Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-booktoohardtoforget.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Romancing the Clarksons, #3
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Elliot Brooks
Heroine: Peggy Clarkson
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 25, 2017
Started On: June 03, 2018
Finished On: June 08, 2018

Too Hard to Forget, the third book in the Romancing the Clarksons series by the impressively talented Tessa Bailey was a delightful read in so many ways. Too Hard to Forget tells the story of the youngest Clarkson Peggy, and how she makes use of the opportunity of the road trip the Clarkson siblings take to make a pit stop which she believes in all probability would allow her finally move on and forget the one man who has ruined her for all others.

Peggy, like her mother Miriam writes at the beginning of the novel, is a character with a million facets to her that you can never truly understand even if you spend a lifetime trying to. Its not that she is difficult as a person, no, the farthest thing from that. Peggy is made of a breed that allows you to see the wonderful bits to her as you watch, wait, and learn from her life.

Peggy might seem like the air-headed and most naive of the bunch, but Peggy’s heart is one that is pure gold. When you think you have finally figured her out, she manages to surprise you yet again.

Peggy turns up at her old university to face her demons head on, believing that she would be able to exorcise the man known as Elliot Brooks from her heart, body, and soul once and for all, and leave him wanting more while at it.

Elliot Brooks, head coach of the Bearcats, and known as the Ki,ngmaker is a man who is devoutly Catholic, continually paying penance for the part of his life that fills him with regret and loathing. Elliot is a man who was raised in a Catholic household as an only child, and has no particularly happy family memories to show him that life could be more than repenting for sins perceived and otherwise.

Elliot’s focus has always been on winning and baseball, and his life had held no room for a wife with whom he had had no particular affection, except for the child that had been born of their perfectly serviceable marriage. It is the death of Elliot’s wife that hits him the hardest, the guilt for all that he had not done, all that he had failed to do, and above all, his fiery attraction to a woman most unsuited for him, that makes him break all the rules.

Even as Elliot gives in, he keeps pieces and chunks of himself from Peggy, until at long last, he drives her out of his life, seemingly forever. Three years later, Peggy is back, more beautiful than ever, and to Elliot, she still represents everything that is sinful, every reason why the Church itself exists as an establishment for sinners to pay their penance and to remind themselves of what is more important in life. It is however a fight that Elliot loses every single time Peggy is within arms distance, a fight he loses to his innermost self which wars against his desire to completely possess Peggy one minute and walk away the next. All because he does not believe that he deserves the kind of light that Peggy has always shed in his life.

Too Hard to Forget is a novel that amazed me at every turn and made me sigh and swoon in equal doses. There is not a single aspect of the story that I would change, and it was undoubtedly precious from start to finish. Peggy’s character wasn’t one that I had warmed up to in the previous books all that much until her own story began in this installment. And once it did, I couldn’t get enough of her. That in its entirety is a rarity because it is usually the hero or the hero and heroine together that I can’t get enough of in most novels. But in this instance, once I fell in love with Peggy’s character, I did so for life, just like Elliot did and was fool enough not to recognize and accept it for what it was.

Peggy’s heart like I mentioned, is one that doesn’t allow her to usually see the bad in people. Perhaps that is where most would call her naive. But then again, the world needs more human beings like Peggy, who would be willing to go out on a limb for those that majority would usually not bother with. Perhaps that is in a way one reason why Peggy follows Elliot into the locker room and the rest, as they say is history.

While Peggy does believe she would find a way to move on from Elliot, it doesn’t really work out the way she had planned or thought it would. In the end, Peggy faces some hard truths about her own self and her need for Elliot’s brand of “love”, making her realize that she is worthy of more than the destructive kind of passion and love that exists between them. But of course, Elliot is not ready to give up without a fight, the fight for the love of his life, a woman he has wronged in so many ways as he has wronged himself by denying the happiness that could have rightfully being his, if only he had had the courage to move past his fears and preconceived notions of what life should be about.

Tessa Bailey’s mark is stamped all over the book, in spades. Dirty talk good enough to drench all your panties, sex scenes hot enough to singe and make you want and want more, and a hero who has control stamped all over his DNA, and loses it so spectacularly for the woman who owns his heart.

I would recommend this for everyone and anyone who loves an obstinate hero and a heroine who you would root for with every fiber of your existence. Yes, it is that kind of book.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Emotionally nuanced to perfection, Too Hard to Forget is wonderfully smutty, edgy, and made ALL of me clamor for more. This just might be in the run for my favorite Tessa Bailey yet; and that is saying a lot!

Favorite Quotes

“Shut your mouth.” His forehead ground against hers. “Shut your beautiful, ripe, little mouth.”
Desire thickening in her blood like oil, Peggy removed one of the hands he’d fisted on the locker, lowering it to the space between her legs. His nostrils flared, hot exhales bathing her face, eyelids slamming to a close. But she didn’t let his massive presence intimidate her. One by one, she smoothed open his curled fingers, then cupped Elliott’s hand at the juncture of her thighs, encouraging him with a roll of her hips to mold the flesh beneath the built-in panties of her cheerleading skirt.
“It’s okay to need this.”
“No.” His denial was a near-roar. “It’s not.”

With a jagged breath, Elliott grabbed up Peggy’s other leg, drawing it high around his waist as she guided his arousal toward her core. He entered her with a biting slam against the locker door, releasing the vilest of epithets into her ear. “Jesus Christ. This is what sin feels like,” he rasped. “Wrong and right, at the same time. Life and death. Blond, long-legged, and tight.”

The head of his rigid cock pressed against his belt buckle, straining painfully inside his pants. “That’s not how it works,” he rasped. “Prayer isn’t an excuse to sin.”
Peggy’s knee moved up and down the side of his thigh, and just knowing her legs were apart, her pussy out in the open, blasted another hole in his resolve. “No one will know. Touch them. Be as rough as you want,” she breathed. “I remember what you like. How you like to get mad at my body. Frustrated at it for making you want something natural.”
“Nothing natural about what we did.” His touch moved down, stopping a mere inch from her breast, fingers flexing. “You made me behave like a beast. Some of the ways I took you…some of the places…”
She groaned and it broke him. Knowing the memories had caused such a harsh sound of longing brought his clutching hand to her breast, where it kneaded the taut mound once before racing under her shirt. Lust railroaded him, and he was out of his mind with need to feel her bare skin. “Yes, Elliott. More.”

With a possessive snarl, Elliott pressed her to the wall with the use of his mouth, increasing the power of his suck until she cried out, twisting his hair with frantic fingers. She tugged him away with a cracked sob and then her lips were so close. So damn close. The most tempting of fruit. And he descended on their parted perfection like the Apocalypse was upon them.
“How do you do this to me?” he groaned against her mouth. “I can’t even get my dick hard unless I think of you. I bet you love knowing that.” The ensuing kiss was brutal, his tongue driving deep and claiming. “Bet you love knowing that sliver of stomach you showed me today in the car made it necessary to jerk off in my office with the door locked.”

She held her breath and waited once inside. Only a couple seconds passed until he blew through her doorway—sexual and intimidating—kicking the door shut, lifting her off the ground to attack her mouth. Peggy moaned into the kiss, her thoughts going fuzzy when Elliott’s tongue slipped past her lips, his free hand stroking down the side of her face, smoothing her hair in an affectionate gesture that made the last three lonely days worth every second. God. God. His huge presence combined with the passion of the kiss to rock the atmosphere. Thunder boomed outside, but she swore it was happening in her chest, between her legs. The smell of him and rain and…chocolate…was amazing.
“Shit,” Elliott rasped, pulling back. Rubbing a thumb against her lower lip, he dropped a kiss on her forehead, then reached into his jacket to remove a small, crushed bakery box. “This didn’t go according to plan,” he grumbled. “Nothing with you does.”
“What’s in there?”
“A cupcake. For your birthday.” He cleared his throat. “Happy birthday.”

Holy shit. Peggy shoved at Elliott’s shoulders, putting his back up against the bench, his expression rife with lust and anticipation as she applied the latex, sucking in a breath when she felt him pulsing against her fingertips. Using the bench’s wooden back for balance in her left hand, she moved higher on his lap, guiding his erection home with her right. “Oh God, oh God,” both of them groaned in a seemingly endless loop, as she sank down—
With only half his erection inside her, Peggy started to shake, the orgasm she’d spent so long chasing, busting through the dam of her middle and drowning her, dragging her under the churning relief. She felt Elliott’s hands in her hair, his powerful grip steadying her, mouth blocking her scream with a kiss. The kind of kiss you gave someone you might die without. Fast, slow, heads turning, bodies twisting. A full body kiss. “More. Elliott. More.

Peggy contracted her most intimate muscles around Elliott’s girth, listened as rusted epithets married in his throat, felt his fingers dig into the flesh of her backside. “These inches of yours,” she breathed up against his ear, licking the lobe, catching it between her teeth. “They’re the only ones that know the right spot to hit…the only ones that can make me scream. Or feel a damn thing. Please.”
Her back landed on the bench, the wood’s coldness reaching through the back of her jacket to wrap around her spine. But the rest of her…oh God, the rest was so fucking hot, she knew the word fever would forever hold new meaning. Elliott descended on her with the power of a pack of wolves, caged inside one man.
“Get your knees up. Get them up,” he snarled. Without waiting for her to comply with his command, he reached back and pulled her knees even with her hips, just out to the side. And that first drive with Elliott’s full weight on top of her was so glorious, it might have topped the orgasms he’d already given her. The positivity that she was being dominated, that she was prey and couldn’t escape his pinning heaviness, the thick evidence that he was man…it caused starburst to erupt behind her eyes, in her belly, all along her nerve endings.

As if sensing her resolve, Elliott set out to crush it, his mouth stamping down on her possessively, his tongue sweeping into her mouth and letting her taste his frustration. “Touch me,” he urged against her lips. “Skin on skin.”
She shook her head, trying to distract him with more kissing, but he pulled away, those eyes drilling into her, his lower body grinding in rhythmic devastation, sending her so close to the point of no return, she lost her ability to think straight.
“Damn you, Peggy,” Elliott growled, pressing his face into her shoulder. “I need your hands and eyes. I missed them most of all.” Their hearts slammed into each other between them, in perfect time with his rolling hips. But only hers was fracturing, splitting right down the middle, little pieces falling away as he continued. “No one ever touched me like you did. I’ve needed it, baby. I’ve been dead without it. Dead inside. Please.”

You’re making my chest hurt.”
She dropped the fork onto the plate with a clatter. “What?”
Elliott’s gaze cut away, clearly having surprised himself. “The way you’re sitting there…the sun making your skin glow.” He sat up straighter in an abrupt movement that dipped that mattress. “Looking at you makes me want to forget everything else and never stop. Every time I’m with you, I come closer to giving in. Setting aside my responsibilities so I can spend more time looking and listening to each and every damn word out of your mouth. Every time.”
Heart running circles around her rib cage, Peggy set the plate of food aside and threw herself at Elliott, laying across him horizontally, her lower half still twisted in the sheet. “You don’t have to set anything aside, you can just shift them a little.” She smiled into his chest hair. “I’m short. I’ll fit.”

Peggy turned, giving the coach her back, watching him over her shoulder, raising both arms in the air and clapping her hands together. Once. “We are the Bearcats and we want to win.” With a hip roll, she turned, sliding into the V of his thighs, smiling as he sucked in a winded breath. “We did it once before and we can do it again,” she continued, holding his knees for balance as she dipped down low and rose slowly, slowly, bumping her hips sharply to one side, and then the other, until Elliott finally gave in, reaching into his sweatpants, his hand moving in vigorous strokes. “Please don’t make us mad. ’Cause we’ll get nasty and mean,” she whispered against his mouth, before licking at the parted seam. “And we just might decide to roll over your team.”

Her back landed on the kitchen table a split second later, Elliott grunting above her as he shoved down his sweatpants, ripped off her underwear, and rammed home with a shout. “Christ. Christ, what you do to me. It’s the devil’s work.” He mounted her body, dropping his face into the crook of her neck. “When a man loses control of one part of his life, all others follow. All others.”
“And I’m the catalyst?” Peggy whispered, her voice shaking. “Guess you better punish me for it.”
When his hips gave that first rude pump, she felt it up in her throat, choking her and setting her free, all at once.

Elliott wasn’t having it. He slipped his left hand up and down her thigh, moving a little higher with each stroke. “Did you have to change your panties when you came upstairs, baby?” He tucked his thumb just beneath the material of her underwear, dragging it in an arc, stopping just a few inches from her pussy. “When you put on the new ones, I bet you gave your clit a little rub. Just once around with your middle finger. Maybe twice. But you stopped because you felt bad about fingering yourself in someone else’s house, sun out and everything. Did I get that right?”
“Yes,” she breathed, tilting her head to the side, giving Elliott an opening to scrape his teeth up the side of her neck. “How did you know that?”
“I know, because even though you were damp and horny in someone else’s kitchen, you’re a good girl deep down.” He sensed her withdraw at that, just a touch. But he wasn’t finished. “And I know because when your pussy gets wet, that real, aching, slick type of wet, you want to hold out for my cock. Don’t you?

“Yes,” she wailed as Elliott did just that. Tended to her like they had only one minute until the Apocalypse. His stiff tongue raked over her clit, lapping at it, while his middle finger slipped through moisture into her entrance. “Yes
“You don’t need to tell me yes when you’re this wet,” he groaned, stabbing his tongue as far inside her as it could go and drawing it out slowly, until his stubble met her sensitized flesh and scraped, before repeating the move several quick, mind-spinning times, all while his thumb strummed over her clit. “Keyed up in my passenger seat, wiggling around like I was already tongue deep in this soaked pussy of yours. Were you remembering how much I love licking it?”
Elliott pushed two fingers inside Peggy and her hips jerked off the bureau, her bare ass slapping back down into the surface as she cried out, “Oh God. Yes, I remember.”

“My favorite part was afterward. After you’d come enough to be fucking delirious…” A prolonged suck of her swollen nub that had her legs shaking, one knee bashing off the wall. “Then I’d slide you toward me or flip you over, whatever you were begging for, and your cunt would be so shiny for me. Ready for a pounding from my cock. Gorgeous.”
“Ohhh.” Her fingers plowed into his hair and gripped tight. “Do that again. Don’t stop. I need to. I need to—” Her pleas ended with a scream when Elliott pushed his fingers deep, jiggling them rapidly, while his mouth applied the sweetest amount of suction to her clit and sensation exploded below her waist. “Elliott. Jesus Christ.”

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

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Review: Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas

Format: E-bookbirthdaygirl.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Pike Lawson
Heroine: Jordan Hadley 
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 05, 2018
Started On: May 10, 2018
Finished On: May 12, 2018

Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas is a story that takes on a favorite trope of mine – the forbidden love factor that brings a ton of angst to the story. I can’t quite remember how I came across my first Penelope Douglas novel, but the title Corrupt was definitely the kind of book that made me sit up and take notice of the talent that Penelope wields when it comes to romance novels of the darker edged variety.

Birthday Girl begins with the heroine Jordan Hadley opting to celebrate her birthday by going to the theater to treat herself to an older 80’s flick while she waits for her boyfriend Cole to pick her up or find another way to hitch a ride home. It is at the theater that she meets by chance, a man who at first makes her a little wary, but as their time together at the theater progresses, Jordan finds that she is super comfortable with him in a way she doesn’t let herself be with people she usually meets. Before the night is through, both Jordan and her mystery man are in for a surprise; it turns out she was sitting together with none other than Pike Lawson, Cole’s father.

Thus begins a story that made for an excellent read, a book that I resented having to put down, and that has not happened in such a long time that I had even forgotten what that feels like. Three days after the “post-theater incident”, Cole and Jordan move in with Pike, and it is during this period of time that a bond that had been formed inside a dark movie theater over which two souls had connected, strengthens and fights to overcome the gigantic hurdles in front of them.

Pike definitely does not want to be lusting after his son’s girlfriend. That is not the kind of person he is. But Pike finds that Jordan is the kind of woman he has always dreamed about settling down with, and beneath the tough exterior of a man hardened by the bitter experience that had been his ex-wife, lies a heart that yearns for a loving home with a wife and kids of his own. But Pike knows that it is a dream that would have to remain as such, with him close to hitting 40 years old, the age gap between him and Jordan being reason enough to leave her alone.

Shared dinner conversations and other moments of companionship brings Jordan and Pike closer, while things head south between Jordan and Cole. However, even then, Pike is a man who fights his inner desire to claim Jordan for himself, even when Jordan tests his self control too many a time. But it is a fight that Pike loses spectacularly to Jordan, and Birthday Girl includes such scrumptious scenes of sex together with high doses of sexual tension that it is difficult to remain unaffected by everything that happens.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, conflicts that are part of a trope like this comes with a ton of angst, and boy, did Penelope deliver on it. She manages to write scenes that make an emotional wreck out of you one minute, turn you on to the point of pain the next, and deliver so fabulously in a fashion that leaves you wanting more. Always more.

I loved both the main protagonists in the story. Jordan, though comparatively much younger than Pike, was his equal in every single way. She is yin to his yang, the woman who completes all those missing pieces to his life. With a heart that yearns for a family of her own, Jordan has this dream that mirrors that of Pike’s owing to her childhood. Though she was not abused, neglect had left its mark, and having never really known of her mother, Jordan yearns for the wholesome family life which echoes with the unvoiced needs hidden deep inside the complex man that Pike is.

Pike lashes out, of course; whats a man to do when his deepest longings come wrapped along with his darkest nightmare, i.e. hurting his son, the child he never really got to have the experience of watching your child grow to be an adult. Pike is a man who gave up his dreams to provide for his son, and the very idea of “betraying” his son on such a level makes Pike feel as if he deserves no better than the misery he feels when he denies the need he feels for everything that is Jordan.

Jordan’s character meshes well with Pike’s because she has a wisdom and maturity to her that doesn’t jive with boys of her age. With Pike in her life, Jordan has no need to look at another man twice because with him, Jordan feels secure, safe, and wanted in a way that she has never dreamed possible. The way Jordan looks after Pike in her way, providing for him a place of solace, and a home was one of the best aspects to the story.

The period of separation was painful, but a much needed one, for Pike especially, to come to terms with the depth of his feelings for Jordan, the woman who owns his heart. The epilogue was just the right touch, giving readers the joy of experiencing a tiny part of their happily ever after, and I loved, loved, loved Penelope for providing us with that glimpse into the future.

Definitely recommended, for anyone and everyone who loves an off the charts hotter than sin hero who resists and gives in so magnificently.

Final Verdict: Birthday Girl is one of the best contemporary romances I have read of late, hitting all those spots just right. Penelope Douglas is definitely an author worth keeping an eye on. Utterly delicious! There’s a beauty to the sensitivity and raw honesty that Douglas portrays that does the trope justice.

Favorite Quotes

[Jordan]: My orgasm is cresting again, my nipples press painfully into the tiled wall, and it feels so good between my legs. I want him. I want him on me. I want to know what he feels like.
Reaching behind me, I don’t think. I grab a loofah and slide it between my legs. The netting chafes my clit in a way than sends me over the edge. I roll my hips into it, wanting to feel anything, because it’s him in my head and that’s enough. His smell surrounds me, his mouth sucks my neck, and he’s hefting me up, so he can slip inside me. It’s rough and hard, his hands on my tits one minute and his mouth stealing my breath the next. God, his tongue tastes good.
The orgasm tingles deep, building and building, and Cole’s father is fucking me so good.
I come, the wave washing over me, and I cry out in silence, breathing hard but making no sound. God. I collapse against the wall, nearly crumbling as I shudder, the orgasm drifting down my legs and making my knees week. I squeeze my eyes shut and shake through it until it ebbs away, leaving me light-headed.

[Pike]: “All kidding aside, Pike,” he goes on, “she is exactly your type. You shouldn’t be alone with her.”
Yeah.
I know.
I just hope he’s the only person who’s noticed.
“Thanks for the intervention,” I tell him, “but even if I were attracted to her, I’m capable of controlling myself.”
“You’re not seeing yourself from my perspective.” He looks out the front windshield, solemn. “You look at each other like…”
“Like?”He swallows, an unusually troubled pinch to his brow. “Like the two of you have your own language.”

[Jordan]: He reaches around, taking my face in his hand and his hot breath in my ear. “Don’t threaten me with shit like that. If you want to act like a brat, then maybe you should get grounded like one, huh?”
I almost laugh through the tears drying on my face. “By all means,” I taunt. “I’m dying to see how you try to take control of me. You can’t even get Cole to do his chores, and when was the last time a woman got hot in your bed? You’re not even a man.”
He growls and slams his palm into the house in front of me.
I jump.
And the next thing I know, his hand is in my hair, and my head is being twisted to the side as his lips crash down on mine.
I whimper, the feel and taste of him flooding me so hard my clit pulses between my legs. Oh, shit. My eyelids flutter closed, the heat and adrenaline diving from my chest to my groin in the span of a second.
He pulls back. “Fuck.” And his fist tightens in my hair.
But he comes back in, his mouth covering mine, demanding more, and I can barely catch my breath. I’m hot all over.

[Jordan]: “I love how you worry about me and want to protect me,” I say. “But a girl has needs, too, and eventually, I’ll have to find another man who can do your job better.”
Rage burns behind his frozen stare, but he doesn’t blink.
“Another man will kiss me,” I breathe out, “and take off my clothes and go at me in his bed, in his shower, and spread me wide over breakfast on his kitchen table…”
Pike’s lips are almost twisted in a snarl, and he’s breathing hard—in and out, in and out as he glares down at me.
It’s there. I can feel him. It’s like we’re wrapped up together, the heat between us almost suffocating, and all he has to do is reach out and pull me into his arms.
Take me.
I wait.
I’m yours. Just reach out and take me.
But he doesn’t.
He just stands there, and tears burn at the backs of my eyes as he hovers, unmoving.
Unwilling.
My heart is breaking.
I shake my head. “You don’t have a clue what to do with me, do you?”
I scoff and push away from him, but then suddenly, he grabs my arms hauling me back to him. I gasp as he puts his hands under my arms and lifts me off my feet, bringing me face to face with him like I’m five years old.
“Oh, I may be out of practice, little girl,” he bites out in a threatening tone, “but I think I’ll figure it out.”
And he brings me in, kissing me and stealing my breath so hard all I can do is wrap my legs around him and hold on.
Fuck yes.

[Pike]: Goddamn her.
Goddammit. I’m not stopping. Fuck it. I can’t.
She just kept pushing and pushing, hitting all my buttons, everything she knew would bring me to this, and I wanted her to. In the back of my mind, I always knew I couldn’t not have her.
I grab her ass in my hands and drop us down to her bed. She unlocks her legs and straddles me, our lips never breaking contact. I love her mouth. Hot and sweet, and she teases me with that tongue—flicking and brushing in ways that drive me insane.

[Pike]: “I hated feeling like that,” she pants.
“Like what?” I run my hands all over her, gripping and squeezing as she breathes over my mouth and grinds on me, making me painfully hard.
“Jealous,” she says.
It takes me a moment to remember we were fighting about April being here. Slipping my hand up her shirt, I take her breast in my palm, and she lets out a little gasp. I groan at finally having her in my hand.
“I know,” I say. “When you left the party with that little shit tonight, I was so pissed.” I bite her bottom lip between kisses. “Like I was fucking seventeen again and someone else was taking what was mine.”

[Pike]: “You said you wanted me to eat something.” I remind her. “What do you want my mouth on?”
She drops her eyes, staring at my lips. “Um…” She swallows and caresses her inner thigh, moving her hand up to the V. “Down here.”
“And what’s down there?” I play with her, staying just out of reach every time she moves in for a kiss. “Use your adult words, Jordan. What do you want me to kiss?”
“Um,” she stammers, turned on and dying for it. “Um, my…”
My…?
She comes in for my mouth again, but I pull away, making her bare her teeth in a quiet, little growl.
“My…”
“Yes?”
“My, um… my cunt,” she whispers.
My eyebrows shoot up, surprised. I wasn’t expecting that word, actually, but okay.
“I want you to kiss and suck on it,” she breathes out, begging. “Make me come?”
And I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment, my dick fighting against my jeans for room to grow.
Fuck.

[Pike]: “Pike,” she whimpers, clutching my head to her body and falling back on the bed.
Jesus, I’m fucking high. I’ve wanted this for so long, and I finally have her, legs spread on my bed, body begging for me.
I suck on her clit first, stretching it into my mouth and going back in again and again, making her squirm and desperate to come. I lick her up and down, swirling my tongue around over her nub and getting drunk on her scent and taste. After a minute, I lose control, though, and I’m kissing and nibbling her everywhere. I curve my arm under her thigh and grip it for support as I feed off her, doing it as much for me as her. Her back arches off the bed when I flick her with my tongue, and she moans.
I keep doing that until she’s panting so fast I know she’s ready to come apart. Palming one of her breasts, I keep my head buried between her legs until I feel her stomach start to shake and then she sucks in a deep breath and freezes as the orgasm takes hold.

[Pike]: Slipping my hand under her, I grip her ass and press our bodies together, the world spinning behind my closed eyes. Having her under me, skin on skin…my cock is so hard, I can’t take it.
This is mine.
Leaning back on my heels, I roll on the condom, never taking my eyes off her.
“I’m a little scared,” she says, worry creasing her brow.
I halt, trying not to squeeze the fist around my cock too hard.
Scared?
“What if I make too much noise?” she whispers.
And I exhale, relieved she’s not having second thoughts. I stroke my cock and come down on her again. “Pull up your shirt, Jordan,” I whisper back. “I want to see your tits when I fuck you.”

[Pike]: Reaching down, I hold her eyes as I fit my tip at her entrance, and then I grab hold of her hip and thrust inside of her, immediately overcome with the feel of her and my body shaking.She arches her neck back and closes her eyes, moaning, and her breasts bounce with the movement
“Oh, fuck, fuck…” she cries. “Pike…”
“I know, baby.” You feel so good.
I thrust again and she clutches my waist to hang on as I slowly pick up the pace, sinking deeper inside her and mesmerized by her body underneath me. I dip down, sucking on her breast as she moans and whimpers.
Coming back up, I kiss her mouth, and she does that thing where she licks my tongue, and I’m spiraling.
“Jordan, fuck,” I breathe out, thrusting faster and harder until the only thing I hear is our bodies coming together.

[Pike]: I grab her ass and arch up, taking a nipple in my mouth again, sucking and tugging and then moving to the next one in a frenzy. She leans into me, never slowing her pace, and I can feel the sweat gliding down the small of her back.
I suck in air through my teeth, my muscles tensing, and I’m close. I flip her back over, hungry to be in control again, and her head falls at the side of the bed, too close to the bedside table. I grab the edge of it and whip it away, sending it toppling over, lamp and everything crashing to the floor.
She whimpers and kisses me, caught up in the madness of the moment, too.
“Don’t stop,” she pants. “Don’t stop. I’m gonna come again.”
I press my forehead to hers, both of us damn near hyperventilating as I thrust over and over again, trying to think of anything that won’t make me come, but she feels too good, and I’m too fucking lost.

[Jordan]: “I couldn’t wait to get home,” he whispers. “You don’t know how hard I was trying to control myself today.”
“How hard?” I work at his belt, frantic to get it off.
“I was in the worst fucking mood,” he growled. “I couldn’t get you out of my head. All I wanted was this.” And his hands scale down my ribs, and he pushes me back and forces my shirt and bra up over my tits. I fall to the table, and he dives down, biting and tonguing my nipples.
I close my eyes and moan, squirming under him and arching my back, not sure if I’m trying to get closer to his mouth, or if it’s too much to take. I can feel his lips all the way to my toes.
Heat fills my wet pussy, and I watch as his hot tongue flicks over the hardened bud of my nipple, my clit throbbing so hard I can’t breathe. I shake, an explosion of pleasure wracking through me and warming my insides. My eyes roll into the back of my head, and I cry out.
Shit! Shit, shit, shit…
I shudder, opening my eyes, a little in shock.
I look down, seeing Pike staring up at me. “Did you just come?” he asks, his eyes rounded in surprise.
I swallow, my mouth suddenly parched, and nod. “Yeah. I think so.”
His eyebrows shoot up. “You like your breasts kissed, huh?”
“I like it when you kiss anything on me.”

[Jordan]: My shorts drop to the floor, he whips me around, and I plant my hands on the table to support myself. I hear a wrapper crinkle and then the clank of his belt as he opens his jeans. My thighs shake, so turned on by what’s coming. Thank God the blinds are closed.
Arching my back, I open my legs for him and look over my shoulder. “I’m sorry I did that to you last night,” I say.
He pulls his cock out of his jeans and rolls the condom on, and then comes in, wrapping a hand around my neck and kissing me hard.
“Well, not really sorry, I guess,” I pant against his lips. “This makes it worth it.”
Hell yes. He’s so hot right now. Well, he always is, but…
Pulling down my panties, he grips me where my thigh meets my hip and guides his cock to my entrance. Once it’s crowning me, he pulls my hips back to him, and I’m sliced in two, gasping and shuddering as his dick slides deep inside me.
“Oh, my God,” I whimper, my head dipping, because I’m shaking so hard.

[Jordan]: “You can go again later, right?” I ask over my shoulder.
“You’re insulting me,” he growls in my ear. “You think I can’t keep up with you?”
“I just really want to…”
“Want to what?”
I open my mouth, whispering against his lips as our bodies meet again and again. “I want to suck you off.” I rub my lips over his, taunting him. “I want to feel you in my mouth.”
He exhales hard, baring his teeth and closing his eyes. “Jordan…” He shakes his head almost as a warning.
I kiss him, our lips hovering over each other as sweat glides down my back. “You want your cock in my mouth?” I whisper.
He bites my bottom lip gently and lets it go. “Say it again.”
“I want to suck your dick,” I say again.
His cock pounds me like a hammer, and I curl my toes, feeling my orgasm crest.
“I want to lick you,” I whisper, “and taste you and make you come.”
His fingers dig into my flesh, and the tops of my thighs ache from where they keep hitting the table, but he’s making me come again, and nothing in the world has ever felt this good. I’m almost there.
I flick his lip with my tongue, feeling fire spread through my thighs and rock my insides. “Please?” I whisper, backing up into his dick and chasing it, too. “Fuck my mouth tonight?”
“Jordan, Jesus!” he cries out, and he grabs my shoulder at the neck and pounds me so hard, I can’t speak even if I wanted to.
We both come, my knuckles turning white as I dig my nails into the wooden table, tensing, and tightening every damn muscle in my body.

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

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Review: Father Mine by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookfathermine.jpeg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novella
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #6.5
Publisher: NAL
Hero: Zsadist
Heroine: Bella Soang
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 07, 2008
Started On: January 03, 2018
Finished On: January 04, 2018

Father Mine, a novella set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a story that I somehow seem to have missed out on when I first started reading the series in a frenzy. Anyone who has read my reviews on the books in the series would know that Zsadist is by far, my most favorite hero, and it is with excellent reason.

In Father Mine, the focus is on the continued struggle Zsadist has in terms of his past. A past that is as horrific as they come, where he had been taken as a blood slave, kidnapped at a tender age, and all sorts of atrocities subjected to him by the female that had kept him captive.

Zsadist comes with a wealth of pain in his heart, a soul that had numbed down in order to protect himself, an anger that had been destructive in its force and zeal that had simmered down upon mating with Bella. Even that had not been the easy journey that most romance stories would have made out of it. No. Zsadist had to work for every inch of peace he carved for himself, and the pregnancy along the way had just been another curveball that life had thrown his way.

It is in Father Mine that Zsadist’s past once again rears its ugly head in the form of nightmares that are all too realistic for him. Even though Bella knows that Zsadist’s inability to connect with their precious daughter Nalla comes from elements of his past, she has no idea of the depth of the horror that still has the ability to lock him down and get the best of him.

I believe that Father Mine and its conclusion was a much needed one in terms of Zsadist and Bella’s relationship. JR Ward’s love for Zsadist’s character shines through whenever she writes about him. Not that she doesn’t give it her all when it comes to other characters. But there is something special about the way she takes care of Zsadist, which is perhaps one of the reasons why a large percentage of readers fall, and fall hard for Zsadist and remain Zsadist loyalists throughout the series.

Bella’s insecurities as a woman who has given birth, whose physical and mental health had been subjected to a whole lot of ordeal in the process is also taken into context. The way Zsadist erased every single one of her doubts was just the icing on the cake when it came to this novella.

Loved, loved, loved this novella. An excellent installment in terms of Bella and Zsadist’s story to give their story the ultimate conclusion. Because just like real life doesn’t serve you with a happily ever after on silver platter, this made their love, pain, and struggles all the more believable and their happily ever after that much more worth it.

Recommended for fans of Zsadist!

Final Verdict: Sheer perfection is Father Mine in every single sense. Nothing more, nothing less.

Favorite Quotes

He moved her hand up and down on his shaft. “I’m desperate to touch you again. All over.” She came closer to him, moving through the sheets. “You are?”
“How could I not be? You’re the most perfect female I’ve ever seen.”
“Even after—”
He shot forward and pressed his lips to hers. “Especially after.” He pulled back so she could read his eyes. “You are just as beautiful as the first time I saw you in the gym all those nights and days ago. You stopped my heart then—just froze it in my chest. And you stop it now.”

“Feel me,” he groaned, arching into her. “Feel me and know—Oh, God.”
She felt him, all right. Wrapped both her hands around him and stroked him up and down, riding his hard length.

“Is this good for you?” she whispered.
All he could do was nod and moan. With her gripping him like that, surrounding him with her palms, working him, his brain had pretty much shorted out.
“Bella . . .” He reached for her with his bandaged hands, then stopped. “Damn gauze—”
“I’ll take it off for you.” She pressed her lips to his. “And then you can put your hands wherever you like—”

“Fuck.”
He came. Right then and there. But instead of feeling let down, Bella just laughed in the deep, throaty way of a female who knows she’s about to get sex from her male.

“You sure you’re going to be okay with this?”
If it meant she could be with him as his shellan?

“Nalla will be fine. She’s just next door if she needs me, and she’s started to sleep through big hunks of the day so . . . yes, I feel all right about it.”
“You’re . . . sure?” Bella looked up at him.
“Yes. Absolutely sure—” Z threw down his shirt, dematerialized right at her, and took her down on the bed, all but tackling her. His bonding scent went crazy as his mouth ground into hers and his hard, heavy weight pushed her down into the mattress. His hands were rough with her nightgown, ripping it as he wrenched the two sides apart. As her breasts were bared, he growled deep and low.

“Shut up and get inside of me,” she barked, grabbing the back of his neck and pulling him down to her lips.
He roared and punched into her core, the penetration a bomb that went off in her body, sparks shooting through her, igniting her blood. She gripped his ass hard as his hips jackhammered until he followed where she was, coming in a massive, full-torso contraction.
The instant it passed he threw his head back, bared his fangs, and hissed like a great cat. Arching back into the pillow, she put her face to the side, giving him her throat so that he—
As Zsadist struck hard and deep, she orgasmed again, and while he drew on her vein the sex pounded on. He was even better than she’d remembered, his muscles and bones churning on top of her, his skin so smooth, his bonding scent blanketing her in that special dark spice.

When he moved down to her stomach she started to get hot and restless again, and he smiled up at her. “Have you missed my kisses, darling mate? The ones I like to give you between your thighs?”
“Yes,” she choked out while anticipation shivered through her. Given the erotic little grin on his face and the evil cast to his yellow stare, he was once again a male with plans and a wide-open schedule.
He rose up on his knees.
“Open your legs for me. I like to watch you—Oh . . . shit . . . yeah.” He rubbed at his mouth like he was warming the thing up. “That’s what I’m talking about.”

“Nalla?” he whispered as he bent down.
His daughter pursed her little lips and held on even stronger.
“I can’t believe that grip of hers.” He let his forefinger brush lightly on his daughter’s wrist. “Soft . . . oh, my God, she’s so soft—”
Nalla’s eyes flipped open. And as he looked into a stare the exact golden color of his own, his heart stopped.
“Hi . . .”
Nalla blinked and waved his finger and transformed him: Everything stopped as she moved not just his hand, but his heart.

“You’re like your mahmen,” he whispered. “You make the world go away for me. . . .”

She was on her way into the nursery when Z came through the door. She couldn’t help beaming at him.
“Your cast is off.”
“Mmm-hmmm . . . come here, female.” He walked over to her, wrapped his arms around her, and bent her backward so she had to grab onto his arms to stay upright. He kissed her long and slow, rubbing his lower body and his huge erection into the juncture of her thighs.
“I missed you,” he purred against her throat.
“You just had me only two hour—”
His tongue in her mouth silenced her, as did his hands, which ended up on her butt. He carried her over to one of the windowsills, propped her up on the molding, unzipped himself, and—
“Oh . . . God,” she groaned with a smile.

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

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ARC Review: A Cold Dark Promise by Toni Anderson

Format: E-bookacolddarkpromise.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice, #8.5
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Alex Parker
Heroine: Mallory Rooney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: November 15, 2017
Finished On: November 24, 2017

A Cold Dark Promise by Toni Anderson is a novella that fans of the Cold Justice series would adore. One reason being that this novella brings to readers the wedding of Alex Parker and FBI Agent Mallory Rooney, the main protagonists from the debut book of the series.

Alex’s character was one of the main reasons why I fell in love with the Cold Justice series initially. Toni Anderson’s way of putting a story together is another, and there was ruthless edge to the story that made me think of Anne Stuart’s books as well, which I obviously adored. Having come a long way since, A Cold Dark Promise takes place with a 27 week pregnant Mallory, getting ready to tie the knot with Alex, in order to celebrate their love, and make things official before the baby were to arrive.

However, a member from Alex’s dark past comes calling, and even though Alex wants to turn away from the plea put forth by a grieving mother, he finds that he is not as ruthless as he thinks himself to be, which is how Alex finds himself in the south of France, where a mission that he had thought would be simple, turns out to be anything but.

I absolutely adored this novella. I am mostly never a fan of short length novels, because though they rarely serve their purpose, and they usually fail to deliver just enough to satisfy readers. But I had no such complains with this little number and I believe that Toni has done a remarkably impressive job out of delivering a well rounded story that readers can sink their teeth into.

I loved Alex and Mallory’s shared moments as described in the story. There is a normalcy to their whole relationship that makes their love that much more real and relatable. There is no dramatic flair to it, but yet it is deep and as meaningful as they come, which is why I adored the bits of their lives that Toni brought to light in this story.

Moments of truth like Mallory grappling with the fact that she doesn’t particularly like it when Alex might be in the line of danger while she herself wants the independence to put herself on the line when it comes to her work as an FBI agent; those are the things that struck me the most in the story.

I also enjoy how Toni brings together the cast from various other stories in the series. I sometimes have a problem with how some authors seem to have too many cooks spoiling the broth so to say, when too many protagonists from other stories seem to become the centre stage of the story. Toni also does an impressive job of portraying male friendships; rather than making them sappy in a way some authors tend to do, or go overboard trying to generate the whole “bro” vibe, I think Toni’s understated way of handling things works beautifully.

The mini secondary romance tucked into the story was just the icing on the cake – Reilly being a wonderful, wonderful hero that I fell in love with, just as hard and just as fast.

Definitely looking forward to more in the series. Toni sometimes describes her imagination as being dark – but I love just how dark it can get, with the possibility of there always been more.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Warm fuzzies is not what I would normally associate with a Toni Anderson, but this little number does it!

Favorite Quotes

Licks of pleasure spiraled into a cyclone of lust. His fingers dipped between her thighs and she moaned. Finding her ready, he turned her away from him, arranging a pillow beneath her baby bump and another cushioning her head. This was her favorite position now she was pregnant and he knew it. Alex moved behind her and slid deep inside and she came with a deep shudder. He leaned up, squeezed her nipple even as he thrust slowly in and out. She could lie like this for hours, days, it felt so good. She shook with pleasure, and she couldn’t bear for it to change but…
“More, Alex. Deeper.” It was a private joke between them, but the hoarseness of her voice took her by surprise. He got to her every single time.

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

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Review: Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookloverawakened.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #3
Publisher: Signet Book
Hero: Zsadist
Heroine: Bella Soang
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: September 1, 2006
Started On: August 02, 2016
Finished On: August 08, 2016

“I was dead until you found me, though I breathed. I was sightless, though I could see. And then you came… and I was awakened.”

Let me just take a moment before I begin my review to thank J. R. Ward for telling Zsadists’s story as it is, without pretensions and bringing to us a character that is so very flawed, yet the best of the Brotherhood. Yes, the best. Fact that Ms. Ward could have dragged Zsadist’s story on as a secondary tale in the series up till readers were ready to go into a tizzy with wanting, something many authors tend to do when they identify with a character readers absolutely want to read about; the fact that Ms. Ward saw it fit to deliver this story as the 3rd installment in the series is something that at least I am eternally grateful for.

Zsadist’s story is by no means an easy tale to tell. Having been taken on as a blood slave by a woman that had kept him practically chained in the bed for her pleasure and violated him in every single way possible to do that to a person, well, needless to say Zsadist comes from dark stock. The only woman who had been able to shake him out of the deep and dark aura that surrounds him had been Bella, even be it for a brief moment, a daughter of a family considered quite high in rank in vampire lineage, something which makes Zsadist more wary.

Zsadist keeps himself apart from the rest of the members of the Brotherhood. He doesn’t feed as they, doesn’t take pleasure in sex as they do; he considers himself dirty, something to be left on the sides of the streets for stray dogs to come and pick on. But his twin brother Phury refuses to let him be so, but even his attempts to reach out to Zsadist gets him that far.

It is upon Bella’s abduction by a Lesser who had wanted her for himself that forces Zsadist to step out of his comfort zone and face all of his fears, one by one. Zsadist is relentless in his hunt for Bella, and once he finds her, he is the one who nurses her back, even if it kills him to see his body react in that “ugly” manner towards her femaleness. For anyone made out of lesser stuff than Bella, making Zsadist come around would have been an impossible feat.

I have rarely come across novels that feature sexually abused heroes. Heroines, yes, multiple times. Heroes, I can practically count the books in one hand. And one who has been violated to Zsadist’s extent? Never. Amazing is how Ms. Ward handled the whole situation so beautifully. Giving Zsadist the time to adjust, to face his nightmares, to learn that his responses towards Bella are inherent in him as a male warrior would for his mate for life. Bella’s utter patience when it comes to Zsadist, even when it kills her at times, the attempts Zsadist makes numerous times to push her away, Bella does hold on strong.

It was indeed an interesting facet of the novel to see Bella come into her needing in this novel, the first of its variety that has been described since the series began. Needing is the time when female vampires go into their fertile period, the need for them to mate so incredibly painful that there is no male in scenting distant to be unaffected by it. Zsadist had practically decided by that point in time that he would not be able to bed Bella and consider himself unsullied. What a glorious and healing experience did Bella’s needing turn out to be for Zsadist! And what an erotic experience for Bella, not to mention the readers! Not that it was easy for Zsadist to give in, but the nature of his beast didn’t give up until Zsadist experienced what pleasure is like, why mates would kill for their women and why bonding is such an integral part of vampire biology.

To say that I loved Zsadist’s story would be a grave understatement. I loved, adored and reveled in how Zsadist made me feel. There is nothing, absolutely nothing I would have changed in his story. Ms. Ward definitely pulled all the punches when she wrote Zsadist’s book, and it shows. Having read around 5 books in the series so far, I believe that a hero that could topple Zsadist from the position he is in my heart would be an impossible feat. I am looking forward to Rehvenge’s book however. And I believe I am not alone in feeling this way.

I recommend Zsadist’s story even if you are not a fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The fact that Zsadist wanted to become a better version of himself before claiming Bella in the end just made me love him more! The little epilogue tucked at the end, the first of its kind I believe in this series, was more than enough to make this heart of mine melt. Just read the first three books. Trust me, it’s more than worth it!

Final Verdict: Raw and powerful, Zsadist’s novel is a stunning masterpiece by J. R. Ward!

Favorite Quotes

“Zsadist?”
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Relax your mouth for me.”
Careful not to crowd him, she propped herself up on her forearms and got in close again. His lips were shockingly soft except for where the upper one was scarred. To make sure he knew the imperfection didn’t matter to her, she deliberately attended to that place, returning there again and again.
And then it happened: He kissed her back. It was just the slightest movement of his mouth, but she felt it all the way to her core.

But then he frowned and looked at her. “Wait, I’m supposed to kiss you on the mouth first, aren’t I? I mean, males start at the top and work their way down, don’t they?”
What an odd question… like he’d never done this at all?
Before she could reply he began to move back, so she sat up and captured his face in her hands.
“You can do whatever you like to me.”
His eyes flashed and he held his position for a split second.
Then he lunged at her, taking her down onto the bed.

His lips parted, and his tongue led the way as he dipped down. His mouth was warm on her flesh, so very tentative, kissing, then sucking her nipple inside. He tugged, then ran a languid circle around her, then drew her in again… and all the while his hands stroked her waist and her hips and legs.
How ironic that he’d worried he wouldn’t be gentle. Far from brutal, he was positively reverent as he suckled, his lashes down against his cheek as he savored her, his face worshipful and rapt.
“Christ,” he murmured, moving to her other breast. “I had no idea it would be like this.”

“Bella, I don’t think I can stop. There’s this… roar in my head telling me to keep my mouth on you. How can I make this… okay for you?”
“Make me… finish me,” she said hoarsely.
He blinked as if she’d surprised him. “How do I make you come?”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing. Only faster.”
He was a quick study as he figured out what made her go wild, and he was ruthless once he discovered how to give her an orgasm. He drove her hard, watching her as she shattered apart once, twice… many time. It was as if he fed from her pleasure and was insatiable.

“Make love to me,” she said.
He moaned and started to move like a great wave on top of her, that thick, hard part of him stroking the inside of her.
“Oh, shit…” He dropped his head into her neck. His rhythm intensified, his breath shooting out of him, rushing into her ear. “Bella… shit, I’m scared… but I can’t… stop…”
With a groan he propped himself up on his arms and let his hips swing freely, each thrust nailing against her, pushing her farther up on the bed. She grabbed for his wrists to hold her body in place under the onslaught. As he pounded, she could feel herself getting near the edge again, and the faster he went, the closer she got.
Her orgasm slammed into her core, then raced throughout her body, the force stretching her out so she was infinitely long and infinitely wide.

As if he sensed what she needed, he twisted his body around so he could stay inside of her while giving her access to his throat.
“Feed,” he said hoarsely, his body moving into her and pulling back. “Take what you need.”
She bit him without hesitation, piercing right through the slave band, going deep into his skin. As his taste hit her tongue, she heard a roar leave him. And then the strength and the power of him washed over her, through her.

He closed his eyes, so exhausted he could barely breathe. He was flat on his back, legs splayed out, arms lying wherever. He’d been in that position since he’d rolled off Bella maybe an hour ago.
He felt like it had been a year since he’d come back into the room the night before. His neck and wrists burned from the number of times she’d fed from him, and the thing between his leg was sore. The air around them was saturated with the bonding scent, and the sheets were with with a combination of his blood and the other thing she needed from him.
He wouldn’t have traded a moment of it.

Bella eased up and slid the it inside of her. As beat as he was, he groaned in ecstasy. The feel of her was something he couldn’t he enough of, and he knew it wasn’t because of her needing.
She rode him, planting her hands on his pecs and finding a rhythm with her hips because he couldn’t thrust anymore with his. He felt himself gearing up for another explosion, especially as he watched her breasts sway with her movement.
“You are so beautiful,” he said in a hoarse voice.
She paused to bend down and kiss him again, her dark hair falling around him, a gentle shelter. When she straightened, he marveled at the sight of her. She was glowing with health and vitality from everything he had given her, a resplendent female who he…
Loved. Yes, loved.

“Go to hell, Zsadist. Go there right-“
He moved fast as a lightning strike, taking her down hard to the bed, tackling her with his weight.
“I am in hell,” he hissed, pushing his hips into her. He swiveled them against her core, that massive erection pushing into the soft place he’d just had with his mouth. With a curse, he pulled back, unzipped his leathers…
and thrust into her, stretching her so wide it almost hurt. She cried out at the invasion, but tilted her hips up so he could go in even farther.

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

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Review: Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-bookdukeofmidnight
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #6
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield
Heroine: Artemis Greaves
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 15, 2013
Started On: June 27, 2016
Finished On: June 28, 2016

Duke of Midnight is the 6th book in the Maiden Lane series and by far my most favorite. Towards the end of Lord of Darkness, the 5th book, once again Elizabeth Hoyt makes a startling revelation, perhaps the most astonishing one at that since the series began. The identity of the 3rd Ghost of St. Giles, this time someone who is more driven by his own personal vengeance against those that had done him and his family wrong, a member of the nobility, not to mention a member of the Parliament itself; Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield.

Readers who have had their run ins with Maximus in previous books in the series would have been hard pressed not to be intrigued by all that he is. Projecting a cold and formidable front, the Duke of Wakefield is someone who seems to be as straitlaced as they come, his utter dislike or perhaps even hatred for gin and makers of gin something that is known all over the country. While Maximus works hard to push through relevant laws that could tackle with gin making, something which he believes most passionately is the core reason behind the decay of society, at night, Maximus dons the mask and costume of the Ghost and traipses through the worst of slums in London, in the hopes of finding clues that would lead him to the villain he has been pretty much searching for a major part of his adult life.

Artemis Greaves is a character that came into prominence through the introduction of her beautiful cousin Lady Penelope Chadwicke into series, for whom Artemis is companion to. Lady Penelope is someone who wants nothing but the best for herself. Thus, determined to have Maximus as her husband, Penelope embarks upon the quest with much fervor, which does earn her the attention of Maximus in his usual cool, aloof and calculated manner. There is no joy in a transaction which Maximus believes suites him rather well. There is no fire that burns in him to possess Lady Penelope, unlike Artemis her companion who makes him want to go into hiding with her by his side and forget the whole world.

Artemis gets under his skin without Maximus knowing of it, their interludes during the quiet hours of the morning on his estate grounds something that pricks and prods at him until his emotions are tangled up in need for none but Artemis. But Artemis is one with her own agenda to push forward. Someone who is ready to do anything for the freedom of the one man for whom she would lay down her whole life for, even if it means enlisting, bribing or even coercing the help of the powerful Duke himself to do so.

There are multiple reasons why Duke of Midnight ended up being my favorite of the series. For anyone who knows of my reading tastes, I am someone who is drawn to dark characters, a bit ruthless and driven by needs that they cannot control when it comes to the heroine in question, no matter how hard they may try. Maximus was that hero for me from the Maiden Lane series. Brought up to take his rightful role as the Duke, the responsibilities of being one are thrust upon him at a tender age when both his parents get killed. Maximus has to grow up overnight without having time to properly grow into the duties required of him. Thus makes Maximus a hard man, a man who is principled, a man who often times comes off as cold, aloof and removed from the rest of the world, an image that serves him well most times.

Maximus is also the only Ghost of St. Giles who actively continues his training for the role, having turned part of his home into a training facility where he subjects himself to grueling hours of training so that he is one lethal machine of brawn, intelligence and strong will, focused on getting to the truth behind the murders of his beloved parents and making those responsible pay.

That strong ironclad will of Maximus was something that I admired and bemoaned over in equal doses. There is something quite alluring about a man who knows his own mind, well, for that matter I love a woman who knows her own mind as well – but with Maximus, him being my favorite hero in the series, I am allowed to be a little biased. The fact that his attraction and want for Artemis clouds all his senses does not make him give up on what he has planned for his life, but rather, he wants Artemis on his terms, as hard headed and stubborn it makes him. But the beauty of it when it comes to heroes who are strong minded comes in their submission to the greater force of love for the heroine, which is an aspect I enjoyed in Duke of Midnight. The moments of jealousy which overtakes Maximus during the heady encounters with Artemis, the ones that makes him go all “mine” with sheer possessiveness – those were the moments I reveled in.

Artemis is a heroine who shone equally bright in the story. With a future that looked bleak, with nothing to her name but the goodwill of an uncle who took her in, Artemis’s determination to work against the odds nevertheless, to prove the innocence of her brother was something that resonated deep within me. Even her burgeoning feelings for the Duke is something Artemis is willing to sacrifice in order to see to it that her beloved brother is removed from Bedlam, where he is rotting away into an existence that would prove to be the death of him, sooner rather than later.

I believe that Artemis is the best fit for someone with such powerful emotions and desires as Maximus. She is able to get through to him in a way that no one else can, her ability to read him so effectively being a quality of utmost importance given how easily he can don on a mask that would show to to the rest of the world that nothing touches him, when in fact things deeply do. Artemis dares him to show to her that side of his that few would ever see – the one without the artifice that society dictates he wears whenever he goes out and about. That for me, was the beauty behind the union between Artemis and Maximus when all was said and done.

Loved it all, which is why I would recommend this book with the whole of my heart!

Final Verdict: Earthy & evocative, with just the right touch of erotic; scorches the pages & moves the heart.

Favorite Quotes

A shrill whistle rent the air. Percy, who had been trotting along beside them, lifted his head alertly before racing to Wakefield’s side. Bon Bon scrambled on short little legs to keep up with his new friend.
Artemis watched the dogs go and found herself staring at the duke. He was looking in her direction, and even at this distance he was commanding, almost as if he were demanding something of her.
She felt light-headed.
Then Penelope tapped him on the arm and he turned to the other woman to smile and make some comment.
Artemis shivered despite the bright sunshine.

Something quickened in him, rising, hardening, reaching eagerly for the challenge. She was no soft society lady. She might disguise herself thus, but he knew better: she was a goddess, wild and free and dangerous.
And a most suitable opponent.
He picked up Lady Penelope’s gloves and, unsmiling, saluted Miss Greaves with them. She bowed to him, equally grave.
Maximus turned to the house, thinking. He had no idea how he would do it yet, but he meant to best her. He’d show her that he was the master, and when she’d admitted his victory… well, then he’d have her. And he’d hold her, by God. His huntress.
His goddess.

Ridiculously, he thought he could feel his heart beat faster. Despite their antagonism, despite her threats to his equilibrium, he wanted to see her, and right now he wouldn’t examine why.
In another few steps he made the clearing with the pond and looked about. He could see the dogs milling a quarter way around the pond—even Bon Bon was there—but he couldn’t yet see her on the path.
And then he did see her and arousal went straight to his cock.
Artemis Greaves was in the pond, as graceful as a naiad, her skirts bound up at her waist, standing thigh deep in the sparkling water.
How dare she.

Maximus glanced away so she couldn’t examine too closely the expression on his face. “Who was he?”
“Thomas Stone. The son of the town’s doctor.”
He sneered. “Beneath you.”
Her gaze hardened. “As you so kindly pointed out, my father was notorious for his flights of fancy. Too, I had no dowry to speak of. I couldn’t very well be choosy. Besides”—her tone softened—“Thomas was quite sweet. He used to bring me daisies and violets.”
He stared, incredulous. What sort of imbecile brought such common flowers to a goddess? Were it him, he’d shower her with hothouse lilies, peonies overflowing with perfumed bloom, roses in every shade.
Bah, violets.

“What”—he turned and seized both her arms—“has gotten into you?”
“He’s dying,” she whispered furiously, trembling within his grasp. “I didn’t receive the letter until almost noon—because Penelope didn’t think it important enough to give it to me earlier. Apollo is lying in that hellhole dying.”
His jaw set as he searched her face. “I can have a carriage readied for you to return to London within the hour. If the roads are—”
She slapped him, quick and hard.
His head turned slightly with the blow, but other than that his only reaction was the narrowing of his eyes.
Her chest was heaving as if she were running. “No! You must go to London. You must get him out. You must save my brother because if you don’t, I swear upon everything I hold holy that I’ll ruin both you and your illustrious name. I’ll—”
“Little bitch,” he breathed, his face turned fiery red, and he slammed his mouth against hers.

“You come to a bachelor’s rooms—bedroom—well after dark all by yourself to give him a trinket you could just as easily hand him in the morning.” His voice was mocking. He wanted to break her suddenly. To make her feel the rage he did at the situation they had been placed in. Were it not for her history—and his—he might’ve courted this woman. Might’ve made her his wife. “Have you no care for your reputation?”
She stepped toward him until she was so close he fancied he breathed the same air as she and when she tilted her face up to look at him he saw that she wasn’t nearly as calm as he’d imagined.
“No,” she murmured, her voice a siren’s song, “none at all.”
“Then I’ll be damned if I will,” he muttered and kissed her.

He pulled back, his chest heaving, and looked at her angrily. “Don’t start something you mean to stop.”
She met his gaze squarely. “I don’t mean to stop.”
His eyes narrowed. “I cannot give you marriage.”
She’d known. She’d never thought he could—she would’ve sworn so had she been asked a minute earlier—but his blunt words were an arrow of pain piercing her heart nonetheless. She bared her teeth in a smile. “Have I asked you to?”
“No.”
“And I never shall,” she vowed.

She shivered.
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten when your fichu slipped from your dress,” he murmured. “Strange, for I’ve seen more immodest décolletages at every ball I’ve ever attended, yet I’ve been entirely unable to remove the thought of your breasts from my mind.” His gaze flicked up to hers, dark and enigmatic. “Your breasts and other parts of you. Perhaps it’s the very fact that you usually cover yourself so modestly in public that makes the unveiling that more anticipated. Or perhaps”—he bent and whispered in her ear—“it’s you. Merely you.”

He slid his thumb between her folds and found that nub at the top, pressing down as he watched her face. She arched involuntarily, the sensation singing through her limbs.
A muscle ticked on his jaw, his face stern and ruthless, as he pressed again, his finger finding her entrance and slipping in.
She bit her lip, staring back at him, refusing to break their gaze, wanting him to continue.
“God,” he whispered. His nostrils flared suddenly, and seemingly against his will, he kissed her.

She held her breath.
His eyes flicked open to look at her. “Be brave.”
She raised an eyebrow, waiting.
He grinned.
There was a pinch, a growing pressure. She tensed. It hurt. He was so big and she felt suddenly small and fragile. Was this truly meant to be?
He leaned down and brushed his lips against her nose. “Sweet Diana.”
Then he shoved hard.
She inhaled. It burned, but that didn’t matter. She was called Artemis, and a huntress could withstand pain.

“Diana,” he whispered. “My Diana.”
She touched the corner of his lips, and he opened, taking her thumb into his mouth, biting tenderly on her flesh.
She felt his belly rubbing against hers, the wet slide of his hard flesh in hers, the brush of his chest against her nipples, and she liked it. There was no pain now, only a feeling of closeness. Of animal intimacy. Perhaps she’d been wrong: perhaps this was the moment a woman was nearest to the wild animal: when she was without constraints or thought, no society telling her what she must do and what she must not. Free from civilization.
They were bound together in this primitive act.

She opened her eyes to find him watching her like a predator. Calculating, waiting.
He held her gaze, and she saw a faint smirk curl one corner of his mouth. The rug was suddenly gone from her lap, and then she felt the slide of her skirts up her legs.
“Do you remember that morning?” he asked, his voice impossibly deep. “You emerged from the pond like a goddess triumphant. You’d flaunted your ankles the day before”—he brushed warm fingers over her left ankle, making her shiver—“but that morning I saw the tender curve of your inner thigh, the sweet bend of your knee, the shy sweep of your calf. You revealed them as coyly as a siren singing a man to his ecstatic death—and you didn’t even know it, did you? By the time you reached the shore I was hard as iron.”

His thumbs rubbed slow circles on her hipbones as if to gentle her or maybe to keep her relaxed. Although if that were his purpose, it wasn’t working. She still held his gaze in defiance, but her breath was quickening as if she were climbing a staircase.
Abruptly he looked down.
He stilled, simply staring at her. He made no movement, but there was a wild possessiveness in his eyes that made something inside her stretch and purr in response. He wanted her. Wanted this part of her. She was suddenly jealous of any other woman he’d ever looked at like this. He hadn’t the right—they hadn’t the right. This look, his expression, this moment was only between them and no one else.
They were a universe of two.

His movements were sharp and abrupt as he drove himself into her again and again. He was nothing like the sophisticated aristocrat he was in front of others. One corner of his mouth twisted in a sneer, his eyes a glaring furnace. He used her body for his own pleasure, for his own need, working her up and down on his cock. He was little more than an animal now.
And she gloried in it. She—she—had driven him to this. Had made a man who captured kings and foreign diplomats with the surety of his eloquence quite simply lose his mind.
He pushed up with all his might, shoved to the hilt within her, and froze, head thrown back in an agony of pleasure.
She leaned forward and delicately licked the salt sweat from his lips as his seed flooded her.

He lay on top of her, his upper body braced on his arms but his hips and legs weighing her down. Trapping and holding her.
“You’re mine,” he said, laying his cheek against hers. “Mine and no one else’s.”
“Maximus,” she warned.
“Yield, Diana,” he whispered, parting her legs. She could feel the thick heat of his cock pressed hard on her bottom. “Yield, warrior maiden.”
“I’m not a maiden. You took that.”
“And I would again,” he growled. “I’d steal you away and keep you in a castle far from here. Far from any other man. I’d guard you jealously and every night come to your bed and put my cock into your cunny and fuck you until dawn.”

“Do you want that, Diana?” he muttered into her ear, his breath humid on her skin. “Do you want to be mine and only mine, away from this cursed world, in a place inhabited by just we two?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, her voice fierce.
He levered himself up. “I’d go a-hunting in the day and kill a fine stag. I’d bring it back to our hidden castle and dress it and cook it over a fire and then I’d sit you on my lap and feed you, morsel by morsel. All your sustenance would be by my hand and mine alone.”
She laughed then, for she knew he didn’t truly want such a biddable doll. She squirmed and turned in a sudden movement so that she lay facing him.
“No, I’d hunt with you by your side,” she said as she reached up to pull his face down to hers. “I am your equal, my lord. Your equal and mate.”
“So you are,” he breathed, and bit her lip.

 “Diana,” he murmured in her ear, licking. “Diana, you are everything I’ve ever wanted and shall never have.”
Tears pricked at her eyes and she opened her mouth to sob.
“That’s it,” he said. “Weep for me. Bear my pain. Take my come. For I can give you nothing else.”
And he thrust into her in hard, sharp punches, each movement striking against that place within her. She gritted her teeth and bowed her head into the pillow. It was too much. Too little. A continual assault against her senses.

He opened his eyes. “Never leave me.”
She shook her head, breaking free from his rein and rising like the huntress she was. She let his poor cock slip to the very mouth of her before slamming herself back down. She rode him. Her thighs were strong and lithe, her brows drawn down in resolute purpose, and her lips were parted wide in something very like wonder.
It was the last that made him move. Dear God, if he couldn’t have anything “else, if she was determined to hollow him out and leave him a husk, then he would remember this:
Artemis riding him like the goddess of the hunt.

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Review: Going the Distance by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookgoingthedistance
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Hero: Jarek Andrew McLean
Heroine: Olivia Clarke
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: January 27, 2015
Started On: May 19, 2016
Finished On: May 20, 2016

Julianna Keyes has wormed her way into my heart as an author who can deliver on all fronts, especially with the sort of characters that I love and can relate to. There are no magic solutions to problems that exists between the characters in her stories. Which is perhaps why I find it all so very realistic and convincing. Real life seldom sends your way the variety of men who one tends to encounter in most modern romances. Some of the heroes I encounter makes me want to take out a bodice ripper just so that I can read about a hero who might be an asshole, but still maintain some of those characteristics that are inherently male and yet so difficult to come across in stories of today. Which is why Julianna has become an author who is that much more precious to me. Because writers who stay true to where their characters take them are so hard to find now.

Going the Distance is a novel mostly set in the rural Chinese town of Lazhou and is told in the third person. Olivia Clark moves to the small rural town where she is practically a stranger as a kindergarten teacher. Olivia, while she craves the anonymity her position in a foreign land offers where few of the locals if ever can speak a word of English, the loneliness that she feels is a bone deep one. However, it was a step crucial to maintain her sanity from the recent past that had hurt her in a way she never thought possible. Her sole contact with people she can at least have a full conversation with comes from the crew of the Brant Construction site, which is how her path crosses that of Jarek Andrew McLean’s.

Jarek is a man who prefers to keep to himself. His previous occupation as an interrogator makes him more so, his childhood mired in violence that had left its mark on him making him taciturn at best. However, no matter how hard Jarek might try to stay away from Olivia, it turns out to be a lost cause as he becomes intrigued by the woman who does not seem to play by the rules that Jarek wants her to. Competing with the memory of an ex fiancé with whom Olivia had been with for more than half of her life is something that Jarek does not want to do, but finds himself dealing with the kind of emotions that he has never had problems with before.

As Jarek and Olivia enter into an affair which they both loosely agree would be done when their time in China comes to an end, both finds in the other the kind of healing that they didn’t believe they needed, but was exactly what their parched souls had been craving for. None of it comes easy, as it rightly should not. Real life is not made up of rainbows and unicorns and happily ever afters as we would like to think. It is messy, difficult and at times tiring, making you want to give up on the things that makes your life hellish. That is exactly what Going the Distance brings to readers, the ups and downs, the highs and lows and the beauty that emerges from all that chaos.

Julianna has a way of delivering just the right touch of angst that makes me such a diehard fan of her novels. This was such a beautiful story in the way it was told. There is no magic formula that stops the hero from becoming better, from conquering the shackles of his past that still binds him to it, nor is there one for the heroine to get over the loneliness, heartache and feeling of having being betrayed by those who should never have done so in the first place. 

On the surface, both Jarek and Olivia might seem to be your average hero and heroine. He is taciturn and rude at times making you want to shake him up, sexy and commanding in a way that is subtle yet vivid. I’m finding that Julianna is a mastermind in creating heroes with just the right touch and I find Jarek to be no exception. While Olivia is beautiful and smart, there is a loneliness deep within her that she tries to hide from, the best she can. Meeting Jarek and feeling the spark of want for the first time in a year has her taking a chance on a man who panics the moment she kisses him. Yes, she takes the chance and does so. But Jarek has so many demons hounding him, he breaks out in sheer panic every single time he believes that he and Olivia are becoming close. One night stands are how he likes his women, informal transactions at best to scratch an itch from which he can walk away the moment he chooses to.

Jarek and Olivia’s “non-relationship” relationship is one that is filled with a lot of potholes which is the reason why it was such a swell read. I love angst of the kind delivered right and I believe that there are too few books these days that hits the right combination when it comes to it. I loved the fact that Jarek was the asshole of the year at first and gave Olivia such a hard time. And yet at the same time how he couldn’t help but be concerned about hurting her and trying to think up of ways to make amends. From the onset, he is smitten, yet unable to accept the truth. Which was realistic because he has never been in a position to offer anything more to a woman and never had he been tempted to, until Olivia.

The whole setup in China, living in a remote area of China not to say the least, where you don’t know of anyone, where people mostly just treat you to a polite hello and nothing more was driven home in the story. I visited China just once, and had the fortune of visiting some places mentioned in the story. While China got into my blood in a way I never would have thought possible and would love to revisit one day, I think it would take a lot of courage on the part of anyone to make such a bold decision and move to practically the middle of nowhere and start afresh. While I would have loved to see Olivia continue her tenure in the school where she eventually won the hearts and minds of the adorable kids she was teaching, I understood her decision to leave them behind even had it been a difficult one. 

My message to Julianna is to never stop writing her characters as they are. Never give into the ‘accepted’ mold of the hero and heroine that is turning this beautiful genre into a mushy fest which sometimes I have a hard time not gagging over. But authors like Julianna makes me hopeful that there still exists a couple of authors out there who do the genre justice. 

Absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Going the Distance is yet another masterpiece in the way it’s so well thought out and crafted. Jarek and Olivia’s story is definitely one that is worth giving up a corner of your heart for.

Favorite Quotes

“You’re so hard,” she murmured in his ear. “So big. I want to feel you come in my hand, Jarek.”
“Fuck.” He ran his free hand over his eyes, as though he could block her out.
To be honest, Olivia was surprised to hear herself say the words. She’d never talked dirty with Chris; never really wanted to. But something told her Jarek wanted to hear it, wanted the okay to sully her hand with his release, to know he hadn’t talked her into doing something she didn’t want to do.
She kissed the shell of his ear, bit on the lobe. “What are you waiting for?” She squeezed her hand tighter than she thought he’d like and he came, back arching, teeth gritted, a pained sound dragged from his throat.

He gripped her hips, pulled out and shoved back in, too hard. Her breath hitched and she winced, and he kissed the corner of her mouth. “I’m sorry.”
“Do it again.”
So he did. She held onto the desk and later onto his shoulders, and he held her hips and pounded into her with all the zealousness of a man possessed, and none of the finesse she’d probably gotten from her ex. He could feel her and smell her and hear her, and in no time at all she fit him.

“What’s your favorite movie?”
“Alien.”
“Ugh.” Then, “Jarek.” Not a sigh. An order.
“I’m going to fuck you, Olivia.”
“Good.”
“Hard.”
“Good.”
“Harder than before. As hard as I want to.”

He kicked her knees apart and held her in place as he fitted his cock to her glistening folds, then rammed inside, deep and hard, making her cry out.
He didn’t ease up. He didn’t take it easy. He fucked her, like he hadn’t really done before. He gave her everything, rough and hard, like he’d been wanting to and worried she couldn’t handle. She groaned and moaned and clawed the mattress, writhing like she was trying to get away and get closer, but he didn’t let her go anywhere. He held her down with one hand and gripped her hip hard with the other, knowing he’d leave marks on her tan skin and not giving a fuck.

She straddled him as he freed his cock and rolled on a condom, then dragged her down where he needed her most. Her eyes sank shut and she bit her bottom lip, taking him deep. He watched her face, stroking her neck and her back, eyes settling on their joining bodies. He heard her breath hitch and looked up to see her flushed cheeks as she watched him watch them. She smiled and he kissed her, thinking that he’d been doing a lot of kissing this past month. Maybe more than he’d ever done in his whole life, all combined.

He curled over her, moving his hands to squeeze her slim shoulders as he pounded inside, pouring out his release with a groan, burying his forehead in her neck. When their breathing slowed, she lifted a hand to stroke his hair, soothing him, as though she somehow knew he needed it. Letting him know without words that he could trust her, too.

“I was hoping your first time sleeping over would alleviate your fear of spending the night when you realized nothing terrible would happen.”
His laugh was pained, muffled by her skin. “It’s the opposite of terrible, Liv. You feel so fucking good. All over. You’re the best thing I’ve ever felt.”
She ran her fingers through his curls, letting them tangle. “You’re sappy in the morning. Is that why you avoid staying over?”
“Guilty.” He rocked against her, his pubic bone hitting her clit and sending her over the edge. He followed, lips fastened to her neck, hard enough that she knew she’d have her first hickey in years.

She squirmed and complained and he ignored her, pressing into the soles of her feet with his mean, awful fingers, dragging them up her calves, finding muscles she didn’t know she had. “Please,” she gasped when she was about to combust. “Stop. But don’t stop. Please.”
Her eyes flew open when he sat beside her, back resting against the padded headboard. He dragged her onto his lap so she straddled his muscled thighs, and she waited, quaking, as he rolled on a condom. She suspected he was suffering as much as she was, but it wasn’t confirmed until he held her hips and guided his cock inside her that he cursed furiously and pressed his head back as though in agony.

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