ARC Review: The Game of Love by Jeanette Murray

Format: E-bookthegameoflove.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Carina Press
Hero: Brett Wallace
Heroine: Christina St. James
Date of Publication: August 29, 2011
Started On: August 29, 2011
Finished On: August 31, 2011

As most of you all already know, I am someone who loves a good contemporary romance. In fact, contemporary is my preferred genre and I would be one happy chick if authors continue to pen just straight old contemporary romances without the mystery, suspense or paranormal aspects in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading a mix of all these genres from time to time, but still at heart I am a big fan of plain old contemporary romances when it comes down to it.

34 year old Brett Wallace is a retired pro-football player and now the highschool football coach back in his hometown. Divorced from his ex-wife Lilith which could have turned real ugly if not for the prenup he had signed up before marrying her, needless to say Brett is leery of taking a step towards anything that remotely resembles a relationship with the opposite sex.

28 year old Christina St. James is an ex-pro tennis player who retires from a world from which she wants no part of and moves to Northeastern high school to teach Mathematics and lands the job of coaching their tennis team. Having being burnt badly in a relationship with a pro-athlete whose sole purpose of hanging onto Chris had been to boost his ego and image in front of supporters and the media, Chris has no intention of getting involved with the opposite sex anytime soon, much less Brett Wallace who oozes testosterone just by entering a room.

From the start both Brett and Chris who brings forth a lot of baggage from their previous relationships form misconceived opinions about the other which just delays the inevitability of them getting together. Chris is wary than most and is prickly as a hedgehog when she first encounters Brett and labels him to be just another Dax who would never be content with letting her be herself.

But time and time again, Brett proves that he is just the polar opposite of every misconceived perception that Chris has thought up of and before she knows it, Brett somehow worms his way into her life and into her heart making her yearn for things that she seems incapable of voicing. With a past that continually tries to invade into the present, Chris nearly loses Brett and what he offers until towards the very satisfying end to the story.

Jeanette Murray might be a new author for me, but I felt right at home with her voice that rings with the unbeatable combination of humor, passion and those sweet romantic moments that I just felt right at home with. I loved the way the story flowed, the way she developed both Chris and Brett and inevitably got them together.

Being not much of a fan of sports romances, I tend to stay away from them most of the time. But The Game of Love seemed to call my name when I came across its very well done and drool inducing cover and I am glad I did pay heed to the calling since this is a romance that indeed balances things out in every aspect. Jeanette surely knows her subject matter when it comes to sports and it definitely comes across during the whole story.

Brett Wallace is the dreamiest and sexiest sports jock hero I have come across to date. He is sexy, kind, funny, charming, endearing and knows his way around the erogenous zones of the female anatomy quite well I would say. His past that has left some emotional scars behind makes him cautious and at times tends to let him make a fool out of himself. But the way he is the ultimate good guy all around and nevertheless give the total alpha-male-in-control vibe without going overboard just makes him into my list of yummy heroes.

I just flat out loved the way Brett worms his way into Chris’s life, catching her unawares which in the end gives them both the best thing to happen to both of them in a long while. The thing that endeared Brett most to me was how he always seems to know Chris and her needs even when her overly cautious nature refuses to confide in Brett of her painful past. The way he comforts her when she seems in dire need of it – I could definitely use someone like Brett in my life.

Chris on the other hand had the whole prickly female thing going on for her when the story started, a trait which I am not much of a fan of. But once I got deeper into her character, the way she had grown up with a set of parents who lost sight of the happiness of their little girl a long time back and the way her past relationship had shaped out to be, hell I would have been prickly myself after going through all that.

In the end, Chris’s character develops along nicely, Brett’s understanding and loving nature working its magic over her battered emotions and soul until she is ready to face the concept of being in love and making herself vulnerable to another once again. Once Chris gives into the heady passion between herself and Brett, the heat factor is on and I just couldn’t get enough of the light amusement that always seems a part of their heady lovemaking sessions. And the way Brett continually spaces out into fantasy land featuring Chris in various get-ups just makes him totally and irrevocably male in my opinion!

I have got to say that I just adored Katie’s character who is Chris’s best friend and a hugley pregnant one at that, who just made me howl out in laughter with her quirky thoughts and laugh-out-loud variety interactions with both Chris and Brett.

The Game of Love by Jeanette Murray is a romance that delivers exceptionally well on all counts, a contemporary not to be missed if you are a fan of light hearted romance with the bite of toe-curling passion in the mix!

Favorite Quotes

(Chris) “Katie, seriously. He’s a jock with entitlement issues. What about that could I possibly like?”
“Well…” Her friend trailed off and Chris could hear Katie’s fingers drumming a pattern on the table. “You guys have a lot in common.”
Chris snorted and started mixing the salad with two large forks. “What, we both convert oxygen into carbon dioxide?”

He (Brett) handed her the drink over her shoulder. She looked up and smiled, saying thanks. The table was covered with notepads and pens. And when he sat down across from her, she reached in her bag and brought out a pair of glasses.
His body froze, hand clutched around his drink. Naughty librarian daydream come to life.
Oh, good Christ.

(Brett) “Making friends?”
She jerked, then her spine straightened into posture nuns would be proud of and she turned her head. “He’s hard to resist, really.” Another belly rub. “You’re late.”
He crouched down to sit on his heels, and his knees spanned to either side of her arms. Reaching around, he scratched Beans behind the ears. Brett was positive the dog actually sighed with happiness. “I’ve been here, just didn’t think to look for you on the floor.”

His smile was slow to spread over his face. As it grew, something warm slid through her belly, warming her from the inside like a pumpkin spice latte on a cool fall night.
Red alert. That’s a ten-forty-two. Charming jock in progress, proceed with caution.
He took her hand in his, shook it once, then let go. Very proper, very simple. And it would have stayed that way had she not looked him in the eye and seen it.
Hunger, as clear as if he were a starving man looking at a T-bone.
And that was the T-bone’s cue to make for the hills.

Following their line of vision, he found the distraction. The damn tennis team, running the perimeter of the football field in some half-assed formation, following their fearless leader. They weren’t looking at the field, weren’t yelling or causing a scene. Just concentrating on keeping up with Chris.
Having been a teenage boy himself, the draw was obvious. Teenage girls. Short shorts. No brainer. At thirty-four, he was past that.
Except his eyes didn’t seem to get the “I’m Too Old For This” memo. They were tracking Chris like a hawk tracks a field mouse.

She’d been given gifts before. Earrings, necklaces, bracelets. Weekend trips to the Bahamas or a day at the spa. Expensive—but meaningless—trinkets that showed Dax didn’t have a clue what to give her, that he didn’t listen to her. Things that could be meant for any woman. Nothing that said she was special, that what she thought and wanted mattered.
A set of aluminum bleachers full of teenage boys meant more than any of those things combined.

His tongue swept in, gentle and sweet, but also intense. She tasted spearmint, like he’d been chewing gum. He smelled like grass from the field.
One hand smoothed a path up her back under her sweatshirt but over her tank. His palm made lazy circles on her back that mimicked the rhythm of their kiss. It was a light, almost reverent touch, and she finally knew what Katie meant when she had once said she loved kissing so much she could do it for hours alone. If this was how it was supposed to be done, sign her up for a marathon event.

(Brett) “Never been to a football game either?” His voice lowered to a gravelly hush. “Well, like I said. We’ll make up for lost time.” He bent down and kissed her. “See you Friday?”
Dazed, all she could contribute was, “Yeah, Friday…” before he turned and went back to his car.
She walked inside, shut the door, leaned her back against it and concentrated on the rise and fall of her chest. It felt like he’d stolen her breath. And her heart. She was pretty sure he had taken a small piece of it with him.

As she relaxed against his chest, he pulled her in closer. Turning her face into his shirt, she breathed in the calming scent that was him. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled into the fabric.
One big hand stroked over her head, down her long ponytail to rub her back in soothing circles. “No, I’m sorry. You’ve told me before it made you uncomfortable and I pushed. That was an asshole move. You’re entitled to your feelings and I shouldn’t fight against them. I’m sorry.” He dropped a kiss on her temple.
And with that little apology, she stepped off the cliff of denial and fell headfirst into love with Brett Wallace.

Purchase Links: Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes&Noble

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Re-Read Review: Wild Orchids by Karen Robards

Format: E-bookwildorchids
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: John Roberts “Max” Maxwell
Heroine: Lora Susan Harding
Published on: March 15, 2001
Started On: August 28, 2011
Finished On: August 28, 2011

Reading Wild Orchids by Karen Robards for the 3rd time doesn’t seem to have diminished my enjoyment factor of the novel by even one iota. Call me crazy but even with the massive amount of books I have on my review pile, I just had to pick this one up and read it in one sitting yet again because the magic that is Max and Lora is an unbeatable one for me.

37 year old John Roberts Maxwell (Max) is a man hardened by the reality of war that had been his way of life when he had been enlisted in the Vietnam war. Leaving a piece of his soul behind due to the decisions he had been forced to make, Max comes home a changed man, a man incapable of giving what his innocent wife had demanded of him. A cynic to the core, Max doesn’t realize that life as he knows it would cease to exist the moment he kidnaps the prim and proper Lora in his attempt to evade the authorities of Mexico.

27 year old Lora Susan Harding is finally a free woman with the right to while away her time as she pleases. Having spent most of her life trying to put others needs first, Lora is ecstatic with the thought of exploring the exotic Mexico, the first vacation she has ever taken in her life. However, from the very start, her vacation refuses to proceed along as she envisoned it and being kidnapped at gun point by a disreputable looking man with an American accent just seems to be the icing on the cake.

At first, Lora is scared out of her wits at the thought of the less than savory acts her captor might try and force on her. A lady through and through, Lora hardly accepts herself to find her captor ridiculously sexy to the extent of ogling him and eating him up with her eyes every chance she gets. No stranger to the world of intimacy, Lora however has no clue that the uninhibited creature that emerges from deep within her that just wants to lick her delectable and broody captor from head to toe is a side of her that exists.

After Lora’s multiple attempts to escape which falls flat on her face every single time, Lora comes to the disturbing conclusion that she has a bad case of the Stockholme’s syndrome if judging the way all her emotions go haywire around Max is anything to judge herself by. Through a chain of events, Lora finds herself stranded in the midst of a Mexican jungle, depending on Max for her very survival. As the proximity heightens the already taut live wire of sexual tension between them, both Max and Lora find themselves to be no match for its heady power.

Wild Orchids would always remain by far my most favorite novel by Karen Robards. For some, Max might not be the stuff dreams are made out of. But when push comes to shove, Max is a man who delivers and Lord does he deliver! A man who is leery of commitment and relationships, Max cannot believe himself when he starts lusting after the prim schoolteacher who lands in his life. The harder he tries to shove her thoughts and presence out of his mind, the more tenacious her hold on him becomes and its a match that Max loses, rather ungraciously at first. Vital, sexy and the ultimate dangerous hero is how I would describe Max.

Lora’s character is an endearing mix of innocence and practicality all laced into one with a body that practically drives Max to the brink of insanity. It is the way she reaches far deeper than just his baser emotions that has Max struggling to shove her away with all his might, a man reluctant to share his demons with a woman Max thinks would be just as incapable of handling reality as his ex-wife had seemed to be.

Though towards the end, I definitely want a bit more grovelling from Max every time I read this one, I think the ending itself might be growing on me as I didn’t find it that sorely lacking the third time around. It seemed a fitting ending based on both Max and Lora’s characters and my bet is Lora loves Max too much to even give him enough leeway to do much grovelling even if it were to come to that.

The best thing about this book, hands down is the raw, explosive and primitive passion between two people that just serves as one whole session of sensory overload from start to finish.

Highly recommended!

Favorite Quotes

(Max) He shook his head impatiently. “You’ll be all right. I’ve got to go. Lora…” he hesitated, then with a muttered, “Hell!” swooped over her. Before she knew what was happening, he had her pinned back against the seat and his mouth was on hers, hard and hot and almost brutal in its demand. His hand was rough and warm on her breast. Lora’s senses exploded. She forgot the men outside the car, her anger with Max, everything as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back with a hunger that had been building inside her forever…

“Lora…” Her name was a tormented whisper as he kissed her harder, fiercer than before, as if he was starving for the taste of her mouth. She twisted in his arms, not trying to get away but to work her arms free… She managed to push them up through his crushing hold and lock them around his neck. He groaned deep in his throat, and she groaned too in protest as his mouth suddenly left hers. He was looking down at her, his breathing heavy, a wild glitter in his eyes. Lora lifted one hand from the corded nape of his neck and lightly stroked the rough, wet edges of his hair.

He smiled then, a slow smile that sent the blood racing through her veins. Lora felt the throbbing inside her intensify until she was sure she would not be able to stand it another second as he slowly, oh, so slowly, lowered his head. His target was her left breast. Lora felt his hot mouth close on the straining nipple, felt him tug the crest of her breast into his mouth to rub it with the rough wet surface of his tongue, and cried out in a frenzy of need.
And in that instant he took her.
She climaxed at once as he squeezed inside, enormous and hard and fiery hot and filling her to bursting.

Lora followed his eyes to the subject of their conversation. He was such a masculine man, tall and strong and sure of himself, cocky almost. A male chauvinist to his toenails, she suspected, as incapable of admitting to feeling hurt and lonely and afraid as a pig was of flying. But he was vulnerable too, enormously vulnerable. More than many people who openly asked for it, he needed love. He needed someone to hold him in her arms and convince him that what he had done was not so bad, was not unforgivable, did not put him beyond the pale of normal society. To convince him that he was lovable. And loved. And she meant to be that someone.

Funny, she had always thought that thin, bespectacled, intellectual types like Brian attracted her. Lora had to smile at her own naivete. Who would have guessed that she, Lora Harding, would buckle at the knees over a hunk of male beef?

E-book Purchase Links: ReaderStore | Barnes&Noble | Amazon

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Reviewers Note: From time to time, I get a hankering to re-read my favorite novels and sometimes I find myself with the urge revise the review that I had written down previously. Since I feel that revising a review that had been published a long time back is not something that ought to be done, I have resorted to start a new reviewing process aka the Re-Read Review. Books that rate a Re-Read Review would mostly be books that I am quite gushy about and cannot recommend highly enough!

Requested Review: Protecting Paige by Norah Wilson

Format: E-bookprotectingpaige
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Self-Published
Series: To Serve and Protect, Book 3
Hero: Tommy Godsoe
Heroine: Paige Harmer
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 20, 2010
Started On: August 27, 2011
Finished On: August 27, 2011

Protecting Paige, book 3 in the To Serve and Protect series explores the story of how a single mother finds much more than she bargained for in the arms of her sexy and younger neighbor that makes for one of my favorite tropes of romance. 34 year old Paige is a product of the foster care system making a life for herself and her 17 year old son Dillon whom she has brought up on her own after her husband had bailed out on her.

Moving to her new neighborhood, Paige discovers that her neighbor, the taciturn Tommy Godsoe who is recovering from an injury to his hip makes her heart go pitter patter right from the start. Younger than her by a couple of years, Tommy is hellbent on isolating himself to lick his wounds both physical and emotional in private. But in Paige, Tommy discovers a force to be reckoned with as she practically storms her way into his life, making him sit up and take notice of her and Dillon and drawing him into their lives with an effortless ease that leaves him stunned.

When things take a sinister turn and both Paige and Dillon’s lives end up in danger in a plot that Tommy couldn’t have dredged up even in his worst nightmares, Tommy knows that he would die trying to keep the woman who means everything to him alive and well, even if it means pushing his body beyond its limits of endurance after the injury.

What drew me in with Protecting Paige was in fact Paige’s character that is hard not to fall in love with. She may not be a beauty in the classic sense but on the inside she is a beauty that few can compete with. Growing up in the foster care system and later being abandoned by her husband of 3 years in favor of alcohol may have left its mark on Paige, but she doesn’t let it define who she is and that’s one of the reasons why I tumbled in love with her character as the story progressed.

Paige is one determined chick when it comes to those she loves and is protective towards and when she sets her sights on her sexy neighbor who could seriously give a Calvin Klein model a run for his money and looks like he is in dire need of some TLC, Paige bulldozes her way into his life, refuses to give him a chance to say no and worms her way into his emotions and heart just like that. I have got to say that Norah has a talent when it comes to consistently delivering heroines that readers can relate to and Paige is in no way an exception to this rule.

Tommy’s character is a sneaky one I tell you. At the beginning he is grumpy, surly and right in your face rude because his life has turned upside down with a work injury from which he doesn’t  hope he would recover from. But beneath all that surly attitude lies a heart that is steeped in fear of never measuring up, of always failing to meet the expectations of those that depend on him; a remnant residue of a childhood spent with a father who had demanded so much more than a little boy was capable of giving. It is Paige who brings a ray of sunshine into the bleak existence of his own making and it is in her that Tommy finds a reason to try again, to not let the blackhole that his life has become consume him until he has nothing left to give.

I loved the action aspect of this novel that explores the use of canines in police work which is a vital facet of the daily grind of law enforcement agencies. The interesting explanations of dog handling, the full of life relationship between a dog and its handler which is explored to just the right extent lent something extra to this novel that made things that much more compelling for me as the reader.

And of course, worthy of a mention is the secondary romance that develops between Dillon and Rachel, a character whose entrance into the story opens up a lot of possibilities. Maybe if we are very lucky, one day, Norah might write a story for Rachel and Dillon. A girl can always hope!

Recommended for fans of the series, fans of Norah Wilson and fans of younger hero and older heroine romances. This one’s seriously good!

Favorite Quotes

Her lips parted on a shocked gasp, and he took full advantage, sweeping into her mouth. She tasted of surprise and cinnamon and an unexpected innocence, which took the edge off his anger, but did nothing to dull the keenness of his intent. He grasped her face, tilting it for better access to her mouth, and proceeded to kiss her with deliberate, frank eroticism. No gentle request, no teasing enticement, no sweet cling of lips. Just pure, driving sexual demand.

Her tongue was in his mouth, and oh, Jesus, God, she tasted good. Like coffee and brandy and woman. Any thought of resistance fled.
She kissed him endlessly, again and again and again, like she was starving. Like she might never get enough. Like she could eat him alive. It was the sexiest thing he’d ever known.

(Danni) “I was kinda busy on the way back, too,” she admitted, her face reddening.
Tommy frowned. “I thought you said Dillon was passed out?”
“He was, but Derek wasn’t.” She grimaced. “I guess he got a little hot and bothered by the action in the back seat and wanted a little for himself.”
“Chrissakes,” exploded Ray. “Did anyone not get blown on this trip?”
Danni’s gaze came up then, her eyes glinting with tears and suppressed anger. “Yeah. Those of us without dicks.”

Requested Review: Saving Grace by Norah Wilson

Format: E-booksavinggrace
Read with: IBOOKS for IPAD
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Self-Published
Series: To Serve and Protect, Book 2
Hero: Raymond Morgan
Heroine: Grace Morgan
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 17, 2010
Started On: August 26, 2011
Finished On: August 26, 2011

Saving Grace is book 2 in the To Serve and Protect series by Norah Wilson. If you have already read book 1 i.e. Guarding Suzannah, you would have already met both Ray and Grace Morgan who were a couple even then. At first, I was surprised to know that book 2 would focus on Grace and Ray, a couple who already seemed to have everything going for them. Little did I know that there was indeed a story worth telling, and a lot of hurdles to be crossed before they both could embrace their love for each other in the truest form.

Saving Grace starts at a point that we rarely come across in romance novels. Ray who is reeling from the bombshell that Grace, his wife of 4 years has left him for another man gets the news that Grace has been involved in an accident. Helpless to do anything else, Ray makes his way towards the hospital, reluctant as he is to put his already bruised and battered emotions on the line. There he finds out that Grace has no recollection whatsoever of leaving him, nor that of her association with any other man apart from her husband.

Nursing Grace back to health as she struggles to deal with her memory loss seems to be the cruelest form of torture for Ray who can’t help but feel protective towards his wife even though his heart practically bleeds every time he lays eyes on her. Grace who has no idea of what she has done to earn that cold and distant aloofness that she finds in Ray’s eyes is determined that she wouldn’t lose the man she loves in this world above everything else.

When Ray comes face to face with the fact that both their lives are in danger, and that there is no way of identifying the threat as long as Grace’s memory keeps eluding her, both of them are forced to go into hiding to figure out what to do and to evade those who are hellbent on seeing them buried six feet under. It is this period of forced intimacy that proves to be the pivotal point in the healing process of their relationship, a journey that just left a permanent lump in my throat as I read along.

I loved the way how Norah managed to completely surprise me with this one. I was prepared for more of the same as Guarding Suzannah when I picked this one up. But boy, was I proven wrong right from the first page itself when emotions seeped right through my e-reader and made me impatient to find out every little bit I could about both Ray and Grace. In the end, I couldn’t have asked for a better story, nor a better or more fitting ending for a couple who literally goes through emotional hell and back to finally reach their very well deserved happily ever after. And for someone who rarely cries over books or movies, Norah definitely managed to do just that to me today.

The one thing that totally made the book for me was Ray’s character. From the first page itself, oh wait let me backtrack, ever since I encountered his character in Guarding Suzannah, I have been dying to know what would make the overly polished and controlled Raymond Morgan tick. And Norah certainly delivered on all counts with his character as he totally and irrevocably laid seige on every single emotion I had left to spare and then some. He is tender, generous, kind and on top of all that the way he takes care of Grace even when his heart is being torn into pieces just makes him one of the best heroes ever! And when he does finally let go of his legendary control in the bedroom, all my senses joined up and chanted, “Oh yes Ray baby, you should let go more often!”.

Grace’s character is not one to be left behind as I gush on about the things that worked for me. When I started reading, I was totally prepared to hate Grace’s guts cos in my world, there is nothing worse than hurting a delcious hero for whom my heart just bleeds. But then again, I should have known better and from the moment Grace finds comfort in Ray’s arms whilst at the hospital, I knew absolutely that there was no way that this woman could hurt the man she loves intentionally. I found myself in awe of the way Grace shaped up to a totally new and better version, one with a backbone of steel that earned my wholehearted approval as she sets out to right what she has done wrong and of course make Ray give ALL of himself to her.

Recommended for fans of delicious heroes, fans of romantic suspense and of course fans of the series and Norah Wilson. This is a series that I have a feeling will just continue to get better with each book!

Favorite Quotes

Hot and fierce and impossibly arousing, it was like that day in the car outside the motel. Elemental.
Yes, he was angry; she could feel it in his coiled muscles, taste it in the demand of his mouth and the bite of the hand cupping her head. But it didn’t matter. Anger was honest. Anger was real. Right now, she’d take it.
Ray’s hand raked up under the hem of her loose boxers to squeeze her bottom and she arched into him. Oh, yes, she’d definitely take it!

He caught her hand. “What do you want from me, Grace?”
That was easy. “Everything.” She wanted to touch his chest, but since he held her hand prisoner, she insinuated one leg between his legs, delighting in what it did to his breathing. “I don’t want you to hold anything back. I don’t want you to be so careful with me all the time.”
“Grace….”
“I want you to give me as much as I can take, and then I want you to give me more.”
“Like I did last night?”
His voice was rough, laced with self-disgust. God help her, she’d never loved him more.

“I hope you’re ready for me,” he rasped, rolling her under him, “‘cuz in about five seconds, I’m gonna be inside you.”
“Ray Morgan, I was born ready for you,” she breathed against his ear, even as she guided him to her entrance.
He slid home with one strong thrust. Both of them froze.

Then, suddenly, she was convulsing around him, shimmering, flying apart. Seconds later, he followed, his own release ripping the lid right off his world.
Slowly, like a feather on the breeze, he felt his spirit lilt back and forth until finally it settled to earth again.
Incredible. He’d just had the hottest sex of his life, and he’d had it with his wife of almost five years.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes&Noble

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I-Review: Saints & Sinners by Tatiana March

Format: E-booksaintsandsinners
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Self-Published
Series: Lone Gulch Series, Book 1
Hero: Eliza Hangreaves
Heroine: Joaquin Pereira
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 31, 2011
Started On: August 25, 2011
Finished On: August 25, 2011

Visitor: What made you pick up Saints and Sinners by Tatiana March?

MBR: I received Saints and Sinners from Tatiana March as a gift. Tatiana March landed on my list of authors to look out for after reading and reviewing her contemporary romance Home for a Soldier which I loved immensely. I am so glad that I received this little goodie from Tatiana because I believe she can do amazing things with this genre if this novella is anything to judge her talents in the American Western historical romance arena by.

Visitor: Tell me a little bit about the hero Joaquin Pereira.

MBR: Joaquin comes from a well to do Mexican family and finds himself living the life of a gun slinger and that of a gambler after believing that he let his childhood friend down in a way that can never be atoned for. Joaquin is the sexy, broody and dangerous type of hero that we all love to read and swoon over and he certainly delivers that sizzle to the story that kept me turning the pages to get more of him!

Visitor: Now tell me a little bit about the heroine Eliza Hargreaves.

MBR: Eighteen year old Eliza is a woman who grows up with her physically and emotionally abusive father who has a thing for fraudulent behavior to aide his lazy and deceitful lifestyle. Eliza is a woman who is scared of the future, who has no idea what the next day would bring in her life. Cowering behind the voluminous clothes that she wears, Eliza tries hard to fade into the background and not draw attention to herself. The only time she allows herself to dream is when she thinks about Joaquin whose flashing smiles contradicts the wealth of pain in his eyes.

Visitor: How does Eliza and Joaquin meet for the first time?

MBR: There is no mention in the novella of how Eliza and Joaquin meets for the first time. Rather, Eliza waits for the moments on Sundays that she catches glimpses of Joaquin right after church, though she would be mortified if Joaquin were ever to find out just how aware she is of his existence.

Visitor: What was it that drew you into the story with Saints and Sinners?

MBR: Saints and Sinners is the first book in the Lone Gulch series and it is the way that Tatiana brings her characters to life and hints at a lot of interesting secondary characters that I would love future stories to be based on that drew me into the story. Both Eliza and Joaquin’s characters and their histories are the types that reel you in and holds your undivided attention until you see them through to their happily ever after.

Visitor: What was it that you liked about Saints and Sinners?

Saints and Sinners in my opinion is a fine introduction into what I foresee is going to be a well thought out western historical romance series which I am definitely going to be keeping an eye on in the time to come.

From both Eliza and Joaquin’s characters that I adored to the secondary characters that lend this novella the extra characterization that makes it a well balanced one, I felt my interest in the town of Luch Gulch grow and my anticipation for the next couple of stories in the series become that more acute as I read along.

One of the things I loved about Saints and Sinners is how Joaquin and Eliza are brought together and the red-hot sexual tension that rages like wildfire between them right from the very start. The way that Joaquin is helplessly drawn towards Eliza and in turn the way Eliza trusts Joaquin enough to guide her through her first foray into physical intimacy held me enthralled and I loved how they both made each other feel.

And I loved how Joaquin was insightful enough to know exactly what Eliza wants and needs in order for her to let go of the fears that rules her life and embrace the world of living with arms wide open. 

Visitor: Is there anything you would want done differently in Saints and Sinners?

MBR: Apart from wanting the story to be lengthier than it is, which always happens if I love what a novella delivers with the story, I have no complaints.

Visitor: Any memorable quotes/scenes from the story you would like to share?

MBR: Definitely!! The bathtub smexing scene is certainly a memorable one and so is the first kiss that Eliza and Joaquin share. *an endless sighing session ensues*. 

Favorite Quotes

Slowly, Joaquin leaned in, drawn closer to her against his will. Pursing his lips, he breathed warm air across her cheeks, like animals do when they learn each other’s scent, learn to trust. “Easy now,” he whispered in between the soft puffs of air. “Let go of the fear.”
“I can’t,” she said, in a little broken voice that clenched at his heart.
“Yes you can.” Joaquin let his lips touch her skin, the merest hint of a contact. She made a tiny sound of alarm, a cross between a sob and a cry. He brushed his mouth against hers. A shudder shook her body, but she pressed into him, seeking his shelter. Keeping his hands braced to the timber, he deepened the kiss. His mouth slanted over hers, bolder now.
Her hands rose between them and fisted into his shirt.

How in hell had a casual embrace turned into an all-consuming kiss?
Edgy and rattled, Joaquin stalked back to his cantina, The Watering Hole. Reluctantly, he accepted it had been one of those moments his mother used to call earthquake moments—they were not significant events, but deep down you knew that the repercussions could alter the course of your life.

Nudging her legs apart with one knee, he poised himself above her. “Do you want it fierce and powerful?” he asked in a husky tone.
She nodded.
He pushed inside her in one swift thrust and waited for her to react, to welcome him. Her legs rose to coil around his hips. She clung to his shoulders. Her body tightened, holding him in, wanting him.

Visitor: Who would you recommend Saints and Sinners to?

MBRDefinitely to fans of American-Western historical romances and fans of Tatiana March. This is a novella well worth your time of you have around an hour to spare. 

Purchase Links: Amazon | AllRomanceEbooks | Smashwords

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ARC Review: Under Fire by Rita Henuber

Format: E-bookunderfire
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Carina Press
Series: Standalone
Hero: Declan O’Conner
Heroine: Olivia Carver
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 22, 2011
Started On: August 19, 2011
Finished On: August 24, 2011

I am a little bit late with my review of Under Fire by Rita Henuber. Work has been a bit crazy and with other obligations taking up my precious reading time, I have been a bit swamped so to speak. But I am a girl who always believes in the “better late than never” adage and though my review is a trifle bit late in coming, it comes with all good tidings and recommendations for fans of the genre to give this one a try!

Rico Cortes is a DEA agent who has been working deep undercover in the midst of Miami’s drug world. With a past that has put him on a course to do his bit to rid his country of drugs, Rico is at the verge of wondering who the real Rico is as his job pulls him deeper into a world filled with treachery and deceit.

Coast Guard Lt. Commander Olivia Carver is one determined woman, whose twin brother Danny was murdered whilst working undercover in the Miami drug scene. Her vow to avenge the death of her twin is one that constantly rings through her very soul and the only thing that stops her from quitting her job to embark on a full fledged search for the killer is the fact that her position brings her intel that she otherwise would not have access to.

When Olivia and Rico’s worlds collide, a meeting machinated by Rico in order to throw Olivia off the course of Rico’s investigation, the one thing neither counts on is the volatile sexual need that practically wipes every other thought from their minds. A one night stand that leaves both wanting more takes a darker turn when Rico is forced to make use of Olivia in their joint quest to bring their mutual enemy to justice – or wipe him off the face of the Earth once and for all!

Under Fire is an appropriate title for a book which is filled with action of the heart pounding variety that never lets up. The constant kick-ass action that is always a part of this story held my undivided attention as I sped through the pages. With a thrilling chase that kickstarts the story sets the tone for the whole novel as Olivia and Rico pulls out all the stops to lure one of the worst drug lords in their country to his ultimate demise. I loved the fact that Rita Henuber doesn’t pull any punches and delivered that realistic edge to the action, not doing a complete 360 degree turnabout at the end where forgiveness and doing the right thing takes precedence over the goal that had been set at the beginning.

The passion that ignites between Olivia and Rico is one to be savored in the story. Though the scenes aren’t explicitly detailed each and every single time, Rita does know how to keep the adrenaline pumping with the constant arcs of awareness that leaps forth between Olivia and Rico. I loved the heat and sultriness of the first encounter between them and I’ve just got one word for Rico – HOT!

For me, though Olivia tended to be the centrepoint of the story as it unfolded, Rico’s character turned out to be the most endearing one. His painful past when it comes to light made me want to wrap my arms around him and never let go. As the shades of his undercover persona is left behind bit by bit, there emerges a man that wants above all to do the right thing and to find that one person in the world who would love him completely, his darkness and all.

Olivia makes for one kick-ass chick, whose sheer determination to find her twin brother’s killer obliterates everything else in her life – even her burgoening feelings towards Rico. I think it was because of that reason that I couldn’t completely warm up to Olivia’s character towards the end though she makes you want to learn one of those few dangerous manueuvers of your own to dish out every now and then.

The humor that is so intrinsically woven together in a story that practically vibrates with adrenaline overload turned out to be one of the reasons I kept coming back for more of Olivia and Rico. I kept going LOL even during those tense moments fraught with either danger or sexual tension that just somehow seemed to fit right in making this romantic suspense a well balanced one.

One of my peeves with the book turned out to be how things ended in the story. I was clamoring so bad for an epilogue that would depict Olivia and Rico as a couple, maybe a couple of years in the future, both settled in and adjusting to life at a different pace than the ones they have led up till and throughout the story. The way how things ended is the only reason that prevented me from giving this one a whopping 5-stars though Under Fire still makes for an awesome read!

Recommended for those who love their heroines to be of the kick-ass variety, their heroes to be ultra sexy and for the story to practically burst at the seams from the continuous stream of non-stop action!

Favorite Quotes

(Rico) “What’s it going to take to get you to dance with me?”
She crooked her index finger and motioned him to come close. “A million in your bank account and seven inches in your pants.”
Without missing a beat he replied, “The million I have, but even for a woman as beautiful as you, I won’t cut off three inches.”
Olivia’s eyes went wide and she burst out laughing.

(Rico) “Can’t wait.”
“Neither can I.” She prepared herself for another go-on-forever kiss. It didn’t come. Between gentle darting kisses, Rico nibbled her lips while his hands explored her body. Olivia moaned. She couldn’t help it.
The sound seemed to trigger something in Rico. Now the kissing was hard, wild and insatiable. Strong arms circled her, big hands covered her buttocks and yanked her against him. Without stopping the kisses or separating their bodies, Rico maneuvered them to the passenger side of her Jeep.

She closed tight around him, pulsing. Rico’s fingers dug into her hips. His movements quickened and he found his rhythm. She wrapped her legs around his hips as his body arched, tensed and shuddered with his own release.
Someone growled. Him, her, she didn’t know. Her blood pounded so hard and loud in her head she couldn’t be sure.

(Olivia) “I’m stopping at the next exit for gas. I’ll get rid of the scrubs. You get out and walk around or by the time we get to Miami you’ll be too stiff to move.”
“Don’t worry, when I get stiff I move very well,” he muttered as he turned to face away.
“I heard that.”

He (Rico) moved to look at the speedometer.
“Come on, Olivia. The speed limit is 70. You’re doing 95, and this car is ticket bait. I don’t want to risk getting stopped.”
“I’m traveling with the flow. This is I-95. If I go the speed limit I’ll stand out.”
He scowled.
“Okay.” She slowed the Corvette.
“Thanks,” he muttered. “You always drive like this?”
“Yep, I grew up in Texas. Speed limits there are only a suggestion.”

(Olivia) “What is all of this, your James Bond room?”
“You could say that. It’s my backup.” He opened cabinets, took out a pill bottle and downed a Percocet. “In here I have weapons, computers, transportation, medical supplies, money and anything else I might need for my survival. Things we’ll need to complete this job.”
Olivia ran her fingers across several of the weapons on the counter and shelf. “Where’s your toothbrush radio and exploding briefcase?”

Purchase Links: Amazon Carina Press | BooksOnBoard | Barnes&Noble

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Review: Welcome Home, Cowboy by Karen Templeton

Format: E-bookwelcomehomecowboy
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Wed in the West, Book 4
Publisher: Harlequin

Hero: Cash Cochran
Heroine: Emma Manning
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 1 2010
Started On: August 18, 2011
Finished On: August 18, 2011

Welcome Home, Cowboy by Karen Templeton is a romance that has been making itself known in my trolling sessions for books to be added to my to-be-read mountain of books. What propelled me to stop everything I was doing and completely immerse myself in this book was the fact that this one seems to have got great reviews and of course being a RITA award winner of 2011 just sealed the deal for me.

Cash Cochran returns home to Tierra Rosa almost 20 years after he leaves home and his abusive father behind. A country musician by profession, Cash is a man with enough torturedness in his soul that practically bleeds out of him when he comes face to face with his childhood home, now owned by his childhood best friend Lee Manning. Cash hopes to hash things out with Lee only to find his pregnant and widowed wife Emma holding the fort with two kids and a grandmother in law with her brood of cats, that reaches into something deep inside of Cash that he has no knowledge of and squeezes it tight until he can’t help but yearn for things better left unsaid.

From the moment Emma lays her eyes on Cash, all her emotions clamor to give him the comfort and peace that he seems to be in such dire need of. And when Cash decides to help out at the farm intending to sort out how he feels with Emma’s narration of events that completely turns upside down what he has believed all his life, Emma knows that she and her brood are in deep trouble if Cash’s tender nature that emerges is anything to judge him by.

As the daily grind of the farm life brings them closer, both Emma and Cash realize that there is much more at stake than just their hearts alone and with Cash clamoring to leave as soon as Emma is able to get a handle on things after giving birth, Emma knows that there is no point in asking him to stay. It is when Cash’s past beckons him and takes him away that Cash realizes the true meaning of the word home as he finds that and so much more with Emma and her family.

I loved the emotion that practically seeped through the pages right from the very start. Even the first couple of chapters felt like an emotional minefield and that sets the tone of the story till the very end. But through it all, Karen still manages to give the reader the beauty that is in loving and in hoping for better things in life as Cash seems to finally find in Emma and her family.

One of the things that struck me (in a good way of course) was how different Karen’s voice is from most of the romance authors. She brings to light different quirks about her characters and their backgrounds without going into a deep narration of sorts but rather places an interesting hint here and there which allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions which in turn makes the story that much more riveting and fun. 

There is no character that you wouldn’t fall in love with if you pick up Welcome Home, Cowboy. From Cash with his silver eyes that tries to hide his inner turmoil and pain to Emma who can’t help but want to reach deep inside of Cash and fix things for him to Emma’s adorable children Hunter and Zoey, whose point of view in the story just made me smile the entire time to the very quirky character we find in Grandmother Annie, the whole story is filled with well rounded characters that just totally invaded my heart and laid siege on it right from beginning.

And last but not the least, a special mention has to be made of Emma’s character that just invites a man to want her for herself. She is beautiful inside and out, entirely comfortable with who she is and the best thing about her is her sense of hope and optimism that everything will turn out to be alright in the end. The way she loves so wholeheartedly is the best thing about Emma and she is definitely ending up as a favorite heroine of mine.

Welcome Home, Cowboy is a romance everyone ought to read, just to experience the pull on the emotions that this one does so effectively.

Highly recommended!