ARC Review: Scandalous by Minerva Spencer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ARC Review: We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | Kobo | eBooks

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ARC Review: The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthedarkbones
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller, Romantic Suspense
Series: Dark Lure, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Ash Haugen
Heroine: Rebecca North
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: May 21, 2019
Started On: April 13, 2019
Finished On: April 19, 2019

Sergeant Rebecca North returns to her hometown in Cariboo Country upon the death of her father. Rebecca’s regrets are deep when she returns to the scene of her father’s death, all evidence pointing to him having taken his own life. However, Rebecca is determined to do right by her father, who had reached out to her on the day of his death, telling her of how he was being followed, of his case notes being rifled through, all circling around him digging up a cold case that is inexorably tied to Rebecca’s past, the past that had kept her from returning home.

Now a hot shot white collar crimes investigator, Rebecca puts all her efforts into finding out the events surrounding her father’s death. On the eve of the first day of her return, she runs smack dab into Ash Haugen, the man she had avoided for far too long, the man whose actions on the day of the disappearance of the woman who had been tied with the scandal that had driven Rebecca to flee from life as she had known it.

As Rebecca retraces the steps of her father on the days leading up to his death, she uncovers something far more deeper, darker, and sinister surrounding the cold case her father had been unable to let go. Rebecca takes on an investigation that has her stepping on toes of those would kill to keep their secrets buried, the mysterious events surrounding the disappearance of two key people who had left destruction in their wake of the kind they had no inkling of.

The Dark Bones takes place in the same setting as that of A Dark Lure, a definite favorite of mine and countless other readers when it comes to Loreth Anne White. Her mastery over bringing scenery to vivid life, the chills that runs up and down your spine owing to the evil that can lurk in your midst; all of that and more makes The Dark Bones just as highly readable.

I loved how the story developed up to a certain point. Don’t get me wrong, I truly did enjoy the book from start to finish. But I felt that there was a disconnect from a certain point onward in the story, from how it was at first initially developed to how everything was eventually resolved. Perhaps this was felt mostly owing to the fact that the villain(s) in this story wasn’t as prominently characterized as some of the books I have read from Loreth. I believe one of the most fascinating aspects of Loreth’s books is the fact that she care bring pure evil to life in a way that still has you questioning certain things, even when you know that there are no excuses to be had for their behavior in the end. I missed that in this story, mayhap one of the reasons why I felt that disconnect towards the latter half of the book.

In Rebecca North, Loreth creates the kind of strong heroine that her books always deliver. Independent, strong headed and strong willed, with a stubbornness that I can relate to being a woman myself. Rebecca’s role in the book as the lead detective through most of the story was fascinating; she after all had her considerable experience as a white collar crime investigator up her sleeve. Her determination to keep Ash at arm’s length, because she wanted him and didn’t trust him in equal doses played its role.

While I understand the need for strong female leads, I sometimes wonder if society at large has built up these expectations around women that we have to do everything by ourselves, if we are to show that we are strong and capable. We have come to a point in our debates on feminism and the role of women in society in which leaning on a man for support is often seen as weakness, which I do not believe it to be.

I did recognize where Rebecca’s character was coming from – she had her reasons to distrust Ash and his intentions. But for two people with such a strong connection that practically leaps off the pages from the moment they come into close proximity, I had a hard time envisioning Rebecca’s need for Ash, which somehow seemed mismatched when it comes to reciprocating how Ash views her. She had been all that he had dreamed of, everything he had wanted, until he had been forced to give up on his dream, tied to his own actions, born out of a need to answer deeply disturbing questions about his own self.

Ash’s character is the kind of hero that Loreth writes so well. I was drawn to him on an inexplicable level, Loreth’s mastery over characterization making it no hardship to fall deeply for Ash. I felt immensely sad and disturbed by his childhood, a truth that most had not seen. I found it odd that Rebecca’s father who had been a cop himself, had not seen the truth when it came to Ash, had never discovered the dark secrets that lay buried in Ash’s tortured soul. At the same time, I know how deeply seated these issues in society can be, especially in smaller communities where victims could end up being accused for the very atrocities that they desperately needed to escape from.

I wanted to shower Ash with love. I wanted to hug him close, wishing I could have saved him from way back when he needed it the most. I wanted to weep for him. Long after having turned the last page, I still cannot seem to get over his past, something that Loreth never delved deep into. Rebecca was center stage of the novel, and it is only through her pursuit of the truth that Ash’s past comes to light. If I could, I would reach through the pages, pluck Ash out of them, and give him the longest hug ever recorded in history. That is how deeply I felt about him and his character. It may also have something to do with the fact that even with all that he had endured, there is a wealth of kindness, love, & integrity inside of him, having survived horrors of the kind that I cannot even fathom.

I also wished Loreth had delivered just a bit on the tangible sexual and emotional connection between Ash & Rebecca. I do not think it would have taken away anything from the main story. Instead, I believe that it would have only added more nuance to a story through exploration of a facet of both Ash and Rebecca’s character that Loreth brought so strongly to life amidst the backdrop of everything else that was going on. After all, the connection between Ash and Rebecca had been what kickstarted the events from years back, what had driven Rebecca away while Ash had been forced to stay behind, what had in essence led to Rebecca’s return home in the end.

On a side note, Sergeant Grace seems to be an interesting character. The strong, capable, and the do-not-need-anything-else-in-my-life kind of strong heroine that Loreth loves to write.

Recommended for fans of Loreth Anne White and for those who love tangible thrillers and mysteries. The Dark Bones definitely delivers.

Final Verdict: Loreth Anne White’s masterful manipulation of the world she draws her readers into is one reason why The Dark Bones stands out. Recommended!

Purchase Links: Amazon

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ARC Review: Barbarous by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-bookBarbarous.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Outcasts, #2
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: Hugh Redvers
Heroine: Daphne Davenport
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 30, 2018
Started On: September 29, 2018
Finished On: October 02, 2018

Minerva Spencer is a Canadian author, who writes Regency Era romance. With two of her published works out, both in the series entitled The Outcasts, I came across her work when acclaimed historical romance author Elizabeth Hoyt recommended her books in one her tweets. I have loved almost everything that I have read from Hoyt and believe her to be a sensational author. So when she recommends an author whose books have spoken to HER, well, needless to say, I needed no further urging.

I did not read this series in order and read Barbarous first. In doing so, I did not feel like I had missed out on understanding the characters or felt that any of the story line was missing. So it is safe to say that this can be read as a standalone.

Barbarous begins when Hugh Redvers returns from the “dead” fifteen years after he was presumed to be so. A handsome daredevil who had stolen bits and pieces of Lady Daphne Davenport even when she had been an impressionable child when Hugh had been banished by his uncle, the older and mature version of him, scarred as he is, is a sight to behold.

Daphne’s first impression of Hugh upon his return is explained in a manner that does justice to what his character brings to the story. “Daphne knew she was gawking, but she couldn’t stop. His sun-bronzed skin and golden hair were an exotic surprise against the pallid gray of the spring sky. But it was the black eye-patch that covered his left eye and the savage scar that disappeared beneath it that were truly arresting. He lacked only a battered tricorn and cutlass between his teeth to be every maiden’s fantasy of a handsome pirate. Was he lost on his way to a masquerade ball?

Daphne’s biggest fear upon Hugh’s sudden return is that he would find out her “deception” and the fact that she had robbed him of his rightful inheritance. Daphne’s marriage to Hugh’s uncle is one that Hugh cannot wrap his head around, and he knows that he no right to be entertaining such wicked thoughts about his “aunt” – spread for him to feast upon, in all her wanton glory.

Daphne knows that she is not the type of woman that would excite a man like Hugh. But the manner in which Hugh slowly seduces her is reason enough to drive her ever slowly out of her mind. Even if she is determined to stay unmoved, there is no helping the fact that her body responds to the proximity and wicked looks that Hugh throws her way. However, for Daphne and Hugh to have their happily ever after, the need to face their past and reconcile with it is a must, before the dangers closing in from all sides could destroy what they have, even before their entwined life could begin.

Before I start gushing about this book, I just have to put this out there. I have the utmost respect for Canadian authors. The few Canadian authors, whose books I read, have wowed me in ways I cannot even comprehend. Some of them are the reason I continue to read the genre even when most tales in the genre today have grown pale in comparison to what my reader tastes are like. In Minerva Spencer, I believe I have found one more author that I will continue to watch out for, because she has a flair for bringing all the elements together that makes a romance work, which makes reading no hardship at all.

Barbarous was amazing in its prose and delivery – no two ways about it. I loved how both Daphne and Hugh’s characters were crafted. Daphne is the ultimate bookworm, a bit lost inside her head, and has a heart that is warmth itself. Her difficult past, the way she had found a sanctuary in being married to her deceased husband, and the twins that had been borne out of horrible circumstances, but whom she would give her very own life for; all this and more define Daphne. The way she responds to Hugh, that innocence of hers, her curiosity, and the way she loves and accepts Hugh wholeheartedly, for all that and more, I loved her character.

When it comes to Hugh, he is a man who strides into the story, giving it a vitality that I am hard pressed to explain. He is like a warm beating heart, pulsating with life, giving energy to the rest of the elements that makes up the story. His kindness above everything else, made me fall like a ton of bricks for him. His wicked, wicked nature when it came to the slow seduction of Daphne made me want to hoot and give out a catcall, especially when he strip teased for her. A hero doing the teasing in that manner is something I have seldom come across in romance novels, especially when it comes to the historical genre. His possessiveness was just the right touch, the balm that soothes the heart and soul of someone like Daphne who considers herself to not have anything much to offer a man like Hugh.

The cast of secondary characters definitely brings added color to the story, with every character multi-faceted in a way that lends credence to the unfolding story. Even the “villain” had his own story to share, which makes one think along the lines of how under similar circumstances, good and bad can thrive and persist, even beyond human comprehension.

If scrumptious love scenes, an interesting cast of characters, and excitement of the kind that would keep you turning the pages is what you want, Minerva Spencer is the author for you. I cannot wait for the next couple of books (which I am hoping the author is working on) to be out!

Final Verdict: In Barbarous, Minerva Spencer delivers a delectable tale of a larger than life hero who returns home to find himself scandalously in lust with his uncle’s widow. To say that sparks fly would be an understatement. Definitely recommended!

Favorite Quotes

Tendrils of her luxuriant hair had come loose as she played. Some spiraled wildly, glinting pale gold in the light, some lay damply against the exposed skin of her throat. Each time Hugh turned a page, he bent lower than necessary, breathing her in, inhaling her. She smelled clean, unper-fumed with anything but the vague scent of soap. Never had Hugh realized just how heady another human’s natural scent could be.
By the time the final notes came to a crashing conclusion, Hugh ached with the effort of holding his body in check. The cavernous music room was silent but felt crowded and small, the atmosphere heavy with a maelstrom of emotions he had no interest in examining.
Her arms trembled with the mere physicality of the past moments and a slight shudder passed through her, as if she’d just come out of a trance. She followed his hand—which rested on the piano—up to his face and blinked, surprised to find she wasn’t alone.
Hugh gazed into her heavily lidded eyes and was astounded by the violence of his need to touch her—embrace her. Instead, he took a small step back, even that much a struggle.
“You are magnificent,” he said, his voice hoarse.

His handsome features were taut and intense, but no longer angry. “Daphne—” He stopped and shook his head. Daphne stared into his emerald eye, mesmerized by the gold shards that glinted in the green, like slivers of sunlight through a forest canopy. His fingers tightened and his disconcerting gaze traveled from her eyes to her mouth and then back.
He gave a low groan of frustration. “Oh, bloody hell,” he muttered, just before his mouth crushed hers.
Daphne closed her eyes.
Finally
. The word echoed so loudly inside her head that, for a moment, she feared she’d spoken out loud.
If she had, Hugh did not appear to notice.

Daphne shuddered and grabbed onto his body to steady herself as his gentle sucking set off colorful explosions behind her eyelids. The tautly bunched muscles of his upper body were hard and hot beneath the smooth wool of his coat and her hands traveled the broad expanse of his shoulders toward his neck, lightly grazing his cravat before she pushed her fingers into his thick, surprisingly wiry curls.
He growled and inched even closer, releasing her lip and then pushing at the seam of her mouth with his tongue, as if he was trying to . . . enter her.
Daphne inhaled sharply and the room shifted beneath her feet as he took her face in both hands and tilted her, stroking into her . . . tasting her . . . licking her.

He traced the gentle curves with the tip of his tongue, teasing the thin silk barrier that molded to her lithe body. As he’d suspected—a million years ago at the wretched dinner—her nipples were less than an inch below the tissue-thin fabric of her gown.
Daphne shifted and arched as he suckled her through the silk, bringing the tip to tantalizing hardness before moving to the other, working her until the noises coming from deep in her throat were so hungry he had to see her.
He held her at arm’s length, staring into her sleepy eyes. “You are so beautiful,” he said, his hands moving to the damp, stretched fabric that barely covered her.

She lightly dragged the very tip over his lips, as if drawing his features, leaving a searing trail of heat as she kissed and licked and nipped her way up his scar, pulling his head lower and feathering the torn, tender skin with the lightest of kisses. Before Hugh knew what she was doing she’d untied the ends of the strap that held the patch over his eye.
He moved to grab it, but she flung it away and then clutched his face in both hands and pulled him lower.
“I want all of you.”
He hadn’t believed he could become any harder; he’d been wrong.

He circled his hand over her, stroking her pelvis from side to side until her hips pressed against his palm on the next sweep over her sex.
Hugh smiled at the familiar gesture of need and cupped her in his hand before dipping a finger between her swollen lips. She reacted with a convulsive thrust and he probed deeper, working her with a gentle but persistent rhythm, each stroke a little deeper, a little harder. She swelled around him and her hot wetness told him when she could take more. A second finger joined the first and her hips responded eagerly, thrusting in time to the motion of his hand.
“God, you’re so wet. So sweet and tight,” he whispered, the words causing her body to shake.
Hugh felt as though he’d barely begun when she contracted, her hips bucking hard, as if she couldn’t get him deep enough.

Holding her gaze, he withdrew almost all the way and then filled her with a single slick thrust. Her eyelids fluttered and her body tightened around his and a groan tore out of his chest.
“Touch me, Daphne. Stroke me while I stroke you.” Again he pulled all the way out and drove himself home, harder this time. Her hands began to roam his body, exploring his torso, his chest, his buttocks. He moved faster and pumped harder, driving into her with powerful, deep thrusts, holding nothing back.

She met him stroke for brutal stroke, until his body was about to fly apart. He was afraid he could no longer wait when she contracted around him.
“Yes, Daphne, yes. Come for me.” He punctuated his words with one savage thrust after another. She sank her teeth into his chest, her crisis coming fast and hard and triggering his own petite mort.
Hugh threw back his head and yelled something mindless as he drove himself home and spent deep inside her.

The sculpted muscles of his back and shoulders bunched with controlled power as his blond head moved rhythmically, his skilled tongue and fingers working their magic. Daphne gave herself up to pure pleasure and rode the crest of the wave that had been a long time coming. A wave that built and built until it crashed, taking her with it and pummeling her body over and over, until she was weak, breathless, and limp.
“Hugh,” she whispered, her hands slipping from his hair, where they’d somehow become tangled.

“I—I want . . .” Daphne had no recollection of what she’d meant to say.
He laughed wickedly. “You want . . . this?” He entered her in one slick, endless thrust, driving her in to the mattress with the force of his action.
Daphne groaned, her head falling back, her eyes closing. It was . . . too much, too intense, too—
And then he began to pound her with merciless, measured thrusts, each invasion deeper than the last.
“Your body is heaven,” he gasped, halting his savage thrusting and instead pushing slowly into her, inch by inch by inch. “Take all of me, darling.”
She wrapped her legs around him, tilted her pelvis, and tightened.
“My God, Daphne!” He shuddered violently enough to shake the four-poster bed, lifting her higher, his fingers digging into her hips while he drove into her, his body taut and slick with the strength of his need.

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

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ARC Review: Dark Water by Tricia Tyler

Format: E-bookdarkwater.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Hero: Nick Garrison
Heroine: Evangeline Marie Broussard
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: September 24, 2018
Started On: September 09, 2018
Finished On: September 22, 2018

There’s a killer hunting in the backwoods bayou town of Barfleur, which is where FBI Agent Nick Garrison is headed, as a favor to his army buddy. Three victims thus far, with no clues whatsoever as to how the killer was selecting victims. That is until heroine Evangeline Marie Broussard (Evie) comes into the picture.

Evie is a gifted psychic, who works as a private investigator. However, working on crimes like the one her cousin Remy Boudreaux is trying to solve takes a lot from Evie. But knowing that there is something she could do to help before the killer strikes again is something that Evie cannot turn her back on. Even if it means facing the scorn and contempt on the face of the FBI agent who comes along for the ride.

Nick has had his run in with psychics and learnt the price for it. He has never forgiven, nor forgotten the way people can abuse a family’s grief for their five minutes worth of fame. There is nothing Nick would love to do better than dissuade the notion that Evie could be of any help in the investigation, at all.

However, even with all the disdain he feels, Nick is man enough to accept and acknowledge the fact that no woman has moved him in the way Evie was, ever since he walked into her life. For Evie, the connection is just as intense. No matter how much she tries to protect herself from the onslaught on her senses, she finds that it is a game she is going to lose, spectacularly.

As the killer draws in, taking someone whom Evie considers to be very dear, it’s time for the hunted to become the hunter. There is no stone that Evie would not turn to get her friend back, which is how she is led right into the lion’s den, with nothing but her wits to use in the fight for her life.

I picked up Dark Water on a whim when I happened across the title on netgalley. I seldom request books on netgalley now because I usually do  not end up reading them, unless they are authors whose work I am already familiar with. However, I have always loved me a good suspense, and with the cover calling to me, I decided to check this one out. I am so glad I did (even though the review is a tad late than I would have liked), because I enjoyed reading Dark Water immensely.

I loved the sexual tension that is palpable and intense throughout this novel. I loved how the author brought the sizzle into the scenes and made me sit up and take notice, even when there was plenty happening otherwise. When sexual tension reaches its peak and the culmination of it all is as explosive as what took place in this story, then the author has done it right.

Nick was a delightful hero. Sexy, broody, and the take charge type with a core of sensitivity that works well when it comes to Evie. His need to create and restore beauty in contrast with the kind of darkness that his job usually invites was a fascinating aspect to him. I loved seeing both sides of him, and it helped me see a long term future for both Evie and Nick because there was so much more than just good sex, hot enough to scorch your reader, between them.

I liked Evie just as much. Her vulnerable nature is evident once you see her through her grandmother’s eyes. The visits that her grandma’s spirit does was a charming facet to the novel. Evie’s preference to be alone was also understandable given the weight of the ‘gift’ that she carries, and how her past has taught her to be stingy with her trust when it comes to love.

The only thing more I could have asked for  was more details on the villain in the story. I wanted to learn about what created the monster residing within, rearing it’s ugly head until the desire to kill is satisfied. A good romantic suspense delves deep into the darkness that manifests within the killer as well, and I felt a bit cheated out on that aspect. Regardless of that little fact, I enjoyed the suspense that went into the story, and how the dots were connected towards the end.

Recommended for those who love the slow heat that comes with romances packed with the Southern charm. This little number certainly delivers. I hope this novel serves as a debut to a “series” because I definitely want more!

Final Verdict: Dark Water delivers a story that thrums with the tightly wound sexual tension and the dark and evil energy of a killer who had lost his way a long time ago. Definitely recommended!

Favorite Quotes

“This is a mistake.” His body gave lie to his words as he settled deeper into her. The rough material of his jeans rubbed against the sensitive skin of her thighs, heightening her senses to a fever pitch. Every move, every shift, sent a craving through her until the only thing left was a deep hungering need for more. An ache thrummed within her lower belly, spreading until it encompassed every part of her. Bon Dieu, she was in serious trouble. He’d barely touched her, and she was ready to explode.
“A mistake? Yes…most definitely,” she said, shaking her head slowly back and forth. It was one her body desperately wanted to make. Giving in to her body’s demands, she rubbed herself against him. She knew exactly what she was doing to him. It was empowering to realize the effect she had on him. He was a prisoner to the same hunger controlling her own reactions.

His grip on her hair tightened. He released her hands, sliding his slowly down her arm and across the length of her body until he cupped her ass, pulling her up and closer. Frantic, she blindly reached for his shirt. Buttons flew until smooth hard muscle lay beneath her fingertips, threatening her sanity. Sucked in by her own body’s traitorous reaction, all she could do was enjoy the ride. She didn’t give a rip at the moment about the little voice of reason inside her.
Jolts of heat ran up and down her spine like little devils racing in a marathon.
Bon Dieu.

He pulled in another ragged breath. Reaching between them, he grabbed the string along the side of her thong and yanked it off without regret. He’d buy her a new one. Hell, he’d buy her a drawer full as long as the last barrier between them disappeared. Catching her gasp with his mouth, he drove his tongue inside as he slid and plunged two of his fingers into her. Hot and wet, her muscles clamped around him.
Fuck!
“You’re so damn tight,” he mumbled against her mouth.
“It’s…it’s been too long,” she gasped, her body writhing beneath his ministrations.
Satisfaction swept over him knowing she hadn’t been with anyone in a long time. He refused to dig too deeply into why he felt that way. If he did, it might scare the hell out of him.
“Sweetheart, you’re killing me.”

“Bon Dieu…I want to feel you inside me now,” she begged. “Please, Nick. Now.”
He claimed her mouth as his own in a quick, bruising kiss. “Tell me you’re ready,” he demanded, not sure he could hold out any longer.
Her legs gripped him tighter, pulling him against her. He meant to go slowly, but the warmth on his cock sent him over the edge. He plunged fast and deep with the first stroke. She closed around him tight and sweet, and the rest of his body wanted to follow. All thoughts of taking it slow fled.

“You’re mine.” He lowered his head until they were nose to nose. “Say it.”
Her breath hitched, and her pupils dilated.
He lifted his hips until only the head of his dick remained inside her. The need to hear her say the words overwhelmed him and scared the shit out of him all at the same time. The need was stronger.
“I want the words, Evie.”
“Yours. I’m yours.” The words tumbled out on a shuddering breath, filling him with relief.
“And you’re mine,” she whispered, her expression fierce.

She tightened her muscles and bit the inside of her cheek, attempting to clamp down on the fire spreading through her. It was neither the time nor the place, and not the right man for God’s sake. Unfortunately, no other man had ever made her feel this way with just one look.
“Fuck. You can’t look at me like that and not expect me to respond,” he said, with an edge to his tone. He stepped in closer crowding her against the vehicle, determination engraved in the lines of his face. Reaching out, he clasped her face with both hands, and his lips crashed down on hers. Fast, deep, and hot. Oh…so very hot.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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ARC Review: The Girl in the Moss by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Angie Pallorino, #3
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddocks
Heroine: Angie Pallorino
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: June 12, 2018
Started On: July 11, 2018
Finished On: July 19, 2018

The Girl in the Moss by Loreth Anne White is the final book in the Angie-Pallorino series. Each installment has carried “individual” stories that can be read as standalones, but I would still recommend that the books be read in order for the reader to get a true grasp of the depth of characterization that has gone into these stories Loreth has crafted.

Loreth is a writer of darker edged suspense, with just enough romance in the mix to appease readers like myself. If Loreth chooses to write pure suspense, I would still buy her books because she is an author who always gets it right, regardless. The darkness in her books calls to a part of me, which perhaps even I do not understand. Loreth’s deep understanding of human nature, and the way she tells it as it is; all that and more are reasons why I would always keep coming back for more.

The Girl in the Moss begins when the body of a woman is uncovered in the moss, in an area where both ex-cop Angie Pallorino and Detective James Maddocks goes to get away from the stress of city life, their jobs, and the countless other issues that has plagued their union from the beginning. When the body is discovered, Angie and Maddocks are the first detectives with experience to arrive at the scene. However, with Angie now no longer being part of the active police force, her resentment which is always at the surface flares up, at which point everything starts heading downhill.

The tables turn when Angie is summoned by the grandmother of Jasmine Gulati, the woman whose body was discovered, with the grandmother willing hire Angie’s services to find out certain aspects related to Jasmine’s disappearance 25 years ago, and the circumstances surrounding Jasmine’s life before the incident had taken place. At first Angie is reluctant, even as intrigued as she is about the elements surrounding Jasmine’s disappearance and death by accidental drowning as the coroner had concluded. But as Angie delves deeper into the case, she puts the final nail in the coffin that drives her boyfriend Maddocks away, and in the pursuit of the truth, uncovers more than she bargained for.

Small town alliances, familial relationships, the unchecked sexual power and hedonistic nature of one woman and how it had played out for her in the end; all of that and more are at the heart of this story. How the brutal sexual assault and violation of a boy with developmental issues at a tender age made him more reclusive, and creates amidst a close-knit society a killer in the gentle giant he is otherwise. It was hard to abhor a character of that nature, even when he had performed such evil, when his troubled past is taken into account.

Explosive secrets that could rip families apart surface, and age old wounds that some didn’t even believe existed, but were festering underneath the daily grind of life open up and along comes Angie, pricking and prodding, doing what she does best. Stubborn to a fault, like a dog with a bone, that is in essence who Angie is. How two different investigations collide, bringing to light the full picture, that alone was reason enough for this book to deserve commendation.

Even with all her faults, Angie still makes for a likable heroine. There are so many facets to her character that makes you want to shake her, and shake her good. Her stubborn and dogged determination does not apply to her work alone, but to her personal life as well. With a past such as hers, colorful to say the least, with memories of the kind that would cripple anyone’s emotional well-being, Angie fights all of it, and fights those who try to get close to her.

Maddocks finally calling it quits made me admire him on a level I cannot explain. Maddocks has always been a larger than life figure in this trilogy, even though the main focus has always been Angie. Loreth’s ability to craft such characters and give them voice has the reader wanting more, definitely more. Maddocks is absolutely that kind of character. Though his role in this last book is almost nonexistent, his presence is somehow felt throughout. That is the kind of brilliance that Loreth brings to the table as a writer.

Reading through my notes for this review has made me appreciate the story all the more. This is a novel that runs through the reader’s mind like a movie that unfolds right in front of you giving deep insight and clarity. It is the kind of story that is rare, and perhaps because of that very reason, all the more coveted. Loreth is an author who deserves more recognition as a writer, whose books deserve to be sensationalized, if that hasn’t happened already. It would be redundant for me to say at this point that I am looking forward to the next book, The Dark Bones set for release in May next year.

The Girl in the Moss is the kind of book that makes choosing the next book to read that much harder. All because you know deep down inside that nothing would ever live up to where your last read took you to. I just wish that there were more books in the series, even though I can sense the need to end the trilogy at this point. The best kind of series are those than an author completes, giving the due closure needed, and at the same time, leaves the reader wanting more.

Recommended for those who love tangible suspense and tension that unfurls and coils around you as you delve deeper, books that you can sink yourself into and forget the rest of the world.

Final Verdict: Just when you think that Loreth wouldn’t be able to surprise you, she brings on plot twists that just leaves you speechless. Excellent plot & fantastic execution. To see the changes Angie has undergone was the icing on the cake.

Favorite Quotes

Maybe it wasn’t just truth. Maybe at the heart of it all, at the heart of all that was human, even in the dark, was love.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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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

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