Review: Break the Night by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookbreakthenight_new.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Hero: John Ripley Damien
Heroine: Elizabeth Stride
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 01, 1993
Started On: June 16, 2018
Finished On: June 18, 2018

Break the Night by Anne Stuart is another one of her masterpieces in her long list of books (which I am forever grateful for), that more or less belong in the same category. Taking on the events surrounding the killer Jack the Ripper as a premise, Anne Stuart weaves a tale that left me wanting more on every single aspect of the story that unfolded.

Elizabeth Stride (Lizzie) is an artist trying to survive the LA scene. A creator of masks, Lizzie is caught in a nightmarish circumstance when a serial killer takes on her masks as part of the killer’s signature. Known as the Venice Ripper, Lizzie’s only saving grace comes from the fact that members of the public remain unaware of the use of Lizzie’s masks in the killer’s grotesque pastime.

However, Lizzie’s “anonymity” when it comes to the Venice Ripper becomes a thing of the past when news reporter John Ripley Damien i.e. J. R. Damien takes it upon himself to release the details about the masks in one of his articles featuring the Venice Ripper. Damien’s interest in the killer comes at a cost to both his personal and professional life. Renowned for his skill and talent as a reporter, Damien’s life takes a turn for the worse when he starts blaming himself for failing to see the line that exists between professional reporting standards and what is not. What could have been and what actually did happen.

Damien is haunted by dreams of a past that is filled with bloodshed, nightmares that seem hauntingly too real, when those dreams coincide with murders that happen in the present. Damien believes that stopping the killer is a job that is his duty, perhaps his past life had made it his responsibility to be the savior. But Damien knows that avenging the killer would come at a cost, a payment that he might have to make by giving his own life up in the process.

All of that is fine with Damien until Lizzie shows up in his life. Damien is none too shocked when an outraged Lizzie turns up on his doorstep, calling him out for publishing her details in relation with the Venice Ripper. While Damien tries to project an aura of indifference to all that is Lizzie, deep inside he knows that he is in deep trouble when it comes to her. The farthest thing from his usual style of women, Lizzie is what Damien would call a homebody, and for the very first time in Damien’s life, he wants to embrace the dreams of togetherness forever that he can see in Lizzie’s eyes.

However, there is a killer who is relentless, who is closing in on them as the passion between Damien and Lizzie ignites and burns with a ferocity that leaves them both stunned. And it will take everything Damien has got, all his wits about him to protect the most precious person in existence for him from a killer whose blood-lust has reached uncontrollable levels, taking on the task of the “cleanser of sinful souls” in the world.

I loved Break the Night. It is hard to believe that this was a story published more than ten years ago. Standing true to the test of time, as is the case with all Anne Stuart novels, both Damien and Lizzie are lovable and enticing characters. There is a vulnerability to Lizzie that is hard not to fall for, and a heart that yearns to open up to Damien and take him for all that he is – darkness and light together.

Damien is another topnotch example of heroes that Anne Stuart brings to life so effortlessly. Tall, lean, and darkly handsome in a way that makes a woman sit up and take notice, Damien’s demons run deep into his psyche, starting from a childhood that had been less than idyllic under most circumstances. However, it is Damien’s ties to a past that has long come and gone that is most intriguing, his often misplaced “blame” of self that takes place, because he is that kind of man.

Every Anne Stuart I pick up gives me a meaty read to sink my teeth into, delivers sexy and sinful heroes, pieces of whom I carry with me always; these are just some of the reasons why I would always keep coming back for more.

Recommended for fans of romantic suspense novels with a bit of creepy ethereality in the mix.

Final Verdict: Break the Night is the sort of novel that would rightfully leave you with the heebie-jeebies. Entwining long gone past events with the present, this is a story that will keep you reading into the wee hours of the night.

Favorite Quotes

“Damn it!” He hauled her upright, fury fighting with the panic that had suffused his body and winning. She simply stared up at him, her face wet with rain, and then it was too late. He pulled her into his arms, shoving her against the brick wall behind her and kissed her.
Her reaction was immediate. She slid her arms around his waist, clinging to him as if her life depended on it, and kissed him back. She tasted of rain and fresh coffee; she tasted of love and hope and despair.

For a moment, neither of them moved. And then he reached up to touch her, his hands cupping her shoulders, drawing her down, bringing her mouth to his. He kissed her slowly, gently, his mouth soft and damp and questing against her lips. He nibbled at her, tasting her. It was a kiss of such startling sweetness that she felt tears spring to her eyes, as a gnawing, yearning warmth started in the pit of her stomach and grew, spiraling outward, downward, filling her with such heat and longing that she began to tremble herself, and she wanted to move closer, to sink against him, into him, to press against him and dissolve.

“I’m yours, am I? Always?” he said, and there was no missing his bleak, self-mocking grin. “Lord, Lizzie, I only wish it were that simple.”
She let her eyelids flutter closed as she absorbed the feel of him against her. She could feel the sudden increase in tension, the hissing intake of breath. “Damn you, Lizzie,” he muttered under his breath.
She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Only if you want me.”
The feel of him against her hips left no doubt in her mind, despite the torment in his eyes. He pulled himself away from her, heading into the living room like a man facing his executioner, and Lizzie almost smiled.

She had beautiful breasts, small and perfectly formed. He leaned over and put his mouth on her, drawing the nipple deep and hard against his tongue, and her body jerked in reaction. Her hands were clutching the rumpled sheet beneath them, and he pulled one away, bringing it to the front of his jeans, holding it there, feeling the exquisite agony of a desire so strong he didn’t know how long he could make it last.
He could feel the darkness closing around him, could feel the blood beating in his ears. His hands were rough as they stripped off her jeans, but if she protested he was beyond hearing, lost in some black, dangerous place of his own.

“No,” she said fiercely. “Don’t. I don’t want you to touch me… ”
He wasn’t going to listen to her, and neither was her body. Despite her hurt and anger, she was aroused, and he was deft, determined, as he reached between and caught her clitoris between his fingers, somehow knowing how to touch her in just the right way, and she climaxed, fighting it, her body tightening and rippling around his aching hardness, as a helpless little cry filled the darkness.

He hauled her up into his arms, roughly, before she realized what he was doing, wrapping her legs around his waist. He looked dark, remote, not t he man she thought she knew, as he shoved her up against the wall, his face almost brutal in the firelight.
He pushed into her, hard, filling her, and she braced herself, welcoming him, no longer worrying about pain, only needing him, more of him, all of him, but this time her body didn’t resist him, this time she was ready. Her face was crushed against his shoulder as she felt him thrust into her, and she cradled his head, holding on, wanting nothing but his release, his pleasure to fill her.

It was darkness, madness, blood and death. With each thrust of his body she went a little farther, a little deeper, lost in some world where nothing remained but the inexplicable, powerful feelings surging through her body, the sound of his breathing in her ear, the beating of his heart against hers, the slick sweat on his skin as he surged into her, again and again and again, deep and hard and eternal.

His body was lean and wiry and golden in the firelight, a runner’s body. She slid her hands up his chest, placing her mouth against his neck as she pushed him down on the mattress. He tasted of soap, of skin, of something dark and wonderful. She moved her mouth downward, over his flat belly, kissing, biting, tasting. And then she took him in her mouth, the full, silky length of him, consuming him, consumed by him, lost in an act she had never performed, not in this lifetime, and never with love.

His hands caught her shoulders, his long fingers caressing, and she could hear the strangled sound of his breathing, taste the salty sweetness of his desire, feel the blood course through his body. The night closed down around them, and there was nothing to fear, only the two of them, and she wanted this, she wanted him.
She spread her legs for him, closing her eyes as his hands cupped her hips, and waited for the thrust that would fill her.
A moment later, her eyes shot open when he set his mouth between her legs, using his tongue, his teeth, his lips, to bring her to the precipice, and she knew her first fear. And then there was no room for fear and she leapt over the edge, her body dissolving into an endless convulsion that stole her breath, her heartbeat, her mind and soul.

He rolled over on his back, taking her with him, looking up at her as she moved over his body, the two of them slick with sweat as the firelight cast eerie shadows across their skin. He reached out and caught her hips, but let her set the pace, his face drawn taut with the effort of control.
She felt smooth, sleek and powerful. “Don’t fight it,” she whispered in the darkness. “Give yourself to me. Now, Damien.”
His eyes shut tight. “Now,” he said. “Now.” And he thrust up into her, hard, filling her with his warmth, his wetness, his love.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

amazingread

Review: Too Beautiful to Break by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-booktoobeautifultobreak
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Romancing the Clarksons, #4
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Belmont Clarkson
Heroine: Sage Alexander
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: September 26, 2017
Started On: June 08, 2018
Finished On: June 09, 2018

We have all come across the expression that sometimes, two people in love, they can act as if they are a universe unto themselves. In the fourth and final book of the Romancing the Clarksons series, Tessa Bailey explores that concept with the favorite couple of dare I say, most readers of the series since its debut novel.

Too Beautiful to Break is the story of the eldest sibling of the four, Belmont Clarkson, who literally takes your breath away from the very first moment you lay eyes on him. It is just like Sage Alexendar, the heroine describes him in the book, “Belmont was attractive. Yes. That much was made obvious by the way women got a certain look in their eyes as he passed. He evoked a chemical reaction that started in your stomach, as if he’d tucked his coarse index finger into your belly button and twisted. His height might have made him rangy, if it weren’t for all the muscle, honed from hours working on his salvage boat. His skin had an all-weather texture, bashed with salt water and sunshine, but his inner glow kept it from dulling in the slightest. Dark hair skirmished around his face and collar, no style to speak of, but thick and inviting and gorgeous in its disarray. The first time she’d set eyes on Belmont, she’d thought of far-off places. Grassy moors and mist and trench coats. Things she’d never witnessed, but read about in books. He was the only one of his kind.“, and I don’t think I can do more justice to Belmont’s character than that.

Belmont and Sage’s connection is one that manifests through every word, phrase, and sentence that describes them together in the entire series. Too Beautiful to Break just sets this fact in stone and Tessa Bailey brings to life how two people that are entirely drawn to one another like Belmont and Sage can disappear into a world of their own making. It is like Belmont tells Sage, they are two halves of one whole and I cannot agree more.

While for onlookers and even for us readers who have been following their “relationship” closely since the series began, it feels as if Belmont is the person who needs Sage to keep him grounded. When in reality Sage too, desires and wants that visceral connection between the two and uses it as her lifeline when things get too tough.

Sage is someone who comes from a broken home, with two dysfunctional parents whose entire world only consists of the two of them. Sage had grown up being a witness to the destructive dependency cycle that is her parents. It is the same sort of dependency she identifies with Belmont, a connection which she swears that she is severing for his own good as well, because the past that she had run from had come calling and Belmont has no place in any of it.

Sage comes from a small mining town, where the town’s entire population depends on the income generated from the mines. The fact that Sage had also taken the easy way out and run from a life that continued to bring her down, a life where she had been excluded from the family experience that should rightfully exist in a household that has two parents who are as love in with each other as Sage’s parents are; run Sage had, and run as far as she could.

It comes as a shock to Belmont when their parting brings to light the fact that it was not only him that had yearned for more when it comes to Sage and him. Sage lets him know in no uncertain terms that it is not okay for Belmont to take up such a large chunk of her life and not see her as a woman. Oh boy, does that seem to set Belmont off to finally act on his impulses that had been right about driving him nuts with his burgeoning desire for Sage, and enjoy it, I so did.

Belmont is the kind of man whose quite demeanor hides a wealth of passion inside of him. Belmont has trauma from childhood, the truth behind which he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his mother. Miriam, in the opening lines of the book, talks about how Belmont had grown up right in front of her eyes, become too solemn and forgot how to be a child, because he had carried the heavy burden of the sorrow his mother had carried in her heart for his father whom Belmont has never met.

Sage is adamant that she does not follow in the same path as that of her parents, whose toxic dependency cycle on one another prevents them from actually living and making a life together. So Sage pushes back, and Belmont who has been in love with Sage since forever, doesn’t hesitate to do everything in his power to prove to Sage that when it comes to her, he would move mountains because there is a fundamental truth that will never change – he is hers and she is his.

I found the trope that Tessa explored in Belmont and Sage’s story to be really interesting. I have come across various relationships where two people are just wrong for each other, even if they claim to love each other with everything they have. However, to witness two people who actually flourish, want, and need the other’s toxicity to make their love stronger is a novel concept in the way Tessa explored it in this novel.

I understood Sage and her need to get away from HER dependence on Belmont and vice versa. But that does not mean it doesn’t hurt Belmont, which hurts Sage as well. But what Sage did was important for the longevity and sustainability of their love for each other. You can love someone till your soul aches from it, but to make it stick and work so that you have that love with you for your lifetime takes hard work, commitment, and willpower to not lose essential pieces yourself in the love you have for the other. That I believe is a vital message for anyone and everyone, and I loved how Tessa explored it all with great sensitivity without painting anyone as the “villain” for it being so.

I loved and adored Belmont. I mean, who wouldn’t? He is the kind of strong and silent hero that romance novels often bring to life and we all swoon over. But I believe Belmont is in a league of his own in the understated manner in which he exudes an aura that refuses to be denied. When Belmont is in the room, you HAVE to sit up and take notice even though he has eyes for no woman but Sage. Yes, he is that kind of hero. His vulnerability at the core, and the fact that he was a virgin who had waited to discover the wonders of sex and lovemaking with the woman he loves was somehow fitting when it came to Belmont.

Loved the ending. I believe it delivered exactly the kind of peace and harmony between the Clarkson siblings that Tessa wanted to when she first started out with the series.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: In Too Beautiful to Break, Bailey delivers the kind of love that is all consuming in its ferocity, gentleness, and ability to give. There is a beauty to Belmont’s character, supplemented by Sage’s that is hard not to fall for.

Favorite Quotes

“You are a woman, Sage. You’re the only woman,” Belmont breathed in a rush as he reached Sage, hauling her off the ground with both arms and up against his body—
And then their lips touched for the first time.
Something parted in Belmont’s mind, like clouds after a storm, and so much light shined through, it would have blinded him. Would have, if his eyes had the ability to remain open against the onslaught of euphoria. Need, too. There was always the need, but with his mouth finally pressing against Sage’s, desire grew huge and demanding. Going against every rule he’d given himself, Belmont tilted his hips and let her feel it.

“I stole it out of your suitcase. I broke a commandment and everything.”
“Why?” He breathed into her hair, sinking heat like an anchor in her belly. The shirt came off, her arms dropped to her sides, and she was left in nothing but a bra from the waist up. Inches from Belmont. “Why, sweetest girl?”
A light steam had begun curling in the air like beckoning fingers. Maybe this is a dream. It felt like one of the fevered fantasies she woke from on occasion, sweat slicking her breasts and neck. “Because I like the way you smell and it hadn’t been washed.”
His exhale was gravelly. “Sage.”

His soaped-up palms coasted over her rib cage and down, raking over her hips and moving inward to her belly. When his fingertips grazed the waistband of her underwear, Sage gasped and pushed her bottom back up against his groin. Belmont gritted her name, his vision doubling before swooping back together. “I’ve never been with a woman like this, Sage.” The truth was out, mixing with the shower mist, before he could stop it. “Never touched a woman beneath her underwear. Or her breasts. Never been inside.” He couldn’t swallow, so a choked sound broke loose. “I don’t really have a way to explain how much it’s you. Out of a million women, it would always have been you. My body…the part you feel between my legs…has never ached for anyone else.”
“I—I’ve never been with anyone, either.”

She pushed up with her backside, elevating his groin, inviting him to grind forward, so he did. He did it hard. And firebursts blinked in front of his eyes, the promise of satisfaction riding low and painful in his gut. But nothing compared to the flood of need that almost sank him when she spoke again. “I’ve touched myself, Belmont.” Even in the muted candlelight coming from the bedroom, he saw the pink flush steal up her neck and cheeks. He loved that display of Sageness so much, he licked it. He licked the increasing wealth of pink, up and down, left to right, until she started to whimper. “I know what I like.”
“Show me.”

Put your head back on my shoulder,” he ground out. “I can’t see your eyes.”
Danger. She shouldn’t. Being face to face with Belmont brought too much gravity. It would suck her back in, turn her back into someone she couldn’t be. But the gathering of release put a hole in her defenses. This was the man she’d clung to for dozens of hours, quietly begging for more. For all. So she didn’t just put her head on his shoulder, she threw it, using a foot on his knee as leverage to cinch higher. “There. There,” she choked out, peering up into his shadowed face. Shadowed, save his eyes, which practically glowed like blue coal as they raced over her face. “I’m right here.”
“I missed you.” A tremor moved through his huge body. “Don’t keep me banished.”

Sage’s flesh clamped around the thick presence of Belmont’s finger and she broke. She broke right down the middle, her legs jerking, the private, untested muscles low in her stomach convulsing until she screamed. It was like waking up in the bottom of a pool and marveling at the feeling of being encapsulated in cool, fresh heaven, but still scrambling for the air that waited at the top. So much relief. Almost too much to stand. “Oh my God. Belmont. Please don’t let go of me yet.”

Taking a deep breath for the courage to stop after one, Sage grabbed Belmont by the lapels of his jacket, drew him close, and molded their lips together.
He made this sound—mmmhh—and followed it with a groan so long and deep, she got lost in the never-ending vibration of it. His salty ocean eternity scent clashed with the forest, his texture, the heat of his body, exploding her senses. She’d barely processed that her feet had left the landing before they were dangling in midair, Belmont’s forearm slung beneath her bottom, the opposite arm wrapped around her back. So tight, like he’d never expected to hold her again.

Her teeth grazed his tongue and that shock sent searing pressure climbing up his cock. With a strangled shout, he twisted a hand in the hem of Sage’s dress and held it high, at the notch of her throat, watching in awe and disbelief as white ropes tugged from his body, striping Sage’s smooth, slight curves.
“Jesus, Jesus…Sage…I’m all over your belly.” He pushed the words out through clenched teeth. “Look how gorgeous you are.”
His climax seemed to go on forever and Sage’s reaction only made it more potent, more unbelievable. Watching him go over the edge seemed to elevate her to another plane, as well. She was sobbing by the time he finished, her hazel eyes glassy and unfocused.

She watched through a fevered fog as he wiped the sheen from his mouth, side to side, then ripped the material down the middle with the use of his teeth. “We’re two halves of a whole, you and I, Sage. I know there are things we need to work on. Me, mostly. I need work. But I know your heart, sweetest girl. You wouldn’t have given yourself over to me like that if you didn’t believe. In me. In us.” He tucked one half of the handkerchief into her panties, then dragged them up her leg, gently arranging them back in place. “So no more trading places for secrets. Anything you want to know about me, you ask and I’ll tell you. I’ll tear myself down the middle and let you see it all.”

Sage dug her fingernails into the meat of Belmont’s shoulders, loving his satisfied grunt. “You’re so hot,” she murmured against his mouth. “You’re so huge and hot and you don’t even realize it. Some mornings, when you follow me to get coffee and you’ve got the car keys in your hand…you look like the master of the world. And I’ve wanted you to…”
“What?” he prompted hoarsely. “Tell me.”
She pressed herself down, taking another two inches of his erection, stopping just at the point of pain, his strangled groan splitting the air. “I’ve wanted you…to want to…fuck me.”

“Just a little?” she whispered, barely aware of what she was going to ask, until the question was out. “Just a little. I want to remember you taking it.” My virginity. “I want to remember exactly how it felt when—”
“When I push all the way in, Sage?” His hand turned to a fist on her backside, the opposite one making the pew groan within its grip. “I’m only halfway in right now and you’re already trying to close your thighs on me.” His gaze danced over every bit of her face. “Do you really know what you’re asking for?”
“Yes.” Her fingertips skated up his chest and neck, tangling in his hair. “Belmont, please.”

“Oh. Oh, there. Right there.” Her back arched all on its own. “The way you’re sliding on me.”
His sudden focus zapped like an electrical surge, his scrutiny fell over her like a blanket. “I’m not moving. I’ll stay right here.”
“Please.”
“You don’t have to say please to me, sweetest girl.” Belmont’s hair was draping down on either side of his face again, so she could only see the way he bore down on that bottom lip with white teeth, only catch the occasional glimpses of hot blue eyes, but her hands were too busy clinging to his thrusting bottom to tuck the strands behind his ears. “You have no idea, Sage. No idea what it’s doing to me…knowing I can make you feel good this way. Look at you. Do you want me to fuck you harder now?”
“Y-yes. Keep going.”

“Belmont.” Her beautiful eyes held him captive, her thighs gliding up and down his hips in a seductive tempo. “Give me sons. Give me daughters. That’s how it was always supposed to be. From the very first minute.”
Belmont could barely stand the beauty those words unleashed inside him. It was an exhilarating rush through an endless field, Sage at his side. And there wasn’t a single barrier in their way. “I love you so much,” he managed, his hips beginning to flex…and then pump. “Marry me, have our children, never want for anything. Say yes to me, Sage.”
“Yes, yes, yes.”

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

amazingread

Review: Heartless by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookheartless.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The House of Rohan, #5
Publisher: Impeccably Demure Press
Hero: Brandon George Rohan
Heroine: Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 15, 2018
Started On: May 30, 2018
Finished On: June 02, 2018

At last, Heartless, the 5th book in the House of Rohan series by Anne Stuart is out,  a book that has been long awaited by fans. The fourth book, Shameless was published in 2011, with Anne Stuart promising fans that she would get around to writing Brandon George Rohan (Brandon) and Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury (Emma)’s story. It has been four years since I discovered this delectable series by Anne Stuart and indulged to my heart’s content. Before the arrival of Heartless, I decided to do a re-read marathon of the entire series, which actually made Heartless all that more meaningful to me.

Heartless starts after a period of three years having passed since the Shameless. With Brandon living in the Scottish Highlands, recovering and recuperating from the mess his life had become after the war, Brandon is summoned home by his brother Benedick upon the birth of his and Melisande’s second child. Brandon is reluctant to make his way back to England, but it was finally time.

Taking a look at Emma’s life, it sure had changed considerably since then. Someone who had been the youngest madam in England had turned her life around to the point where she was now about replace Mr. Fenrush as the head of surgery at the Temple Hospital where she pursues her passion. Her triumphs in her professional life had not come easy, especially pursuing a career in the medicinal world as a woman at the time. But Emma has an innate talent that wins her peers over, except for Mr. Fenrush, whose anger towards her often seems more malicious than just professional jealousy on his part.

Emma and Brandon’s story is one that begins way before Heartless does. Which is perhaps why readers have been waiting with bated breathe for their story. Emma had been one of the volunteers at the hospital at the time during which Brandon had been admitted, suffering from war injuries. It is at the hospital that Emma and Brandon forge a bond, that for Emma had been something beyond her wildest dreams, especially for a woman such as herself considered as soiled in the eyes of the society. For Brandon (whose thoughts on their shared time together are revealed much later), Emma had been the lifeline which had held him together, and he had entertained unrealistic dreams of them being together, even knowing that Emma wasn’t probably the wisest choice as a life partner.

When Emma and Brandon’s worlds collide once again at the christening ceremony of Alexandra Emma Brandon Rohan, Emma is hopeful and at the same disappointed that Brandon doesn’t seem to remember her. And it is a game that Emma continues to and is willing to play, as long as it does not put her emotions in peril. However, even with the obstacle of Brandon’s pompous elder brother trying to force a bride on him standing in the way, there seems to be no obstruction strong enough to prevent Emma and Brandon from coming together, except of course for Emma herself.

Heartless was I suppose what you would call mellow, at least mellower than the rest of the books in the series. I understood the need for it. Both Emma and Brandon are broken in a way that no other characters we have come across in previous books have been, not even Brandon’s grandmother whom we encounter in Ruthless. Imagine being ripped off of your virginity in the cruelest way, being forced to sell your body by someone you had trusted, and not having a choice about any of it. Imagine going dead inside, having never sought pleasure in the act of sex, never understanding the pleasure to be had.

It is Emma’s character that requires care in this story. It is usually the male lead who almost always has issues that are seemingly insurmountable. But in the case of Emma and Brandon, it is Emma’s character that needed the TLC factor, and Brandon, having undergone what he had owing to his attempts to drown out certain aspects of the war he had witnessed in drugs and liquor, has the patience and endurance for the slow seduction required of Emma.

Emma’s avoidance of everything to do with Brandon does come with a price. It is an avoidance that is borne out of the need to protect herself, and that tactic applied to an escalating danger to her life ends up nearly costing her life. The period of separation that takes place was one that provided the emotional angst factor in spades, and Brandon never giving up on Emma was something I approved of and loved wholeheartedly. If ever there are two people who deserve to have their happily ever after, it is Emma and Brandon, and knowing that they did achieve it? Makes me smile from ear to ear.

Recommended for fans of the series. Brandon and Emma’s story was beautiful and soothing in a way that deviates from the norm that is Anne Stuart.

Final Verdict: Heartless might be a little late to the party, but it brings along a ton of angst, feel good emotions, and a whole lot of love. Emotionally heavier in comparison to the rest of the books in the series, Brandon has just the right amount of tenderness, steely determination, and sensuality to seduce Emma, for life.

Favorite Quotes

“Hullo, Charles,” Melisande said, and Emma knew her friend well enough to recognize the lack of enthusiasm in her voice. “I hope your wife and daughters are well?”
“As always. Elinor and the girls are in London, alas. Too many social commitments to allow them to escape.”
“And you were afraid our sister and her wretched husband might be in attendance,” Rohan interjected dryly. “You needn’t have worried. Miranda is once again expecting—I think she and the Scorpion are planning to repopulate the entire Lake District—so your wife’s delicate sensibilities wouldn’t have been offended.”

“You’re right,” he said slowly. “The only man who’s going to get in your bed is going to have to love you, and I’m afraid that’s a part of me that never healed.”
It felt like a blow. Why should the word “love” even be mentioned between them? “You’re stronger than I am,” she said calmly enough. “You could take what you wanted. I’m a professional, remember? I know when a man wants me.”
His smile was wry. “Oh, I want you very much. I doubt there’s a man who sees you who doesn’t want you, with the possible exception of my brother Benedick. Even a stuffy old prude like Charles wouldn’t be immune. But you’ve been hurt, you’re weak and trembling, and I don’t make a habit of taking advantage of frightened little girls.”
“I’m not. . .” she started to protest, when he bent down and brushed the softest, sweetest kiss against her mouth, gone almost before it had begun, so quickly that she could do nothing more than stare at him in astonishment.
“You are,” he said softly. “Good night, Emma.”
She stood outside her door, bemused, as he faded into the shadows. She put a hand to her lips, expecting some monumental change. They were no different—soft, slightly open. He’d kissed her, and life would never be the same.

She knew it was hogwash, just as she knew he didn’t belong in the rough wards of St. Martin’s Military Hospital. He had the voice of a gentleman, and she had yet to meet anyone who could falsify those tones. She had kissed him anyway, the soft brush of her mouth against his—harmless, innocent. Until the last night, when the kiss became something quite different.
He’d grown stronger, he’d been sitting up in bed, and she’d moved her chair closer, night by night. For some reason she continued to hold his hand—the human touch kept him tethered to this earth, she thought, never realizing it kept her tethered to him. Until the last night, or early morning, when she rose to leave him, and leaned over to give him her chaste, affectionate kiss.
Instead he’d caught her arm, tugging her off balance, and deftly managed to slip his hand behind her head to hold her in place while he deepened the kiss, pushing her mouth open with his, using his tongue.
She’d been too shocked to react, had simply let his kiss her, long and slow and hard, so thoroughly she felt. . . she felt. . .
His grip loosened, and she stumbled back from him, her hand to her mouth. “Harpy. . .” he’d said, laughter and concern in his voice, but she whirled and ran, through the crowded ward without a backward glance.

Why did you kiss me?”
He jumped. That was the very last thing he expected—he’d assumed she’d ignore the incident, skittish as she was, and he wasn’t prepared for her flat question.
He knew he hadn’t shown it though—he was an even better master of his reactions than she was. “That’s an inordinately silly question. I wanted to. There’s something about your mouth, I think. Why? You didn’t seem to mind.”
Her face had whitened, which he found extremely odd “You didn’t give me a chance to mind,” she mumbled, taking another hasty drink. He was going to have to tell Noonan about it. In the north they usually got by on gallons of hot, strong tea, but given that he allowed himself no other liquids, Emma’s drink might be a worthy addition to Noonan’s limited cooking repertoire.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “Should I have kissed you longer? Harder? Deeper?”

She rose suddenly, setting down her empty cup, and there was just the faintest bit of chocolate on the corner of her lip. “I really need to go back upstairs,” she said hurriedly. “I feel unwell. That is, if I’m to leave tomorrow I should probably rest. . .”
She’d been backing away from him, with good sense, since he’d risen as well and was moving toward her. He caught up with her just before she reached the door and casually pulled her away from it, backing her into the corner of the room away from the windows. Near a divan.
“I’ll let you go,” he said softly. “In a minute.” And he set his mouth against hers, his tongue licking out to taste that tiny bit of chocolate.
She shuddered, but it wasn’t in disgust. Her hands had come up to his shoulders, but they’d moved beneath his jacket, clutching the soft cloth that covered his shoulders, and the sound she made was one of soft, unexpected pleasure.

Words began spilling from his mouth then, when he’d been so determined to be silent. “Yes,” and “fuck” and “more” and “yes” as he moved faster, his own body beginning to shake with the power of his overwhelming lust. He couldn’t, wouldn’t say the word “love” but he could push into her, with dirty words whispered in her ear that made her tighten around him. He was fighting a losing battle with self-control, and he wanted to lose it, but she wasn’t quite ready, though he knew from her breathing, from a thousand other physical signs that she was near. “Don’t,” he said, his mind blank, “give it,” he muttered, and the battle was lost. “Now,” he groaned, feeling his seed boil up from his balls and spurt into her, and the last word he spoke, as he pulled free and collapsed beside her, was even worse.
“Harpy,” he said, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

If they’d been on that bed it wouldn’t have been he who was weeping. Emma and beds had an obvious connotation—in fact, the idea of any bed made him think of Emma. Any flat surface. Up against a wall. In a chair—he hadn’t done it in a chair for years. . .
He slammed a door on his thoughts. “Did I ever bed you in this house?”
She turned, and he couldn’t read her expression. “I assure you, until last night I had been blissfully celibate for eight years.”
He froze. “That’s not possible!”
She turned, calm and controlled, raising an eyebrow. “How so?”“You . . . that is . . . you . . .” he hadn’t been at a loss for words since he’d be a callow youth, and he simply stared at her in disbelief.
“I retired from the day to day tasks of a bordello and concentrated on the business side. Once a whore, always a whore, but in fact my hard-learned skills have not been put to the test for a very long time. I hope I proved satisfactory, my lord. I would hate to receive money for inferior performance.”

“You’re my harpy. You always say awful things. Do you want to leave?” He would let her, of course. He would let her out of his life if he had to, if she had to. He would die, but he would do it. For her.
“I want to stay,” she whispered.
The buttons on the night dress unfastened easily—the fussy thing wasn’t without merit. He could feel the tremor in her body and he knew she had to be handled carefully, not with the brute passion of the night before.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said.
She was holding very still as his hands moved lower and lower, the tiny pearl buttons releasing with just a flick of his shaking fingers. The gown parted to show her moon-silvered flesh, and he caught his breath. “I could wish you weren’t so perfect.”
“The ugliness is all on the inside,” she said.
“There’s no ugliness in you anywhere. There’s only pain.”

She heard her own scream with shock, and she quickly slammed her hands over her mouth, as a fierce, hard response rocketed through her, strange and untenable. “Don’t—” she gasped, but he was past listening, and then she was past protesting as she felt a sharp energy begin to build, to suffuse her body with something that surely was wrong. She was past fighting it, past worrying about it, and when she felt him slide two long fingers into her as he licked and sucked and bit, then she was gone, unable to stifle her response as it took over her body, leaving no room for herself there.
It was like being thrown over a cliff, sailing through dark, powerful winds and ending in a storm-tossed sea, and she could do nothing but hold onto him like the life raft he seemed to be, the only thing solid and safe in her mad, swirling world. Every muscle in her body had seemed to lock, as those waves crashed over her again and again. She couldn’t stop it, she couldn’t control it, and then she no longer wanted to, giving herself over to the wash of feelings. She hadn’t even realized he’d moved up, over her, until she managed to open groggy eyes to stare at him, at the triumph, the satisfaction on his face, things she could rail at, except for that shocking streak of tenderness in his eyes.

But when he pushed back in it was even more wonderful, and her hips rose to meet his, the walls of her sex tightening around him as her hands clutched his biceps. This was possession, but a different kind, a glorious one that she could hold in her heart. He took her, claimed her, but she took him as well, into her body, into her heart, into her soul, where he would always stay, no matter what happened. She finally let go, giving herself to him, to the rampant, building pleasure, to the joy of love that had cracked her guarded heart, as he thrust, each push a promise he couldn’t keep, but it no longer mattered. Deep and harder and harder and she wanted more, craved more.
“Yes,” she whispered fiercely. “Again. Again. More.”
The darkness that was closing around her split with lightning, and suddenly everything ceased to exist, only man and woman, elemental, eternal, as she seemed to burst apart in a shower of pure sensation. She could feel him with her, her love, her soul, joining her, flooding her, and she took everything in savage satisfaction and a guttural sob of triumph.”

Emma appeared dumbfounded, a rare occurence for his beautiful bride. “No,” she said. “That is … I didn’t say yes… I still think we should…”
Brandon took care of her protests in the most efficient way possible, and when she was too breathless to speak he glanced at Ellis. “Well, for the time being you’re my butler, and you will leave and see that no one disturbs you for the next hour.”
“Hour?” Emma said, sounding alarmed.
“Make that two.” He focused all his attention on Emma. “And take the damned dog.”
When they were finally alone, he turned back to her, and she was wiping tears from her cheeks. “Damn these things,” she muttered. “I only started crying five weeks ago and now I can’t seem to stop.”
“That’s all right, Harpy,” he murmured. “I’ll always be here to dry them. Accept it- there’s no way you can win against the assembled might of the Wicked Rohans. You’ll marry me and live happily ever after.”
“No one ever does,” she said.
“You will,” he said firmly. “I promise you.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

amazingread

ARC Review: The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthelullabygirl.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Series: Angie Pallorino, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddocks
Heroine: Angela Pallorino
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: May 14, 2018
Finished On: May 20, 2018

The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White is the second book in the Angie Pallorino series, books centered around the lead female detective, aka Angela Pallorino (Angie). These are not standalone books, so if you want to immerse yourself in the ‘dark’ escape that this series provides, you will have to read the books in order. I say dark escape because Loreth’s books delve into the darker side of suspense with just enough romance going for it to suit readers like myself.

The Lullaby Girl begins two weeks or so after The Drowned Girls end, rather eventfully I must add. With Angie taking down a serial rapist turned killer (Spencer Adams) working her now life partner (of sorts), Sergeant James Maddocks, Angie’s life had considerably turned upside down since the hunt for Spencer had started. Angie, who had then being working sex crimes, had been partnered with James, the man she had tied to a motel bed and drowned herself in him on her way to oblivion – Angie’s method of escape from the voices that hound her.

Since then, Angie and Maddocks had managed to bust wide open a case that has all the elements that makes society gasp in indignation and fear. A rapist & killer who mutilated his victims, who had found easy pickings aboard a ‘pleasure vessel’ known as Amanda Rose, which had also exposed dirty politicians that had benefited from the operations.

While Angie had been placed on leave until the investigation into the culmination of the Spencer Adams angle in the case had ended, Maddocks meanwhile had continued the probe into the human trafficking of young girls and how far the tentacles of the case reaches.

Angie had in the meantime, started inquiries into her childhood, the lies which had pretty much defined her existence having come out into the open during the strenuous hours spent on the case. It is as Angie digs her heels into finding out more, that two detectives seek her out on a cold case of a DNA match with Angie’s, bringing home the possibility that Angie must have family somewhere that could possibly have been looking for her all these years.

With her position as a detective in the department at peril and placed in the social media division, Angie has no choice but to go along for the ride, if only for the ‘benefits’ being on the job would bring in the line of her own investigations. But resent the punishment, she definitely does.

So finds Angie going along with the investigations into her past, while Maddocks pursues the leads on his case, which takes on Russian organized crime amidst international human trafficking angle which brings takes the case to a whole new level. But it is when these two separate and distinct investigations collide that things take a turn which brings the whole house of cards tumbling down.

The Lullaby Girls proved to be just as engrossing a read as it’s predecessor. Angie’s character was just as thorny, perhaps more so owing to the different upheavals that her life has been subjected to along the way. Angie doesn’t see the destructive path she is on, though it is hard not to empathize with what she’s going through as well. She has had her whole world turned upside down, and to come to know that she had had a life that was vastly different from what she remembers to be her childhood, enables her to understand her affinity with crime solving and sex crimes in particular.

The inability to see the “difficult” side of her character prevents Angie from seeing the punishment she is given at the department for what it is; that it had been owing to her actions and behavior along with her strained relationships with her partners, and her lack of ability to follow orders while keeping a level head about it.

This of course makes Angie lash out, and lash out she does, which makes things pretty difficult for Maddocks. Because for Angie, there is nothing more vulnerable than letting someone into her life to a point where he would have the ability to destroy her whole world, if it ever comes to that. Angie likes control, well let’s be honest, who doesn’t. But then again, Angie’s need for control makes it almost impossible for her to see the damage she is doing to her own life, the relationships she forges with everyone around her, and her inability to connect with people long enough to forge meaningful relationships with them.

And then there is Maddocks. Whose own life has clearly not been a walk in the park. The case which forces him to return to his old haunts brings back the memories of a failed marriage, his idealistic views on what his life should have been like, his frayed relationship with his daughter, and most of all, his tendency to be attracted to the broken that needs fixing, which explains Angie and his need for her in his life.

Like I said in my review of the first book, if it were any other man but Maddocks, he would have washed his hands off of Angie and walked away a long while back. But there are reasons which makes Maddocks stay, reasons which I as the reader see for myself when I keep wading through the complexity that is Angie. There is that damaged side to her character which is hard not to empathize with, and there is that wonderful person she could be if there wasn’t so much darkness clouding her life, a person that peeks through from within the layers every once in a while that makes Maddocks’ patience worth it.

Angie coming full circle with her past and uncovering the roots of her beginnings was something to behold. I enjoyed every single minute of it, rooted for Angie with every fiber of my being, and held my breathe every single time things started heading south. But life holds little meaning, if it ain’t for the struggles which you triumph through.

Recommended for fans of thrillers and suspense novels that keeps you at the edge, because a book that doesn’t make you sweat for the characters you root for, ain’t a book worth reading.

Final Verdict: The Lullaby Girl delves deeper into the psyche of Angie and brings to the forefront the horrors of sex-trafficking, taking on the world of transnational organized crime, delivering a story as informative & unsettling as they come.

Favorite Quotes

People don’t understand the toll that job can take on a police officer or his family. They don’t know how we all have to tiptoe around the ugly side of the job, the mood swings, the depression, the drinking.

He caressed the line of her jaw with his thumb. And something fierce and angry erupted inside her—a desperation to burn down her own insecurities, to kill the pain, to blind herself to the fear of what her own memories might reveal, the realities that she might have to face about what had happened to her in childhood. She grabbed his tie and yanked him closer. Drawing his head down, she reached herself up and pressed her mouth hungrily to his. His lips were cold from outside. He hesitated a nanosecond before suddenly cupping her buttocks and jerking her hips tightly up against his pelvis. His mouth bore down on hers, forcing her lips open. He slid his tongue inside, met hers. Lust blinded Angie as she felt his erection stiffening against her belly.

His eyes, intense, held hers as he allowed her to pin his wrists above his head against the floor. Angie straddled his hips and slid the crotch of her skimpy panties aside. Widening her knees, parting her thighs, she sank down onto the hot, hard length of him. With a bliss-filled sigh she spread her thighs farther, making him go deep, deeper. And she began to rock her hips, creating friction deep inside the core of her body. Her breaths came fast, faster. She rocked harder. She became slick around his erection. Her body began to tingle. A hot, raw anger exploded, ripping through her gut, driving her wilder. She closed her eyes, put her head back, mouth open wide, panting, her skin going damp. And she rode him hard and fast and half-clothed, forcing her mind back, mentally reliving that very first night she’d spent with him at the Foxy Motel. She gasped suddenly, froze, then cried out as muscle contractions slammed through her in rolling waves, taking control of her body.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

amazingread

Review: The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthedrownedgirls.jpeg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Angie Pallorino, #1
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddock
Heroine: Angie Pallorino
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: June 20, 2017
Started On: March 03, 2018
Finished On: April 21, 2018

Loreth Anne White’s voice in the romantic suspense genre is one that resonates with readers like myself who need that dark edge to their reads. This makes Loreth’s books heavy reads, and mind you, they can get quite heavy because they delve into the darkest and most forbidden aspects of humanity itself. But for all that and more, Loreth’s books are unbeatable, and I would never have it any other way.

If I am not mistaken, this is the very first series of books that Loreth has written, interconnected in terms of stories and characters with one another. Entitled “Angie Pallorino” after the lead female detective in the series, The Drowned Girls as the debut novel deals with crimes of the kind that would make a woman look twice over her shoulder in paranoia, lock their doors and double and triple check to see whether they are actually locked, and worry about the whereabouts of loved ones, especially if they deviate from the normal hours they keep.

Angie Pallorino works on sex crimes at the Victoria Metro Police Department. Angie comes with issues that are layered with issues, and she is one of the most complex female leads I have ever come across. Angie has a way of dealing with the darkness inside of her, the voices that won’t quit, that feeling that has always hounded her that the life she has been living wasn’t really hers. Did I mention that she was complex? Yes, Angie is the definition of the word itself.

Usher in Sergeant James Maddocks, the newest recruitment to the Department, who is actually hired for the job that that Angie herself has been eyeing for quite some time. Coupled with the fact that the guy Angie randomly hooks up with at her pickup bar the previous night, the man she had labeled as “Mr. Big Dick”, and made her react in a way that was totally unlike her when it comes to her anonymous hookups turns out to be the one and the same? Needless to say, the tension and sparks between the two were very much a part of the unfolding story.

When a Jane Doe is discovered by a tour guide, with signs of mutilation of her sex organs, with a cross carved into her forehead, the tingles running up and down Angie’s spine tells her that this was no ordinary criminal that had done the deed. That it in fact looked like the perpetrator that Angie and her now deceased partner had been after for serial rape cases that had landed on their case pile, a lead that had gone cold for two years, now surfacing once again, and in a way that does not bode well at all.

When a second dead body surfaces, also bearing similar marks on her body, thus begins the investigation to find the person behind the heinous crimes. With the newly elected mayor reportedly having promised to make the city “great again”, the department is under enormous pressure to deliver, and to deliver fast and without bumbling it up in the need to rush.

What unfolded was way more than I bargained for, even knowing that Loreth is capable of taking a story in a direction that readers usually wouldn’t see coming. There are multiple threads running through the story the entire time, and in hindsight I wondered if that could have been the reason as to why one of the most crucial aspects of the story didn’t get much time – i.e. the villain and how he came to be who he was.

The discovery of his premises, the fate of his father when he was young, and the theories that had been floating around about what had made the monster out of a child who had seemingly looked happy in his childhood pictures was one that I wanted to read about. I feel that when authors write about evil personas such as the villain, they do so after a ton of research, and its not easy to craft a character as such without investing a lot of time on them. The villain in his own right, in novels like this, becomes part of the main protagonists in the story that unfolds. But, given the direction that the story took, taking readers onto sex crimes on an international scale, I suppose the villain that brought so much horror to the minds of the readers was a little overlooked in the end.

But, that does not by any means indicate that the story was lacking. The furthest thing from that in fact. I was fascinated with the multitude of connections, the painstaking work involved in terms of investigations, the interviews, the tedious work of corroborating witness statements etc. that goes into crime solving – not just solving a crime but making the charges stick.

However, in the end, it was Angie’s actions that came to the forefront; her “rash” actions that had saved the lives of two very important people in her life, or two people who could become the most important in her life, that changed the ending.

Loreth has an ability to bring to life a scene in a way that makes you feel like you are walking right through it. Every single aspect of the scene from the chilly, foggy, and wet weather of the region in which the story takes place, to the creepy characters you encounter along the way; all that and more are more or less alive, in front of you, like a myriad of images that goes through your mind as you read along. That is one of the aspects to Loreth’s books that makes them so darn difficult to put down and makes you crave for more.

Detective James Maddocks aka Mr. Big Dick (I like the sound of that way too much), is the type of hero that makes you swoon, even without realizing it. There is a way about him that just soothes those jagged edges to you, makes you simmer down a little, sit up and take notice of a man whose tamped down sexuality makes it all the more prominent perhaps. James and his life story takes a backseat to the baggage that Angie brings to the table. Angie is the one whose past comes roaring to life, making her question every single thing that has been part of her life narrative as long as she could remember. Her volatile temperament certainly does not help, and if it were a man less patient than Maddocks, they would just walk away and wash their hands off of her.

But then there are the moments in which Angie shows that side of hers that is vulnerable, hurting, and in need of someone that understands where she comes from. This is in fact the place from which she takes on the offensive; in her mind, lashing and fighting out is way better than letting people know exactly where to prick and prod if they intend to hurt her. Plus, the crimes that she works on? They are the kind that would probably make you go home and drown your sorrows in alcohol or worse when it gets to be too much. Or in Angie’s case, her outlet comes in the form of random sexual encounters with strangers, the high she gets out of being in control of the setting, when in reality her life is spiraling out of control and there is nothing much she can do about it.

If this is your very first read from Loreth, worry not. She has a couple of standalone romantic suspense titles that are absolutely to die for. I for one, can’t wait to find out what Loreth has in store for Angie and Maddocks in the next couple of books.

Final Verdict: Involuted and engrossing, The Drowned Girls is an eye opening tale of human depravity at its most obscene perhaps, because it speaks to parts of your conscience that everyone tries to hide from. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

We all lie.
We all guard secrets—sometimes terrible ones—a side to us so dark, so shameful, that we quickly avert our own eyes from the shadow we might glimpse in the mirror.
Instead we lock our dark halves deep in the basement of our souls. And on the surface of our lives, we work industriously to shape the public story of our selves.

There is none righteous, no, not one. —Romans 3:10

Angie shut out the voice, opened her thighs wider, and sank deeper onto his dick. She rocked her hips faster, filling herself, making herself hurt. She was close, so close, and he could feel it. He bucked under her, wilder, wilder, thrusting his cock up into her. She tried to pull back, to deny him full pleasure, but suddenly she froze, her entire body going rigid, as if in rigor. Her breath caught in her chest, and she held still a moment, red lights pulsing, bass beating. And suddenly, she came, her vision blurring, a cry suffocating in her throat as her muscles contracted and released in hot, rolling waves. She collapsed onto him, her breasts against his rough chest hair. He was still hard inside her as aftershocks continued to ripple around his erection.

He called after her. “You got a name there, warrior princess?”
She paused, hand on doorknob, and the devil on her shoulder whispered, Yes, you can control this. You can stop anytime you want to . . . Besides, she was only human. She could have a life. It wasn’t as though it was forbidden to have a relationship. As long as she held the reins, all the control.
“Angie,” she said.
Silence.
“You?” she asked.
He smiled slowly, one side of his mouth curving slightly higher than the other. “I’ve got your number.” He paused. “Angie.”

Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will bear silent witness against him. —Locard’s exchange principle

. . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. —Romans 3:23

The rules twisted down into a hot vortex of total oblivion as her mouth, her hunger, her aggression met his, tongues tangling, mating, rough, taking. He fisted her hair, tilting her head farther back, as his other hand slid down her spine. He cupped her buttocks and yanked her hard against him. His shirt was completely plastered to his body, and she could feel every inch of his muscular contours under the wet fabric. She could feel the long hardness of his big, gorgeous dick straining against his zipper as he pressed against her pelvis. Heat pooled molten between her thighs. Dizziness swirled, and her knees began to buckle out from under her. She wanted him. All of him. Inside. Deep and fast and hard and rough. Out here. Right now.

Naked, Angie sat on the edge of the bed, Maddocks standing between her legs while she undid his pants, a lust building, boiling, deep inside her. She slid his pants down his hips and that gorgeous dick swelled free. She caressed him, taking him into her mouth, holding his hips as she worked him with her lips, her tongue. His hands clamped down hard on her shoulders, his fingers digging deeper and deeper into her skin as she stimulated him to the point that he groaned, fisting her hair. He stopped her suddenly, pulling her off his wet erection by moving her head back. His gaze, dark, dangerous, locked with hers, and he shoved her backward and hard onto the covers.

He moved slowly at first, achingly slowly, and a tension of another kind built inside her as she wiggled to free her hands again but couldn’t. And her eyes flared wide. She was struggling to breathe.
He gave a powerful thrust, and he was inside her, up to the hilt. She gasped, and he moved his hips harder, driving himself yet deeper. Her eyes watered as he began to fuck her, his heavy, muscled build pumping her deep into the bedding, her hands trapped high above her head.

“Please, Maddocks,” she whispered. “Please.” He swallowed, his muscles beginning to shake against his battle to suddenly control himself, sweat slicking over his skin, and suddenly he gasped, and came powerfully, uncontrollably, inside her, his fingers digging into her flesh as his body took charge, shuddering him inside her. Tears filled her eyes as Maddocks, spent, lowered himself slowly down onto her, then rolled onto his side, withdrawing from inside her.
“Angie?” he whispered, his eyes refocusing.
Tears leaked out from the corners of her eyes, onto his covers. And she still ached with desire, and she felt shame, defeat, guilt. He stroked her cheek and moved a damp tangle of hair off her face. “Did I hurt you? What is it?”
She shook her head, unable to voice it, unable to tell him what was going on, unable to understand herself. And she was filled with embarrassment.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “So sorry.”

His vision swirled as he thrust and entered her hot wetness. She sighed softly as if with relief. Maddocks moved slowly, tentatively at first, rocking into her, and she met each of his thrusts with soft, sure movements of her hips—a pace as old as time, a rhythm that matched the waves upon which his boat rocked. And inside him a blinding pressure began to build. He could feel her growing hotter, hungrier, beginning to move faster. He thrust harder, faster. She wrapped her legs around him, hooking her ankles behind him, taking him tight into her arms, as if she couldn’t get him deep enough, as if she wanted to absorb and consume him wholly.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

amazingread

Review: The Shadows by J.R. Ward

Format: E-booktheshadows.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Trez, iAm
Heroine: Selena, Maichen
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: March 31, 2015
Started On: February 17, 2018
Finished On: February 27, 2018

If you must know, I couldn’t stop the reading frenzy that hit me from a certain point onwards after I picked up the Black Dagger Brotherhood series from where I left off. So following the culmination of Wrath’s story, The King, I moved onto the 13th book, The Shadows, telling the tale of the brothers iAm and Trez, who live amongst the Brothers.

Shadows are a tribe of vampires who live in seclusion, mostly keeping to themselves. Known as the s’Hisbe, they are ruled and governed by a different set of laws, their state of affairs overseen by their Queen. With a social strata that defines everyone’s place in life in the community, the s’Hisbe views acts of intimacy as sacred, outlawing even acts of self pleasure. Firmly rooted in the knowledge of astrology, s’Hisbe believes that their lives are dictated by the alignment of the stars defining their fates and futures.

As firstborn to his parents, Trez “belongs” to the Queen of s’Hisbe, as the fated mate of her daughter. Trez’s parents had sold him off for a better place in the social circles, and had never looked back. Trez had fought his way out of the imprisoned life he had been subjected to, which had been hard won, and he has no intention of going back. However, the clock continues to tick, signalling the arrival of the day of reckoning, the brief reprieve of time that s’Hisbe’s executioner s’Ex had given him having come to an end.

Trez’s way of dealing with the fate of his life that looms closer than ever is to sleep with any and every woman that comes his way. Though iAm his younger brother, his voice of reason cautions him against it, tries to intervene many a time, Trez does not believe that there would ever come a time when he would willingly give up whoring around. Then comes into his life Selena the Chosen, whose mere presence startles into life something deep inside of him, that yearns to belong and for Selena to belong to him. But alas, Selena’s time on Earth is limited, which means that for both Selena and Trez, time is essentially running out in more ways than one.

What follows is a heart wrenching story of a love that races against time, the ending when it came, one that I hoped would be otherwise. But realistically speaking, I think Ward provided a magnificent story when it came to Trez, iAm, Serena, and Trez’s betrothed, whom we encounter when iAm turns up on s’Hibe’s territory intending to what he always does. Help his brother Trez. In the process, iAm, the brother who had never wanted a woman before in his life, finds the one woman who makes him forget every possible rule by which he has lived his life up till now, as if the stars were in perfect alignment and agreement that the woman in his arms belonged solely to him.

Trez and Selena’s story was heartbreaking. There are no words that would describe the immense pain behind the loss, and the final act of saying goodbye is one that was etched into my mind days after I was done reading. The scene was that powerful. Though I was not that enamored with the Selena and Trez pairing when it initially happened, I came to love them both, perhaps owing to the fact that Ward allows readers to see different sides of their characters in this story.

Even then, to be honest, I was more taken with iAm and the story of how the woman he meets at the s’Hisbe territory changes his life drastically. I found the fact that his lifeling abstinence meant that it was all the more sexier, and more meaningful when iAm decided to give himself to someone, a study of contrasts once again when it came to Trez and himself.

The truth when it came out was not so much of a shock, and I believe most readers would have figured out the same. Nevertheless, the end of an era, ushered in with the final act that required s’Ex was one that was stunning and breathtaking at the same time. If iAm had not been in the picture, I would have wanted for s’Ex to be the “hero” of the story, but alas, that is a story for another time. Which I hope comes soon. A girl can always hope!

The story of Layla the Chosen, pregnant with Qhuinn and her children, and her association with Xcor, my second favorite hero from the series also continues and reaches a turning point, the point which perhaps signals that their story is up next.

Recommended! Ward certainly never disappoints when it comes to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Final Verdict: Delving deep into the psyche of one of the most fascinating and elusive tribes in the Vampire world, Ward takes readers on a journey they would never forget, no matter who triumphs or loses out in the end.

Favorite Quotes

“Selena, I’m serious.” He fumbled to stop her before she got to stroking. “I want to honor you—”
“You’re wasting time.”
With that she got on her knees and took over. As she was a tall female, her mouth was at the perfect height, and God save them both, she put it to use, extending her pink tongue to lick at the head of him. The velvet rasp left him shaking all over, and before he went the way of the robes and hit the fucking floor, he leaned forward and braced both hands on the nearest thing he could reach.
The bureau. Or it could have been the hood of a car. Santa’s sleigh. A refrigerator.
Warm and wet, she drew him in, the suction and all the slick wiping out the world, bringing him instantly to the brink.

Freedom.
As Selena sat on her knees in front of Trez, with his taste in her mouth and his scent all over her skin, she reveled in the sense of sexual freedom that had overtaken her. The liberation seemed entirely at odds with the death sentence that she lived under, and yet her lack of time was what spared her any awkwardness or self-conscious worry. She was flying above the constraints that had long pinned her to the ground, her training as an ehros letting her soar on the currents of sex that ran, thick as tangible ropes, between their bodies.

“I’m going to fuck you now,” he gritted out in her ear.
“Oh, God, please—”
Selena shouted loudly as he jabbed into her, stretching the inside of her nearly to the breaking point. The pain was the perfect bite—and then he started to pump. There was no slow-and-steady windup; hard, pistoning power made her see stars until she lost the strength to hold her upper body off the bed. Collapsing face-first into sheets that smelled of him, she struggled for breath and loved the suffocation as each thrust shoved her face-first into the pillows.

He was hard and hot, velvety and thick, and she slid a grip around his shaft, pumping him. The more she stroked, the crazier the kiss got, until his pelvis was jerking up against her, and his chest was thrashing, and she was breathing as hard as he was.
When he orgasmed, he barked out her name and shoved the handkerchief onto himself—and she was so turned on, so giddy with the feel of his mouth on hers and the pump, pump, pump of her palm against his sex, that she felt a welling between her own thighs, an answer to what she was doing—which was so much less than what they both really wanted.

Her own release was a surprise, but she welcomed it, absorbing the sharp grabs of pleasure, making them stronger by squeezing her thighs together and rocking. Meanwhile, she continued her stroking rhythm, squeezing at his head, working his length.
“We very carefully get rid of this.” Grasping the hem, he pulled the black wisp up over her waist … over her breasts. “Fuuuuuuuuuck.”
As he tossed the silk to the floor, he just stared at what he had revealed. “Oh, that’s what I want.”

With his palms stroking up and down her thighs, he dropped his head to one of her nipples, sucking her in, nursing at her, his dark head contrasting with her paler skin. Letting her head fall back, she gave him the access he wanted, spreading her knees even further.
The sound he made was all male animal, and the hold he sank into her hips was rough as he jerked her forward.
“Gimme,” he demanded. There was a quick zip! as he released himself, and then that growl was back. “All night. Thought about this all night.”

“Do you want my panties off?” she asked between heaving breaths.
“No, I’m going to fuck you with them on.”
And he did. He grabbed her perfect ass and hopped her off the ground and around his waist. Reaching in from behind, he stroked at her, feeling how ready she was, how hot she was, how desperate she was.
He wanted to spend all night there. Instead, he shoved the silk aside, and—

“Oh, God, Selena,” he hissed.
Slick and hot, tight and vital, the penetration rocked him and kept him standing at the same time. As he began to move, he held on to her ass and rocked her back and forth. Her hair was in his face; her scent was in his nose; she was an overwhelming tide that made him want to drown.
Faster. Harder.

iAm felt like he was suspended in time as maichen’s face was revealed inch by inch. Her lips were full and deep red, her skin smooth and slightly darker than his, her cheeks wide and high—
He stopped being able to form a thought as her eyes were uncovered.
Deeply set and with heavy lashes, they were a brilliant peridot green. But then again, she was in high emotion and that was a sign of it, something that the stares of Shadows did.
Maybe his were that way, too.

And then there was her hair. Tightly waved, it flowed from the crown of her head and covered her shoulders and beyond. It was so long that he couldn’t see where it ended.
She was, quite simply, the most extraordinary thing he had ever seen.

iAm went for her, lunging forward, grabbing onto the nape of her neck, bending her backward, holding her in his arms and putting his mouth to her flesh. He had never taken from a female this way, and he didn’t immediately strike. He was overcome by the scent of her, by the soft skin under his lips as he extended his tongue and licked up her vein.
He intended to nuzzle at her further, but as her hands took hold of his shoulders and she arched into him, he couldn’t wait any longer. He hissed and penetrated her skin.
At the bite, she cried out, but instead of pushing him away, she pulled him even closer.
Her blood was a blast in his mouth, tasting of dark wine and promising an intoxication that started to take hold the instant he swallowed.

When he swept his hand over her sex, she moaned and pulled harder on what he was providing her—and he wanted her to drain him dry. But not the other way around. Forcing himself to release her vein, he licked the puncture wounds closed and then found himself drawing his lips downward, crossing over the graceful wing of her collarbone. Heading for her breasts, he gripped the top of her robing with his fangs and ripped it apart, the fabric giving way until—

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” he gasped.
Bared to her lover’s eyes, maichen had expected to feel self-conscious or embarrassed. Only her female bathers had ever seen what iAm was looking at.
Instead?
She kicked the robing free from her hands and brought her palms up to cup her breasts. “Yours,” she heard herself say. Then she moved down and touched her exposed sex. “Yours.”
His upper lip curled back and he let out a growl that was both reverent and a little evil.

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

amazingread

Review: Lover at Last by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookloveratlast
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #11
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Blaylock / Qhuinn
Heroine: NA
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: March 26, 2016
Started On: January 24, 2018
Finished On: February 05, 2018

Lover at Last, the 11th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is the much awaited story of Qhuinn, son of Lohstrong and Blaylock, son of Rocke. It is an apt title for the book, considering the fact that readers have been waiting for their story for a long time. But I understand the need for the time that Ward took when it came to these two characters. They needed it. Especially Qhuinn, who needed to come to terms with, and accept who he was before he could give himself over to the love of his life.

Qhuinn and Blaylock’s story has been a continuing thread throughout the series, though I cannot remember quite from which installment onwards. Qhuinn with his mismatched eyes had been the ban of his glymera (vampire aristocrat) family’s existence. Discarded and disowned, there is a wealth of pain and rejection in Qhuinn’s heart that needs to be worked through for him to feel whole. The only solace in his life had come in the form of Blaylock, his best friend, whose family had also welcomed him with open arms.

Those who have been faithfully following the series without skipping any books in between would know that Blaylock had accepted his love for Qhuinn a long time ago. Having never voiced that out, and with the continued efforts by Qhuinn to show Blaylock that they would never be together (by Qhuinn’s sexual conquests and rejection of Blaylock), Blaylock does the one thing any healthy individual should rightfully do under the circumstances; he cut his losses and moved on. That had been the turning point for Qhuinn in his attempt to clean up his act, reasons which he was quite not ready to give voice to.

Now with Layla the Chosen pregnant with his young, Qhuinn should be happy by all means. His need to belong to a family that would accept him, a family that he could call his own had been a pivotal reason behind Qhuinn agreeing to become a father. But, the way he yearns for Blaylock is a need that refuses to be denied; if anything his feelings surge to the surface with a ferocity and volatility that stuns him at times, making a fool of himself in the process.

Believing that he is actually helping Blaylock get back at his “lover”, Qhuinn offers his body to Blaylock, to use as he wishes to. This sets these two characters on a journey of sensual discovery of the kind that they had both never had before. Love of course, plays its role, an emotion neither of them confesses to the other. Even with Qhuinn working through his issues one at a time, it takes more than that to push through the final hurdle to get to the other side; the side of acceptance and loving wholeheartedly without reservations.

Lover at Last has multiple secondary stories running through it; they of course do not reach their ultimate conclusion. Ward is a superb storyteller because she has the ability to juggle these storylines well, most often without “encroaching” on the territory of the main story that is happening. It is in Lover at Last that she lays the foundation for the story of the Shadows, Trez and iAm from the s’Hisbe territory. She also brings to an enticing crossroads, the story of Xcor and Layla, Xcor being my second favorite hero in the series, coming a very close second to Zsadist.

It is also in Lover at Last that Ward shows readers tantalizing glimpses of the connection between Assail, an aristocrat vampire who is involved in the drug trade and how he comes across Sola, the human female who would finally bring him to his knees. Plus, there are many changes that are taking place in the world of the vampires itself, laws undergoing changes, the old ways being replaced by the new, with Wrath testing the boundaries of how far he can take reforms without upending the whole table.

Lover at Last was a splendid addition to the series, and I, who usually do not indulge in gay romances found myself totally enamored by how Ward brought the sex scenes between Blaylock and Qhuinn alive with such fervor. Hot enough to singe your fingers, Blaylock is a force to be reckoned with once that staid and laid back nature of his takes a backseat, something that delights and turns on Qhuinn to levels he never thought was possible for someone like him.

The ending was beautiful, Qhuinn finally finding the acceptance that had been missing from his life all along, finding his home exactly where it had always been, ready to welcome him with open arms, something he had refused to see, all because there was just too much wayward emotions he didn’t do well with.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Lover at Last is scrumptious; there are no two ways about it. Qhuinn and Blaylock sets the pages afire, bringing forth a ton of emotions and wrangles every bit of it from the reader that made this a stupendous read!

Favorite Quotes

Lifting his mouth, he pulled Blay down to his own, and when those velvet lips were in range, he kissed them with a desperation that was returned. All at once, the pent-up past was released in a fury, and as he tasted blood, he didn’t know whose fangs had scored what.
Who the fuck cared.
On a hard yank, he laid Blay down and then he rolled over on top of the other male, spreading those thighs and pushing himself between them until his hard cock came up against Blay’s….
They both groaned.

Qhuinn came hard, his balls going tight, his erection kicking between them, his come going everywhere.
Didn’t slow him down in the slightest.
With a quick jerk, he broke away from the mouth he could have spent the next hundred years working, and shoved himself down Blay’s chest. The muscles he came across were nothing like the human guys’ he’d fucked—this was a vampire, a fighter, a soldier who had trained heavily and worked his flesh into a condition that was not just useful, but downright deadly. And holy hell was that a turn-on—but more than that, though, this was Blay; it was finally, after all these years…
Blay.

Without warning, he was flipped over with a rough hand, his body handled like it didn’t weigh a damned thing. Then an arm shot under his pelvis and popped him up onto his knees. There was a brief lull, during which all he heard was heavy breathing behind him, the panting getting faster, and harder—
He heard Qhuinn orgasm and knew exactly what that was for.
Even though his whole body went weak with anticipation, he knew he had to get good and braced as a heavy hand landed on his shoulder and—
The penetration was a branding iron, brutal and hot, going right to the core of him. And he cursed on an explosive exhale—not because it hurt, although it did in the best possible sense. Not even because this was something he had wanted forever, although he had.
No, it was because he had the strangest sense he was being marked—and for some reason, that made him—

“Shit,” he said roughly. “The lamp—”
Qhuinn wasn’t interested in home furnishings, apparently. The male just yanked Blay’s head around and started kissing him, that pierced tongue penetrating his mouth, licking and sucking…like he couldn’t get enough.
Dizzy. He got downright dizzy from it all. In every fantasy he’d ever had, he’d always pictured Qhuinn as a ferocious lover, but this was…on another level.
So it was from a distance that he heard himself say in a guttural voice, “Bite me…again….”
A great growl from above threaded into his ears, and then another hiss ripped through the darkness as Qhuinn shifted positions, his massive weight torquing so that those sharp fangs could sink in deep on the side of the throat.

Blay’s head was going up and down over his hips, his fist holding the base of Qhuinn’s cock, his other hand working his balls. But then, like he’d been waiting for eye contact, the guy pulled up to the top, popped the head free, and licked his lips.
“Wouldn’t want you making a mess in this nice room,” Blay drawled.
And then he extended the tip of his tongue to flick Qhuinn’s PA, the pink flesh teasing at the gunmetal gray hoop and ball—
“Fuck, I’m coming right now,” Qhuinn barked, a tremendous release boiling up.
“I’m—”
He was powerless to stop things, any more than someone who’d jumped off a cliff could decide, like ten yards into the free fall, to pull back.
Except he didn’t want to put the brakes on.
And he didn’t.

“Did you like what you saw last night?” That clammed her up. And as the silence persisted, he smiled a little. “So you admit you were watching.”
“You goddamn knew I was,” she spat.
“So, answer the question. Did you like what you saw,” he said in a voice that was husky even to his own ears.
Oh, yes, he thought as he inhaled deeply. She did.
“Never mind,” he purred. “You don’t need to put it in words. I already know your answer—”
She slapped him so fast and so hard, his head actually kicked back on his spine.
His first instinct was to bare his fangs and bite her, to punish her, to tantalize himself—because there was no better spice to pleasure than a little pain. Or a lot of it.
He righted his head and lowered his lids. “That felt good. Do you want to do it again?”
As another bloom emanated from her, he laughed down deep in his chest, and thought, yes, indeed, this reaction from her had just ensured that that human man was going to keep living. Or at least die by the hands of another.
She wanted himself. And no other.

As he turned around, he found Blay stretched out and attending to himself, his hand stroking up and down between his legs. His fangs were still elongated from the feeding, and his eyes were glowing from under heavy lids, and holy fuck was he hot…
Qhuinn ditched his shitkickers. His leathers. His shirt.
Blay orgasmed before he even started for the bed, the male arching up and moaning as his head shot back on the thin pillow, and his hips jerked.
Like Qhuinn buck-ass naked was too much to handle.
Best. Compliment. Ever.

Qhuinn felt himself get positioned with rough hands—before he knew it, he was up on his knees, his face in the mattress, his breath hammering out of his mouth. It was all so foreign, letting someone else take charge—and he felt vulnerable, too, even through the wanting—
“Oh fuck!” he bellowed as the possession was struck, the sensations of pain and pleasure, stretching and accommodation, mixing into a cocktail that made him come so hard he saw stars.
And then Blay started moving.

Even as she sat alone in this car out in the middle of nowhere, his presence was tangible, her memories of him so strong, she could swear he was within reach. And the yearning…dearest Virgin Scribe, the yearning she felt was nothing she could share with any of those whom she loved.
It was such a cruel fate to have a reaction like this to one who was—
Layla jerked back in the seat, a shout breaching her lips and resonating through the interior of the car.
At first, she was unsure whether what had materialized in the beams was in fact real: Xcor appeared to be standing with his boots planted on the road ahead, his huge, leather-clad body seeming to absorb the twin beams of light as a black hole would. “No,” she barked. “No!”

“No,” she hissed, as he came ever closer.
His face was exactly as she had remembered: perfectly symmetrical, with high cheekbones, narrowed eyes, and a permanent frown between his straight brows. His upper lip was twisted up, such that he appeared to be snarling, and his body…his body moved like a great animal’s, his shoulders shifting with barely restrained power, his heavy thighs carrying him forward with the promise of brutal strength.
And yet…she was not afraid.

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

amazingread