Posts by mvbookreviewer

A lover of all things romance, from Maldives.

Review: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-Bookfixherup.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Hot & Bothered, #1
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Travis Ford
Heroine: Georgette Castle
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: June 11, 2019
Started On: June 12, 2019
Finished On: June 19, 2019

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey is the first installment in her Hot and Hammered series. I had been on tenterhooks ever since I knew of its impending release towards the mid of this year. The cover and the blurb seemed to hint at a slight deviation from what Ms. Bailey normally writes – this sounded like chic lit, with of course a healthy dose of smexiness thrown into the mix. Because one cannot read a Tessa Bailey novel without encountering some panty-melting scenes that scorches through the pages of your book and/or e-reader.

Georgette Castle (Georgie) as she is known, is the youngest child of the family, having always felt undermined in many ways. The love of her life, Travis Ford, turns out to be none other than her brother’s best friend, and the town’s baseball phenomenon. Travis had gone onto live the high life that comes from being a hotshot baseball player, until he is forced into early retirement at 28 years, from an injury that no one had seen coming.

Giving up is basically what Travis does and no one seems to get through to the despondency that surrounds him and the way he tries to drown out everything that he wants to avoid, which includes facing his past, present, and future, all at the same time. Finally, it is Georgie who intervenes, basically forcing him to toughen up, let go, and move on.

In the process, the famous playboy that Travis had been up till the abrupt termination of his career, finds himself in one of the most complex situations of his life; falling in love with his best friend’s virgin sister. The slide into lust and then love is a journey that Travis had been unprepared for, even if that ship had sailed for Georgie a long time ago.

As with what happens in most first books in a series, this too was used to outline the rest of the characters that would probably end up getting stories of their own somewhere along the way. One of the characters, Rosie, who is already married to her high school sweetheart, is the type of couple that Tessa loves to write about; intense, living in a world of their own kind that she has already done a fair deal of already if you ask me.

I guess one of the biggest problems I had with the story were my heightened expectations being unmet. I thought the book would have a slow build-up (to drive us readers crazy of course), with a healthy dose of smut thrown into the mix. The smut of course did materialize; after all, this is a Tessa Bailey who is renowned for her flair in delivery of dirty talk and scenes that live up to that talk. But the minute Travis started going all “baby girl” on Goergie, I cringed – I guess I have never quite got the hang of enjoying that particular form of endearment, in bed or out of it, especially when it seems to come out of nowhere.

The rest of my problems with the story stemmed from the fact that the plot sounded so cliched – it felt like a novel that had bits and pieces from every other story I have read and enjoyed from the author. Like the grand grovelling scene that is thrown into every book; perhaps in a bid to up the angst factor. You don’t need a grand grovelling scene in every book – some books deserve them more than others. We readers would be happy with an epilogue with the right touch, if the story does not really deserve one.

The secondary character Rosie whom I mentioned earlier, reminded me of books like Too Beautiful to Break, the main protagonists of which basically made readers salivate with the need to read their story. I have a feeling I might skip the second installment in the series set to come out in January of next year, which turns out to be their story. Sometimes I feel like none of these books live up to my lofty expectations anymore, but I certainly wish they would!

I could not fully understand Georgie’s brother Stephen and his wife either. They just seemed strange and Stephen’s need to go above and beyond and play doormat to his wife was kind of unnerving if you ask me. I also felt like the issues Georgie had been having with her family were just resolved too easily. There just seemed to be more to it than what actually materialized.

The only thing I enjoyed? With the exception of Travis using an irksome form of endearment, the sex scenes were pretty good. But neither Travis nor Georgie inspired much emotion from me otherwise.

Recommended for fans of Tessa Bailey.

Final Verdict: Fix Her Up is a novel that needs a lot of fixing. The story fell short of my expectations, leaving me with a hollow feeling.

Favorite Quotes

“We wouldn’t actually be . . . you know.” She shifted. “Doing it. Obviously.”
Travis scoffed. “You’d be the first to want to date Travis Ford without the perks.”
Her eyelids fell to half-mast. “It didn’t sound like you were offering them.”
He moved into her personal space, his voice emerging harsh. “I’m not.”
“Fine,” she said, so low he almost didn’t hear. “I wouldn’t know how to take full advantage of them anyway.”
Virgin. Alarm bells went off, but he stayed right where he was, listening to their rapid breaths. Reminding himself she was his best friend’s little sister didn’t help when she was this near, close enough to touch. To taste. He could no more move away from the approach of Georgie’s lips than he could take on a thousand-man army. If he didn’t kiss her, someone else would claim that first kiss. No. No, he didn’t want that. Fuck. That.
Their mouths met.
Parted for two surprised beats.
And melded back together.

Travis broke the kiss, his harsh pants leaving condensation on her mouth. “Let’s slow down some, baby girl. We didn’t, uh . . . fuck.” He sunk his teeth into his bottom lip and eyed her mouth, shaking his head. “I think there’s supposed to be more buildup to what we just did.”
“You think?” Sweet Lord, his body heat was like being wrapped in warmed cashmere in front of a roaring fire. “You’re supposed to be the expert.”
He puffed a humorless laugh. “Not on kissing.”

When his flesh slapped down between her cheeks, Georgie’s mouth fell open, her hands twisting in the comforter. Hot air puffed from his mouth into the cradle of her neck, followed by a long groan as his hips began to roll. The movements started off as seeking, testing drives, but they didn’t stay that way for long. Soon enough, Travis’s hands sank into the bedclothes right alongside hers, his erection tunneling up and back through the split of her backside in rough grinds. Every drive of his hips was accompanied by a guttural sound that became Georgie’s reason for living on the spot. She opened her thighs wide as she could and offered herself up like a sacrifice.
And Travis accepted it. Unapologetically.

“Pool house or garage, Georgie?”
There was no question as to why Travis was seeking a private location, and it made her blood burn hotter. Although, since she was upside down, a lot of that hot blood raced to her head and made her dizzy. So be it. She’d just voiced her opinion at a family gathering and now Travis wanted to kiss her. If that wasn’t cause for a head rush, she didn’t know what was. “I, um—pool house, I guess?”
They crossed the threshold of the tiny changing hut a few seconds later. The door smacked shut behind them and they were enclosed in darkness. And move over, Mark and Reese, because she’d never been so poised to combust in her life.

“Fuck, Georgie,” he growled. “Open your thighs for more. You’re getting more.”
Georgie’s back arched, her right knee extended out from the couch, giving him extra room to bear down, to angle his hips, and they descended into what felt like madness. Georgie whined and lifted her hips to meet his drives, her inner walls beginning a slow, tight milking of his cock. Travis almost couldn’t even look at her, worried the unchained sexuality breaking free beneath him might ruin everything, might make him come before her. In the end, though, keeping his eyes off her, keeping his skin off her, proved impossible. He was coming. Soon. Now. It was happening.

Their mouths met and gorged, Georgie’s hands slapping down on his ass to yank him deeper, urge him faster, and he didn’t have to think, didn’t have any option but to dip his head. Drop his panting mouth over her bouncing tits. Suction his mouth around her right nipple with a groan as come blazed a path up his throbbing dick, filling Georgie up as he continued to pump like a fiend.
“Shit. Too soon. No, no . . . baby—”
Her body went still, before quaking violently underneath him in climax—thank God—her pussy squeezing so tight, he shouted his victory into the crook of her neck, yanking her legs up and fucking into the storm for everything he was worth.

“Up,” Travis shouted, jerking Georgie to her feet. He ripped the shirt over her head, desperate hands shoving the sports bra up to her neck. Their panting mouths met and molded as he fell onto the bench, ripping a condom from his sagging pocket and rolling it down his arousal. He grabbed Georgie’s bottom and urged her onto his lap, shooting forward to take one of her nipples into his mouth. “Fuck me. Ride me.” His right hand came down and delivered a mean slap to her backside. “Do it now.”

“I don’t know if I can . . .” She broke off in a whimper when Travis began kneading her bottom, coaxing her into a slick, erotic rhythm, her sex riding up and down his length. God, it felt so good, the give and take of soaked flesh, their shallow breaths mingling with the pelting rain, his chest hair abrading her nipples. But her mind wouldn’t turn off the way it did when Travis was on top. She wanted him to hold the reins. “I don’t think I can . . . like this.”
“The hell you can’t.” Travis sat up straight, yanking her hips closer. He took her face in his hands, breathing heavy against her mouth. “You might be on top, but I’m still in charge, aren’t I?” He kissed her long and hard while those words sunk in. “If I wanted to flip you onto your back on this bench and break you off, I wouldn’t ask permission.”

Georgie pressed her naked breasts to Travis’s heaving chest, letting her mouth linger a breath away from his. Lapping at him once. “I want to make you come so hard.”
“Motherfuck.” Travis’s grip returned to her backside, supporting it as he lunged to his feet—and he proceeded to bounce her like a puppet with no strings on his rigid arousal. Sweat slid down one side of his face, their lower bodies slapping together while the rain hammered home on top of the dugout. “You make me so fucking crazy. I can’t take it. My God.”

Without warning, her hips were jerked high onto Travis’s thighs, his erection huge where it prodded the split of her backside. “Look at what it did.” He yanked Georgie’s hips higher in his lap, swiping her earlobe with a flick of his tongue. “Look at what you did. You’re not the least bit sorry about it, either, are you? If you are, it’s not stopping you from pressing back on that dick you tortured. Rubbing on it like a hungry little cat.”
“Sorry,” Georgie breathed, ceasing the movements she hadn’t even been aware of. The apology was only halfway out of her mouth when Travis wrapped her hair in a skilled fist, easing her head back. All the way back until their eyes locked. “I didn’t say to stop.”

“You know why I haven’t put my dick inside you from behind yet?”
She let out a shaking breath against the leather, her heart hammering. “Why?”
Travis rammed himself home and Georgie’s scream filled the limousine. “Because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to control myself once I got you on hands and knees. With your ass smacking off my belly, I worried I’d cross that line into disrespectful—and some part of me still thought of you as my friend’s little sister.” He made a choked sound, falling on top of her, thrusting with a groan. “Not anymore. You’re all mine now. I’ll take you how I want.”

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

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ARC Review: Scandalous by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-Bookscandalous.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Outcasts, #3
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: Martín Etienne Bouchard
Heroine: Sarah Fisher
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 24, 2019
Started On: September 16, 2019
Finished On: September 26, 2019

Scandalous by Minerva Spencer is the much anticipated and awaited third installment in The Outcasts series. The hero, Martín Etienne Bouchard is a character that has intrigued readers of the series for a long while. Martín is exotic in a way that is hard to put into words (Spencer has no such difficulties), but there is an impact his character makes on you from the very first moment you lay your eyes on him.

It is during one of Martín’s missions that he comes across the strait-laced Sarah Fisher, who has been brought up in a religious household, who had basically found her calling in helping the less fortunate. Sarah has never known anyone like Martín and she does not particularly understand why it is difficult for her to keep her wits about the man.

24 years old and with relatively zero experience when it comes to pleasures of the flesh, that does not stop Sarah’s inquisitive mind from wanting to explore more when it comes to Martín and the way he makes her feel. However, that is not entirely possible given that Martín would like nothing better than keeping her as far away from him as possible.

Martín tries hard, and I mean really hard, to fight the spell that Sarah seems to have cast on him, to no avail. Giving in however does come at a price, at the cost of his past which makes a comeback, putting all that he holds in danger, and perhaps in the process make all his nightmares come true.

When I finished turning the last page of the story, I could understand some of the reviews that I had skimmed through, before this book landed in my hands via Netgalley. Martín is a character that has fascinated most readers like myself, who have gone through the last two books in the series. Yet, in his own book, Martín materializes to be half the man he has been projected to be, the man I have pictured in my mind for so long, especially when you connect the dots together.

I did enjoy the bits and pieces in the novel where Sarah was driving Martín mad with want and jealousy. There is a special kind of anticipation that runs through you when an author gets the tension factor just right and for the most part, Scandalous delivered that in spades. I also understood why Martín felt that the likes of Sarah weren’t for the likes of him, a man who has a sullied past, a past that shames him, even though it has in a large way shaped him to be the man he is.

My disappointment in the story stemmed from the fact that Martín and Sarah spends so much more time apart than they did together throughout the story. The second book in the series, Barbarous was so wonderful in this regard, and perhaps my favorite installment in the series altogether. Now that, proved to be a breathtaking read, and to catch glimpses of the couple in this story was just as good.

But the moment that a couple from a previous book does more to a reader than the actual protagonists of the story is where things start to head south in my opinion. For a man like Martín, who is a hedonist in many senses, to read a book where he fell in love with a woman with whom he had very little contact in the physical sense, someone whom he tried to keep at a willful distance all throughout was a bit jarring.

That was out of character. Perhaps that was what Ms. Spencer was going for and if that is what she intended, she has achieved what she set out to do. But for me, I like a character who keeps true to his nature, someone who does not start doing the opposite of the very thing that is in his nature to do from the moment the heroine/hero enters their life.

Though Sarah was crafted in a way that should have made her a favorite, she just did not elicit the kind of love and warmth in my heart for her she deserved, because I quite could not relate to her on anything. While she seemed lovely and driven by noble causes, I just could not seem to muster up the enthusiasm that was required to fall for her. Perhaps once again this circles back to Martín, I always saw him as someone bolder than what he was in this novel and envisioned him ending up with someone who is his equal, in every sense of the way. I failed to see Sarah as that in the long term.

Even though Scandalous (which turned out to be not so much) did not live up to my expectations (perhaps this is where everything went downhill), I am still excited about Gabriel’s story. I hope Gabriel materializes to have the fire, humour, and warmth of his mother, and dominance that comes from his father’s lineage, without the cruelty in the mix.

Final Verdict: While Scandalous delivered on many fronts, what I had hoped for Martín did not materialize from within. I wanted more for him. Much more.

Favorite Quotes

“Do you even know what bargain you made?”
“I am not ignorant in such matters. I know what I have agreed to.” Her voice was low and breathy and made him throb.
He chuckled at her bravado. “Oh, I doubt that, mademoiselle.” He tongued the tender flesh between her neck and collarbone before stopping over the pulse that pounded at the base of her throat. She was so fine-grained and smooth; he had a burning need to consume her.

The rough pad of his thumb rested against the satin seam of her mouth, and her lids flickered open, her eyes wide and confused. He pressed and her lips parted. Her chest rose and fell in ragged jerks, and her eyes became almost black. Martín held his breath as he waited, wondering what she would do.
The first touch of her tongue was so light he barely felt it, but the slight graze of her teeth as she took him into the incredible softness of her mouth made him gasp. Her eyes never left his, and the sight of her fragile pink lips stretched around him made him so hard it hurt.

A hand grazed the bare skin of her thighs, and Sarah startled. The voice that had been muffled by desire rose again to the surface. He’d managed to insinuate himself beneath her skirts without her even noticing.
“Captain—”
“Martín,” he murmured, taking her lower lip in his mouth and gently sucking it before running a path of kisses across her cheek, stopping at her ear. “Say it,” he ordered softly.
The name fit him perfectly—exotic and beautiful.

He cupped her sex over the fine fabric, the touch of his hand shocking yet somehow right. Sarah dropped her forehead on his shoulder, a sob of pleasure breaking from her.
“Shh, ma belle, I will give you what you need.” He gently stroked a single finger into her.
Sarah bucked violently and bit his shoulder to keep from crying out.
“You are drenched.” His voice was hoarse, as if he were having trouble speaking.
Sarah felt the same, incapable of saying anything, incapable of thinking anything, incapable of doing anything other than shuddering each time he stroked.

“And this?” He pointed to something else on the page.
His hair was made up of hundreds of shades of gold, each strand so thick she could see the hairs individually.
He turned when she didn’t answer, and Sarah found herself staring into eyes the color of old gold. She would later tell herself that she leaned closer to get a better look at those eyes and he misunderstood the action.
His arms snaked around her, and he bent her body into an almost painful arch with the force of his embrace. He captured her mouth, parted her lips, and stroked into her in one fluid motion. She sucked his tongue deeper and he moaned before tightening his grip on her body until she gasped.

“Sarah.”
She looked up at the sound of her name.
“Take me in your hand.”
She wrapped her palm around him, and they both gasped.
“Bloody hell.” He slumped back against the wardrobe door with a thump. One of his hands closed around hers, making her fingers into a tight fist, far tighter than she would have believed pleasant. He guided her, demonstrating how to pleasure him. A low growl broke from him when he released her and she continued her stroking, her eyes riveted to the sight of so much masculine arousal in her hand.

Sarah wanted to run from the cabin at his words, but his eyes held her in place. She let her thumb drift over one nipple, and it hardened instantly. She gasped at the unexpected sensation of pleasure.
He muttered something and closed the distance between them in a blur. His hot, soft mouth covered the stiff peak, his hands replacing hers. He commenced stroking her far more skillfully than she had with her awkward fumbling, using his tongue and fingers to tease, his teeth to nip, his lips to suck, until she was floating somewhere outside her body.

“I can’t stop now, Sarah,” he gritted, his hands digging into the flesh of her hips. She pushed herself against him, thrilling at the effect she had on his body.
The raw power of his climax was unlike anything she could have imagined. He held her hips in an unbreakable grip, shouting her name before abruptly leaving her body and spending himself in hot ribbons across her belly.

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

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ARC Review: We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

Format: E-Bookwemetindecember.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Alex
Heroine: Jess
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: September 05, 2019
Started On: September 06, 2019
Finished On: September 14, 2019

We Met in December by Rosie Curtis is one of those books that leaves you with all the good feels and nothing less. Stumbling across this on netgalley in my bid to chase away the reading woes that comes to nest once in a while, I decided to give this a try because even the cover itself seemed to call out to me.

Told in the first person from both Jess (the heroine) and Alex (the hero)’s point of view, the story begins when 29 year old Jess moves to London, wanting to make a fresh start, or rather, go places where she has never dared go before. Coming from a quaint little seaside town, Jess is a romantic at heart, and she knows that she is undeniably lucky to have struck gold in terms of living arrangements and a job that makes her vocation one with her favorite thing in the world, i.e. reading.

When Jess meets Alex, one of her housemates, it is as if her soul leaps in recognition to its other half. But house rules require that house mates refrain from becoming romantically involved; however that does not prove to be the deterrent when it comes to Alex and Jess. It is rather the timing which is a bit off right from the onset.

In the meantime, Alex and Jess becomes good friends, their connection being one that is strong enough for Alex to start seeing Jess in a new light. Alex is not in the mood for a serious relationship, having just got out of one with the woman that he had intended to marry. Plus a career change which meant going back to school is one that should keep him occupied enough to prevent untoward thoughts about his friend from creeping into his mind and psyche.

Jess being the stalwart person that she is, tries her hardest to move on and even date, believing that Alex would never see her in a different light. But then true love has a way of coming together and taking its own sweet time getting there, and that is exactly what happens in this sweet and emotionally satisfying story that delivered just the right touch of angst to make me smile!

Recommended for romance lovers who would love an easy-on-the-heart read.

Final Verdict: I fell head over heels in love with Alex, Jess, and London in a way that no story thus far has managed to do. Heartwarming with just enough angst and emotions to make this a wholesome read.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Kobo | eBooks

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Review: Withering Hope by Layla Hagen

Format: E-Bookwitheringhope
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Tristan Bress
Heroine: Aimee Myller
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 18, 2015
Started On: June 10, 2019
Finished On: June 11, 2019

Aimee Myller is on the way to get married, traveling to her fiance’s vacation home in Brazil. It is just Aimee and the pilot Tristan Bress alone in the flight, a route that both Aimee and Tristan as Chris’s personal pilot has traversed many a time. However, things go awry and the flight crash lands, leaving both Aimee and Tristan stranded in the middle of the Amazon jungle, with no sign that help is imminent.

Tristan is better equipped to handle survival in the wilderness than Aimee is, but that does not stop her from giving it all that she has and hoping enough for the both of them even when it is futile. Tristan with his experience in the military, carries with him the psychological scars that prevents him from interacting much with Aimee at first. But being forced to spend so much time together, especially with someone like Aimee slowly works its magic on Tristan.

As the days fade into each other, the dangers surrounding the two become all too real. As friendship blossoms and turns into heated desire, it is a conflicted Aimee who decides to bid farewell to the man she had been engaged to, the person who had been her best friend all through her life. For when it comes to Tristan, it is a desire that scorches and a love that refuses to be denied.

The conversations that these two engage in, the fears they share, the myriad of words unspoken; all of that and more invokes feelings that is indescribable as you read along. It is as if they are wrapped in a cocoon that nurtures and cradles the fragility of their love in the wilderness. It is as if at any moment, danger could smash through the walls and take away what both of them holds most precious.

Towards the end, it was sheer agony to turn the pages (you are both hopeful and fearing the worst simultaneously); there was pain, sorrow, and tears. But for a love that had persevered through so much, there is nothing but hope that they would endure to live on.

When the epilogue came, I did not know whether I wanted to bawl my eyes out or smile through my tears. In short, I was a mess. For the very first time in my life as a romance reader, I did not know how I could be so happy and so devastated at the same time.

One reads about the concept of soulmates all the time, especially if you are into romance. But in Tristan and Aimee, I believe that the concept came alive for me, for the very first time. They are literally soulmates in every sense. The ending brought to mind a real life story that my father related to us one day; how two people who had been married for most part of their adult life had passed away, just a couple of hours from each other. There are people who literally die of broken hearts, and that teaches the living that true love in its purest form can exist, even amidst all the cruelties that this world has got to offer.

There is so much that goes on in this story that it is hard to put into words the harrowing journey that these two go through to come out safely on the other side. There is love that surpasses everything else in life and that is the kind that Tristan and Aimee found in each other in the dangerous wilderness of the Amazon.

Though Aimee “cheats” on her fiance, at that point, there is nothing I would have done differently, had I being in her shoes. Because it was as natural as breathing to stay alive at that point, the connection that was forged in the midst of fighting for their lives and nearly losing each other towards the end.

This is a story that should be read with a box of tissues ready. You will not be the same having gone through Aimee and Tristan’s journey towards their happily ever after. Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Layla Hagen’s impressive and evocative writing had me on the edge in more ways than one. There is a beauty to Withering Hope that stays with you long after you are done.

Favorite Quotes

The touch of his lips on mine electrifies me, shimmer after shimmer coursing through my nerve endings. His tongue takes mine in a primal claim. Icy shivers splinter my skin, and at the same time, fire awakens deep within me. I’ve never been kissed like this. Ferociously, with absolute, desperate need. I try to temper the heated emotions building inside me. I try to remember it’s wrong. But that fleeting thought is drowned by the heat igniting his lips and hands, and I surrender. Tristan deepens the kiss until I’m out of breath.

I cradle his head with my arms, forcing him to kiss me even deeper. I’m rewarded with a groan. With one swift move, he pulls me underneath him. His expansive chest pushes against my breasts, and a deep throb pulses low in my body. Desire takes a life of its own when he slams his hips against mine, and I feel his need for me—his hard length strained by the fabric of his pants. In a haze, he frees me of the straps on my shoulders and pushes my dress down to my hips, revealing my breasts. His lips dart to my neck, suckling their way to my collarbone and then to my breasts, leaving a trail of fire in their wake that burns away any ounce of control I still have.

“You’re so beautiful,” he says in a breathy voice. In the moonlight, I see his heavy-lidded eyes raking over my naked body. I’m shaking with consuming need. His eyes meet mine, and my need is mirrored in his dark gaze. He cups my backside greedily with one hand and sinks into my core with abandon.
“Aimeeeeeeeeeee,” he grits in the curve of my neck, the feral sound spearing through me.
His hands are everywhere. Grazing the skin on my thighs, cupping my breasts. His passion pushes me to the edge, until I’m brazen enough to let out without restraint the proof of my own passion.

When I can’t tolerate the ache anymore, I pull him to me, kissing him, and rocking my hips against his. He plunges inside me, filling me, ripping whimper after whimper out of me. His mouth dusts my arms, calling my name in deep, guttural sounds that unhinge me. He increases the pace of his moves, thrusting so deep my thighs wobble. Eagerness swirls up inside me as wave after wave of pleasure engulf me, my body surging forward when my release shatters me.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Format: E-Bookthebridetest
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Kiss Quotient, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Diệp Khải
Heroine: Trần Ngọc Mỹ
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 07, 2019
Started On: June 03, 2019
Finished On: June 07, 2019

The Bride Test begins ten years prior to the period in which the story is based, during a funeral. This is where readers are introduced to the hero, Diệp Khải, who is unable to show his grief from having lost his best friend. Everyone around him criticizes him for not grieving in the “right” way – making Khải believe that he is deficient in a way that is irreparable.

Trần Ngọc Mỹ is a single mother, trying to make ends meet in the poorer parts of Hồ Chí Minh, Việt Nam, where she encounters Khải’s mom at her place of work, on the hunt for a bride for her youngest son. Though Mỹ is not exactly what she had in mind when she began the search, something about Mỹ makes her believe that she could be the ideal choice for Khải.

Though Mỹ has her reservations, it is her own mother who convinces her that through this marriage of convenience, Mỹ could provide for a better future for her daughter than the poverty-ridden life that lies ahead of her. Thus convinced, Mỹ makes the journey to America to meet her future husband.

When Khải is confronted with the inevitable, though he tries hard to stay indifferent and out of Mỹ’s way, somehow he ends up getting emotionally attached to Mỹ, without realizing it. Khải being autistic is an aspect of his character that Mỹ has no knowledge of, and Mỹ has her own secret well under her sleeve; the fact that she has a daughter back home for whom she would practically lay down her very life for.

It is an endearing, at times hilarious, and a bit heartbreaking of a journey that these two embark upon to reach their own happily ever after. I believe that The Bride Test did a marvelous job of bringing Khải to life, with his oddities and the ways in which his mind works differently when it comes to what is “normal”.

While I enjoyed The Bride Test, I believe that I felt a lack of emotional connection to Mỹ that detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. I would have liked Mỹ better had she understood Khải, what autism means, and how difficult certain aspects of life could be for someone like him. Instead of trying to understand where Khải was coming from, most of the focus of the novel was on Mỹ and how she becomes empowered enough to stand on her own two feet.

I applaud the fact that Mỹ stood up for herself amidst all odds and made everything work for her. Even at the very end, Mỹ’s strength of character is what stands out in the novel, more so than the love between Mỹ and Khải. On the contrary, The Kiss Quotient worked so well because both Michael and Stella were on the same page at the same time, and there was never ever a doubt in my mind that they belonged together, right from the start. When they made an appearance in this story even, the connection between them is one you feel deep in your heart, and I wanted that for Khải with every fiber of my being.

Mỹ may not have had the sophisticated education that she had to forgo when she got pregnant out of wedlock, but every aspect of her character speaks of intelligence, emotional and otherwise. Which is why, I felt the lack so severely when it came to Mỹ’s lack of interest perhaps, in digging deeper into Khải’s psyche and trying to understand him – what makes him the way he is. Not to mold herself to suit his needs, but rather so that she could meet him on an even footing in accepting him for the way he is.

I understand that Khải’s level of education must have been a huge deterrent when it came to Mỹ and breaking down barriers. However, I wish she had shown more interest in the person who Khải is than what materialized in the story. At least Khải acknowledges to himself that he hadn’t done much to really get to know Mỹ, mostly owing to the fact that he has correlated that caring for someone means losing that someone altogether.

I wish Mỹ had wanted to explore more of Khải’s fascinating mind and the way he views the world. Had she taken that time, she would have realized that Khải was indeed different. The fact that she had been his first should have driven home the point in my opinion. Why else would a man who finds it difficult to socialize and accept physical contact go all the way? This is where I would have liked Mỹ to use her emotional intelligence to pick on the cues and understand the man Khải is, for better or worse.

I think Mỹ finding herself and charting her own course in life (which is all well and good), took away the focus from exploring the depth of feelings between Khải and Mỹ together. Mỹ made it seem as if it was of no consequence to her whether they ended up together or not, while Khải was moved to the point of obsession with her. Somehow I wanted way more for Khải than what Mỹ ended up giving him.

Recommended for fans of Helen Hoang and those who fell in love with The Kiss Quotient. Some of you might end up loving The Bride Test more. But for me, my heart belongs to Michael and Stella all the way.

Final Verdict: The Bride Test explores the everyday struggles of being autistic, making the reader think beyond the scope of the book. I loved Khải for all that he was, just the way he is.

Favorite Quotes

Those tears.
They shattered him. He brushed the saline away with his thumbs.
“I’m okay,” she whispered. “Don’t worry. I—”
He took her mouth, pressing his lips to hers as the feel of her shocked through his system. Soft. Silk. Sweet. Esme. When he realized she’d gone stiff, he started to pull back in horror. What had he been think—
She softened against him, kissing him back, and that was it. His thoughts burned away. Something else rose from the ashes, something he’d kept chained up so long it was all fierceness and animal hunger. He stroked his tongue over her lips, and when she sighed and parted her lips, savage victory swept through him. He claimed her lips, claimed her mouth, claimed the liquid heat inside that tasted of vanilla and strawberries and woman.

“Come here,” she said.
His body obeyed on its own, edging between her knees and covering her, lining them up just right. The lure of her lips was too much, and he kissed her with a touch of desperation. When he rolled his hips, his cock slid over her, and the tip lodged inside of her. Just the tip. He went flame hot everywhere, his back, the base of his skull, his scalp.
This was happening. Him and Esme. Together.
He kissed her deeper as he pushed in slowly. Each inch changed him, broke him down and put him back together again, until he finally seated himself inside her completely, and she threw her head back and moaned.
For a moment, he was too overwhelmed to move. He’d pleased her.

When he started to move his hips as he caressed her with his fingers, she couldn’t stop the sounds escaping her throat. Stroked inside and out, treasured, loved. She wrapped her arms around him, holding him in every way she could as their bodies found a rhythm.
He was here. He was hers. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Kisses everywhere, on her lips, on her throat, her shoulder. Temple to temple, heavy intimate breaths, whispers in her ear, answers.
Like this?
Like this and this and this.
Her hips rose sharply off the floor, pressing as close to him as possible, high, higher, higher. Head thrown back. Too much, too good, so good. A trembling moan. Strong convulsions, over and over and over.

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Review: Outfox by Sandra Brown

Format: E-Bookoutfox
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Drex Easton
Heroine: Talia Shafer
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 06, 2019
Started On: August 09, 2019
Finished On: August 13, 2019

Outfox by Sandra Brown tells the story of Drex Easton, an FBI agent who is determined to find a killer who has eluded the authorities for years. Drex’s hunt is a personal one, which makes him relentless, willing to bend the rules if they fit the purpose, all to hunt down a serial predator who has bested the system for far too long.

Drex’s hunt finally brings him to a man known as Jasper Ford, married to a Talia Shafer, which in itself is a deviation from the norm. But from the moment Drex meets Jasper, his hunting instincts go full throttle, being finally able to put a face to the man who had killed eight women or perhaps more, if the stealth under which this particular killer operates is anything to judge his kills by.

Drex’s encounter with Jasper is further complicated by the fact that his newly wedded wife, Talia Shafer, gets under his skin from the onset. So much so that his partners and loyal friends caution him against doing something that could derail an already delicately balanced operation. Things reach a climactic point when Jasper once again disappears, driving Drex to take measures into his own hands.

From the beginning, Outfox is a novel that throws the reader off course by a huge margin. One can guess as much as they want to, but apart from a few circumstances, I for one ended up being completely wrong on my hunches (when I am usually right), which made this a stellar read in my opinion.

In short, I loved Outfox and what it delivered. While I will continue to bemoan the fact that Ms. Brown only releases one novel per year now, the fact that what she does release into the market is always stupendous goes a long way towards easing those particular woes.

How Ms. Brown still manages to take my breathe away with every hero and heroine that she brings to life in her books is a factor that continues to confound me, even when I should know better. Her heroes are intriguing to a point where they are sexy without even trying.

There is vibe that her heroes give without even putting much effort into it. Ms. Brown does not have to go on describing each perfectly crafted muscle on the hero’s body to get the reader to sit up and take notice. He just has to walk into the scene and you are a goner. No matter how many books I have continued to read from Ms. Brown, I am still a sucker for her heroes and I would not have it any other way. In true Sandra Brown style, Drex threw every preconceived notion I had of him out of the window, even as the pages dwindled to reach the very last couple of paragraphs in the story.

When it comes to heroines, Ms. Brown creates women of class, seemingly out of thin air. It is in the way they carry themselves, with dignity and beauty to their character which is not just skin deep. There are many factors which makes a heroine stand out, and Ms. Brown does a perfect job of bringing together just the right ingredients to make Drex and Talia inevitable.

The suspense factor was really done well in the story. Outfox is an apt title for the story because somehow, you never quite figure out what is going to happen next. That takes mastery over storytelling that Ms. Brown has damn near perfected over years of publication. And I for one hope that she never stops crafting these gems. Jasper is a villain who was ingenious in the way he works the system, cunning in a way that makes the heart beat just a tad faster. It was not only Talia who felt uneasy during the scenes where Jasper is featured prominently. He is the sort of character who makes your skin crawl, without even trying.

Outfox is a novel recommended for those who love superbly crafted and tightly plotted thrillers. With just the right amount of romance in the mix to appease readers like myself, Ms. Brown seems to have outdone herself, yet again!

Final Verdict: Just when you think you have got everything figured out, Ms. Brown throws you for a loop until the reader is left running around in circles chasing their own tail. Ms. Brown only gets better with time and Outfox is a testament to just that.

Favorite Quotes

“Talia.” He bent his head lower and nuzzled her just below her ear. “This isn’t only doing my job.” He caught the lobe of her ear between his teeth.
She stirred and whimpered his name. He followed the soft expulsion of breath to its source, her parted lips, and covered them with his. Her mouth was hot and wet and receptive when he pressed his tongue inside.
Unlike when he’d kissed her before, this time she didn’t turn her head aside and angle away. Instead she leaned into the kiss, not just with her mouth but with her body.

When he didn’t think he could withstand any more, one hand didn’t slide off at the tip. It stayed. Fingers dripping lather made teasing rotations around the crest, over it, again, as though testing its tautness, and then something wicked was done to the slit.
Through clenched teeth, he strangled out, “When.”

He turned around and hauled her against him. He tried to pause and register all the incredible sensations that holding her wet and naked against him induced, but his brain was functioning on a more primitive tier.
He gathered up a handful of her hair and pulled her head back, tilting her face up to his. He looked into her eyes, then covered her mouth with his. It was a ravenous kiss. He couldn’t get enough of her, and she was as hungry.

He levered himself up and above her—and was shocked to see tears sliding down her temples into her hair. She reached for him, grabbing at him until their mouths were melded and he had pushed into her.
But he went only far enough to secure himself just inside. There he waited, wanting to commit to memory this moment of feeling her around him for the first time. Then he continued pressing into her until he was solidly imbedded.
She hugged him to her tightly, and it was fantastic, but he had to move or he was going to die. He buried his face in her hair. “If I get too rough, slow me, stop me. I want…I want…Oh, God…”
The mating instinct took over. In spite of his best intentions, his strokes became faster and stronger. A slight shift in his position enabled him to reach deeper, and he did. God, did he.

She opened her thighs and guided him in. He hissed swear words as she slowly sank down onto him and began rocking. He grunted with pleasure. “And I thought the first time was good.” He angled himself up in order to reach her breasts. His mouth was hot and avid, and left her nipples wet with loving.
When he lay back, he gripped her hips between his hands and coaxed her, coached her, cajoled her in the raunchiest language. Several minutes later, on short puffs of breath, he said, “Have at it. That’s what I said. But, sweetheart…God a’mighty.”

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Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Format: E-Bookthekissquotient
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Kiss Quotient, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Michael Phan
Heroine: Stella Lane
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: June 05, 2018
Started On: May 25, 2019
Finished On: June 03, 2019

Thirty year old Stella Lane has a tough time identifying with what is normal for most people; stuff like dating, small talk, sex, husbands and boyfriends, to the point where her mother even suggests using Tinder. On the other hand, Stella has a brilliant mind, a sharp focus that is perfectly in line with her fascination for data; how bits of information comes together and fits together creating patterns where none existed before.

Two years younger than Stella, Michael Phan is of mixed Vietnamese and Swedish heritage and an escort with three years of service under his belt and counting. The excitement he used to have for the job has started to wane – however there is a darker need that drives him to do what he does, the need for revenge upon his father.

Stella facing the daunting task of perfecting her skills at having sex does what any rationally thinking individual would do. At least that is what Stella decides to do; she procures the services of Michael hoping that he would be able to show her the ropes and even teach her how to seduce someone and not feel like throwing up at the same time. But far from what she expects, Michael with his fascinating tattoo and alluring body scent throws Stella off course with the ferocity of need and other emotions that he invokes in her.

Michael, contrary to his own self-made rules on being an escort, agrees to give Stella three sessions whereby which he accepts to teach Stella all that she wants to know. But it is under the condition that no emotional entanglements cloud whatever it is that they are doing, Michael believing that he himself is far too jaded for the kind of emotional attachment he has warned Stella about. But then again, the best laid plans always have a way of being derailed all too well.

So begins the sessions leading to the entanglements that Michael was looking to avoid, and what Stella herself never saw coming. There is an ease with which these two mesh, even though at first Michael is clueless as to why Stella is the way she is; upfront and sometimes seeming to be cruel in the way she gives her honest opinion on things.

The way Michael seduces Stella, one scorching kiss at a time was enough to make me melt. There is a ferocity to Michael’s gentleness that works well with Stella (and me!), which is one reason why it was so easy to fall in love with their story.

Reading The Kiss Quotient, it does not feel like you are reading a debut novel from the author, but it is as if you have been reading Hoang’s novels all your life. There is a familiarity with the way she eases you in, shows you how challenging it is for someone like Stella regarding stuff we tend to take for granted, and the lust and love that blossoms between two people who for all intents and purposes in all likelihood are never destined to meet.

Michael’s family is one that you fall in love with, especially Quan, Michael’s cousin and sparring partner. His role is prominent in making Michael truly understand where Stella is coming from. Stella being an only child faces the sort of pressure that comes from having parents who are well established, with the kind of mindset that believes they know what is best for their child, under all circumstances.

I loved Stella for having the clarity of mind to know what she wanted. That is one of the many reasons why I fell in love with her from the start. Michael has his hangups to deal with, but none of that made him any less appealing. In fact, it made me fall in love that much harder with him. Whatever hurdles that both Stella and Michael had to go through to reach their happily ever after was worth it because Hoang is amazing in the way she weaves complex human emotions together to give the reader all the feels required to fall in love, forever more.

I was sighing by the time I read the last couple of chapters in the book, my throat clogged up with all the emotion that was seeping through the story. Michael was everything, and I mean everything (literally and figuratively), that a woman could ask for in a man. Stella was just as adorable, just as essential in the way she fearlessly falls for Michael, is yin to Michael’s yang, in every single way that matters.

Wholeheartedly recommended. This is one book you should not miss out on if you are a true romance reader!

Final Verdict: The wondrous nature of Hoang’s writing can only be felt by immersing yourself in Michael and Stella’s story. Beautifully crafted, be it emotions or the scorching sex scenes in the book. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

Wet heat stroked over her bottom lip. His tongue. She knew it was his tongue, but closed-mouth kisses made her forget. Another stroke, and shivery sensations cascaded outward. More kisses. In between aching presses of his lips, his tongue caressed her, making her skin tingle.
Soon he was seducing her mouth, stroking her bottom lip, the top lip, teasing the crease. Maybe she parted her lips. Maybe she wanted him to go further. But he didn’t. The closed-mouth kisses she’d liked so much in the beginning were no longer enough. She tried to capture his tongue, to take it into herself, but he evaded her. He brushed at her lips with maddening strokes, dipped inside for the merest second, withdrew, and she kneaded his shoulders in frustration.

He unlooped the bag from his shoulders and let it fall to the ground before he stepped toward her, not stopping until her back was pressed against the open door. He flattened a hand on the door next to her face and leaned down. His gaze dropped from her eyes to her lips. “I’m going to kiss you now.”
“Okay.” He’d shaken her brain into malfunctioning, and apparently that was all she could say now.
He touched his lips to hers, and pleasure jolted to her heart, down her arms, down her legs. Tilting his head, he kissed her deeper. Once. Twice. Again. Until she sighed and leaned into him, tangled her fingers in his cool hair. He claimed her mouth with his tongue in a way that was new and familiar at once. She kissed him back with everything in her, trying to tell him all the things she wasn’t articulate enough to say.

“Let me hold you.”
She inched as close as she could get without actually touching him.
He suppressed a smile. “It might help if you sat on my lap.”
Biting her lip, she crawled onto him and straddled his hips. Fuck, so close. That part of her, opened wide. He went hard in an instant but forced himself to take things slowly. This was about Stella. He expected her to sit stiff as a board until he thought up some kind of sorcery to make her relax, but she immediately settled in close and rested her cheek against his shoulder. When his arms encircled her, she released a ragged sigh and went boneless.

He smoothed his hands up and down her back until her muscles relaxed beneath his palms. That was when he gave in and kissed the underside of one breast. She curled her fingers, and her nails pricked his skin.
Pulling back, he asked, “Are you okay, Stella?”
She cleared her throat twice. “Tell me what you’re planning. Please.”
“I’m going to suck on your pretty nipples and lick them with my tongue.” Her grip tightened on his shoulders.
“That was a bit more graphic than I was expecting.”
“How would you have said it?” He ran his mouth from the underside of her breast up to the place where pale skin gave way to dark areola.
“I don’t know what—”
He covered her nipple with his mouth and sucked hard.
“Michael.”

“I still like mine best.” She put a spoonful of mint chocolate chip in her mouth. The complex combination of vanilla and mint exploded on her palate. Bits of chocolate crunched between her teeth. Perfection.
“Let me try it.”
She held her bowl out toward him, but he didn’t put his spoon in it. He trailed his fingers over her jaw as he tipped her head back and sealed his lips over hers. His tongue speared into her mouth, and the salt of him mixed with the flavor of the ice cream. She didn’t know if she was mortified, shocked, aroused, or all three. With a lingering lick on her bottom lip, he pulled away and grinned, his dark eyes intense and hazy.

Somehow, she found her hands tangled in his short hair. Her body was coiling tighter, grasping at his fingers, so wet now she could hear the slippery sounds every time he drove back into her.
“I’ll stop, Stella. Clearly . . .” His tongue rubbed over her fast and hard, and she clenched helplessly around his fingers. “Clearly, you hate this.”
“Michael.” That breathy, needy voice was hers. She didn’t care. She rubbed her hungry flesh against his tongue, nearly sobbing when he took her back into his mouth.
He sucked with perfect pressure, and she came apart with strong, wrenching convulsions.

“Michael?”
His face was drawn as if in pain. “I’ve been wanting this too long. It’s too good. You feel . . .” He exhaled. “If I move, I’m going to lose it.”
She couldn’t stop herself from smiling. She wasn’t alone in this. “Move.” She arched her back and rocked against him. The motion pushed him in even deeper, filled her.
A raw groan escaped his throat. “Stella, I’m serious. Give me a moment to cool down. This is our first time. I want fireworks for you.”

She brought their lips together and kissed him like he was oxygen and she was short on air. He ran his hands down her back to her hips, cupped her sweet ass, pulled her into his hardness. She struggled to get closer, threaded her fingers through his hair as she poured herself into the kiss.
So soft, every part of her. But covered by clothes. Michael loved clothes, but they locked Stella away. He’d never felt the urge to tear at buttons like he did now. Breaking the kiss, he captured a hand and loosened the cuff around her elegant wrist.
“Clothes off,” he growled.

He eased his hands down the swan line of her spine and hooked his thumbs in the elastic of her panties, pushed the material down her thighs. They were soaked clear through, and the scent of her arousal pushed him to the edge of his control. He almost spilled into her palm. She might be pleasuring him as part of her sex ed, but she was loving it, too. You couldn’t fake this kind of evidence.
After settling her back onto the bed, he tore her panties off, balled them up, and brought them to his nose to inhale her scent. “I’m keeping these.”

“Stella, do you have any idea how hot your—”
“Michael,” she whined, bending her legs restlessly. “Don’t say it.”
He paused. Her words said no, but her body . . . Her chest heaved on ragged breaths, and she was clenched tight around his fingers.
“I think you like it when I talk dirty to you,” he whispered.

He lowered himself over her and kissed her mouth, her jaw, her neck. Hard flesh prodded at her sex. As he slid into her, their eyes accidentally met and locked. Panic spiked. Too raw, too exposed. She tried to look away until she realized the vulnerability she saw was his. Dark eyes gazed deep, seeing her seeing him.
Their bodies picked up an elemental tempo. Hips surged and retreated, claimed, gave. He searched between their bodies until he could touch her right where she needed it. She burned and wound tighter and tighter. Moans tumbled from her lips as she arched into him. Through it all, their gazes held. He saw it all, heard it all. She would have been embarrassed if it weren’t for his smile, the tender way he brushed the hair from her face before his free hand tangled with hers.

The world stopped. All was silence but for their hearts trying to synchronize their crashing.
-He didn’t know how to describe the way he felt seeing her in his clothes, knowing she’d kept his shirt and had been wearing it to sleep all this time, but it was really good. He’d been feeling like this a lot lately—basically, anytime Stella smiled, demanded a kiss, or crossed the room to be near him, but also when they weren’t together. He’d spent the entire past week in a euphoric high, grinning for no other reason than he was thinking of her. No doubt about it. Michael was stupid in love. He knew this was temporary, knew it wasn’t real, knew it couldn’t possibly end well, but he’d done what no escort should do anyway. He’d fallen for his client.

“Why? Did he do it wrong? Was he a bad kisser?”
“It felt wrong.”
“Why?”
“Because he wasn’t you.” The soft look in her eyes killed him. He would do anything for that look. Anything.
He angled her head back with a hand against her jaw, trying to be gentle despite the violence raging in his veins. “Going to kiss you.” He had to. If he didn’t, he would go crazy.
“Don’t. He’s in my mouth. I can still taste him. I can’t get him out.”
He released a fierce growl. “I need this, Stella.”

When she began to lower her panties, he shook his head. He looped one of her legs around his hip as he lifted and pressed her against the tile wall.
She made an impatient sound. “Don’t tease me, Michael. I need you.”
He pulled the crotch of her panties to the side and thrust hard and fast, burying himself inside her. Her breath broke, and she moaned his name. So fucking hot. He stroked his tongue over every inch of her mouth, claiming it as he angled his hips to hit her clit. The tight grip of her body, her sweet mouth, her legs around him, her breaths on his neck—perfection.

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