Review: Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Fostering Love, #1
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Shane Anderson
Heroine: Katherine Evans
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: June 07, 2016
Started On: May 21, 2020
Finished On: May 21, 2020

Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn is the debut book in her Fostering Love series. While Ms. Jacquelyn is a totally new to me author, the blurb which hinted at unrequited love, a widowed hero, and a ton of angst was what sold me and I didn’t look back. I needed a story that was spectacular enough to “wean” me off the continuous high I had experienced while reading one Susan Napier book after the other throughout April and May. Unbreak My Heart turned out to be just perfect for the cause.

Unbreak My Heart brings together the two main protagonists, Shane Anderson and Katherine Evans (Kate), who are both 29 years old. While Kate and Shane had been best of friends from a certain point of their childhood on wards, the minute Shane had set eyes on Kate’s closest friend Rachel, Kate had ceased to exist for him. Ignoring the hurt in Kate’s eyes had been his modus operandi, and it had helped that being enlisted in the military, Shane was hardly ever around afterwards.

Kate’s life had pretty much revolved around that of Rachel’s and her family when Shane was not around. With Shane away for long periods of time, Kate spends most of her time helping Rachel bring up their four kids, up till the point where tragedy comes calling and changes everything. With Rachel gone, a year on, the hurt is still raw for Shane and on the eve of Rachel’s death anniversary, their vulnerability leads to sex of the most spectacular kind, which ends with Kate becoming pregnant.

Shane’s fractious relationship with Kate does not undergo a magical transformation when he receives the unwelcome news of Kate’s pregnancy. If anything, his feelings related to Kate becomes more chaotic than ever, the draw he feels towards her something which he resists at every single turn. There are moments in which Shane gives in, is tender and loving, and yet what is more devastating is what follows soon after; the constant need in Shane to blame Kate and assume the worst when it comes to her.

Through a sequence of events that was heartbreaking and heart warming at the same time, (I seriously do not know how Ms. Jacquelyn managed to do that) she delivers a tale that is nothing short of mesmerizing. I could not put the book down unless it was for the basic necessities, because it had been that long since I had come across a novel that features a hero like Shane – who at best would be deemed irredeemable by many readers. But Shane is the kind of hero that I love the best, perhaps because I am a glutton for punishment.

Needless to say, I loved Unbreak My Heart to bits and then some. I found Kate to be amazing. The love that she feels for Shane is an all encompassing and enduring one at that. There is a profound statement in the story that jumped right at me – that love can overlook many things, and I believe that to be true. When we talk about accepting people for who they are, shortcomings and all, because lets face it, none of us are perfect at the end of the day, love is in reality all about overlooking those bits and pieces and seeing the bigger picture.

Kate might be seen to be a doormat heroine by some, because she puts up with a lot of shit from Shane at first. But given the shared past between them, during which Shane and Kate had seldom spent time together from the point where he had decided to ignore her in the pursuit of Rachel, the trouble starts brewing when they are forced to endure each other’s company. Kate’s feelings had never wavered when it comes to Shane, but for Shane, discovering Kate along those lines and the way he falls so hard for her amidst all that reluctance on his part was something worth all that heartache and pain.

There were times I felt like dousing Shane with a bucket of cold water for good measure, just so that he could see reality for what it was. I also loved the strong cast of secondary characters that lent an extra richness to the developing story and made it more wholesome with their presence, which also ended up being the reason behind Shane finally being able to get his head out of his ass and really see things from a different perspective.

One would wonder how Kate was able to forgive everything when all was said and done. I guess the simple and complicated answer to that would be love, in its purest of forms. Kate is just pure in heart in a way that a lot of us may not be able to understand. No matter what she goes through, there is no malice nor hatred in her heart, which is a rare thing indeed.

When one comes to understand Shane and baggage he carries from his experience through the foster care system, it is easier to see where he is coming from. It is evident that Shane is scared shitless of the way Kate makes him feel which is evident as the story reaches its climax. One can see why it is so, because Kate is not someone who deserves love of the half-assed variety; she deserves it all.

I know that Unbreak My Heart would not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are anything like me and love irredeemable heroes paired with heroines who make them fall and fall hard, this is for you. If you want a romance that is politically correct, with rainbows and sunshine, with a unicorn or two thrown in for good measure, then it is safe to say that this is not the book for you.

Recommended for those who love emotional and angst-ridden reads that makes you feel all the feels! Unbreak My Heart does that in spades! Thank you Ms. Jacquelyn, for writing Shane’s character as he was.

Final Verdict: Unbreak My Heart delivers the reality of the pain that stems from unrequited love and the courage it takes to love in the truest and purest sense. I wouldn’t change a word in this book for the world!

Favorite Quotes

“When you cry, your lips swell up,” he whispered, making my eyes finally pop open in surprise.
He was so much closer than I’d realized that my breath caught in my throat as he stared at my lips.
Then his mouth was on mine.
“Pushing, always fucking pushing,” he mumbled against my mouth before sucking my bottom lip between his and biting down hard enough to make me whimper.
He tugged at my lip with his teeth, and I felt my body heat in response.
“What are you doing?” I asked as his eyebrows furrowed.
“Fuck if I know.”

“Harder,” he ordered, groaning as he grabbed the back of my head and pressed my mouth to his throat. “Do it hard.”
I followed his instructions, biting and sucking on his neck like it was my job, and his hands shook as one held me against him and the other slid down the side of my throat and ripped the strap of my bra and cami down my shoulder. He tasted salty, and the stubble under his chin rasped across my tongue.
“Jesus,” Shane groaned as he leaned back on his knees and gazed at my breast that had popped free. “Your nipples are pierced.”

“So bare and slick,” Shane whispered darkly, bending over my body until his chest rested against my back. “And what is this?”
His fingers found my hood piercing, and I froze as I waited to see what he’d do. I felt one finger playing softly with the piercing as my breath grew ragged, and I was so focused on that sensation that I didn’t feel him positioning behind me until he was thrusting inside.
I think I may have screamed as he came to a stop halfway inside, but my ears were ringing so loudly that I wasn’t sure. Not that I would have cared either way.

Her breathing was little off, kind of heavy and shuddery at the same time, and the feel of it on my shoulder was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Is that all you—” Kate started to ask.
My mouth was on hers before the last word was spoken, and I made an embarrassing desperate noise when her lips parted and she let me inside.
She tasted like ginger, probably from the cookies she had brought with her that morning, and for some reason it ratcheted up my desire until I was practically shaking.

“Shit,” she moaned, bending her knees so she could press down on my fingers inside her. “It’s not enough.”
“It’s enough.”
“No, I’m so close. God. It’s not—”
I bit down on her nipple then, careful of how sensitive she seemed to be, and she came, gasping and shuddering as my hand between her legs became drenched in her.
I pulled my hand from her slowly, running my fingers over everything I could reach, then lifted it and put those two fingers in my mouth.
She tasted different than I remembered. Maybe even better.

“Your body is insane, Kate,” he told me as he rolled over until he was leaning over me. “I look at you, and I don’t see the fucking ratty clothes you wear. I see the way your breasts bounce when I pull on your nipples. I see the way you clench your jaw when you come, and the way your red lips get swollen from sucking my dick.”
My mouth dropped open, and I looked at him in shock.
“You were my wife’s best friend. My dead wife. Do you get that? I look at you and I don’t see Katie who drove me nuts when we were kids, or Katie who was Rachel’s best friend. I see Kate, the woman who can take me hard then fucking begs for more. That’s not okay. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?”

“It’s okay, I’ve got you,” he breathed, lifting both of my legs until they were bent and pressing against his chest and he was hitting my G-spot again. “There you go.”
“Please,” I begged hoarsely.
“Harder?” He pulled back and thrust in desperately as he kissed me hard.
“Yes. Yes. Like that.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re sexy,” he mumbled into my mouth. “You’re almost there, Kate. Take it. Fuck!”
I detonated, and he followed closely behind me with a deep groan.

I cut her words off with my mouth as we reached the back door of Miles’s truck. Thank God the windows were tinted, and I knew that Mike and Miles would studiously avoid looking where we were standing…but it wouldn’t have mattered if they hadn’t.
She whimpered and gripped my head in her hands as I swept my tongue into her mouth, and I couldn’t resist grabbing her ass and hoisting her up until she was braced against the truck with her legs wrapped around me.
I didn’t know what I was doing. Things between us were getting so complicated. Too complicated.
But I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving without the taste of her in my mouth.

“Take it off,” he ordered gruffly, the tendons in his neck growing taught. “All the way, Kate.”
I closed my eyes as I pulled the shirt over my head and only opened them again when I heard him let out a harsh breath.
“Fuck,” he groaned, his eyes dilated until they were almost black. “Do you know what we’d be doing if I was there right now?”
I nodded mutely as I watched him watching me.
“You’re so fucking incredible, Kate. Jesus, those breasts—” I laughed a little as he whimpered, then slid the shirt back over my head, hiding my body from view.

He slid his tongue into my mouth as I began to shake, and I kissed him back until I finally couldn’t concentrate on both his mouth and his hand at the same time.
“Harder,” I ordered, clenching my teeth so hard it was a wonder I didn’t shatter them.
“Goddamn,” he groaned, sucking on my shoulder as I got closer and closer to the edge.
My hands were frantic as I tried to touch all of his torso at once, the nails of one hand digging into the forearm between us as it flexed over and over. His fingers were curled up inside me, and every time he jerked his hand up, his palm rubbed over my swollen clit.
I came hard, my mouth at his throat as I tried not to make any noise.

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

Review: Mists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Review: Sweet Agony Charlotte Stein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Prisoner by Annika Martin, Skye Warren

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Criminals & Captives, #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Grayson Kane
Heroine: Abigail Winslow
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 22, 2014
Started On: April 09, 2020
Finished On: April 10, 2020

Even in chains, he seems vibrant, wild and free, a force of nature—it makes me feel like I’m the one in prison.

Prisoner is the debut book in the Criminals & Captives series by two very talented authors Annika Martin and Skye Warren. While I have never read a novel by Skye Warren prior to this, I have enjoyed the work of Ms. Martin who also writes as Carolyn Crane. Behind the Mask is one of my favorite books by Ms. Crane and I have on occasion “pestered” her about continuing the series. I seriously hope that she does, because she has left the series at a point where die-hard fans like ourselves need the next book in the series.

Prisoner begins with the heroine Abigail Winslow being assigned a project to work at the The Kingman Correctional Facility and comes across Grayson Kane, who changes her life in more ways than one. Grayson who is in for a crime he did not commit, executes the perfect getaway plan which finds Abigail being taken hostage and held against her will.

Grayson is the kind of hero that commands all your attention and nothing less. When Grayson first walks into the story, or rather strolls into it, you can practically feel the energy that rolls off him, the take charge vibe that would make the story unforgettable in its way. It is powerful how just the mere introduction of a character makes you shiver in all the right ways, telling you that he is going to wreak havoc on your emotions before he is done.

Abigail finds herself in uncharted waters when it comes to the effect Grayson has on her. Even though she tries her hardest to get away from Grayson and escape captivity, what holds her to him is far stronger than anything either of them can deny. While life would be much easier for both if their deeper feelings were not to be involved, neither Grayson nor Abigail can find it in themselves to walk away before they are thoroughly immersed in each other’s psyche, heart, and soul.

If I were to sum up what Prisoner was like in one word, I would choose “unconventional”. Prisoner is a book that stands out in many ways because I went searching for something that would push the boundaries of the norm we are all used to as romance readers and that is exactly what I got. I loved Grayson to bits, because he is unapologetically ruthless in a way that is all him. I wouldn’t have loved his character half as much if he had turned putty the minute he found Abigail and fell for her.

I also loved Abigail equally and as much. Her spirit and fire burns in a different way, but it is equally strong when it comes to the clash of wills between Grayson and her, which I am happy to report that both of them win, and so fabulously too. I loved how Abigail could make Grayson feel all those things that he never thought was possible and that in Grayson Abigail found what she had been searching for all her life.

Like I mentioned earlier, as soon as you meet Grayson, you know that he is going to shake you up. He might be a captive, but he is a man who makes his own rules within the four walls of the prison he is in. The minute he mouthed Ms. Winslow and left Abigail flustered in his wake, I knew that Grayson would be a character that would be devastating to my heart and senses. And I was so glad to be proven right in this regard.

There is violence in this story, so be warned. There are also elements that may not be well received by certain readers. But this is Grayson and Abigail’s story and I for one am so glad that the authors stayed true to their voice, both individual and collective, and let their love unfold in the truest way possible for them.

Definitely and absolutely recommended for those who love a ruthless hero, a heroine who ignites that fire within, and a story that leaves you breathless from want.

Final Verdict: There is nothing that anyone can say otherwise when it comes to Prisoner that would change my mind about its absolute remarkableness: a story steeped in darkness sucking in the light, designed to turn the pages!

Favorite Quotes

“We’re going to meet my friend in a secluded area.”
She gives me that look again. The flare of surprise—and a little bit of something else too.
“Why, Ms. Winslow, please. Mind out of the gutter.” I smile and sit back. The smile is there to put her at ease. Stone’ll want her dead. It’s going to be a problem.
Another pair of cop cars heads over the hill. “You just drive nice, okay?”
“Nicely,” she snaps.
“What?”
“Drive nicely, that’s how you say it. Not drive nice.”
Oh God. Nicely. Correcting my grammar even at gunpoint. I’m so fucking hot for her, I think I might burst into flames.

I bite the finger of the hand over my mouth. He swears and shifts his hand, squeezing my jaw shut. I grab at his hair, pulling, but the feeling between my legs is building; my mind is melting.
He won’t stop stroking me, won’t take his hand off my mouth, and before I know it, I’m holding on to his hair instead of pulling it.

He continues his circling motion as I writhe under him, pushing into his hand. He tightens his seal over my mouth, stroking slowly. I can’t stop arching into him, pulling his head into my breast by his hair, wanting, needing.
And suddenly I shatter with feeling. Sharp, bright, intense. It goes all through me in waves, this beauty, this wildness. I’m breathing hard and he is, too, and nothing matters except that feeling, pulsing on and on. His fingers stop as the intensity fades, leaving me boneless, because it was wonderful. Too wonderful. Too wild. An orgasm. I’m aware that I’m crying. I feel bewildered.
He shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have liked it.

He parts my lips and slips inside. There’s a moment of hesitation. Do I let him? A rough sound of impatience vibrates from his lips to mine. His hand tightens on the back of my neck. He’s not asking; he’s taking. He takes my air and breathes it back into me. He takes control of me, and I can finally give in.
I can finally let go.
He rubs his tongue against mine, raising goose bumps along my arms. I never want him to stop, and as if he hears my deepest desires, he tightens his hold on me. One hand fisted in my hair. The other on my hip, pulling me closer.

Her hands tighten, and I shudder with pain and pleasure and a sudden reluctance. I want to jackhammer inside her and I want to draw a line in the sand that will keep me from her.
I want to hurt her and I want to protect her. Break her and shield her.
Determination fills her eyes, and my dick gets that much harder. “Why do you want me to slow down?” she taunts. “A little desperate from all that time in prison? A little dry?”
“Fuck,” I say, teeth clenched tight because her hands are moving even faster. “Yeah.” She’s racing me to the finish line, and she’s winning.

“What are you doing here?”
“What does it look like?”
“I’ve had hours to tell everything I know—what your friend looks like. The license plate.”
“Did you?”
“They didn’t question me yet, but—”
“Didn’t think so.”
“But you didn’t know that!”
He gives me this look, calm and sure. It’s as if I’ve been out there buffeted by wild ocean waves, and he’s a strong, solid rock outcrop. He’s sharp in places too—maybe touching him will rip me open. I don’t know how to feel.
“Why?” I whisper.
He kneels, putting himself at my level, and something like concern flickers in his eyes. “Because I had to get you out of here.” He closes his hand around my upper arm and pulls me up. “I’ll always come for you. You’re mine.”

Her lips part. Her lids lower. She’s going to drop right out of awareness, asleep and pulsing around my dick. I tighten my grip on her hips, and I slam into her hard enough to wake her up again. Her eyes open wide as she whimpers. Her eyes roll back, but it’s not the drug this time.
It’s pleasure.
I’ve found the place inside her that makes her body jerk and her thighs quake. She can’t even help it. I plunge my dick inside her, again and again, finding that spot, battering it.
There, there, there. Her mouth opens around a choked cry. I don’t think she could form words if she wanted to. She can’t ask me to stop, and that’s just as well, because I’m not going to.

He doesn’t ask why I changed my mind. Maybe he doesn’t care. He just pulls a condom from the drawer and slips it on. He flips me over, drags my hips up, and pushes a pillow underneath.
That’s the only warning I have before the hot, blunt head of his cock breaches me from behind.
My body opens to him, wet and soft and willing. My mind understands him, why he is the way he is. But it’s my heart that aches for him, wanting whatever shards of love he can give me, jagged, even knowing I’ll get cut in the process.

I put down the binder and back her up against the wall. Her eyes widen.
She knows what’s coming.
She wasn’t expecting this, and her shock just feeds my lust. My dick is pressing against my jeans. My dick has a lot of ego. It thinks it can burst through denim and shove up into her skirt and thrust right into her slick, warm cunt. It has the right idea.
I run my finger along her cheek. “I like it when you talk classification,” I murmur.

She licks her lips, and I realize she’s not going to answer at all. Instead her hands go to my jeans, unzipping and pulling me out. I shudder at the feel of her soft, small hands. God, those hands. I could come just like this. A few solid strokes.
She leans forward, and I hold my breath. Her lips press together. She kisses the tip of my cock. Kisses it. Like she’s fucking courting it or something. I almost come.

“Security council,” she says on an exhale, and I thrust inside her at the same time, forcing the words out. And I don’t let up. I don’t give her any time to adjust. All I have for her are bruising thrusts as I ride her from behind. I hold on to her hips, those lovely hips, and force my dick through her swollen flesh.
Her muscles clench around me. She cries out. God, yes, she’s coming in a wet, messy gush. I want her to make a mess all over the library, all over the pages and pages. I want her to smear the ink.
“Again,” I demand, fucking her harder, faster.

“What do you need, baby?”
She makes a sound like a tortured animal. I nip at her clit with the front edge of my teeth. She had to know this was coming, but she still cries out in surprise.
She likes me to nip her, to bite her, to hurt her a little—to make her feel. Her mom ignored and neglected her, but I’m the opposite; I can never get enough of her, and she knows it. Her cries echo through the room, through the open window, through the neighborhood of wrecked, unruly buildings.

My balls draw up. I’m seconds away from coming. I won’t be able to hold back, so I make the most of it. I grasp her hips and she wraps her legs around me. Then I lift and rock her hips in both my hands, jacking myself off with her cunt in the coldest, rudest way possible.
She’s spasming around me. Her cunt is milking my dick. Her arms are clawing me, holding me tight. Even her mouth has latched on to the skin at my neck, sucking me—and I’m not even sure she knows it. She’s a feral thing in my arms, drawing me into her pleasure, drowning me in it. I shout as my cock releases into her, mixing with her wetness. I grasp her ass even tighter and use her body to wring the last drops of come and pleasure from my body.

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Review: Angel of Darkness by Lynne Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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outstandingread

Review: Blindsided by Amy Daws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: Outfox by Sandra Brown

Format: E-Bookoutfox
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Drex Easton
Heroine: Talia Shafer
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 06, 2019
Started On: August 09, 2019
Finished On: August 13, 2019

Outfox by Sandra Brown tells the story of Drex Easton, an FBI agent who is determined to find a killer who has eluded the authorities for years. Drex’s hunt is a personal one, which makes him relentless, willing to bend the rules if they fit the purpose, all to hunt down a serial predator who has bested the system for far too long.

Drex’s hunt finally brings him to a man known as Jasper Ford, married to a Talia Shafer, which in itself is a deviation from the norm. But from the moment Drex meets Jasper, his hunting instincts go full throttle, being finally able to put a face to the man who had killed eight women or perhaps more, if the stealth under which this particular killer operates is anything to judge his kills by.

Drex’s encounter with Jasper is further complicated by the fact that his newly wedded wife, Talia Shafer, gets under his skin from the onset. So much so that his partners and loyal friends caution him against doing something that could derail an already delicately balanced operation. Things reach a climactic point when Jasper once again disappears, driving Drex to take measures into his own hands.

From the beginning, Outfox is a novel that throws the reader off course by a huge margin. One can guess as much as they want to, but apart from a few circumstances, I for one ended up being completely wrong on my hunches (when I am usually right), which made this a stellar read in my opinion.

In short, I loved Outfox and what it delivered. While I will continue to bemoan the fact that Ms. Brown only releases one novel per year now, the fact that what she does release into the market is always stupendous goes a long way towards easing those particular woes.

How Ms. Brown still manages to take my breathe away with every hero and heroine that she brings to life in her books is a factor that continues to confound me, even when I should know better. Her heroes are intriguing to a point where they are sexy without even trying.

There is vibe that her heroes give without even putting much effort into it. Ms. Brown does not have to go on describing each perfectly crafted muscle on the hero’s body to get the reader to sit up and take notice. He just has to walk into the scene and you are a goner. No matter how many books I have continued to read from Ms. Brown, I am still a sucker for her heroes and I would not have it any other way. In true Sandra Brown style, Drex threw every preconceived notion I had of him out of the window, even as the pages dwindled to reach the very last couple of paragraphs in the story.

When it comes to heroines, Ms. Brown creates women of class, seemingly out of thin air. It is in the way they carry themselves, with dignity and beauty to their character which is not just skin deep. There are many factors which makes a heroine stand out, and Ms. Brown does a perfect job of bringing together just the right ingredients to make Drex and Talia inevitable.

The suspense factor was really done well in the story. Outfox is an apt title for the story because somehow, you never quite figure out what is going to happen next. That takes mastery over storytelling that Ms. Brown has damn near perfected over years of publication. And I for one hope that she never stops crafting these gems. Jasper is a villain who was ingenious in the way he works the system, cunning in a way that makes the heart beat just a tad faster. It was not only Talia who felt uneasy during the scenes where Jasper is featured prominently. He is the sort of character who makes your skin crawl, without even trying.

Outfox is a novel recommended for those who love superbly crafted and tightly plotted thrillers. With just the right amount of romance in the mix to appease readers like myself, Ms. Brown seems to have outdone herself, yet again!

Final Verdict: Just when you think you have got everything figured out, Ms. Brown throws you for a loop until the reader is left running around in circles chasing their own tail. Ms. Brown only gets better with time and Outfox is a testament to just that.

Favorite Quotes

“Talia.” He bent his head lower and nuzzled her just below her ear. “This isn’t only doing my job.” He caught the lobe of her ear between his teeth.
She stirred and whimpered his name. He followed the soft expulsion of breath to its source, her parted lips, and covered them with his. Her mouth was hot and wet and receptive when he pressed his tongue inside.
Unlike when he’d kissed her before, this time she didn’t turn her head aside and angle away. Instead she leaned into the kiss, not just with her mouth but with her body.

When he didn’t think he could withstand any more, one hand didn’t slide off at the tip. It stayed. Fingers dripping lather made teasing rotations around the crest, over it, again, as though testing its tautness, and then something wicked was done to the slit.
Through clenched teeth, he strangled out, “When.”

He turned around and hauled her against him. He tried to pause and register all the incredible sensations that holding her wet and naked against him induced, but his brain was functioning on a more primitive tier.
He gathered up a handful of her hair and pulled her head back, tilting her face up to his. He looked into her eyes, then covered her mouth with his. It was a ravenous kiss. He couldn’t get enough of her, and she was as hungry.

He levered himself up and above her—and was shocked to see tears sliding down her temples into her hair. She reached for him, grabbing at him until their mouths were melded and he had pushed into her.
But he went only far enough to secure himself just inside. There he waited, wanting to commit to memory this moment of feeling her around him for the first time. Then he continued pressing into her until he was solidly imbedded.
She hugged him to her tightly, and it was fantastic, but he had to move or he was going to die. He buried his face in her hair. “If I get too rough, slow me, stop me. I want…I want…Oh, God…”
The mating instinct took over. In spite of his best intentions, his strokes became faster and stronger. A slight shift in his position enabled him to reach deeper, and he did. God, did he.

She opened her thighs and guided him in. He hissed swear words as she slowly sank down onto him and began rocking. He grunted with pleasure. “And I thought the first time was good.” He angled himself up in order to reach her breasts. His mouth was hot and avid, and left her nipples wet with loving.
When he lay back, he gripped her hips between his hands and coaxed her, coached her, cajoled her in the raunchiest language. Several minutes later, on short puffs of breath, he said, “Have at it. That’s what I said. But, sweetheart…God a’mighty.”

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

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Review: Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Booksecretdesiresofagentleman
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Girl Bachelors, #3
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Phillip Hawthorne
Heroine: Maria Martingale
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 06, 2009
Started On: May 16, 2019
Finished On: May 17, 2019

29 year old Maria Martingale is looking for the right place to set up her very own patisserie, when she runs smack-dab into none other than Phillip Hawthorne, the Marquess of Kayne, the man who takes her back on the memory lane from 12 years back.

Maria had been at Phillip’s mercy when he had interfered with the relationship that had blossomed between her and Phillip’s younger brother. Phillip who had always been the proper one, nary a button nor hair out of place, the man who had always taken his responsibilities seriously, a man who in Maria’s eyes would probably have ice running through his veins instead of blood.

An arrangement is struck between Maria and Phillip which puts both of them in close proximity with one another. And thus tumbles forth a story that was beautifully moving in a way that I have almost forgotten that romances could be. Because it has been that long since a book moved me as much as this one did.

Phillip’s ironclad restraint is sorely tested by Maria, who is the very opposite of what he is, bringing forth memories he had thought were no longer his to revisit and enjoy. Upon the death of his father and the debts under which his family was reeling at the time, Phillip had been forced to grow up and assume responsibility way ahead of his time. Perhaps that is the reason why he is such an excellent match for someone like Maria, who is all fire and warmth – a combination that I enjoyed so very much.

There is a poignancy to this story that stemmed from the fact that the main protagonists had a shared past. The memories of it from Phillip’s viewpoint were what moved me the most. It is usually the heroine’s emotions and musings that wreaks havoc on the reader’s emotions and provides a well spun romance with that angst factor that I love so much.

However in the Secret Desires of a Gentleman, it was the hero’s thoughts, desires, and memories that sucker-punched me with a ferocity that shook me to my core. The deep wealth of passion and desire Phillip has held in check for so long which tumbles forth, giving readers tantalizing glimpses of a man who would hold his own when it comes to a woman like Maria; beautiful, vivacious, and full of life was the best aspect of this book.

The groveling towards the end by Phillip was well done. Or I must say, the proposal. I read from a book recently that love is when you are ready to make a fool out of yourself for the one you love and don’t even realize it. That was in essence what Phillips was at the end. The epitome of gentlemanly behaviour, laying himself bare for the world to see, his love unmistakable, his desire for Maria everything she had ever wanted it to be.

I believe that this would be my favorite from the series thus far. Perhaps my favorite book from Laura Lee Gurhke herself. There is nothing more that I love than a hero that unravels so beautifully, given the right woman. Enjoyed this delightful tale in so many ways. I’ve missed books such as this, wildly evocative and emotional in depth, that one cannot help but want more.

Definitely recommended. For the emotional angst, for Phillip himself. Darling Phillip, oh how I love thee!

Final Verdict: Unraveling Phillip is a journey I would gladly go through all over again. There is just something about a buttoned up hero letting loose that speaks to this wanton heart of mine.

Favorite Quotes

Phillip tensed in his chair as she slid her fingertips beneath her braid and began to rub the nape of her neck. She was clearly unaware of his presence, and he knew that in such a situation, offering a slight cough was the appropriate thing for a gentleman to do.
He did not do it.
Instead, he remained perfectly still as she tilted her head to one side and began massaging the muscles of her shoulder and the side of her neck.
She groaned, and with that tiny sound, lust washed over him, an inexorable wave of heat and hunger that was so powerful, he could not move.

His fingers curled around the nape of her neck and his thumb pressed the underside of her jaw, lifting her face. His free arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her hard against him. She sucked in a startled breath, but she had no time to react before he bent his head and captured her lips with his.
The kiss was not tender. It was hard and hot, bruising her mouth, and yet, she felt a thrill like nothing she’d ever felt in her life before.

“What’s wrong, Phillip? Don’t you trust me?”
“I don’t—” He stopped and cleared his throat. He tilted his chin down and met her gaze in the dim light. “I don’t trust myself.”
“I do,” she whispered, and before she even realized what she was doing, she turned in his arms and pressed her lips to his.
“Then you’re a fool,” he muttered against her mouth. His hands gripped her arms as if to push her away, but then, with a groan, he pulled her hard against him.

Kneeling on the floor, he hovered above her. He was breathing hard, but he did not move.
She opened her eyes. His face above hers bore a harsh expression, almost as if he were in pain; a frown creased his forehead, drawing his dark brows together, and his glittering gaze pinned her to the seat. “Maria.”
It was a hoarse whisper. It was a question. It might have been a plea. Whatever it was, she had no time to respond before his body came over hers, the weight of his much larger frame driving the air from her lungs.

When he slid his hand inside her shirtwaist and his fingertips touched her bare skin, she jerked in sharp reaction, for just that light caress sent shards of tingling sensation through her body. When he spread his palm over her breast, shaping it through the layers of her clothing, she arched upward into his hand. “Phillip,” she moaned, “Phillip, oh, yes, oh, please, yes.”
She was pleading for more. More of what, though, she did not know. She could not even guess.
“Damn,” he swore, his lips brushing her skin, his hot breath making her shiver. “Damn, damn, damn.”

“Maria,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “For the love of God…”
He slipped his fingers inside the opening of her drawers. And then he touched her in her most intimate place, and she cried out at the sharp, piercing pleasure of it.
He began to caress her with the tip of one finger in light circles that seemed like torture. She moaned in protest of this exquisite teasing, and pressed her hips up toward his hand.
“Maria, you are so soft, the softest thing I’ve ever felt,” he murmured against her ear. “I knew you would be. I’ve always known.”

He tried one last time to warn her. “I won’t be answerable for my actions.”
“I know.”
He cupped her face, his thumbs touched her soft, soft mouth. “I’ll take your virtue.”
“That’s all right,” she whispered, her lips brushing his thumbs, sending that lust spreading throughout his body. “I won’t tell on you.”
With those words, his reason dissolved. His honor crumbled. Like a dam breaking, the hungry need for her that he’d held back for so long broke through his resolve and poured through his body like a powerful, raging flood.

Shirt and cufflinks hit the floor as she flattened her palms against his chest, and the warm touch of her hands sent his control slipping down another notch. He fought to regain it, but he couldn’t stop the groan that escaped him as she began to caress his bare skin. “Yes,” he said, his voice a harsh rasp in his throat.
“Touch me, Maria. God, yes.”
He tilted his head back, letting her explore him, savoring her curiosity even as he struggled to keep his arousal in check.

“Take off your chemise for me,” he said. “I want to watch you take it off.”
Mesmerized by the heat of his gaze and the intensity of his command, she obeyed. Reaching for the hem of her chemise, she pulled the garment up her body and over her head, then tossed it over one shoulder and shook back her hair. When she looked at him again, she sucked in a sharp breath, startled. Though his expression was grave, as always, she saw something else in his face, something she had never seen there before. Tenderness.
“Oh, God,” he whispered hoarsely. “God, Maria, you’re so lovely. Even more lovely than I imagined.”

She stared at him, appreciating that he had done this very thing to her countless times in his imagination—undressed her, kissed her, made love to her. All these years, he’d had that ribbon, and he’d thought of this, imagined this. That knowledge sent a feeling through her like nothing she’d ever felt before, a feeling beyond physical sensation, a joy so powerful it was like pain, yet so sweet that it was pleasure, and she knew Prudence had been right. She was in love with this man.

“Maria, I want to take you. I want to be inside you. Do you understand what that means?”
“Yes,” she gasped, but when she felt the tip of his shaft pushing between the feminine folds he had stroked with his tongue, she felt a wave of something different. Panic.
“Phillip?” He heard the apprehension in her questioning voice, and he paused, lifting his body above hers. “It’s time, love,” he murmured, nuzzling her throat, kissing her ear. “I’ve waited so long. I can’t wait any longer to have you.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Psychopath’s Prey by V.F. Mason

Format: E-bookpsychopathsprey
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Kierian McAvoy
Heroine: Ella Gadot
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 17, 2018
Started On: September 07, 2018
Finished On: September 09, 2018

Have you ever read a book featuring a serial killer and found yourself sympathizing with the character? Understanding where the serial killer was coming from? Why the character had turned out to be a monster? I have. Countless times. When an author does a great job of characterizing and delving deep into all the main protagonists of a book, and does it well, that happens.

But have you ever read about a serial killer and then fallen in love with him? I haven’t. At least not before V.F. Mason came under my reading radar. I was feeling restless with the lack of books that spoke to me. I would be forever grateful for @mad4rombks for directing me towards these books. I wouldn’t have thought that falling in love with such a character was even possible. Until I found myself deeply immersed in Psychopath’s Prey.

Ella Gadot’s ambition for a long time has been to become an FBI agent. The violence smeared past of Ella’s makes her crave for it. But at every turn, having being rejected, no one is more surprised than Ella when she is offered a position on the behavior analysis unit of the FBI. What makes Ella so good at identifying what makes a particular kind of killer tick perhaps lies in her past, and her association with the darker side of life that most of us are shielded and protected from.

Kierian McAvoy and Ella become part of each other’s professional lives when Ella joins the unit. Or so she thinks. But Ella has been chosen for a purpose. She has been drawn in by a highly sophisticated killer who has never hunted women before. But for some reason, Ella makes him itch to hunt her down, and make her his. He draws Ella in by the only thing that would reel her in. A case that would make her work to find him, and in the end become the hunted.

Told in first person from both Kierian and Ella’s point of view, and the psychopath’s younger version from the tender age of seven on wards, V. F. Mason carries the reader through a journey that bled me raw and I do not think I would ever be the same again. This books is not merely a story. It is an experience. It is a journey you have to take with a young boy who saw nothing but pain and torture inflicted upon him and his mother on a daily basis, until his mother ceased to exist. It is the story of a man who had blocked out parts of his past to deal with being who he is. A psychopath. A killer. Someone who never believed that love was for him.

There was so much about this book that I loved. Like I mentioned before, I picked this up to read at a point in time where my book pile had gotten stale. I’m sure that has happened to everyone once or twice. It happens to me more often than before, now that I have grown older and stories tire me out more often than not. When this happens, you just need something that would spice up your reading list and then move on from there.

Anyone who understands my reading habits and preferences know that I am not someone who likes saccharine sweet books. I’m a romance reader who is old school in many ways. My one vice is that I like darkness in my books. A lot of darkness. I love to find an unexpectedly dark hero in a book that makes mincemeat of my emotions. And I love an equally strong heroine (who doesn’t grate on one’s nerve to prove that she is an equal to the hero) in my books. And that is exactly what Psychopath’s Prey gave to me.

It has become a rarity to find well written books that feature the aforementioned. Mainly because every single thing out there has become a point of contention for someone who doesn’t identify with it. There are so many movements out there to make romance genre “better”. I believe like everything else, the romance genre too is evolving to suit the mass numbers of readers out there, who believe romance to be nothing but light and fluffy. Well, V.F. Mason is here to tell you that romance can be dark, extremely dark, and still make all your tingly parts go haywire from want.

Similarly, with this book, I am pretty certain that a lot of people will harp on factors like ‘how is this possible?’, ‘it made my skin crawl’ etc. The ending is not your typical, the hero conquered his nightmares and they lived happily ever after variety. There is a happily ever after that fits the characters and the story of course, otherwise I would have thrown the e-reader at the wall and stomped on it for effect. I digress. But the point here is that, this is definitely not for everyone. Some would find the concept of a serial killer and a criminal psychologist falling in love an abhorrence in itself. But for me, I found the concept a novelty, refreshing, and sometimes I believe we do identify with what the society doesn’t accept for valid and good reason.

I have always empathized with villains who were shaped out of nightmarish childhoods, that had nurtured a certain need in them. I am not saying that it justifies the pain they inflict on others, but it makes you understand why they are the way they are. Kierien is such a hero. I bled for him every single time his past came up, because it is difficult to detach yourself when you read about a child being subjected to such horrors. Similarly in Ella’s case, she has a childhood that is macabre in another aspect; the one night that had changed her life irrevocably and forever.

If I were to sound gushy, I could go on rambling about what made this book work for me. So I will limit myself to state a few. The way it invoked so much emotion from me, and took me from high to lows and then to highs again. I actually resented the time spent away from reading because in a long while, a book had captivated me thus. For this reason alone, I would recommend this story. Because it’s not everyday you fall in love. In love with a serial killer. Plus, have you seen the cover? *goes into a trance*

Recommended for those that love dark and edgy romances, the not your usual variety. This was definitely captivating in every single sense.

Final Verdict: Definitely not for the judgmental, nor the faint-hearted; exactly why I loved Psychopath’s Prey & Kierian, the very definition of an anti-hero if ever there was one.

Favorite Quotes

While he drags us to my room, I unbutton his shirt and slide it off his shoulders, and then I move to his belt buckle, desperately needing to feel him in my hands.
We do all this while kissing, and finally the back of my calves touch the bed as he locks his arm around me while whispering my name and leaning into my neck for his hungry assault. “I’ve been going crazy with need to fuck you since our last time.” His words send a shock directly to my clit as he rubs against me. I still feel him despite our clothed state. My whimper doesn’t go unnoticed as he drags me closer. “Missed me, Ella?” I nod eagerly. “Is this pussy wet for me? Ready for the one cock that can bring it satisfaction?”

Kierian,” I moan, and he surges deeper, completely owning me with his mouth. His tongue travels over my folds, laving them with the attention and hunger they’ve been denied for so long.
He cups my ass cheeks and laps at my core with his full mouth, making sure to play with my clit with his upper lip. I bite my fist, muffling a groan while my other leg bends on the bed, giving him wider access to work in.
“You. Are. Mine,” he growls against me, digging his fingers into my skin as a hint of pain touches me. “Don’t ever deny me again.”

“Kierian, don’t tease.”
He bites on my neck harshly as he growls. “No teasing?”
I shake my head, but reply anyway, “No.”
“You want hard fucking only, Ella?”
“Yes!” That’s all I want in this freaking moment. So can he get on with the program already, and—
With one swift motion, he surges inside me, tearing a scream from me that he immediately covers with his mouth. He thrusts deep, deep, then deeper into me, shaking the bed with his force. I wrap my legs around him as he entwines our fingers above my head.
He is slow, steady, and hard. He waits until each thrust shakes my entire system before giving me another one, and each time, the pleasure rises in me higher and higher, my skin flushing, heat spreading through me and reminding me this man is all male.
“Mine,” he says, pounding harder, and I arch my back, completely lost in everything he makes me feel.

Kierian is always so hungry for me, being able to go at it for hours and demand complete submission. In these moments, he is not a compatible boyfriend who understands me; he is a raging beast who wants to own his woman.
“Mine,” he growls right before placing my legs on his shoulders and grazing the walls of my pussy with the tip of his tongue, barely touching me, but it’s enough to send electricity through me and my moan fills the space.

He pushes his tongue deep, sweeping at my walls and tasting me as deep as he can.
He is hungry, domineering. I lock my legs around his neck, my pussy clenching, but it’s not enough.
Kierian needs to get on with the fucking program before I lose my mind!
My hips jerk, lifting to his seeking tongue, as I pull at his hair, shamelessly rubbing myself on his mouth, and he welcomes it.

She grabs my hands and pulls me on the bed, and as I get to it, she flips me on my back while looming over me, her eyes roaming all over my body.
Her fingers trail down my scars and her breath hitches, as if in pain. “They are old.” I feel the need to reassure her, and she smiles sadly.
“They aren’t if they still have the power to hurt you.” Her words stab me like a fucking knife in the heart that suddenly knows how to beat for another person, but she shakes her head. “This has no place for bad memories.” Ella captures my mouth with hers as we entwine in a wet and needy kiss that leaves us alone with raging desire between us spiking the flames.

With one final suck to her beautiful nipple, I push my arms under her knees and thrust into her so hard the headboard hits the wall.
She cries out, but it quickly turns into a moan as I pull back and push in again, digging my fingers into her hips as hard as possible so she’ll be marked by me.
I expect her to close her eyes and get lost in the moment as she always does, but instead, she brings my head closer. Our gazes clash for a moment and then she hugs me, giving me a hot kiss that flames my desire even more.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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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.”

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