ARC Review: That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy

Format: E-Bookthatcanbearranged
Read with: Desktop
Length: Novel
Genre: Graphic Novels
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Hero: Gehad
Heroine: Huda Fahmy
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: March 10, 2020
Started On: December 27, 2019
Finished On: December 27, 2019

Huda Fahmy is a Muslim living in the United States, sharing her real life experiences in the form of comic strips published on Instagram. I started following her somewhere around last year; I mean who wouldn’t love the at times acerbic humor and wit that flows so smoothly through her meaningful comics that most Muslims can relate to?

When I found out that Huda was releasing her new book, That Can Be Arranged sometime this year, I have been counting down the days. That is until during one of my once in a blue moon forays into Netgalley served me with the best of surprises; this title was up for grabs for an ARC review. Quickly downloading it and reading through it in one setting, I was fascinated by the story of how Huda found her soulmate for life in Gehad her husband.

Islam is a pivotal part of Huda’s comics, and the way she so brilliantly imparts Islamic knowledge and wisdom without sounding preachy is something I have come to appreciate immensely in her work. As a romance lover, I loved Huda and Gehad’s story. As a Muslim, I loved it even more. Why? Because Huda’s real life journey towards finding her soulmate gives hope in a way not many stories can; that valuing your own self and loving yourself is a first step towards finding someone who would love all of you, imperfections and all of that. That is not a lesson that many learn before they make huge mistakes, which I believe for the most part Huda managed to skirt around.

Easier said than done, right? Huda too felt the same when she first started out on her journey, trying to fit certain molds that society can often project on your subconscious. The well-meaning family, both immediate and otherwise can often dampen the spirits of the most enthusiastic, especially when they have a tendency to kick you where it hurts when it comes to affairs of the heart.

Luckily, Huda is spared most of the heartbreak because she is strong in many ways from the onset, her mother and father being supportive of what she wanted for herself rather than trying to marry her off to the first thing that crosses over from the realm of eligible men. Her continued efforts towards learning more about her religion which actually brings her finally to Gehad and identifies in him her soulmate was beautiful in a way that is indescribable.

There is a certain allure in the way Huda combines traditions with that touch of modern flair which I identified with on a deep level. While I know that living as a Muslim, especially in a country like the US at a time when Islamophobia is on the rise and is rampant must be difficult, I did identify somethings that I wouldn’t mind having over here, a “100%” Islamic country as well. One of them being Muslim scholars who are more approachable and understanding of the unique challenges faced by Muslims of the world today. That in essence is a huge gap in most Muslim societies, the inability of scholars to get to the heart of the issues and reach out to the disillusioned among us. It is so easy to give into despair in a world that is so skewed in favor of the few, it is so easy to get lost in the fray.

In short, I loved it all. Recommended for anyone who appreciates humor and wit, combined with the belief that God indeed works in the most mysterious of ways.

Final Verdict: A unique portrayal of navigating the marriage market in a Muslim society, giving insight into the traditions and societal expectations on women, and a journey of self discovery and spirituality towards finding the one!

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: The Hunter by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Bookthehunter
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Victorian Rebels, #2
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Hero: Christopher Argent
Heroine: Millicent Karolina Lapinski
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: February 02, 2016
Started On: September 01, 2019
Finished On: September 26, 2019

“Death is inevitable. To fear it is to waste energy.”

The Hunter by Kerrigan Byrne is book 2 in her fabulous Victorian Rebel series, where she writes about rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards who steal your heart and leave you wanting more. The Hunter explores the story of Christopher Argent who is an assassin, whose very nature makes him the perfect killer for hire. That is until Christopher’s services is procured to assassinate London’s darling and the stunningly beautiful actress Millicent Karolina Lapinski (Millie).

Christopher who is always able to detach himself from the lives he has taken thus far is unable to do so when he meets Millie, and in the process puts her and her son’s life in danger. With Millie Christopher for the first time learns the meaning of unthrottled desire. In Millie Christopher sees a woman who drives him crazy with need, and with whom his senses come alive as if he has been waiting for her touch all his life.

Christopher’s darkness lies deeply engraved in him, making him one of the most fascinating heroes I have read of late. I enjoyed The Hunter more than I did the first and third book in the series, the latter of which I read first. The lack of an epilogue is perhaps one of the main reasons why the rating did not go higher. Having gone through the roller-coaster ride of emotions that this book takes readers on, I believe we need an epilogue to let go of Christopher’s story with a heart that believes he got the best of what the world has to offer in terms of love of the kind that perseveres, no matter what.

Christopher’s character is perhaps one of the most emotionally complex characters that the series has offered thus far; his birth in the belly of the beast that is Newgate Prison and the unconscionable violence and tragedy that had been so much part of his life and shaped him into adulthood, marking him for life. I was traumatized by the sheer scale of violence that Christopher was subjected to, much of it with just enough details for the reader to form a full picture.

I found the delve into his psyche the most fascinating aspect of the story. Millie’s son Jakub was just adorable and I believe that he really did make a difference in the way Christopher sees himself. Millie was also such a darling character. She was a match for Christopher in every sense. A fierce lioness where needed and a gentle lover who knows just the right touch; when to press forward and when to give in, which is crucial in dealing with a man like Christopher whose life up till that point had taught him that he was a man unfit for loving and being loved.

Seeing Dorian and Farah was such a nice touch to the story as well, both of them easing into the new roles of their lives as husband and wife made me really happy.

I am so glad for having stumbled across these titles because at the cost of repeating myself, they come with the kind of darkness that I as a reader revel in. Heroes whose darkness is embraced by the heroine rather than embarking on an agenda of reform for the hero which is just plain annoying and unrealistic when it comes to characters who have gone through so much as Christopher did.

Recommended for fans of the series and fans of dark historical romances. This one is all kinds of delicious!

Final Verdict: Christopher is the kind of hero that makes a romance stand out. The Hunter is a novel that takes readers through tumultuous emotions of the kind that delivers!

Favorite Quotes

“It won’t hurt, I promise,” he whispered as his fingers gently reached the nape of her neck, and then her jaw, and paused there.
It already hurt. She ached, ached in places generally best left ignored. Millie’s breath had now been reduced to little more than needy pants. “If you don’t kiss me, I’ll die,” she confessed.
He froze.
Vibrating with frustrated arousal she surged against him, lifting to her toes and grinding her lips against his.
The kiss was as hungry as it was sudden. While his eyes may have been cold, his mouth was hot and tasted of wine and male. She kissed him with abandon, enjoying the way his entire body jolted and went instantly rigid.

His fingers tightened again against her throat, just a little, and she gasped. Then moaned as a thrill of fear titillated down her nerves and settled as a pool of moisture between her thighs.
“Again,” she demanded, her arms winding around his neck, her body rubbing against his like a cat demanding to be stroked.
His curse was lost in the cavern of her mouth, and she knew in that moment that they both needed to see whatever this was between them to fruition.

Her scent filled his nostrils and held him prisoner. Soap, sweat, and something that reminded him of late summer berries. Everything about her enticed him, and the clenching of the muscles beneath his stomach pulled a sound from his throat so desperate, it could have been a plea.
In that moment, he could feel that she lost her fear.
And he lost his mind.

“I wonder…” Her husky voice vibrated through him, sending shivers of yearning down his spine that arced to his turgid sex with agonizing need. “I wonder, Mr. Argent, if you take instruction as deftly as you give it.”
Christopher froze beneath her, his entire being focused on the growing heat between her parted legs, creeping closer to his aching arousal with the graceful arch of her body as she continued to sit back.
“Never,” he breathed. He obeyed no one.
“Not even if I ordered you to claim my lips with yours?”

“Kiss me,” she commanded, rolling her hips back until she was pressed intimately against him, her voice containing a growing desperation that might not entirely pertain to the carnal heat building between them. “Kiss me like you did the night we met. Like a man who captured my gaze across a glowing room and seduced me with a waltz. Touch me as though we are back in that dark corner beneath the stairs of the Sapphire Room and you are Bentley Drummle, nothing more than a harmless, charming businessman.”
“Millie,” Christopher warned, confused by the almost frantic need in her eyes. By the fear and strain that seemed to underscore her passion.
“Kiss me like you never meant to kill me.”

Despite his words, his dreamlike exploration didn’t last. She may have initiated this kiss, but she was a fool if she thought she’d control it. Not only that, but she hadn’t been prepared for it, for the pure blistering intensity of it. His lips were hard, yet full. His movements raw and unapologetically carnal. He kissed her with a wicked mouth, one that issued threats and vulgarities and brutal, albeit sometimes endearing, honesty. He kissed like a man unused to kissing. No artfully applied maneuvers or sensual variations. He kissed like a man about to—to fuck. Like he wanted to pour himself into her, or perhaps crawl inside of her. This was a dominant kiss. A shameless kiss. The kiss of a man who knew his sins and granted himself absolution.
This was the kiss of a killer.

His rough chin scratched at the soft valley between her breasts, and she stiffened when she realized his mouth was drifting lower, leaving her upper half completely exposed.
“What are you doing?” she whispered.
“Your scent on my body, on my hands, drove me mad with hunger,” he said against the plane of her quivering belly. “Once I bathed I wanted it back. I want to taste you until you say my name.”
Dear sweet Lord, she couldn’t let him do that. It was too wicked. God, who was this man? Where was her terse assassin? Where was the man who bent her over and took her with her clothes left on? The one who’d pleasured her in the ballroom earlier and then pushed her away and disappeared? Who knew that in his dreams he was so utterly sexual? That he could set her blood to burning and mortify her at the same time?

Her sob touched him as deeply as he penetrated her. Soft hips spread beneath him in sweet feminine submission.
“Come for me,” he demanded on long, almost punishing thrusts. “Say my name … One … more … time.”
“Christopher.” His name was ripped from deep in her throat. “Please.” A plea or a prayer, he couldn’t tell. It didn’t matter. She whimpered, then screamed. Her body clenched around his cock, bore down on him with a throbbing pressure so intense, he couldn’t fight it.
He closed his eyes, battling the ecstasy building in his abdomen and preparing to burst from him. He clung to the moment, held as long as he could.

His possession was unbelievably slow as he sank inside of her, filling her with a heat she’d not known existed. For a moment they stayed like that as his cock stretched her slick channel and throbbed inside her welcoming body. They both stared, stunned by the incomprehensible intensity of the moment. It was like a thousand bolts of lightning converged within them, between them, and they somehow had joined more than just their bodies.
But fused their souls, as well.

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

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Review: A War like Ours by Saffron A. Kent

Format: E-Bookawarlikeours
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press Inc.
Hero: James Alexander Maxwell
Heroine: Madison Smith
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: February 24, 2017
Started On: August 27, 2019
Finished On: August 30, 2019

A War Like Ours by Saffron A. Kent is one of those novels that does not make for light nor easy reading. It is heavy in a way that makes you think, deep in a way that makes you wish the story would just continue for all eternity, and darkly delicious and sinfully delightful in the way that only Saffron can deliver.

Madison Smith and James Alexander Maxwell’s paths cross each other under the most innocuous of circumstances. Madison who lives with her girlfriend and believes that men aren’t for her, and James who hides from secrets that he harbours, lying to himself and the one person that matters to him the most, day in and day out because he knows he would not be able to handle the aftermath of facing the truth.

What brings these two together is James’ daughter, who brings a lightness to the otherwise at times dark themes explored in the story. There is Madison’s girlfriend who continues to subject her to the kind of toxicity we have been brought up to believe happens only in heterosexual relationships. Madison’s inability to face the truth of the effects of her past which had left a resonating mark deep within her, makes it extremely difficult for her to accept her burgeoning feelings towards James.

James might not like the fact that he is drawn towards Madison, but that does not stop them from exploring the explosive passion that rises forth between them. Madison and James communicates with each other through their coming together, each of them leaving a bit of themselves with the other every single time. Neither of them admits to what is happening between them, that is until things come to an explosive confrontation whereby each lays down the dark and harrowing scars inside them, punching the reader in the gut with the rawness of the emotions that seeps through the story.

While I do not know how I felt about certain aspects of the story, one thing is for certain. I have never read any other book like this where both protagonists are equally flawed and broken to a point where you weep for their pasts and anguish over their future while at the same time, a part of you hopes against hope that everything works out. This is perhaps darker than the other Saffron Ken books I have read thus far, and that is saying something.

James with that visceral guilt of his that had manifested and grown under the abject lack of care from the one person who should have given it to him unconditionally, resulting in the kind of warped psychology that would have broken most completely, was fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time. There is a gentleness to James even then, and there is a ferocity to his need and love that speaks to you on so many levels.

It truly broke my heart when James did the bravest and the hardest thing any parent might have to do in his life. While I know deep in my heart that it was for the best, there was always that tiny part of me that wanted a different resolution in terms of what had happened on that front. But I also know the courage it took for James to do that. So for that and more, I love him, forever more.

In the deepest corners of my heart, I see James and Maddie married with 2.5 kids and nothing but happiness plaguing them. Because they have had more than their fair share of suffering and abject misery to last them for multiple lifetimes.

Maddie’s spunk and protectiveness of James was endearing even in the destructiveness that was the theme of their non-relationship, which I believe was the reason why I fell for Maddie and rooted for her through and through.

Recommended for fans of dark romances which explores aspects of mental health that proves to be insightful. Every single time I pick up a Saffron Kent novel, I am amazed by how her words speak to my mental health issues. For that and more, I would always continue to come back for her stories, whenever they maybe published.

Final Verdict: A story of destructive forces, emotional turmoil, psychological aftereffects of childhood neglect and trauma, and the healing power of love – none of what James and Maddie goes through makes for easy reading, but these are characters who would claim your heart and leave you better for having known them.

Favorite Quotes

I didn’t know who made the first move. But suddenly his hot lips were on mine and I was kissing him, sucking them into my mouth.
He shuddered, and I was right there with him. That first contact felt life-changing, breath-stealing, colorful behind my closed eyes. His taste was just as it should be, masculine, minty with a touch of tart apple juice and metallic blood. I fisted his shirt to bring him even closer. Hard planes of his chest cut into the soft curves of mine.
His arms wrapped around my waist and squeezed tightly, to the point where I filled his mouth with the last of my breath, moaning. It felt like I was dying, and my skin came alive, buzzing and humming.

All while feeding on my lips, he encircled my neck with one hand and tugged my hair with the other. The rough texture of his fingers drove me crazy, making me scratch his shirt-covered back as I locked my thighs around his waist. I pushed my core into his. It was wet, starving for him. Growling, he dug his torso into mine, making me feel his cock through his pants, big and hard.
I’d forgotten how good it could be with a man, how rough and unpolished. It’d been four years since I’d experienced something so dynamic and feral.

“Hurt me. You know you want to.” Her words, dampened by her breath, misted over my lips, and I forgot everything else.
Madison’s fingers tangled in my hair, and she jerked my face down, smashing her lips against mine. My hand slipped from her neck and wrapped around her waist. There was no stopping us—stopping me—after that. I bit into her again, as if she were my forbidden fruit, drinking her moans and lapping my tongue inside her mouth.

I pulled her hair in a sudden grip and yanked her head back, making her moan. I dragged my lips down to the tender part of her neck and sucked her skin into my mouth, gnawing at it. I felt the vibration of her moans in her throat, against my cheeks.
My cock was so hard, the hardest it had ever been, so extremely painful that it was pure pleasure. I dug my teeth sharply into her neck, and she whimpered and shivered, rubbing herself against me. Her skin was so hot, hotter than the summer outside. She loved this just as much as me.

My cock leaked pre-cum, and I wrapped my arms around her waist, locking her in place. We both stared at each other, barely breathing as I pulled her forward to me and, at the same time, shoved my cock inside her. Her head fell back as she gasped, exposing her bruised neck. I groaned, losing the battle to be silent as her tight heat gripped me. It spasmed around me. I squeezed her waist to control myself, or I would come right that second.
I stared down at the juncture where my cock was shoved up inside her liquid core, unmoving. The thick base smeared with her wetness, her core stretching over it, the smell of sex—it hypnotized me. My mind filled with a blank, ethereal space, like everything I knew was wiped from existence. Rationality, beliefs, my very name.

My body hummed with excitement. I bent down and took her nipple in my mouth, sucking on it. I opened my mouth wider, took in as much of her breast as possible.
She was rocking, pulling my hair, begging me to move by lifting and rubbing her hips on mine. I did not move, remaining still inside her. I barely rubbed her clit. I simply sucked on her nipple and played with the other one. I knew she could come like that. She was extremely responsive. I dug my teeth around her nipples and bit down.
Madison screamed and came. She throbbed against my cock and convulsed in my arms. I leaned away and watched her. Her neck craned back as her breasts jiggled with her orgasm. Just like that.

I flicked my finger over her wet curls, looking for her clit. She moaned low as I found it. I kept flicking. She had opened my shirt halfway down and scratched my chest. Without warning, she seized against my cock again, and her eyes fell closed as she came, moaning, writhing, like she was fighting to stay alive. She jerked up the counter, once, twice, thrice as her core drooled and gushed.
A ball of heat originated in my stomach, spread over to my spine, and slid to my cock. I came then, spurting my cum deep inside her.

I coiled my arms around his neck, gripping his hair, and kissed him hard, coating his mouth with my tart juices. He turned hungry, devouring my taste. I took advantage of his distraction and pushed him on the floor. Still kissing him, I unbuttoned his pants and pushed them down. I took his raging cock in my hands, long, thick—it felt longer and thicker though when it was inside me. My pussy contracted, and I slammed down and jammed his cock inside.
His head dug on the floor as he arched his back, his fingers tearing at the flesh of my hips. We grunted in unison, high and out of control. I felt what he felt. A simultaneous burst of pleasure or something equally cheesy that you never understood until it happened to you.

Without taking his eyes off me, his lips searched and found the bruise I’d showed him earlier. He bit down at the puckered skin and I barely suppressed a howl, my mouth falling open, my body convulsing as if electrocuted. My eyes watered. I scrambled to get away from him, from the pain as a kneejerk reaction. But he wouldn’t let me and then my core rippled in a roaring orgasm. My back bowed and shivered under him.
He nibbled on the bruise as he slid in and out, gently. He lapped my blood up and I came again, losing my breath as pleasure tore through my body.

His eyes had turned intense, making my breath shudder. Slowly, he made his way over to me until his body was warming up mine. “I don’t need homework to be able to have exceptional skills, Madison.”
“Are you saying you’re a natural?”
Without answering, he advanced on me and I backed up until my back hit the wall. “I don’t have to…” he whispered, putting his arms around me. “Your screams say plenty.”

He rested his forehead against mine and licked my trembling lips. “Tell me, Madison, do you ever imagine how dying must feel? Knowing that, no matter what you do, it’s not going to be enough?”
I shook my head. No, I didn’t imagine dying. Who would? But now I wanted to. For him. In any case, with his cock hard against my pussy, his fingers around my neck, I couldn’t think much of anything. Then he moved away, only to push my shorts and his pants down our legs so he could thrust inside me in one smooth motion.

He heaved me up by the waist and all but pushed me down to the ground. He tore at my clothes, shoved his cock inside me, fucking me into oblivion.
Those were the times when we truly realized what this was all about. The conversations, the accidental intimacy that had come between us these past days clouded the real purpose of it all. It was simple, really. We were two people who couldn’t not fuck each other.
These small manipulations, these tiny wars kept everything in perspective. They gave us hope that we wouldn’t lose ourselves in each other.

Then he stopped and studied my torso. I imagined it streaked with red. He thumbed my cheek and whispered, “You’re beautiful like this. Crying and bleeding.”
He bent down and lapped my wounds with his tongue. I almost came right then.
We had sex out in the open for anyone to see. And I didn’t care. He moved inside me, sometimes fiercely, sometimes tenderly. We never looked away from each other.
And when I came around his hard cock, a tiny whisper tore out of my soul. “James…”
He came a second after me. He tucked his face in the crook of my neck and sighed against my skin, “Madison…”
We had finally shed our limits, like sloughing off useless skin. Tears that had stopped streamed freely now from the sides of my eyes, down to my hair.

“I’m hungry,” I murmured distractedly, wondering if she’d taste like citrus—tart and sharp.
“Are you asking me to cook you something?” She frowned. “I’ll have you know I cook for no man. I wasn’t built that way.”
“I think you were.”
“Well, I beg to differ. I won’t cook for you even if you pay me.” She cocked her hips and scoffed.
“I don’t think I’ll have to pay you.”
“Is that right?”
“Mmm-hmm. I think you’ll do it for free.” She opened her mouth to say something, but I gripped the back of her neck and pulled her to me, smashing my lips over hers, almost melding them together. She held on to my shoulders and kissed me back.
Breaking the kiss, I whispered, “You’re it.”
“What?”
“The thing I want to eat.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | Kobo

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Review: Ask Me Why by Harloe Rae

askmewhyFormat: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Brance Stone
Heroine: Braelyn Miller
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: June 20, 2019
Started On: November 09, 2019
Finished On: November 10, 2019

Ask Me Why by Harloe Rae is a story that caught my ever roving eye because I am a sucker for an anti-hero or a hero whose most redeeming qualities aren’t visible from the get go. I mean, I can take heroes who are sappy, good to the very core of their existence etc. to a certain level, but I need my fix of anti-heroes, who are in short supply, considering the need for authors to conform to what the current reader-base wants, and how romance as a genre has evolved over the years.

The heroine Braelyn Miller is three years in her road to recovery from the deepest loss that has marked her life; the loss of her significant other Devon, to a senseless accident. Suffering from post-traumatic disorder, panic, and anxiety since, Braelyn gives all of herself to her shop which stocks all sorts of knickknacks for those looking for something out of the norm. It is the abundant candy section at her store that draws Oliver Stone (Ollie), a young boy whose enthusiasm and joy brings undiluted happiness to Braelyn for the first time in a long while.

However, all of that is overshadowed by Ollie’s father, a successful divorce lawyer Brance Stone, who carries his cynicism close to his heart like body armour. With a mother whose actions had left its bitter mark on him, to Ollie’s mother who had removed any ounce of compassion left in his heart, Brance’s only saving grace comes from Ollie, for whom he would brave the store of Braelyn’s, even if it means his entire being prickles and goes on high alert mode in a way that does not sit well with him.

Brance views all women with suspicion, especially given that he knows the effect he has on women at large. However, that suspicion is laced with contempt when he believes that Braelyn is using Ollie to get close to him. Clash is what Brance and Braelyn do at first, their verbal warring such fun at certain points, laced with heavy moments as well. But ultimately the fight goes out of both of them and succumb they do to the thick and heavy desire between them which is almost palpable at times.

I enjoyed Ask Me Why in a large way because I needed the kind of hero that Brance was in the story. I have missed heroes like him to the point I could cry! Ollie contributed in a huge way towards making the story adorable. That is no mean feat I tell you. Especially given the fact that my previous read featured a child who was so tiresome, that I felt like throwing my Kindle at the wall most of the times. Then came Ollie, and all of that discontentment went poof and I was all smiles and love and wanting to cuddle the little guy for all the optimism and inquisitiveness he brought to the story.

I also adored Braelyn. She was hands down, one of the best aspects of the story. Her unwavering strength in the face of such a tragedy was something I could identify with, be it in a little way. It is not easy to pick up the pieces of your life when you suffer such a terrible tragedy, and there is an embedded message of hope in Braelyn’s phases of recovery. One does not get cured overnight, it takes effort and the love of well meaning friends/family around you to keep you grounded and able to take those difficult first steps, one at a time. Her inherent goodness shines through in every single aspect of the story and I couldn’t have asked for a better heroine in any way.

Let me not forget to mention just how much of an effect Brance had on me. He was obnoxious at points where I wanted to throw something at him, but that does not detract from the fact that he is sexy in a way that makes you melt on the spot. Once he turns on his charm, and when he is not even trying, there is a certain way with which he carries himself that does a number on you. The term sex-in-a-suit was invented for men like Brance, and alongside with that confidence of his, I was a mess every time he started talking dirty!

With all that I loved about the book, there were a couple of things that disturbed me as well. I understood why Brance was the way he was; cynical and damaged from the past that had done its number on him. But I found his attitude towards Ollie’s mother to be double standards; he himself sort of agrees to that. He is all for women’s rights and each woman having the independence to decide whether they want to carry a pregnancy to term or not.

But when it comes to Ollie’s mother, Brance was practically the one that “forced” her to do have him. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t even imagine the story without Ollie. I also agree that the way Ollie’s mother treated Brance from that point forward was abominable, but what do you expect when you force someone to do something that they do not want to wholeheartedly? Resentment flares and some people are obviously worse than others. I am not excusing her behavior for one second, but I just found it all to be very hypocritical.

That brings me to the point where things head south in Brance and Braelyn’s fragile beginnings of a relationship. When Braelyn suffers a panic attack (with good reason if you ask me), and Brance did not even try to understand where she was coming from, at that moment I actually hated Brance. For someone who suffers from the same, I understood the panicky, end-of-the-world scenarios that had been running through Braelyn’s mind at that point in time. Once your brain starts running in that direction, it is extremely difficult to rein it in and keep it in check. Because lets face it, our minds tend to have a life of its own; that is one reason why it is so fascinating as well. I would have liked it better, had Brance tried to understand, even a little.

However, I bow down to Harloe Rae’s amazing ability to spin a tale that sucked me in right from the beginning. I enjoyed Brance and Braelyn’s extremely bumpy journey to their happily ever after.

Recommended for those who love a hefty dose of their alpha-holes. Brance is definitely that and more! My first Harloe Rae certainly did not disappoint!

Final Verdict: Ask Me Why is breathtaking on many levels, combining terrible tragedy and heartache with the surprising curve balls that brings immense joy and happiness in life; I loved Harloe Rae’s voice that resonated deep within.

Favorite Quotes

I find a sliver of space to move closer. “Wanna hear a secret?”
“Always,” Braelyn purrs.
“You’re a damn distraction.”
She snaps her fingers. “Guess it sucks to be you.”
Her tactics don’t deter me. “All I can think about is wiping that sad look off your face.”
“I’m fine, other than these inconvenient visits from you.” Her guarded eyes skitter away from mine.
“Don’t lie. You want me. Just once would do. I’d turn that frown so far upside down, you’d never stop smiling.”
“Cocky asshole.” She dips her chin, but I catch the blush staining her cheeks.
I close the distance between us by another foot. “I’ll lick your clit until you scream my name. Then it’ll be my cock’s turn to pleasure you. Over and over until you beg me to stop.”

I shiver when Brance’s hand begins to wander. His fingers drift along the bare skin of my inner thigh. The loose fit of my shorts grants him easy enough access. I sag against the shelf when he reaches my center. Brance shoves my panties to the side with masterful precision. He glides through my slick heat, turning me into a quivering mess. He doesn’t waste time teasing with me, zeroing in on my clit with sure strokes.
Brance rips his mouth away with a snarl. “You’re wicked. This shouldn’t be happening.”
“But it is,” I whisper.

The talking abruptly cuts off when he crashes our mouths together. I moan into the kiss, arching against him. His lips drift up my cheek and temple. The move is almost tender.
“You’re such a pain in my ass,” he growls close to my ear.
I shift against him, rubbing along the hard ridge prodding at me. The empty space inside of me weeps. I curl my fingers on the shelf, but metal doesn’t satisfy me. A chunk of finely toned Brance would do nicely. I want to grip his sculpted ass and soothe any pain he might be feeling.

“Don’t make me wait, Brance. Please.” When the plea drops off her lips, a surge of need propels me forward. I grab a condom from my discarded pants. With calculated precision, I ripDon’t make me wait, Brance. Please.”
When the plea drops off her lips, a surge of need propels me forward. I grab a condom from my discarded pants. With calculated precision, I rip open the foil and roll the rubber down my shaft. I climb onto the mattress and move between her parted thighs. Leaning on an elbow, I lower myself until we’re aligned together. My cock nudges her entrance. Braelyn loops her arms around me. She’s about to let me conquer the deepest parts of her body. I line up with her center and push inside.
Her hips lift and tilt, welcoming me further. I sink to the hilt. We share a groan.
Braelyn’s nails dig into my back. “B-Brance, holy shit. You fit just right.”
I brush my mouth against hers. “So fucking good.”

I crawl backward until my head bumps against a pillow. He reaches behind him and strips off his shirt with one smooth move. I’m antsy, rubbing my thighs together before spreading them apart. Brance undoes his jeans and shoves them down. He stands before me in a black pair of briefs, tenting in the front with his desire.
For me.
I prop myself up and lick my lips. With a curl to my fingers, I beckon him to me.
Brance strokes himself through his shorts. Such a damn tease. “Take off anything you don’t want ripped into shreds.”

Make me feel good.”
“Don’t I always?”
I open my mouth with another plea. Brance lines up and slams into me. A burst of color blooms in my vision. I claw at the sheets and tumble under his spell.
Holy shit.
Brance’s hips grind against me, forcing us closer. There’s not a sliver of space separating our bodies.

When we’re alone again, I arch a brow at my date. “Same side seating?”
“Only way to appreciate these booths.”
“Oh?”
Brance’s palm rests on my bare thigh, drifting up and higher. “Yeah, babe.”
I spread my legs without hesitation. With one touch, I’m dragged under his seductive spell. Those talented fingers roam further, disappearing beneath my dress. I’ve never been more grateful for my choice in clothing. He reaches my satin covered center with no signs of slowing down. I really like the direction he’s taking.
“W-what are you doing?” My tone is barely a rasp.
Brance ghosts his lips over my cheek. “I’ve missed you. Just a little starter while we wait for the main course. Relax, babe.”

I sag against the seat in a pliable puddle, ready for Brance to mold me into his making. The rest of my resistance fades when he swipes across my slit. I’m so wet, almost embarrassingly so. Telltale tingles are already creeping up my legs. The thrill of getting caught. The tender warmth in his searing gaze. His strong strokes against my clit. It’s a recipe for a sharp and powerful climax.
I clamp a hand over my mouth and moan. Tremors wrack my limbs, an eruption cracking through the volcanic surface. My eyes roll back while I shudder in his grip. I do my best not to rattle the booth.
“You’re so fucking sexy.” His voice is a hypnotic pulse lulling me deeper into the waves of euphoria.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Dreams of 18 by Saffron A. Kent

Format: E-Bookdreamsof18.jpeg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Graham Edwards
Hero: Quentin Savage
Heroine: Violet May Moore
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 10, 2019
Started On: October 10, 2019
Finished On: October 13, 2019

Dreams of 18 by Saffron A. Kent is her latest novel, published on October of this year. This was a much awaited novel on my part, like every other fan of Saffron I believe, because that is just how it is when it comes to books by an author who literally and figuratively takes your breath away. What Saffron does with her characters is priceless, the boundaries she pushes in the genre makes her books stand out, and the wealth of emotions her books carry are second to none.

Dreams of 18 brings to readers 18 year old Violet May Moore and 36 year old Graham Edwards, whose story begins when Graham moves next door to Violet’s home in Cherryville, Connecticut. Violet had been just 16 years old then, and Graham’s son Brian had quickly become a close friend. But from the moment Violet had laid eyes on Graham from the very first day they had moved in, there had been no other man for her, even though she knows that nothing would ever come to fruition from her harmless crush on her someone who would never give her the time of day.

However, the night she turns 18 is the night all hell breaks loose. One kiss, and everything unravels, Graham leaves town and Violet is left to pick up the pieces. The story continues ten months later, when Violet seeks Graham, largely to ask his forgiveness and to right the wrong she had done by initiating a kiss that had destroyed Graham’s life and forced him to leave.

The Graham she finds is one who unravels her even more than before, and the more time Graham and Violet forcibly spends together, increasingly she comes to the realization that Graham is not as unaffected by Violet as he pretends and would like to be. The battle of wills between the two heightens until of course there is nothing left but to give in, and give in they do, oh so gloriously!

I loved Graham and Violet, because its hard not to fall in love with two characters who are as lost and lonely as they are. But I have to admit that I loved the first half of the book more than the latter. Graham, having grown up with an absentee mother, and a father who had mourned the fact every single day to the point where Graham had never known love or affection. Violet’s childhood had been just as bad. Her mother who had never really wanted her had left its mark, and Violet had learnt to keep herself occupied so that the loneliness would be kept at bay. The very first time Graham wishes Violet a happy birthday was a scene so full of gut punching emotions that it nearly undid me.

The yearning that hits Violet at such a deeply intrinsic level is one that is echoed in Graham, even though he berates himself every single day for the way he feels about someone so young. There is just something about heroes who are larger than life and heroines who are dainty and beautiful, and the way these heroines basically have the hero wrapped around their little finger.

Graham who tenderly cares for his roses, and Violet who sees through to what it actually represents. Graham who sees and understands the wealth of accumulated hurt in Violet, and eases them with every kiss he lays on her with carnal intention or otherwise. Violet, who understands the grouchiness that is at times Graham, but loves him for it regardless because the more grouchy and possessive he is, the harder she loves him all the more. Graham who would have walked away in a heartbeat if it would have ensured her Violet’s happiness at the risk of damning his own soul. That is in essence what Graham and Violet are about, and the beauty that Saffron delivers to readers.

The other thing that struck me the most is the premise upon which the plot of the story is based. Saffron is famous for writing on taboo tropes, undoubtedly. In Dreams of 18, she navigates perhaps one of the trickiest topics of present times, especially when discussions such as #MeToo, pedophilia, and child grooming are hotly debated. The ingenuity in Dreams of 18 lies in the way Saffron skates the very edge and somehow makes it all work and entices the reader to fall in love.

Dreams of 18 may perhaps not be for everyone. And that is fine. But for readers like myself who loves authors who push the conventional norms when it comes to romance, Saffron Kent is like hitting jackpot! I just wish there were more authors like her out there, and that Saffron had an extensive back-list of books I could gorge on until the date of her next publication.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Dreams of 18 is an overload of emotions and sensations tied up in a neat bow presented to readers. Let the unraveling begin!

Favorite Quotes

“What do you think she wanted me to do to her?” he asks.
With every question that he asks me, the answers become more and more difficult. I should really put a stop to it.
Mostly because it’s none of my business. But also because I don’t wanna talk about her. I don’t wanna talk about what that woman wanted from him and what he wanted from her.
And yet, I can’t help it when my lips part and my answer slips out. “Keep kissing her and never stop.”

“What if I bring my hand forward, slide it down her stomach? Would she like that?”
My eyes go down to his hands. They’re clenched into fists by his sides, mimicking my own.
His stance is wide, and his body sprung tight, completely in conflict with his low, lazy, almost sleepy voice. And I realize that maybe this is how he looks when he’s aroused.
Oh Jesus, is he aroused? Did she get him going that much?
It makes me wanna sob.
Instead, I whisper, “Yeah. Yeah, she’d like that. Very much.”

But before I go, before I become a puddle on his couch, I ask, “Are you saying that I’m… visible?”
“No, Violet, I’m not saying that you’re visible. I’m saying that you’re the only thing that a man sees. I’m saying that you’re a thing that drives a man to distraction. You make him forget what’s right and what’s wrong. You’re a thing so terrible and beautiful and fucking breathtaking that he can’t escape you. He can’t think of anything else, not about his job, his responsibilities, his promises, his family, nothing but you. You undo him. You make him helpless. You turn him into an animal who wants to rut. You’re a girl who makes a man go bad.”

My breaths are louder. Louder than his hand jerking off his cock.
God, he’s jacking off and I don’t know what to do.
How to simply stand here and not go to him.
I’m salivating for it. My mouth is full of saliva and I’m biting my lip and licking it.
I’m gasping and probably rolling my hips in the air and that’s how he knows I’m here.
He catches me perving over him while I’m making noises.
Yikes.
As soon as his eyes hit me, his face goes from flushed to furious in a split second and he whips around, his shaft hard and pointing toward me. “What… What the… What the fuck?”

He goes for my panties.

He hooks his fingers in my waistband and yanks them down. He keeps yanking until they are off and somewhere on the floor where he throws them before coming back to me.
Before coming back and lying down on his stomach, as sprawled as I am on the bed.
My legs are all open now, almost in a split and his shoulders are jammed between them. His face is at my open, bare core that he’s breathing over, fanning my steamy folds with the air within his lungs.
He stares at it, burning my most intimate flesh with his eyes, as his thumbs run in circles at the juncture where my thighs meet my hips.
He stares at it and stares at it, getting lost for a second like he did when he looked at my breasts, and I have to call his name again. “Graham?”
He looks up, then.
“What’s my special kiss?”
Finally, he growls, “This.”
With that, he licks me.

“Graham,” I whimper, my hands going to his chest, my fingers burying in his chest hair.
He lets go of my nipple and moves further up. He kisses my pulse and I bend my neck to the side to give him more access. Then, he’s at my lips. But he doesn’t stop there. He goes up and up and finds my forehead.
Closing my sleepy eyes, I nuzzle my nose at his stubbled throat as I feel him kiss me there, at my sweaty forehead, and whisper, “Happy birthday, baby.”

“You gonna grip me hard, Violet? You’re gonna keep me here, huh?”
To emphasize here, he massages my entire core again and I can feel that I’ve practically drenched my pajamas. I can feel the wetness on my thighs. I can feel him rubbing that wetness back into my pussy and I’m almost there. Almost.
And then, he edges me over with these erotic, filthy words that he rasps just below my ear while he licks me there, rubs his jaw and beard over my soft skin.
“Your mommy should’ve tied you to the bed, Jailbait. Barred your windows. Hidden you from the world. It was only a matter of time before you ended up on the wrong side of a bad man’s cock.”

I dig my nails in his biceps, making him groan and making myself whimper.
But more than that, I make myself move and rock and twist against his length. I’m sliding back and forth on his cock, humping against it when suddenly, my eyes pop wide open.
Because holy shit, he’s inside of me.
Just like that.
He’s just pushed himself in on a groan and a grimace, his eyes still on me but so much foggier now. So much brighter and covered in a sheen that wasn’t there before. Not when I closed my eyes a few seconds ago.
Just that look of his, all panting and drugged, makes me come.

“Do you think I’m bleeding?”
He jerks slightly, his fingers digging into my flesh. Not a lot but enough that I feel the movement ricocheting in my swollen cunt.
“Jesus Christ, virgins,” he mutters to himself like he forgot about the bleeding part, panic laced in those words. To me, he grits out, his eyes concerned, “I hope to fuck that you’re not.”
I wind my arms around his neck and shake my head. “No, no. Don’t hope that.”
“What?”
“I like that. I wanna bleed.” He shudders over me; I feel the muscles of his shoulders quaking. “Because I’m… I’m a woman now. You made me one. I’m all grown up.”
His cock lurches inside me as he curses, and comes down on his elbows, as if he doesn’t wanna be away from me. As if he wants our skin to touch and slip against each other.

A second later, he pops the candy out of my mouth and throws it away before kissing the fuck out of me.
Before fusing our bodies together and slamming his cock into me. Pounding and ramming and beating up my horny channel as he fucks me. Plows into me like a beast.
It’s even more intense than last night. The way he’s riding my pussy.
His strokes are harder and more powerful. More possessive. Like his need for me only increased after he had one taste of me.
Like he wants me even more now. Like he needs me more.

I clench around his cock and his drives become rough and haphazard.
He jerks and twitches, his body slipping over mine with the sweat, the friction we’ve created. And then, he comes too.
He does it still looking at me.
He doesn’t close his eyes. He doesn’t get lost in his climax alone.
He gets lost in it with me.
The girl he can’t love but looks like he does.
The girl who’s thinking, I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
I can’t lose that look. I can’t tell him. I can’t tell him the truth.
I love him.

While his truck is shaking and rocking with us and the windows fog up.
But more than anything, I wanna do this all day and for the rest of my life because I want to make all my secrets with him. Secrets like this one. So dirty and sacred at the same time.
It’s us: him and me. The new us that we’ve created together.
I told him that night when I wore the red dress for him, that I want us to be us, just him and me.
This is us.
Wild and savage and filthy and beautiful. Beauty and The Beast.

“When I saw you, Violet, it felt like someone stabbed me in the chest,” he rasps.
My eyes go wide. “What?”
He chuckles; it’s brittle and thin. “Or at least, it felt like it. I saw you up on the roof, with your thick, gorgeous hair and your arms open wide, something got lodged inside my chest, just under my heart and for the longest time, it felt like a knife of some sort. Something that made me… different. It wasn’t that, though.”
“W-what was it?”
“My soul,” he whispers. “It was my soul waking up. The thing that keeps a man alive, came alive in me when I saw you. You woke up my soul, Violet.”

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Bad Boy Blues by Saffron A. Kent

Format: E-Bookbadboyblues.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Zachariah Benjamin Prince
Heroine: Cleopatra Marie Paige
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 11, 2019
Started On: July 22, 2019
Finished On: July 25, 2019

Mine.
My prize.
She is my prize.
She. Is. My prize.

Bad Boy Blues is another rip-your-panties-off kinda novel from the uber fabulous Saffron A. Kent. An enemies-to-lovers story that delivered all the feels right up till the very end, I am convinced that Saffron is an author who could literally do no wrong when it comes to writing romances that speaks to this wicked heart of mine.

Nineteen year old Cleopatra Marie Paige (Cleo) was born and raised in the “wrong” side of town. The side where folks worked hard and did not have much to show for it. Where everyone had to rely on the other side of town, the one owned by the Princes, for their means of living and employment, that is if you did not leave for greener pastures as soon as you were able to.

Months into her job at the mansion of the Princes, comes back the proverbial son home, Zachariah Benjamin Prince (Zach), the boy who had tormented her all through grade school into high school, until he had abruptly left town. Cleo believes herself to hate Zach with every fiber of her very existence, but at the same time, she cannot help but be drawn towards the man Zach is, the broody mess that is sheer perfection, searing with that sheer heated gaze of his whenever his mocking eyes rest upon her.

Zach tries to keep his distance from the one person he had made it his life’s mission to torment. That had been the only way Zach had known how to deal with all the misery in his own life, with parents who had put their mark on him through emotional abuse and neglect. Uncovering Zach’s life as it had been with his parents was an awakening experience in its entirety, because you never know what drives someone to lash out (not that it excuses their behavior). But for a child who was struggling with his own issues of acceptance and existence from the very two people who should have loved him unconditionally, that right there is the reason my heart wept for the boy Zach had been.

Drawn towards each other despite their misgivings and lack of trust on Zach’s part when it comes to love and being loved, it is the gamble of Cleo’s life when she embarks upon an affair that scorches the very pages of the book, leaving the reader breathless and wanting more. Saffron is an author who has that remarkable way with the words which takes the reader from zero to hundred in a millisecond, and that is one reason why reading her books are like walking a tight rope, all in a good way.

I loved both Cleo and Zach, and rooted for them both all the way through. Cleo had her own issues to deal with, leftover symptoms of losing her family in a way that is bound to leave a mark on anyone. Zach’s issues are more deeply interwoven into his psyche, which means that it is difficult for him to see beyond the surface, fear of rejection being the norm when he had been a child starving for affection and love. Complex is his psyche in every way, which made him a fascinating character. If any woman could do bring Zach out of his inner warring with himself, it would be Cleo, because she had been his, from the very first day they he had laid eyes upon her, and he hers.

Recommended for fans of Saffron A. Kent and readers who love a romance that takes you to that razor’s edge of sharp anticipation; Saffron definitely delivers!

Final Verdict: Bad Boy Blues is another winner from Saffron, an author who pushes all your buttons and gives you every bit of angst and emotion you want to be punched in the gut with!

Favorite Quotes

I thought his thumbs were driving me insane but the scratch of his jeans along my thighs turns every breath into something… erotic.
Before I can dwell on that, Zach grabs my face.
His hands are so large that they span my entire cheek, going up to my messy hair. “So, if I shove your panties aside and stick my finger inside you, I won’t find that tiny little piece of flesh that proves you’re untouched?”
I shudder at the graphic picture he’s painted.
Inside me. His finger.

A moment later, I feel him on my neck. He’s nosing the line of my throat.
I grip his biceps. “A-are you smelling me?”
“Yeah,” he groans.
I flinch and my neck bends sideways. I’m nothing in the face of his aggression right now. The way he’s sniffing my neck, like he’s snorting a line of cocaine. I’m nothing in the face of that need.
Need of a junkie.
“Why?”
“Because you smell nice. Like sugar.”
And sugar is his favorite thing in the world. He’s eating up my scent.
God.

My hips jut off the car but Zach keeps me balanced with his body and his mouth that’s still sucking on my clit while lapping up all the juices from my core. His fingers are still buried in my seam, pressing against my dark hole that won’t stop clenching.
“God…”
I moan and claw at his neck and chant out his name over and over. My entire body clenching and releasing until there’s nothing left.

“You fucked up, Blue,” he growls over my mouth.
“What?” I pant.
“Now, you’re fucked, baby.” His scans my face. He looks like he’s memorizing it. He’s committing me to memory.
“Why?”
His eyes, black and threatening and so beautiful, come up to mine. “Do you have any idea how long, how fucking long I’ve wanted to kiss that mouth?”
I shake my head.
“A thousand years.” He studies my parted, blue-painted lips. “Or at least, it feels like it. I’ve wanted to kiss it ever since you first put on your lipstick in eighth grade.”

“You’re gonna pull down your uniform every time I ask, aren’t you?”
I rock against him again because he read my mind. “Yes.”
Groaning, he gives a long, tight suck before letting go of my breast. “Fuck yeah, you will. You’ll bare your tits for me. Every day. Multiple times a day. Whenever I’m hard up for it. You’ll come to my room and make my bed. And then, I’ll throw you down on it, tear your clothes off, get out your tits and suck on them. You’ll writhe for me, won’t you?”
I nod, almost whimpering.
“You will. I’ll keep sucking on it and sucking on it and you’ll make a mess on the bed. You’ll cream my sheets. You’ll leave a wet spot, yeah?”
“Yes. For you.”

Still panting and sweaty, he lowers me on the bed, half-dressed and indecent. From this angle, the sun glares down at me but Zach blocks it with his big body.
He wraps his hand around my neck and growls, “Who are you?”
Even though I have very little energy left, I still arch my back. As if his voice is a call from my master.
“Your prize.”
His fingers flex around my throat in possession and he bends down to smack a hard kiss on my lips. “As long as I’m here.”

I spasm around his fingers and that makes his shaft jerk inside my mouth. I let his head go and peek out my tongue so he can come on it like I’m coming on his fingers.
The tightness and convulsions of his body match mine. And so do our noises. Probably our heartbeats match too, in this moment.
I drink him down all the while he’s milking me. His taste is just as I imagined it to be. Musky and spicy and him.
So fucking him.
So fucking Zach.

His spine arches, throwing the ridges of his torso into stark relief, as he moans out my name to the ceiling and comes inside of me.
I feel it in my slowly dying heart, that moan, that jerk of his dick.
I sit up and wind my arms around him, bringing us both down on the bed. Groaning, he falls over me.
I’m soothing his back, tracing it with my hands up and down as my channel absorbs his orgasm.
And finally, my body goes limp, listening to his heartbeats.
He’s mine.

I turn my face and tell him, “You can’t torture me like this, you know. You promised.”
“Promised what?”
“That you’ll fuck me like I’m your slut.”
Zach grabs my tits in both hands and squeezes them so hard that the moan that comes out of me is the loudest yet. “Yeah? You want everyone else to think you’re my slut too? Because if I fuck you like that, Blue, you’ll be screaming the roofs down. Your Mrs. S won’t be the only person to know what you do for me. How you serve me.”
Why does that arouse me so much?
Why do I want him to make me scream when I know the consequences?

I scratch his shoulders, his back, his biceps, whatever I can get to as I rock against him, fucking him with all these emotions in my heart.
I realize what I feel for him is too intense, too passionate, too heartbreaking and sad to be called love.
Maybe it’s a tragedy.
Or maybe it’s the blues.
I’ve got the blues and that’s why I can’t stop crying.

Zach sweeps his gaze all over my face before shaking his head once and entering my wet channel.
It’s a slow, sweaty fuck.
Actually, it’s not a fuck at all. It’s love.
We’re making love.
Slowly, gently, thoroughly.
He’s rocking into me like a soft wave and with every stroke, I’m drowning.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Bookthehighlander.PNG
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Victorian Rebels, #3
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Hero: Lt. Col. William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie
Heroine: Philomena St. Vincent
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: August 02, 2016
Started On: August 17, 2019
Finished On: August 20, 2019

The Highlander, the 3rd book in the Victorian Rebels series turned out to be my first sampling of Kerrigan Byrne’s stories. Discovering a new author that speaks to you on so many levels is rare and so very treasured, and I intend to go through the back-list of her books in its entirety to sample each and every one of her published works over time.

The hero, 40 year old William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie (Liam), comes from a place of violence. The fact that his childhood had been a difficult one would be an understatement. With an abusive father who had cared naught for the physical and emotional well-being of his children, legal and otherwise, Liam had been the big brother who had taken most of the physical brunt to protect his younger siblings. But that had not been enough to prevent them from witnessing the horrors of a childhood better left in the darker fringes of one’s memories.

The main story begins 20 years later, with the opening chapter focusing on the heroine, Lady Philomena St. Vincent (Mena), Viscountess Benchley, who has been institutionalized by none other than her husband and his family. Mena who grew up with a father who thought the world of his daughter and brought her up to be an intellectual, kind and generous soul, the horrors of her marriage that are revealed in stages to the reader is something that is as old as time itself.

The mental asylum, which was a norm in the past for husbands to commit their wives to just to get rid of them, is the mother load of horrors. Tortured in ways that really leaves a mark on the reader, some may find those particular scenes to be too disturbing for them to continue with the story. However, that particular aspect of the book does not set the tone for the rest of the book as the author brings to readers the stunning and vivid portrayal of a love that was so worth delving into.

When Mena is rescued and her well meaning and newfound friends sends her away to Scotland to evade the clutches of her husband, it is to the keep of Liam she is sent, where the very first moment she lays eyes on the strong, deeply masculine, and beautiful man that he is, something long forgotten stirs to life inside of her. Liam too is shaken by the very physical and visceral reaction he has towards Mena from the onset, but even though both of them might think to avoid each other hoping that the yearning for the other is a fluke on their part, things of course do not work out that way.

Liam’s haunted eyes that bespeaks of horrors and regrets of his life draws Mena to him like a moth to flame. Mena’s gentle strength and wit that had remained unbroken by the violence she had experienced in her adult life speaks to Liam on a level that he cannot comprehend. However, old enemies stirring in the darkness, tempting and beseeching to turn on Liam might prove to be the undoing of what blossoms to life between him and Mena, if her husband’s search for her does not bear fruit first.

I enjoyed my very first novel by the Kerrigan Byrne. Mena was glorious. Beautiful, kind, and soft, with just the right touch of authority to her which made her appealing on so many levels. I rooted for her with every fiber of my being, wanted the best for her because she deserved nothing less.

Liam’s soul is a broken one, even though he does not let it on. Betrayed and widowed, there is a wealth of unspoken pain in his heart. His inability to get through to his own children is a source of continued frustration for him, that is until Mena comes into his life and shows him what that entails. Drawn to each other by the kind of tangible connection that leaves the reader breathless, Byrne does a marvelous job of crafting both characters and bringing them to life.

The sexual tension that is interwoven into the very fabric of the story was just as enticing, and Byrne definitely delivers without leaving the reader hanging. Absolutely loved this gem of a novel and would recommend it for readers who love historical romances with characters that speaks to you. These are two very broken characters who meet and find their way to a happily ever after. Don’t let the barbarity depicted in the first couple of chapters deter you from reading. I believe we have to take the bad with the good to achieve a balanced nuance in order to deliver a story worth sinking into.

The epilogue was super cute and healing in so many ways. Perhaps, Byrne may write a novella depicting two secondary characters who definitely deserve their story to be told somewhere down the line. A reader could always hope!

Final Verdict: There is a rawness to Byrne’s story that speaks to me. A ruthlessness to her heroes that does things to this wanton heart of mine. The Highlander is marvelous in every sense.

Favorite Quotes

Then she saw him.
Her mouth became dry as the desert, and a tremor that had nothing to do with the cold rippled through her.
Though he wore a soiled kilt and loose linen shirt beneath his drenched cloak, he sat astride a black Shire steed with the bearing of a king. Dark waves of hair hung long and heavy with moisture down his back, and menace rolled off the mountains of his shoulders in palpable waves.
Whoever he was, he was their undeniable leader. She saw it in the way they looked to him, in the deference they used when speaking. If not by birth, then by physical laws of nature, surely. As the largest, the strongest, and the most fearsome of them all, he towered above the brawny men as he scowled through the window at her.

“Och, lass.” Liam beat her to it. “These roses are a jealous flower.” Cupping her hand with his, he pressed a thumb into her palm to secure it before plucking the thorn out quickly, to cause her the least amount of distress.
A tiny drop of blood welled from her fingertip.
Liam had no other handkerchief to offer her, and didn’t want to use the one on the ground, so he did the only other thing he could think of, and slid her finger into his mouth. Closing his lips around the insignificant wound, he watched her reaction with rare pleasure.
She froze, her eyes growing round as two glowing moons.
His body’s reaction was just as astonishing, and just as instantaneous.

Liam sprang toward her, grasping her wrists and pulling her back down to him. He sank his fingers into her luxurious hair, loosening the intricate coiffure there, and pinned her head between his two strong palms as he took her wicked mouth with his own.
It was in the joining of their lips that Liam found what he’d come to the chapel seeking. He kissed Mena with a reverence he’d never felt in the entirety of his life. Driven by a hunger that welled from the darkest, most heretical depths of his soul, he knew he’d finally found something worthy of his worship.

He swallowed her shocked gasp and plundered her with his tongue as though she were a lifelong conquest. Digging his fingers into her ribs to keep from taking what she did not offer him, he deepened the kiss, using his tongue to convey what he could not find the words to say.
She wasn’t the only one who was afraid. Liam was terrified.
Of losing her.
Of loving her.
And at this moment, he was in mortal danger of both.

“Kiss me, Mena,” he moaned against her mouth, his hot, sweet breath fanning over the moisture on her lips. “Touch me. Teach me to keep the demon at bay.”
She could only see the whites of his eyes in the dim light, circling the obsidian of his pupil and iris in such a way that truly seemed demonic.
With trembling fingers, she reached up to softly test the shape of his masculine jaw. Bristle scraped against her fingertips as they explored the raw, hard features that she’d always wanted to study, but didn’t even allow herself to look at for too long, lest she be lost.

Then his hand was there, clever fingers slipping into the wet cleft and touching a place no one had ever before paid attention to. He somehow ignited frenzy into her blood with infuriatingly slow strokes. A curious heat unfolded in her core and quickly caught into a blaze of sensation.
Mena writhed helplessly against him, riding his strong thigh as more heat created more friction, which in turn built the flames even higher. What sort of pagan magic was this? How could hands so rough and raw create such smooth, silken sensations against her most tender skin?

“I can’t,” she cried, feeling her knees melt.
His lips left her with a wet, wicked sound. “Ye will,” he breathed against her most intimate flesh.
“I’m going to fall,” she warned weakly, her hips undulating toward his mouth with mortifying wantonness.
“Fall apart in my arms, lass,” he soothed, his hands caressing around to fill his palms with the flesh of her backside, making a cradle of her hips. “I’ll not let ye go.”

“Can ye take more of me?” he panted.
Mena’s eyes flew open. How could there possibly be more? He withdrew yet again, gazing down at her with dilated eyes as he surged forward. He touched a place inside her she’d not known existed, and Mena tossed her head from one side to the other, letting out a high cry of ecstasy.
“Yes,” he whispered fervently. “I knew ye would take all of me, Mena.” He drove forward again. And again.

When another climax blinded her with pure bliss, she locked her legs around his pistoning hips, pulling him impossibly deeper. Shivering pleasure assaulted her in wave after unrelenting wave.
He roared her name to the sky as her pulsing body gripped and stroked at the swelling length of him. Hot spurts of his release spilled inside her. His great body locked with spasms as he crushed her to him and joined her in that place where right and wrong no longer mattered.

Then they said nothing at all when he pulled her above him and split her legs over his lean, sinuous hips. They’d communicated only in gasps and sighs as she’d ridden him with sensual rolls of her body. He’d palmed her breasts in his warm hands and said wicked things in his people’s native tongue while she pleasured herself upon his sleek and magnificent body. Then, when he could stand it no more, he’d dug his strong fingers into the flesh of her hips and driven upward until he’d bowed with such shocking pleasure, Mena had thought his back would break.

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