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 Duke by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Booktheduke
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Victorian Rebels, #4
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Hero: Collin Talmage
Heroine: Imogen Pritchard
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: February 07, 2017
Started On: November 11, 2019
Finished On: November 25, 2019

The Duke is the 4th book in the Victorian Rebels series by Kerrigan Byrne, telling the story of Collin Talmage (Cole), Duke of Trenwyth, who is the English Empire’s golden son until fate decides otherwise and takes everything that he holds dear to him. When Imogen Pritchard who works at the Bare Kitten, paying off debts incurred by her deadbeat father meets Cole for the first time, she is spellbound by the beautiful male specimen that he is, and the haunted look in his spellbinding eyes.

That fateful night turns out to be when Imogen loses her virginity to a man whose tender and fierce loving makes her glad that it was him. When dawn comes and they part, even though Imogen might long for a fairy tale ending, her pragmatic self knows that any future between her and the Duke is near impossible, given the vast differences in their societal hierarchy.

A year passes on and when the Duke returns, a mere shell of the man he was, that is when fate decides that even this time around, Imogen and Cole are not meant to be. Two years later, Imogen is a widow, living next door to the Cole, who for some reason cannot stand the sight of the woman whom he believes to be a gold digger, who got the best out of one of his dearest friends.

Circumstances bring these two together again, without Cole being aware of the fact that Imogen is in fact the woman he has been searching for in vain the past two years. Sparks fly as these two battle out their attraction and frustration with one another, which was enjoyable. In the midst of it all, a killer lurks, biding time until the victim that the killer has been after all along can be finally claimed.

I did not end up liking The Duke as much as I thought I would. The beginning was everything I could have hoped for, but towards the middle of the story, there seemed to emerge a deep disconnect between Collin and Imogen which led to my dissatisfaction. Kerrigan took an unusual route to their happily ever after, which was good because it managed to surprise me.

I also felt a bit weirded out by the fact that Imogen’s mother and sister who are very much alive and living with her, never emerged in the story. I believe that also prevented me as a reader from envisioning a more wholesome character for Imogen.

Cole was classic Kerrigan in so many ways. With the mere description of his thigh alone, Kerrigan had me all but salivating over Cole. And Lord, can the man kiss? Sigh! But I believe I would have loved it more had his past being more a tangible part of the story. I would have liked it more had there been more details about his family, the war, his trauma etc. being part of the story, which I believe would have made up for the time during which they were both separated.

An epilogue would also have gone a long way towards making the story more wholesome. I felt that the serial killer angle in the story culminated rather hastily towards the end, which detracted from the enjoyment factor.

However, even with all that did not work for me in the story I still enjoyed The Duke, and Kerrigan is an author I intend to pursue and read because she writes heroes unlike any other and equally strong heroines who revel in the darkness that is such a huge part of the man that they love and adore.

Recommended for fans of the Victorian Rebels series.

Final Verdict: The Duke aka Cole makes you quiver in all the right places. Exploring a serial killer villain in the midst, The Duke was fascinating for the most part!

Favorite Quotes

“Those closest to me call me Cole,” he informed her mouth.
“But … I am not close to you.”
Tightening his arm around her once more, he grasped her hip with his other hand, and pulled her up his startlingly long and muscled thigh with a slow, languid move, until she straddled him as high as his leg would allow. Even through her skirts and petticoats, the movement created an unfamiliar friction against her sex that elicited an alarming but not unpleasant pressure. He didn’t stop until the curve of her bottom settled against his lap. She was aware of a surprisingly insistent cylindrical shape pressed against her. She’d worked at the Bare Kitten long enough to know exactly what it was.
“Far be it from me to contradict a lady, but I beg to differ. You and I are very close, indeed.”

When Trenwyth adjusted his position, his leg rubbed against her so intimately, a stab of sensation caused her to gasp and clench her feminine muscles.
His thigh instantly tensed beneath her and, for a moment, Imogen was terrified that she’d offended him.
Until he did it again.
She had to reach out a hand to the table to steady herself against an assault of wicked pleasure.
His sex hardened against her backside once more, and he leaned up to gather her close. “I have a distinct feeling that you’re quick tinder to set ablaze, aren’t you?” His words slurred a little, but his movements were steady as one hand drifted down her waist and the other up her thigh, angling to meet in the middle.

Imogen thought she’d been kissed before, but she’d been utterly mistaken. His siege of her mouth went on and on until she lost her breath and didn’t care. Her thoughts scattered like a flock of panicked birds chased out of their roost. Even inebriated, his skill with his mouth pushed her beyond her wits. He tasted of Scotch and sin, and Imogen wondered if intoxication was as contagious as a fever, because she felt quite funny.
Just when she thought there was no other place for him to lick, he would begin to suck and nip. To sample and savor. First her bottom lip, then the top before gently capturing her tongue. She thought she’d go mad from the busy sensations.

“Cole?” she whimpered, clutching at him, almost afraid of whatever it was that locked every muscle from her sternum down into uncontrolled pulses.
“Yes,” he growled into her mouth. “Fucking come for me. That’s it.”
The gathering storm broke upon her with scream-provoking intensity. Tears sprang to her eyes as she curled around him, her thighs clenching his as though she rode a powerful steed rather than wave after wave of unimaginable pleasure. Convinced there was magic in his hands, she opened her mouth to tell him so, but all that escaped her was a low cry. Or maybe nothing. She couldn’t tell. Or remember. Or care.

In one graceful move he lifted her, rotated them both, and tossed her onto her back. His body was so big on top of her, pressing her legs almost uncomfortably wide. She wanted to tell him to wait, to give her a moment, but he distracted her with another deep, long kiss.
He released unintelligible words into her mouth, and Imogen knew them to be harsh and filthy. His eyes had glazed over completely now, as though his wits had deserted him, leaving her with nothing but this beast of lust and need.
He lifted himself, arched his neck, and on a smooth, brutal thrust, he was inside her, ripping through the feeble barrier of her virginity as though it didn’t exist, and separating muscles unused to intrusion. The sound he made was more roar than growl, and drowned out her whimper of protestation.

His head dipped low, his body curled around her. So small. So slight. And yet so warm.
Her tremulous breath brushed at his face, her features frozen. Paralyzed. Though her small, pink tongue slipped over her lower lip, leaving a delicious gleam of moisture there.
Fuck, suddenly he wanted to—
Surging up to her toes, she slammed her lips against his with such force their teeth almost clattered together.

He licked at the seam of her mouth, more of a warning than an inquiry, before he claimed it with his tongue. In truth, he half expected her to bite him.
But she didn’t.
The moment a dark groan manifested in his throat, she came alive in his arms, clinging to his shoulders for stability.

Imogen clung to him as he, quite literally, kissed the wits right out of her.
His every muscle was drawn drum-tight as he rhythmically surged against her in harmony to the plunge and retraction of his tongue. He made a sound so foreign to her; Imogen could only identify it as a violent sort of appreciation.
Her throat produced a husky answer that seemed to both thrill and comfort him.

He murmured urgent things against her mouth, low, animal praise that was admittedly harsh and vulgar against the softness of her lips.
But his hand. His hand remained gentle as he spread the plump petals concealing her sex and saturated his finger in the desire he found there.
Their combined exhale was a desperate, throaty invocation. Cole bent farther over her, hungrily latching to the throat she exposed as her head rolled back on her shoulders when his fingers slipped and stroked around the soft folds of her core.

He hit his knees behind her, his left arm stealing around her middle to pull her in, bringing her bare bottom to fit neatly against the front of him. A hot, hard length pressed against the cleft of her ass, impeded only by the thin cloth of his trousers. His grip was iron against her middle; his breath volcanic against the back of her neck.
Then he bit her.
Imogen opened her mouth to cry out, but he’d already begun to lick and lave at the shoulder he’d marked, and her sound of pain escaped as a husky sigh of submission.
It was all he needed to hear.

“Wait—” Her voice sounded too thin. Too low. Too husky to be her own.
“Don’t stop me,” he commanded, though a ribbon of desperation threaded through the order.
So she didn’t.
And he didn’t.
He drove inside her with rough power and searing heat. It was like he penetrated her with lightning, striking at her with his hips and injecting an indefinable current that locked every muscle into futile spasms of blistering pleasure.

Suddenly he was there. Her covers were gone and he replaced them, clutching her to him as he took her offered mouth with ferocious gentility. Clinging to him, she relished the heat building inside of her, answering the scorching flames he licked into her mouth with a demanding tongue. She tasted love on him, love and fear and earnest need.
Desire fanned through her, at once tensing and releasing her muscles. She turned into a puddle beneath him, her legs falling open, her body making way for his weight.
“Good sweet God,” he groaned. “I’m going to taste you everywhere.”

“Cole,” she begged, desperately grasping for his hair. “Please.”
Another pleased groan caused her feminine muscles to clench against the sensual promise in the sound, and she surged against his mouth. He latched on to her then, his clever tongue flicking and laving, creating sensations of overwhelming delight.
She cried hoarse relief to the canopy as wave after wave of crippling ecstasy crashed over her. Her breath came in sobs and inarticulate words. It felt like bliss flowed from his tongue into her body, bowing it with paralyzing spasms until the fingers she’d used to hold him to her now clutched at him to pull away before she expired from ecstasy.

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

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Review: His Every Kiss by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Bookhiseverykiss
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Guilty, #2
Publisher: HarperCollins
Hero: Dylan Moore
Heroine: Grace Anne Lawrence
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 28, 2004
Started On: November 03, 2019
Finished On: November 09, 2019

His Every Kiss by Laura Lee Guhrke is the 2nd book in the Guilty series. First published in 2004, His Every Kiss tells the story of renowned musician and composer Dylan Moore, who struggles to make music ever since a terrible incident leaves him bereft of his ability to compose, battling insomnia and all other ugliness that becomes part and parcel of life for him from that point on wards.

When Grace Anne Lawrence comes across Dylan at a point in his life when he is feeling his lowest, it is because of Grace that Dylan steps back from the precipice that he had been ready to fling himself off of. Because for the first time in months, in the presence of Grace, Dylan is able to focus on the music that is such an integral part of himself, which he had lost.

When Grace disappears leaving him behind, the story continues five years on. Dylan whose search had not found where Grace had disappeared to, at times believes that she had been a figment of her imagination when he had been at his lowest. When Dylan runs into Grace again, he is determined that this time around, he would hold onto her even if it means working hard to gain that right to be with her.

Grace is wary of Dylan for many reasons, one of them being the fact that she is a woman once burnt and twice shy. There is nothing more that Grace wants than to return home, a home she knows would no longer welcome her because of the shame she had brought unto her family when she left them in pursuit of her passions. Grace is done with men who are creative, who needs her as a muse, who sees her only as a means to an end. In Dylan, that is all Grace sees and nothing more.

Dylan, without being privy to any of what makes Grace so reluctant to give into him, pursues her with a dogged determination that Grace sidesteps with every intention of rejecting his every offer. That is until Dylan comes face to face with the result of one of his many dalliances in the past in the form of Isabel, his daughter.

Grace gives in and comes into Dylan’s life in as Isabel’s governess, and amidst all of it, Dylan is relentless in his need to possess the woman who calms his mind and soul to a point that he is finally at peace from what hounds him day and night. However, it would take more than Dylan’s considerable charms and wit to convince Grace to give in and love him for the rest of both their lives.

His Every Kiss, I must be honest, kind of fell short of my expectations. The beginning of the story hinted at something that could have delivered a richly nuanced story, exploring an illness that affects so many people across the globe. An illness that particularly has no cure and has driven many to a point of madness, the only avenue left being adjusting to a sickness that one would in all probability have to suffer through for the rest of their lives.

I loved Dylan as a character, and felt terribly sympathetic towards him because I could empathize with what he was going through. Grace has a backstory that kind of broke my heart at certain points, but the aloofness with which she treats Dylan for the most part of the story never really won any brownie points for her with me. I wished she had been more welcoming, more understanding, and more emotionally connected to Dylan which would have made their union more believable towards the end.

The one character that annoyed me endlessly was Isabel. I don’t think I have come across a more tiresome child in a novel, who at times made me want to clench my jaw, and hard. I really wanted to love Dylan and Grace’s story, but alas, I must say that there was something integral missing between the two of them for their connection to be believable and tangible for me as a reader.

Recommended for fans of Laura Lee Guhrke.

Final Verdict: With every kiss he lays on Grace, Dylan speaks of a need that goes beyond words. If not for the lack of emotional connection between them, His Every Kiss could have been a marvelous read!

Favorite Quotes

He bent his head, and before she could think, she was parting her lips to take his kiss. A lush, open-mouthed kiss it was, one that sent shimmers of pleasure through her entire body, pleasure so startling she cried out against his mouth.
He caressed her tongue with his own, deepening the kiss. As if her body had a will of its own, Grace gripped the edges of his cloak in her fists, rose on her toes, and met his kiss with the shameful eagerness of a strumpet. So long since she had felt this way. So long since she’d felt this craving for a man’s kiss, his touch, his body. She felt so keenly alive at this moment.

She was wet, and so soft. He pulled back and she arched toward his hand, wanting more and ready to receive it. He bit his lip, feeling the painful bruise of his teeth as he fought to keep himself in check just a bit longer.
“This is what you want, isn’t it?” He dipped into her and out again, stroking the folds of her opening, spreading moisture with the mere flex of his hand.
“Yes,” she gasped, frantic, her face buried against his shoulder, her panting breaths hot on his skin. “Yes, yes. Oh, yes. Ohhh.”
Her hips jerked, and she climaxed with a long, low moan of feminine ecstacy, her thighs clenching around his hand again and again as she said his name.

His hands tightened their grip and he pulled, impaling her on his shaft. Driving out the ghost of the man she had known before. Mine , he claimed her. Mine .
Arms and legs wrapped around him, she followed his rhythm, crying out at her peak, tightening around him again and again as he held her buttocks in his hands and thrust deep within her, all his own passion finally unleashed in a rough, frantic cadence.

“Your hair, Grace,” he said, his gaze lowered to the muslin ribbon that held her braid together. “Let me see it loose.”
She was melting beneath that dark, heated gaze. Her fingers fumbled with the end of her braid, where the ribbon lay against her bare breast. She untied the strip of muslin and began to unravel the plait of hair.
Dylan moved to stretch out and lowered his weight onto his elbows as he watched her fan her hair out loose around her shoulders.
“That,” he said unsteadily, “is a sight I’ve dreamed about a hundred times. God, I wish it was daylight, and I could see all the colors in your hair. Come here.”

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

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Review: Her Best Friend’s Baby by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Format: E-Bookherbestfriendsbaby
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Maitland Maternity, #9
Publisher: Silhouette
Hero: Morgan Tate
Heroine: Mary Jane Potter
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 23, 2001
Started On: October 21, 2019
Finished On: October 26, 2019

Her Best Friend’s Baby by Vicki Lewis Thompson is a novel that explores the concept of surrogacy, friendships, and crossing lines, which makes this for an emotional read. 22 year old Mary Jane Potter is carrying her best friend Arielle’s baby, the woman who had been a big sister, mother substitute, and her closest friend in the entire world.

When 31 year old Morgan Tate, husband to Arielle arrives on her doorstep late one night and gives her the devastating news of her best friend’s passing, that is the night when lines are crossed bringing these two together. Highly emotional and in need of human warmth and touch at such a time of deep grief, Morgan and Mary give into physical desire, complicating their relationship from then on.

While Morgan is adamant that a repeat of what happened that night is not possible, however as Morgan and Mary spends more time together and discover aspects of each other’s character they are both drawn to, the tug of attraction between them strengthens to a point where it is impossible to ignore. However, both of them do try valiantly for strength for as long as they can, until of course they give in.

It is not easy to accept that you have fallen hard for the husband of your best friend, a woman that you had put on a pedestal for the whole of your life. Morgan’s behavior is impeccable, the strength to his character and discipline evident for all to see, when he tries to do the right thing even at the cost of his own happiness.

There were many things that I loved about the book. Primarily Morgan who was such a sweetheart in every single way that counts. Not to mention Mary Jane, who infuses the story with a vitality that tugs at your very heartstrings. Vicki Lewis Thompson’s take on the concept of surrogacy and identifying the toll it could take on the surrogate mother was superbly done. Especially when it comes to someone like Mary Jane who would make a wonderful mother in her own right.

One thing that drew me to Mary Jane was her total and unabashed honesty which helped Morgan to move forward and accept things as they turned out to be. The fact that both Morgan and Mary Jane acted like mature adults rather than going the road of miscommunication with each other and creating needless problems between them as a result was welcome. Morgan being pulled from an otherwise lackluster life was one of the best bits about the story and the sexual tension and delivery on that front was done just right, totally deserving of what was blossoming to life between him and Mary Jane.

At first, I thought that the story line would not work because Mary Jane and Morgan get together too soon in the story. I was proven wrong because that was an elementally human response to the sudden loss of someone whom they had both loved and held dear in their own way. There was no ickiness factor because of what happened, and for that alone, I would say Vicki is a genius in writing about complex human emotions.

Recommended for fans of Silhouette romances and those who love stories that brim with hope in the best way possible.

Final Verdict: A story that brims with love, heart, and all the good stuff in between. Vicki Lewis Thompson definitely knows how to deliver a deeply and emotionally satisfying story.

Favorite Quotes

“I’m not trying to make you feel better, damn it.” He could tell from her expression she didn’t believe him, and that’s when he finally lost it and kissed her.
Oh, God. She tasted like…the richest hot fudge sundae he’d ever had. He sort of went crazy—kissing her, and kissing her, and kissing her some more. He was afraid he also used his tongue quite liberally as he continued to enjoy her full, sexy, incredibly sweet mouth. His hands found their way to her bottom and pulled her in tight, and boy, oh, boy, did she fit.
She filled his arms in a way they’d never been filled before. He’d never held such energy, such excitement, such heat.

There’s nothing logical about the way I’m feeling right now.”
“Exactly.”
With a groan he pulled her into his arms. And heaven help her, she let him do it. Worse, she dug her fingers into his hair and coaxed his head down. She wasn’t going to be able to blame any of this insanity on him.
“I’m wild about caramel, too,” he murmured. Then he settled in to prove it.
During their first kiss in her kitchen she’d felt as if someone had pulled the pin on a grenade. This time it was as if someone had detonated a bomb.

He lifted his head. “We should go into your—”
“Stairs are nice.” She finished with his shirt and started on his belt buckle.
“But you need—”
“You.” She unzipped his jeans.
“A bed.”
“Later.” In an inspired move she slipped her hands inside the waistband of his briefs and slid to a sitting position, pulling his jeans and briefs down as she went. The maneuver gave her perfect placement.
“Mary Jane.”
She wrapped both hands around his solid penis. No wonder he’d felt so wonderful deep inside her that first night. She caressed him lovingly, and then she leaned over to kiss the straining tip.

Suspended halfway between sleep and wakefulness, drifting in a sensual haze, she closed her eyes. Lying on the bed limp and relaxed as a rag doll, she allowed Morgan to do as he would with her. He seemed to know exactly what to do with her, and he apparently required no participation from her to achieve his ends. He might even think she was still asleep and her body was automatically responding to his touch.
What a wild sensation, to be coaxed and kissed awake in every sense of the word. He cupped her belly with both hands, caressing her lightly as he continued his assault right where it counted the most. She was in heaven.

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

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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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Requested ARC Review: The Music of Love by S.M. LaViolette

Format: E-Bookthemusicoflove.JPG
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Academy of Love, #1
Publisher: Crooked Sixpence Press
Hero: Portia Stefani
Heroine: Eustace Harrington
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: December 31, 2019
Started On: December 20, 2019
Finished On: December 23, 2019

“Never hide your sensual nature. Passion is something to be proud of, even though men try to shame women for taking pleasure from their bodies.” – Benedict Carruthers

The Music of Love by S.M. LaViolette aka Minerva Spencer is set to hit the book stands on the 31st of this month. The debut to an all brand new series, The Academy of Love, this title is a bit different in prose and style in comparison to The Outcasts series which I have adored and enjoyed for the most part.

29 year old Portia Stefani, having found out that her husband had been in a bigamous relationship with her, finds herself in dire straits, with nowhere to turn to, except to deceive her way into ensuring employment with Eustace Harrington, who had wanted to employ her “husband’s” music teaching services.

35 year old Eustace (Stacy), suffers from albinism, and lives in isolation for the most part of his days. Having made peace with the fact that he would remain so for the rest of his life, it is something of a surprise when instead of Ivo who he had been expecting, his wife turns up in his stead. Hiring Portia, who is willful, passionate, and obstinate for a grace period, Stacy knows that the way he reacts to her physically could be problematic down the line.

Contrary to what Stacy has experienced when it comes to most who view his condition, Portia sees beyond that to a man who is gentle, kind, firm, and responsible, a man worthy of someone’s love, passion, and loyalty. Portia sees the aristocratic beauty to him, the sensuality that is one with his physique. Though Portia believes herself to be cynical enough not to succumb, she finds herself doing just that, as the passion between them bursts forth in all its glorious abandon.

However, there are forces at play in both Stacy and Portia’s life, who could prove to be detrimental to the happiness that seems to be within reach and elusive at the same time, as Stacy and Portia navigate the often treacherous waters surrounding their lives.

I loved The Music of Love because it was so different in many ways. For one thing, Portia was a heroine who was refreshing on many levels because she was no innocent to the pleasures of the flesh. She is a woman who knows what she wants, and is not afraid of seeking that pleasure with her partner. Even though her “husband” had tried to fault her for it, tried to make her feel ashamed, there is a reservoir of fire inside of her that refuses to be put out.

Stacy was a marvelous character in his own right. He has very few prejudices (if he has any), and he doesn’t find fault with a woman who seeks to attain pleasure that is rightfully hers in a consensual relationship between two adults. Though he of course feels the twinges of jealousy and possessiveness, raw feelings of the kind he thought he would never feel, there is a tenderness and ferocity to his passion for Portia that was beautiful in many ways.

I loved the passion in the story. There is so much fire between Stacy and Portia that it is hard to remain unaffected. I believe Minerva has more than made up for the lack of heat I found in Scandalous, the 3rd book in The Outcasts series, which I found a trifle bit disappointing in that regard. When an author introduces characters who are fiery and passionate, even if they tamp down their desires in the face of societal norms, there is no point to a relationship, if the character is unable to be true to their nature with their significant other when the story comes to pass.

I fell in love with Stacy from the moment I met him in the story. Contrary to many male lead characters who live in isolation owing to various ailments that society had refused to consider as part of them, perhaps Stacy’s temperament and attitude towards life was what it is, largely owing to how he had been brought up, without having to face the ugly realities that could have easily being his life, if not for a certain member of his family.

The culmination of the events that leads up to the ending had twists and turns that I didn’t see coming; which happens rarely when you read so many books of the nature. For that alone, I enjoyed the marvelous escape this novel provided, and am eagerly looking forward to the second installment of the series, of which the excerpt is included towards the end of the book. There would probably be seven installments in the series, the secondary characters whom (some of them) made an appearance in the story throughout.

Recommended for those who love historical romances with a bit of intrigue and a hero who by his very nature makes you fall hopelessly in love.

Final Verdict: The Music of Love combines tempestuous passion and zeal of two characters who are compassionate, intense, and wilful. The forces combined are unstoppable and makes one fall, and fall hard.

Favorite Quotes

When he pulled out she made an unspeakably erotic sound deep in her throat, grabbed a handful of his hair, and yanked his head up.
Her eyes bored into his, black with need. “Fuck me, Stacy.”
His jaw dropped. Had she really said what he thought she said?
“Now,” she growled.
Stacy obeyed without thinking and slammed into her hard.
“Yes.” The word was a satisfied hiss and her eyelids fluttered closed.
He used her with such unrestrained savagery that some part of him worried he was bruising her. But she met him thrust for violent thrust, her body as hungry as his own. Her climax built quickly and he redoubled his efforts, his hips pounding into her faster, deeper.

She was waiting for him and her hands went around his neck even as his slid around her body. He crushed her mouth under his. The kiss was the physical equivalent of the music she’d just played: fierce, unbridled, and mad. He couldn’t get deep enough inside her, couldn’t get enough of her mouth, her taste, her heat. It felt like years since that glorious night in the stables.
She made a gravelly noise in her throat and her fingers threaded into his hair and tugged painfully as her mouth moved from his lips down his face. She bit him on the chin, hard.
Stacy heard himself utter the words he swore he’d not speak. “I want you. Now.”

“My God,” he whispered, and then slid his free hand between her legs and found what he wanted. “Tell me how I should fuck you,” he ordered, thumbing her stiff, sensitive bud. “I want to hear you say it.”
Her body shuddered at the vulgar word and Stacy guided his shaft between her spread thighs and pushed the slick crown against her tight opening, but not enough to breech her. “Tell me,” he said harshly, ceasing his suggestive stroking.
She canted her hips even more and shoved back against him. “Hard, Stacy. Fuck me hard.”

“You’re a god,” she said, her voice low and harsh with want.
His jaw tightened and his thick shaft jerked, the slit in the fat, smooth crown leaking freely. Portia smiled at the delicious evidence of his desire; he was so close to spending. It would take only a few touches from her—
“You are a devil.”
His words pulled her eyes from his erection. He wrapped one large hand around her throat and held her gently but firmly pinned to the bed. The dominating gesture was unspeakably erotic and she spread wider for him. His red eyes became twin black pools as he dragged his free hand down her chest, between her breasts, leaving her eager nipples untouched. He had a clear destination and didn’t linger until he reached the dark tangle between her legs. He parted her swollen lips and thrust a finger inside. She arched against the sudden invasion, desperate for more.

Portia gloried in her ability to undo him; working him until he had nothing left to give. Only then did she pull back and release him, doubling over and gasping for breath, her lungs on fire. It took several moments before she could look up at him.
He stared down at her with a dazed expression, his lips parted and his chest rising and falling as if he’d been running. He shook his head and then took her arms and lifted her to her feet.
“Portia.”
She turned, refusing to look at him.
She hated him.
She loved him.

Portia stopped as suddenly as she’d started, leaving him hard and wanting. He opened his eyes a crack. She’d hiked her skirt and petticoat and tucked them into the front of her bodice before clambering onto the bed and straddling him. She stared at him as she guided him to her entrance, lowering herself onto him with a violence that robbed his lungs of air. Daylight streamed through the windows and it was brighter than any room they’d ever made love in. Stacy could not keep his eyes from consuming her.
Her lips parted as she rode him. “Tell me what you want, Mr. Harrington.”

“Come closer.”
She pushed herself closer, the motions awkward, like a crab forced to walk forward.
“Closer.” The single guttural word made her shudder and Portia scooted until she was close enough to feel the heat of his uneven breathing on the sensitive skin of her thighs. He lifted wet hands and parted her lips, his touch warm and feather-light. When he looked up the red was no more than a ring around swollen black pupils. He slid low in the water before leaning into her, his eyes holding hers while the very tip of his tongue found her peak.

In a few brusque motions he lifted her, set her on her feet, and bent her over the tub, shoving her knees wide before stroking her hot cleft with his equally hot shaft. And then he thrust into her so hard she had to brace her hands to keep from falling over the rim and into the water.
He pulled all the way out and teased her entrance with his swollen head as he wound her hair around his hand, the motion arching her back and back and back until she felt her spine might snap. He held her body taut and immobile while he breached her only with the fat crown.

“Have you missed this?” he hissed, his chest slick and hard against her back, his breath hot against her ear. “Have you missed my cock inside your body? My fingers? My tongue?” he taunted before pounding her with a series of savage thrusts that left her dizzy. He stopped again, buried to the hilt, his shaft so hard she could feel him pulsing inside her.
“Did you pleasure yourself, Portia?” His voice throbbed with a tangle of desire, anger, and hurt. “I did. I stroked myself raw thinking about you.” He pulled out with agonizing slowness and then impaled her with a brutal thrust.
Portia almost climaxed from his words alone.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: In the Dark by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-Bookinthedark.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Mason Deniaud
Heroine: Callie Sutton
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: December 01, 2019
Started On: December 02, 2019
Finished On: December 20, 2019

Sometimes the only thing to fear . . . is yourself.

In the Dark, the latest release by Loreth Anne White, is a story that stands testament to Loreth’s ability to spin thrillers that are dark, forbidding, and explores the deepest facets of human psychology. Some might shy away from it, others may scoff at the very notion of it, but what Loreth puts to paper is in part what humans are capable of. The good and the evil that resides in us, which makes us so complex as a creation, combined with our intelligence which makes us unpredictable.

In the Dark begins with an entity known as RAKAM Group in Malaysia bringing together a group of nine individuals for a test round of their future business in terms of holidays provided at a remote location. None of the chosen foresee the darkness that lays ahead, the harrowing circumstances under which they would each fight to survive in the days to come, nor what ties one to the other.

The group consists of Dan Whitlock, a private investigator who dies before the journey begins, Monica McNeill, a grocery chain heiress and her husband Dr. Nathan McNeill, a professor of mycology at the University of Toronto, Bart Kundera who operates a transportation service, Katie Colbourne, a travel-documentary maker, Jackie Blunt, former police officer turned owner of a private security firm, Dr. Steven Bodine, cosmetic surgeon, and Stella Daguerre their pilot who carries them to their final destination.

When the group arrives, instead of the cozy vacation mountain lodge they were expecting, there stands an abandoned lodge in total isolation, without seemingly anyone around for miles. With a storm front that had moved in making it impossible to make the return journey, the spooked out party decides to wait out the storm, and instead find themselves in a bizarre setting within which they come to realize that they had been duped well and good, and brought together for a purpose none of them understands well.

With the realization that someone amongst them or outside of the nine is playing a harrowing mind game on them willing them to turn on one another bringing the ugliest of truths each harbours, the group starts to fray at the edges when one by one, members are killed, in line with a rhyme that they were meant to find from day one. According to the rhyme, only one is meant to survive, or none, depending on how the events unfold.

Sergeant Mason Deniaud, is a veteran big-city homicide detective, who decides to move to the middle of nowhere that is Kluhane Bay for personal reasons. When he encounters his first major case in the form of a downed plane with an apparent homicide victim, this kick-starts a chain of events which leads him and Callie Sutton of Kluhane Bay’s Search and Rescue on a mission to uncover the truth and search for survivors. With time running out, Mason and Callie’s team battle with nature itself to get to where the group of individuals may have ended up in.

When I turned the last page of the story, what was racing through my mind were the words, what a creepy and sensational book! I don’t even know if I should be using those two words in the same sentence. However, the more I think about it, the more drawn I get into the ingenuity of the plot, the layers to it, and the deeply rich characterization upon which the plot is built. There is no one character that does not add value to the plot, and that is no mean feat when you are juggling multiple individuals who all play pivotal roles in the story.

For the first time when it comes to a Loreth Anne book, I didn’t miss out on the romance angle. Maybe because I have conditioned myself not to expect romance in her books now. Even though there exists an elemental connection between Callie and Mason, I didn’t feel morose about the fact that nothing actually did materialize from that connection. Rather, the way Loreth left things on that turf seemed fitting, because you know deep inside, that somewhere down the line, what’s meant to be would find its way.

In short, on the psychological thriller front, what Loreth delivers in this story is priceless. I have never really read an Agatha Christie novel, but the premise of this novel’s plot depends deeply upon one of her novels. In the Dark strips down human nature to its very core, where Loreth drives and forces her characters towards their most feral and survivalist of natures, and taps into the psychology upon how people who have been dealt with extremely tough hands in life choose to shape and steer their future.

While I empathized with the mastermind of the plot, I couldn’t wholeheartedly say that I agreed with the character’s actions in its entirety. But that is exactly why Loreth is such a brilliant writer. She makes you see through the thin veneer holding civilized society together and strips us bare to expose the very elements which makes us who we are. That in short is why this book is a mastery unto itself.

Recommended for anyone who loves a tightly plotted thriller that delivers.

Final Verdict: In the Dark is a novel that brings together Loreth’s unique ability of in-depth characterization, exposing our deepest and darkest fears, and the wildcards among us who serve to be the ones you must look out for!

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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