ARC Review: In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookinthebarrenground.png
Read with: Adobe Reader for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran
Heroine: Tana Larsson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 16, 2016
Started On: August 03, 2016
Finished On: August 06, 2016

In the Barren ground of the soul
nothing can grow.
For here is bitter and cold where
the sun hangs low.
Where a midnight caribou mutilation
awakens a howl of emptiness with ice
where once there was heart.
And it comes with hunger
for blood in its mouth.
For, in the Barrens of the soul
monsters take toll . . .

Loreth Anne White is an author whose name belongs right up there with the masters of the romantic suspense genre. Label her books as romantic suspense or thrillers, either way, you get a story that is worth your time and money in gold, and In the Barren Ground, her latest procedural romantic suspense novel fits right in.

Set in The Barrens, a vast wilderness in northern Canada bordering the Arctic Circle, the terrain is as unforgiving and harsh as they come. When winter rolls in, few are the numbers of people around, and predators come out to stalk whatever food they can scrounge up from the vast areas of hostile territory.

Constable Tana Larsson takes up a post in the remote fly-in community of Twin Rivers because of mistakes of her past, to escape the memories that haunts her more than she would like it to. Though the isolation of the town makes her question her decision at times, Tana knows deep inside that she needs a place as such to lick her wounds in private, to let herself heal and in the process learn to fit in and accept her new role as a mother to be.

When Tana gets called in to cover a wolf mauling that had cost the lives of two students, the evidence at hand suggests something more sinister at work, a force that looks as if it has been in operation for over a span of years, none of it jiving with what the people of Twin Rivers has believed up till now. Though the folks of the town are less than helpful in their hints that Tana is stirring up bad spirits by going deeper into a case that had already cost the sanity of a law enforcement personnel before her, Tana is determined to piece together the clues that points towards a meticulous and horrific serial killer at work.

With the help of a local bush pilot known as Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran, who elicits the sort of reactions from her that are not at all welcome, Tana enters into a dangerous game with a killer who has pretty much perfected the art of killing and getting away with it. The ritualistic nature of the kill, the patterns of it suggesting a sort of violence that is deep rooted in issues of the kind for which help of any sort might never ever be enough.

Before this, I had the misfortune of reading a procedural romantic suspense novel a year or so earlier, which nearly put me to sleep and made me want to bang my head against the wall. The narration of all the procedural aspect made the book intensely dry and made me want to weep from the effort it took for me to finish the book. So my apprehension when it came to reading this was a given, since In the Barren Ground is also characterized as a procedural romantic suspense novel. My worries were totally unnecessary, as I found myself totally captivated by the story that unfolded, a trait that has always held true when it comes to every single book I have had the fortune of reading when it comes to Loreth’s work. Loreth sports a mind of the kind that delivers dark and edgy, the kind that I absolutely, wholeheartedly revel in.

In the Barren Ground, while procedural, it made me appreciate all the more, the intensive and at times tedious work that officers of the law enforcement have to put in in order to get a case right, and to do it right as well. The evidence gathering, collating, picking up the clues and patterns; all of it and more requires a mind that is keen as well as intelligent, and a heart that believes in justice and doing it right and not taking short cuts, because you never know which piece of evidence would end up becoming the pivotal piece in a case.

I loved Tana‘s character. There is strength and resilience in her, the sort that knows when she needs help and when she can do it alone. I think this is basically the first thriller of the kind that I have read, in which the lead character did not go in half cocked, thinking she could save the day just by turning up. No. She used her God given intelligence which made her see that to face off a killer of the kind who takes pride in the planning, the lure and the hunt should not be taken lightly, because if Tana were to piece it all together, the whole world of the killer comes tumbling down. I loved that about this story and that was definitely one of the highlights.

Crash’s character was an absolute delight. Crash is a man who throws all your assessments of his character sideways, his character as appealing on the inside as on the outside. What drew me to his character was how he could read people, how he understood where they were coming from, the career which he had worked in before honing skills in him that turned out to be pretty useful when all was said and done. Crash has his own agenda which he seeks, his own demons to fight, his own past that is filled with regrets of the kind that could break a guy. But Crash perseveres, and knows which battles to fight and which ones to give up, which made me love him all that more!

The killer in this novel, well, that is the masterpiece when it comes right down to it. Loreth’s imagination takes the reader to places where some might not even want to go. Those who have delicate sensibilities might not like where her stories take them. But for me, Loreth’s stories are the high that I seek whenever I pick up a thriller of the kind. The fact that the identity of the killer totally surprised me, something that has been happening too rarely lately for my sake, was one of the winning aspects of this story! Be prepared for a killer that has multiple facets to the character, a testament of the mastery that Loreth holds over the genre.

The setting itself is one that lends credence to the whole story. Definitely not the kind of place you would want to end up with a killer who enjoys the hunt and is relentless. Loreth’s writing is so evocative, and I always keep repeating this point in my reviews; it just feels as if you are one with the story. As if you are standing at the edge of The Barrens, the cold seeping through, right into your very bones, the chill you feel when you encounter the malicious intents of a killer for whom all reason had been lost, and the subtle, yet strong connection that forges to life between two unlikely protagonists; all that and more, and you feel every single aspect of the story to the deepest recesses of your soul.

This is a story that sends chills running up and down your spine, taking you to the edge of your seat and back. Be prepared to lose sleep and to read through the night. Brace yourself to become engrossed and engaged in a read that would have you turning on every light in your house, because that is how edgy and real the story that unfolds is. Definitely and absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Taunts and haunts you! An irrefutable page turner!

Favorite Quotes

It was 3:48 p.m.
Nearly ten minutes away from pickup time. Only five more days before she was due back at school.  With her friends. Her mom. But as Selena  slid  into  oblivion,  she  realized  she  would  not  make  her  twenty second birthday. Perhaps, she thought in an absurd final moment of consciousness, this basin in which she lay beneath the cliff face was one of those  “dreaming  places” where  she should  never have stopped  to rest, or to empty what she had from those bags . . .

Tana banged on O’Halloran’s door, praying she’d find him in a better  state  than  Jankoski.  The  door  opened  almost  immediately,  startling her.  Warm light spilled out into the night. His dark-blond hair stood on end. He wore a tight, long-sleeve tee.  Tattoos poked out from the base of his sleeves. His jeans slung low  on his hips. He grinned, and it put dimples into his rugged, weather-browned cheeks, amusement into his light-green eyes. He reminded her of a scarred and cocky junkyard dog. An edginess crackled through her. Because he intimidated her. Just a little.

“You know why they call this place Headless Man?”
“I’m sure you’re about to tell me.”
“Two prospectors were found a few miles southeast from here, in the twenties, sitting  with their backs leaned up against  a cliff face, just like  we’re doing.  Fully dressed.  Boots on,  packs and  picks and  guns at their sides. Only trouble—no heads. Just gone. Just the two torsos propped  there like they were having a good old chat. Still had  diamonds in their bags.”
She turned to him. “They ever find the heads?”
“Nope.”
“How’d the heads been removed?”
“Ripped. Clean off. Bodies all intact, just those heads torn off their stumps.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BAM | BookDepo

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Review: Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-bookdukeofsin
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #10
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Valentine Napier
Heroine: Bridget Crumb
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: May 31, 2016
Started On: July 07, 2016
Finished On: July 08, 2016

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt, brings to readers the much awaited story of the anti-hero Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, who has graced many a story before as a very memorable secondary character. Valentine is the man who walks a fine line between good and bad, mostly moving in the circles of the latter, his main bargaining chip being information about the elite of the ton.

Valentine was featured rather prominently in Darling Beast and Dearest Rogue, only to “disappear” in Sweetest Scoundrel. Bridget Crumb, Valentine’s newest housekeeper who is ever efficient, seeks employment at the Duke’s residence for reasons of her own. Bridget comes on a mission to save her birth mother from blackmail at the hands of the Duke, a man she sees as darkness itself. Even though Bridget cannot find any redeeming qualities about the Duke in her search for the documents she seeks, she is nevertheless intrigued on a level that has her questioning her sentiments.

When the Duke finally makes an appearance, Bridget is thrown by the way Valentine goes out of his way to rattle her, to get a reaction out of her. And when Valentine requires the help of Bridget to get through one of the darkest times of his life, Valentine finds himself enamored by the anomaly that Bridget presents. A woman who seems so practical and proper in every single way on the outside, with a fire that burns and wants to soar on the inside.

As Bridget gets to know Valentine and his past, she realizes that there is no defending herself against the onslaught of emotions that catches her, tumbling her headlong into love with a man deemed dangerous by mostly everyone. For Valentine, who finds the concept of love abhorrent, any ounce of such an emotion brutally stripped from him by those who should have loved and nurtured such emotions in him, it is a rising tide against which he struggles, the need to call Bridget his own when Valentine is furthest thing from a sentimental soul.

Duke of Sin is a story that has a lot going for it. An anti-hero of the kind that actually could be cruel but goes and does things that are totally out of character for someone like him. I fell in love with Valentine the night he lay struggling for his life, his darkest nightmares colored by the evil that had been his childhood coming to light. I cried for the little boy that had been treated in a manner that would have taken a darker soul to a place from which he would never have returned. The fact that there was still good left in Valentine, as hard it might have been to see at times, a good that people hardly saw because he always does things for his own benefit, was reason enough to root for him.

Bridget is a woman who holds her own ground when it comes to a man who is used to getting his own way. I loved Bridget for understanding the soul starved for love that was Valentine’s, for being insightful enough to see that beneath all that beauty and harsh cruelty lay a heart that was capable of great love. Though Valentine might never end up being the gentlest of souls, and I would not want that for him either way, I loved Bridget for being woman enough to take him as he is, without hesitations when it came right down to it.

Recommended for fans of anti-heroes who love a scorching tale of romance and love. Hoyt provides all that and more in every single one of her books!

Final Verdict: In Valentine, Hoyt creates a hero of the kind we all fall for, regardless!

Favorite Quotes

He moved swiftly, like a striking snake. Once. Twice. Thrice.
So fast his hand was blurred.
Blood spurted from the footman’s side, but his eyes were still open.
Slowly he looked down at the mortal wounds.
And almost lazily Val slit his throat.
The thing that had been Cal thumped to the carpet.
Bridget gasped, her hands covering her mouth. Oh, God!
Val turned, still naked, still impossibly beautiful. Only the gore spattered on his belly, chest, and arm, marred his perfection.
He walked toward her and she couldn’t help it. She backed away from him.
He smiled.
Sweetly. Like a boy. The dagger still in his left hand. And caught her arm with his right hand.
“This is who I am, Séraphine. Naked, with blade and blood. I am vengeance. I am hate. I am sin personified. Never mistake me for the hero of this tale, for I am not and shall never be. I am the villain.”
And he laid his lips over hers and pushed his hot tongue into her mouth and kissed her until she couldn’t breathe and it was only later that she found the bloodstains on her dress.

He bit at her collarbone, licked down across a breast and suckled frankly on a nipple, drawing strongly and suddenly.
She grasped for his head, off-balance as if she were falling, even though she lay on a solid bed. His hair was silky beneath her hands, curling around her fingers.
But then he pulled away, tonguing under her breasts, each one, and down her belly, pausing to mouth her navel, and then thrusting her legs apart, climbing nimbly between, and thumbing wide her labia.
She gasped. “I… wait—”
But he’d already laid his mouth against her flesh, licking her there roughly as if he did indeed intend to devour her.
She’d never… that is…
She screamed, thrusting her hand into her mouth to muffle the sound as she came hard and fast.

Oh, God.
He was doing something, moving, but she’d lost her bones and could only half open her eyes.
She looked up in time to see him kneeling upright, his eyes gleaming, as he ripped open his falls. His penis was dark red and angrily erect, standing to his navel. He caught her hips and pulled her until she was on his lap, then he bent and, without ceremony, thrust himself within her.
“Now,” he rasped, no grace, no drawl, no civility at all. “Come again for me now.”
And he pulled her on and off his cock, rotating his hips all the while, his eyes on her, watching, waiting, as if she were the last drop of water in a desert.

But he batted her hand away, replacing her fingers with his thumb, pressing down hard.
And she arched, screaming, the lightning blazing from her center, sparking through her limbs, flying out her fingertips.
She was incandescent.
He fell atop her, heavy and male, pulling her legs up around his narrow hips, and ground down into her, once, twice.
His cock jerked within her and she could feel every muscle in his body tense. He groaned into her ear like a man dying and then fell senseless and limp.
And as she followed him into exhausted slumber she heard his single word:
Mine.

She moaned, all warm, damp woman in his hands, breasts in his face, thighs over his legs, astride him like a female dragoon, and he wanted to inhale her. To drink her in and keep her.
Possibly forever.
He wanted to lick her cunt again, make her cream for him, make her scream and writhe, but the angle was wrong and he made a vow: no more baths before bed—they were just too much for his frayed nerves. Instead he drew hard upon her sweet little nipple and plunged his hand between her thighs.
She was wet. Oh, sweet, wonderful woman! She was wet already, slippery and soft and ready for him.

He worked the falls of his breeches with his other hand and freed his grotesquely engorged cock, weeping, pleading for surcease.
Raised her arse a little, placed himself at that hot, wet paradise, and thrust.
She opened her eyes as he pulled his face away, watching her.
He thrust again. The way was tight. Narrow. She was wet, but she hadn’t yet come tonight.
Her mouth opened, a strand of hair caught on her shining lips.
God.
He thrust again. Hard. And was home.
Burning fire surrounded him. He’d never be cold again.

He watched as she went up in flames.
Burning like an archangel, glorious, frightening, awesome.
And when he caught fire as well, when he emptied his loins into her furnace, in groaning, exquisite jerks, all he could think was this:
His Séraphine thought that deep inside him was a golden core—a good man who could be redeemed.
She was wrong.
And when she plumbed his depths and discovered instead a frozen hollow, she would do what she must.
She would leave him.

He braced himself over her, his golden curls falling into darkened glittering azure eyes, lines imprinted on his pale beautiful face, and gazed down at her with awful, terrible foreboding. “Death.”
She was falling apart under his assault, sparks flying behind her eyes, warm honey in her limbs, but she forced herself to meet his gaze, to keep her eyes open even as her mouth went slack with pleasure. “Life.”
His hips faltered, and his head rolled on his shoulders as if he’d been hit, as if he were in great pain, his lips drawn back from his teeth. He groaned, continuing to thrust, but more slowly, less gracefully, a man in his death throes.
And as she watched, he opened his eyes and gasped, “Séraphine.”
She answered as naturally as breathing, “Valentine,” and felt his hot seed fill her.

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

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Review: Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-booksweetestscoundrel
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #9
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Asa Makepeace
Heroine: Eve Dinwoody
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November 24, 2015
Started On: May 24, 2016
Finished On: May 27, 2016

I have been meaning to dive into this delectable novel for quite sometime now. Crista on Goodreads is a romance reader whose tastes fairly match that of mine. So I make it a point every now and then to grab some recommendations off her shelf of books, which is how this sweet number caught my eye. This was not my first Hoyt novel as I had previously sampled her talent through her novel The Raven Prince which I reviewed way back in 2012.

Sweetest Scoundrel is book 9 in the Maiden Lane series. Though I picked this novel up without having read the rest of the novels prior to this in the series, I had no trouble at all in picking up the story and I believe this works perfectly well as a standalone. However, having since then gone back and sampled the rest of the novels in the series, I have to say that the full impact of meeting some of the secondary characters that makes their way into the story might not be felt if you decide to pick this up like I did. Nevertheless the enjoyment factor when it comes right down to it is not affected in anyway.

Asa Makepeace is the owner of the pleasure garden known as Harte’s Folly, though few know of the fact, especially not his family. Asa has a chip on his shoulder the size of Manhattan itself when it comes to letting his family know how he earns his living. Though when I first heard of the term “pleasure gardens”, I thought to myself it must be something akin to a brothel or the likes of it, which must be the reason why Asa was so reluctant for his siblings to know of his occupation, I was proven wrong as I read along. I realized that the term was used to denote places which were highly popular in the 17th, 18th and 19th century as a place where patrons can buy tickets to gain entrance and then enjoy a variety of performances such as plays, operas, and symphonies, and even enjoy a meal or two and explore the gardens within which the whole thing takes place. Asa’s reluctance for his family to know that he is the owner of the place stems from his childhood, and the fact that the Makepeace family is fairly religious considering all things.

Sweetest Scoundrel begins at a point where Asa runs into a bit of a trouble with Harte’s Folly being reduced to ashes in a fire, which meant having to start all over. Running short of the kind of capital required to do that, Asa had taken the helping hand lent by the Duke of Montgomery, which is how Asa’s life is invaded by Eve Dinwoody, the Duke’s half sister.

Eve is described as a woman with plain features, someone men would not notice all that much at a first or even third glance. That is what happens with Asa as well when Eve practically forces her way into his business activities, throwing Asa’s life into disarray of the kind he starts to find appealing in a way he never thought possible. But Eve’s past is mired in the kind of darkness and violence that has held her a captive of its memories, leading Eve to live a life half-lived, under the protection afforded by those that she keeps close to her heart.

Working with Asa in close proximity makes Eve stand up and notice things she would not have if otherwise. And for the very first time in Eve’s life, in Asa’s warm and passionate embrace, Eve finds within herself the courage to step outside of the circle that binds and shackles her to the past, a way to break free of the mold that every one has pretty much thought was a given where she was concerned.

Hoyt’s stories aren’t just plain romance novels. There is so much more happening in each and every single one of her stories that I have read since picking up Sweetest Scoundrel to read. There is of course romance of the kind that makes your heart go pitter-patter, there is the factor of enchantment to her stories via the chapter openers that precede every single chapter with a mini fairy tale that keeps you turning the pages. There is also the portion of mystery that adds in the intrigue factor and that is what makes reading a Hoyt novel an experience of the kind you would not find elsewhere.

Asa is a hero well crafted. He is handsome, earthy, passionate and virile in a way that makes your insides go hot in just the merest of seconds. He is also a straightforward kind of character that makes him more endearing in my eyes. There are so many novels out there, especially historical romances where characters always talk in double entendres that can be quite tiring, perhaps an effort by the author to make his or her characters sound overly intelligent. Thus, I appreciate candid honesty in characters because I tend to be a pretty straightforward person myself.

I loved Asa for so many things, the utmost of reasons being his patience when it comes to dealing with Eve. It is not easy for a woman such as Eve to give into her desire to touch and be touched by a man such as Asa. Not because he is a brute or scares her in that sense, but because of a past that makes her reluctant to even test the waters when it comes to the opposite sex. Eve’s courage when it came right down to it was something that I approved of wholeheartedly. There is being afraid and there is being stubborn and mule headed enough not to want to change. I was glad that Eve belonged to a category of her own and charted her own path towards what was best for her. Some of the scenes of passion are downright hot and steamy! Whoever said that historical romance writers do not know how to steam up a carriage window have not been reading right!

Sweetest Scoundrel is a novel that all romance readers, especially those who love unconventional historical romances ought to read. I friggin’ loved the whole thing!

Final Verdict: Rich in detail & multi-layered in characterization, Sweetest Scoundrel makes for a beguiling read!

Favorite Quotes

She lifted her chin. “Then I suppose our discussion is done.”
She turned to go, but he had a hard grip on her upper arm, pulling her back.
“Not yet it’s not,” he growled.
She fought down the old, nauseous fear. “Let go of me.”
“Why?” He cocked his head, an ugly sneer on his beautiful lips. “Can’t stand my touch?”
“Yes!” she tossed back, losing her patience, her self-control, and any upper hand she’d ever had in their argument.
Which was when he took her by the shoulders, pulled her roughly into his arms, and pressed his mouth to hers.
And Eve lost her sanity.

Her breath caught on the thought. Was he saying that a woman would put her hands—her mouth—there?
Her bodice felt suddenly too tight as her breaths became faster. She didn’t know where to look: at those long fingers massaging his own leg or his glinting, knowing green eyes.
“And of course,” he continued, “a woman can pleasure herself—with her hand—and a man…” His hand drifted up, straight to the top of his widely spread legs. He gripped himself frankly—lewdly—and looked at her.
She lost all sense of propriety. All sense of place and time and who he was and who she was.
She stared back into those sensuous green eyes and whispered, “Show me.”

Her nostrils flared as she inhaled. There was a musky scent in the air, salty and animal, and it made her clench her legs together.
He grinned suddenly, his white teeth gritted together, as if he knew what he did to her. His fist was moving faster now, the deep red head of his cock appearing and disappearing between his fingers. It shone, fully revealed, and so big she bit her lip.
“Now,” he grunted. “Now, Eve, watch me. Are you watching me?”
“Yes,” she moaned.
The muscles stood out in his neck as a white liquid erupted from his cock, flowing and spurting, his legs shaking, his hand slowing.
And the entire time he watched her.

He couldn’t take it anymore.
He wrapped his hand around the back of her head and pulled her up, pulled her across his chest, pulled her into a kiss so filthily explicit his tongue might as well have been fucking her mouth.
They groaned in unison and he wrapped his hand over hers, forcing her fingers tight around his erection, showing her how to pull up, the loose skin sliding over his hot core—oh, sweet, sweet God—and down, fisting tight, moving faster, his hips pumping up into their shared grasp.
She moaned and his hips jerked at the sound.
And then she sucked his tongue and hot pleasure speared him. He convulsed, spunk spewing over his fingers, over hers. He smeared them both in it as he yanked himself through it, shuddering.

She wanted to ride him, wanted to hide him away in her bedroom, to use only for herself.
She was jealous of every woman who had come before her. Had used this wonderful penis. Had heard his groan.
She opened her eyes. But it was the women who would come after that she truly wanted to kill.
He was hers. He should never share this part of himself with anyone else.

She threw back her head, riding him hard, the sweat sliding down between her breasts. He lurched up, half sitting, his arm propping him up, and licked the sweat from her body.
She cried out, gasping, holding his head to her even as he sucked one nipple into his mouth. She felt the pull, felt the answering gush, and knew she was falling apart, spreading outward, a star exploding.
He gasped and let go of her breast, bowing his head to her chest, his hair wild and tangled against her as he groaned and shook.
She felt heat inside her and rose one last time, spreading wide her thighs, shoving him as deep inside her as she could.
Trying to keep him forever.

“Because I deserve more,” she said. “I deserve a man who loves me above all else. I deserve a family and happiness.”
“Then go!” he growled. “Go off and find this mythical man and spread your legs for him if it’ll give you what you want.”
She took two strides toward him and slapped him, quick and hard, and then her eyes widened as she realized what she’d done. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
He turned his face back to her slowly, almost lazily. “I’m not.”
And then she was in his arms, his mouth on hers, wild and hot and dangerously close to out of control. He thrust his hand into her hair, holding her head immobile, and ravished her mouth, biting, tonguing, thrusting.

She remembered her hand and how to work it, tearing open his falls and the smallclothes beneath. Her breaths were coming in hot little pants now and she stared up at him as she took him into her fist. She would remember this. She’d remember this until her dying day, she promised herself.
“Ah, Eve,” he groaned, his head falling back, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. He thrust once, convulsively, into her hand, and then he was lifting and spreading her legs, taking his cock out of her hand, thrusting into her.
She gasped, it was so fast. A complete possession.

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

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ARC Review: Project Virgin by Megan Crane

Format: E-bookprojectvirgin
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Hero: Damon Patrick
Heroine: Scottie Grey
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 21, 2016
Started On: April 29, 2016
Finished On: May 01, 2016

Damon Patrick is a seventh year associate at the historic law firm Granger and Knox, a renowned litigator and San Francisco’s favorite sex symbol. 26 year old Scottie Grey is a first year associate who is barely out of law school, who just booted her fiancé out the door for being the lying and cheating man he had turned out to be.

When Damon notices the missing engagement ring on Scottie’s finger which is followed by the lengthiest conversation they have had to-date regarding non-work related stuff, Scottie to her horror realizes that she had started to have very strong reactions towards Damon which does not bode well at all. The topic of her status of virginity somehow comes up, which is how Damon eventually “volunteers” to help her get rid of the pesky matter, once and for all.

Told in first person from Scottie’s point of view, Megan Crane I believe has done justice to the story with a novella of this length. Damon definitely lives up to the description that I started off this review with – he is definitely a sex symbol if ever there was one.

This book made me reassess every not-so-positive thought I might have had about kissing scenes when it comes to a lot of books. The act itself can barely get a passing glance from some authors, while others quite ineffectively launches into a description of tongue tangling and tongues doing other stuff which sometimes does not come off as such an erotic act. However Megan Crane has made me a believer of just how erotic the act of kissing itself can be in books with how Damon chooses to kiss Scottie, possibly out of her senses and beyond. I am a definite believer in Damon and his prowess in kissing and otherwise. Wowza!

Because the book is told in Scottie’s point of view alone, it is at times difficult to assess what Damon might or might not be feeling. For a man who has no problem in getting any woman he wants (I believe I would not turn him down if he were to turn up on my doorstep – and I digress), there is little novelty perhaps left when it comes to the harem of women that parades in and out of his life.

I guess what affected Damon most was the fact that Scottie had waited all along, believing in giving herself to the one that she wanted to share the rest of her life with – even though that man had turned out to be the douche-bag of the century. At first it feels as if Damon remains unaffected by the scorching and burn-through-the-ereader chemistry that he and Scottie had going between them. But little by little the chips fall away & reveal that he is as stunned and affected by what is happening between them. 

The way that Megan makes the reader see how moved Damon is by the experience and beyond, when everything else suggests otherwise, that was the part of the story that I couldn’t get enough of! Loved, loved, loved the emotions that this little delicious number invoked.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: In Project Virgin, Megan Crane tells a delicious tale not to be missed!

Favorite Quotes

“I  think  I’ll walk home,”  I  said after a  stretch of time  that could have  been  years.  It felt  like  decades, hot  and  dark  blue, and  I  wondered who  I’d be  grieving  tonight when  I cleared my  head  and slept alone.  Alexander or  Damon?   “I  could use  the  air.”
He  shifted then, and smiled, and  I  felt as if everything  had  changed.   As if  the world had been shoved out of its usual orbit, even if  I  couldn’t see  any  difference.   I  felt that restlessness, edgy  and needy, like  a  dull  kind  agony  right beneath my  skin.
“Or,”  he  said quietly, but with all  that electric  confidence  that pooled  deep  in my belly and pulsed hard between my legs, “you could let me give you what you want.”

“Which one of us knows what he’s doing?” Damon asked, his voice dark and hot and close to my ear. “You or me?”
“I don’t know to answer that. You refused to confirm if the rumors I heard about you were true.”
A rumble of very male laughter. Then the scrape of his teeth against the side of my jaw. He’d nipped me. He’d nipped me. My entire body seemed to switch on, straight into a white hot, humming blaze of fire.
“They’re true.”

The position was as ridiculous as I’d feared. My ass was in the air, my hair was tumbling everywhere, and I had to concentrate to lower myself toward him without simply collapsing and writhing against him the way I wanted.
But his mouth. His mouth. He tilted his head back and it was right there. It was temptation and sin. I could smell him—a hint of something spicy and a certain underlying maleness that was all him. I could feel the heat coming off of his skin.
My own mouth watered.
Between my legs, a sweet fire bloomed into a volcano.
Then I lowered myself down and fit my mouth to his.

He bent to capture my mouth with his, and everything exploded.
Holy shit.
I’d been kissed before. Some years, that was all Alexander and I had done.
I’d kissed a lot, and artfully. But never in my life had I ever been kissed like this.
Damon didn’t play. He took.
He was like a hurricane, taking me over and shaking me down, and I loved it. He ate at my mouth. He plundered me, until I was lost in the heat of it, the slide of his tongue and the clamor of my heart.

Damon pulled his mouth away from mine, but he left his hand where it was, his palm moving to gently abrade my nipple. The sensation was a wild tumult, a line of fire that shot straight from my breast to my clit and set me ablaze, and I couldn’t seem to do a thing in the world but arch into him.
He laughed, then let go, claiming my mouth again as he did.
The music in the club swelled around us, the high notes chasing each other through the insistent bass, and it was as if it was inside me, too. I was lost there, the music a delirious throb within me, Damon around me and beneath me, and his mouth moving against mine.

Higher he went, then higher still, until he cupped my pussy with his big, hard hand.
I trembled. Hard.
The club raged around us, right there on the other side of the balcony that shielded us, but I wouldn’t have cared if we were in the center of the dance floor and lit up by a set of spotlights.
“Please…” I whispered.
As if he’d been waiting for that, Damon smiled.

“You’re perfect,” he growled against my mouth, and then he claimed my mouth again as he drove two fingers deep into me.
I’d come before of course, me and my hand or a toy at the ready, but this was something else. This was different. This was a tearing apart. An awakening. I convulsed against him, going stiff as my hips tried to pound themselves against his hand, my head thrown back and my wild cries swallowed up by the loud club around us.
Damon laughed, a sound of rich male delight.
Then he claimed my mouth with his.
And he did it all over again.

He kissed me hard. Deep.
He made a noise I couldn’t interpret and then he was lifting me, positioning me on my back on the bed and then climbing over me.
We both groaned when he came down on top of me, pressing his whole body against mine. I let my legs fall open to cradle him against me, that hard cock of his separated from my aching pussy by two scant layers of thin fabric. For a moment we only stared at each other, making a lie of my commentary on plumbers and possessiveness as we lay there stripped bare in the dark.
I thought we both knew it.

“Have you done this a lot?” Even I could hear the wonder in my voice, and his dark blue eyes crinkled in the corners as he gazed down at me.
“Sex, yes,” he said, dropping his face down to put his mouth against my neck again. “Virgins, no.”
“Have you—”
“Scottie.” A drag of his teeth against my sensitized skin. “Quiet.”
Once again, I obeyed him.
And everything fell away.

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ARC Review: Lake of Dreams by Linda Howard

Format: E-booklakeofdreams.png
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Pocket Star
Hero: Richard Chance
Heroine: Theadora Marlow
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 02, 2016
Started On: March 22, 2016
Finished On: March 22, 2016

I have been undergoing a vicious dry spell in my reading the last couple of months. Every single book that I have picked up to read (some even from my favorite authors) have proved to be lackluster in some way and I eventually put them on hold. There were times I kept wondering whether romance genre altogether had lost its appeal to me. Maybe I had come to my saturation point where my beloved genre was concerned – all very alarming conclusions of course for someone who seldom goes on to read other genres.

Then I picked up Lake of Dreams by Linda Howard, up for grabs on Netgalley. Linda Howard has been a legendary writer back in the day. Her recent novels have lacked the punch that is the usual accompaniment of her novels. I actually believed this to be a full length novel and one that has not been previously published – I was wrong on both accounts. But the story that Lake of Dreams delivered is the reason why Linda Howard rose to stardom in the first place.

Theadora Marlow, a house painter who seems to lead a reasonably normal life is being plagued with dreams of the erotic variety. The man who visits her in the dreams takes her, possesses her in ways that she would never have thought possible, and yet at the end, always leaves her aching and crying for more when she eventually wakes up. Thea becomes affected to the point where she cannot concentrate on much, going to sleep itself becoming one of the hardest chores of her life.

To get away from it all, Thea makes her way to her family’s summer vacation cabin, hoping to let loose and relax without anyone intruding on her. However, as soon as she turns up, Richard Chance comes calling, the embodiment of the very man who has been visiting her dreams, some of it ending with a less than favorable impression of the man, leaving her bewildered and scared at the same time.

The short story that unfolded proved to be the balm that my frayed soul required, the water to my parched throat, the book that answered every single of my needs when it comes to reading romances. This was the Linda Howard that I remember, that I want to remember and keep in my memories and recall them from time to time. Earthy heroes, feisty heroines and a love so affecting that one can never be removed from it, if at all. 

I could not help but sigh as I turned the last page – because that is what a good book does to a soul that is starved for one.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: The beauty that is a well written romance is enough to tide one over a lifetime. 

Favorite Quotes

He took her that way, pulled to the edge of the bed and with only her lower body bared, and the mosquito netting between them. He took her with anger, and with tenderness. He took her with a passion that seared her, with a completeness that marked her forever as his. And, in the end, she did cry out. That triumph was his, after all. But her cries weren’t of pain, but of pleasure and fulfillment, and a glory she hadn’t known existed.

Before she could ask why, now that she was perfectly comfortable in his arms, he withdrew his arm from beneath her legs and let her lower body slide downward. Though he took care not to let her nightgown get caught between them, the friction of her body moving over his could scarcely have been more enticing. She caught her breath, her breasts and thighs tingling with heat even as she sought his boot tops with her feet and let her weight come to rest on them. Nor was he unaffected; there was no mistaking the firm swelling in his groin.

The taste of him was like coming home, their mouths fitting together without any awkwardness or uncertainty. A growl of hunger rumbled in his throat, and his entire body tensed as he took her mouth with his tongue. With the ease of long familiarity he thrust his hand under her T-shirt and closed it over her breast, working his fingers beneath the lace of the bra cup so his hand was on her bare skin, her nipple beading against his palm. Thea shuddered under his touch, a paroxysm of mingled desire and relief, as if she had been holding herself tightly against the pain of his absence and could only now relax.

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Review: Stroke of Enticement by Nalini Singh

Format: E-bookwildinvitation
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Urban-Fantasy
Series: Psy-Changeling, #9.5
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Zach Quinn
Heroine: Angelica Kildaire
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 5, 2013
Started On: February 11, 2016
Finished On: February 14, 2016

Angelica Kildaire (Annie) likes the independence she has carved for herself in her life. It has been hard won one, but it was the way she wanted things. Even though loneliness had a way of creeping in on her at times. That is until Zach Quinn walks into her life, making her crave for what she thought she would never want for.

Zach is a leopard shifter, and from the moment he lays eyes on Annie, he knows that he has found his mate for life. But convincing her of the fact? Well, that’s where the fun lies.

Though a novella, Nalini in her true craftsmanship, managed to wow me in all the ways that mattered. Zach is the kind of hero that every heterosexual female would fall for. Book smart, street smart, not to mention helluva sexy with a confidence that is nothing short of lethal. Zach epitomizes alpha heroes and then some.

Annie proved to be a match worthy of a man like Zach, and the journey to their happily ever after even though it was a short one, was what mattered the most. Loved it!

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Flat-out adored Zach and Annie. Nothing like the deep visceral bond of love. 

Favorite Quotes

“Hot date?” The voice was rich, dark, and completely out of place in her classroom.
Startled, she stood to face the man leaning in the doorway. “Uncle Zach?”
A smile that cut her off at the knees. “Just Zach’s fine.” Vivid aqua-colored eyes, straight black hair cut in a careless way, copper-gold skin and bones that spoke of an ancestor from one of the native tribes. “You called.”
And he’d come.

She was softer than he’d imagined, more luscious than anything he’d ever experienced. Cat and man both purred inwardly, and when her lips parted on a gasp, he swept inside to taste her. Sweet and tart, innocent and woman, she was his own personal brand of intoxication.
He bit her lower lip, sucked on it, let her gasp in another breath before kissing her again. “Mmm.” It was a sound of sheer pleasure as he indulged his need to touch this woman.

“Zach?”
“Shh. I’m looking.”
The husky statement made her body clench inside, her thighs tremble. She was wearing black lace…for him.
“Annie.” He groaned and reached up to unhook her bra. “I want to see.”

She sighed in unashamed pleasure and saw his eyes gleam as he bent down to get rid of his shoes and socks. “Now yours,” he said, moving to the bottom of the bed and tugging off her sandals one by one, following each removal with a long, slow look up her body.
By the time he finally got on the bed beside her, she was so aroused that she rose to claim a kiss of her own. When he nipped at her lips as he seemed to like doing, she nipped back. He raised his head, his hand closing possessively over her breast. “Do that again.”
Eyes wide, she did. He purred into her mouth. She broke the kiss to stare at him. “What was that?”
A feline smile. “Nothing.”

Breath coming in jagged bursts, she lowered herself onto him. He stretched her to the limit. But she wanted him inside her, wanted to possess him as absolutely as he’d possessed her. She drove down and shuddered. “It’s too much.” The angle was deep, the penetration intense.
He kissed her. “We’ll practice until you get used to it.” It was a husky promise as he laid her back down, bracing his body over hers using his hands.
“How much practice?” She wrapped her legs around the lean beauty of his hips, no longer shy with this man who treated her as if she was a goddess.
He groaned, pulled out a little, then thrust, as if he couldn’t help himself. “Lots.”

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

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Review: Night of the Phantom by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookphantomofthenight
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Ethan Winslowe
Heroine: Megan Carey
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 01, 1991
Started On: January 25, 2016
Finished On: January 25, 2016

Be it a historical, paranormal or contemporary romance, Anne Stuart is a master at crafting tales so superbly that you enjoy every single minute of the ride. Night of the Phantom was a story that according to Anne Stuart, was inspired by Phantom of the Opera. I guess it shows in certain elements of the paranormal and mystical variety included in the story. Didn’t detract at all from the storyline, but rather added to its charm, making Night of the Phantom the winner it is.

Ethan Winslowe is a recluse who lives in a forgotten part of the country that people seldom talk about. However, as reclusive as he is, Ethan is a genius in the field of architecture, and it is his splendorous designs that Megan Carey’s father used to rise to the position of fame and glory that he enjoys. Things go awry however, when Megan’s father begs her to take his place to meet Ethan who has threatened to bring the whole Carey corporation down. Megan, having never been able to say no in the face of her father agrees, albeit reluctantly. A decision that she regrets from the moment she steps foot in the godforsaken town.

Megan’s entrance into Ethan’s carefully structured plans is hardly a welcome one – at first. However, when Ethan realizes the perks of having Megan at his mercy, Ethan changes his plans accordingly, all the while knowing that Megan might prove to be detrimental to the heart that he keeps closed off from the rest of the world. Ethan enjoys the darkness, revels in the darkness that is his life. Megan, whose heart had craved romance and adventure when she had made plans to go traveling prior to having had to come see Ethan, finds her soul reaching out to that of Ethan.

Night of the Phantom turned out to be such a good book, one that I just had to finish in one single sitting. Anne Stuart’s books have a way of making me lose out on precious sleep, not something I would ever regret, given how well written her books are. Ethan makes for a darkly alluring hero. Hidden in the shadows with the darkness of the night wrapped around him, Ethan beckons your soul in ways you would never think possible. 

There’s a surreal and ethereal edge to the story as it unfolds. Timeless in the way Ethan and Megan circle each other; Megan frightful of her wanton desire for a man who doesn’t trust her enough to show his face and Ethan, frightened by just how much he needs, wants and lusts after Megan, all of which hides the deeper emotions that he fights to keep at bay. The town’s reluctance to harbor an individual as Ethan in their midst, regardless of what his presence means to an already dwindling community was one that proved to be another facet of the novel that fascinated me.

The ending when it came, was perfectly fitting to the story and the characters. Megan being the one to finally go after Ethan didn’t detract from the fact that someone as reclusive as Ethan had made the decision to go after her as well. That in my opinion, was the most wonderful ending they could have been given.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Anne Stuart takes you away on a journey of darkness and splendor!

Favorite Quotes

She paused for a moment, stretching like a contented cat as she stepped out of her fallen dress. She felt sinful, sensual and deliciously evil as she stood there in her shocking underwear and her high, high heels. If he hadn’t needed life-support systems before this little act, he would now.
Leaning over so that her hair fell in her face, she slowly unhooked one sheer black stocking. Sliding it down her leg, she stepped out of her shoes with a trace of regret. Men were supposed to find high heels unbearably erotic. She wanted Ethan Winslowe to suffer.
The next stocking followed. She unfastened the garter belt and tossed it in the corner beneath the video camera with all the aplomb of an elegant stripper tossing her clothing to a hungry crowd.
For the first time in her life, she didn’t feel ten pounds overweight. She felt luscious.

“Stop fighting me, angel,” he whispered, and his hand brushed her skin, the soft, sensitized flesh of her stomach. The row of tiny buttons had disappeared and her nightgown was open to the night air. “Stop fighting yourself. Give yourself to me.” And his hand moved between her legs and touched her.
What strength she had in her legs vanished and she sagged against him. It happened with shocking speed, scarcely had his long, deft fingers found her than she dissolved, lost in a darkness of sensation and despair. She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out but a strangled gasp of surprise, of release, of an astonished pleasure so intense that what little existed of reality vanished, and her last, amazed thought was that, for the first time in her life, she was going to faint.

“You’re lying,” he said bitterly. “I know revulsion when I see it.”
“Do you?” She stopped thinking. He was tall; she was barefoot and tiny. She reached up, cupping his face with her hands, both sides of his face, and pulled him down to her, kissing him full on the mouth.
For a moment, he froze, and she could feel the shock trembling through his body. Stillness washed over them, a silent eternity.
And then he pulled her against him, hard, slanting his mouth across hers, kissing her back with a passion that was devouring, frightening, filled with such longing that she felt as if she were going to be sucked up into a vortex of emotion.

“You could have gone with Palmer. If you’d asked again, Salvatore would have let you go.”
“I didn’t want to go.”
“I live in darkness,” he said, still not touching her, his voice low and urgent. “In the shadows, in the warmth and safety of the night. If you come to me, you’ll live in shadows, too.”
She lifted her head to look around, and her hair rippled down her bare back. “The moonlight is bright enough for me,” she said quietly.
He reached out then, his hands cupping her face, his thumbs caressing her cheeks. “I must be mad,” he whispered. “You’ll destroy me.”
“I’ll love you,” she said, but the words were silent.
“You’ll destroy me,” he said again, closing his eyes in sudden despair. And then he kissed her.

He knew how to judge her reactions perfectly, the shift, the restlessness, the ripple of reaction, the strangled breathing. He knew when she was just on the edge of explosion, and he knew how to expand that edge, to draw her over it, willingly, tumbling to her doom with no more than a strangled cry. He knew how to prolong it so that she was clawing at his shoulders, sobbing frantically, certain her body could take no more until he showed her, with inexorable determination, that it could.
And yet it wasn’t enough. She convulsed against his mouth, her body going rigid in reaction, and still she pulled at him, tugged at him, wanting more and more of him, wanting him, not his mouth, not his hands working their fiendish magic, she wanted all of him.

He had his face turned away from her so that all she could see was his unmarked profile, the sheath of long hair between them. His muscles were bunched, slippery with sweat beneath her hands, and she was loath to give up holding him, touching him, but she had to. Reaching up, she caught his face, turning him to look down at her, full face, his bisected beauty mesmerizing her. She kissed his mouth, his nose, she kissed the marked side of his face. Pushing his hair out of the way, she kissed the side of his neck where the mark continued down between their joined bodies.
For a moment, he stilled the hypnotic, powerful rhythm of his body and she was afraid she’d gone too far. She met his gaze fearlessly and she said the words she’d only thought, the words that would be her death knell. “I love you.”

She had no sense of where they were, and she didn’t care. Inside the door, he released her, ripping off her clothes with the same shaking passion that suffused her body. She was trembling so hard, she couldn’t help him, didn’t want to help him. All she wanted was to touch and kiss his body, to possess it, possess him, until there was nothing left between them, no secrets, nothing held back.
And then she was naked, wet with rain and sweat, shaking with fear and desire, and he was naked, wet with rain and sweat, and he lifted her up in his arms, pushing her back against an unseen wall and entered her, driving deep with a fierce thrust that made her cry out in instant, shuddering satisfaction. He wrapped her legs around him, holding on to her hips as he drove in and out, in and out, like someone possessed, and his mouth against hers, the words that tumbled forth, love words, sex words, angry and despairing and tender, simply fanned the flame higher and hotter until she thought she might explode from the power of his thrusts, the power of his love.

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