Review: No Reprieve by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Jake Jackson
Heroine: Seven Selkirkik
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 24, 1991
Started On: May 11, 2020
Finished On: May 12, 2020

Published in 1991 from Harlequin, No Reprieve by Susan Napier is a delightful and quirky read for the most part. With a psychic heroine who is a librarian, and a cynic of a hero who is a journalist specializing in exposés, needless to say the fireworks are a given when these two clash.

26 year old Seven Selkirkik is confronted by the indomitable 36 year old Jake Jackson in her home, when he turns up to warn her off on pretending to be able to help grieving families and fleecing them for what they are worth, plying them with false hopes. In a case of mistaken identity which Seven takes advantage of, she lets Jake believe what he may, until she is drawn into finding Jake’s long lost daughter.

Jake does not know what to do with Seven and how she makes him feel. Its exasperation, desire, and a sense of discomposure that he feels, even when all the facets of her character continues to draw him to her. Jake is a skeptic through and through, wary of the charlatans and false messiahs of the world who take advantage of the emotionally vulnerable. The question remains then, how will these ever reconcile their differences long enough to understand what their love is worth?

I loved the two main protagonists and the secondary characters. Seven, who strives and craves for normalcy when she is far from being average and normal, having chosen the staid profession of being a librarian just so she could remain sequestered in her little corner of the world. She craves stability, never having had that in her childhood up to a point.

While Jake is driven and dynamic in a way that is the complete antithesis of Seven, the fire that is between them is too strong to deny. Jake who should rightfully be turning away from a woman like Seven finds himself inexorably drawn towards her until they reach a point of no return.

No Reprieve reminded me of one my favorite books from Linda Howard, Cry No More, a book that I re-read from time to time. No Reprieve presents the main events in a sort of reverse manner, where it is the hero this time around that loses a child and has to come to terms with what he should do when the time comes to take that painful decision.

I loved the ending and the fact that Jake went after Seven when all was said and done. I loved how the reluctant psychic manages to chip away at the brittle walls surrounding the heart of the cynical and jaded hero, who believes love and loving only makes one vulnerable to loss. I also loved the epilogue and I delighted in seeing the changes in both Seven and Jake, with the family getting along marvelously.

Recommended for those who love a good category romance you can sink your teeth into. Ms. Napier certain delivers!

Final Verdict: Combining emotionally gripping scenes with the sensually tender, No Reprieve is a story meant to draw the reader in for an unforgettable ride!

Favorite Quotes

His mouth shifted and clung, opening her more completely, his hand cupping her face as a flickering tongue of fire darted inside her, stroking her, consuming and feeding her response until it matched his own. The hand that held hers moved behind her, pinning her wrist to the small of her back, arching her against his aggressive heat. He was hard and full, unashamed of his arousal, moving his hips in slow, thrusting circles that lifted her on to her toes as she tried to ease the ache that the relentless, grinding rhythm created inside her. When he released her captured arm it curled naturally around his clenched shoulders, her fingers spreading out across the tensed muscles, unconsciously kneading his flesh. He made a dark, harsh sound of satisfaction as he felt the sweet sting of her short, curved nails, and tasted the searing pleasure of her surrender.

‘You are sensitive…’ he murmured with greedy satisfaction, his eyes on the quivering promise of her lower lip. ‘Exquisitely so… I’ll be more gentle, I promise…’
She shook her head again and his lids narrowed. ‘Too much…’ she gasped. ‘It’s too…like, like…falling…I felt… I felt…’
His slitted eyes were as black as sin as he guided her faltering courage back on to its predetermined path. ‘What you’re supposed to feel. I was falling too, mouse, only faster… When it gets too much you don’t pull back.. .you jump!’

He held back as long as was humanly possible, his body straining savagely against its self-imposed bonds, but he wasn’t proof against the blatant seduction of her innocence, against the shocked expression of wide-eyed wonder and gasps of bliss that greeted each bold new venture. And the moment his hardness slipped between her satiny thighs, teasing at the soft, feathery cradle that rocked the heart of her, was his last moment of even near-coherent thought. No longer gentle teacher and ardent pupil, no longer strong leading weak, masculine invading feminine, they merged as equals, not falling but rising, ever faster, higher, harder, until the primitive power that propelled them exploded in a final, violent burst of glory.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: Secret Seduction by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Ryan Liam Flint
Heroine: Nina Joan Dowling
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 2000
Started On: May 07, 2020
Finished On: May 11, 2020

Originally published in the year 2000 from Harlequin Presents, Secret Seduction by Susan Napier is another hit for me when it comes to stories by the indomitable Ms. Napier. This being one of her later titles, probably a couple of years prior to the publication of her last book, Secret Seduction stands testament to how category romances can often be hidden gems that sweeps you off your feet when it comes to the world of romance.

The story begins with a ferocious thunderstorm rolling into Shearwater Island, where 26 year old Nina Joan Dowling resides. A painter by vocation, Nina has no recollection of her past and rather likes the solitude she finds amongst like-minded loners like herself who guards the privacy afforded by residing on the island on a permanent basis. The quiet and solitude that she had been enjoying is however short-lived when the storm brings a stranger to her life, a man whom she rescues from the storm.

33 year old Ryan Liam Flint comes to the island seeking answers. Finding out that the task ahead of him was not going to go exactly as he planned, Ryan plays it by the ear, pretending that he has been struck by a temporary bout of amnesia. Nina being the suspicious soul that she is, especially given the sense of unease that she feels when Ryan is around, coupled with how he invokes from her emotions that she had not felt in a long while, needless to say, it is choppy waters that these two travel through for the most part.

Nina is stubborn to a fault, and I would have to say off putting at first or rather through most of the book up till the point more details emerge as to what had taken place, how she had suffered through a tragic loss and couldn’t seem to recover properly. The past that Nina has no memory of is everything to Ryan, what keeps him determined when it comes to winning and wooing back the love of his life.

I was fascinated by how Ms. Napier brought the story around, and was caught utterly by surprise when it came to the flashbacks of the past delivering a tale I could not have predicted at all. I yearned to read more details on their shared past, the heat and energy between two people who were such complete opposites of one another, drawn to the other in a way that makes denying the connection an impossibility.

I loved the angst, the heartache, and Ryan who served to be the kind of patient, sexy, endearing, and yet alpha in the best possible of ways hero, who complements Nina in a way that no one else ever would. Getting Nina on the same page however, is another matter altogether and when the memories come tumbling forth, it was gut wrenching not to say the least.

I loved the last chapter that served sort of as an epilogue. It gives that sense of closure to readers who made it through the emotional read that this proved to be, leaving behind that soft glow of happiness when all is said and done.

Definitely recommended for those who love emotional and beautifully rendered category romances. Ms. Napier is definitely one of a kind in the genre.

Final Verdict: Secret Seduction delivers a story that is raw and powerful in many ways, of a hero who would do anything to prove to the love of his life, the beauty that is the love they have for one another.

Favorite Quotes

‘Nina?’ he muttered. He inhaled deeply and his frown was replaced by a sensuous smile of sleepy satisfaction as he identified the unique personal fragrance that spilled across the pillow. ‘Nina…’
Eyes still closed, his head dipped and his mouth homed unerringly in on hers, parting her lips in a leisurely kiss that caused a delicious chaos in her startled senses. He made a soft sound of lazy enjoyment as his open mouth moved enticingly back and forth over the succulent plumpness of her lower lip, taking tiny, nibbling bites along the ripe curve before sucking it into his mouth, creating an erotic, rhythmic tugging that made her toes curl inside her socks.

‘For goodness’ sake, it’s ridiculous!’ she said hotly. ‘What makes you think he’ll be any good at doing repairs? I doubt if he even knows which end of a hammer is which.’
Ryan’s head tilted, his hair gleaming blue-black in the sun. ‘What makes you say that?’
She spun around and grabbed up his hands, turning them over to display the palms. ‘Well, look! You’re obviously not used to manual labour. No-one who works with tools has hands this soft,’ she jeered, drawing her fingers across his smooth skin. ‘And your fingernails have been manicured.’
He looked down at her, standing between his splayed—knees, a willing captive to her strong artist’s grip. ‘I thought women liked a man to have nice hands,’ he murmured smokily. ‘You have such silken skin yourselves it seems a shame to risk damaging it with rough handling.’

He didn’t even look around the tiny flat as he took off his jacket and loosened his silk tie, his eyes moving over her flushed face and primly attired figure, lingering on the crisply concealing blouse and the lush curve of her hips encased in the tight skirt that ended halfway up her thighs. His nostrils flared as he eased his collar open and saw her gaze follow the movement, her lips parting at the glimpse of the bronzed hollow of his throat.
‘Do you have anything to drink?’
His blunt demand cloaked the crackling sexual tension with a thin veneer of sociability. Nina’s fingers tracked the side seams of her skirt, smoothing it over her hips in an unconsciously seductive gesture.

‘Did you know you never close your eyes when you have an orgasm, Nina? Not until you’ve seen me climax, too. Are you remembering how incredibly arousing it is to watch each other in the throes of an orgasm? And when we made love in front of the fire, you always wanted it to be slow and easy so that it would last a long, long time.
Sometimes we even used to have fires in the middle of summer just for the sake of pleasuring ourselves with prolonged bouts of hot, sweaty sex interspersed with refreshing romps in the pool.

The only warning she had was a faint fan of cool air across her back, and then a big body crowded into the stall behind her, joining her under the wide stream of water, a thick arm snaking around her waist and pulling her back against a nude, hairy male body, already powerfully aroused. Sharp teeth sank into her wet shoulder and a strong hand came around to knead her breasts as his thick shaft settled along the cleft in her bottom. She wriggled her hips and the hand on her breast contracted.
‘I knew you’d come,’ she whispered.
‘We’re both going to come, babe.

‘Open your legs,’ he whispered roughly into her mouth, his hands circling around her soapy navel, massaging ever lower, pressings down over the inside of her thighs until they parted for him, allowing his soap-slick fingers to crowd into the steamy space and play over the secret folds in her skin, exploring her readiness and finding the sweet kernel of budded desire.
Her fingers clawed into his flanks at the drenching burst of pleasure that pulsed hotly against his fingers. ‘Oh, Ryan…’
‘Yeah, babe, I know.

She uttered a tiny choking cry as she approached a pinnacle of sensation only to have the prize snatched from her grasp when Ryan suddenly withdrew and spun her around so that it was now her spine flat to the wall, her thighs urged up around his waist by his rough hands as he bluntly surged back into her welcoming body, grunting in triumph at the slick parting of her folds, shuddering as she instantly contracted around his pulsing hardness.
‘I love to see you watching me when you come apart. I want to watch you, too….’

Purchase Links: Amazon | Kobo | eBooks

Review: Winter of Dreams by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Jordan Pendragon
Heroine: Olivia Marlow
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 1993
Started On: May 04, 2020
Finished On: May 06, 2020

Winter of Dreams is another hit from the backlist of novels written by Susan Napier, most of which I went through during lock down and the period that followed. While a few of the titles from her backlist were misses, even then, I enjoyed reading them for the unique stories that I can always count on Ms. Napier to deliver.

26 year old Olivia Marlow is an artist who has lost her creative flow, having received a scathing review from an anonymous art critic who had earned a reputation for doing just that. Having taken ill following the scandal that ensued, Olivia is not at all ready to get back into the game and face the world. A bout of illness bringing her spirits further down, it is not until her sister forces her hand to come out and face the world again that she makes the attempt required.

When Olivia meets the 37 year old Jordan Pendragon, she wrongfully assumes that what her sister had told her about Jordan to be true. That proves to be the point which provided a lot of mirth filled scenes to the story as it developed, that is up till the point that Jordan puts those assumptions to rest by kissing her senseless.

While Olivia tries to hide from how she feels about Jordan, there is also the fact that Jordan himself holds a secret that could devastate Olivia all over again and destroy what is blossoming to life between two people who are so obviously meant for one another.

I found Winter of Dreams to be delightful in so many ways. Sexy and sinfully sensual (which is classic Ms. Napier), with a larger than life hero and a heroine who is gun-shy, who is helplessly ensnared by the web of heady desire that encapsulates them both from the onset.

Though at first the story started out a tad slow, it took off just like that and I found myself soaking in the heady sensations that coursed through me as the story progressed. I liked how Jordan and Olivia took their time to get to know each other and how that was actually reflected in the story. I loved the changes that came over Olivia as time went by, how she blossomed and bloomed into realizing her own potential and the strengths of her own character.

I have to admit however, that I loved Jordan perhaps a tad more in comparison to Olivia. I found him to be a contrasting mix of kindness, gentleness, and firmness that went well with the setting and proved to be exactly what Olivia needed in the end.

Recommended for fans of category romances, Susan Napier, and romances that stand the test of time.

Final Verdict: In Winter of Dreams, Ms. Napier brings to life a hero whose beauty lies in the remarkable facets to his character; the happily ever after that followed was a foregone conclusion.

Favorite Quotes

Olivia let the rush of fire in her blood consume the last vestige of reason. Her mouth opened helplessly under his and he consolidated his victory, roughly staking his claim inside her as one big, calloused hand splayed across the base of her spine, lifting her forward into the broad saddle of his hips. He stepped back and turned, backing her against the smooth wall, widening his stance so that he could fit her between his powerful thighs, holding her there until she was vividly aware of his heavy arousal.

His restraint became unbearably erotic as he moved rhythmically and persistently against her until she began to arch and blindly move in an echoing rhythm. He shuddered and moaned his thick approval against her swollen mouth, his rigid body suddenly quivering with a new and dangerous tension. Dazedly Olivia realised what was happening. He was making love to her through her clothes. He wasn’t just teasing now, and he wasn’t going to stop. Though they were both fully dressed, he was driving them relentlessly towards sexual fulfillment.

He straddled her completely, supporting his weight on his braced arms so that he didn’t crush her, grinding his hips softly into hers, enticing her with his erotic actions and whispered words of reckless invitation. He ravished her body with his hot, slow kisses as he ravished her mind with his wicked encouragement.
‘Come on, baby, that’s right, let go…’ he murmured as he felt her go under, dragged out of her depth by the swift cross-currents of desire, floundering briefly until she finally stopped fighting and began to flow with the inevitable tide. ‘Touch me… feel me… let me see all that passion you keep hidden inside…’

He said other things, graphically erotic things that made her blush in the dark as he stripped off the only impediments to their merging flesh, calling her ‘baby’ in a thick, harsh, voice that was almost a snarl. She didn’t care if he was using the appellation because he couldn’t remember who she was-she hardly recognised herself, and he made her feel anything but babyish. She had never realised a man could be so violently aroused that he trembled, pleaded, surrendered to a woman as if she were the stronger sex. She discovered she liked him savage and greedy and a little out of control.

Purchase Links: AbeBooks

Review: Falling Angel by Anne Stuart

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Gabriel
Heroine: Caroline Alexander
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 25, 1993
Started On: May 02, 2020
Finished On: May 03, 2020

Falling Angel by Anne Stuart, first published in 1993, is a book that is “mellower” than most when it comes to Ms. Stuart’s legendary penchant for writing dark romances. Falling Angel is a Christmas themed romance, perhaps the reason why there is much lightness and hope infused with the Christmas spirit that is synonymous with the festive season.

Falling Angel begins in an unusual setting, where the hero, Emerson Wyatt MacVey III, who dies at the age of 32 finds himself given a second chance. Sent back to Earth to right his wrongs or otherwise face the consequences, thus Gabriel is “born”, who finds himself in Angel Falls, Minnesota.

26 year old Caroline Alexander (Carrie) has been living with a guilty conscious and a heavy heart for the past two years, given the havoc that she had wrought on the people of her small town. She has no time to take care of herself, much less spend time mooning over the most beautiful man to ever cross her path, someone who for some reason feels familiar to her at the same time.

With just enough details included about the shared past between Carrie and Gabriel to give the story a wholesome edge, Falling Angel is a novel that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to a heartwarming story of second chances and righting wrongs.

While I loved the story well enough, I believe that this dark heart of mine would have loved Emerson more as a hero. Emerson is the kind of hero who at first glance seems irredeemable. But if the very minute bits and pieces included as the premise upon which Gabriel’s character is built upon is anything to judge him by, I think watching him unravel would have been much more fun and heartwarming at the same time. A true Christmas miracle would have been turning someone like him into the best version that he can be. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the quirky characters, the holiday miracle, and the love that sprung forth between Gabriel and Carrie.

Recommended for fans of holiday themed romances and fans of the gentler heroes crafted by Anne Stuart.

Final Verdict: Falling Angel is a story of second chances and good cheer in every sense. There is nothing like the miracle of love to go along with the spirit of Christmas.

Favorite Quotes

He tore his mouth away and stared down at her. “More charity, Carrie?” he said. “How far does your saintliness extend? Passive kisses? Or are you willing to take off your clothes and lie down for the poor itinerant stranger in need of comfort?”
He’d managed to reach behind that calm maternal facade, and her fingers dug into his shoulders as she tried to push him away. “You’re disgusting,” she said.
“No, I’m not. I’m human. At least for now. And I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anyone in my life. But I don’t want a passive saint sacrificing her virtue. I want someone who wants me in return. I want a woman, not a martyr.”

He wanted to take his time, but she was as fevered as he was. She pulled him up between her legs, and he sank into her sleek, welcoming warmth with a muffled groan.
She arched up to meet him, wrapping her long dancer’s legs around him, pulling him in deeper still, and her hands clutched his shoulders, her mouth met his with unerring instincts, and each thrust brought him closer and closer to heaven.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: Bewitching Hour by Anne Stuart

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Nicholas Wyndham Fitzsimmons
Heroine: Saralee (Sybil) Richardson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 24, 1986
Started On: April 22, 2020
Finished On: May 01, 2020

First published in 1986, Bewitching Hour by Anne Stuart tells the story of Saralee (Sybil) Richardson and 34 year old Professor Nicholas Wyndham Fitzsimmons (Nick), who comes to Danbury, Vermont to debunk the beliefs held dear by the new age shopkeeper that is Sybil. Sybil at first believes Nick would an old professor at that and needless to say, when Nick does turn up at her shop, none is more surprised than her, most of all from the way she reacts to him at a very basic level.

Sybil comes from a family of geniuses, women who are overachievers for the most part. She is the odd one out, and having always felt out of place, it was no wonder that her marriage had proved to be dissatisfactory as well, the divorce having propelled her to move to Vermont. Believing she had found her place, the only thing that would make things perfect is for Sybil to find someone to share her life with, a man of the kind with whom she believes she would have a satisfying marriage with.

Nick fails to tick all those boxes that Sybil believes should be part and parcel of her ideal mate, and from the onset, Sybil resists at every turn from giving into him, even when she knows better. While Nick too finds Sybil infuriating and wholly sexy in a way that is indescribable, resistance is futile under the circumstances as the tension between them escalates until all of it culminates in the type of beautifully crafted sex scenes that only Ms. Stuart can deliver.

I loved Bewitching Hour for the most part. I have rarely come across books from Ms. Stuart that I didn’t particularly care for. I loved Nick; he was a refreshing change in the sense that he has a brilliant mind and insight of the kind which sees Sybil for truly who she is. He was kind and utterly sexy in a way that only exemplarily crafted heroes can be.

For some reason, Sybil continues to ignore the signs around her, not just when it comes to Nick and what he means for her future. She ignores the very real “danger” around her, for the small retirement community in which she lives, and that is one of the reasons I found it a bit hard to understand Sybil. To give credit where its due, Sybil is smart, perhaps just that she does not see herself as such because of being overshadowed by her more brilliant siblings4 all her life.

Another reason that I felt disappointed was by the lack of an epilogue or some sort of closure when it came to the “villain” in the story. The fact that the “villain” managed to escape did not sit well with me, when so much havoc and endangerment to lives had been caused by the very same person. I wanted an ending where justice was delivered in some form, but alas, I think what Ms. Stuart was going for was a “quirky” villain who would somehow be lovable at the same time? I quite didn’t feel that way, if that was what was intended.

Even with all the aspects of the story which I hoped were otherwise, I have to say I enjoyed reading Bewitching Hour. After all, in my world, Ms. Stuart is one of those authors who can seldom do any wrong.

Recommended for those who love unusual heroines and heroes who prove to be their undoing. And of course, for fans of Ms. Stuart.

Final Verdict: Two people who by all means are polar opposites find the chaotic oasis they have been searching for in each other. It is the quirky bits in between that made this a good read!

Favorite Quotes

She tried to pull away again, but he still held her firmly. “That was just to get you used to the idea,” he murmured, a thread of laughter in his voice. And pulling her into the warmth of his body, he kissed her again.
She tried to keep her mouth closed against his, but it was a losing battle. Slowly, seductively his tongue reached out, breaching her defenses, slipping into her mouth, invading her, possessing her, as his hands molded her suddenly pliant body against his. He tasted of brandy, she thought as her eyelids fluttered closed. He tasted of love.

His eyes were dancing with humor and something more. Something even Sybil had to recognize, whether she wanted to or not. “Oh, Sybil,” he said, his voice soft, “what makes you think I don’t want you? I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted anyone so much in my life.” And before she had a chance to do more than open her mouth in astonishment he pushed her down on the sofa, his mouth claiming hers as his hands held her still for his shattering kiss.
A white hot spasm of longing swept over her, one so intense that she practically cried out. Her hands reached out to pull him closer, her tongue touched his, shyly at first, then with renewed hunger, until all that existed were their mouths, twining, joining, thrusting and retreating, heat and love and desire all tumbled together.

He couldn’t resist, even if it meant blowing all his hard work. He slid one long arm around her waist, under her coat, and pulled her against him. He caught her chin with his other hand, turning her startled face up to his. “I just want to see if the potion’s still working,” he murmured, and set his mouth on hers.
Her response was gratifyingly instantaneous. Her hands clutched his shoulders, her head tilted back and her mouth opened beneath his with only the slightest pressure. Suddenly he felt slightly desperate. He pushed his tongue past her teeth, into the warm dark hollow of her mouth, and her own tongue met his, sliding against him, flirting with him, and her breasts seemed to swell and press against his chest, as her fingers clutched more tightly, and he heard a tiny little moan deep in the back of her throat. A moan of wanting, a moan of surrender.

He surged upward, carrying her with him, and for a moment she dangled there in his arms, inches off the ground, as they kissed. He was hard against her, very hard, the soft fleece of his sweatpants leaving nothing to the imagination, and she gave a small moan of panic and anticipation. Slowly he lowered her to the floor, his hands sliding down to cup her rounded hips and hold her against him, forcing her to feel his need. It was a need that matched her own.

She tried to move back against him, half in shyness, half in desire, but his hands on her shoulders held her away, and his eyes as they drifted down her nude, aroused body were as powerful an aphrodisiac as any ancient love potion.

Then he pulled her back, and his hands on her flesh were unbearably arousing. She reached for his sweatshirt again, but he forestalled her, pulling it over his head and tossing it after the nightshirt. And catching her hand, he pulled it down between them, to that pulsing maleness that was turning her dizzy with want and a primitive panic. She wasn’t used to this, she wasn’t used to him, she wasn’t sure…
He took her hand and slid it inside the waistband of the sweatpants. As her fingers curled, willingly and wonderingly, around his flesh, his hand found her, hot and damp and ready for him.

“Please,” she whispered, her face crushed against the hot, smooth skin of his shoulder. Her free hand clutched at him, the nails digging into his flesh. “Please, I can’t stand it.”
“What do you want, Saralee?” he whispered in her ear, his voice soft and low. He couldn’t be human, she thought. She had physical proof that he was ready to explode, and he could still taunt her, ignoring his own needs.
“I want you,” she said. Stupid words, how could he fail to know that? “I want you inside me. Now.”

She was trembling, he was trembling, she was crying, he was crying. Then the tempo shifted, jerked, swung crazily and exploded. Too soon, Sybil thought dizzily. Not yet. Don’t let it stop.
And it didn’t. For countless, endless moments it held, beyond reality, time and space. It held, so achingly pleasurable that it flirted with pain, then melted back into pleasure, until they collapsed together in a damp tangle of limbs and hair and heat and love.

Finally it was up to her. It was time to shatter his control as he had shattered hers, time and time again. She pushed him back on the bed, rolled him over and sat astride him, her long dark blond hair rippling down her narrow back, her brown eyes blazing in delight as this time she set the pace. When his hands reached out to cup her hips she moved them away, pressing them down on the mattress as she rocked, back and forth, teasing him as he had teased her, until he was panting and sweating, his golden eyes glazed, until he lost the last trace of his control and arched up into her downthrust, spilling himself into her with a raw, guttural cry that echoed in Sybil’s heart as her body exploded around him one last time.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Lady Sherlock, #3
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Lord Ingram Ashburton
Heroine: Charlotte Holmes
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: October 02, 2018
Started On: April 26, 2020
Finished On: April 27, 2020

The third installment in the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas, i.e. The Hollow of Fear, begins where the second book ends, and continues several months after the fact, with Lord Ingram Ashburton being implicated in the murder of his estranged wife. For the first time since the series started, readers get to see Charlotte Holmes “emotionally” affected in a way she never has been before, even going as far as to lose her appetite for her beloved cakes and desserts.

As the story continues, readers like myself who covet Ms. Thomas’ romance novels are rewarded with just barely enough entanglements of the nature taking place between Lord Ingram and Charlotte. There is so much push and pull factor happening when it comes to Ingram and Charlotte. There is much left unsaid, much yearning, and the desire between the two at times is almost a palpable thing. For someone like Charlotte who lives inside her mind most of the time, it is rather intriguing to see Lord Ingram through her eyes, the way she views his character, their shared history, and the parts of his life that are far removed from hers.

The ending as always, “surprised” me the with who the villain turned out to be. Having watched enough movies and TV series based on the character of Sherlock Holmes, you kind of tend to think along the lines of wo would be the most unlikely villain of all.

I liked The Hollow of Fear better than the first two books, perhaps because the characters themselves are being fleshed out more through each installment and of course there is the fact that things “progress” between Lord Ingram and Charlotte in a way that had me on tenterhooks. I would always look for romance in whatever Ms. Holmes writes, and I guess I am a glutton for punishment in the way I seek out the tidbits that hints as much when it comes to Lord Ingram and Charlotte.

Though at times I wished for the story to be less intensive in terms of dialogue and included more on actual investigations, I did understand partly why the books are crafted as such. For the most part, these plots are centered around the ingenuity or cleverness and the mind games that play out based on Charlotte’s superior powers of deduction.

Recommended for fans of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and fans of Sherry Thomas.

Final Verdict: The Hollow of Fear brings important milestones to life when it comes to Charlotte and Lord Ingram. Enjoyed the twists and turns that heralded the end of this installment.

Favorite Quotes

He did not move again. Not because he might startle her—she had ever been imperturbable in these matters. But because he was startled. He had thought he knew everything there was to know about his desire. Had considered it, so long fettered and trammeled, as tame, or at least manageable.
When it had always been feral. Primal.
Her lips touched his nape, just above the rim of his collar. He spun around, cupped her face, and kissed her on the mouth, a kiss that he might never be able to stop.

He looked at her. She smoothed the back of a spoon across the jam glaze on top of the tart, returning his gaze. He stood very still—no fidgeting for him. But in the rise and fall of his chest there was agitation. Inquietude.
“Why are you nervous?”
He hesitated. “You make me nervous.”
“Why?” She was not nervous at all. “You must have done this hundreds of times—at least.”
“Not with you.”

“I have much to learn,” she said happily. “I wonder if Mrs. Watson can impart any wisdom.”
Good God. “How about I tell you exactly what I like?”
“Really?” She batted her eyelashes at him, needlessly long lashes that would have been a lethal asset had she any interest in flirting. “I’m astonished, my lord. You never tell me anything except what you don’t like.”
“In that case . . .” He placed his lips against her ear and whispered for some time.
When he pulled back, her eyes were slightly glazed. “I was rather hoping, given how starchy you are in public, that in private you might be a man of varied and somewhat depraved tastes. I must say I’m not disappointed.”

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

Review: Mists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Pitch73
Hero: Jack Warden
Heroine: Rodel Harris Emerson
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 31, 2017
Started On: April 20, 2020
Finished On: April 21, 2020

“Have you ever sat across from someone, fully clothed, and felt them slowly unbutton your heart?”

The quote above sums up perfectly what this entire book did for me, my heart, and my soul. Mists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar is a book unlike any other. From start to finish, this book wraps around you, cocoons you within the folds of its pages, devastates you, makes you smile through the tears that are always on the verge of spilling from your eyes, and by the end, you feel like you have experienced something you possibly never could have by reading a book. Inspired by true events and released in 2017, this is one book that will continue to transcend time and age beautifully.

Leylah Attar is a new to me author, but she has definitely carved a place for herself in my favorite go-to authors list with just this novel, which speaks for itself. Ms. Attar writes with the kind of prose that is gut wrenching, because you can tell that they aren’t just merely words lining up to make up a sentence. There is more to it than that, there is life to those words and they make you feel in a way no book has made me feel in a long, long, long time.

24 year old Rodel Harris Emerson’s life entwines with that of Jack Warden’s through tragedy, a senseless one that takes away Rodel’s sister and Jack’s beautiful daughter. When Rodel turns up in Tanzania a month later, trying to piece together the life her sister had lived across the world from her, Rodel finds out there are things about her sister’s life that she would like to know more about, which is how she ends up seeking the help of the one man who could help her, i.e. Jack.

Jack is a man waiting for death in the wake of the loss that mars his life. Lily had been everything to him, and I do not say that lightly. In Jack’s words, he would die a thousand deaths to save her; over and over and over again. Jack’s mind and heart are riddled with survivor’s guilt, and he is unable to look beyond that in order to emerge from the haze of deep abiding sorrow that cripples his world and narrows it down to just that alone.

Jack’s antagonism towards Rodel is a palpable thing at first, but as Jack’s kinder nature fights its way back through the thick fog that surrounds him, there is a connection between the two that breaks through everything that holds Jack back from rejoining the living. Albeit reluctantly, Jack is drawn into helping Rodel carry out the last of her sister’s mission in assisting those in need; the relocation of albino kids to a safe sanctuary.

As Jack and Rodel’s love explodes amidst the exotic setting of Tanzania which Ms. Attar describes and depicts as vividly as she does their love, there was no part of me that remained disengaged from the story. I cried my way through some of the most poetic and tragic of the scenes, where Jack, who believes his heart is no longer capable of loving, expresses how he feels about Rodel in ways that I think has ruined me for other book boyfriends. I don’t say this lightly either. There is just something about Jack in the way he commands every single scene which he is in, so effortlessly.

There is no way to write this review without it sounding extremely gushy, because if I had to change one thing about the book, there is nothing that I would. This book was sheer perfection from start to finish, and I dare you to not cry your way through some of the scenes in the book.

One of the most fabulous aspects of the book was the epilogue itself; it had me reminiscing about the book long after I was done. To be honest, I still am. I was pretty sure that no other book would live up to what Mists of the Serengeti had taken me through, and my prediction has proved me right thus far this year.

There are books that take a piece of you with them when you are done. Mists of the Serengeti fits that bill because of so many reasons. There is Jack of course, who owned my heart from the first chapter onward. The way he cares for his daughter, the relationship he has with her, the pain that is palpable when it comes to his loss; all of that and more are reasons I loved and loved his character and more.

Jack’s pain is a living being which made me miss Lily dearly throughout the story. And there is the way he resists and yet finds himself spellbound by the connection that forges to life between him and Rodel. The fact that he is honest about what he can offer, and yet finds it excruciating to let go when the time comes; those were the aspects that added the angst factor needed when it came right down to it.

Rodel is an extraordinary heroine and I loved her to bits, just as much as I did Jack. There is a gentleness to her that is hard not to fall in love with and the way she is determined to live her life and get as much as possible out of the time she has with Jack and what he is willing to offer won points with me. The strength of her character lies in the fact that she loves herself enough to walk away when all is said and done, because there is no point in pining for someone who is not ready to move on from what holds them back.

The period of separation between the two, the healing that both characters undergo, each in a different way, Jack more so than Rodel; all of that was so realistically done that I could not have asked for a better ending.

If ever there is a book that romance readers should read (that is if you haven’t already), this is it. Grab a copy and indulge. I guarantee that you would not walk away unchanged from the experience.

Final Verdict: Mists of the Serengeti is that book which casts a magic spell and holds you spellbound throughout. It is that book which you will hug close to your soul and walk away a changed person from the sheer experience of it all.

Favorite Quotes

Kissing Jack was like kissing a slumbering lion. He barely moved, but I could sense the raw power behind his restraint. And deeper still, lurked something wild and dangerous, something that could obliterate me if unleashed. But I wanted it, because it was magnificent, because it swirled over the loss and pain running through his veins, because it was the part of him that was alive. It made me want to thread my fingers through his thick, tawny hair even though I knew it was a bad, bad idea.

Once in Africa, I kissed a king . . .
I got up, smoothed my dress, and walked away, leaving Jack kneeling by the calf.
“Rodel,” he said, just as I was about to step outside.
Rodelle. Another thing I would always remember—the way he said my name, elle-vating it beyond the ordinary.
He was between me and the exit before I could turn around. He swung me into the circle of his arms and kissed me—not softly or tentatively, like I had kissed him, but hungry and demanding, crushing my body to his. His mouth moved wildly over mine, his tongue exploring the recesses of my mouth, as if I had stolen a piece of him, and he wanted it back. I tasted the whole universe in Jack’s kiss—the blue heat of spinning stars, the birth of distant suns, atoms buzzing and colliding and fusing.

He clasped my hand under the blanket and threaded his fingers through mine. He’d held my hand once before, but this felt different, possessive—like he was staking his claim. A curious swooping pulled at my insides. We both knew there was a line we couldn’t cross, but it didn’t stop Jack’s arm from going around me or my head from leaning on his shoulder.
For a few hours that night, Jack and I sat out on the porch, with the scent of wild jasmine in the air, and nothing but the squeaking of the swing, and the buzzing of night insects breaking up the silence.

“Rodel?”
“Yes?”
“If you dig your nails into the mattress any harder, you’re going to rip a hole through it.”
“I . . . I’m not—”
“Let go.” He propped himself up on his elbow and loosened my grip. “What are you so afraid of?” His eyes searched mine. “This?” He swept me into his arms and held me snugly. “See? It’s not so bad,” he said, as his warmth seeped into my body—so male, so bracing.
“They’re just arms.” His fingers trailed slowly up and down my arm. “And legs.” He traced the curve of my thigh. “And this spot right here, that I’ve been dying to taste since I washed your hair.” He kissed a spot under my ear lobe. “I crave you, Rodel. In the most innocent ways. I lie awake in my bed at night, thinking of you down the hallway, wanting nothing more than to hold you. I want to stroke your hair until you fall asleep. I want to give you forehead kisses when you’re down. That’s all I allow myself. I don’t go any further.”

Everything shattered as he took my mouth with savage intensity. One large hand gripped my waist, drawing me to him as if he couldn’t stand the distance anymore. Blood pounded in my brain as his hand glided under my top and fondled my breast, turning its pink tip marble hard. His body was rough and insistent on top of mine, our breaths uneven, limbs entwined.
“Touch me.” He pulled his T-shirt over his head, heat rippling off his skin. My pulse raced to my fingertips, as I traced the corded muscles on his chest, the light mat of hair in the groove between his pecs. When I slipped my hands into his boxers, he reclaimed my mouth, surging into my palms with a groan.
“Tell me you want this.” He slid down my stomach, to the swell of my hips. “Show me.”

“I’m going to make you come, Rodel.” He said that part in my ear, partially covering my body with his because I was shivering. “I want to know what you sound like when you orgasm.”

“Jack . . .” I half-turned to face him.
He knew what I wanted before I said it. He crushed my mouth hungrily, his tongue seeking mine, demanding it. My lips parted on a ragged sigh as he buried his face in the hollow of my neck, intensifying the rhythm of his fingers. Pleasure radiated outward, like jolts of liquid fire. I clutched the tendons in the back of Jack’s neck. He was a biter, grazing my neck with just enough force to command all of my attention, and then letting go, like a lion playing with his prey. I slid my fingers through the thick tufts of his hair, pulling him back, and then we were kissing again, leaving soul sonnets deep inside each other’s mouths. That was when he sent me over the edge, sliding his thigh between my legs, shifting his lean, hard frame over me. It was a simple act, but I shattered into a million glowing stars.

“I want you, Jack.” My body rose instinctively to meet his. The thick, hard length of him on my thigh was both electrifying and intimidating. “But you should know . . . I . . . I haven’t done this before. You’re my first.”
He stilled and sucked in a long, ragged breath. “This . . .” He took in another soul-deep breath. “You haven’t—”
“It’s okay,” I whispered. “Look at me. Look at me, Jack. I want you to be my first.”
And my last. And all the times in between. But I can’t have that. So I’ll take this. What we have right here. Right now.

I thought his touch was the only cure for my crazy, heated senses, but I found myself being pulled beyond the circle of his arms, to a place where souls go to kiss—lipless and formless and free. I knew that whenever I thought of love, it would have a face, a name, a voice. And I would hear its heart beating from inside a tent in the wilds of Africa.

“I was talking about a trip to the crater, not—”
“Not this?” I tossed off my wet top in a passionate challenge.
My invitation pushed him over the edge. Something intense flared through him—instant, electric, as if I had just unleashed him.
Shit. I’m in for it now. My pulse pounded with a dizzy cocktail of desire, rimmed in gritty bits of trepidation. He gazed at me intently, cranking up the anticipation until it was almost unbearable.
“Take it off,” he said, his command thick with longing.
My fingers faltered as I slid off one strap, and then the other. He didn’t wait for me to unclasp my bra. He was done waiting. His tongue flicked my nipple through the wet fabric before he latched on, sucking it into his mouth, rasping the edges with his teeth.

It had been different in the dark, but in the gray, muted daylight, my insecurities kicked in. It wasn’t as if I’d been naked in front of many men before. A hand under my blouse, a feel up my skirt, but never so exposed. And certainly not with someone who looked like Jack. My hands moved instinctively across my breasts and stomach.
“Don’t.” He clamped my wrists above me as his hooded eyes roved over my naked body. My flesh trembled, my toes curled, but when I opened my eyes and caught the expression on his face, everything melted. He was looking at me like I was stardust and light.
“Jesus.” His eyes darkened with stark sensuality. “You are so fucking beautiful.”

Jack was not a quiet lover. He voiced his pleasure with thick, throaty sounds. He threw my leg over his shoulder and nipped my inner thigh before plunging his tongue into me. I held onto his wild, thick hair as involuntary tremors of arousal shot through me. He seemed to sense the awakening flames because his movements intensified, carrying me to the peaks of pleasure.
“Yes.” He lifted my hips off the floor, bringing me in full, carnal contact with his mouth. “Fuck, yes.”

“Kiss me,” he said, smoky and raw.
I touched my lips to his, my focus still on the point where our bodies were melded.
“A real kiss,” he growled, grazing my bottom lip with his teeth. “Like this.” His mouth swooped down to capture mine until my senses were spinning. My breath escaped through softly parted lips. “Give me your tongue.” His words were a spell I had fallen under. I shivered as the velvet warmth of his tongue tangled with mine, losing myself to the mastery of his kiss.
That was when he thrust deep into me—one hard, firm push that made me gasp and break free of his lips. I clutched his shoulders, my nails leaving crescent shaped indents as the pain tore through me.

“Remember this.” He brushed the hair off my neck and breathed a kiss there. “When you’re curled up with your books on a rainy afternoon in England, remember how you painted my world with your colors. Remember your rainbow halo.”
“I will.” A hot ache grew in my throat. He was already saying goodbye. “I’ll remember. For the rest of my life.”

“My date ditched me,” he replied, taking the kiddie stool across from me, and sitting the doll on his lap. He was saying one thing, but his eyes were saying another.
You’re okay.
You made it.
God, let me just look at you.
And so we sat there, staring at each other across an upside-down cardboard box, as the kids milled about around us. He unclasped my fingers from the little teapot I was holding and pretended to fill two miniature cups with it. I picked up mine, he picked up his, and we clinked them in a silent toast.
We pretend-ate and pretend-drank. The air thrummed between us, heavy with words we couldn’t wrap our tongues around.

“Kiss me hard, then let me go,” I said, when the touch of his hand became suddenly unbearable in its tenderness.
I felt the movement of his breath before our lips touched. My heart throbbed at the sweet, savage sensation of his mouth. It was like running without air—breathless and beautiful. I clung to him for a soul-bursting moment, before wrenching myself away and stumbling toward the building. I paused for a beat as the sliding doors opened.
Turn around, Rodel, a part of me screamed.
Don’t look back, the other part countered.
I turned. Because I couldn’t help it. Because Jack honked.

God. The feel of her body opening up to me, molding around me like a warm, wet glove. Her tongue in my mouth. The way her hands clutched me. The way her leg wrapped around my hip. I bit her shoulder as the animal in me rose. And then it was all primal passion, nothing but the sound of her soft moans. My release should have been quick, but I held on, not wanting it to end. Being inside of her was like a drug. Being inside of her was pure euphoria. I captured the gasp that escaped her as her body stiffened. She was coming again.
“Yes,” I growled as she writhed under me. “Fuck, yes.” And then I gave in to the explosion of fiery sensations that overtook me, rocking me to the core.

“You’re so hot when you go all book-nerd on me.” Her nightshirt was riding high on her thighs, her lips were pouty, and she was cradling the book as if it were a hurt child. “Do you know—” I flipped her over so she was on all fours, her nose lodged in the folds of the novel “—I have sex with you a lot. In my head. Just like this.” I squeezed her sweet ass and rubbed my throbbing shaft over her panties. “Read to me, Rodel. Read to me while I ride you.” I pushed the fabric of her panties aside and slipped my finger inside of her. She let out a muffled groan.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Review: The Cruellest Lie by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Morgan Stone
Heroine: Claudia Lawson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1994
Started On: April 14, 2020
Finished On: April 16, 2020

I can always count on Susan Napier to deliver reads worth salivating over. With fears of the pandemic raging across the world at an all time high during the period of lockdown imposed on us, I had to distract my mind with books by authors that I could count on. Which meant rummaging through the back-list of books by authors like Susan Napier and indulging in them to my heart’s content.

The Cruellest Lie tells the story of a very pregnant 26 year old Claudia Lawson who meets an angry and hostile Morgan Stone at the start of the story. What begins as a misunderstanding on the part of Morgan culminates in an incident that marks both Claudia and Morgan, one similar emotion tying them together as two years pass by since and they meet again; regret over what took place and the words left unsaid.

Two years later, when Morgan comes back into Claudia’s life, she does everything possible to evade him, but her job demands that she play nice and get along with him, at least until the project that he wants her to work on is completed. However, as Claudia spends more time with Morgan, contrary to her previously held opinion about him, she comes to understand that behind her nervousness when it comes to Morgan lies the fact that she finds him undeniably attractive and is drawn to him on a level that she never has been to anyone ever before.

However, what remained unsaid about the incident that took place back then stands between them and the pursuit of something longer term than what transpires between them, and it will take a lot from both Morgan and Claudia to face the inevitable truth when it comes to their feelings for each other.

I loved many aspects about The Cruellest Lie. I understood the complexity of the emotions that drove Claudia to blame Morgan solely for what had taken place at that point in time and the growing up she had done within the two years time she comes in contact with Morgan again. I also understood why Claudia chose to try and ignore what was happening between them, because let’s face it, none of us like being vulnerable to a significant someone unless we know that they would be willing to catch us if we fall flat on our asses.

Morgan Stone was undeniably delectable. Ms. Napier has a way with her heroes that gets to me every single time and this one was no exception.With her flair for writing such vividly sensual scenes of passion which does not have to be explicit but gets you there every single time, there is a reason why Ms. Napier’s books stands the test of time. She writes strong heroines at a point in time when feminism as a concept was just beginning to see the light of day in most parts of the world. And she ties them up with equally strong and dominant heroes that makes your heart go pitter-patter. The ending was classic Ms. Napier; humorous and endearing, which clinched the deal for me.

Recommended for those who love Ms. Napier’s voice and those who love a good dose of Harlequin romance every now and then.

Final Verdict: The Cruellest Lie is another hit when it comes to Ms. Napier’s remarkable style of penning romances you can absolutely count on.

Favorite Quotes

‘Isn’t this what you’re afraid of, Duchess?’
His parted mouth came down on hers, damming the cry of protest in her arched throat, sending a dazzling bolt of fearful excitement shearing through her consciousness. After the first instant of quivering shock it was like being enveloped in a slither of hot, wet silk that bound her, stroked her, wrapping around her senses, entangling her in inescapably erotic knots.
The world went black as she closed her eyes, shutting out the deliciously terrifying sight of Morgan’s blue eyes a breath away from hers, blazing with a carnal intensity that was matched by the sensual movements of his mouth. It was a mistake. Now there was nothing to distract her from the pure intoxication of her tactile senses.

She murmured, struggling to surface from her sensual stupor, and he soothed her by at last seeking one of the rigid peaks sheltering behind the seams of her bra, taking it between his teeth and biting, firmly. Wanton desire exploded violently in the pleasure centres of her brain, obliterating her returning reason. Her head fell back in erotic shock as in the same moment he shifted the hand under her skirt gently between their bodies and touched the secret V that sheltered her femininity. It was a light, sliding touch, one fingertip barely intruding between the silky compression of her inner thighs, clamped together between his powerful knees, but combined with the stinging tug on her nipple the explicit delicacy of that warm fingertip curling against the clinging film of her panties was every bit as shattering as his full possession would have been.

His hand finally stilled against her, the handkerchief tucked into the exposed hollow between her breasts where the tiny white bow that concealed the front catch of her bra just peeked above the first fastened button. She felt a tiny tug and that button, too, fell open. Her eyes flew to his face. He was waiting for her, his smile blazing with sensuous challenge as he flicked open another button, and another.
‘Now you can plead ravishment.’

‘Am I pleasing to you, Claudia?’ he murmured, making no attempt similarly to hide the blatancy of his desire. ‘I hope so, because you’re very, very appealing to me … especially like that, your lovely full breasts peeping at me through your fingers and the soft rounded thigh drawn up to shelter the hot dewy silk I’m aching to feel around me .. .’ He shuddered lightly, throwing his head back as his whole body flexed with the acuteness of his need. He was proud of his passion, engendering a similar pride in Claudia as he looked down at her and asked bluntly, ‘Can you ease that ache for me, Claudia? Will you touch me and taste me and pleasure me in the way that I need to be to feel completed?’

‘You forgive me for my unreasonable jealousy…?’ If she had been in her right mind she would have been delighted to hear him beg but as it was the words could no longer satisfy her. She welcomed the completeness of his possession. ‘Yes … yes .. .’
‘You’re mine,’ he rasped, the muscles in his arms cording with agonised tension as he supported himself over her writhing body, driving her harder, deeper into a sustained frenzy. ‘Say yes, dammit, tell me you want to do this with me every day of your life.’
‘Yes, yes, yes…!’ she sobbed, and the explosive reaction that was her reward tumbled her into sweet oblivion.

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

Review: Sweet Agony Charlotte Stein

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mischief
Hero: Cyrian Harcroft
Heroine: Molly Parker
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: August 1992
Started On: April 11, 2020
Finished On: April 15, 2020

My deep abiding desire to read something different, something that would sweep me off my feet (because these days it is really, really, really hard to find a book that does this to you), is the reason I ended up reading my very first book by Charlotte Stein. Reading Sweet Agony made me wonder why I had not come across a book by Ms. Stein prior to this. Maybe I have and never thought much of it or thought it wasn’t for me (which seems highly unlikely). Either way, I am glad I came across this delectable, delicious, and angst ridden (in the best way possible) read that I would forever hold close to my heart.

Sweet Agony begins when 22 year old Molly Parker answers an advert seeking a housekeeper and finds herself hired after the most invigorating job interview that I have ever come across in a book, and all that without Molly even laying eyes on the man who hires her, aka 34 year old Cyrian Harcroft.

Cyrian is the quintessential definition of a loner, preferring to hole himself up in a house that is as forbidding and closed off to the world as he is. However, from the onset, there is something about Molly that sets a fire blazing inside him as he does in her, and there is no stopping the tidal wave of lust, love, tenderness, and other emotions that comes gushing forth between the two.

With every word that Cyrian speaks or writes to Molly, to her it is as if someone is reading out the verses of a book of poetry written specifically for her. And even though Molly knows that it is the height of impropriety to lust after her boss, she does just that, even when she knows that Cyrian is not for the likes of her.

One thing leads to another and Ms. Stein delivers so spectacularly on the build up of the sexual tension that wraps around you so tight. It is almost as if you cannot breath through certain parts of the book; yes, Ms. Stein’s play with the words is nothing short of mesmerizing.

In Cyrian’s words towards the end, they are soulmates, no question about it. Both having undergone difficult childhoods in their own ways, it is only Molly who is able to bring Cyrian out of his inward shell, the one in which he believes himself to be unworthy of love.

The best thing about Sweet Agony for me were the main protagonists, specifically Cyrian. He is a hero to die for, the demanding and tender side to his character unbound layer by layer to reveal his true self as seen through Molly’s eyes. He is sexy in a way that is indescribable, a hero worth swooning over in the years to come.

I will never get over how he just sat down and started reading dirty passages from the book he was supposedly writing, and not even by the mereest flicker of an expression did he show how it affected him. That was in part one of the most glorious aspects of this book and I fell completely and head over heels in love with Cyrian without even trying.

Molly was just as wonderful, having that right touch and balance to her character which helped her gain insight into what Cyrian was about and what he needed. The fact that Cyrian thinks he is unworthy, when he already is what Molly needs and more, was the icing on the cake as the novel reached its ultimate conclusion.

The only reason that Sweet Agony did not get the five stars that the story truly deserves was because of the lack of an epilogue which was sorely felt. Having gone through that roller-coaster of a ride with Cyrian and Molly, readers deserve an epilogue, maybe something five or ten years down the line, just to show us how they were faring. In my mind, Cyrian is still that forbidding man he is to everyone else except for Molly, for whom his face lights up with the merest gaze.

I would also have loved to know more about Cyrian and Molly’s pasts – even though I know the story had enough tidbits to serve as such, just enough to make that emotional connection needed for readers to thoroughly enjoy the story.

Highly recommended, especially for those who love an erotic tale that is akin to poetry written for your soul.

Final Verdict: Sweet Agony by Charlotte Stein is beautifully crafted poetic eroticism done right. Definitely recommended!

Favorite Quotes

I know as soon as he sits down that I am in trouble. He crosses one leg over the other, in a way I would describe as louche if I could stand to. At the very least I have to admit it shows off how long his limbs are, and how much more muscular than they had initially seemed. At first glance, he always appears rail-thin.
But then you see something flex and tighten in his thigh, and all is lost.
There is no going back, after this. Whatever pretence I made of not fancying him dissolves, the moment he sits there and just looks at me. Then, just when I think it can’t get any more intense, he reaches inside his dressing gown.
And draws out a bloody book.

And then he strikes me, and I lose my mind.
It’s nothing like what I expected. Some part of me thought it would just be painful, and that people were lying when they talked about how exciting it is. But I see now that I am an idiot. The cane paints a searing stripe across my flesh, and when it does I try to climb up the nearest wall. The breath I was about to take sticks in my throat. Everything stops.
Swiftly followed by a sensation so intense I can hardly stand it. It seems to flood my body, filling me to the brim. I feel incapable of containing it, and even when I manage to cram it in there is more, hot on its heels. He doesn’t wait for me to take it in. He just does it again, this time so sharply it brings tears to my eyes. I come very close to sobbing, but, good God, I know why I hold it in.
If I let it out he may stop.

Then I feel a great wave of pleasure. I don’t even know why. His scorn should be the last thing I should want, yet somehow it only seems to take things higher. I think I hear him hiss in anger and I almost fall to my knees. I’m so bad, I think, so wicked, so completely lost to my own insatiable lust.
And that’s when it happens.
My cunt tightens around my still working fingers, so hard it almost brings everything to a standstill. So hard I have to say it out loud, no matter what the consequences. He might hate me for making it all so overt, but I don’t care. I’m coming I’m coming oh God you make me come so good, I tell him, as pleasure shudders through me. Glorious, golden pleasure, of the kind I could never regret.
Until it’s over.

‘God, you greedy little slut,’ he says, those words alone enough to get me. However, it’s the admiration in his voice that really finishes the job. I hear it and I just respond without even thinking about it.
‘Oh, fuck, yes, say that again,’ I tell him.
But I’m glad I do. He apparently feels the same way too.
‘I should get you by the hair,’ he says.
‘Yes, yes, yes, you should, yes, please.’

As he eases his fingers beneath the material – so skin-to-skin it scorches me – and slides one elegant finger through my soaking slit. All these rude things, I think, all these rude things and with someone right there. Though that makes no difference. In fact, if anything it gets worse when the man suddenly leaves, because that’s when Cyrian decides to murmur the worst thing in the world to me.
‘Do you think he is leaving so he can come with the thought of you being fingered still fresh in his mind?’ he asks, as though he’s suddenly become a completely different person. Gone is that sense of defeat I saw all over his face. He seems barely bothered by our closeness. His lips are so close to my cheek he could be kissing me.

I forget about giving him space, about being restrained.
I just buck and rub myself against his hand until I come, and come, and come. And I’m glad I do, too. I would have felt a hundred times more stupid if I’d carried on pretending I could be a celibate nun with no feelings, when he says what he does in the aftermath. He turns back to his paper as I sit there slumped and panting, pink-faced and unable to speak. And then, just as regret starts to rise in me, just as I wonder if I somehow forced him into that or caused him intense agony by responding at all, he says this:
‘You might not mind never doing anything sexual again. But I bloody well do.’

He is mere centimetres from me. It would take almost no effort to stick out my tongue and get a taste. And it would feel good to him, too, God knows it would. He’s never had someone lick him there, which seems like a crying shame to me in this moment.
But I want to resist. Despite the heat and the hand in my hair near dragging me closer, despite the sense that he would like me to, I want to resist. I want to show him that he can trust me always to respect his boundaries, and be as patient as he needs, and am I glad I do.
If I had licked he might have pulled back, instead of doing what he does:
He groans my name like some sinful prayer as he fills my open mouth.

And then he speaks, and I wonder why I ever did.
‘I have no boundaries now. You burned them all. I have no walls around myself; you have reduced each one to rubble. You have undone me in every conceivable way and yet still you hesitate, and I adore you for it. Sometimes I wish I did not; God knows it would be easier for me. But if an easy life must be paid for with the absence of you then I find the price too steep to so much as contemplate. I am your creature now, wholly and completely – so do with me what you will. I shall not turn you away,’ he says, so low and calm you could almost imagine it meant nothing.

I hear him gasp that he’s going to come and feel the flood of it in my mouth, and then my whole body simply seizes up. It lights a spark that was already on the verge of burning, and I go up like a bonfire. I groan and buck just as he’s doing, nearly choking on the liquid ribbons spilling over my tongue but loving every second of it.
Loving every second of him giving in. Giving it all up to me, in one great glorious burst that leaves us both gasping and flailing and only really understanding in the aftermath. I come around from an orgasm so intense it almost knocks me out, to find myself sprawled halfway over him. My body is all over his body, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
In fact, when I start to sit up he stops me.
And his arm goes over mine.

And then his eyes drift closed.
Ahhhh, yes, the way his eyes drift closed. It reminds me of everything I’ve been able to feel since he first took that cane to my backside, so simple I took it for granted. I found it easy, but I see in this one look how hard it has been for him. I understand in a way I never fully did before, always assuming that he not only couldn’t but didn’t really want to. Not completely, not wholly – maybe not even on the train or in his bed.
But I get it now.
All this time, and he was just longing for this. Everything was theory, nothing was lived. None of it known the way he clearly knows it now, so blissful that his face fills with warm contentment.

He fills me so completely I can spark sensation through my belly just by tightening around him – and apparently it’s the same for him.
I do it and he jerks as though slapped.
‘Stop, no,’ he says, and oh, it’s the best to hear him do it. It’s the best because he doesn’t mean it in the bad way. He means it in the good way, the I’m-going-to-come way and the second I register that, I just can’t help clenching again. It almost happens on its own, like an involuntary spasm.
And it has the greatest effect. He punches the hay by the side of my head, his gasp so loud and heated it sends me insane. I buck as soon as I hear it, and after that things just snowball. He grabs my arse and takes me hard, pounding relentlessly until I can hardly stand it.

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Review: Devil to Pay by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Devlin Connell
Heroine: Cressida Kerr Cross
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1992
Started On: April 10, 2020
Finished On: April 11, 2020

Devil to Pay by Susan Napier is one of those books that stands the test of time. First published in 1992, reading this book 28 years later is an experience that is worth your time if you love romances that are interwoven with humor, characters that make you fall in love, and delivers sexual tension and love of the kind that makes your heart hum with pleasure.

Cressida Kerr Cross (Cressy) is a photojournalist who is on her way to Whitianga, a nature reserve in New Zealand, in pursuit of a certain breed of insects, the subject matter being one that fascinates her to no end. However, her plans are derailed when she falls sick and finds herself at the residence of 39 year old Devlin Connell (Devil) of whom Cressy is equal doses wary of and drawn towards.

When Devlin finds an almost naked Cressy inside his home, he is more suspicious than anything else. Wanting a quiet life, Devlin is someone who does not like fanfare and has a deep rooted distrust, especially when it comes to reporters. One thing leads to another and before long, both Devlin and Cressy finds that their wariness towards each other cannot hide the fact that they are drawn to one another on an intrinsic level that is undeniable.

I loved both Devlin and Cressy; Devlin never having taken the tumble towards love and Cressy with an innate need to love and be loved, a hunger that has remained unappeased for far too long. When her life intersects with that of Devlin’s there is no turning back for either of them and I reveled in the heady emotions that coursed through me as I indulged in this mesmerizing romance.

Through a mix of angst-ridden and often hilarious situations bringing to light the side of Susan Napier as an author that I love and adore, Devil to Pay offers readers a delightful journey towards the happily ever after that is waiting for Devlin and Cressy. I absolutely adored this scrumptious read and would recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone who loves a romance of the good old variety.

Final Verdict: Devil to Pay is Susan Napier at her funniest and best. Loved the clumsiness, sexiness, emotional depth, and everything else in between!

Favorite Quotes

You’re as red as the sheets,’ he said, lowering his head slowly, holding her captive with his eyes as he asked roughly, ‘If I said it in English would you burst into flames for me…?’
‘Devlin…’ She should stop him, she should want to stop him! She should push him away, not spread her hands caressingly against his shirt front… What was the matter with her?
‘This room is perfect for you. A room of clashing colour and outrageous passion,’ he whispered, a breath away from her mouth.

‘Devil!’
‘That’s what they call me,’ he said, swallowing her sigh. He bit her mouth open with raw tenderness. It was even sweeter inside than he remembered, and sinfully evocative of a deeper intimacy. He thrust into her, sheathing his tongue again and again in the hot wet silk, taking shameless advantage of her submission, all his former fine resolve overridden by far more primitive instincts—that of the hunter astride his weaker prey, the miner greedily staking his claim, the male animal exploring his territorial limits.

‘Look in the mirror, Cressy,’ he invited roughly, and she lifted lustrous brown eyes and was transfixed by the shocking sight of their naked abandon, the pale feminine body with its soft curves dominating the hard, brown muscularity of the blatantly masculine one sprawled across the crimson bed.
‘See how lovely you are,’ Devlin praised her, his words caressing her as his hands lifted to push her tangled ginger mane back over her shoulders, fully exposing her body to her own view. He couldn’t see their reflection but he could see her response to it and he found it intensely arousing.

‘We look so right together, don’t we? We fit so well.’ He undulated his hips so that she felt him, thick with desire, press against the open heart of her. ‘I want you to make love to me like this one day…mistress of all you survey, proudly astride your kingdom. Never feel afraid or ashamed of the sexuality between us, Cressy, because it’s a rare and beautiful thing…’