Review: One More Valentine by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookonemorevalentine_new.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: James Sheridan Rafferty
Heroine: Helen Emerson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 01, 1993
Started On: June 12, 2018
Finished On: June 16, 2018

As a romance reader who has an undying and unabashed love for all that is Anne Stuart’s books and her heroes, I have this wish that I would never run out of her books to read. That is one reason why I try to exercise caution and space out books from her and save them for the days when I NEED to read an Anne Stuart. When all the mushy reads with heroes who capitulate too easily get too much for me, I pick up an Anne Stuart, knowing that it would chase away those blues that only she can.

One More Valentine is a bizarre read in many ways. It deals with a hero who has been dead for sixty four years, who gets the chance to “live” for 48 hours every year. This time period coincides with the Valentine’s Day, the anniversary of the massacre that had killed James Sheridan Rafferty.

Assistant Prosecutor, Helen Emerson dreads the arrival of the Valentine’s Day every year. Single and in love with the old building which houses her apartment, Helen is a woman who stands out from the rest, not because she is a beauty of the kind that makes heads turn. She has strange dreams that she cannot make much sense out of, and a love for an era that had come and gone even before she was born into this world.

When Rafferty turns up on her doorstep, Helen wrongly assumes that he is from the defendant’s team on a case she is trying. Soon enough though, she learns that Rafferty is not exactly what he portrays himself to be. Thrown together by circumstance more than anything else, Rafferty is not altogether too happy with the idea of wasting his 48 hours “alive” babysitting Helen, a woman who disturbs his peace in more ways than one.

Helen is the direct opposite of the type of women that Rafferty usually goes for – the uncomplicated variety with whom he can have fun and leave when his brief sojourn on Earth is up for the year. Yet, he is drawn to Helen and irrevocably so, and in the span of the 48 hour period, Rafferty learns that there is no running from destiny that is determined to play catch up.

Helen is an innocent in a lot of ways, and the carnal desire that Rafferty invokes in her so effortlessly should be reason to scare her away, but in Rafferty, Helen finds the kind of man that she could definitely fall for, and fall hard. With danger courting her very existence, an old enemy of Rafferty’s out to wreak havoc and vengeance, Rafferty has no choice but to stick by Helen’s side, even if it means making himself vulnerable in return.

I loved the story, as strange as the premise and plot line seemed to be. There is no denying that Anne Stuart is a master storyteller, no matter what trope she chooses to write. In Rafferty, she brings the sort of hero who seems brusque and out of touch when it comes to courting a woman who is considered to be marriage material. And Rafferty steers clear of Helen’s kind for a reason. But there is no stopping the tide of desire that catches them both, tugging, cajoling, and enticing until there is no choice, but to give in.

I loved both Helen and Rafferty in equal doses. Helen gives as good as she gets, one reason why Rafferty has such a hard time turning away from her, though he tries his hardest to do so. The streak of independence that is a core characteristic of Helen infuriates and entices him in equal doses. I fell head over heels with the ending. When Anne Stuart decides to deliver a good ending, she does it spectacularly well, with just the right touch and flair.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: One More Valentine is the kind of novel that should be read on a rainy day, cozied up in bed, with a cup of hot steaming tea right next to you. The feels; they just explode with this little number!

Favorite Quotes

And maybe one brief kiss wouldn’t make things worse. He could brush his lips against her forehead, against the thick, sweet-smelling hair, and she might not even notice. It wouldn’t do any harm. Even if he threaded a hand through the thick hair at the back of her neck, tilting her face up to his, it wouldn’t cause irreparable damage. Even if she looked up at him, her eyes wide and solemn and waiting, her mouth pale and damp and slightly parted. He didn’t have to kiss her, did he?
Yes, he did.

He pulled her into the hallway, slamming the door on the bright winter sunshine, cocooning them in warmth and darkness. Pushing her up against the wall, he slid his hands under the heavy fur coat, around her body and pulled her tight against him, against his own hard, aching body, wanting to scare her away, wanting to take her, wanting a thousand conflicting things.
She stared up at him, wordlessly. And since he made no move to kiss her, she reached up on her tiptoes and put her mouth against his, sweet and shy and very brave. “Come on, tiger,” she whispered against his mouth. “What are you afraid of?”
“You, Helen. Just you.”

“I thought you were a ghost,” she said, her voice deliberately taunting. “Or a zombie.”
“Damn it.” He moved his hand from her mouth, cupping the back of her neck beneath the heavy fall of hair and kissed her then, his mouth hard against hers.
She closed her eyes, sinking back against the wall, reveling in the feel of him, of his hard, taut body, of his hungry mouth, pushing her lips apart, tasting, devouring, as if a man obsessed. She wanted to kiss him back, but he was too forceful, allowing her no choice but to accept, passively, when she wanted more and more and more.
When he broke the kiss he was breathing heavily, and she could feel him against the soft cradle of her hips, feel how much he must want her. He couldn’t turn her down this time, could he? She’d waited so long for someone she really wanted. She was tired of waiting.
“Helen,” he said, his voice nothing more than a rasp of longing.
She cupped his face with her hands, his dear, tormented face. “I want you, Rafferty. I’ve been waiting all my life for you. Don’t turn me away.”

“Trying to scare me off, Rafferty?” she whispered, stilling her reaction, keeping her hands from covering herself. “You can’t do it.”
“Can’t I?” he muttered. And he pulled the dress down over her narrow hips, so that it fell at her ankles, and she was standing there in the hallway, dressed only in a pair of serviceable white cotton panties and white silk stockings rolled to her knees.
He scooped her up then, wrapping her around his body, her legs around his hips, her arms around his shoulders, pressing her against the wall as he kissed her again, his mouth hot and wet and seeking, his long fingers cupping her hips, squeezing, pressing her against him, and she could feel his heat and hardness at the very center of her.

She began to work on the pearl buttons of his white shirt, unfastening them slowly, one by one, until she reached the belt of his trousers. And then she leaned forward and put her mouth against his chest, against the hair-roughened flesh.
He sucked in his breath, and for a moment she wondered if she’d been too bold. And then his hands cupped her head, gently, as she tasted him, her tongue tracing tiny patterns on his flat stomach, as her hands reached for his thin leather belt.
He pulled her up then, into his arms, and somehow they made it over to the sofa as his mouth met hers. He pushed her back on the cushions, kneeling over her, still fully dressed, and his hands cupped her breasts, the first time she’d felt a man touch her, and his thumbs danced across the tight peaks, sending a shaft of desire streaking through her, arching her hips against his imprisoning legs. His mouth followed, wet and hungry, suckling her, and she moaned, a soft sound of pleasure and frustration.

“Show me,” she said, overriding his concern. “We only have a few more hours. Show me what to do.”
He groaned, and his last attempt at restraint vanished as he reached between her legs to the heated, aching center of her. She arched against his hand, whimpering softly with pleasure, and in the darkness he smiled, murmuring to her, telling her how sweet and responsive she was, how soft and sleek and damp and hot she was, and how much he needed, wanted her.
“Slowly, love,” he whispered as he positioned her above him, throbbing and ready. “Very slowly. Make it last. God, Helen…” the words were a jumble of pleasure as she followed his lead, sinking slowly, filling herself with his strength.

When she was ready to shake apart, reaching for something beyond her grasp, he simply rolled her over on the bed, covering her, surging against her with a slow, steady pace that made her want to scream, to pound at his shoulders and weep.
And suddenly his control was gone as well, and he thrust into her, again and again, in a frenzy of need that brought forth her own wild response, and when he went rigid in her arms, his body arched against hers, his voice lost in a strangled cry, she was with him, shattering around him, tossed into the maelstrom of a love that knew no boundaries of time and space, life and death.

Purchase Links: Amazon | iTunes

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Review: Blue Sage by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookbluesage2
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Charles Tanner, Jr
Heroine: Eleanor Johnson Lundquist
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 01, 1995
Started On: June 10, 2018
Finished On: June 12, 2018

Charles Tanner, Jr. is returning to his hometown. It would be an understatement to say that he is not looking forward to the “homecoming”. If Tanner were to have his way, he would never have made the journey, but then for the man who had been the father figure he never had, he would return to his place of origin, even if it means facing the demons left behind by his father.

Tanner’s father is a legend for all the wrong reasons. Known as a vet who had gone on a killing spree murdering sixteen and wounding one before turning the gun on himself, Tanner knows that he is going to end up stirring some bad memories for a lot of families who had lost loved ones.

What Tanner doesn’t expect to happen is to come across the all too beguiling Eleanor Johnson Lundquist, the almost 31 year old widow, and the lone survivor among the victims of the massacre at the hands of Tanner’s father. Tanner catches Eleanor during one of those rare moments in which she lets her uninhibited self roam freely; something that is not too easy given her revered status in the close-knit community that is Morey’s Falls.

With the anniversary of that fateful day coming, Tanner’s arrival undoubtedly stirs someone to once again force members of the town to relive the nightmares. With everyone on the edge, it is all too easy to paint Tanner as the bad guy. But within Eleanor, there is an altogether a different kind of storm brewing. For the very first time in her 30 plus years, Eleanor feels the stirrings of lust and desire, to take and be taken, and scandalously enough, by none other than Tanner himself.

As Eleanor and Tanner spends more time together amidst Tanner’s pursuit for the truth, they discover elements and facets to each other’s characters which otherwise would have remained uncovered. Each layer as it is peeled back, exposes a side that appeals to the other more. Tanner who has a habit of leaving, the itch that possesses him to go roaming and not stay put, finds himself with an inexplicable need for the very first time in his life to stay.

Blue Sage was a pleasant surprise because of the depth of the story that Anne Stuart delivered. Harlequin titles are not often known for the depth in their stories, but mostly quick reads that gives you a much needed escape. But somehow, Anne Stuart even then, managed to deliver books that were close to perfection with her ability to present to readers characters that seem polar opposites of one another, and yet form this bond around an almost indiscernible connection that springs to life from the get-go.

I loved both Tanner and Eleanor. Tanner with his lean whipcord physique, who believes that his pursuit of the truth comes from an innate responsibility towards the only man he looks up to, when it comes from a need within himself as well, to understand the man who had sired him, and a community that had failed all of them with their inability to see an unstable character for what he was, until it was too late.

I actually did think that there would be more to Tanner’s father’s story, but it didn’t turn out that way. Nevertheless, the whole aspect of a reemerging menace from within the community, with history repeating itself was a captivating aspect of the story.

I loved Eleanor as well. That inner vulnerability, core of strength, and the fact that she does identify with the fact that she is drowning on the pedestal that Morey’s Falls has put her on, to the way she blossoms under the touch of Tanner; the sensual awakening that is slow, hard and fast at the same time, were all parts of her story that I adored.

I loved the scene in the moonlight, up in the hills, with just Tanner and Eleanor – that was as elemental as it could get, and it somehow seemed fitting when it came to both of them.

The ending definitely made me teary-eyed. Tanner’s need to walk-about which hits his restless spirit and how it all played out was apt. Recommended for fans of contemporary romances with suspense in the mix.

Final Verdict: Blue Sage is magical and uncanny in equal doses; Anne Stuart waves her magic wand and creates characters that leaps off the pages, taking you for a ride you would never forget anytime soon!

Favorite Quotes

Lock your door, Ellie,” he ordered. “And I’ll keep away from Pete’s Fireside Cafe.”
She looked up at him. The shadows were all around them, the smell of the approaching storm thick in the air, and a sudden, waiting stillness caught at her.

He was so close, and so locked away from her. His blue eyes were hooded, unreadable, and his mouth looked hard and unyielding.
It wasn’t. Before she realized what he was doing he’d pulled her into his arms, out on the back porch in plain view of anyone who cared to

look. His hand cupped the back of her neck, holding her in place as his mouth came down on hers.

He lifted his head, his mouth leaving hers, and his eyes glittered in the shadowy half-light. “You kiss like a virgin,” he said, his voice softly mocking.
She kept herself from flinching. “I wasn’t kissing you,” she pointed out with an attempt to sound matter-of-fact. All she sounded was shaky. “You were kissing me.”
“Then let me do it properly,” he whispered, and the sound played across her spine like a thousand tiny leaves. “Open your mouth.”
She could no more deny him than she could have stopped her heart from beating.

It was beguiling, the innocence and enthusiasm in her untutored mouth. He kissed her slowly, lingeringly, giving her time to get used to the contours of his mouth, the dampness and texture, before using his tongue. He loved her little start of surprise at his intrusion, the acquiescence, the growing boldness as her tongue touched his.
Her hands tightened on his waist, digging in slightly, and if his mouth hadn’t been busy he would have smiled. Instead he encouraged her, teasing

her, his mouth sliding wetly over hers, lips nibbling, touching, biting, tongues dancing against each other.

It was unseasonably warm for a late-June night. Tanner’s pack was lying on the ground, his sleeping bag unzipped and spread out on the grass. She’d let Shaitan get a little closer, just close enough to read his expression. If it wasn’t welcoming, she could leave.
His dark-blond hair was wet and slicked back away from his face. His mouth was a narrow line, thin and unsmiling, and his cold blue eyes were in shadow. Ellie could feel the dampness in her hands as they held the reins, feel the trembling in her knees. Somewhere in the distance an old owl hooted, and overhead a million stars warred with the bright moonlight to flood the field with light.

Ellie didn’t move. Fear was supposed to be a cold, hard lump in the chest. Her fear was a blaze of fire burning deep inside, much lower down. She didn’t say a word, and neither did he. He merely stood there, his strong hand stroking Shaitan’s neck. And then he moved closer, and his hand left the horse, reaching to catch her bare ankle in his long fingers.
His flesh was hot, hers was cool. He slid his hand up her calf, up to the ruffled hem of her lacy nightdress. Before she realized his intent he’d pushed the material away, exposing her bad knee. His mouth followed his hand, tracing the line of scars that stretched along her leg.

She heard a quick, shocked intake of breath, and vaguely realized it was her own. And then his hands were reaching up, encircling her waist, and he was lifting her down, down from Shaitan’s high back, her body sliding against his, her skirts bunching up around her thighs, his warm, bare shoulders damp beneath her trembling hands.
She began to shiver in anticipation of some distant, unapproachable delight, and she felt Tanner, slippery with sweat, tremble in her arms. She wanted to cry, but she didn’t know what for. For the moon, still shining down on the entwined lovers? For the stars, glittering in the sky beside their sister moon? Or cry for herself, lost and seeking, shivering and reaching and aching and longing?

Her head thrashed back and forth in mute negation of something she couldn’t begin to understand. She wanted to tell him to stop, it was useless, it was more than she could bear. He thrust all the way into her, holding her with the pressure of his hips, and his hands caught her head, holding her still.
“Not without you,” he muttered obscurely. And setting his mouth on hers, he reached down between their sweat-slick bodies and touched her.
Her body arched, convulsed around his. Her mind, her emotions shattered, like the thousand stars of the Montana night, and she was gone, lost, floating, and Tanner was with her, his strangled cry swallowed in their last, desperate kiss, his body rigid in her arms.

“Ellie,” he said hoarsely, lifting his head, trying to pull away, to regain the last tiny shreds of self-control. He couldn’t do this to her.
She put her hand up to his face. It was shaking, and there was blood on her fingertips. She pulled his head down to hers, and her mouth was waiting. And her choice was life, not death.

He tore at her clothes and she helped him, raising her hips so he could slide down her jeans and underwear and throw them across the room, lifting her head so he could pull off the bloody shirt and send it flying after her other clothes. Her own hands were just as eager, just as desperate, fumbling with the zipper on his jeans, digging into his shoulders as she pulled him over her, on top of her, into her, wrapping her legs around him and holding him tight.
No sooner had he slid into that delicious warmth when more shudders of reaction began to wash over her. He held himself still, reveling in her helpless

response, and then he thrust deep, joining her in a white-hot blaze of heat that burned the past to ashes.

Purchase Links: Amazon | iTunes

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Review: Dearest Ivie by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookdearestivie.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novella
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15.5
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Hero: “Silas” Montasilas, son of Mordachy the Younger
Heroine: Ivie Hannaford
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: March 13, 2018
Started On: May 08, 2018
Finished On: May 10, 2018

Dearest Ivie is a novella set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, that fits in between the titles The Chosen and The Thief. What makes Dearest Ivie so notable is the fact that it steers away from the lives of the King, the Brothers, and their shellans. It takes readers away from all that and delves into the lives of ordinary civilian vampire population. If you are thinking that a story as such wouldn’t be half as interesting, you would be wrong. And let me tell you why.

Dearest Ivie, as the name goes, tells the story of Ivie Hannaford, a nurse who works with Havers, and is sort of hopeless when it comes to romance and dating. Probably to do with the fact that Ivie is the sort of person who tends to say what is on her mind and that is a character trait not be received well by most. I found Ivie’s character endearing and hilarious in equal doses and I loved her all the more for it. Sarcastic wit always gets to me, and Ivie had that in spades, especially in a story that needed it owing to the angst factor well delivered when it came to Silas, the hero.

Silas turns up in Ivie’s life rather unexpectedly, but is no less potent in the feelings that he invokes in her from the start. A bit elusive and secretive, Silas however takes Ivie’s breath away. Ivie comes from a huge family, her father Hirah, the six-five, bearded and tattooed hulk of a man who was one of the most lovable characters I have come across in the series. I fell in love with him from the very first moment he stepped into the story and that was it. Ivie is what you would call someone from the middle class or lower class perhaps, but Silas belongs to the glymera, the aristocracy, and comes from one of the founding families of the race.

However, it is not Silas that has issues with their different stations in life, but Ivie, who has a bit of reverse snobbery going for her, until Silas sets things straight – I totally loved him in that moment, for calling out Ivie on her behavior. But what was really tragic was how Silas keeps a secret from Ivie, a secret of the kind that might just be too much heartbreak for Ivie when all is said and done.

Like I mentioned earlier, Dearest Ivie was such a gem of a read. It had everything going for it. Snark and wit, a lovable heroine who knows what it means to be steadfast and loyal in the face of extreme challenges in life, a hero who is sexy, beautiful, and above all, kind-hearted and Ivie’s other half in every sense. How Ward managed to convey all that in a simple novella, I would never know. But then again, she is the genius storyteller and I am just the reader who cannot get enough of her books.

When I turned the last page, I wished to read more novels on vampire civilians – if the men are even half as sexy as Silas and the women are just as quirky and adorable as Ivie, I would consider it a novel/la that would make my day.

Recommended; even if you have never read a Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, this is totally awesome and can be read as a standalone!

Final Verdict: Dearest Ivie is one of the sweetest books I have read from a series that certainly does not do sweet. In the midst of all the danger and darkness that is Black Dagger Brotherhood, Dearest Ivie stands out for the laugh out loud humor & the beautiful characters. Loved!

Favorite Quotes

Opening her door, she leaned out into the carpeted corridor…and there he was, coming down to her, his smile as big as hers, his body just the same, his face just the same.
His scent just the same.
No suit this time, and that was good. Instead, he had on a black cashmere sweater and a set of slacks that were dark gray. He looked polished, expensive…delicious.
“Hello, stranger,” she said as he stopped in front of her.

“Do you mind?” he whispered.
“I’m sorry, what?”
But then he was taking her face in his hands and lowering his head—and she was pulling him down to her mouth, his lips the only thing she wanted in the world.
It was quite possible she moaned as he kissed her. Or maybe that was him. Who cared.
They shuffled inside and she closed them in, and then she was against him and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. It was a long while before they eased back, and even when they did, it was just their mouths. Everything else stayed close.
Silas’s eyes were heavy lidded and glowing as he stared down at her. “Hi.”

His mouth dropped down to hers again, his lips plying at her, his tongue coming out and licking for permission to enter. Broad, warm hands slipped around to her waist, and her breasts got tight as they met the wall of his pecs.
It was clear he was aroused.
And that got her even hotter.
But then he was cursing and putting her back from him. “Damn it. I promised myself I wouldn’t—”
“Do I look like I’m complaining over here?”

They ended up on the couch. She had no idea how they got there.
One minute, Ivie was standing against him, the next she was on her back and Silas’s weight was pushing her into the cushions. And then, when she parted her thighs, he accepted the invitation, settling himself between them, the hard ridge of his arousal stroking at her core through their clothes.
Rolling her hips, she arched into his body, and the groan he let out registered as a caress that went down into her abdomen.
When he pulled back, he was panting, his eyes at once glazed and hyper-focused. “Ivie…”

Silas sat forward and took her face in his hands, in that way he did. “You would do that for me?”
“Of course. I mean…well, you look like you could use it. When was the last time you fed?”
He answered the question by virtue of his scent, that spice of his flaring, his eyes going to her wrist, which was bare.
Instantly, she was hot all over.
“Not there,” she said huskily. “Here.”
Moving her dark hair to the side, she stroked her jugular. “I want you here. At my throat.”
His chest started to pump up and down, and a growl permeated the silence of her apartment. “Are you sure?”
“Oh, yes.”

With hands that were rough, Silas grabbed on to her and all but threw her on her back on the couch. And then he was on top of her, pressing her down into the cushions, his pale eyes volcanic, his body strung like a steel cable, his fangs elongating.
In a voice that was deliciously demanding, he said, “Even if I can’t stop?”
He wasn’t talking about taking too much from her vein. No, as he rolled his hips so she could feel his arousal, she knew damn well he meant sex.
“I don’t want you to stop.”
“There isn’t a lot of time. I have things I have to do at home. I won’t be able to stay afterward—”
“Shut up and get into me.”
He didn’t require any more urging than that. With a tremendous hiss, he bared his canines and bit her neck hard, the pain lancing through her body and translating into pure pleasure by the time it reached her core.

He still had his coat on, and that fine wool was all texture against her hyper-sensitive nipples, the hard ridge at his hips pushing into her core and then retreating until she was going to lose her mind, his scent a roar in her nose.
“I need you,” she barked. “I need you in me—now.”
Somehow he heard her, or maybe he had reached the same desperation she had—either way, he retracted his hips and moved one of his hands between them, yanking at the tie on the waistband of her scrubs as she helped by pulling them down and kicking them free along with her panties.
And then he was jerking at the fine leather belt he wore. She took over, pushing his hand out of the way as she freed the buckle, the button, the zipper.
The length of him was hard and hot and long in her hands.
And the sound he made turned her body into a tuning fork, the bass vibrating through her.
She was too impatient for the feel of him inside of her to do much exploring, and as soon as his head was at the heart of her, she pushed her pelvis forward so he sank in deep.

And then he was moving in her, pumping with thrusts that sent the top of her head into the armrest, a creaking noise rising up from the sofa’s supports, the banging sound probably the windowsill taking a beating. Or maybe the wall. Who cared.
Gone was the aristocrat with the nice manners and the polite words, the arching accent and the expensive clothes. Silas was utterly dominant as he took everything she had and demanded more, his pace rough and powerful, a male’s lust unleashed without restraint.
And she just wanted more.
As if he read her mind, he hooked his forearm where his palm had been, cranking her even tighter under his heavy weight, his hips pounding into her, the lower half of his body swinging freely—
Until he locked against her with a punch of his thighs, his erection emptying into her as he continued to suck at her throat.
All she could do was hang on to his shoulders.
And pray he never, ever stopped.
Sure it would kill her, but what a way to go.

Stroking her, his lids lowered and he growled, “Give me your mouth, female.”
He pulled her to him by the back of the neck and then she felt something between her legs that was hot and blunt.
Ivie sat down on his arousal, and they both groaned and jerked. Controlling the tempo, she rolled her hips and used her knees to go up and down, the pleasure so acute, she couldn’t decide whether to close her eyes so she could concentrate more or keep them open so she never forgot where they were and what they were doing.
Her release was overwhelming and he was right there with her, even though they were straining in the confined space, and their clothes were tangled, and oh, crap, the bucket seat was sooo in the way, and also the console—how great was it that none of that mattered?

“What do you most want to be remembered for?” she whispered.
His lids lifted and his eyes shifted to her own.
“My love for you.” He blinked slowly. “I wish to be best remembered for how much I loved you. Of all the places I’ve gone and people I’ve known and things I’ve done…my love for you is the purest representation of who I am. It’s the best of me, of who I am, of my soul. My love for you…is everything of me.”
Ivie teared up even though she did her best not to give in to emotion. “Silas…”
“Please don’t forget me. I know I’m probably supposed to tell you to move on with your life and dwell on this little slice of time we’ve been given…but just…take me in your heart wherever you go. It will be the life I wished I’d lived, by your side, enjoying the gift of time and health with you.”

“I thought you needed an oak of your own right now,” Rubes said gently from behind.
Ivie’s father was standing in the middle of the corridor, those biker boots planted on the fancy runner, his hands on his leather-clad hips, his tattoos gleaming in the low lighting because, of course, he had come without a jacket on.
Ivie squeezed her cousin’s hand in thanks and then she ran for her sire.
She hit Hirah like a car going out of control at full speed. And like a concrete pylon, her father didn’t budge. He just put his heavy arms around her and held her tight.
“He’s dying, Daddy. He’s dying…”
Her father didn’t say a thing. He let his strength do the talking as he kept her from collapsing in a heap in the hall.
“I love him so much,” she turned her face to the side and squeezed her eyes tight. “And he’s dying…”

And later, much later, she would reflect that it was then that she became an adult. Standing in that corridor, in her father’s embrace, she fully came into her maturity.
The thing was, when you were young, and you went to your parents for support, nine times out of ten, they could fix whatever was wrong. They could glue the broken rudder back on your sailboat. Throw a Band-Aid on a cut. Feed you when you were hungry, put you to bed when you were exhausted, hang out with you when you were alone. They could help you find what was lost, make the storms go away, buy you an ice cream when someone was mean to you for no good reason.
Parents, when you were a child, were the source of it’s-gonna-be-all-right.
But as Ivie leaned on her dad, it was as an adult.
He couldn’t fix this, and she knew better than to even ask.
“I’m so sorry, little girl,” he said in a voice that cracked. “I’m so sorry…”

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

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Review: Salem’s Daughter by Maggie Osborne

Format: E-booksalemsdaughter.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Jean Pierre La Crosse
Heroine: Bristol Adams
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 03, 1981
Started On: January 13, 2018
Finished On: January 17, 2018

Salem’s Daughter by Maggie Osborne is one of the most complex stories that I have read from her. Not that the rest of her books aren’t complex and multi-layered, but this one stood out from the rest because Osborne delves into the Salem’s witch trials and brings that into her story with a twist that made for at times difficult reading, not because it was boring or didn’t fit into the story, but rather because it depicted humanity at our worst. That is never easy to read about, but I do believe that writing about these things, propagating this is a must in order to create the much needed awareness on identifying said behavior and taking action where needed.

Salem’s Daughter starts at a juncture which brings vividly to life the depravity behind religious zealots and how they can twist and turn everything to make everyone a sinner that needs repenting. Bristol Adams finds herself on the wrong side of the Puritans when for once she commits the “ultimate” sin of talking to a male, requiring a public whipping. Bristol beseeches her father, who has never done wrong by her before, to save her from the humiliation and the pain. But then her father is a proud man if ever there was one, and to heap rejection upon the humiliation, he decides to send her off to England to stay with an aunt for a couple of months.

Bristol does try to use her female wiles on her affianced to marry her then and there, but then he is not a man to be persuaded beyond what he wants to give Bristol, a life where they could both live comfortably. So sets Bristol on the journey that would carry her to England with bitter anger in her heart, on a ship where the lecherous intents of ship’s crew is all far too real. The only man standing between her and them is the formidable captain of the ship, Jean Pierre La Crosse, with whom she has a run in before the ship sets sail. What she saw then didn’t appeal to her much, although she does not realize that the feelings that he stirs to life in her does not happen with just anyone.

The voyage itself proves to be a harrowingly eventful one, and it is in the aftermath that Bristol and La Crosse finally give into the heady and stormy passion between them. La Crosse makes no promises about what he is or where they are going relationship wise, but Bristol has no inkling of the misery and heartache that is headed her way when they part their ways.

However, fate has other plans in store for them and it is not long before Bristol comes face to face with her “competition” when it comes to La Crosse; his fiancée. It is heartbreak upon heartbreak for Bristol watching La Crosse marry someone who would eventually destroy him. But it is not long before Bristol is caught in the crossfire and the hardest days of her life come upon her. Taken captive by a pimp with a notoriety of letting his fists show his anger, Bristol ends up losing the most precious thing in her life.

Even though that cruel fate brings her to La Crosse once again, a message from home means she is to return, only to find her whole village caught up in vilifying and turning on each other, all because of hate preaching by those concerned. Bristol does try and give her most valiant effort to make a difference, but there is no working against a tide that is fervent and resilient, and in the end, Bristol nearly gives her life to the cause until things come to their eventual conclusion.

The summary outlined does not do justice to the story that Osborne tells in this book. For one, there is Bristol, who starts out as this pompous woman-child, who naively believes that her beauty and charms would make her life easy. That she would get everything she wanted. The fact that she is full of herself is revealed during the first couple of chapters, until she starts experiencing the harsh realities that life has to offer, starting from her journey to England.

Through the course of the story, Bristol transforms into this woman worthy of the love of a strong man, a man who would shelter her from the deepest and darkest of storms and carry her safely ashore. Even if that were not to be the case, Bristol turns out to be a woman who has the strength and fortitude of a thousand men of worth. At times, she has to be strong for both La Crosse and herself, but that never steered her away from what was important.

Some might find the concept of cheating involved in the book abhorrent, or turn them away from the real story that develops. It requires someone who is a bit open-minded to understand and empathize with the difficulties life throws both La Crosse and Bristol’s way. If I were to be caught up in a relationship as such, I myself do not know how much strength of perseverance I would have. So in Bristol, Osborne has once again created one of her formidable heroines; her heroines always stand out, and for good reason.

La Crosse is a hero who is caught between his duty and what his heart wants and desires. He does try, I would say he tries harder than the average male would, to stand true to the the course that he had set out on. But one only has to read between the lines and sometimes just read the lines to understand the kind of hellish existence La Crosse’s life becomes in the end.

When all was said and done, only issue I had was with how La Crosse and Bristol spent so much time apart before the eventual ending of the story. Perhaps this was felt mostly owing to the lack of an epilogue to make readers happy. La Crosse and Bristol’s happily ever after was hard won. Readers deserved to see them happy and together, having sweated and cried through all the turbulent times their relationship brought.

Recommended for those who love romances that deliver your less than usual stories.

Final Verdict: Salem’s Daughter is an intense read, one that you might never completely recover from. Osborne weaves her magic and spins a tale that takes you through the kind of emotional wrangling that leaves its mark forever. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

La Crosse halted, standing over the bed, his naked body catching fingers of moonlight. He sucked in his breath and stared. “Mon Dieu!” His voice emerged in a hoarse whisper. His hungry eyes devoured Bristol’s lush body bathed in moonlit tints of ivory shadow. “Mon Dieu! Even bloody and soiled you are a beautiful woman!”

A choked sob tore from Bristol’s throat, and her breath came in shallow, rapid gulps. “Don’t. Don’t,” she pleaded. But his dark head brushed her chin, moving. A skilled tongue caressed her breasts, tantalizing, coaxing, calling forth a responding heat from her trembling limbs. To Bristol’s horror, she felt her nipples harden, rising pink and ripe to his lips.
A frightening weakness flowed through every muscle in her suddenly flaming body. His naked chest brushed her stomach, moist and strong and burning where he touched. Beneath his stroking fingers, her breasts tingled, and a bewildering sense of urgency began in her thighs and swelled, sweeping her breath away.

Suddenly her arms were free, and they dropped to circle his neck. Her lips opened to his with the urgency he’d created; her frantic body strained against hard flesh with the plunging need he’d drawn from every trembling nerve. Blind yearning filled the very fiber of her aching body. Bristol’s sensual nature exploded into life, wakened by his skilled touch with all the intensity of a long-dormant instinct craving expression.

“Aye,” Bristol screamed, her mindless hips rising to match his rhythm. “Oh, aye,” she groaned. Her tangled hair fell back and her eyes closed, and tortured breath rushed past her parted lips.
Her fingers tightened on La Crosses rippling shoulders, and some buried part of her mind recognized that he paced himself, moving in deep rhythmic strokes, adjusting to her own instinctive cadence. And then faster and faster and harder and more urgent. Until an expanding universe spun behind Bristol’s lids, pouring color and sensation, rocking and glowing. And then her universe narrowed and cracked into a mind-sweeping explosion.

She lifted her eyes to the slumbering form in the bed, seeing a glow of moonlight on La Crosse’s shoulder. Because of him, she now recognized that moment with Caleb in the settler’s cabin had been a mockery. There was more—so much more—than Caleb could give. But she’d lain with Caleb in love. At least for a while she’d thought it was love.
The man in the rumpled moon-washed bed represented no tender feelings—only blind desire. And yet it was he who had awakened a deep sensuality, he who had shown her the woman she could be. Bristol’s face paled, and she battled a misting of tears.

“Do you really believe any of us are brave in our secret hearts? No, little girl, it is not so!” He stroked her hand lightly.
“A man who believes himself without fear, who boasts of bravery and courage—that is a foolish man. He courts unnecessary risk and endangers others as well as himself. The truly courageous is one who admits to fear, then overcomes it.”

They slowed and stopped, and Bristol’s breath caught in her throat. His arm tightened on her waist, and he drew her trembling body against his lean, hard chest. A weakness spread through her limbs, and his burning eyes seemed to fill the night sky. Then his hungry mouth crushed her head back in a bruising, searching kiss. His tongue forced past her lips, and his throbbing erection seared against her body, urgent, demanding. And a familiar fire raced through her flesh, tingling along the nerves, burning in the secret hidden places.

His eyes traced the curve of her lips. “I think of you always,” he said softly. He didn’t move to touch her, but Bristol felt his leg against hers, sending waves of electricity through her body.
“Please, we can’t… we must forget…” Disconcerted, she looked at the scar her fingers had tenderly mapped, the lips her own had clung to, “I…”
His voice was low and intense.
“I want you every waking minute. I think of you lying sweet in your bed, and I must fight not to smash your door and take you.” His eyes flickered with passion and his face was hard as granite, but his voice remained soft. “Take you and make you call my name.”

The door was open. It swung in, and she stood framed in the doorway, her eyes wide and helpless.
Jean Pierre lay against a mound of pillows, still dressed in shirt and breeches. One candle burned near his bed, and he held a wineglass in his hand. Smoky eyes met hers.
“I’ve been hoping,” he said softly. Putting down the glass, he opened his arms. “Come to me. Come to me, my love.”
Bristol felt faint; her legs refused to move. She held to the door for support, staring at him. Instantly Jean Pierre was at her side, sweeping her into powerful arms. His lips crushed hers in a savage kiss of need and passion denied too long.

“I love you Bristol,” he said in a low voice. “You are the one shining truth in my life, the island of sanity I cling to.” A short, bitter laugh escaped his lips. “I, who have never clung to any person, to any thing.” His hand caressed her hair, the silky strands rising under his fingers. “I cling to you. I think of you when all around is black; I see the softness in your eyes, and I know there is still beauty and meaning in the midst of the chaos.”

She smelled the freshness of his hair, buried her hands in the dark curls tied at his neck. She laid her cheek against the crisp hair covering his chest, so different from the rest. And his hands moved over her satiny body with joy and astonishment, with the wonder of love. Seeing her as if for the first time, as she saw him.
Then he moved over her, slowly, unhurried, and he brushed long hair from her cheek.
“I love you,” he said. Intensity quivered in his hard face, his eyes, his voice. “I love you, little one.”

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

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Review: The Samurai’s Garden by Patricia Kiyono

Format: E-bookthesamuraisgarden.jpeg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Astraea Press
Hero: Hiromasa Tanaka
Heroine: Hanako Shimizu
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 06, 2012
Started On: October 15, 2017
Finished On: December 19, 2017

The Samurai’s Garden by Patricia Kinoyo is a book that I purchased on a whim when I came across the title on Amazon. The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise, set in Japan is one of my favorite movies of all time. Plus, Japan as a country holds a wealth of fascination for me, not the least to do with their discipline, moral code, their love for nature, and their general kindness towards humanity. To read a romance set in Japan, infused deeply with Imperial Japanese culture was something too good for me to pass up.

The Samurai’s Garden is set in the 17th century, a time during when the Samurai were stripped of their powers, leaving a lot of of men lost amidst the changes taking place. In Hokkaido, Hanako Shimizu is a widow struggling to survive the harsh realities of life without her father and her husband. Not that the latter had been of much help when it came to the practicalities of life. But for a woman without the protection of a male in the household, life was a perilous journey, especially considering the unwanted advances of men she would rather not associate with.

When a stranger with two swords hanging at his side comes to her rescue at the market and offers to work at her homestead for a place to stay and warm meals, Hanako wants to refuse. But something about the way Hiromasa Tanaka holds himself makes her trust him enough to invite him into her life.

Justice, Bravery, Benevolence, Politeness, Veracity, Honor, and Loyalty were the seven codes of the Bushido, or “Way of the Warrior”; the code by which Hiro has lived his life up till the point until the new laws had come into place. Rather than head back to Tokyo to be with his family as he should have done, Hiro had gone even further north until he had come to the island of Hokkaido where he meets Hanako, invariably changing both their lives forever.

Working together to make Hanako’s home self sufficient, Hiro proposes marriage to Hanako, an offer that she is reluctant to accept for many reasons. Hanako has always more or less being viewed as a nobody with no special skills to speak of, no family of worth to back her, which means that understanding her own worth is a monumental task for her. Hiro aims to change all that for his Little Flower, as soon as she would agree to do the honors of being his wife.

The Samurai’s Garden was so lovely in so many ways. There is Hiro of course, a man who is as gentle and kind as they come, with a core of steel running through him that makes him oh so very desirable. His dedication towards making their shared home a prosperous and happy one is evident throughout and for those reasons and more I loved him wholeheartedly. There was also the fact that Hiro wanting to allay Hanako’s fears about being done wrong by a worthless husband yet again, does something very uncommon, especially during the time period in which the story is set. That was the icing on the cake for me when it came to Hiro’s character.

Hanako, while she resists Hiro on many levels at first, starts seeing the man of worth Hiro is from day one. However, that does not make it easy for her to trust him with her heart, and the way Hiro wins her over, inch by inch, and how Hanako blooms under his care, love, and attention was so worth it.

In the midst of it all, Hiro prepares the village to face off rogue Samurai, and the final test of their relationship comes when Hiro is called back home to face unfinished business that he had left behind. What the whole story brings together, apart from the way Hideyori Kato’s story ended, a bit anticlimactically if you ask me, everything else was pretty wonderful.

I just adored how Hiro calls Hanako his Little Flower. Made me go awn every single time. The garden Hiro plants and tends to around their property, even with Hanako’s misgivings about its practicality, the flowers that bloom, the beauty, peace, and tranquility of it all which Ms. Kinoyo brings to life so effortlessly with her words was why I adored this book.

Recommended for those who would love to read a romance in a Japanese historical setting.

Final Verdict: The Samurai’s Garden is aptly named in a way that brings a smile to my heart. It reminds me of Hiro and Hanaka, and Hiro’s undying love for a woman who is his equal in every way. Beautifully written!

Favorite Quotes

Hiro stood at the edge of the clearing, swinging an ancient axe in a deadly arc at the trunk of a thick tree. A loud crack preceded the thunderous boom as it crumpled to the earth. The axe continued its work as limbs and branches were separated from the trunk.
Hanako’s mouth went dry at the sight of her handsome guest. He was stripped to the waist, his tanned and muscled arms glistening as they swung rhythmically. She couldn’t resist leaning out of the doorway to get a closer look. Mesmerized, she stared at the rippling muscles on his back. Kenji had never stirred such feelings in her. Of course, Kenji had never subjected himself to hard physical labor. He was an artist and an intellectual.

“Are you certain you are all right?” Hanako asked again.
“I’m fine,” he insisted. “I’m just hungry.”
“Yes, of course. I will prepare your meal,” she said as she scurried toward the cook stove. He noticed her hands shook as she measured the rice, poured water into the pot, and attempted to light the fire. The flame would not start for her, and as she tried again and again, she got more agitated. Finally he got up and stood behind her. He reached around her and put his hand on hers.
“You are too distressed from today’s events. I can do this.”
She dropped the flint and covered her eyes. Great sobs racked her body, and she tried to step away from him, but he gathered her in his arms and rocked her gently.
“You are safe, my little flower. I would not let anyone harm you.”

She let herself dream as his arms and body cradled her. They went through the motions, his right hand and arm directing the improvised weapon, his left hand moving her body. It was amazing how their bodies fit together, how their limbs moved in perfect synchronization. His hands switched as he moved the improvised weapon to her other hand and turned her body so her left side faced the imaginary opponent. Hanako knew the movements had been designed for fighting, but the two of them were engaged in a much different, though equally intense, reality.

He had often imagined her like this, late at night, as he tried to sleep knowing she was only a short walk away. His mind’s eye had constructed the creaminess of her skin, the smooth curve of her body, the warmth of her smile. But the vision before him surpassed all of his dreams. This woman had been created especially for him, and he alone would have the right to cherish her from now to eternity. He would not ever take this right for granted.

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepository

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Review: Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookrecklessconduct
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Marcus Fox
Heroine: Harriet Smith
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November, 1996
Started On: October 07, 2017
Finished On: October 13, 2017

Never have I laughed so hard and so much while reading a romance novel in recent times as I did when I was reading Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier. I would always be forever grateful for having found Susan Napier’s books because they are aboslute gems in the world of Harlequin romances.

Reckless Conduct is a novel that is to be lauded for so many reasons. It has got that oh-so-good-i-am-going-to-die-of-laughter variety of humor going for it. There is a deliciously controlled hero who made every single sense of mine stand on high alert. Then there is the heroine, whose makeover and clumsy antics, plus the way she seems to always find herself in one tantalizing position after another with the hero became one I reveled in. The sense of want and desire that is continuous thread throughout the book was one that I found heady and enjoyable on so many levels.

Harriet Smith, the heroine is someone who has continually being considered as staid, boring, and conventional. However, all of that changes when Harriet decides to have the makeover of a lifetime which turns her from the wallflower so to speak to the stunningly beautiful and curvaceous woman that turns heads as she makes her way to the office on the morning following the makeover.

Marcus Fox is the chairman of the board of Trident Finance where Harriet works. When Marcus enlists Harriet’s expertise on a personal matter, Harriet is forced into close proximity with a man who makes her want to throw caution to the wind, who brings back that edge of spontaneity to her character which had died a painful death under the hands of her ex-fiance’. It also makes her want to flee because she is reluctant to get into something that could spell long term heartbreak for her. That sense of awakening in a heroine as reluctant as Harriet was one of the best aspects of this book.

If you are a fan of Harlequin romances, this is a must read. Susan Napier is brilliant in her execution of romance novels. Her books have foresight and depth to them that few Harlequin authors bring to the table. Her stories are less than conventional and for me that is one reason why I absolutely adore them and indulge in one every now and then.

Definitely recommended. If not for the laughs, for the sheer experience of Marcus Fox in all his glory. Loved the last chapter. Made me want to bawl my eyes out, and smile from ear to ear at the same time.

Final Verdict: Susan Napier wows her readers with unconventional stories that stand out for their sensuality and strong leads. Reckless Conduct is classic Napier in this sense and I cannot recommend it well enough.

Favorite Quotes

‘Not only is Fleet indiscriminate, but he has no respect for the woman’s privacy when he notches up a victory. He’s an inveterate boaster about his conquests. He’s even been known to bet on the outcome of a date. All he’s interested in is having a good time, and he expects the women he goes out with to have the same free-and-easy morals—’
‘Good!’ she snapped, using the element of surprise to grasp his solid wrist and push it sharply away from the control buttons so that the doors sprang open.
‘Good?’ Marcus Fox stayed rooted to the spot as she stepped out onto the thick grey carpet of the executive-suite foyer. ‘What do you mean—good?’
Harriet turned to look at him and was deeply gratified by his censorious expression. At last she had surprised a genuine reaction out of him!
‘I mean good, he sounds like a really hot date,’ she said with a reckless toss of her head.”
“A hot date?’ He repeated the words slowly, as if they were in an alien tongue.
‘Yeah, you know—one where there’s a lot of action.’
‘Action?’ The doors were closing on him and he darted out between them with a startling burst of agility for such a powerfully built man.
‘Fun.’
His black brows lowered even further as he towered over her. ‘You’re going out with Michael Fleet for fun?’ he rumbled.
‘Well, I’m certainly not going out with him in order to have a perfectly miserable time,’ she said sweetly.
He dismissed her dripping sarcasm with an impatient wave. ‘Miss Smith, I wonder if you’ve quite grasped the import of my remarks?’
‘Of course I have,’ she said in exasperation. ‘You’re warning me that by tomorrow I’ll just be another notch on the matchwood that passes for Michael’s bedpost.’
‘Miss Smith!’
‘Mr Fox!”

She sat down with relief, only to find that her narrow skirt shrank alarmingly up her slender thighs. She pretended not to notice. She hadn’t taken into account things like bending and twisting and sitting when she had been burning up the boutiques during the long weekend. She had just stood in front of the mirror and ruthlessly bought whatever the shop assistant had recommended.
Harriet folded her hands in her diminished lap and tried to remember everything she had ever read about miniskirt etiquette. Did one cross one’s legs or slant them primly parallel to the side? The idea of being prim decided her. She slid one knee rashly over the top of the other. The skirt retreated another crucial few centimetres.
Marcus Fox’s steepled fingers collapsed and his voice was slightly hoarse as he began ominously, ‘Miss Smith, I am about to break one of my cardinal rules about not allowing personal problems to intrude on matters of business.’

He rose abruptly from his chair and, against the tinted window, he was suddenly a dark, shadowy figure sweeping across her dazzled vision. Harriet’s heart pulsed erratically in her ears and, even knowing that the width of the desk was between them, she instinctively shied away from his dominance, a slender heel catching against the chair-leg behind her as she did so, half wrenching her shoe from her foot and throwing her off balance.
She stumbled forward several steps, banging her hip as she ricocheted off the sharp corner of his desk. One windmilling hand clipped the eyepiece of the telescope and it teetered on its extended tripod. Harriet whipped around to clasp and steady it, letting out a small cry of pain as a bolt on one of the legs jammed into her knee.
“What on earth—?’ Marcus Fox was there immediately, untangling her from the apparatus and setting them both upright.
‘I’m sorry,’ she gasped, hopping on one leg as she tried to refit her shoe.
He let go of the telescope to support her by her shoulders, half lifting her with easy strength to perch on the edge of his desk while she fumbled. ‘Little fool,’ he said gruffly. ‘What are you wearing heels like that for around the office? You’re an accident waiting to happen.’
‘To stop people like you calling me little,’ she huffed.

“They’re not pantihose,‘ she said absently, thinking gloomily that it didn’t take much to make expensive elegance look cheap and tacky. Maybe black hadn’t been such a flattering choice after all.
‘I beg your pardon?’
He hadn’t moved and Harriet was acutely aware that he was standing between her legs, the fabric of his dark trousers brushing against the sensitive skin of the insides of her knees. This time the threat posed by his proximity was unnervingly real. He was overpoweringly close, his warmth radiating through her like an invisible touch, his clean male scent creating a curious disorder in her senses. He made her feel both fragile and vulnerable and she panicked lest he detect her irrational fear, rashly seeking to repulse him with offensive brashness.
‘I said I’m not wearing pantihose. They’re stockings. See?’ She provocatively lifted her knee to press it against his hip, and flipped back her hem to reveal the lace-trimmed suspender that gripped the opaque band of her laddered stocking. A strip of smooth, naked thigh was also inadvertently revealed—a starkly erotic contrast to the black lingerie.

Feeling safe and yet aware of a tantalising danger, Harriet inhaled and let out a shuddering sigh and wriggled deeper into his lap. The malleable outline against her hip was large, and Harriet felt another wave of prickly heat wash over her as she indulged her sinful curiosity and wondered what it would take to arouse a man of his iron self-control and how different he would feel in his state of excitement.
She imagined what would happen if she was lying like this in his arms but for some inexplicable but necessary reason they were both completely nude. Surely he wouldn’t be unaffected then, no matter how skinny or pathetic he thought she was? He was a man and he wouldn’t be able to help himself. He might fight against his primitive instincts because he didn’t want to hurt her, but he would eventually succumb to the feel of her naked breasts and thighs rubbing against him. He would kiss her fiercely, and smother her small breasts in his big, clever hands, and then he would go thick and hard against her squirming bottom and he would turn her in his lap and—

Intent on preventing him from reaching the bottom of the pile, Harriet hastened forward, but she was too late. His eyebrows shot up as he studied the final cover.
‘Sexual Fulfilment: Erotic Techniques To Enhance Female Pleasure’
‘Give me that!’ Flustered, she tried to snatch it out of his hand.
‘Give you what? Sexual fulfilment?’ he enquired with a wicked grin, easily evading her attack by catching her wrist and pulling her down onto the bed beside him. ‘Why, Harriet, I’m flattered by your eagerness but it’s rude to grab.’
‘I meant give me the book!’ she grated at him, feeling the heat of his thigh against her hip as they bounced lightly together on the edge of the bed.

He kissed her deep and hard, burying his mouth in hers, using his teeth to tease her lips apart and his tongue to thrust roughly inside. His hand slid from her upper arms to her ribcage, his fingers splaying up her slender sides, gripping her, supporting her torso while he slowly twisted from side to side, massaging her breasts with the rigid muscles of his chest. With a groan he turned her even further into the heated embrace, forcing her head back with the power of his kiss, lifting his knee to rest his thigh heavily across her sprawled legs, urging her against the hardness between his legs.
‘Kiss me; touch me the way she was touching him.’ He whispered the ragged command into the moist depths of her being, and she felt him tear at his buttons so that his shirt parted across his smooth, hot chest.

“Marcus—’
He bit her throat, his fingers curving into her soft waist as he sucked at her flesh. ‘Yes, say my name; tell me where you want me to stroke you; tell me what excites you…’
Everything excited her. She could barely string two coherent thoughts together, let alone utter any words. All that came from her lungs were gasps and tiny whimpers and moans that seemed to drive him into a greater frenzy.
Harriet clutched at the thick-hewn shoulders under the loose white shirt, her manicured nails biting into the rippling muscle and raking down his biceps, causing him to arch and shudder and rub himself more frantically against her. The heat was coming off him in waves, the muscles in his arms and chest jerking with convulsive tension, his hot mouth ravishing her senses as he hungrily devoured her response to his astonishing explosion of desire.

“I knew you weren’t wearing a bra,’ he muttered harshly, covering the delicate mounds with his palms, cupping and shaping her with his fingers, finding the soft nipples with his thumbs and tracing their outline by feel, circling them over and over again, drawing them out with the gentle pressure of his nails. ‘I could see these shadowed against the cotton… dark, smooth, round discs that I wanted to touch and lick and suck until they were ripe and wet and hard… as hard as I was…’
He nuzzled her mouth as he told her what else he had wanted to do to her breasts with his tongue and hands and body while she had been standing there talking, innocently unaware of his lustful fancies, and his eloquent description made Harriet so dizzy that if she hadn’t been lying down she would have swooned like a Victorian maiden.

He donned the protection without the least sign of modesty or embarrassment and Harriet fleetingly compared him with Keith, who used to fumble around in the dark, as if it was an offence to his masculinity. She even suspected that Marcus lingered deliberately over the intimate task, enjoying having her watching him touch himself, heightening their anticipation of the pleasure to come.
‘Next time you can do it for me,’ he promised huskily, and with a stunningly swift movement caught hold of her ribcage, his thumbs curving up under her breasts as he pulled her down on her knees to straddle his lap, arching his hips so that he slid smoothly inside her in the same fluid motion.
‘Oh!’ Harriet’s hand spread across his chest as she felt him take a heaving breath and arch up again, pushing deeper, tighter, a huge, hard invasion of heat that made her instinctively grip his hips with her knees and rock forward, flexing her inner muscles around him.

“Don’t move.’ This time she knew that his grating harshness wasn’t anger, it was rigid self-restraint. She obeyed, her bottom settling on his iron thighs. After a few moments of absolute stillness Marcus lifted his head and gave her a lazy smile that made her toes curl in her black shoes.
‘What now, Mr Fox?’ she teased him throatily.
‘Now?’ His hands swept down her sides and over her stockings to the knees that were wedged against his hips, and then slowly followed the same course back again.
‘Now, Miss Smith, we stay like this for the next ten hours.’

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

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Review: Lover Enshrined by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookloverenshrined
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #6
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Phury
Heroine: Cormia
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: June 03, 2008
Started On: October 05, 2016
Finished On: October 16, 2016

For someone who used to write down so many reviews per month, my lack in keeping up has become so bad that I am actually writing down a review for a book that I finished reading more than a year ago. This review might contain spoilers for those who have not read the series or even the book, so be warned.

Lover Enshrined, the 6th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a novel that stands out in many ways. It is the novel that brings to life the story of the Primale of the Vampire species, i.e. Phury, who takes on the role of being the designated vampire male who would mate and impregnate all the Chosen to bring about the next generation of Vampires. However, Phury breaks from tradition by bringing Cormia, the first female of the Chosen he was supposed to mate with back to the Brotherhood compound instead of completing the mating ritual, which is where Phury’s story begins.

Phury has never had it easy in his life, his battles forever being about people that he loved, his sacrifices when one actually reads through the series and ponders about it, which are immense in nature. His twin brother Zsadist, who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child had haunted Phury for the better part of his life, the quest to hunt for his brother and bring him back being what had driven him then. His return had meant Phury never did get over “paying” for something that had never been his fault to begin with. But guilt has a way of taking root inside even the best of us, and Phury’s character is one afflicted with a lot of it that brings about a self-sacrificial edge to him.

If things couldn’t get any worse, Phury falls for the very woman that had brought Zsadist immense happiness – perhaps one more way of ensuring that his suffering is a continued one. Phury also battles with the addiction of smoking – the Vampire world’s equivalent of being a drug addict owing to the voice inside his head which never quits. All that combined makes Phury a character that one wants to delve deep inside of, and I found him to be one who was truly fascinating in his own worth.

Cormia, for whom there would never have been a choice of refusing the Primale and her designated role in life had it been anyone else but Phury, finds the change of pace from what life would have been to what an amazing mass of contradictions it had become mind boggling at first. Throughout the first couple of months of living on the compound, Cormia finds herself slowly gravitating towards the male that had been thrust upon her without choice, and suddenly finds that she wants Phury for herself, and that sharing him as what was dictated by the rules was not exactly what she wants for her and the Primale.

What deviates the focus from the main protagonists of the story is the fact that there is so much else happening in Lover Enshrined, which is in one way what makes the Black Dagger Brotherhood series the stupendous one that it is. As a reader who was rooting for Phury in a large way, I found myself wanting more of their story in the book than Ward actually delivered. But then again, I understood the need that propelled the various threads of stories that emerged in the book, much needed to keep the series rolling in different and equally fascinating directions that never fails to amaze me.

Rehvenge’s role in the book, together with John Matthew and Xhex’s were quite alluring in their own rights. As I was reading through Lover Enshrined, I knew that I wanted their stories to be the next in the series – after all, JR Ward makes a compelling case for each of the main characters and even the side ones that she brings to light in the series.

Omega’s role – the main source of evil in the series was equally fascinating for me. Having never received the gift of giving life, Omega’s role had always been one where he is always a step behind the Scribe Virgin, his sister, who had been granted the ability by the Maker. But Omega’s deeply ambitious plan that comes to light in the story is one that could prove to be a game changer, all because it was cunning enough, and long term enough for the destabilization of the Vampire race from bottoms up. That I believe is what a good villain does to a story – shake things up to a point where your mind cannot comprehend the way out of the mess that is happening right in front of you.

The most deeply emotional scenes of the book for me included the scene where Tohrment came back and the reunion that happens between him and John Matthew. That was a scene truly worth all the emotions that coursed through me at that point. JR Ward also managed to surprise me beautifully towards the end when Zsadist sang for Phury. I was at times disappointed and frustrated with Zsadist for not being more “grateful” towards his brother. But then again, given the extent of scarring emotionally and physically of Zsadist’s character, I would say that the ending Ward delivered was what made up for all of it and gives the reader deep insight how Zsadist views the bond between himself and his twin Phury.

One more thing that I liked was the fact that Ward never made light of Phury’s addiction, even with the highly evolved physiology of vampires that makes them fast healers. Ward made Phury suffer every excruciating inch of going through the detoxing process, which I believe finally gave Phury that freedom to start living. Truly living.

Final Verdict: For fans of complex plots and fast paced novels that are equipped with rich dialog, character development, infused with burn-the-pages variety of hot sex! JR Ward definitely has no equivalent!

Favorite Quotes

“Kneel,” he said in a dark voice.
As Cormia sank down onto her knees, the brush fell out of her hand. Without a word, the Primale leaned into her, his huge arms going around her. He didn’t draw her to him. He undid her hair, all of it, the chignon and then the braid.
He growled as he fanned her hair out around her shoulders, and she became aware that his body was trembling. Without warning, he grabbed the back of her neck and pulled her into his throat.
“Take from me,” he demanded.

Holy mother of Words . . . His blood was a fire, first in her mouth then down in her gut, an alll-powerful wave that filled her out from the inside, giving her a strength she’d never known before.
“Harder,” he bit out. “Suck me. . . .”
She ran her arms under his and sank her nails into his back and took great pulls from his vein. She grew dizzy — no, wait, he was pushing her backward, taking her down onto the floor. She didn’t care what he did to her or where they ended up, because his taste was all-consuming as she consumed him. All she knew was the fountain of his life at her lips and down her throat and in her belly, and that was all she needed to know.

“Sit up on the table,” he said in a hoarse voice. “Please.”
She did as he asked and crossed her legs . . . and, holy hell, didn’t that robe of hers fall open, splitting wide up to her thigh. When she tried to close the gap, he whispered, “Leave it.”
Her hands stilled, then shifted back and flattened on the table to support her upper weight. “Is this all right?”
“Don’t. Move.”
Phury took his time as he drew her, the chalk becoming his hands going over her body, lingering on her neck and the swell of her breasts and the curve of her hip and the long, smooth expanse of her legs. He made love to her as he transferred her image onto the blackboard, the sound of the chalk a rasping noise.
Or maybe that was his breath.

“Take from me,” she said.
His eyes flared and he prowled up her body, kissing her stomach and pausing at one of her nipples, giving it lapping attention. And then his fangs were over her throat. “Are you sure?”
“Yes— oh, GOD!”
His strike was hard and deep, and it happened so fast . . . just as she ’d imagined it would. He was a Brother in need of what sustained them all, and she was nothing fragile to be broken. She gave and he took and another surge of that wild tension began to build in her again.
She shifted on the table, spreading her legs. “Take me. Whilst you do this . . . be in me.”

“Take your robe off.”
“Why?”
“Because if I do it, I’m going to shred it.”
Her chin lifted and her lids dropped, so that even though she had to look up to meet his eyes, she was still staring down her nose at him. “Why do I need to disrobe?”
With every territorial bone in his body, he growled, “I’m going to mark you.”

She slammed the spigot to the left and threw open the door. As the rush of water was cut off short, she confronted the Primale.
He was naked. Erect. Fully fanged.
The roar he let out was that of a lion, and as the sound reverberated off all the marble in the bathroom, she got even wetter between her legs.
He came at her, and she didn’t fight him as he grabbed her around the waist and popped her off her feet. He wasn’t gentle, but she didn’t want gentle—and to make sure he knew it she bit him in the shoulder as they came into the bedroom.
He roared again and dumped her on her bed, her body bouncing once. Twice.

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