Review: Outmatched by Kristen Callihan, Samantha Young

Format: E-Bookoutmatched
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Rhys Morgan
Heroine: Parker Brown
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 19, 2019
Started On: March 26, 2020
Finished On: April 01, 2020

Outmatched by Kristen Callihan and Samantha Young caught my eye on Kindle Unlimited, a source from which I have found some pretty great reads since I signed up recently.

I have never read anything from Kristen Callihan prior to this, and yet even though I am not much of a fan of sports themed romances, I found myself intrigued by the blurb. Matters were also helped along, having read Samantha Young’s Before Jamaica Lane, and knowing what to expect from Ms. Young in terms of the romance and sizzle factor.

30 year old Parker Brown is in a fix when she needs to find a fake boyfriend owing to pressure from work. Having just completed her PhD in Dynamic Modeling, Parker is excited to be working for a company working in renewable energy, that is of course minus the company’s main investor’s chauvinistic attitudes. However, Parker is determined to play the part as needed, wanting to prove to herself that she can stand on her own without the need to rely on her family.

Signing onto a dating app and finding the perfect fake boyfriend should have been the answer to all her problems. However, when 34 year Rhys Morgan, brother of the intended turns up for the date instead, Parker is at a loss as to how to manage the force to be reckoned with that Rhys is. Rubbing each other the wrong way is how things start off between the two, but for one reason or the other, Rhys sticks with the date, and before he knows it, he is in too deep with Parker, with reality of their burgeoning feelings towards each other blurring the lines of the fake boyfriend agenda.

At 28 years, Rhys had become a WBC heavyweight champion, a legend of his time, who for mainly unknown reasons to the public had quit boxing. Rhys struggles with forgiveness when it comes to his father, who had left a shitshow in his hands with a mountain of debt looming, and the gym which had been their family’s lifeline as long as he could remember now at risk. Rhys is determined that he would do whatever it takes to save his family’s “legacy” even though what he is coerced into doing does not give him much pleasure and is tied to a painful knot from the past.

While I expected something a little bit different, Outmatched served to be a read that I enjoyed immensely. The witty banter between Parker and Rhys was a factor that had me smiling through the most part, and I even laughed out loud during a couple of scenes which turned out to be particularly hilarious. Both Rhys and Parker are the kind of characters you root for, and I soaked up everything about them, from the snark, to the sexiness, to the angst, to the happily ever after.

I admit that I expected a novel that was sexier than what Outmatched delivered; perhaps I had my expectations built upon what Ms. Young’s novel delivered in spades. I also expected a grumpier hero than Rhys; I blame the blurb for that one. However, even though I would have loved a tad more grumpiness to Rhys, I ended up enjoying how Rhys turned out to be, all too sexy with a heart of gold that I adored. In hindsight, who in their right minds would be able to stay grumpy with someone like Parker Brown in their life? I certainly wouldn’t!

Recommended for those who loves emotional stories with depth and humor, with a dash of sexy in the mix. You will adore Rhys and Parker within the first couple of chapters!

Final Verdict: Outmatched features a hero set on doing the right thing and a heroine who guides him towards what the heart wants; a splendid read that I enjoyed immensely!

Favorite Quotes

“That wasn’t a kiss, sweetheart.”
Hot color licked over her cheeks. “It was so.”
“It was a little peck on the lips. I barely felt it.” I eyed her in mock suspicion. “Is that how you kiss guys you’re with? Because, if so—” I broke off, shaking my head sadly.
She growled. “Look here, you. The men I’ve kissed have been perfectly satisfied.”

His lips trailed away from my mouth, whispering hotly across my skin, as he lightly tasted his way down my throat. I whispered his name, tilting my hips, needing to feel more of him, and trembled as his hand glided up my inner thigh.
My eyes flew open as his lips followed a path down my chest, while his fingers slipped beneath my underwear. Two thick fingers suddenly pushed inside me, and I whimpered and arched my back into his touch. His grip on my hip turned bruising, and I heard him murmur hoarsely, “So tight.”

Rhys drank his fill as I laid out on the bed for him. I bit my lip, my nipples tightening as anticipation rippled through me.
“Fuck,” Rhys choked out. “Fuck, Parker, how can anyone be so beautiful?”
His tender words caused a burn of emotion in my throat and suddenly, I was no longer concerned about comparing myself to the other women Rhys had been with.
This was so much more than that.
For both of us.
I just knew it.

“Let go.” I thrust again, pausing, working her. “Give it to me, Parker.”
Her hands grasped my shoulders. She came with a spectacular wail, her body milking my dick so hard I saw stars. It set me off. I lost all sense of time, of anything but moving inside Parker, kissing her soft mouth.
I groaned into her mouth as I came. Everything drained out of me, and in that moment, I didn’t know my own name. Only hers.
I was hers.

Once those doors closed, he started grinding into me, kissing me until I could barely breathe with the anticipation. My whole body was on fire.
“You wet?” He kissed my neck below my ear.
“You know it,” I gasped, clutching at him as he thrust against me again. “Rhys!”
“You want me to fuck you, you gotta say it, Tinker Bell.”
Trembling with need, I turned my head and whispered in his ear, “I want you to fuck me, Rhys.”

Words formed on my lips, words I’d never said to anyone. But it was too much. Too good. I dipped my head and kissed her deep, hungry. Always hungry for her. And she moaned into it as I moved. My hands slid into her hair as I thrust slow and sure. She was utterly precious to me, utterly beautiful.
For the first time in my life, I was making love. And it was so damn perfect. I never wanted it to end. Never wanted to let her go.
And when I finally found my voice, I could only say one thing.
“Parker.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Bookthescotbedshiswife
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical
Series: Victorian Rebels, #5
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Gavin St. James
Heroine: Samantha Masters
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 03, 2017
Started On: March 04, 2020
Finished On: March 22, 2020

The Scot Beds His Wife is the fifth book in the Victorian Rebels series by Kerrigan Byrne. It tells the story of Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne and Samantha Masters, who arrives in Scotland from America, fleeing possible prosecution from having killed her significant other.

Samantha assumes the identity of Alison Ross, who holds the rights to the property that Gavin wants to make his, what he sees to be his finally link to freedom. With Samantha standing between him and what he covets the most in this world, he strikes up a bargain with her which includes a marriage of convenience.

When Samantha arrives in Scotland and meets the notorious Gavin St. James, she is not at all prepared for the way that he sets her senses ablaze with a fleeting touch and that searing glance of his. Even though Samantha is determined that she would not fall under his spell, as danger comes seeking her out, there is no other option but to give in. And  give in she does, not only because she must, but she wants to. Because the delicious torment it is being pleasured by the wicked Earl demands nothing less.

As Samantha and Gavin begins to find their footing in a marriage that neither had thought would be everlasting, secrets that could tear them apart comes to the surface, especially the ones Samantha keeps close to her heart. To find their way out, each must be willing to put their heart on their line and gamble with what is most precious to the other, their love for one another.

Gavin’s backstory is one that made me want to weep copious amounts of tears because there is no other way to react to what he had gone through as a child and his journey to adulthood. Gavin’s relationship with his elder brother is of the most complicated variety; there is no easy way out of being in love with the bride of your own flesh and blood. But it is beneath the surface one must look to understand the story within. The details of Gavin’s past interwoven with the present was enough to make my heart bleed raw from the pain, and the result had been for Gavin to believe that everlasting love was not for the likes of him, ever.

Samantha’s past is just as harrowing, especially once she had committed to becoming the wife and a member of the ill-famed Masters Gang in the US. Samantha’s fate had pretty much been sealed when her hand in marriage was planned to someone old enough to be her father. When her gang of brothers had turned up at her home at that point in time, Samantha had taken the lifeline that had been hers for the taking and run with it, only to realise that she had jumped from the frying pan into the roiling fire.

What surprised me the most (in a good way), was how much I actually enjoyed Gavin’s story when I initially saw him as a character who was too mellow for my liking. As fans of Ms. Bryne’s work would know, her heroes tend to be unabashedly masculine, alpha, and tantalizing in a way that takes command of all your senses. I though Gavin to be a bit less so, perhaps because of his laid back nature in the previous stories when he made an appearance. There were also reasons behind him appearing as such, which I am no privy to, having read his story. I am glad that Gavin proved himself to be more, so much more than what I initially thought him to be.

Gavin and Samantha are two contrasting characters, who, each in their own way, are looking for that undefinable something that humanity as a whole yearns for; that sense of belonging that comes from finding deep and abiding love with your equal in every sense. Ms. Byrne has done a splendid job of bringing those contrasts between Samantha and Gavin together in a way that makes for a breathtaking read.

To sum up, The Scot Beds His Wife is the story of the least fierce hero of the Mackenzie clan. The brother whose beautiful mother paid dearly in her marriage to the brute that had be their father. The brother who had borne the brunt of his father’s wrath because he had not been cruel, and there had been a gentleness to his soul that had made his father want to beat it out of him. A smuggler, a hedonist, son, and a brother who never wanted to carry the weight of the family name.

Samantha is the gunslinger and widower who comes to Gavin’s land to take away what he covets the most, what he thought would finally bring him the respite and escape he so craves; respite from the rage that swirls inside of him and the need to destroy that wars constantly with his soul. Samantha who assumes the identity of someone else, is carrying a secret that could devastate them both, who never thought she would fall for the highlander who claimed he would be partially faithful to her.

Recommended for those who love the Victorian Rebels series, who loves passionate historical romances set in the beautiful highlands, and those who love an unconventional heroine in their stories!

As always, quotes I have selected from Ms. Bryne’s books overwhelms the senses, every single time you revisit them, even months later.

Final Verdict: The Scot Beds His Wife tells the tale of two people who never thought they needed love and find it in the most unlikeliest of places through a marriage of convenience. Beautifully told as only Kerrigan Byrne can!

Favorite Quotes

“Give it here,” she demanded.
“Give it here…?” He drew out the last syllable.
“Please,” she muttered, galled to the core that she was even having such a ridiculous interaction.
“Gladly.” The beauty of his smile stunned her blind, which must have been how he was able to cup the back of her hand with his, in order to set her handbag in her open palm.
The tiny striations of her lace gloves became her only feeble defense against the feel of his coarse flesh against hers. The weight of her returned handbag drove her knuckles deeper against his palm.
A rough exhalation drew her notice. Nothing about his haughty, nonchalant expression had changed.
And yet … everything had.
The rim of his nostrils flared with quickening breath. His lids became heavier, drawing to half-mast. His sinfully full lower lip drew tight against his teeth before he consciously seemed to relax it.

With a stunned gasp, she turned her head, tearing her lips from his.
In the time it took for her to form the indignant words “What the fuck do you think—” Gavin’s decision was made, and it no longer paralyzed him.
His fingers released her wrist and anchored in her hair, where they’d previously itched to be. His next kiss was so fierce, it drove her head against his palm, and the back of his hand against the tree.
Her lips were already parted, and he pressed them wider.
This wasn’t a kiss, but a claiming.

He controlled his thrusts with absolute precision, his long fingers working together to create a wash of pulsating bliss that seemed to rise from somewhere deep, deep inside her, until suddenly every muscle in her body tensed and arched. It broke through her like a tidal wave, brimming over her veins and washing her flesh in a crescendo of effervescence. The peaks of the pulsing waves lingered, the valleys only a momentary respite before she was barraged again.
Samantha kept her neck arched, her eyes fixed on the sky above and, even through the heavy storm clouds …
She saw the stars.

The hands on his shoulders slid up his neck, then seized his jaw and pulled his lips the rest of the way to meet hers.
She made a sound he’d never heard from a woman before. There was nothing coy or teasing in it. Nothing seductive or husky or practiced in the least.
It was pure. Honest. Need.
And he was lost.
Maybe he’d been losing himself slowly since the moment she’d barged into the Highlands, guns blazing, eyes snapping, and tongue lashing.

Inside her body, where he still remained. Hard. And hot. And pulsing.
What?
Five breaths. Five breaths was all it took him to recover.
A hum of masculine satisfaction rumbled deep in his throat before he threaded his fingers through hers and slowly guided them above her head as he finally began to move.
Her eyes flew open and she gasped at the sight. Even though she’d seen him dozens of times, his beauty still had the power to startle her if she wasn’t prepared.
Hadn’t he just…? How was he still…? Oh God, that felt good …
“The only Mackenzie trait I’m glad of, lass,” he said by way of arrogant explanation. “We spend ourselves more than once.”
Jesus Jehosephat Christ.

“Don’t think that just because we’re married, you get to tell me what I can and canna do. Didn’t you notice that your brother left the word ‘obey’ out of the wedding vows?”
Lord, but he loved it when her azure eyes flashed with temper.
“Och.” He chuckled, scratching at his morning shadow-beard. “More than a slight oversight on his part. Tell ye what, if ye prove to me that ye can ride, then ye can go.”
“Fine.” She shot him a triumphant smirk. “I think that bay mare would do nicely.”
“I find it charming, lass…” He let his thought trail away as he sidled closer to her, a wicked intent heating his blood and already pulsing in his loins.
“Find what charming?” She shied away, but not fast enough.
“That ye thought I meant for ye to ride a horse.”

“I can ride,” she declared. “I’ll ride you witless, Gavin St. James.”
Just when he’d thought he couldn’t get any harder—she had to go and prove him wrong.
“By all fucking means,” he growled. Seizing both her mouth and her lean hips, he controlled their roll, levering her above him even as he sucked her tongue deep into his mouth.
Bunching her skirts in his fists, he burrowed his hands beneath them, sliding his fingers over the silken flesh of her thighs until he found the soft hair between. Cleaving her folds apart, he found the slippery cove of her body already wet and ready for him.

Lord, but with just a few kisses, her husband set her skin on fire, and released a wet flood of preparation all at once.
A fucking miracle of biblical proportions, that was sex with Gavin St. James.
In a sinuous motion of both unparalleled grace and strength, he stretched his magnificent body onto his back, all the while lifting her hips and dragging her up his torso and past his shoulders.
“What are you—”
His wicked mouth answered her, but not with words.

He drilled into her, the hard planes of his hips pounding against her as a fresh storm of pleasure began to build deeper within her loins. She shivered and convulsed, gritting her teeth together to keep herself from screaming. She enjoyed the wicked, brutal sounds their bodies made, the growling breaths that exploded from him.
He pushed her to her elbows, his hands both rough and reverent. He took her like a stallion mounted his mare. This was not their usual encounter, she realized.
This was a claiming.
He was a hunter, a predator. And now, she’d become his mate.

He took her mouth with his own, slanting his lips over hers, licking the salt of her tears from the seam with his velvety tongue.
She opened for him, accepted his possession, his love, and all the emotion he poured from his lips into hers. No longer was he the leisurely lover, the infamous rake. This time, his kiss conveyed a desperation she’d never felt from him before. A passion she’d not known him to be afflicted with.
Her response to it was instant and fierce. She threaded her fingers into his lush hair and turned her hands into fists, imprisoning him to the onslaught of her answering ardor. A lifetime of loneliness flared between them, fusing them to each other, offering what neither of them had ever been able to claim.
Belonging. He was hers. She was his. And neither of them would be alone again.

She was so lost in his mouth, that she hadn’t realized he’d pushed her onto the seat and pulled up her skirts until he was moving against her. Thrusting inside of her.
Her body was ready for his intrusion, wet and warm, open and needy.
His possession brought her to life, warming the blood from ice in her veins. Lifting the weight of guilt and sorrow, turning it into a taut and frantic lust.

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

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Review: Fake It ‘Til You Break It by Meagan Brandy

Format: E-Bookfakeittillyoubreakit
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Nico Sykes
Heroine: Demi Davenport
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 04, 2020
Started On: February 27, 2020
Finished On: February 28, 2020

“You keep kneeing me and I’m gonna do one of two things. One being lifting you up and putting you beside me so you can’t anymore, or two, plant your ass in my lap, which will either embarrass or entice you. Your call, Davenport.”

Fake It ‘Til You Break It is the first time I tried out a book by Meagan Brandy. It is a New Adult romance, and while I would not classify myself as someone who enjoys them so much, I am hard pressed in finding good material to read if I am to pursue heroes of the variety that I enjoy reading about, aka the ones who are known as alpha-holes.

New Adult romances are often “childish” in my opinion – I get a headache from all the senseless sleeping around, drinking and partying; part of the signature transition into adulthood when it comes to the Western world perhaps. I feel the same when I watch Korean drama centered around the same theme – I need adults behaving like adults when it comes right down to it. Thankfully, the few New Adult romances that I have dared to read have all proven their mettle in terms of delivering strong characters that I could root for without cringing to death while I am at it.

Fake It ‘Til You Break It begins during the senior year of high school for both Demi Davenport (Demi) and Nico Sykes (Nico). Lab partners are squared off at the Chemistry class attended by both, where Demi ends up with her nemesis of sorts, Nico. Demi is pretty certain that she would be paired off with Alex Hammons, the guy she has been crushing on for a while now, and never in her worst nightmares would she have expected to end up with Nico, the guy who has been ignoring her very existence for a long time.

While Demi is studious and gets good grades, you guessed it right, Nico is the direct opposite; sinfully handsome, a member of the football squad, pursued by females all over. Thrown together owing to their teacher’s whims, Demi has no choice but to make “nice” with Nico, while he is determined to press all her hot buttons and then some.

A pretend relationship is forged between the two (reasons for which you will have to read to find out), which begins the ball rolling in the story. Where Nico makes her burn and burn good with want and desire for him, Demi is not entirely certain whether what is between them is real or not.

Like all high school drama, this one had the hormones surging beneath the surface. But Demi being the girl that she is, made the story in my opinion. Demi is strong, loyal to a fault, and not easily swayed by the theatrics of high school drama. However, Demi too struggles with her mother at home, someone who barely functions as a parent, and leaves her be for the most part, as long as Demi does what she wants whenever she asserts that pressure on her.

Nico has a totally different situation at home, which Demi finds out much later, even though they are neighbors. Nico’s life is one that is too easily pictured with a mother who has lost herself to a man who doesn’t value her at any level.

The secret to the goodness in the story lies in the psychology that is interwoven into the relationships that exists between the main protagonists and the secondary characters. That was brilliantly done in my opinion, bringing forth a tale worth sinking your teeth into.

I loved Demi. She was all sorts of wonderful in the way she maintains her dignity while walking in and out of situations like we can all only aspire to be. When it came to Nico however, I felt that he somehow didn’t live up to his image at certain points. I wanted a Nico who would step up more and take a proactive step towards the girl he has wanted all along and never thought himself to be good enough for.

Human psychology is warped enough for us to tell ourselves that we are not worthy of the one we may covet and love from afar. It is also the reason why we as humans tend to never take that step and continue to regret that indecision for the rest of our lives.

Demi and Nico are direct contrasts as you will find out. While Demi is the good girl, that does not make her a saint in any sense, and while she maybe subservient to the emotional blackmail of her mother, that does not make a doormat – which is the reason why I rooted wholeheartedly for Demi.

The sexual tension in the book was well done, but the delivery was just enough so that the reader would not end up throwing their e-readers against the wall. I loved the angst factor (perhaps another reason why I tend to give New Adult novels a chance even with all the misgivings I have). The life that Nico leads, the tension between him and his father; the psychology behind all of this which is very real, lends this to be a page turner in my opinion.

When it came to the love factor, Demi was all in – there was no hesitation on her part to stand up for herself and Nico where concerned. But Nico was harder to read even when his point of view was a huge part of the story. Perhaps one reason why I brought down the rating from 5 is because of that as well; I wanted Nico to lose control over Demi, to show that when it came right down to it, Demi was all that he wanted. Demi stood up for him way too many times in the story and I never saw that reciprocated.

Loved the ending and the wholesome edge that provided after the roller-coaster of emotions that was part and parcel of the latter half of the novel. Recommended for those who love angst-ridden new adult romances; this one definitely delivers!

Final Verdict: Meagan Brandy delivers a slow-burn page turner in Fake It ‘Til You Break It, the kind that makes you read it all in one setting!

Favorite Quotes

My hips jolt forward, a deep groan leaving me as heat spreads through my veins.
Her head falls all the way back and her lips part, her chest rising above the steam as she gasps into the air.
I imagine the sounds escaping as her hand trails lower, slipping under the tiny white scrap of material covering her breasts. She massages herself, her core lifting in the water as she fights for her release.
Come on, baby.
Demi’s legs stiffen, shooting down into the water as her chin falls to her chest, and I swear I can feel her fuckin’ trembling from here.

My stomach warms, and I feel the tension surrounding him, but the longer he stares, the more his features smooth. Still, he doesn’t give me much.
Sliding his shoulder against the wall, he moves closer until I’m only a foot’s space away. His hand slips into my hair, his focus now on my lips.
I keep my arms locked at my sides, my toes curling in my flats, fingers digging into my skirt as he leans in.
Waiting.
But he doesn’t kiss me.
As soon as the disappointment stirs in my gut, the warmth of his lips press down against the throbbing pulse of my neck, creating a deeper kind of heat, and my eyes close.
He has to feel it, right?

He steps closer, tugging me to the edge so he’s pressed against me, nothing but both our workout shorts between us.
My eyes cling to his, a rapid, throbbing, unbearable ache taking over my body.
And I can’t help myself, not when his hard-on is resting on me with a subtleness that should be forbidden.
I grind into him.
A tiny bit at first, almost enough to be considered a shift of my body, but then his forehead tightens.
A sign of slipping control?
I do it again, harder, longer, with a deeper sway, and a small whimper escapes from my own actions.
Nico’s response is a reckless growl.

I moan instantly, and when he pushes his dick against me, shifting his hips the smallest bit, I gasp into his mouth.
As if expecting it, Nico is ready, his tongue delving inside my mouth, his hand coming up to force me impossibly close and leaving no room for air to breathe, nothing but him to fill my lungs.
My legs lift, sliding across his thighs, before wrapping across his back and locking.
He groans, ripping his mouth from mine as he gives a strong squeeze to my thighs. “I’ve been dying to feel these around me again.”

“Tell me I am,” I rasp.
When his brows dip, I continue.
“Your baby.” My eyes hit his. “For reals, not for fakes. For keeps, not for now.”
The heavy thump of his heart beats against my hand, and I flatten my palm there, not wanting to miss the way it’s climbing.
“Pixie.” He leans in, brushing his lips over mine. “You are. You’ve been,” he stresses. “Even when you had no fuckin’ clue… you were my baby.”
He kisses me, and the overbearing weight on my shoulders lifts.
His.
That’s what I am.

I run the tips of my fingers up and down, slowly moving the rest of the stretchy material to the side, until I’m ghosting right over her clit.
She gives a slow blink. “What are you waiting for?” she whispers with a dare.
My touch falls on her, pressing harder the lower my fingers slip, and a small smirk finds her lips, her eyes closing at the same time.
I drop my mouth to hers, but she doesn’t kiss me.
Demi pulls my lip between her teeth, biting lightly, an airy “yes” escaping as she releases me.

Her features soften and she pulls her body in, pressing her chest tight against mine. She eyes me, then drops her lips to mine, kissing me with deep, erotic strokes of her tongue. She shifts her lower half, aligning the head of my dick with her entrance.

She releases my lips, opening her eyes to look at me as she pushes her ass into my hands, and the tip is suddenly wrapped in her wet, warm flesh.
“You on birth control?”
Her grip tightens and she nods. “We’re good.”
Fuck, yes.
“It might hurt more like this,” I tell her, sliding my lips across hers. “You’re wide open for me, baby.”
She pushes more and at first I keep my grip, when her pupils expand, I let up, let her body slide down my shaft until her pussy has swallowed me whole.
She gulps, tugging me close, her pussy clenching around me as I grow even harder inside her.

I flex inside her and her eyes widen with need. “How bad do you need to come, D?”
I pull back, until only my tip is left inside her, and then slowly drive back in.
She whimpers, her nails finding my ass, a sexy little warning glare filling her eyes. “I’m pretty sure I can come just feeling you like this, but if you want to earn it, you better move, ‘cause I’m ready. Ready for you. For this.” She licks her lips, a heavy need blanketing her features as she rasps, “Give me all of you, Neek. Now.”

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Angel of Darkness by Lynne Graham

Format: E-Bookangelofdarkness
Read with: Paperback/Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Angelo Cesare Rossetti
Heroine: Kelda Wyatt
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November 24, 1999
Started On: February 14, 2020
Finished On: February 16, 2020

Angel of Darkness is Lynne Graham at her best. It has everything going for it; lust of the kind that sets the pages sizzling and your senses humming, a hero who is equal shades ruthless and possessive that you cannot help but want him, a heroine who is tempestuous and headstrong just enough to drive the hero a tad crazy, and a love so worthwhile that it reaffirms the belief that long-term romance readers like myself hold true to our hearts – that there is no other genre worth reading except romance when it comes right down to it.

Top model Kelda Wyatt is shell-shocked to hear that her mother Daisy is getting back with Tomaso, her step father; whose marriage to Daisy had been short-lived. What sort of terrifies Kelda out of the icy coldness that is her signature mark is the thought of coming face to face with her step brother Angelo Cesare Rossetti, in whose arms she had faced every single vulnerability an eighteen year old girl could have at the cusp of womanhood.

Years later, with Daisy’s marriage looming overhead, Kelda is looking forward to a photo shoot in Tuscany only to find out that it had been Angelo who had engineered the whole setup, just so that she wouldn’t be around to interfere with their parents’ relationship a second time around. Angelo also has a secondary goal; seduce Kelda and walk away from it as he does countless of other women.

What starts out with Kelda in a rage over being forced into Angelo’s company ends with her going up in smoke in his arms. Their attraction to one another demands nothing less but total submission where Angelo and Kelda are both concerned, and their scorching passion heats up, takes things to a level that neither was expecting of their coming together.

A series of misunderstandings lending that healthy dose of angst to the story, prolongs the eventual coming together of Angelo and Kelda, which was the best part of the story. Angelo’s qualms about being tied to a woman who is so possessive, someone who rouses the same desire in him is something he needs to take a step back from – his childhood had made him wary of women whom he thinks to be an unfaithful breed.

Kelda is not equipped to handle nor understand a man like Angelo at his fiercest. But try she does, and her helpless surrender in his arms brings the two closer than either of them would give credit for.

In the end, it was this heady sense of passion that explodes into everlasting love. I somehow have a feeling that their happily ever after would be just as scandalous, just as consuming as the story was in its entirety.

Recommended for everyone who loves a wholly passionate love story, for those who may want to start on a Lynne Graham novel, and fans of Harlequin category romances!

PS: I also love the original cover of the book than its current one. The former shows a scene from the book, and you can practically smell the sunshine warming the leaves upon which the couple lies, while lost in their unrelenting desire for each other.

Final Verdict: Full of tempestuous passion and blazing desire; Angel of Darkness is a delight in the way it overtakes your senses.

Favorite Quotes

‘I told you to shut up.’ His brown fingers moved caressingly over her taut cheekbone and then he leant down, deftly winding his other hand into her hair and let the tip of his tongue slowly and smoothly trace the tremulous line of her lower lip.
Her breath escaped with a tiny gasp and her heart thudded like that of a wild bird in a cage. She wanted his mouth so badly she burned, every sense pitched to an unbearable high as he toyed expertly with the sensitive fullness he had discovered. Her eyes slid shut, her long throat arching as she bent back her head instinctively.
Angelo set her back from him and fired the engine of the car. Her lashes swept up on glazed green eyes, her whole body throbbing with an intensity that was pure pain.
A blunt forefinger raked down the slender length of her thigh. ‘I know,’ Angelo breathed thickly.

‘Let go, Angelo,’ she said breathlessly.
‘I think I will.’ His stunning eyes skimmed with hungry sensuality over her and then he drew her close with con¬trolled power and took her mouth with slow, drugging intensity.
She was a good strong swimmer but she drowned in Angelo’s arms. Six years melted away and she was back, back where her body told her she belonged, back where the world contracted into the crazy thunder of her heart and the mad race of the hot blood in her veins.

He pulled her hands away and lifted his mouth from hers and then he just looked at her, a feverish flush of colour accentuating his striking cheekbones, his breathing pattern audibly fractured.
Her breasts were small, high and perfectly formed. Her nipples were shamelessly distended rose-pink buds. Angelo released his breath in a long, sighing groan as though he was afraid to touch her. She knelt there in front of him, quivering all over, every heated inch of her flesh ready to take fire.
The silence was electric. A voracious hunger vibrated like a physical aura between them. ‘If I touch you… do you vanish?’ Angelo whispered unsteadily.
‘Do you?’

‘You are mine,’
Angelo told her, lowering her into the grass with raw determination. ‘Tell me that, before I bury myself in that exquisite body…’
Her lashes lifted. She focused on blazing golden eyes and melted to the consistency of honey all in one go. ‘Yours,’ she framed in a whisper of sound torn from the
very depths of her.
‘Always,’ Angelo attached with savage emphasis.

He kicked her bedroom door wide, kicked it shut again and dropped her down on the bed. ‘Angelo’
‘Shut up.’ He came down on top of her in one lithe movement, pinning her flat with his superior weight. She was in the act of struggling to raise a punitive knee when he brought his mouth down hard on hers.
Still in a fury, she dug her hands like claws into his luxuriant hair and then the passion flooded her in a roaring tidal wave. It came out of nowhere, attacked and took her prisoner. A passion so instantaneous it wiped out everything that had gone before it. Electrified by the raw, devouring heat of his mouth, she was possessed by an excitement so intense that she felt dizzy and disorientated.

‘I’m hurting you,’ he whispered, not quite steadily. The pain had gone as quickly as it had come but her untried body had yet to adjust to that most intimate invasion. ‘No.’ The denial was jerky, swift. ‘You’re so small,’ he breathed, sinking his hands be-neath her slender hips, lithely shifting between her thighs with a stifled groan of pleasure and splintering control.
She felt possessed then, utterly and completely. He moved on her, slowly, deliberately until all she could focus on was the extraordinary response of her own body.
All control was gone.

Angelo reached for her in one powerful movement. Deftly angling his body to one side so that he would not hurt her, he took her mouth in a devouring kiss that she felt right down to her toes and back up again. She reacted like a woman possessed. With one hand she hit out at him in blind rage, but the other hand inexplicably dived into the springy depths of his hair, holding him to her. He kissed her breathless. Great rolling waves of excitement overwhelmed her. The hand that had balled into a fist uncurled and slid under his sweater instead and exulted in the satin-smooth skin of his back before sliding across his taut flat stomach to rake into the furrow of silky hair that disappeared beneath his belt.

He followed the sweet trail of the champagne down over her quivering stomach and she made a sudden grab at his hair. ‘No!’
But his hands were on her thighs and he had already discovered just how weak she really was. She was tender and damp.
‘Evidently I wasn’t the only one seething with silent lust over dinner,’ Angelo murmured huskily, letting the tip of his tongue track the clenched muscles on her inner thigh until she trembled and shook and completely forgot that she was supposed to be fighting him off.

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

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Review: Sweet Vixen by Susan Napier

Format: E-Booksweetvixen-sn
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Hero: Max Wilde
Heroine: Sarah Carter
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October, 1985
Started On: January 27, 2020
Finished On: February 03, 2020

Sweet Vixen by Susan Napier is a book I read in my attempt to hunt down books by an author whose penchant for writing great romances with sizzling sexual tension caught my attention in 2013.

Don’t you just love it when you discover an author who has got this entire back-list of books just waiting for you? That is how I felt when I initially discovered her, and having read most of her books that have received good ratings as compared to the rest, I am at a loss as to how I am going to recapture that magic that is created by the words of a single author that no one else can seem to replicate.

Sweet Vixen is the story of widowed Sarah Carter, who works as an editorial assistance to a monthly fashion magazine Rags & Riches in New Zealand. When Max Wilde is “forced” by his father to travel to New Zealand and assess the magazine financially and otherwise, thus begins the battle of wills between Max and Sarah which made for good reading!

Sarah having being married to someone who had tried to undermine her every attempt at independence, does not feel the need for a man, much less someone as brazen as Max Wilde. However, Max goads her into accepting things about herself which she otherwise would not have, and at the same time, Max finds himself on uncharted territory with a woman who entices him to do more and be more than he has ever been.

Through a plot to engineer misunderstanding mastered by none other than Sarah, and both Max and Sarah’s stubbornness bringing a hefty dose of the angst factor which I loved, Sweet Vixen proved to be delightful in many ways. The only thing that lacked for me was the delivery on the superb sexual tension in the novel – which was lackluster to what Susan Napier as an author has delivered and can deliver in her books time and yet again.

Recommended for fans of Susan Napier and those who love Harlequin romances!

Final Verdict: Sweet Vixen delivers low key sexual tension coupled with angst of the kind that keeps the pages turning!

Favorite Quotes

She leaned lightly against him and he let go of her shoulders to move his hands delicately over the fabric at her back. His skin against hers was smooth and warm, the fresh tang of chlorine mingling with his male body smell. He nuzzled the corner of her mouth and discovered the tender spot where her lip had split against her teeth, touching it with his tongue and gently sucking away the pearly drop of blood.
Open your mouth, darling,’ he whispered seductively, ‘ Let me taste you properly.’

Her eyes fell from his mouth to his chest, where the dark hair curled damp, now matted with sand and a few thin Strands of grass. As she watched, the tenor of his breathing changed, became slower, the rise and fall of his chest acquiring a deep, hypnotic rhythm. There was a peculiar attraction in knowing that he was waiting on her, that he had placed the situation firmly in her hands. That she was in control.
Tentatively, she touched him, she couldn’t help it, resting a hand just above his heart, feeling the strong, rapid beat. It was like feeling the beat of her own heart.
‘Sarah?’ the word was low, husky, almost strained, and she looked up. The expression on his face made her tremble inside.

The smooth olive skin gleamed bronze in the lamplight, silvered with dampness and rippling as he moved to kneel beside her. He plunged his hands into the broad swathes of her hair and lifted them, letting the strands run through his fingers like water to splash over her body.
‘How could I ever have thought you anything but what you are—lovely, desirable . . .’ His voice roughened into harshness and his hands clenched her waist. ‘My God, I want you—’

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Blindsided by Amy Daws

Format: E-Bookblindsided
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Maclay Logan
Heroine: Freya Cook
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November 21, 2019
Started On: January 19, 2020
Finished On: January 24, 2020

Blindsided by Amy Daws is a novel that is aptly titled in my opinion. My first read by the author, the story is one that totally sucker-punched me with the tide of emotions that was unrelenting from start to finish.

Blindsided came upon my radar in my forage to find a good friends-to-lovers romance, my favorite trope in the romance genre. Even though I usually steer clear of sports themed romances, I am so very glad that I gave this a go because this book had me sighing in all the right places and crying happy and ugly tears as the story took turn after turn, delivering a happily ever after that is worthy of any reader’s time.

29 year old Freya Cook and 34 year old MacLay Logan have been friends for over a year, and even though Freya does crush on Mac, who is one of the hottest men she has ever laid eyes on, she is determined to keep things on a friendly basis until things take a surprising turn in their friendship.

When Freya and Mac embarks on a different tangent of their “friendship”, neither of them is prepared for the changes it brings to their perceptions of each other. While Mac is determined that no woman would get in the way his ambitions when it comes to football, Freya has no expectations beyond what Mac is ready to offer. However, the heart wants what it wants, and it is not long before more complex emotions surge to the surface, complicating what was supposed to be time-bound.

With Mac compelled to turn his life upside down for family which officially ends things between the two, thus starts the angst-ridden journey towards finding new grounds and revelations that is painstaking for the both Mac and Freya. There is not a single thing that I would change in the story, because Amy Daws has created sheer perfection at the turn of every page!

Blindsided is a book that had everything going for it, which helped wipe every single lackluster read that I had been grappling with up till that point in time. I don’t know whether I have become more “snobbish” in my reading tastes, or whether I have outgrown romance as a genre (sincerely hope that is not the case), but it has become extremely difficult to find a story that sweeps me off my feet and gives me a story worth salivating over.

Mac, sweet darling Mac, was out of this world endearing and sexy as they come. There is an emotional depth to his character which many may not identify with at first, but his actions speak louder than words, and I fell head over heels in love with him from the very start. The way he calls Freya “Cookie” reminded me of someone significant, and perhaps that is one reason why his character appealed to me on a different level.

Freya was beautiful – no two ways about it. There is an underlying strength to her character that made her so relatable. Even at the face of immense heartache, she had the kind of dignity that most of us can only wish for under such trying circumstances. But the lesson to take away from her character is profound; one must love their own self first to be able to love anyone else or let anyone else love you for what you are worth.

Don’t get me wrong – this story wasn’t darkness and angst all around. There was so much hilarity interwoven in the story, while at the same time the magic of turning friends to lovers was fully explored. Loved the heat and passion and the feelings of more complex nature that both Mac and Freya have to confront as things progressed.

This is definitely NOT your typical sports romance. As I mentioned earlier, I am someone who usually steers clear of anything labeled as a sports romance, and perhaps labeling this as such could be a turn off for readers like myself. Blindsided is a novel that is so so much more – while football is a part of the story, it does not detract from the joy of the romance that unfolds, nor the emotions of more complex variety that is explored.

If someone were to ask me why I loved this book so much, it would have to be the complex layers to Freya and Mac, alongside with the epilogue which made the book for truly what it was. I cried when Mac had to face the reality of his feelings and his messed up priorities. I rooted for Freya when she stood firm when it comes to her self-worth. At the same time, I couldn’t help but cheer on for both of them to find their way towards each other once again.

Recommended for those who love the sheer abandon with which the romance genre can play with your emotions; if you love a good friends-to-lovers, consider this a treat!

Final Verdict: If ever there is a friends-to-lovers romance that needs to be read, this would be it. With emotional depth that brings the story alive, the realistic portrayal of human emotions is what makes Blindsided stand out in all its glory!

Favorite Quotes

“It’s perfect,” I whisper, cupping his cheek and looking into his eyes. “I know I don’t have anything to compare it to, but this feels perfect.”
The corner of his mouth tilts up with the tiniest smirk, and suddenly, he begins driving into me faster, maintaining our eye contact the entire time. His face loses all humour, and he bores into me with such force, I feel trapped. It’s intense—looking at someone as they do something so primitive, so animalistic. So feral. It’s an exposing moment that lays you bare, and before I know it, I feel that build inside my body again.

I pull her to the very edge of the counter and without warning, impale myself inside her soft, wet heat.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuuuuck.
She’s still tight. Still way too fucking tight. I pull back and look at her face, worried that I hurt her. Her eyes are glazed over as she watches where our bodies are connected.

I drop back onto my elbows and watch the show, enjoying the sight of my love bites peppered all over her breasts. “Touch yourself, my treasure.”
Freya’s closed eyes open, and she looks at me with an adorable frown.
I chin nod to her pelvis. “Touch your clit there while you ride me. Give me a show.”
She huffs out an aroused sort of laugh but does as I say. She makes a proper show of it as well. Her hand skates slowly from her hair, over her breast, swirling around her navel and making me positively growl with anticipation.

Mac stares boldly into my eyes as he moves slowly inside me, careful, appreciative, and searching. Searching for the last part of our souls that still belong to ourselves. I gaze back at him with the same sense of wonder coursing through my entire body.
This is love. This is us. This is happiness.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen

Format: E-Bookthekissthief
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Wolfe Keaton
Heroine: Francesca Rossi
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 06, 2019
Started On: January 08, 2020
Finished On: January 24, 2020

The Kiss Thief is my very first novel by L.J. Shen, the story being one that has popped up on various recommendation lists for ruthless heroes. I am a die-hard fan of anti-heroes, the ruthless and ones disliked by most readers, and loved by the few. Hunting those books down in the world of romance today has become a challenge and yet I persevere. The Kiss Thief was one of the rewards that came my way, thanks to aforementioned perseverance.

When 19 year old Francesca Rossi, the only child of Arthur Rossi, head of The Outfit (organised crime if you will), makes her official introduction to Chicagoan society, the only thing on her mind is to get Angelo, the perfect husband in the eyes of her parents, to kiss her as if he means it, kiss her as the woman he was going to make his wife and enjoy doing it.

That is also the night that 30 year old Wolfe Keaton, a US Senator, makes his presence known to Francesca, and steals the kiss that was meant for Angelo, and in the process upends her entire world. Forced into marrying Wolfe, Francesca at first has no intention of cooperating with a man whose high handed manner irks her to no end, not to mention the derailment of plans to fulfill her dreams of being married to the man she had grown up with and had given her heart to over the years.

However, the force that is Wolfe Keaton is one to be reckoned with, and before Francesca knows it, she enters a world where she learns firsthand what it means to fall in love and lose your heart to someone as ruthless as her husband.

There are scenes in this book that is definitely not for the faint-hearted, which is one reason why I loved the story and the turns it took to bring to us a happily ever after worth rooting for. My dislike for books that fill every nook and cranny of romance genre today lies in the fact that there is nothing worthy of fantasizing about the “ruthless and dangerous hero” that turns putty at the heroine’s hand from the minute they meet.

All the build-up that the author does in painting the hero as someone who has committed unthinkable acts in his life who suddenly, with the least amount of resistance, loses every essence of his character that makes him vitally himself is just tiring. How does that even translate into realistic human behavior? I can understand a character who subtly changes over the years, maybe months into a relationship, but the first time he lays eyes on the heroine, he just does a 180 degree turn on his character? That is foolhardy and as unrealistic as they come in my opinion.

The Kiss Thief certainly did not do that. L.J. Shen has crafted a hero worthy of salivating over and then some in Wolfe Keaton, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about him. From his ruthlessness that serves him well in every single manner, to his inner core of strength and vulnerability when it comes to his wife as he learns to love all over again were facets of the story that fascinated me. I loved the fact that Wolfe was able to give his wife the one thing that was denied from her as she grew up and how in his embrace she found the freedom to be herself and let go.

Francesca was lovely in many ways; she was certainly brought up to fulfill a certain role, but she is a quick learner if ever there was one and able to adapt to situations and the punches as they rolled. I loved her for quick wit, her ability to keep up with Wolfe, and the way she brought him to his very knees towards the end.

Recommended for those who love a hero who is ruthless and loves just as ferociously.

Final Verdict: With a couple of surprising twists and turns, The Kiss Thief delivered a highly combustible read from the get-go!

Favorite Quotes

I grabbed the edges of his suit, pulling him closer. I’d imagined our kiss countless times before, but I’d never expected it to feel like this. Like home. Like oxygen. Like forever. His full lips fluttered over mine, sending hot air into my mouth, and he explored, and nipped, and bit my lower lip before claiming my mouth with his, slanting his head sideways and dipping down for a ferocious caress. He opened his mouth, his tongue peeking out and swiping mine. I returned the favor. He drew me close, devouring me slowly and passionately, pressing his hand to the small of my back and groaning into my mouth like I was water in the desert. I moaned into his lips and licked every corner of his mouth with zero expertise, feeling embarrassed, aroused, and more importantly, free.

Slowly, and despite my better judgment, I crawled into my future husband’s lap. I knew that by doing that, I was raising a white flag. Surrendering to him. Seeking his protection, both from my father and from my own internal turmoil. I flew directly into my cage, asking him to lock me inside. Because the beautiful lie was far more desirable than the awful truth. The cage was warm and safe. No harm could find me. I wrapped my arms around his neck, burying my head in his steel chest and holding my breath to prevent the next sob.
He stiffened, his body rigid with our sudden proximity.
I thought about what Ms. Sterling said about killing him with kindness. Defeating him with love.
Break. Crack. Feel me. Accept me.

Wolfe Keaton was a kiss thief, but it wasn’t only a kiss that he stole. He stole my heart, too. Ripped it from my chest and put it in his pocket. I did what he promised me I would do, and willingly—I spread my legs and begged him, once again, this time meaning every word. “Because you were right. You said I’d come to your bed willingly—and I am. So, take me.”
He kissed me dirty, biting down on my tender lower lip, that was still sore from the accident. “Still not the entire truth, but this’ll do.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase

Format: E-Bookmrimpossible
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Carsington Brothers, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Rupert Carsington
Heroine: Daphne Pembroke
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 01, 2005
Started On: December 27, 2019
Finished On: January 09, 2020

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase is the second book in her Carsington Brothers series. Set in Egypt in 1821, Mr. Impossible tells the story of 29 year old widowed Daphne Pembroke, whose brilliance in deciphering hieroglyphs outshines that of many in the field. When her brother gets kidnapped and the only person she is forced to depend on is the very vexing Rupert Carsington, she is at her wits end to say the least.

Rupert finds himself in Egypt when he is sort of “exiled” to Egypt by his father, as a means for Rupert to mend his ways. With his penchant for getting into trouble easily, Daphne finds herself increasingly agitated with Rupert when all he does is annoy her in ways that leaves her hot and bothered.

Hunting through the pyramids, riding out a sandstorm together, evading killers hot on their trails, it is the adventure of a lifetime for Daphne where she is forced to rethink all that she had judged Rupert to be when they had first met. Daphne finds her annoyance replaced by fascination which in turn makes her fall, and fall hard for a man whom she believes would probably have no use for a woman like herself. Daphne’s awakening in Rupert’s arms, and the equal fascination with which Rupert views the effect she has on him was a delight!

While I enjoyed the story, I cannot say that I was enamored by the tale to the point where I fell in love with all of it. It would not be stretching it to say that I was all sorts of excited when I began reading Mr. Impossible, because my only read from Loretta Chase had been amazing; i.e. Lord of Scoundrels.

For one, I was kind of put off by how Daphne came off at first; haughty and mighty proud of her intelligence. The way she saw Rupert as an idiot and made no pretense of how she felt about that that irked me. I love humbleness in a heroine and that was a bad starting point for me when it came to Daphne.

I know that a lot of how Daphne projected herself as came from the fact that she had had a disappointing marriage which had basically eviscerated her hopes of finding a partner who would see her as an intellectual equal amongst other things.

Furthermore, her husband had bungled up and made a mess of dealing with the sensual creature that she is. But that dislike which developed at that starting point, prevented me from being too drawn towards her in the end.

Rupert was wonderful in many ways, but then again, I cannot say I was enamored with his character to the point where I fell in love with him. He was sexy, highly intelligent, and man enough to accept the woman that is Daphne in every single way. That to me was reason enough to root for the man, even though secretly I hold the belief that he could have done better.

Recommended for fans of Loretta Chase.

Final Verdict: Mr. Impossible has plenty of adventure and sizzle that made the novel an enjoyable escape!

Favorite Quotes

He tilted his head a little to one side, studying her “Ah, well, so much for slow sieges,” he said. He leant in, and she was too slow to duck or draw back, and so his mouth fell upon hers, and the bottom dropped out of the world.
She lifted her hand—to push him away as she must. As she ought. But his mouth moved boldly over hers, firm and sure, and she clung instead, her fingers curling round his upper arm. It was as hard as the stone figure blocking her retreat, yet warm and alive, its heat electric. Her fingers tingled, and the current shot under the skin. Every particle of her being reacted, as though galvanized.

Deep-buried longings clawed their way out of hiding. They tangled about her heart and coiled and twisted in her belly. She couldn’t name them. This wanted a new language, or no language at all. Meaning narrowed to the taste of-his mouth and his skin and to the scent of him, dark and dangerous and so familiar that she ached, as though it were a cherished memory or a reawakened grief.

A long moment passed.
Then she pushed his hands away, twisted sharply about, and raised herself up to glare at him.
He grinned at her. She gazed at him for a time, green eyes fierce. Finally, she opened her mouth, and he thought, Here comes the tongue-lashing.
She let out a huff of vexation…
… and her soft mouth came down on his.
She tasted like gunpowder.
Rupert grasped her waist and held on. It was like being shot from a cannon or thrown from a precipice. She had only to bring her mouth to his, and the world flew apart, and he rocketed to places he didn’t recognize.

A storm swirled into his mind, and he couldn’t remember anymore what ought to be done. Mindlessly he tore at his own trousers. The fabric fell away, and his rod sprang free. He caught her under the thigh, lifting her leg up. She wrapped her leg about his waist, and he thrust into her. She cried out, “Oh. Oh, my God.”
He would have echoed her, but he was long past words.

He pushed her skirts up further and loosened the waist of his full trousers. She trembled when the garments slid away, leaving them skin to skin. She wrapped her arms about his shoulders and pressed her mouth against his neck to keep from crying out when his hands moved up her thighs. She drank in his scent, hot and male and his alone. At the first intimate touch she screamed silently. If she could have done, she’d have cried out her pleasure, her torment, and impossible, contradictory demands. More. No. Stop. Don’t stop. There. No, there. Oh, don’t. Oh, yes, please.
Laughter bubbled inside her along with a sorrow all but unbearable.
Madness.
Wonderful madness.

They scarcely moved at all. Awareness became all the more intense. He was aware each time her muscles tensed about him and eased, and of the very slight motion of her hip that sent waves of pleasure coursing through him. He was aware of her hands, gliding over him, and making long trails of sparks over his skin.
He opened his eyes and looked at her, and they smiled at each other in silent, wicked amusement, the devil in him recognizing the devil in her. And so they lay, watching each other, making secret love, while from outside came the familiar sounds of footsteps on the deck, voices calling out as they prepared to land.

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

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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.

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