Review: Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh

Format: E-bookshardsofhope
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy-Changeling, #14
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Aden Kai
Heroine: Zaira Neve
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 02, 2015
Started On: January 23, 2016
Finished On: January 24, 2016

Shards of Hope is the 14th book in the phenomenal Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh. The series has come such a long way since its first book was published in 2006. Nalini has managed to turn things around in a world occupied by humans, changelings and Psy; the majority trying to find their footing amidst the rapidly changing landscape of politics and power that shapes their world. Nalini Singh is a master at what she does; the world crafting, the storytelling, the romance that she pens so well and the adventure that you are guaranteed in each of these novels. I love her stories for the depth of characterization explored, the strong sense of justice and right and wrong that she explores in her stories. Of course, there are the heroes that one salivates over and the heroines who makes you wish you were as strong as them – but they are relatable in a way that makes the stories the sumptuous delights they are.

Shards of Hope begins 4 months after the fall of Silence. Silence refers to a protocol adopted by the Psy in 1979 in order to stop the madness that their race seems to prone to; the violence that strikes rendering their race to become mindless creatures that goes on a rampage of killing and blood lust. The Psy had done whatever they did back then, in order to protect the minds of a race with the enhanced abilities of the mind they are gifted with. Aden Kai is the leader of the Arrows, a sort of paramilitary group that exists to protect the Psy race. With the fall of the Silence, and even before that, the subordination that had been demanded of them for political gain had fallen apart, leaving Aden as the one whom all Arrows trust and would give up their life for.

When Aden and Zaira Neve are kidnapped and tested upon by forces unknown, thus begins a cycle of events that changes things for the Arrows as a group and for Aden and Zaira both in terms of what their relationship means to them and their future. Aden, the offspring of two Arrows who had seen nothing worthy inside of him had handed him over to the Arrow training facility while he was quite young, which was the norm back then. Zaira had been a victim of parental abuse which had nearly ended her life, not owing to them, but because she had stood up to them, which had ended in a blood bath brought upon by sheer rage. That rage that lives within her, the scars that defines her, are the very reasons why she puts up the walls she does when she is around Aden, to stop him from enticing her and convincing her that they belong together, in fact, that Zaira had belonged to him from the very moment their lives had crossed paths.

Aden is a hero inside whom the word honor echoes with every breathe he draws. It is that honor and integrity that is the selling point when it comes to him, when it comes to leading a group of lethal soldiers who could at his command, make the whole world bleed. Aden wants something entirely different for his Arrows whom he considers to be his family. With the fall of Silence, problems that they would never have anticipated comes to light, but Aden is determined that he would change the lives of Arrows from one where they exist only to fulfill their duties to a life that is filled with warmth, love and a sense of belonging. A tall order for a group of people whose conditioning from a very tender age had taught them just the opposite.

Zaira’s story is one of heartbreak, but that of immense strength as well. A lesser woman would have crumbled and gone mad long back. But Zaira withstands the onslaught of rage that threatens to make her give into her baser desires. Zaira knows that if she ever were to consider Aden as hers, her possessive nature would be the death of the man Aden has to be for his Arrows. But in Aden’s arms Zaira finds solace, comfort and desire of the kind that she would never find elsewhere in the world. With every touch, every kiss that Aden places on her forehead, lips and her subconscious mind, Aden wins her over. Aden’s patience when it comes to Zaira is one that is worthy of noting. But then again, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from the man who would walk to hell on earth and back, not only for Zaira, but each and every man and woman who serves on his team of elite soldiers.

It is a testament to Nalini Singh’s incredible talent that none of the stories appear to be cliched versions of earlier books. It is that very reason amongst a multitude of others, that would always keep me coming back for more! The unfinished thread in Shards of Hope is one that intrigues me and I can’t wait to find out what is in store for the Psy, Changelings and the humans. According to Nalini, Allegiance of Honor, the 15th book in the series which is to come out this year is going to be composed of an ensemble cast. Can’t wait for June!

Final Verdict: Nothing short of amazing; bears witness to Nalini’s splendorous talent.

Favorite Quotes

Pushing off the wall without warning, she walked around the corner and into a small alcove hidden from the world by a heavy mass of overhanging vines as well as its position tucked in between two buildings.
“Zaira.” Aden followed her. “What—”
Slamming him against the wall, she pressed her lips to the strong, powerful beat of the pulse in his neck. Since she was already falling into the abyss, her control shredded, why deny herself the pleasure that was the flip side of the nightmare memories she could no longer stifle?
He shuddered, one hand sliding up to curve over the back of her neck. And then their mouths were meeting and it was wild and undisciplined, wet and hot, and she stopped thinking, the rage in her drugged into a haze of want focused on this beautiful man whose hunger for her seemed as feral as hers for him.

Chest rising and falling in harsh breaths and pupils dilated, Aden watched her mouth as if he’d devour her all over again.
Zaira was fine with being devoured. Fine. “I’m meant to be the out-of-control one,” she whispered.
He shot her a look that made her burn, made her realize just how much he kept contained beneath his calm, stable skin. It felt as if he’d shown her a secret, shown her a small madness within himself. She couldn’t stop herself. She pressed close, claimed another kiss, was claimed, that strong hand on her jaw and his body crushing her to the wall.
And Zaira realized that some prisons could equal pleasure, not pain.

“You are so beautiful.” The words came out raw.
Freezing, she looked up at him for a long, long time. “You mean it,” she whispered “You really do.”
He didn’t understand why she’d even question that, but he didn’t have time for a discussion. Not today. Bending his head, he kissed her. She opened for him immediately, one of her legs curling over his hip in a distinctively possessive act. Reaching down, he pulled up her other leg until she was locked around him, her arms wrapped around his neck as she held him to her.
“Mine,” she said on a kiss.
The single word branded him to the soul. “Yes.”

He didn’t ask again, just gripped her under the hip with one strong hand and pushed the tip of his erection into her passion-swollen entrance.
“Aden.”
Sliding his other hand under her neck to hold it gently but with unmistakable possessiveness, he said, “This’ll hurt.”
Kissing him again in answer, she spoke to him mind to mind. I choose this pain, she said. I choose you.

“You’re already mine.” It came out instinctively, from that primal, possessive core at the heart of her nature.
He pressed his forehead to hers, not fighting her hold. “I know, but do you?” His hair fell over his forehead to brush hers. “Deep inside, do you know?”
She didn’t understand his question, and the frustration made her pull at his hair. “Stop talking in circles.”
“A psychic bond,” he said, his mind touching hers.
She wanted to open so badly to him. “If you do that, I won’t ever let you go.” If the physical connection had sealed them together, this would turn that seal into an unbreakable glue. “Even my death won’t free you.” The psychic scars would be irreparable.
“Whether we bond or not, your loss would change me forever.” A quiet voice that held so much power it vibrated with it. “You are written indelibly on my soul, Zaira. Nothing will ever alter what you are to me.”

Slamming both hands palms down on either side of her head as the sound of his name on her lips further eroded his control, Aden used the leverage to pull back as much as he could, given her grip on him, before sinking deep into her once again in another hard thrust. She was wet, tight heat around his cock and silken, lithe warmth around his body.
“My Zaira,” he said, his voice so rough the words were almost unrecognizable.

He’d intended to give her romance tonight, too, but the bond pulsed with a visceral need he had to assuage. Realizing he was still gripping the ring, he pushed it into her hand. “Put it on me.” He was hers in every way that mattered—the ceremony would be for others, for their friends and those in their care. This was for them.
Kissing his jaw, his throat, she looked down and, picking up his hand, slid on the ring. “All mine.”
“Always have been.”

Groaning, he reached between them and somehow managed to undo his jeans, shove down the denim and his briefs. It took a little more effort to kick them off, but he was highly motivated.
Naked at last, he nudged aside the gusset of her panties. A single stroke of his finger through her wetness and her back arched, the sensations that came shooting back at him through the bond threatening to make his eyes roll back in his head. Then she bit him on the jaw and it was all over.
He thrust into her wet heat in a single, demanding push.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | ARe | eBookMall | iTunes

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Review: A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookadarklure
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Cole McDonough
Heroine: Sarah Jane Baker / Olivia West
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 1, 2015
Started On: January 20, 2016
Finished On: January 22, 2016

She tied him a fly, using a pattern she’d designed, one that had given her untold luck with those silvery fish, those fighting steelhead. She was anxious for his return.
“Does it have a name?” he said, when she gave it to him.
“The Predator.” She smiled. A little embarrassed.
His eyes turned dark, and her heart beat faster. His voice dipped low. “It’s a fine name.”
He regarded her for several heavy, silent beats. She felt an atavistic pull, the hairs on her arms rising toward him, as if in electrical attraction. He leaned closer and her mouth turned dry. And he told her about the wild blueberries. Down by the bend in the river.
She took the lure.
She went in search of the berries.
She never came home.

Some books are hard to review because lets face it, they were really not worth the time and investment you placed in reading them. But others, they are tough because you are afraid that you wouldn’t be able to do justice to what the book did to you. It ravages you in a way you would never forget anytime soon. It brings forth emotions that you thought you wouldn’t ever feel. It violates and heals you in equal doses and you know you would never feel the same, ever again. A Dark Lure was that kind of book for me. It is dark, incredibly dark, which is why I loved it so much, not to mention the fact that Loreth Anne White has a penchant for writing the kind of stories that makes you feel one with the tale as it unfolds, the best kind of stories if you ask me.

Sarah Jane Baker or Olivia West as she is known as later on, is a survivor. A survivor of a terrible ordeal which had seen her imprisoned by the infamous Watt Lake Killer. She is the one who got away from the killer’s clutches and lived to tell the tale of the horrors that she experienced at his hand. Almost 12 years to the day that Sarah was taken, the Watt Lake Killer returns, determined to finish the hunt that he had started years back – the brief reprieve that had happened only wetting his appetite for his Sarah all the more!

Cole McDonough is an ex-military psychology and philosophy scholar turned war correspondent turned narrative nonfiction adventure writer, who has made a name for himself with the evocative books he has written. The words he writes on paper speaks to Olivia on a level that she knows spells trouble. But the imminent death of her dear friend who is Cole’s estranged father makes her throw caution to the wind and summons the prodigal son home after 13 long years. Which means that there is no turning away from the answering need that flares to life in Cole, a man who had been on the verge of giving up because life had dealt him a cruel blow in a life that had been lived chasing one story after another.

Olivia’s whole world is thrown off kilter when the flashbacks begin, the panic and anxiety that she had lived through and survived before comes knocking on her door once again, the seemingly coincidental happenings around the ranch being all too close for comfort to what had happened to her all those years back. And all the while, the killer lurks in the shadows, drawing her deeper into a web of his making, determined that he wouldn’t lose to her this time around.

Loreth has penned a tale that practically takes your breathe away with this one. Be it the killer, the hero or heroine or even the secondary characters, there is no one that appears to be of the cookie cutter variety. I loved the fact that the villain, instead of being the hideous looking versions they are in most books, the Watt Lake Killer turned out to be as charming as they come. His ability to draw people towards him, be it man or woman, was what fascinated me. His past as it was revealed in bits and pieces – not enough to appease my appetite for more, was one that unsettled me. Well, his whole character was unsettling in one way or another and that was the sheer brilliance in it for me. A villain that makes you think and wants to explore beyond the mere projections on paper is one that intrigues me. I loved A Dark Lure for that very reason!

Loreth’s mastery comes to light in the way she juggles the voices of three different “writers” in this story. There is Loreth’s own voice. Then there is Cole, who is a writer of a different kind who writes nonfiction on survivalists whereas Melody Vanderbilt, whose unpublished manuscript tells the tale of what took place almost 12 years back, how Sarah had been ensnared in the trap laid out by an enigmatic killer and gone missing; that was one of the cleverest parts of the plot if you ask me. To read about the tragedy, the one that had made Olivia West out of Sarah Jane Baker, the story of how Sarah had had to go through all of it all alone; that was sheer genius on the part of Loreth and I cannot rave about it just enough.

Olivia’s story is an extraordinary one of strength, survival, fortitude and human instinct to protect oneself. It was amazing the fact that she had managed to carve a different sort of woman out of herself and being able to weather it through. I am not making light of what she went through. No, never that. She had plummeted to the lowest of the lows, the physical scars on her body just a surface indicator of what she had been subjected to, gone through and come out stronger, all because of it. Olivia is vulnerable to her very core, but she has learnt the hard way to tamp down on that vulnerability and project strength from within.

The fact that she is able to empathize, love and care for others even after having witnessed the darkest of human nature is one of the many reasons to love and admire her character. The painful memories of what she’d undergone are ones that keeps the pages turning, your heart shaking. In a way, Cole’s musings were spot on. How does anyone for that matter, ever move on from something like that? Would they ever be “normal”? Or would they have to carve a new “normal” that works for them and just make the best of it? All of these are thoughts that haunts you long after you are done and you can’t help but be moved on a level that is beyond your understanding.

Cole makes for the perfect partner for someone like Olivia who would most likely live through a lifelong process of healing. There is no pill in the world, no amount of therapy in the world that would ever make someone who had gone through what Olivia had whole in a sense that we think is what should be. I believe that Cole’s patience, abundance of empathy and the life he has led till then is what makes him the perfect person to bring Olivia out of hiding from her emotions and the love that she craves above all else. A beautiful and passionate woman as Olivia should not live hiding from her true nature. And I believe that given time, she’d get there with Cole by her side.

Loreth’s writing is one that is deeply evocative. It is descriptive in a way that makes you feel like you are inside the pages, haunted by the trees shrouded in darkness, where evil lurks just beneath the surface. It makes you feel the rioting emotions that courses through Olivia as she feels the ground shake beneath her, pulling her headlong into a nightmare she’d already once lived through and survived. It makes you see the pain, darkness and the fluttering hope that lies at the heart of the characters who are all scarred in one way or other, as they are brought together by the machinations of fate. It makes you hear even the owl that hoots, as it watches through the darkness to the evil stalks you and once again melts into the night, leaving your heart rapidly thumping in your chest in its wake. Few authors can bring forth these emotions as such when you turn the pages and this is exactly why I would keep coming back for more!

Loreth’s stories are all consuming. Every book that I’ve read from hers has been better than the previous one in that regard. I fervently hope that the trend continues because Loreth has become my go to author for romantic suspense of the dark variety. I now have to lie patiently in wait until Loreth’s newest romantic suspense, In the Barren Ground hits the stands come August 16. Guess till then, I would have to satisfy myself with some of Loreth’s Harlequin Intrigue titles that sounds like they would deliver stellar reads.

Absolutely, definitely, recommended!

Final Verdict: Incredible storytelling from start to finish! Kept me mesmerized all throughout!

Favorite Quotes

Cole drew her more firmly against his body, his mouth pressing down harder. Blinding desire swelled through her, obliterating all thought, all memories as she opened her mouth under his. His tongue slipped into her mouth, tasting, devouring her, and she leaned up into his kiss, into his solid body, her tongue tangling furiously with his as her own hunger consumed her.
His stubble was rough against her face. It made her more fierce, hungrier. She felt the hard length of his erection press against her pelvis as he backed her toward her cabin.

Anticipation, anger, fear—it all smashed through her as she closed her eyes tightly and angled down onto his cock, opening her legs wider as she sank inch by inch onto the delicious length of hard, hot shaft. Her breath caught at the shock of the sensation of him inside her. But she pushed against pain until he was in to the hilt, right up against her inner core. And she felt a sweet, quivering explosion of wetness as she adjusted to the size of him. It was an exquisite, titillating kind of hurt that just drove her higher, wilder.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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Review: Dark Journey by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookdarkjourney
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Anne Stuart’s Bad Boys, #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Alex Montmort
Heroine: Laura Fitzpatrick
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 20, 2015
Started On: January 20, 2016
Finished On: January 20, 2016

Anne Stuart manages to accomplish in just 70 plus pages what most authors strive for in their entire careers as writers. There is an ethereal beauty to Anne Stuart’s writing that I have not come across in the works of any other authors, and I have read enough romances in my lifetime to know exactly what I am talking about.

This short read by Anne Stuart served me well in my bid to say adios to Anne Stuart’s works – for the time being, still riding the high from Driven by Fire that I had finished a day back. Dark Journey delves into the lives of the Fitzapricks; Laura Fitzaprick being sickly all her life owing to a heart condition. Her time to leave this world had come many a time, but Death had defied those very moments in a bid to keep Laura alive and kicking – for reasons that he would rather not think too deeply about.

Alex Montmort comes into Laura’s life at a moment that the lives of the entire family are on a teetering edge. Because unknowingly, in their midst, is someone who is driven by anger, jealousy and psychosis, determined to eliminate the entire family in a bid to claim the entire wealth of the family. Laura who has always remained on the fringes of the lives of members of her family because no one would let her exert herself, is stunned by the man who resembles nothing she has ever seen in her life, nor experienced, but can’t help but think she has encountered before. Alex’s timely arrival coincides with strange occurrences all over the world – because Death itself had gone on vacation for a short while.

Alex finds himself drawn towards Laura, who tries and fails in her mind to place where exactly she has run into him before. Laura is fearless in her attempt to understand Alex and pursue the hedonistic attraction that is between them. The only thing that keeps her at bay is Alex and the fact she can’t bring herself to believe that someone experienced like him who could have any woman he desires, wanting a sickly thing like herself, who has zero experience to speak of. But the heart wants what it wants, regardless, does it not?

As the series title attests to the fact, Dark Journey features an Anne Stuart variety of bad boy that you wouldn’t encounter anywhere else. He is ruthless, he is charming, and he can take a scene from zero to hundred by the mere flick of an eyebrow in the right direction. I kid not. Suffices to say that I was smitten with Alex, from the very start!

There is a thin line that we humans walk between life and death. What Anne Stuart explores in Dark Journey is how much would we be willing to walk onto the other side. Would we ever want to? Haunting in the wake of the thoughts this little number leaves behind, proved to be a winner for this heart of mine!

Final Verdict: Tinged with darkness & the masterful prose that is Anne Stuart. 

Favorite Quotes

The ice had melted from his face, his lips, his hair. He kissed her with a ferocity that should have terrified her, but she was past terror, past second thoughts. She wanted to kiss him back, but she wasn’t sure how. Then his thumbs cupped her jaw and gently opened her mouth for him.
He used his tongue as he had that morning. He taught her how to use her tongue, to give, as well as to receive, and when he thrust his tongue into her mouth, her knees buckled.

He leaned forward, sliding his hands up her torso to cover her breasts, and the sensation was the sweetest torment. “Are you afraid of death, Laura?” he whispered against her mouth.
She found she’d been clutching the sheet beneath her. It was a simple enough question, with an obvious response. But she didn’t want the obvious, she wanted the truth. And for some odd reason, she knew that her answer mattered terribly.
“No,” she said, with no doubt whatsoever. “I’m not afraid of death.”
“Then let me show you life,” he said. And, moving down, he put his mouth between her legs.

The first wave hit her, a spasm of reaction that sent starbursts dancing behind her eyes. The second wave came, harder and stronger, and from a distance she could hear a gasping sob that had to be her own.
Before the tremors had died away he moved up, over her, between her legs, thrusting deep, breaking past the fear and the fragile barrier of her innocence, deep and hard and sure, and his hand covered her mouth, muffling her cry.

Reality and time seemed to have vanished into the maelstrom. She lay beneath him, listening for the pounding of a heart that should have exploded five minutes ago, listening as her breath rasped to a more reasonable pace. She reached up and cupped his face, and his long hair fell around her fingers. His sun-glasses were gone, but it was too dark to see his eyes, his face. She could feel dampness on his cheeks, could feel the tentative movement of muscle that might have been a smile. She felt his love, strong, sure, unspoken. She didn’t need the words.

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

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ARC Review: Driven by Fire by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookdrivenbyfire
Read with: Adobe Reader for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Fire, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Matthew Ryder
Heroine: Jennifer Gauthier Parker
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: February 16, 2016
Started On: January 18, 2016
Finished On: January 18, 2016

I have been stalking Netgalley since forever, in anticipation of the release of the second book in the Fire series by Anne Stuart. As usual, once I had this baby safely in my TBR pile, I couldn’t focus on any other book, which is a given when it is the newest release by the Queen of Romance herself. I finished this in one sitting, which is rare for me these days. I always tend to take breaks now, the days of reading a  book straight in 4 hours a thing of the past as I have grown older. But Driven by Fire demanded that I lose sleep over it as I raced to the finish line, determined that I wouldn’t miss out on any of the deliciousness that is a fresh Anne Stuart novel.

37 year old Matthew Ryder is a member of the infamous Committee, a group of high level operatives and assassins who are trained in the art of deception and all the skills required in order to preserve democracy in its member countries. 28 year old Jennifer Gauthier Parker is a member of the notorious Gauthier family of organized crime and political power, one that she has distanced herself from a long time back. A pro bono lawyer, Jenny is hellbent on doing good where her family is determined to live their life doing just the opposite.

Ryder and Jenny’s paths cross during a night that Jenny’s father reaches out to her to save her youngest brother. Stubborn in her belief that her brother is innocent where a heinous crime such as human trafficking is concerned, Jenny is the one who prevents her brother from ending up in the hands of the ruthless operative who stands in her way, and later finds herself turning up on his very doorstep, determined that The Committee help her where one of the victims of the trafficking ring are concerned. Little does she know that once she enters the den that is Ryder’s fortress, nothing in her life would remain the same, ever again.

Ryder might dislike the fact that he and Jenny are thrown together, with both having to stick it out until he can find out who it is that has it out for the seemingly innocent Jennifer Gauthier. A man who is more cynical than most, Ryder prefers his life without commitments of the kind which features women like Jenny. While his reaction towards her on a physical level makes him think that he has gone too long without a woman, his suspicions about Jenny holding back something from him makes for the pivotal point in the story, and one that may turn out to be a tough selling point for many a reader. But true to the style of the legend that Anne Stuart is, she makes the relationship that fosters and grows between Jenny and Ryder one that reaches its ultimate explosive conclusion, delivering a read that is combustible on many a level.

I also have to admit. Between the two books that have been published in the series so far, the clear favorite of mine would have to be the debut, Consumed by Fire. Ryder is ruthless in a way that makes the James Bishop look like a wuss. I am not kidding. But the reason why I love books by Anne Stuart is because she doesn’t shortchange in her delivery of ruthless heroes. She makes them stay true to their character. They don’t turn into a puddle of gooey softness the minute they know of their vulnerability towards the heroine. Just the opposite in fact. They fight their emotions, and they fight it hard, but inevitably its a losing battle – thank God for that. Ryder while ruthless in a way that most readers might have a problem forgiving, I loved him, all that ruthlessness as well. But I did wish that he had to grovel a bit more where Jenny was concerned. But then again, Anne Stuart delivers heroines who are pragmatic at best – while they are strong and independent, they have no qualms about accepting their fate where their love for the hero is concerned.

Jenny is a heroine who has it bad. With a family that cares naught for her, and a family that one should be leery of at best, it is Jenny’s naivety that gets her in trouble as it is. Naivety in trusting the wrong people, in being too trusting – period. With Ryder, even though Jenny knows that she might not survive his brand of ruthlessness, it is because she doesn’t trust Ryder to do right by her that she continues to skirt away from coming clean with him. Given the circumstances, I wouldn’t have accepted an agent of Ryder’s caliber to turn his back on his mission, and I think Jenny knew that deep in her heart. I think one of the reasons why readers would have a difficult time in coming to terms with what happens as the story progresses is because there is seldom any talk of Ryder’s past, where he comes from and what makes him tick. Consumed by Fire tended to be more well rounded in this regard which is why it was more splendid in that manner and ended up being the five star read it was for me. But like I said earlier on, I didn’t have any qualms with accepting Ryder and Jenny as they were, but this heart of mine did wish that Ryder would have redeemed himself, just a tad more where Jenny was concerned.

I was ecstatic to come across two characters who are most likely to get stories of their own if Anne Stuart is going to continue with the Fire series, which I dearly hope she does! Jack Abbott and Remy Vartain makes for two secondary characters that appeared in this novel for whom I would love to have their own stories! Especially Jack Abbott. Anne Stuart seldom writes about heroes and heroines who have known each other for a while. For her, it is always a case of a chance meeting that explodes into something hot, worthwhile and long-lasting. Abbott’s story if I am not mistaken, is set to follow the less traversed road and I can’t wait to indulge!

Driven by Fire recommended for fans of ruthless heroes. You don’t need to read the series in order to enjoy this one. But be warned. Ryder will shake and throttle your comfort zones, if you have one where ruthless heroes are concerned. For those who love Anne Stuart’s brilliance in crafting them as they should be, Driven by Fire should be a hit!

Final Verdict: Caught between loyalty towards family & the fiery love for a ruthless operative. This is why Anne Stuart tops the game – every single time.

Favorite Quotes

He pushed his tongue past her teeth, and she shuddered in response. At some point her hands had come up from her sides and landed on his shoulders, but instead of pushing him away, which she no doubt would have wanted to do, she was digging her fingers in, pulling him closer to that delicious body of hers.
He wanted to fuck her. It would be easy enough to hoist her onto the butcher-block countertop, yank down that baggy pair of boxers, and thrust inside her. She’d like it—he’d make sure of that— but horny as he was, she wasn’t worth the trouble it would bring.

She opened her mouth to tell him to get off of her. She opened her mouth to tell him no. She opened her mouth to the man who’d hurt her, and she lifted up and pressed it against his.
His reaction was instantaneous. He cupped her face, holding her still, and slid his tongue between her teeth, an intimacy that startled her into even greater arousal. He kissed her with such thoroughness, his tongue dancing, tasting, teasing, and she heard her soft little whimper of response as her fingers tightened on his shoulders and she closed her eyes.

“Please,” she whispered.
He was kissing his way down her neck, over the soft swell of her breast.
“Please what, Parker? Please leave you alone?”
The words filled her with despair, and she shook her head wordlessly.
“Please put your mouth on my breasts and suck?” he suggested softly. “Is that what you want?”
“Yes.” She couldn’t believe it was her voice. “Please,” she said again.

She should touch him, pleasure him, get him ready—the thoughts swirled through her brain—but then she felt him, rock hard against her, and his solid thrust went in deep, so deep, and she slid her arms around him, pulling him tight against her. Her nipples were so hard they hurt, pressed against the silky smoothness of his muscled chest as he moved, sliding his hands under her butt and lifting her up so he could go deeper still. He was huge, so big she wasn’t sure she could take all of him, but he whispered in her ear, his tongue tracing her lobe, reading her fears. “You can take me. Just relax.”

He was all around her, in her head, in her heart, in her cunt, and she wanted to devour him, own him, never let him go. His slow, steady thrusts made her gasp, getting her used to the size and power of him, stilling her apprehension, stoking her desire, as sweat slicked their bodies until they were slapping against each other, hard, fast, again, again, again.

He braced himself over her, kissing the side of her mouth, letting his tongue trace her lips, slip past her teeth to coax her tongue forward, kissing her as he’d never kissed anyone before. He moved his mouth to her ear, biting into the lobe, and she made a muffled sound of pleasure. “I need more,” he whispered. “I need you to take more of me.”
He felt her hesitation, and he kissed her mouth again. “I’ll help you,” he murmured, licking the side of her neck, and he slid his hand down between their sweat-slick bodies to find the bud of her clitoris.

He was almost home, and he knew he should hold back rather than risk making her uncomfortable, but need was raging through his body, and he needed his entire cock deep, deep inside her. He pulled out, pushing in gently, then pulled out again, and she reached up and caught his arms in her tight grip. “No,” she said. “I want all of you. Give it to me.”
He couldn’t have stopped himself to save his life.

“I’m not mourning Soledad and Billy,” she said in a voice so soft he almost couldn’t hear it.
“Then what are you mourning?”
“Loss,” she said, turning her back on him and walking to the window. “The loss of my brother, loss of innocence, loss in the belief that I knew what I was doing. You.”
“What about me?”
She kept her face averted, her back straight. “I’m mourning the loss of you.”

A moment later he pulled away, and she went flying through the air, ending on her back on the huge bed, staring up at him in shock as he ripped off his clothes, then crouched over her like a predatory beast. “I don’t care if you’re afraid of me,” he growled. “I don’t care if you’ve been hurt. All I care about is fucking you as hard as you can take it. I’m going to make you come so hard you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to hell. I’m going to fuck you so hard that no one will ever come close. You’ll never get me out of your mind, out of your body.”

He kissed her mouth, slowly, deliberately, his tongue making lazy swirls inside her mouth, his teeth biting down on her lower lip, his hand sliding down her stomach to touch her once more, and she could feel the excitement building almost instantly, and she wanted him, so, so badly. “I need you,” she whispered, her voice raw.
“I need you inside me.”
“Then take me in your mouth.”

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Accidental Mistress by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookaccidentalmistress
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Michael Webber
Heroine: Emily Quest
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 1, 2008
Started On: January 17, 2016
Finished On: January 18, 2016

You know what happens when you read a book that has worked for you on so many levels and want a repeat experience? That is what happened to make me choose Accidental Mistress by Susan Napier, still riding the high from my previous read, The Love Conspiracy by the same. Accidental Mistress starts in an unusual setting. Emily Quest making a steal of an artifact at a party catering for the needs of the hedonistic rich, not her usual setting on any level. That is where she runs into Michael Webber, a man who lets it be known his loathing for the likes of her.

Story continues two years after, Emily having to turn to her dear old friend Peter Nash in desperate times for the helping hand he is willing to give. That is how once again she runs into the enigmatic Michael, a man who invokes a response from her of the kind she doesn’t want to acknowledge. One thing after another leads Emily to say yes to Peter’s request to take up the offer of lodging at his place for the duration, which means Michael is around – almost all the time.

What starts off as an antagonistic relationship remains so only for a little while, because it is not just Emily that is caught up in the web of desire that proves to be one impossible to turn away from. Even Michael’s cynical and distrustful nature when it comes to most of the members of the opposite sex proves to be of little help when it comes to Emily.

Susan explores two characters that aren’t of the cookie cutter variety and delivers a category romance that keeps the pages turning. Emily’s complicated past makes for one of the facets of the story that unfolds while it often at times gives Michael reason to distrust her motives. But then again, Susan Napier has the tendency to write about heroes and heroines who aren’t afraid of communicating with one another. While there is angst in her books, she still manages to keep the reader from heading straight for the wall in frustration. That is one reason why I will keep coming back for more of Susan’s books!

Though I felt that the ending was a tad abrupt, Accidental Mistress still managed to deliver a read that scored points on many levels.

Recommended.

Final Verdict: Susan Napier writes of characters with depth, which makes all her stories the winners they are!

Favorite Quotes

“Don’t pretend you don’t want this,’ he warned savagely, shifting his stance so that he could palm the fullness of one breast, his fingers spreading to accommodate the lush ripeness overflowing the lace cup and contracting to massage the swollen flesh, drawing a ragged whimper from her love-bitten lips.
‘Oh, yes…’ he taunted with raw satisfaction as his probing thumb found the betraying outline of her lace-encased nipple and scraped a circle around the rigid little knot, ‘you like what I’m doing to you, don’t you, Emily?’ he demanded, lifting his marauding mouth so that he could look down at her dazed blue eyes, the hand behind her neck controlling her feeble attempt to reclaim her disordered senses.

‘Do what? This?’ Her scalded hurt boiled to the surface and she continued to back away, boldly repeating the action, drawing her arm with taunting slowness across her throbbing mouth, her eyes glowing with electric-blue defiance. To make sure he got the message she mimed a spitting action with her tongue and almost choked as he made a sudden lunge and grabbed her shoulders, snatching her back against his chest.
‘I told you not to do that,’ he growled, sealing his mouth down over hers in another soul-stirring kiss, taking his time over the sensual punishment, not stopping until they were both panting.

She moaned and he tugged the panties down her legs, helping her thresh to get rid of them, digging into the drawer beside his bed to curse his way impatiently into a condom, and then he was rolling over on his back, dragging her with him, setting her astride him, testing the hardness she had explored against her naked heat.
‘Like this, I want to see you, I want to taste you and play with you while I’m inside you,’ he said, cupping her breasts and fondling them, bending his knees to tilt the centre of her body over his erection, groaning as she began to slide down onto his rigid shaft. ‘Yes, that’s right, just like that…now love me…’ he commanded hoarsely.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | eBookMall | HQ

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Review: Love Conspiracy by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookloveconspiracy
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Daniel Bishop
Heroine: Kathleen Kendon
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 1, 1990
Started On: January 16, 2016
Finished On: January 17, 2016

36 year old Daniel Bishop is a financial magnate heading his family business, on the verge of getting hitched to a woman of his mother’s choosing. Daniel remains a bit removed from the machinations of his formidable mother, whose most recent of problems has everything to do with her grandson Todd getting engaged to a woman who is the farthest thing from the impeccable background that she would have chosen and accepted within the folds of her family.

23 year old Kathleen Kendon is unwittingly drawn into the drama that is the Bishop family through Todd, Adelaide Bishop making it clear in too many ways to count that her “engagement” with Todd wasn’t accepted. At all. However, Kathleen is one made of sterner stuff and one who has a chip on her shoulder when it comes to confrontations of the nature. Having being brought up as a State ward in a small orphanage, owing to the death of her parents at a very young age with no relatives to speak of, Kathleen is more than able to stand her ground where the elder Bishop is concerned. But when it comes to Daniel, well, that is another story.

Daniel’s engagement to the female version of himself should have been reason enough for Kathleen to cease thinking about him. But, for the very first time in her life, Kathleen finds herself confronted with desire of the kind that she cannot turn away from, the kind that she knows deep inside, spells trouble for her heart and soul.

Daniel himself is drawn to Kathleen on a level he would rather not be, having learnt his lesson the hard way, years back. But Kathleen answers to a need inside of him that grows stronger each passing day, until all of it comes to head with a satisfying conclusion at the end.

Susan Napier is one of those authors that any fan of romance that clamors for angst and unpredictable storylines must read! The Love Conspiracy had the sort of storyline that signaled to me that all wasn’t what it seemed to be. But when all was said and done, I couldn’t have imagined that things would turn out the way it did. That was enough reason for me to fall in love with the story.

Daniel’s character was by far the most complex. There is a hidden facet to him, the tiger that lies in prowl, ready to spring into action the minute it needs to, that catches you unawares. Daniel tamps down his wild side in the ruthless manner that is required of him when he takes the reins of the family business. But that doesn’t mean that the passionate side of him has been taken completely under submission. No. And Susan Napier shows us in one delicious scene after another, how wrong we can be in our initial perception of a character.

Kathleen was a feisty heroine, who drew the hidden facet of Daniel out and made him embrace it once again. There is a fire to Kathleen’s character that makes people be drawn towards it. The reason I loved her was because she is not afraid to look deep into herself and accept it when she is at the wrong end. Given Kathleen’s young innocence, it is a given that she wouldn’t react very well to the possessiveness that grabs a hold of her when she embraces  her burgeoning feelings towards Daniel, which is not made easier by the fact that he is engaged to another woman, who is far more suited for him in the eyes of everyone else. I loved the bits where Daniel talked to her, tried to make her understand and see things from his point of view. And I loved Kathleen for trying.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Sizzles your nerve endings with wanton longing!

Favorite Quotes

‘Ah,’ Kat nodded sagely. ‘You like your sex dressed up. I bet you insist on having the lights off, too. Or do you close your eyes in case you see anything nasty? How do you know you’re not asleep? How does she know?’ She laughed, exhilarated by the brief flash of temper that penetrated his coolness, and the novelty of saying such wicked things with impunity. He was asking to be shocked.
‘I’m very articulate. I tell her.’
‘W … what?’ Kat’s laughter died in her throat. Her eyes widened on his bland face.
‘I like to describe what I’m doing, and what it feels like, and what I want her to feel,’ he continued in the same soft, measured voice. ‘Most women find it … instructive … as well as arousing. I don’t, however, talk in my sleep.’

‘Don’t crowd me, Daniel-‘
‘The hell I will! I’ll do more than crowd. You’ve had your fun tonight, Kathleen. Now it’s my turn .. .’
There was a rough, cold, aggressive passion in the threat that prompted her to struggle until he put his mouth against hers. The contact burned so much that the recoil was instant and mutual. There was no sound but Kat’s ragged breath. Daniel wasn’t breathing at all. Oh, dear heaven, no! was her last thought before the face above her cleared of its dark, rigid shock and displayed instead a hungry curiosity that swept resistance before it. The second kiss was equally tumultuous, but this time there was no drawing back. The thrust of his tongue in her mouth allowed no polite preliminaries; it was a furious battle for ascendancy, Kat’s arms rising stiffly to lock around his neck, her fingers sliding up into the thick black hair at his nape as he wrapped her breasts and hips against his lean hardness. His hands spanning her waist, Daniel suddenly swung her around, pushing her backwards over the thick carpet until Kat walked into the side of the padded brown leather couch half-way across the room. He arched her over the high back, tipping her hips into his until she gasped into the dark, echoing cavern of his mouth.

Belatedly she began to struggle, to deny his conquest, hands tugging helplessly at his iron wrists as his hands contracted around her sweetly aching breasts. Watching the frantic passion of her struggles, Daniel felt a bolt of pure energy explode inside him, generating immense’ heat. Colour poured into his face as a groan tore loose from the cramped vault of his chest, his eyes closing as he bent his head, no longer laughing, no longer triumphant, suddenly as helpless as she against the physical onslaught, a violation of mind and will.
His mouth parted fiercely against hers, his hands on her breasts no longer subtle and skilled but rough and eager, seeking to assuage the need generated by blood boiling violently through his heart and loins. His body moved against hers as if he would merge them through the constricting cloth by sheer force of desire. A tremble began to shiver through Kat’s body until she cried out with the agony of building tension. He swallowed her cry, driving more deeply with his demanding tongue, a searingly graphic representation of the act that, in their minds, was already taking place.

She arched against him, trembling, and his groan was muffled against her skin as his hands moved druggingly over her.
‘Daniel yes .. .’ he corrected her in a rasping whisper, moving his lips against her bare shoulder where the torn strap had fallen away. He tugged at the stretchy fabric, pulling the damaged edge down over her white cotton bra. Her nipple was a dark point against the thin white cotton. He found it with his teeth as he cupped his hand around her lush fullness, his thighs tightening around her trapped leg, forcing her hips into intimate contact with his potent maleness. Kat’s fingers dug into the taut muscles ridging his waist as he roughly pulled aside her bra and began to suckle the creamy flesh beneath.

She was awash with pure sensation, the slide of silk beneath her, the brush of his sweater against her sensitised breasts and belly, the musky male scent of him seducing her willing heart and mind. .
‘That’s right, kitten … burn for me, ache for me .. .’ he whispered as he nipped her skin. ‘This is what I’ve been thinking about all day, why I couldn’t concentrate … I was thinking of you, waiting for me in my bed … But we’re not going to hurry. We have all night, and the first time should always be slow and easy . . . a glorious, long-drawn-out agony of sighs.’

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Eye of the Beholder by Emma Jay

Format: E-bookeyeofthebeholder
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Historical Erotic Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Grayson Adams
Heroine: Sarah Dusenberry
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 07, 2011
Started On: January 08, 2016
Finished On: January 08, 2016

Eye of the Beholder is an erotic romance written in a historical setting. Sarah Dusenberry is 21, and her mother is desperate that she find someone suitable to be married off to. Sarah’s average looks and her strong willed nature makes her a less an ideal candidate for the gents of the ton when it comes to choosing a bride, which is the reason why Sarah spends her time at the balls glued to the wall, as if on the outside, looking in.

Grayson Adams, the youngest son of the Baron of Cricksham, is a man who leads a double life. A man who has made a fortune in painting and selling erotic art, Grayson has been feeling out of sorts of late, as if in need of a new muse that would get his creative juices flowing. A well placed advertisement gets Sarah on his doorstep, a woman who has intrigued him even before she turns up willing to be the model that he is looking for.

Fact that Sarah is a virgin makes it difficult for Grayson to act on his desires where she is concerned. But Sarah has no such qualms when it comes to the man whose touch sets of such wanton and wicked desires in her. As these two become entangled with want for each other which is strengthened by other feelings which none of them wants to put a name to, Grayson’s deception could end up being the obstacle that could break the two apart even before they can get started.

Eye of the Beholder has an interesting premise, which could have been really good if it had been a full length novel. I wish that Emma Jay would write full length novels like Two-Step Temptation which I loved so. I have always said in my reviews of her books that Emma Jay has the ability to draw a lot of emotions from the reader apart from the excellent portrayal of eroticism she strives for in her stories.

While the overall story worked for me, Eye of the Beholder had certain elements that didn’t, because it seemed a tad unrealistic for Sarah, a virgin brought up in a society that shuns wicked behavior of the sort to give up all her inhibitions, just like that, even though she had been seeking adventure for a long time. It was hard for me to understand where she was coming from because for someone who has never been exposed to pleasures of the flesh, she certainly was ready to give up all that societal indoctrination for the man who sends her senses humming. In a contemporary setting, yes, it might have worked, but with a virgin heroine in a historical setting, I just remained a bit unnerved by that.

All that aside, Eye of the Beholder provided me with the kind of read that I wanted when I picked it up. Something short that would wet my appetite for more!

Recommended for those that love erotic romances in a historical setting.

Final Verdict: Short and succulent enough to sink your teeth into.

Favorite Quotes

“Is your curiosity quite satisfied?” he asked, managing not to sound breathless after his orgasm, tucking away his cock as she wiped herself clean.
She lifted those dark eyes to him. “More curious than ever, I’m afraid. I can cancel my plans for tomorrow, return and you can show me more.”
“I can show you no more,” he said sharply. “You are a virgin, which is how you will leave me, each and every time.”
“But I want to know.”
“Then find a husband.” He tossed his own cloth aside and strode toward the door.

She didn’t have a chance to respond before he cupped his hand around the back of her head and covered her mouth with his. His lips were dry and warm before his tongue swept over her lower lip, sending sparks all along her body. He angled her head and his tongue probed her mouth for a moment before he straightened, his thumb still caressing her jaw. His ragged breathing dusted across her skin and for a moment she feared he’d walk away, but then his mouth was on hers again, harder, demanding, and his hands were on her skin, bringing her body closer so that the tips of her breasts rasped against the rough linen of his shirt.

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

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