Review: Another Time by Susan Napier

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Alexander Knight
Heroine: Helen Smith
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 1989
Started On: May 03, 2020
Finished On: May 04, 2020

Susan Napier is an author who continually pushes the expected norms when it comes to writing romances, especially at a time during which not many authors were inclined to do so. Ms. Napier’s novels are about feminism, equal rights, and at times heroines who hold onto the concept of independence to the point where it becomes a tad annoying to read the book. But never let it be said that Ms. Napier writes conventional romances, as this title itself is testament of.

Another Time was first published in 1989 and given the concept that is explored in this book, I rightfully guessed from the onset that this would not be well received by most readers. At certain points at the beginning of the story, even I was unsure of how I felt about what was taking place, up till the point where more salient details came to light later on.

24 year old Helen Smith is engaged and getting ready for her nuptials with the help of her future in-laws. With her fiance away, Helen is not at all ready for the havoc that is wrought by the introduction of her fiance’s brother, Alexander Knight (Alex).

With a reputation that precedes him, both professionally and otherwise, Alex makes Helen uncomfortable right from the start. Alex mistaking Helen to be someone else, the woman who had haunted his dreams for the past five years makes Helen want to understand where he is coming from when he makes untoward remarks and comments that a future brother-in-law rightfully should not be making.

However, as the events unfold and more details emerge, things aren’t as straightforward as they seem to be at first. Helen who does not remember her time with Alex, is determined to do right by her fiance, even when her body clamors to be with her fiance’s brother. Forcing herself to go through the motions is made impossible by the fact that Alex is everywhere she turns, unrelenting on his goal to win back the woman he believes to be his, even if it means stealing her away from his own brother.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this novel’s premise is not for everyone. Most readers would not be able to get past the fact that Alex is seemingly the one in the wrong, when truth couldn’t be far from it. While I loved Alex as a hero, I believe his sensuality was the most well done factor in the book, something Ms. Napier excels at and amazes me with time and yet again. For a novel that was written and published in the late 80’s, Another Time certainly packs a punch with scenes of passion done so right, which is classic Ms. Napier.

While the novel lost some of its allure towards the latter half of it, I believe the key reason behind that factor was Helen herself, who could not seem to understand the love she has for Alex and vice versa. She fails to see where Alex was coming from, when what they had shared together at a certain point in time had been transcendental. I would have liked it better had Helen come to terms with her feelings, as complex as they seemed to be, and met Alex halfway when all was said and done.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this story for the most part, or at least the parts where Alex made my senses hum. I believe the ending felt more bereft due to the lack of an epilogue which would have gone a long way towards making this more well rounded.

Recommended for fans of Susan Napier and those that love reading unorthodox romances. Another Time is perhaps, not for everyone.

Final Verdict: Another Time is a novel that pushes the envelope when it comes to the genre. However, Ms. Napier’s mastery in delivering sensually charged stories is the saving grace when it comes to Alex and Helen.

Favorite Quotes

‘Who am I?’ he asked against her mouth.
‘Alex?’ The terrible implications of his words suddenly sank into her hazy brain, the ugly reality of what he was saying. ‘No—’
‘Yes.’ His tongue stroked away her muffled protest, his teeth burrowing lightly into the fullness of her lower lips, taking small, delicious bites out of her resistance. ‘Alex… you know me, don’t you? In your heart you know… I was the one who drew first blood, Angel. I was the one you turned to in your need, who showed you the glory of being a woman. And how you loved me for it…all through the long night. How hot and sweet you were, and eager, so eager to know everything. You were the most uninhibited lover I’ve ever had… my best lover… my last lover… my once and only lover…’

‘Alex—’ She clutched at him convulsively, not knowing whether she was rejecting or inviting his touch. But he knew…
‘It’s all right, darling,’ he whispered against the delicate curve of her jaw. ‘I know what you want, I know where you like to be touched, and how… I know everything about how to please you…’ And his fingers wound into her hair, pulling her head back so that her spine arched against the hand that held her hips against his arousal. His tongue tracked the blue vein that traced a creamy breast until he found the rosy crest, where he nipped and licked until her hands pleadingly cupped his head and he began to suckle with rhythmic firmness that made her almost faint with pleasure. Her legs sagged until she was cradled against the hardness between his thighs as he turned his attention to her other breast and loved it with equal fervour and skill.

‘Ssshhh.’ He covered her cries with his mouth. ‘No noise, darling, not this time… If you want to scream, do it with your body, express it all in the way you move…’
‘Greg—’
‘Lover—’ His hard mouth corrected her, his hands sliding beneath her to cup her arching bottom, preparing to make the appellation the literal truth at last. ‘I’m your lover.’ His husky whisper was as erotic as the strain of his hair-roughened thighs between hers. ‘The only lover you’ll ever need… ever want…’
‘Yes, oh, yes…’ she sobbed in sweet, passionate relief.
‘Say it… my only lover.’
‘My only lover—’
‘Tell me you’ll never love anyone else…’ ‘Never… anyone else,’ she gasped, twisting in his implacable grasp. ‘Only you…’

And then, with a single, powerful movement that stole the last of her shattered reason, he flipped her on to her back and came over and into her so hard and fast that her head spun, stretching her body into a taut bow beneath his as he wrenched her into paradise, cupping her head and pulling her face hard against his chest to muffle her helpless cries.

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

Review: The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Lady Sherlock, #4
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Lord Ingram Ashburton
Heroine: Charlotte Holmes
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: October 15, 2019
Started On: April 27, 2020
Finished On: April 29, 2020

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas is the much awaited fourth installment in the Lady Sherlock series. This time around, Charlotte Holmes and her ragtag band embarks on a journey to find a lost piece of art for a former lover of Mrs. Watson’s, who is being blackmailed.

The third book saw Lord Ingram Ashburton and Charlotte coming together as lovers, but alas, only as a ploy to deceive the villain into playing right into their hands. Ingram is adamant that he would not take advantage of Charlotte in that sense, even if she is more than willing to be taken advantage of.

Lord Ingram’s life revolves around taking care his two children of whom he is now the sole parent of. While he deals with the unwanted and unwarranted affections of a governess, he must also deal with his mixed feelings when it comes to Charlotte, which has always been the case when it comes to her.

While I am not much of a fan of cat-burglar variety of mysteries, I still enjoyed this for the most part, with Charlotte and her accomplices donning disguises to infiltrate a prestigious household in pursuit of the lost artwork. What I particularly did not care for was the fact that Ingram and Charlotte’s arc takes backstage to all that is central to the plot of the story.

However, at the same time, there are subtle shifts happening between Ingram and Charlotte in terms of how Charlotte starts viewing Ingram and the prospect of a more permanent future between the two. But then again, I have my doubts when it comes to how Charlotte will fare with Ingram’s children, who need a mother as well. Which was for the main part what Ingram also has mixed feelings about when it came to the governess plot in the story.

Finally, this had bits and pieces to the story which sounded so preachy in terms of women’s rights, colonialism, gender equality etc. I am all for messaging done right and properly in a story, but for me, when stories start sounding like a women’s rights leaflet, that tends to bore me to tears. I kind of got fed up of reading stories by Courtney Milan because of the very reason.

I find it quite odd when authors go against the realities of the fabric of society at that point in time in which the story is taking place and flesh out out of place aspects of characters that seems far fetched for the time. I am all for strong heroines who defy the conventions, but at the same time, one must be realistic about what one is crafting and presenting to the readers.

Recommended for fans of the Lady Sherlock series.

Final Verdict: The Art of Theft moves at a slow pace for the most part, while the other half sounds overly preachy at times, along with muted shifts taking place between the main protagonists.

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Review: The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Bookthedukewiththedragontattoo
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical
Series: Victorian Rebels, #6
Publisher: St. Martin
Hero: The Rook
Heroine: Lorelai Weatherstoke
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 28, 2018
Started On: March 30, 2020
Finished On: April 01, 2020

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo is the sixth book in the delectable Victorian Rebels series by Kerrigan Byrne. It is also a much awaited story in the series, because the male protagonist is a character who has captivated the imagination of fans as someone totally ruthless and well deserving of his own happily ever after. Needless to say, I was super excited to pick up The Rook’s story at long last.

34 year old Lorelai Weatherstoke is about to take the plunge into “un”-holy matrimony as her hateful brother wants her to, when her savior comes in the form of the man who walked out on her 20 years back, promising that he would be back for her. But the eyes of the young adult he had been at that point in time had been gentler, warmer, and kinder. The ones that stare at her now remain placid, as if he feels nothing, sees nothing.

Taken “captive” aboard his ship, Lorelai is somewhat pacified to be accompanied by her sister in law who cautions her against trusting The Rook. While Lorelai’s heart tells her that beneath all that ruthlessness lies the man she fell in love with, her other senses tells her to flee and surrender in equal doses. Meanwhile, The Rook, not knowing what he wants out of the situation, sets in motion the sequence of events that finally allows him to uncover the secrets of his past that has eluded him since forever, to finally be able to surrender to the love that had found him even amidst all that stood in between them.

While I have loved most of the books in the Victorian Rebels series, because lets face it, Ms. Byrne is one helluva romance writer, I just did not find myself all that enamored with the main protagonists of this installment. Ms. Bryne’s stories are a favorite for a reason – they deliver ruthless heroes who are just a tad shy of being irredeemable, whose love for the heroine is an all encompassing one, rendering them possessive in a way that just melts you on the inside. At the same time, the heroines are able to accept the heroes as they are, with perhaps the hero turning a bit mellow in the hands of the woman who deserves their commitment and love.

I had a couple of issues with Lorelai to begin with. When Lorelai first encounters The Rook and and takes him under her care, even with all the dangers around her, she stood her ground wherever and whenever it was possible, which scored her points from me. She was in an untenable situation and she had the courage which I kind of felt was a missing element when the story picked up twenty years later. I just felt that Lorelai did not particularly seem as enamored with The Rook as he was with her as well. I know that it was hard to see where the hero was coming from at times, but who else would otherwise just turn up out of the blue when you are about walk into a nightmare of a marriage, and rescue you if not for love?

The fact that Lorelai seemed to have a problem with the VERY timely demise of her brother, the very brother who had tormented and tortured not only her, but the sister in law as well, when he would have basically murdered Lorelai if he could have gotten away with it, I just did not get her reaction. Given the time period in which the story takes place, I just had a difficult time understanding Lorelai from that perspective.

Perhaps she was too much of a bleeding heart even with all that she had gone through in life, unlike heroines from other books who seemed to take these things in stride, when it was a deserving hit to say the least. I for one smiled when the brother’s life ended with such dramatic flair – I would have clapped had it not meant I would have had to leave the book aside and also end up looking like a crazy fool. Maybe I am just too bloodthirsty as a reader!

The next thing that bugged me was perhaps largely to do with my expectations. I expected The Rook to be more ruthless than he actually was portrayed in his own story. I expected a darker story for him given all that he has gone through. When a romance ends up disappointing you in terms of the hero and the heroine and the connection between them, I guess that in a large way detracts you from the enjoyment factor you are looking for in the story. I can see though, that I am in the minority viewpoint when it comes to this one.

However, I really loved the ingenious plotting behind The Rook’s character; while I wanted dark and ruthless for him, what Ms. Byrne delivered was a twist that I could never have seen coming, not in a million years. I also enjoyed the connection between Veronica (Lorelai’s sister in law) and Moncrieff, the Earl of Crosthwaite (friend of The Rook’s). I think I was more taken in with the zing factor that Moncrieff brought to the novel than who actually should have.

Recommended for fans of the Victorian Rebels series.

Final Verdict: The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo adds a mesmerizing twist to the developing arc in the series, making one want to read the next installment just as soon as they are done with this one!

Favorite Quotes

He wanted to savor all of her. Every soft, delicate, hidden part. Behind her ears, the supple curve of her bare shoulder, the taut peaks of her breasts, her quivering belly.
His tongue slid past her lips, enticed by the wicked fantasy he’d conjured. He lapped and nibbled at her in a warm mimicry of what he thirsted for.
An intimate taste of her.

Reaching down, he parted her legs so he could get closer, cursing every single layer of her skirt, her undergarments, and even the air that took up the space between them. He drove his hips against the silk of her skirts, sex against sex, frustrated by the barrier, but aroused by her soft hiss of breath and the tremble he felt roll through her limbs.
The first of many, he vowed.
“Can you feel a whisper of what I can give you?” he asked, rolling against her again, knowing he abraded the sweet little nub with each flex of his hips.
“Y-yes … but I…” Her fingers became claws on his shoulders, as though she feared falling.
I’ll not let you go.

A finger found its way inside of her, and she jerked, but he crawled up her body, soothing her with a gentle, probing kiss. His strokes became wicked, then torturous. Quickening in pace and rhythm until she surged in trembling, taut thrusts. Riding his fingers as she imagined one rode a horse, hips moving in time with the animal, urging it onward.
He slid another finger inside her, and she sobbed at the pressure of it. The pleasure of it. It threatened to annihilate her. To rush toward her with the speed and inevitability of a rogue wave, and there was nothing to be done but brace for the onslaught.

He crawled up her body, licking his glossy lips like a satisfied cat, his eyes glittering like volcanic shards of dark intent.
Her muscles, replete and heavy, melted beneath him.
“Did you mean it?” he asked tightly. “Can you take all of me?”
Sighing, she wrapped her arms around his wide torso with more urgency than even she had expected, her heart contracting with a thousand different forms of love. “Every part of you.”

The strain in his muscles as he held her aloft did more to stoke her desire than any poetry ever could. She released a rush of wet need on a tortured moan, and a tempestuous sound from him told her that he knew exactly what he’d elicited within her.
Lorelai let out an unbidden cry as he impaled her in one sleek thrust, setting her blood on absolute fire. He gave her only a moment to adjust, to dimly wish she were naked against all of his marvelous skin.

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

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Review: Return to Christmas by Anne Stuart

Format: E-Bookreturntochristmas_2
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Impeccably Demure Press
Hero: John Larsen
Heroine: Madison Simcoe
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 13, 2019
Started On: December 24, 2019
Finished On: December 26, 2019

Return to Christmas by Anne Stuart released in 2019 had me jumping up and down in excitement at the very idea of the new release. Because Anne Stuart is THAT author for me. Return to Christmas tells the story of 27 year old Madison Simcoe and 29 year old John Larsen, in delivering upon the theme of Christmas miracles and love that stands the test of time itself.

It is the year 2020, and Madison who is feeling a bit desolate, a whole lot of disillusioned and a bit lonely decides to cheer herself up by going to the Macy’s Department Store to engage in a little bit of retail therapy. When she gets to Macy’s Madison gets more than what she bargained for when she finds herself transported to the year 1947, and having to rely on the maddening man she encounters, who sets her senses humming.

John would like nothing better than to ignore Madison’s sudden appearance into his life and the way she gets under his skin. An ex-military man, John is hounded by his own demons that are hard to shake off, and it is his ingenuity as a designer that allows him the freedom and leeway to mostly come and go as he pleases within the store.

With Madison in the picture, John finds himself inexorably drawn to her, even when he tells himself that a woman who keeps concocting far-fetched stories about how she came to be is not worth all the trouble. Interestingly enough, the more Madison tries to leave, the harder it is, as whatever it is that had transported her back in time wasn’t done messing with her fate.

Return to Christmas was not exactly what I envisioned for the story to be, but nevertheless I enjoyed most of it and not so much the rest. It is my theory that anything written by Anne Stuart is 100 times better than the any other book that you may alternatively get your hands on, and this one too proved that in spades.

I liked John and Maddie well enough, but I cannot say that I was enamored by them, nor connected with either of them at a deeper level. Madison spent a lot of her time inside her own thoughts which prevented me from understanding where she was coming from at a deeper level. Yes, she was feeling lonesome and feeling an ache she couldn’t define, but beyond that, it was hard to get a read on her character.

John is mellower than Anne Stuart’s usual hero material, which is fine. One doesn’t need to be ruthless to come off as commanding, sexy, and all of those things that makes you hum with pleasure as you read along. I felt that John was a bit under developed as a character. Why? Because I wanted to know more about his past, his likes and dislikes, what made him tick (apart from Madison of course), and I wanted to read about his stint in the military and the damage it had done to him on the inside. That would have made me relate to him more than I did.

I also found it a tad weird that two adults just lived inside a department store throughout the novel. I quite don’t know how I feel about that. The one thing that I did love though, was the epilogue. That was the ultimate ending if you ask me, classic Anne Stuart, leaving the reader sniffling with happy tears.

Final Verdict: Return to Christmas is a novel that delivers on the premise of Christmas miracles and hope in a world that has little of that to offer, and how love knows not the bounds of time and reason.

Favorite Quotes

She stirred again, and her breathing changed. She was coming awake, and she was probably going to be ticked off and embarrassed by where she was, and he steeled himself. Her eyes blinked open, still wet with tears, and she tilted her head back, looking up at him out of those sensational eyes, her mouth still tremulous, and he did what any red-blooded American male would do.
He kissed her.

“So let me tell you what we’re going to do,” he whispered in her ear. “I’m going to undress you. Sweetheart,” he added deliberately, punctuating the word with a bump of his hips against her, and arousal spiked through her—she was back in that restless, anxious longing and uncontrolled, confused need. “And I’m going to dump our clothes on the floor and walk all over them if I want. I’m going to touch you, taste you, anywhere I damned please. You can be on top, but you’re going to be beneath me, in front of me, standing, sitting, any position we can think of. I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do, but you’re going to want to do everything.” His voice was soft, his words terrifyingly erotic, and she closed her eyes, lost in it, lost in him. “Yes?”
It was a question she couldn’t answer, swept away by the crazy sensations racketing through her body. Danger, Will Robinson! She wanted to run, she wanted…she wanted…
“Yes,” she said.

“Condom,” she gasped, wanting to grab his hips and pull him in, to fill this terrible emptiness inside her. He hesitated, just for a moment, and then pushed in, so big, so hard that she almost felt choked, drowning in sensation.
He rested for a moment, inside her, around her, and her skin felt like it would burst into flames. “I don’t have one,” he whispered in her ear. “I didn’t want to be tempted. Didn’t work.”

“Don’t,” she gasped, as stray shudders raced through her body, and his frame reacted to each and every one.
His muscles suddenly bunched beneath her hands, his entire body rigid. “Don’t what? Don’t do this without protection?” He no longer sounded coolly amused—at least she’d pushed him past that point, and he started to pull out, the walls of her sex clinging to him, trying to hold him. “Or don’t do it at all?”
“Don’t stop.”
He thrust back into her, and she gasped as sensations racketed around her body, again, and again, and again, each push reaching deeper, filling her, drowning her in nothing but sex, sweet and sinful, again and again, building to another climax.

She didn’t know who was the more shocked when she licked at the solid column of flesh rising from his body, and then she didn’t think at all, letting her mind dissolve as she leaned down and took him into her mouth, sucking him in deep, and it was wonderful, the feel of him surging into her, pulsing as she drew him in deeper. This was hers—she owned him, she owned this, and she wanted more, she wanted to wrap her tongue around him until he exploded inside her, and she wanted to swallow. She wanted to take everything, but he was too big, her mouth too small, and she almost choked in frustration, his hoarse reaction, his hands in her hair, helping guide her, were almost too much as she tried to take more, all of him.

When he lifted her, turned her, she moved easily, up to her knees as he pushed into her from the back, and the sensation was astonishing as he pushed against something that made her entire body shake, and she still needed more, she needed him to drive away her last fears, she needed him to take her so completely that he held nothing back, wiping them both clean.
“Harder,” she whispered. “Please. Harder.”
The last of his control disappeared, and he slammed into her, so hard that she almost fell forward, but she held on, taking him with powerful, almost feline pleasure, just as she wanted, harder, faster, turning into a cloud of sensation and nothing more, pushing, pumping, almost brutal, and when she came he erupted inside her.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Format: E-Bookthebridetest
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Kiss Quotient, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Diệp Khải
Heroine: Trần Ngọc Mỹ
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 07, 2019
Started On: June 03, 2019
Finished On: June 07, 2019

The Bride Test begins ten years prior to the period in which the story is based, during a funeral. This is where readers are introduced to the hero, Diệp Khải, who is unable to show his grief from having lost his best friend. Everyone around him criticizes him for not grieving in the “right” way – making Khải believe that he is deficient in a way that is irreparable.

Trần Ngọc Mỹ is a single mother, trying to make ends meet in the poorer parts of Hồ Chí Minh, Việt Nam, where she encounters Khải’s mom at her place of work, on the hunt for a bride for her youngest son. Though Mỹ is not exactly what she had in mind when she began the search, something about Mỹ makes her believe that she could be the ideal choice for Khải.

Though Mỹ has her reservations, it is her own mother who convinces her that through this marriage of convenience, Mỹ could provide for a better future for her daughter than the poverty-ridden life that lies ahead of her. Thus convinced, Mỹ makes the journey to America to meet her future husband.

When Khải is confronted with the inevitable, though he tries hard to stay indifferent and out of Mỹ’s way, somehow he ends up getting emotionally attached to Mỹ, without realizing it. Khải being autistic is an aspect of his character that Mỹ has no knowledge of, and Mỹ has her own secret well under her sleeve; the fact that she has a daughter back home for whom she would practically lay down her very life for.

It is an endearing, at times hilarious, and a bit heartbreaking of a journey that these two embark upon to reach their own happily ever after. I believe that The Bride Test did a marvelous job of bringing Khải to life, with his oddities and the ways in which his mind works differently when it comes to what is “normal”.

While I enjoyed The Bride Test, I believe that I felt a lack of emotional connection to Mỹ that detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. I would have liked Mỹ better had she understood Khải, what autism means, and how difficult certain aspects of life could be for someone like him. Instead of trying to understand where Khải was coming from, most of the focus of the novel was on Mỹ and how she becomes empowered enough to stand on her own two feet.

I applaud the fact that Mỹ stood up for herself amidst all odds and made everything work for her. Even at the very end, Mỹ’s strength of character is what stands out in the novel, more so than the love between Mỹ and Khải. On the contrary, The Kiss Quotient worked so well because both Michael and Stella were on the same page at the same time, and there was never ever a doubt in my mind that they belonged together, right from the start. When they made an appearance in this story even, the connection between them is one you feel deep in your heart, and I wanted that for Khải with every fiber of my being.

Mỹ may not have had the sophisticated education that she had to forgo when she got pregnant out of wedlock, but every aspect of her character speaks of intelligence, emotional and otherwise. Which is why, I felt the lack so severely when it came to Mỹ’s lack of interest perhaps, in digging deeper into Khải’s psyche and trying to understand him – what makes him the way he is. Not to mold herself to suit his needs, but rather so that she could meet him on an even footing in accepting him for the way he is.

I understand that Khải’s level of education must have been a huge deterrent when it came to Mỹ and breaking down barriers. However, I wish she had shown more interest in the person who Khải is than what materialized in the story. At least Khải acknowledges to himself that he hadn’t done much to really get to know Mỹ, mostly owing to the fact that he has correlated that caring for someone means losing that someone altogether.

I wish Mỹ had wanted to explore more of Khải’s fascinating mind and the way he views the world. Had she taken that time, she would have realized that Khải was indeed different. The fact that she had been his first should have driven home the point in my opinion. Why else would a man who finds it difficult to socialize and accept physical contact go all the way? This is where I would have liked Mỹ to use her emotional intelligence to pick on the cues and understand the man Khải is, for better or worse.

I think Mỹ finding herself and charting her own course in life (which is all well and good), took away the focus from exploring the depth of feelings between Khải and Mỹ together. Mỹ made it seem as if it was of no consequence to her whether they ended up together or not, while Khải was moved to the point of obsession with her. Somehow I wanted way more for Khải than what Mỹ ended up giving him.

Recommended for fans of Helen Hoang and those who fell in love with The Kiss Quotient. Some of you might end up loving The Bride Test more. But for me, my heart belongs to Michael and Stella all the way.

Final Verdict: The Bride Test explores the everyday struggles of being autistic, making the reader think beyond the scope of the book. I loved Khải for all that he was, just the way he is.

Favorite Quotes

Those tears.
They shattered him. He brushed the saline away with his thumbs.
“I’m okay,” she whispered. “Don’t worry. I—”
He took her mouth, pressing his lips to hers as the feel of her shocked through his system. Soft. Silk. Sweet. Esme. When he realized she’d gone stiff, he started to pull back in horror. What had he been think—
She softened against him, kissing him back, and that was it. His thoughts burned away. Something else rose from the ashes, something he’d kept chained up so long it was all fierceness and animal hunger. He stroked his tongue over her lips, and when she sighed and parted her lips, savage victory swept through him. He claimed her lips, claimed her mouth, claimed the liquid heat inside that tasted of vanilla and strawberries and woman.

“Come here,” she said.
His body obeyed on its own, edging between her knees and covering her, lining them up just right. The lure of her lips was too much, and he kissed her with a touch of desperation. When he rolled his hips, his cock slid over her, and the tip lodged inside of her. Just the tip. He went flame hot everywhere, his back, the base of his skull, his scalp.
This was happening. Him and Esme. Together.
He kissed her deeper as he pushed in slowly. Each inch changed him, broke him down and put him back together again, until he finally seated himself inside her completely, and she threw her head back and moaned.
For a moment, he was too overwhelmed to move. He’d pleased her.

When he started to move his hips as he caressed her with his fingers, she couldn’t stop the sounds escaping her throat. Stroked inside and out, treasured, loved. She wrapped her arms around him, holding him in every way she could as their bodies found a rhythm.
He was here. He was hers. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Kisses everywhere, on her lips, on her throat, her shoulder. Temple to temple, heavy intimate breaths, whispers in her ear, answers.
Like this?
Like this and this and this.
Her hips rose sharply off the floor, pressing as close to him as possible, high, higher, higher. Head thrown back. Too much, too good, so good. A trembling moan. Strong convulsions, over and over and over.

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

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Review: Phantom Lover by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookphantomlover_susannapier
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Adam Blake
Heroine: Honor Sheldon
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 01, 1994
Started On: September 19, 2016
Finished On: September 20, 2016

25 year old Honor Sheldon finds herself in a bit of a pickle when she is picked up by a police car for skulking around Adam Blake’s house. Being the plain sister, the one that every guy considers as their buddy without their girlfriends or wives getting jealous over her, Honor is intrigued and ultimately seduced by the letters she exchanges with a mysterious man. To find out later that the letters had in fact being written for her beautiful sister Helen is the “icing” on the cake which the rather aggravating Adam delivers altogether too scornfully.

A turn of events however finds Honor as the house guest of a very reluctant Adam, battling with feelings of fierce longing that he rouses in her, even when he is being rather obvious about his despise for everything that she is. Adam finds himself at loose ends when it comes to Honor, the way she knows things about him that he would rather not have anyone know – his very intimate thoughts that Honor was privy to which makes him itch on the inside.

Adam and Honor’s journey to their happily ever after is one fraught with several bouts of arguments with one another, which means engaging in clever dialogue, and one where secondary characters seemed to get more than their share of the story. Although overall I did like the story, this is definitely not one of the best by Napier. However, when it comes to great authors like herself, they make even their “not so best” books somehow work for the readers. This was one of them for me.

The ending was one that I loved. Especially the pictures that Adam sent to Honor towards the end, plus the letter.

Final Verdict: Though not Napier’s best, delivers an altogether funny & charming read!

Favorite Quotes

His hand moved down and suddenly he was weighing her in his large palm, his fingers curving under her breast to her ribs while his thumb rode the upper swell. ‘Look how perfectly you fill my hand…’
Honor bit her lip to stop herself moaning at his throaty murmur of gratified discovery of her size. His thumb moved experimentally against the thinly sheathed peak and this time the sound escaped her control, along with an explicit shiver that arced along her nerves, transmitting an unmistakable message to the man who held her.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Eye of the Beholder by Emma Jay

Format: E-bookeyeofthebeholder
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Historical Erotic Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Grayson Adams
Heroine: Sarah Dusenberry
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 07, 2011
Started On: January 08, 2016
Finished On: January 08, 2016

Eye of the Beholder is an erotic romance written in a historical setting. Sarah Dusenberry is 21, and her mother is desperate that she find someone suitable to be married off to. Sarah’s average looks and her strong willed nature makes her a less an ideal candidate for the gents of the ton when it comes to choosing a bride, which is the reason why Sarah spends her time at the balls glued to the wall, as if on the outside, looking in.

Grayson Adams, the youngest son of the Baron of Cricksham, is a man who leads a double life. A man who has made a fortune in painting and selling erotic art, Grayson has been feeling out of sorts of late, as if in need of a new muse that would get his creative juices flowing. A well placed advertisement gets Sarah on his doorstep, a woman who has intrigued him even before she turns up willing to be the model that he is looking for.

Fact that Sarah is a virgin makes it difficult for Grayson to act on his desires where she is concerned. But Sarah has no such qualms when it comes to the man whose touch sets of such wanton and wicked desires in her. As these two become entangled with want for each other which is strengthened by other feelings which none of them wants to put a name to, Grayson’s deception could end up being the obstacle that could break the two apart even before they can get started.

Eye of the Beholder has an interesting premise, which could have been really good if it had been a full length novel. I wish that Emma Jay would write full length novels like Two-Step Temptation which I loved so. I have always said in my reviews of her books that Emma Jay has the ability to draw a lot of emotions from the reader apart from the excellent portrayal of eroticism she strives for in her stories.

While the overall story worked for me, Eye of the Beholder had certain elements that didn’t, because it seemed a tad unrealistic for Sarah, a virgin brought up in a society that shuns wicked behavior of the sort to give up all her inhibitions, just like that, even though she had been seeking adventure for a long time. It was hard for me to understand where she was coming from because for someone who has never been exposed to pleasures of the flesh, she certainly was ready to give up all that societal indoctrination for the man who sends her senses humming. In a contemporary setting, yes, it might have worked, but with a virgin heroine in a historical setting, I just remained a bit unnerved by that.

All that aside, Eye of the Beholder provided me with the kind of read that I wanted when I picked it up. Something short that would wet my appetite for more!

Recommended for those that love erotic romances in a historical setting.

Final Verdict: Short and succulent enough to sink your teeth into.

Favorite Quotes

“Is your curiosity quite satisfied?” he asked, managing not to sound breathless after his orgasm, tucking away his cock as she wiped herself clean.
She lifted those dark eyes to him. “More curious than ever, I’m afraid. I can cancel my plans for tomorrow, return and you can show me more.”
“I can show you no more,” he said sharply. “You are a virgin, which is how you will leave me, each and every time.”
“But I want to know.”
“Then find a husband.” He tossed his own cloth aside and strode toward the door.

She didn’t have a chance to respond before he cupped his hand around the back of her head and covered her mouth with his. His lips were dry and warm before his tongue swept over her lower lip, sending sparks all along her body. He angled her head and his tongue probed her mouth for a moment before he straightened, his thumb still caressing her jaw. His ragged breathing dusted across her skin and for a moment she feared he’d walk away, but then his mouth was on hers again, harder, demanding, and his hands were on her skin, bringing her body closer so that the tips of her breasts rasped against the rough linen of his shirt.

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

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Review: His Christmas Gift by Sarah Mayberry

Format: E-bookhischristmasgift
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Montana Born Christmas
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Hero: Sawyer Gallagher
Heroine: Jenna Macintosh
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 2, 2015
Started On: November 13, 2015
Finished On: November 14, 2015

I stumbled across this little number of Sarah Mayberry’s on Amazon. His Christmas Gift is a book loosely tied to the title Three Nights before Christmas by Kat Latham. Any romance written by Sarah Mayberry is a must-read for an avid fan like myself and thus His Christmas Gift landed in my ever growing pile of e-books. One of the best things about Sarah Mayberry writing novellas is the fact that her novellas end up the length of a Harlequin romance or such, the fact that she puts in as many words to give readers a wholesome experience is one of the reasons I love her and her books.

Jenna Macintosh is Sawyer Gallagher’s sister’s lawyer, the lawyer who gets his sister out of prison. Sawyer is a man who doesn’t have time for the pretty niceties of life. Determined to keep their family business going, Sawyer hasn’t been inclined to or has had the time to date since his last girlfriend had left him in the lurch. When Sawyer meets Jenna, his less than favorable reaction towards her leaves Jenna thinking that for some reason Sawyer finds her distasteful. But nothing could be further from the truth as both Jenna and Sawyer keeps thinking about the other until fate throws them together.

Though I wouldn’t say that this is my favorite Mayberry book thus far, it had its enjoyable elements to it. Like Sawyer when once he decided to rejoin civilization and shave off that beard of his reveals a man as sexy as they come, a man that makes Jenna want him all for herself. Sawyer can be termed as a gentle and tender hero, a hero that made me sigh and want in all the ways that matter. Jenna fights her own demons, in the form of a past she has never been able to reconcile with and move on from, which serves as the point of contention when it comes to her and Sawyer.

The glimpse of their lives after the story ended was just lovely and left me with a smile on my face.

Final Verdict: For fans of Ms. Mayberry, this little number warms the heart!

Favorite Quotes

Stroking his tongue with hers, she took his left hand and dragged it onto her breast, too turned on to be embarrassed by her own urgency. She needed him to touch her almost more than she needed air. His big hand closed around the curve of her breast, learning the shape of it, then his thumb swept across her nipple and she groaned because – again – it felt so damned good. Everything did with him.
“Jesus, Jenna,” Sawyer muttered.
He stroked her nipple again, bringing it to aching hardness, then he squeezed it gently between thumb and forefinger. She dug her fingers into his arm, deepening their kiss. She wanted more. More of his hardness. More of the taste of him. More of the feel of him pressed against her.

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

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Review: Mistress of the Night by Charlotte Featherstone

Format: E-bookmistressofthenight
Read with: Adobe Reader for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: New Concepts Publishing
Hero: Blaine Ashbourne
Heroine: Madeline Brydges
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: September 1, 2005
Started On: November 11, 2015
Finished On: November 12, 2015

Charlotte Featherstone is an author who got on my radar with her book Sinful. Her decision to not take the easy way out when she crafted the hero in the story won my wholehearted approval. Even though the books that I have read from her since then haven’t lived up to the mark, Mistress of the Night caught my eye because there was just something about the description of the story that got to me. The reclusive hero described? Yes. The heroine who wants him and no other? Oh, hell yes!

Blaine Ashbourne, even though he is part of the elite ton, is someone who keeps himself far removed from everything that goes on in those circles. He keeps close to himself a secret that he would rather die than get out, knowing that it would be one not at all well received. It is his bid to look out for his niece that lands himself in this ball and that, directly in the sight of Madeline Brydges, the woman he observes without being obvious about it, or so he thinks, his hunger for her something that shocks even himself.

Madeline has no choice but to snare herself the husband that her father insists that she find. But the only man whom she is going to get herself married to is none other than the Earl of Ashbourne, a man who is seemingly as reticent as they come. But with every encounter that proves otherwise, Blaine and Madeline seduces and get seduced by each other, while Blaine believes that a blissfully wedded future with anyone, much less Madeline is not for the likes of him.

Mistress of the Night is a story that had such potential. Charlotte’s flair for the dirty talking hero and sex scenes that practically melt you on the insides were all present in the story. But it fell short of delivering on what it could have been. I felt a tad disappointed and a wee cheated by the time I finished reading the book, though it is a testament to the writing that I finished the book in just one sitting. Perhaps my problem was with the huge differences between how the book was described in the blurb and how it actually materialized later on.

Blaine is someone who has had fear instilled in his heart by his father. A father who had been devastated that the only son he had ever had turned out to be less than perfect. Blaine’s tortured soul heals under the touch of Madeline, but he refuses to let her in too deep, for the fear that she might discover the secret that he keeps from almost everyone. Madeline’s actions towards the latter part of the novel also might be one of the reasons why I couldn’t really say I loved what happened, though I did understand that desperate times called for desperate measures. Nonetheless, Mistress of the Night turned out to be an enjoyable read, recommended for those that love this author.

Final Verdict: Delivers scrumptious scenes of passion, true to Charlotte Featherstone style!

Favorite Quotes

“I wanted that dance to be with you, Maddy. The whole time I was dancing with her I thought only of you, wishing we were the only two people in the room so that I might do this to you.”
Her pulse leapt and surged as he continued to caress her neck, his fingers, light and teasing trailed down her throat, stopping at the peak of her breast, only to travel back up the column of her throat.
“Tell me,” he said, bringing her back tight against his chest, his tongue, hot and teasing flicked along her bounding pulse. “What is it you desire?”

“God, how I want this,” he said thickly, stroking his thumb along her nipple, making it pebble hard. “And this.” he slid his hand down her bodice to the flat plane of her belly where he kneaded the small mound. “And this,” his voice was a low rumble in her ear as his fingers traced the curls of her sex through her thin gown. “I want this so much. So much so that I cannot sleep. So much that I am constantly thinking of you, of your lips, your flame red hair, the way your skin feels. So much that I lie awake, hard and aroused, torturing myself with thoughts of how you will feel beneath my hands, my lips, my body. I dream of how you will taste, Madeline. I dream of the taste of your sex, the feel of you on my tongue. Tell me, would you let me taste the desire I create within you?” A whimper caught in her throat and he tightened his hold on her while he kissed her shoulder. “Tell me what you want, Maddy.”

“Make love to me, Maddy. Show me what it is like.”
She didn’t know what he wanted, but he showed her. He sat in the chair and brought her down atop him. Cupping her bottom he showed her how to ride him and when she had the right of it, she caught his hands in hers and clutched them tight. She captured his gaze, holding it as she loved him, and she thought she saw his eyes fill with more than desire. She thought she saw love shining back at her, but then he blinked it away and reached for her and slid himself out of her body, emptying his seed on to his own belly. He clutched her to him and he held on to her like a drowning man holds on to a lifeline.
“Mine,” he whispered into her hair and she knew then that she was his lifeline in a sense. Something profound had happened.

“It’s very warm, isn’t it?” Madeline asked, fanning her bosom with her hand.
Blaine couldn’t help but watch that delicate hand as it whispered slowly back and forth and over the exposed mounds of her breasts, of which, the bodice of her French gown did little to hide. “Wouldn’t you agree, my lord?”
“Huh?” The word was a strangled huff, torn from his throat when one of her fingers traced the length of him through his trousers. Thank God the table was shielding them and thank God no one but Madeline could see the reaction her boldness was having on him.
“Are you warm, too?” she asked, looking up at him through her veil of copper lashes.
Warm? Sweet Jesus, he was on fire.

“Tell me,” she whispered again, “tell me where you want to come. My belly?”
She licked him and swirled the tip of her around the head of his cock. “My breasts,” his gaze lowered to her rounded breasts that were swinging with her movements and he captured them in his hands and let go of them with a small, gentle slap, watching as they swayed faster. She purred as he repeated the motion, this time a little faster, a little harder, and his cock swelled further in her hand. “My throat?” she asked, her hot breath caressing his shaft, forcing his gaze away from her breasts only to see her tongue curl around the rimmed cap of his cock. “My mouth,” she teased in a deep, wanton whisper.
He closed his eyes and wrapped his hand in her hair. “Yes,” he said, filling her mouth with his cock. “Your pretty mouth.”

“Look at me.” She did, her beautiful eyes glazed with passion and need. “Watch.”
And then he sunk himself to the hilt inside her tight, wet sheath in one powerful stroke. Her eyes widened and her lips parted on a silent moan. “So damn beautiful, and you’re mine,” he whispered, holding her gaze, watching the tremors of pleasure flicker along her face with every one of his thrusts. “You’re all mine, aren’t you, Maddy? Just mine.”
“Yes,” she breathed against his neck, her pants matching the rhythm of his
strokes.
“Forever, Madeline?” he asked, mindless with need, careless with his words as he forced himself inside her. “Because it has to be forever.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: Just Kiss Me by Kathleen O’Reilly

Format: E-bookjustkissme
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Joseph Matthias Barrington
Heroine: Amanda Sedgewick
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: August 1, 2002
Started On: October 29, 2015
Finished On: October 29, 2015

Kathleen O’Reilly landed on my reading radar with her novel Sex, Straight Up, which I just adored. The story was just so much more than what you would usually expect from a Harlequin Blaze novel and it blew my mind enough for me to always remember that read with fond memories. I have forgotten how I stumbled upon this earlier publication from the author. But something made me hit the one-click purchase button and there I was, burning the midnight oil.

Amanda Sedgewick has been in a predicament for more than half her life, and one that has proven difficult to shake off at every turn. That is Joseph Matthias Barrington (Joe)’s brother’s affections. No matter how many times Amanda has tried telling him that she wasn’t the one for him, Dr. Avery Barrington, III wouldn’t hear of it. So desperate times calling for desperate measures, Amanda seeks the help of the rougher around the edges than Avery, the blue-collar variety brother of his to engage with her in an affair that would keep Avery away from her – for good.

Joe knows a bad idea when he hears of one and sees one. But the desperation in Amanda’s eyes makes him say yes – to playing pretend boyfriend until the very first night they get together, Amanda completely blows his mind. From that moment on, Joe, who has given up trying to measure up to the brilliance that is his brother, turns over a new leaf. For him, becoming the sort of man that “deserves” a woman like Amanda is the goal that he hopes to attain.

For some reason, this story made confusing  turns that made it difficult for me to follow. One minute, Amanda was willing to indulge in the hottest affair of her life with Joe, the next she was busy trying to prove her worth in her career. Joe was the only one who made any kind of sense to me. And boy, was he deliciousness itself!

The simmering tension between Joe and Amanda is pretty low key until wham, with just one scene Kathleen O’Reilly literally blew my mind to smithereens! You’ve got to read this book, if only to experience the heat that that particular scene alone generated. Whew! Let me just say this. Joe was decadent!

Recommended, if you are up for a confusing story line, but one that nevertheless made me burn the midnight oil.

Final Verdict: Joe’s decadent nature makes this book worth a look!

Favorite Quotes

“We don’t have to pretend, Joe.”
“Yes. We do.”
She flashed him a gentle, comforting smile. “No. We don’t.”
“Yes. We do.”
Amanda moved in closer. “We could do torrid, you know.”
“No.”
“Hot.” She licked her lips, getting into this femme fatale persona. The courtroom had never been this exciting.
“No.” The denial sounded a little strained.
“I could make you forget your name.”
“You’re Avery’s girl. That’s all I need to remember.”

Amanda held his arm. “Stay, just a little bit longer.”
“Can’t. Look, I’ve got a few hours off on Saturday. I’ll call you and we’ll do something then.”
“Have sex?”
Just for that, he kissed her again. “Amanda. I’m shocked.” He tried to keep his tone light, but if he sounded like he was completely turned-on, well, there it was.
Her cool blue eyes flashed at him. Damn, she looked good when she was angry. “I don’t want you shocked, I want you aroused.”
Like lightning, he had her pressed against the wall. Locked together from breasts to thighs, he made sure she felt every tortured inch of him. “You don’t think I want you? You think I’ve been killing myself to keep from touching you—” he laughed “—God, I can’t even do that right.”

He cradled her body with his own, grazing his lips over her neck. She rubbed against him, and gentleman that he was, he locked his hands on her hips and pushed against her. His erection was hard and insistent, and she licked her lips, her eyes drifting shut.
Her legs started to shake, threatening collapse, but he held her tight. There was something incredible about the way he smelled. All musky and male. Each time she moved, he answered. Each time he moved, she moaned.

He kissed her neck, whispering in her ear, in slow, exquisite detail exactly what he was going to do to her. What he wanted to do with her right here. Right under the watchful eyes of everyone around them.
Oh.
She chewed on her lip, ready to scream. When his thumb brushed against her, she felt her muscles shake and spasm. He covered her mouth with his own. That was all she could take. She closed her eyes, and watched the world shatter.
And he kissed away her cries.

One. Two. He was back. “I can’t wait,” he said, taking her lips in a quick kiss.
She fumbled with his briefs. “Now.”
He sheathed himself with shaking fingers. “I wanted this to be slow,” he said, lifting her.
She wrapped her legs around his waist, needing to feel him inside her. “Later.”
He took one step forward, braced her against the door, she locked her hands around his nape.

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

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