. “Ouch!” I drop the pan in the drawer with a clunk and straighten my back, my hand reaching for the back of my leg, just below my butt cheek. There’s a stinging welt.
Flint holds the end of the twisted damp towel in his hand like a whip.
“Oh my gosh! Did you seriously just whip me with a towel?” I say in a loud whisper. “There’s a welt. You marked me.”
“Your skirt is too short. When you bent over to put that pan in the drawer, I could see black lace.”
“So you whipped me?”
He stalks toward me until I’m forced to crane my neck to maintain eye contact. “No,” he whispers. “I whipped you because you’re a fucking tease.”

“Which finger or fingers of yours should I be jealous of tonight?” he says in a low, deep voice.
I hide my gasp, but it’s there. Apparently shockingly crude remarks are the theme of the night. I can play this game. Making a quick glance over my shoulder for young ears coming, I turn back and hold up my index and middle finger. “These two up front…” I add my ring finger “…this one in the back.”
And there it is … Flint Hopkins expressionless and speechless. It’s an oddly beautiful sight.

For the rest of the night we pay homage to each other—physically, emotionally, spiritually. I refuse to stop until my mouth and hands have touched him everywhere and his have possessed every inch of me. I memorize the look he gets at the exact moment he loses himself to me. His back arches. My hand splays over his taut stomach muscles; my fingers curl into his tight flesh like I’m claiming him—Every. Single. Piece.
It’s sensual.
It’s vulnerable.
It’s beautiful.
It’s mine. I want that look to be mine and only mine forever.

“Ms. Rodgers.” He takes two short steps before the door closes behind him and he pins me to the wall.
We turn into a flurry of hands ripping at clothes, deep kisses, playful bites, and soft moans.
Between labored breaths, I stab my hands through his hair as he licks and bites his way down my neck. “You didn’t bring lunch, did you?”
“Elle …” He hums in pleasure as his lips feather across the swell of my breasts. “You are lunch.” Flint drops to his knees, taking my leggings and panties down with him.
My head thumps against the wall as my eyes roll back into my head.

Alex steps toward me, giving me that look of adoration that he used to give me, as he lifts his arm up, touching my cheek with his cold, prosthetic fingers.
I stiffen as Flint’s hand wraps around Alex’s forearm, pulling it away from my face. “But just to be clear … if any man were going to put something inside of Ellen and lay claim to her … it would be me.”
Just to be clear … I just fell in love with Flint Hopkins again.

“I haven’t been with anyone but you since the day you walked into my life.” I lift her up onto the vanity.
“Flint—”
“Shhh …” I kiss her while wedging myself between her legs.
She sucks in a quick breath as I push into her. My hand finds her breast as I find a rhythm.
“Race you to the finish,” I whisper in her ear.
Elle’s lips press to my neck, pulling into a grin. I show her how much I love her. How much I’ve missed her. How much I crave every inch of her. And then I beat her to the finish, pulling her across the line just after me.

“Crying’s not necessary—oh, Elle.” He pulls me in for a hug as I blink out the first round of tears and sob at the same time.
I knew it would hit me hard when it came time to say the words.
“There’s s-so m-much I want to s-say.”
He hugs me tightly, kissing my forehead. “Then say it.”
I shake my head, fighting back more sobs. “It’s st-stupid.”
“It’s not stupid. Just say it.”
I take a few seconds to reel in the burst of emotions so I can get all the words out before falling apart again. “I love you, so don’t die in a plane crash. Don’t change your mind. Don’t sleep with another woman. Don’t think about me getting fat or getting stretch marks. Don’t ruin your relationship with Harry to be with me. But be with me. Gah! I know that sounds impossible. But …”
He kisses me. And kisses me. And kisses me until I could faint. “Heaven and Earth,” he whispers over my tear-stained face.

He slides down my leggings and panties. I suck in a breath as a shiver jolts up the entire length of my body from his fingertips ghosting along the back of my bare legs.
His touch has had this effect on me since the first time his hand touched mine. At the time I thought it was this craving for any touch after feeling starved of that kind of affection for so long. I was wrong.
It’s Flint.
It’s his touch.
It’s me.
It’s how he reacts to my touch.
It’s us.

“Flint …” I curl my fingers into his back as this builds into something stronger and erratic. Our breaths quicken.
“Elle …” His grip on my hips tightens, and he slams me onto him as his hips rock up into me. “You’re so fucking beautiful.”
Our mouths crash together again seconds before we fall apart. I love being in Flint’s world. It’s tragic. It’s complicated. It’s filled with obstacles. But …
It’s passionate.
It’s addictive.
It’s the deepest kind of love.
It’s everything.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Devil You Know, #2
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Hero: Cassius Gerard Ramsay
Heroine: Cecelia Teague
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 29, 2020
Started On: December 11, 2020
Finished On: December 26, 2020

The second installment in the Devil You Know series; All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne turned out to be anticlimactic in many ways. This series which focuses on three women who meet and forge an unlikely friendship and bond at boarding school, which continues to be a huge part of their lives even after, often reads like a cliched manuscript for a women’s rights advocacy group.

Cecelia Teague spends her most formative years undergoing emotional and at times physical abuse at the hands of her father until she is rescued and given all of those things which she never would have thought possible. However, the one constant in her life remains – loneliness, which has never truly left since those dark days long in her past.

Cecelia’s path crosses that of Cassius Gerard Ramsay, when one of her friends gets married to Ramsay’s half brother. Ramsay is a stickler for due process, understandable given his profession as the Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. Furthermore, Ramsay is a man who believes abstinence is key to a life that is not ruled by vices. However, in Cecelia he finds a woman who tests his resolve for the first time in seven long years.

Even so, fate does not treat these two ever so kindly at first, with Cecelia forced to assume responsibility for something that Ramsay loathes with his very existence. When danger comes calling and in pursuit of Cecelia and those whom she holds dearest, Ramsay does not waste any time in taking her to safety until they are able to get to the bottom of it.

As these two battle out their mutual attraction to one another, the truth that emerges from the past maybe a much heavier price to pay than either of them bargained for. But reconcile they must, and acceptance is key to a shared future, if Ramsay and Cecelia are ever so inclined.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, this book turned out to be such a let-down in many ways. I found the story bogged down with tedious detail and cliched in many ways that I often left comments expressing my dissatisfaction with the undertones in the story. I am all for strong heroines who go out of their way to fight for and carve out their rightful place in society. But I do dislike stories that rather than impart important messaging along those lines with subtlety, goes to include preachy dialogue that just falls flat, given the time period, circumstances, and characters in question.

My biggest disappointment was how Ramsay turned out to be. He was such a formidable character from the very first installment in the series. His presence alone had a vibe that I liked, something that sent delicious shivers running up and down my spine. But alas, his character seemed to deflate like a balloon that loses air in small degrees, as Ms. Byrne attempted to make Cecelia stand strong and true to her values.

I agree that Ramsay was an ass ofttimes and held such strong opinions of his own regarding women’s place in society and how his life should be. In a way I don’t blame him given the job title which he holds, which comes with a lot of moral and ethical responsibilities attached to it. It is not just his own self and actions that would be under scrutiny but those whom he considers his family and friends as well.

So Cecelia in her high handedness refusing to see that was part of the problem for me, while Ramsay’s stubbornness also was unacceptable. But then in truth, that is what humans are like, and I would have expected them to find a way to be together because their love was worth it. As women, we don’t have to push feminism and women’s right to the extent that we are unwilling to bend and compromise for what is important in life. Love requires compromise, a future built on mutual trust and other values requires compromise – show me a successful marriage and/or relationship that does not include compromise as the number one keyword for their success and I will reconsider my opinion.

So Ramsay’s character, needless to say, was butchered in a way that was unacceptable in my opinion. He was initially the very definition of compelling. I keep wondering as to whatever happened to Ms. Byrne’s will to write ruthless heroes that made my senses go haywire. I wonder what happened to the writer who was willing to go where her characters took her, even when they were often difficult roads to travel on. But we as readers appreciated that darkness to her characters which few authors tend to risk writing. I wanted so much more for Ramsay and Cecelia – a plot that just sank in the middle was not it.

Recommended for die-hard fans of Kerrigan Byrne and fans of the series! I am not entirely certain that I would be reading the next installment, given the reviews that show that readers were more or less let down once again!

Final Verdict: What a sore disappointment this turned out to be, me with my high hopes smashed to smithereens by the overly preachy and cliched overtones on feminism & women’s rights interwoven into the story.

Favorite Quotes

“I like your names,” she whispered, swaying forward. “Ramsay. And Cassius.”
He hated his name. He hated it every day. “I like yers.”
She blinked. “Would you say it?”
“Miss Teague?”
“No, might you call me Cecelia?”
“Cecelia.” He drew out the syllables, letting his tongue linger over them. Learn them.
She closed her eyes, seeming to savor the word with the same vigor as the truffles. “Again?”
An invisible restraint shackled his bones, this one not of cold hard iron, but of velvet. It tugged him toward her. Drew her name out of his chest like a poem, and then a prayer.
“Cecelia.”
Her lips parted.
And he was l
ost.

She didn’t reach for him, nor did she do anything else wanton or wicked. She just accepted his mouth with a sweet sigh, tilting her head to receive more of him.
He lifted his hands to her face, intent upon gently holding her still so he could extricate himself from a kiss that shouldn’t be.
His thumbs drew up the line of her jaw and over her cheek, finding no angles, no hard lines. Somehow, he was cupping her face. Tilting it back. Drawing her in rather than pushing her away.
The roaring of his blood in his ears became a growl and then a purr.

He skimmed the seam of her lips with his tongue in a warm caress as his hand covered hers on his jaw. He laced their fingers in a motion that sent shivers rocketing through her entire frame like the waves of a sea gale. One crashing over the other with no sign of a break.

Her greedy hands danced over him, taking advantage of their position. She raked her fingers through a soft wealth of golden hair over his chest, finding the flat, masculine nipples that pebbled beneath her touch.
He made a noise that wasn’t entirely human and allowed her to slide down his body until she stood again so he could gather her hands in his own.
No, she thought, pulling her hands from his grasp. No, you don’t get to control this.
She wanted him like he was now. Free and wild, uninhibited and mindless. She wanted the man to give way to the animal beneath. If almost every one of their interactions had been a battle, this one would be different in a very unmistakable way.
This was a battle she’d win.

She gazed up over the cords of his stomach and the mounds of his chest into gilded lightning glinting down at her from eyes that no longer held a hint of winter. His skin was flushed with arousal. His lids at half-mast.
He bared his teeth in a show of dominance, though his hand was gentle as it urged her mouth toward the column of his sex.
He thought he was still in control.
How adorable.

She employed the strength of her jaw, sucking him in, taking him as deep against her throat as she could. Her tongue flattened to make room for him, rubbing at the underside of his rod as she pumped faster.
“Nay,” he gritted out. “Ye canna.”
Yes, she thought. I can. You’re mine. This is mine. This wicked intimacy they would always share regardless of the outcome of their current nightmare. At least she’d owned him with her mouth. And he was the man whose lips she would never forget.

Cecelia finally opened her eyes, glorying in the sight of him locked within his own skin and strength. Helpless and vulnerable inside her mouth. Arching with a pleasure that looked very much like pain.
This was the beast. This untethered, unselfconscious thing.
This beast was hers. This beast wanted to lay claim to her, as well.

“How can I not look?” he asked her as though she’d gone mad. His growl had deepened another impossible degree, to that of a Gregorian monk at prayer. “I didna know such perfection existed.”
In that moment Cecelia didn’t care if anything subsequent proved to be folly, she merely realized she was falling for this strong giant brute, with all the subtle grace of a landslide. Plunging artlessly into love with him even though every logical thought told her she should not.
Logic didn’t belong in this mysterious Scottish forest.
Only this. Only them.

“Oh, don’t make me say it,” she pleaded.
A dark chuckle overtook him as he lowered his great body to nuzzle into her hair. “Ye confound me, woman,” he purred into her ear. “Tell me what ye want, and I’ll give it to ye.”
“I want you.” Cecelia turned her head, sifting her fingers through his hair as she returned her breath against his ear. “And you can have me, Ramsay,” she offered gently, reaching in between their bodies to stroke his hard length over his trousers. “In whatever way you want me. I can take it. I can take you. All of you.”

There was a moment of fright. A single, breathless knowledge that once he’d claimed her this night, neither of them be the same. His weight was both a comfort and a burden, and she did the only thing she could think of to release a sudden rush of anxiety.
She bit the muscle between his neck and his shoulder.
He snarled and drove forward, pressing inside.

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

Review: Hotshot Doc by R.S. Grey

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Dr. Matthew C. Russell
Heroine: Bailey Anne Jennings
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: December 06, 2018
Started On: December 05, 2020
Finished On: December 11, 2020

26 year old Bailey Anne Jennings is a surgical assistant at the New England Medical Centre, going on five years. Having become the guardian of her now 14 year old sister Josie from six years back, Bailey’s life pretty much revolves around her job and taking care of Josie and staying afloat while at it. Dating, having fun, being carefree, dreaming of marriage and a happily ever after; all of that flew out the door when Josie came into Bailey’s life, turning her into a single-mother of sorts overnight.

Dr. Matthew C. Russell is a surgeon who requires exemplary performance from his team. His reputation is not the best as a colleague and/or a boss, but when it comes to being a doctor, his name is spoken with the awe and reverence it deserves. When Bailey’s boss retires and wants her to work with Dr. Russell, Bailey knows it is going to be tough standing next to the one man who has managed to stir her dormant interests as a woman, without her even realizing it.

But working for Matt proves to be harder than she bargained for, and it is when she stands her ground and goes head to head with him that Bailey starts to understand the man underneath all that cool fire. The attraction that flares to life between them singes, the heart and warmth that develops speaks to you on an emotional level. But when Matt’s dreams and ambitions comes calling and stands in the way of their burgeoning relationship, it will take a lot of soul searching and understanding on both ends to cross that hurdle and come out as winners together.

I loved my very first R.S. Grey and am delighted that I decided to give this a go. Ms. Grey’s writing is crisp and snarky, while at the same time, delivering heat of the kind that just warms you from the inside out. Both protagonists were so easy to fall in love with, alongside with Josie who was such a delight! Her mischievousness definitely made her a favorite of mine.

I enjoyed wholeheartedly the thread of humor that was interwoven into the story. Even during those moments you don’t really think you would laugh out loud, I found myself snorting to something Bailey was thinking and/or saying, or something that Josie says that is outrageous enough to raise eyebrows.

I loved the intense connection between Dr. Russell and Bailey – I felt like I was swept away on their journey, feeling everything that Bailey was with Dr. McHotshot (the Greys Anatomy-ish name that she dubs him with). I appreciated the maturity of both Bailey and Matt; the angst factor in the story does not emerge due to their pettiness or lack of communication with one another, but rather because of the complexity of the emotion that is called love.

I also appreciated the realistic portrayal of the medical setting at the hospital. The focus on Matt and his zeal for helping the most vulnerable was one I admired. Bailey’s ambitions and the role she plays is not to be overlooked either. Reading about Matt’s previous marriage, how his ex-wife sees him, and the difference when it comes to Bailey’s perception of him – all of that played a crucial role in shaping my opinion of Matt and how in Bailey he has found his ideal partner for life.

Recommended for those who love opposites attract stories & romances in medical settings – Dr. Russell has the take charge attitude which makes him a swoon-worthy hero! I will definitely be reading more of R.S. Grey in the future!

Final Verdict: Dr. McHotshot meets his match in his new surgical assistant, who makes his head and senses whirl with emotions of the baser and tender variety, leading the reader on an unforgettable journey!

Favorite Quotes

“Bailey,” he says, reaching out to hook his finger underneath my chin. He tips my head up just a bit so my mouth is lifted to his.
I’m a shaking ball of anxiety at what he’s about to do. He can’t kiss me again. I’m still coming apart at the seams after the first one.
“I’d kiss you right now if I could.” My chest is heaving as he continues speaking. No amount of air is enough air. “I’d bend down, just like this—”
His mouth hovers over mine. I feel the barest touch of his lips. Every hair on my body stands on end. My hands reach back and grip the metal shelf because without it, I feel like I’ll f
loat away.

“Kiss me,” he pleads, his hands sliding around me, hauling me up against him so there’s no space left between us. “Bailey…kiss me.”
The words are as effective as a puppeteer’s strings. The longing in his tone breaks the final chains straining around my heart. His parted lips find mine again and this time, I’m not frozen. I’m a woman taking exactly what she wants. I moan with hot need, tangling one hand in the thick hair at the base of his neck at the same moment my mouth opens and my tongue teases his. I kiss him with a hurried fervor, suddenly too anxious for this. I kiss him with all the desire I’ve foolishly tried to repress, every bit of longing that’s built up over the last few weeks
.

We kiss until my lips are sore, until I have to break away and gasp for breath, until I feel lightheaded and dizzy with need. If I had a bottle of water within reach, I’d dump it on my head. Everywhere he touches, it feels like he’s dragging a flame across my skin. It sears. It ignites. It turns me on to the point of clothes-tearing, nails-dragging, teeth-biting insanity.
My hands are on his suit pants and I’m fumbling with the button, like gimme, gimme, gimme.
I want him to push me up against this wall and end my three-year dry spell. I want to finally know what it feels like to have Matt drive into me and lose control, rock his hips against mine and…I’m sayin
g all of this to him.

“I want you,” I demand sharply, sounding nearly possessed with need, but he’s the one thinking clearly, because he shakes his head and uses the pad of his thumb to swirl in the exact spot that makes my toes curl and my eyes pinch closed.
Those first few waves of pleasure start to crest, but he staves them off, working me up even more before his thumb returns, swirling just slowly enough to put me in a straitjacket.
“There’s not time,” he insists, his voice velvety and commanding before he quiets my protests with his mouth. His teeth bite my lip and he’s a little rough, but then I knew he would be. That softness he hides from the world is lost in this moment too.

He wraps his hands around my hips and pushes me toward my small bed. There’s no use trying to keep up with his deft movements. We’re backing up at the same time his hands slide into my panties and cup my ass. He uses his grip to bring me against him and his hard length grinds into me. I can feel him through his pants. I know how patiently he’s waited. For hours—weeks.
He whispers against the shell of my ear, telling me how badly he wants to feel me wrapped around him.
His hips roll and my eyes pinch closed. There are still layers of clothes between us, but the sparks are there, warning me. I don’t want to come like this, just from his hips grinding against mine.

My panties are tugged off and thank God he’s quick with the condom he pulls out of his wallet because I’m dying a slow death as he settles himself back between my thighs and thrusts into me…slowly…slowly…and then all at once. A moan rips through me as I finally orgasm just from that one, hard thrust. Fireworks dance behind my closed eyes and Matt’s mouth crashes against mine. His kiss is painful and biting and he’s angry at me for breaking my promise to stay quiet. He punishes me when he thrusts harder again and again. I wish I could tell him I’m not in control. My body is his, these limbs and mouth and that delicious spot in the center of my thighs are his to do with as he pleases. I wish I could tell him this is no punishment. This is a gift.

He bends and kisses me languidly, teasingly. My tongue rolls with his and he moves his hand between my thighs. I wish I could say I put in a good effort fighting off that second orgasm, but the truth is that after only a few hours, Matt knows my body too well. His thumb swirls in time with his thrusts and I’m shattered. I can’t take another. “I’ll die,” I tell him.
He laughs huskily and drops his mouth to my breast, taking the tip into his mouth. It’s his answer, and it’s every bit as confident as him blatantly replying, Oh yes you will. Now come.
I do, and this time, I manage to stay as quiet as a church mouse, mostly because I’m so preoccupied with watching Matt lose himself.

“Bailey.”
He sounds hoarse, and there’s a deep crease between his brows.
My hands fist the front of his shirt and I’m up on my toes, eyelids fluttering shut as his mouth descends on mine.
Our kiss is slow and gentle, a testing of waters. I’m the one to increase the tempo. “I need this,” I beg breathily, and Matt delivers. My knees buckle as the kiss intensifies. Our tongues touch and there’s a flutter in my stomach. I have a need only Matt can satisfy with his big hands and his impatient growl. I’m lifted up off my feet again and carried to his couch.
God, we have so much to talk about, but even more than that, we have moments to make up for.

His mouth crashes down onto mine as I start to shake. Over and over again, sparks of pleasure shoot through me and my orgasm becomes his and he’s right there with me, coming hard and kissing me to the point of pain.
For every moan we stifle, we take it out on each other with our hands and our mouths and his hips grinding me into the leather couch. I’m sweating and breathing hard as I flutter my eyes open and find myself back in Matt’s office.
At work.
In the middle of the day.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Apple Books

Review: All the Missing Pieces by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Chris Sherwood
Heroine: Reese Charlotte Carlisle
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 21, 2020
Started On: December 04, 2020
Finished On: December 05, 2020

28 year old Reese Charlotte Carlisle lives a life mostly in seclusion, ever since her life had changed so drastically upon the scandal that had broken her family apart. With her father in jail, her brother no more, Reese is all alone in the world and she prefers the anonymity her current life affords her. The only voice she allows herself is the meaningless one night stands she engages in on occasion, assuming different identities that suits her when the mood strikes.

On the fateful night she comes across Chris Sherwood, Reese is Denise, a dental assistant who is divorced and loves dogs. Something about Chris shakes her up in a way she does not like, and even though she thinks that she got away scot-free, that is hardly the case.

Before Reese knows it, Chris worms his way into her life and by the time she realizes the blunder she has made, it is too late to walk away unscathed. It is then Reese is forced to face the past she put on the back burner and truly assess what her father had done, putting her at risk and at the mercy of those who may not think twice about putting her in harms way.

All the Missing Pieces is romantic suspense at its finest – the first novel of its kind by Ms. Keyes. I have enormously enjoyed Ms. Keyes’ writing in her contemporary novels such as Time Served and Going the Distance. While her Burnham College series and other young adult novels have been a hit or miss with me, this novel I tell you, hits all those spots and then some.

The brilliance of Ms. Keyes as a writer explodes unto the pages with All The Missing Pieces, and the story clawed its way into my heart from the very start. The Julianna Keyes that I fell in love with when I first stumbled upon Time Served, which resulted in me quickly catching up with her entire backlist of published works, echoes with every single word in the story. Her writing has become more refined and forceful in a way that readers will definitely take notice of in this novel.

All The Missing Pieces is entirely written in the first person from Reese’s point of view. Rather than making the reader feel as if they are losing out on essential details, it somehow adds to the lure the story presents. What I loved most about the novel is that there is no repetition, no tiresome inner monologues, no rehashing details to death in the lengthy read that this turned out to be. I loved the fact that with this novel, Ms. Keyes has let her creativity take her to places where she might never have gone otherwise. I loved the fact that she has created a character that you can root for amidst everything that was happening.

The ending when it finally came, seemed fitting. Some readers however may not like Chris for what he does, but I understood where he was coming from, and it made the connection between Reese and himself all that more meaningful given the history. A brand new start with the man who forced his way into Reese’s life and forged that connection initially based on lies and half truths, coming to her finally as who he is, with no secrets between them was poetic to me.

The most brilliant aspect to the story is how Reese’s character evolves throughout – from the spoiled rich girl to the woman who is on the run from life itself, to becoming the stronger version of who she can be, while tending to the broken girl within, who died a brutal death in the wake of the truth behind her father’s actual treachery.

Never let it be said that authors venturing into new sub genres is a bad thing. Ms. Keyes has proven her talent in weaving a story that stands out amidst everything else. Recommended for fans of romantic suspense!

Final Verdict: With All the Missing Pieces, Ms. Keyes proves her mettle as a writer and her mastery when it comes to shifting through different sub-genres in the world of romance!

Favorite Quotes

“Still think you want this?” he murmurs.
“Let’s find out.”
The last thing I see is the tiny quirk of his mouth before he kisses me. There’s nothing soft or sweet or searching about the way he kisses, and it’s a relief. It says he gets it. He gets that this is one night only, we’re not soul searching, we’re not bonding, we’re not falling in love. This isn’t a getting-to-know-you type of fuck. Th
is is getting-off-and-getting-gone.

I scrape my nails up so I can anchor us together, using him for balance as I slip my other hand between us, feeling the soft rub of the denim, the smooth cotton of his briefs, then, finally, him.
He hisses when I grip him roughly, tugging hard, punishment for making me wait. He gets the hint and pushes two fingers into my panties, tormenting me.
“Do it,” I order. “Hurry.”
He buries his face in the side of my neck, and I feel his lips on the delicate skin, his teeth, the suction. He’s going to leave a mark.

He moves harder. Faster. He plants a forearm next to my head. I can smell him; sweat and laundry detergent. No expensive cologne, no hair products. His five o’clock shadow scrapes my cheek and I wince, but I don’t complain. I just feel it.
He kisses me, messy and unfocused. He seems like the kind of man who should be out here, who does things earthy and raw, who has dirt under his nails and knows how to change a tire and fuck a woman and not ask too many questions.
I wonder who he thinks I am.
The question makes me explode.

There was a time I loved attention. I wanted my picture on every cover, every website. I didn’t care what they said, as long as they said something. Now I don’t want to be seen. I want to be forgotten, ignored, uncared for. And for a long time, I’ve gotten my wish.
A feeling comes over me, one that has nothing to do with sex. One I try and fail to fight. I do my best to keep my eyes on his hand but they rise of their own accord, locking on his in the glass. He’s watching. He’s everywhere.
I shatter. I cry out and clutch at him, and he catches me when my knees give way. Everything inside me is lurching and convulsing in endless, artless waves of pleasure.

He doesn’t make me wait this time, urging my thighs apart so he can have better access. He can have everything right now. Absolutely everything.
Chris does this the way he does everything else, with his own brand of slow and steady and rough and sure. I’m melting so fast I have to lean back to brace myself against the dresser, arching my hips to his face. He doesn’t ease up when I’m moaning and shaking, my stomach flexing, one hand clutching his hair, making sure this doesn’t end until it has to. Until I can’t take it anymore. Until I’m covering my mouth to stifle sounds I’ve never heard before.

I kiss him like there’s a chance everything will be okay, like it’s possible. He doesn’t know this kiss is a goodbye and an apology. He doesn’t know that with every second I’m promising myself I’ll stop, even when my panties are gone and he’s pushing inside and I’m so ready for him.
“Reese,” he mutters, the words slipping through my hair, warm against my scalp. He threads his fingers through mine and rocks his hips, making me shudder. The pressure of him is wonderful, but it’s my name on his lips that does it for me, that feels better than anything else ever could. He tells me to keep my eyes open and this time I do. When he looks back on this moment, I want him to know it was as real as I could allow it to be.

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

Review: A Governess Should Never… Tempt a Prizefighter by Emily Windsor

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Governess Chronicles, #1
Publisher: Senara Press
Hero: Seth Hawkins
Heroine: Matilda Griffin
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 09, 2020
Started On: November 26, 2020
Finished On: December 04, 2020

“But had I known such a love as ours existed, I would have searched forever to find you..”

A Governess Should Never… Tempt a Prizefighter by Emily Windsor as the title indicates, brings two very unusual protagonists together; a retired pugilist and his governess, whose backgrounds are as different as night and day. When 31 year old Seth Hawkins seeks a governess for his 13 year old daughter, the last thing he expects is for a lady like Matilda Griffin to apply for the position and turn his entire life upside down.

Matilda is on the run from her guardian, until such time that she regains control of her own life. She seeks refuge in the unlikeliest of places and finds it, by convincing her employer that she is more than qualified in the tutoring that Seth requires for his daughter.

As the days pass, a friendship is forged to life between Seth and Matilda, which kindles the slow burn of desire between them. Seth may be a retired professional boxer, who used his brawn and body to make his way and get out of the poverty ridden life he would otherwise have had to endure throughout his life, but he is a man who is keenly intelligent, with a heart that yearns for love as much as Matilda’s does. Matilda may have grown up in a more affluent household in comparison, but loneliness had been her one constant companion, which she had kept at bay through the books that enriched her life.

Finding common ground between herself and Seth is surprising for Matilda, but it doesn’t stop her from seeking more, to understand the complexity of the man who holds her heart. Their deeply meaningful conversations are one of the reasons this book stands out, especially the frankness with which Seth claims her after all is said and done. He is a gentleman to his very core and the man who answers the need that flares to life in Matilda as a woman of her own right.

I enjoyed my first Emily Windsor, even though I was a bit hesitant at first to pick this up because of a number of reviews which weren’t all that positive. But then, I don’t usually rely on other reviews all that much and choose to make up my own mind about what works and what doesn’t for me, and it has served me right for the most part as it did with this one. Like most romance readers, unusual main leads intrigue me in stories, and I am delighted that I did give this a chance.

I loved the slow awakening of desire and the emotions of the more tender variety that burgeoned to life along with it. I loved how both Seth and Matilda were protective of each other, how they saw the best in one another, and how they both yearned to spend the rest of their lives with none other than the other.

Recommended for those who love beautifully spun historical romances featuring the not your usual variety of hero and heroine. You won’t be disappointed!

Final Verdict: There is just something beautiful about historical romances done right, a magic that lingers in the air when you are immersed in the story. That is what I found in A Governess Should Never… Tempt a Prizefighter.

Favorite Quotes

Miss Griffin moistened her lips, and his jaw twitched, an involuntary tremor coursing within.
“May I?” she asked.
At his nod, she took a run for the nearest shelf and brushed a finger reverently over the book spines.
Seth shuddered and watched as her lips unconsciously curved in utter delight.

All might have been fine; it may well have ended there; he would have drawn back.
But her hand clasped his shoulder and then climbed till her fingers twisted in the short hair at his nape, nails lightly scratching, yanking him close and crushing their lips together.
Ferocious need erupted, spiralling his control and grinding it to dust.
He hauled her tight, a hand to her curvaceous rump so that she half-straddled him, a scalding heat upon his thigh, and he kissed down her neck, nipped her throat, the shadows a colluding partner to his endeavour.

“Matilda, I warn you, if you strip to your chemise, I will kiss you.”
“And I shall want you to,” she whispered, knowing it to be the truth.
His jaw firmed. “And if we kiss on this occasion, Matilda, I will not cease.”
“And I shall not want you to.”
His breath hitched, rumbled. “And if I do not cease, then fair warning, I will never let you go.”
“And I shall not want you to,” she whispered once more, conscious of what she was saying, that she wished for a lifetime of adventures with this man.

“May I?” he growled, elegant diction beyond his capability.
She smiled her acquiescence and he tugged laces, then wrenched, kissed the skin above her chemise – smooth and with the scent of meadows.
The corset fell away, in harmony with his breath.
Crisp white linen hinted at curves, shadows beneath implying treasure beyond his most feral imagination.
And oh, how he had imagined. Night after anguished night.

“Seth,” she gasped.
“My beautiful, exquisite Matilda,” he whispered, and with those words – ones no one else had ever applied to her – that tightness released and the rosemary-scented room ceased to be as her eyelids closed, rapture flooding to every tip of limb, submerging her beneath warmth and light.
With a rip of cotton, a heady, muscled weight was upon her, powerful hips and thighs parting her legs further before a thrust against her core, raw and rude and resolute.

“My Matilda,” he bit out, low and agonised. And he dragged back, only to plunge anew, a guttural grunt locked in his throat.
The tightness caused a sharp inhale but the rapture of before still simmered, and as he rocked, gentle and short, that hurtling bliss returned – faster and tauter.
“More,” she gasped, aware he held back from whatever he wished to do, aware his strained arms and clenched teeth hid a sharp longing. So she caressed his back, scratched those magnificent buttocks.
His hips jerked, and a growling Seth began to pound. A broad hand claimed her thigh, hitching it aloft as she cried out, and he plunged deeper.

Purchase Links: Amazon

Review: In the Deep by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake
Hero: NA
Heroine: NA
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: October 27, 2020
Started On: November 21, 2020
Finished On: November 25, 2020

Loreth Anne White’s books are sometimes quite hard to review because she is so good at what she does; taking readers on a mind-twisting, stomach churning, nail biting journey that is difficult to put into words once you are done. In the Deep fits this category and takes readers into the life of the Hartley Heiress, Ellie Tyler, whose marriage and life falls apart with the tragic death of her daughter.

While her husband moves on and starts a new life, Ellie is stuck in a rut, trying to erase the feelings of guilt and inadequacy in booze and drugs, until she decides to get her act together. That is when she meets property developer Martin Cresswell-Smith, who basically sweeps her off her feet in a whirlwind courtship that leaves her reeling and a little bit stunned, and the marriage that follows, along with following her husband to Jarrawarra Bay, located in New South Wales on the south coast of Australia to start anew; things should have been fun and exciting but reality turns out to be anything but.

From that point forward, things start heading downhill once again, as Ellie finds herself struggling with the onslaught of rapid changes Martin undergoes propelling her into the arms of darkness. When Martin turns up dead, Ellie of course becomes the number one suspect in the eyes of Senior Constable Laurel “Lozza” Bianchi, not a inconceivable when Ellie expresses relief at the news of the demise of her husband.

When the big reveal happened as the story escalated and Loreth takes us back and forth the past and the present, I was blown away, even though I did have my spidey sense going on alert when this particular character came to light. After all, books like In the Deep tends to make you suspicious of every single character you come across, and even goes as far as to make you doubtful of your own motives behind your feelings of bias perhaps, towards a particular character. But alas, nothing is ever so simple when it comes to Loreth’s writing and that is where her ingenuity lies.

Ellie’s character is one that makes you sympathize and empathize with her, not just because of the tragic events of her past. But you can see how Ellie is a woman starved for warmth and love, and that her father compensates for the lack by throwing money at the problem than giving her the time and affection she rightfully deserves. At the same time, I was left feeling uneasy by who Ellie is.

The way the lead detective voices out her observations towards the end echoed my sentiments on the character that Ellie is. She is a victim, yes. The altogether too perfect a victim perhaps. There is an edge to her that leaves you feeling unsettled, as if you have been cheated in some ways or manipulated with a subtlety that only bothers you at a subconscious level.

That is how good Loreth is with characterization, which is why I ended up having a deep intellectual discussion with a colleague of mine about her character having finished the story. I talked my colleague’s ear off, expressed my fears and doubts when it came to Ellie’s character, and also ended up professing my undying fascination with Loreth’s work. Even though I finished reading this book last November and just got around to writing the review, I do not think I will ever fully be able to reconcile with what happened in the story, mainly centered around the way Ellie’s character morphs and changes throughout.

I spent many a restless night while I was reading this book, disturbed by dreams of a subconscious that wouldn’t let me dream in peace. What is more sinister than a perpetrator who actually shows their true colors when they lose out on furthering their agenda, is the one who is a chameleon of sorts that is nuanced in the art of subtleties. I found that quite insidious and more menacing.

Needless to say, In the Deep is a novel that is highly readable and enjoyable, recommended for those who love a good suspense novel. Loreth’s prowess is unbeatable!

Final Verdict: Loreth does it again, with masterful writing that keeps the reader on the edge, guessing, but to no avail. Taut and suspenseful, this will linger on in the subconscious for a long time to come.

Favorite Quotes

Women are the harshest critics of each other. I suspect this is because the flaws we see in other women are flaws we hate to acknowledge in ourselves. Being critical, lashing out at other females, is a way of attacking those traits within ourselves that we detest most.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Review: Once Touched, Never Forgotten by Natasha Tate

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Stephen Whitfield
Heroine: Colette Huntington
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: September 01, 2011
Started On: November 19, 2020
Finished On: November 21, 2020

Once Touched, Never Forgotten by Natasha Tate tells the story of super executive Stephen Whitfield and pastry chef Colette Huntington, who embark on an affair lasting a period of five months, which leaves Colette in love and pregnant with Stephen’s child. Both of them had entered the affair with eyes wide open, with zero expectations from one another except for the good times in bed. Or so they both told themselves until Colette disappears, ending their affair and leaving Stephen reeling in its wake.

Five years later, their paths cross again, and this time, the secret that Colette holds close to her heart is revealed, which ties them together in a way that Stephen is unwilling to overlook. Demanding that Colette be his, once again it is treacherous waters these two traverse, as emotions run high and love overlooked leads to heartbreak.

I seriously wanted to like the story that unfolded. The writing was good, easing the reader into the story in a way that makes you feel totally at ease. At the same time, the sexual tension was off the charts hot, with Ms. Tate’s ability to take the story from zero to hundred, just like that.

What I had problems with was Colette as a character. I understood that she was only looking out for herself at first, when she resisted Stephen at every turn. Then it was her unborn baby that she wanted to protect from being treated as a responsibility if Stephen were to be put in that untenable position, given what she knows of him and the very scant little discussions they have had on commitment and love up till that point.

At the same time, I felt that Stephen had more heart to him than Colette was willing to give him credit for and was more sensitive than Colette when it comes right down to it. Both come up from screwed up backgrounds, which of course means that each carries a shit ton of baggage when all is said and done. While Stephen understands the psychology behind Colette and what drives her to reject him time and yet again, Colette never attempts to do the same for him, which is where it rankled.

I felt like Colette never did fight for Stephen and the love she supposedly felt for him, being to hung up on her past. Instead, Stephen is the one who does all the chasing, pursuing, and convincing – which means as a reader I felt cheated because I want both protagonists to be in it wholeheartedly, to understand what each other did wrong for there to really be an equal partnership based on love and trust for the long term.

Recommended for fans of Natasha Tate and those who love combustible category romances. Stephen definitely does heat up the pages!

Final Verdict: Affairs embarked on with the best of intentions often leads to emotional disaster – Once Touched, Never Forgotten is all about that and more as Stephen and Colette finds their way back to each other again!

Favorite Quotes

“Do you know I still dream about your hair?”
The low rasp of his voice, soft as velvet, made her tremble. He must have detected the subtle shiver along her flesh because his grip tightened against her shoulders and he dragged her closer. As much as she wanted to pull free, another part of her responded to the demanding strength of his touch, to the command underscoring his nearness.
Lifting her hands to push him away, she froze when her fingertips touched the warm thickness of his wrists. Her thumbs pressed against the channel of tendons at the base of his palms while her fingertips involuntarily recalled the hard landscape of bones and flesh in his forearm. She heard his swift intake of breath, watched his chest expand and rise, and her hands refused to abandon his smooth, hair-dusted skin. Time stretched, grew taut, while the silence beat between them.

Before she had a chance to prepare herself, his warm palms cupped her face and tilted her mouth toward his. Her startled inhale did nothing to deter him, and his dark head dipped toward hers with unerring accuracy. Her fingers flew to his forearms even as the muscled wall of his chest bumped her breasts, pressing her against the closed door while his mouth covered hers. The fiery, voracious, delicious assault of his lips stunned her. Consumed her.

He stared at her mouth, that lush, kissable mouth, while one hand moved inexorably up along the silk spine of her dress and to the back of her arched neck. He wanted to taste every centimeter of her defiant, trembling softness, to explore the fine, delicate curve of her upper lip, to nip at the lush, petal-smooth swell of it until she moaned beneath him.
Just thinking of how she’d respond, he felt the hairs along his arms lift, priming him for the battle he fully intended to win.
She stared at him, her hazel eyes huge and alarmed within her flushed face, while her hands shoved blindly at his shoulders. “Stephen—”
He caught her protest with his mouth, every last sense focused on the exquisite fit of her lips beneath his.

His expression was intense as he walked around the desk and then held her against the back of one of his armchairs. His hands, pressed tight against the base of her spine, were steely against her softness, the iron muscles of his thighs pressing heated awareness along her flesh despite the layers of clothing between them.
Low against her pelvis, she felt the hot, insistent pressure of his arousal, undeniable in its masculine quest for satisfaction. “Stephen,” she gasped.
“Kiss me,” he growled, his hips grinding against hers while a treacherous dampness gathered between her legs. “Kiss me and I’ll consider a compromise.”

Slowly, he drew her feet wide, planting them beside his spread thighs. He moved to her knees next, his warm hands pressing them open beneath his intense gaze. His nostrils flared and his eyes darkened with arousal as his attention dipped.
Exposed, open, and flooded with a damp, yearning heat, she swallowed against the searing touch of his gaze upon her shadowed flesh. A sweet, shocked tremor of embarrassment and desire leaked through her chest, making it difficult to breathe. She knotted her hands against the supple leather of his chair, gripping the edge of the armrests while he stared at her. She remembered how he’d looked at her every time they’d made love, as if there were no one in his world but her. She could read his arousal in the huge, hard bulge between his legs, in the darkened crests of his cheeks and glittering eyes. And for the first time in over five years she felt beautiful. Wanted.

And still he plied her flesh, his tongue invading her with devastating softness. The savage sensation of losing control, of quivering atop a chasm of release so acute, had Colette fighting for control at the same time as he urged her surrender. Her heart thrashed within her ribs, she could no longer keep her eyes open, and her knees pulled high as she rocked and rocked and rocked against his mouth. Exquisite pleasure twisted high as he consumed her, until the steady slide of tongue and lip and heat became too much, too intense, too … too everything. She catapulted into careening spasms of rapture, contractions cresting in wave after wave as she shuddered and groaned.

Thoughts failed her as she reached the summit, her body trembling and spasming with each delicious stroke. An aching combination of desperation and love filled her heart to brimming as Stephen gripped her hips, drawing out the pulsing pleasure of her inner muscles. Clenching him deep inside, she leaned to balance against the granite plane of his stomach while he found his own bucking release. Watching the play of emotions in his face, knowing that she’d brought him the same intense pleasure he’d brought her, made her want to weep.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Harlequin

Review: Reclaim by Aly Martinez

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Release Series, #2
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Camden Cole
Heroine: Nora Stewart
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 12, 2020
Started On: November 13, 2020
Finished On: November 18, 2020

Reclaim, book 2 in The Release series by Aly Martinez is a story that I have bided my time for since having read the first installment, Release. The first book ends on a note that makes the reader extremely curious about the fate of Nora Stewart, whose past is entwined with the main protagonists from Release and oh so steeped in darkness – but there was only so much that the reader was privy to at that point.

Reclaim takes us to a time when Nora is 11 years old and meets 12 year old Camden Cole for the very first time. A friendship is forged between the two that fateful summer, and while promises were made, Nora believes that Camden broke them, just like her mother who abandoned their family when she was just a mere seven years old.

What happens next is a series of tragic events that leads to disaster of epic proportions, until years later, Nora and Camden’s paths cross again. With the heaviness of words unspoken between them lingering on, of a love that both feels acutely nevertheless, of so much time wasted while Camden had patiently waited for his one and only, I felt a keen sense of loss even when the story was well and over.

While I understood that Nora’s past required her to come to terms with a lot of things, that she needed to forgive herself and love herself enough to be able to have a long-lasting relationship with anyone, I could not quite understand why neither of them wanted to reach out to the other prior to the time period in which the rest of the story unfolds.

Perhaps, this hollow feeling emerged from the fact that I had a particular vision in mind when I thought of how Nora’s story would unfold. Don’t get me wrong; I did enjoy their story for the most part, but I cannot feel sad about the time wasted, when they could have been together and worked through a lot of the issues together. Perhaps this time apart was needed in part for Camden to also be in charge of his destiny for him to be able to finally be with Nora in a most fulfilling way.

Perhaps due to the time factor, and because the story takes place over periods during which there was too much darkness in especially Nora’s life for there to be light, I missed the sexy scenes of passion that should have rightfully existed between the two. In a way that also left me feeling cheated towards the end.

Recommended for fans of Aly Martinez and fans of The Release series who have been dying to read Nora’s story!

Final Verdict: Nora and Camden’s story is one of missed chances and a love that runs so deep, it stands the test of excruciating trials & hardships until at long last ultimate triumph is reached!

Favorite Quotes

“Do you…” Kiss. “…ever think—”
“Mmmm,” she hummed as my tongue teased at her earlobe.
“…about me…”
She shivered in my arms and moved closer until her core found my length straining against my boxers.
I hissed at the contact, barely able to finish my thought. “…at night?”
Her fingers latched onto my hair and she pulled my mouth to hers, hovering mere millimeters away. “You’re the only man I’ve ever thought about.” Her warm breath filled my every inhale. “Every night, Cam.”
I kissed her hard and fast, sealing my mouth over hers as though oxygen were my enemy.
Fuck. Me.

He entered me with a devastating control, the muscles on his back flexing with every thrust. It wasn’t long before he found a rhythm that drove us both wild. He uttered gravelly words into my neck, my name punctuating all of them, and I clung to him, ripples of pleasure building within me.
Unsure how much longer I could hold on, I locked my legs around his hips and urged him deeper. “Oh, God, I’m close.”
“Give it to me, Nora,” he ordered, his rhythm quickening.
My resolve snapped, and with a shattering climax, I unraveled beneath him.
“Yesss,” he hissed. “That’s it, baby. Oh, fuck, that’s it.”
One last drive and he seated himself to the hilt and emptied inside me.

Purchase Links: Amazon