Review: Levelling the Score by Penny Jordan

Format: E-booklevelingthescore
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Simon Townsend
Heroine: Jenna
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 1, 1988
Started On: December 24, 2015
Finished On: December 24, 2015

Leveling the Score by Penny Jordan was recommended to me by KC on Goodreads. I had been hankering for short reads that would deliver on the romance and the angst, something that the older Harlequin novels are famous for. I had even resorted to reading some of my favorite re-reads, books that I keep on standby for occasions just like that, where I don’t want to venture into reading anything new, all because I want to indulge in a book that I know for certain would deliver exactly what I want.

Leveling the Score is a difficult novel to review. First published in 1988, this book proved to be highly readable even with all the problems I had with the story. I guess that alone tells the talent that authors like Penny Jordan wielded back in the day.

Jenna and Simon Townsend’s lives had always moved amongst the same circles when they had been younger. Simon being much older than Jenna had meant that even though Jenna crushed on him like no one before and since then, her feelings remained unreciprocated – or so she thinks. Fast forward a couple of years, and it is Susie, Jenna’s best friend and Simon’s younger sister that brings Simon back into Jenna’s life, a most unwelcome entrance if Jenna has anything to say about it.

When the story initially began, I was rooting for Jenna, without even knowing what Simon had done to her – believing it would be something deplorable like making fun of her feelings for him. But as the story progressed, I realized that whatever had taken place had happened only in the figment of Jenna’s imagination. Yes, Simon is sarcastic and a tad cruel at times, but I have read of heroes who are more cruel to their heroines in books, even books written by Penny Jordan herself.

In the end, I felt sorry for Simon. The story having never been told in Simon’s point of view meant that it was difficult to find where Simon was coming from. But, it was evident and clear as day to anyone who has a modicum of sense in them that Simon was completely into Jenna, something that Jenna in her clueless nature or I would rather say, in her attempt to be the “martyr” of her own making, refused to see. Because Simon’s thoughts weren’t part of the story, the reader needs to take his feelings for Jenna in a bit of a state of suspended disbelief. Most of the time, not having the hero’s point of view can be fun, extremely so if the heroine’s side tells of reactions on the hero’s part and if she doesn’t play the dumb card to get out of accepting what is right in front of her. Alas, the latter was the case in this story.

In the end, of course Simon and Jenna do get together, Jenna finally believing that Simon loves her and her alone. Like I said earlier, I waited to see what it is that Simon had done that was so wrong – apart from dating other girls when Jenna used to stay at their family home. I didn’t find it to be something unforgivable, all the more so because I just found Jenna to be outright silly.

Even with all those points of contention I had with Leveling the Score, it managed to deliver a story that delivered a good read.

Recommended for fans of old school Harlequin romances and fans of Penny Jordan.

Final Verdict: A heroine who gets on the nerves and a hero you try your damndest to figure out!

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

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Review: Make Me by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-bookMakeMe
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult Romance
Series: Broke and Beautiful, #3
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Hero: Russell Hart
Heroine: Abby Sullivan
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: August 11, 2015
Started On: October 18, 2015
Finished On: October 21, 2015

Anyone who loves Tessa Bailey’s books knows what one can do for you. How it can mess you up in ways you never thought possible. Which is why I started reading the Broke and Beautiful series even though I am not much of a fan of the New Adult genre; though if Tessa writes them, I am definitely reading them. Though I missed out on the first book in the series (perhaps I will get around to reading it one of these days – a girl can always hope), I became an avid fan of the series from the moment Ben (the hero from the second book in the series), walked into MY life. Yes, my life. Note the possessive edge!

One cannot read either of the books in the Broke and Beautiful series without being invested in all of the characters. Thus, my heart was clamoring for the story of Russell, oh the big bad Russell, from the moment I laid my eyes on him. The man is a walking talking temptation unto womenkind if ever there was one. Well, of course after MY Ben of course! Abby and Russell’s friendship is one reason why Russell keeps his hands off of his precious Abby. Another being his past – a past that has screwed him up enough to believe that he would never measure up to someone like Abby.

Abby’s past wasn’t a walk in the park on a breezy Sunday morning either. A genius at numbers, something she inherited from her father, Abby’s life defines the word loneliness, until she finds a friendship of the kind she never thought possible with Honey and Roxy, and of course the three gorgeous men that relationship had brought into her life, one of them being Russell, the friend that she can always count on. Abby’s perspective of Russell as the friend she never had takes a dive when a set of events makes her take notice of the man he is – the man who sets her senses reeling, panties wet, and sets an ache tumbling through her that cannot be denied.

Russell is a man who can take torture, and I mean torture of the kind a lesser man would crumble from. But his heart doesn’t allow him to take that step, until of course there is no way that he CANNOT give into the passion between him and Abby. And then comes the heartache. Sigh! While I wanted to give Russell a bit of a good shaking until the chips in his head aligned just right so that he could see what preciousness that he was throwing away by playing noble, I wasn’t too happy with Abby for not realizing that for a man like Russell, the friend who would lay down his life for her – there must have been something that would cause him to behave as such.

But worry not ladies. If anything, Tessa Bailey knows how to write a mean ending and of course makes you pant your way to the finish line! And I mean literally pant your way through it because with all that heat? You won’t have a choice!

Recommended for fans of the series and fans of Tessa Bailey. Though not my favorite, Make Me still delivered a good read!

Final Verdict: Hot dayum!!

Favorite Quotes

Abby didn’t realize she’d closed her eyes until Russell’s heavy tread forced them open, and she saw him standing in her doorway.
Shirtless. Damp. Jeans sitting low on his hips.
A red-hot fist formed beneath her belly button. For Russell? She tried to shoot into a sitting position so fast, the back of her head bashed against the headboard, which really didn’t help her confusion. Not a bit. She wasn’t supposed to notice Russell in that way, right? But when a water droplet rolled down the center of his abdomen and vanished into the waistband of his jeans, she noticed. And she noticed good.

When the orgasm crested over her, Abby’s heels dug into the mattress to push herself back into the welcoming strength of his body, bearing down on his pleasure-giving hand at the same time. And God, even with the wicked climax turning her inside out, she wanted to feel his erection against her backside. Wanted to tempt him to do something about relieving the hunger she sensed in him. Already, his movements were growing uneven, staggered, his breathing ragged at the back of her neck.
“Yes,” he grated. “That’s how I make you come. Hard as fuck when you’re in my bed. That’s the way I do it.”

Long seconds of Abby’s studying his face had passed, as if she could discern what was taking place in his head when even he didn’t have a fucking clue. Those eyes were obscured a moment by her eyelashes, and Russell could feel that gaze move over his erect cock where it tented his jeans, then shoot back up. Hexpected surprise, maybe more confusion. Instead, he got relief and excitement. No. Not that. He couldn’t handle that.
Her sweet, ripe tits rose and fell on a shudder. “I’m sorry I used the situation to my advantage, Russell. It was wrong of m—”
He kissed Abby. Abby. He . . . kissed Abby.

“Abby, attraction is a weak-ass term for what’s going on here. It doesn’t begin to describe what I’d like to do to you.”
“Wh-which is?”
He placed his mouth against her ear, the truth coming out on a rush of breath. “I’d like to bang your little virgin brains out.”

“Come on, I’ll walk you to the train.”
Sti cazza. In another, more appropriate term, screw this. With a silent prayer for courage, Abby found the hem of her sundress and peeled the garment over her head, letting it fall to the floor. “I’m not ready to leave yet.”
[…]
Doubts fell from her consciousness like a cup of overturned paper clips when Russell stalked forward, prowling across the room and shifting the air around her. This impulsive disrobing had started as an act of rebellion, but now a furnace blast hit her head to toe. The raindrops pelted the window in time with her jumping pulse. The fierceness in his eyes told her to expect being pinned against the wall again, but it never happened. Instead, he fell to his knees in front of her, gripped her bottom . . .
And buried his face between her thighs.

Abby buried her fingernails into his ass, her thighs beginning to tremble around him. “I’m going to . . . oh my God, don’t stop. I’m . . .”
Russell dropped his head forward and closed his eyes, putting all his focus into staying right where the fuck he was, not deviating from what was pushing her toward a climax. Just a little longer. Just a little—
“Russell.”
Holy shit. His eyes flew open in time to witness Abby’s tits shaking between them, her teeth buried into her bottom lip as she arched on the chair. Her heels had a firm hold at the small of his back as she rode it out, her pussy squeezing him in tiny spasms that he would crave like air for the rest of his time on earth.

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

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ARC Review: How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy by Vanessa Kelly

Format: E-bookhowtoplanaweddingforaroyalspy
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense
Series: The Renegade Royals, #3
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: Captain William Endicott
Heroine: Evelyn Whitney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 6, 2015
Started On: July 27, 2015
Finished On: August 2, 2015

Book 3 in the Renegade Royals series tells the story of Captain William Endicott (Will), the bastard son of the Duke of York, a military officer and a spy for the government. Returning from the bloody battlefields, Will is more than looking forward to putting up his feet and relaxing and perhaps determine on the course which he wants to steer his future. All that is thwarted however, when he is summoned by none other than his father, requiring him to work on a mission of utmost importance. A mission rendered doubly tricky by the fact that he is to spy on his former childhood sweetheart, Miss Evelyn Whitney (Evie).

Evie is the typical variety of plain Jane heroine if ever there was one. A wallflower and happy to be one, Evie is comfortable with who she is, letting her twin Edie shine in her stead. Working on charity supporting Irish immigrants with her almost fiance’, Evie is looking forward to settling down with the man with whom she shares a lot of similar interests with, a man who wouldn’t crush her dreams and destroy the very ground on which she stands on like Will, her childhood friend and the love of her life had done.

When Will enters into Evie’s life all of a sudden, no one is more dismayed than Evie herself. The fact that she responds to Will’s presence with a ferocity of her being that she can’t help yet want to hide from, Evie finds herself in a dilemma of epic proportions when her mother starts to push her and Will together. A lot of theatrics and misunderstandings determine the fate of this second chance at love Will and Evie gets, amidst a plot of assassination of the Kingdom’s finest that Will bears the responsibility of stopping.

How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy would have to be the story from the series which I found the hardest to get myself into. The plot starts off slowly, the most riveting thing about it being the sparks that fly between the secondary characters, Edie and Will’s best friend and cousin Captain Alasdair Gilbride whose story is up next. When the main couple in question fades to a mere dot in the presence of secondary characters, well there’s a damper on the excitement of the reader if ever there was one.

The story begins to pick up during the latter half, and mostly due to the assassination plot stirring in the midst of all the antics between Will and Evie. Both protagonists have trust issues stemming from different things. Will’s distrust stems from the fact that he doesn’t bring himself to trust his judgement where Evie is concerned, the conflict of interest between doing his job by his country and doing right by the love of his life, the latter being something which he figures out only much later in the story. Evie has a hard time trusting Will for good reason if you ask me. Will had pretty much cut ties with her after her attempt to show Will that she had feelings for him, something that had crushed the soul of someone like Evie to an extent which she’d thought she would never get over from.

Though I didn’t overly fall in love with either Will or Evie, both were likable enough characters. Evie being a softie for anyone, male or female in distress and Will, the handsome war hero whose mere presence alone stirs Evie into doing things she would never think of otherwise. All said and done, I think Will and Evie are the perfect match for each other. Will brings out the passion in Evie, stirs her desires and delivers on them in the most panty melting fashion. Evie brings forth the playful side of Will, a man who has seen too much blood and senselessness on battlefields to last him a lifetime.

Recommended for fans of the series. I can’t wait to wade into Edie and Alasdair’s mess of a story. I am practically rubbing my hands in glee even now! Those two promise a fiery and stormy read and I have been hankering for one, for a long, long while.

Final Verdict: Spies, scandalous sex & a second chance at love. Makes for good storytelling!

Favorite Quotes

In the soft light, he did look rather like a wolf. His hair was a rough gold and his high cheekbones and rugged jaw lent a hard, almost fierce, cast to his features. As he prowled across the room, she had to resist the temptation to press a hand over her pounding heart. There was no reason for Will to make her nervous, and she needed to start believing that right now.
When he stopped just a few inches from where she’d plastered herself against the bookshelves, the slow, devastatingly attractive smile that curled up his oh-so-masculine mouth sent her pulse racing like a runaway horse. He stretched out an arm, resting a big hand on the mahogany shelf next to her head. It effectively caged her in.
“Why, Evie,” he said in a voice that made her shiver, “I’ve come to see if you need help.”

“Do you really want this? Want me?” she whispered, afraid to hope. She wanted so much for that to be true.
His eyelids lifted, and Evie’s heart skipped a beat at the passion that lit his eyes with a blue fire. “I want you, Evie— in my arms, in my bed, in my life.”
Those were the words she’d longed to hear. The walls she’d built against him, year after painful year, were crumbling into dust.
He pressed a searing kiss to her mouth, robbing her of breath and making her restless for more.
“I want you naked beneath me,” he said when he released her lips. “And I want you on top of me, my cock driving up into you while I play. I want you, Evie. Mine, forever.”

Evie was about to register a half-hearted objection when his mouth came down on hers again. Her protests were an- nihilated by the hot, slick glide of his tongue and the strength of his arms holding her snugly against him. For several minutes he simply held her on his lap, gently ravish- ing her with his lips and tongue, giving her the time to sink into a shimmering haze of boneless pleasure. With every kiss she felt the imprint of him on her mind and body and knew there was no going back. There was no one else who could draw forth the yearnings of her heart, nor would there ever be again.

Will clamped both hands on her bottom and surged one last time, high and hard, his strong thighs lifting her as he groaned out his release. His eyes were closed, his features pulled tight with passion. She clung to him, her own eyes filling with tears of gratitude and emotion as his powerful body shook under her hands.
As he finally came to rest beneath her, his eyelids rose and a slow, sensual smile curled his lips. With trembling hands, Evie brushed her fingers through his dishevelled golden hair.
“My Wolf,” she whispered, and then collapsed in his arms.

“Don’t bother on my account,” she said in a sarcastic voice as he retreated into what she assumed was his bedroom. “I’ve seen it before, as you no doubt recall.”
He whipped around to stare at her, his blue eyes heating with what she thought was irritation, but she couldn’t be entirely certain. The look on his face set her heart to thumping all over again.
“You haven’t seen anything yet, I assure you,” he said, growling like the lion he resembled.
“Don’t brag, Will,” she retorted. “It’s immodest.”
He braced his hands high on the doorframe, giving her an excellent view of the spectacular muscles in his chest and arms. “You are going to drive me completely insane, do you know that?”

“So pretty, Evie. Everything about you is so pretty.” His voice was a husky rumble that knifed through her.
“Will,” she whispered, her voice breaking with need.
His hot glance flicked up to hers, then he swooped in and fastened his mouth tightly on her sex. He sucked her into his mouth and Evie came apart in a sudden, explosive climax. She let out a high-pitched wail and curled up to grab his shoulders, clutching at him with shaking hands.
A moment later, Will surged up her body, bringing her hands up and clamping them over her head. He pushed into her, spinning her climax to impossible heights.

Evie could feel her eyes start to sting. “Wolf,” she whispered, her voice fracturing with emotion.
“Yes, love,” he said, in a tight voice. “I’m right here with you.”
She gripped his shoulders, staring into his gaze. She felt like her heart was splitting wide open.
“I love you,” she said.
He closed his eyes and came down on her, surging into her one last time before letting himself go, shaking in her arms as he found his release.

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

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ARC Review: Under Contract by Jeffe Kennedy

Format: E-bookundercontract
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Erotic Romance
Series: Falling Under, #3
Publisher: Carina Press
Hero: Ryan Black
Heroine: Celestina Sala
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: July 7, 2015
Started On: July 19, 2015
Finished On: July 24, 2015

Celestina Sala (Tina) is practically at her wits end when she runs into the rich and darkly enigmatic Ryan Black, for whom she had done some contract water landscaping work a couple of years back. Ryan believes that Tina crosses his path this time due to serendipity, that it was nature’s way of giving back to him Tina, a “free” Tina by the looks of her ringless status, something that had prevented him from acting out on his attraction to her the first time around.

Tina finds herself in dire financial circumstances owing to the twisted turns her life had taken recently. Divorced and saddled with two nieces, Tina finds herself at a loss when Ryan proposes to her something that entices her as much as it makes her feel like she’s bowing down to world’s oldest profession of prostituting her body for a living.

As Ryan sees it, the contract between them is pretty simple. Never having had the urge to settle down, Ryan knows that his darker desires are not meant to be imposed on just anybody. But in Tina he believes that he has found a woman who would suite him perfectly, in bed and out of it. But convincing Tina of the fact, well, that’s the interesting part.

Under Contract by Jeffe Kennedy is the 3rd book in her BDSM contemporary erotic romance series Falling Under. I first encountered this series on Netgalley when the 2nd book came out, which proved to be a hit with me. Though I didn’t love Under Contract as much as I did Under His Touch, this still managed to give a good read that kept the pages turning.

Jeffe Kennedy definitely has a way with writing BDSM romances. They might follow the usual tropes but she always has something special to give you, that definitely leaves you wanting more. Jeffe’s stories answer to that need in me for dark stories. Darkly emotional tales. And I hope she never stops writing them. Because very few authors actually do.

I liked Ryan and Celestina well enough. Both having suffered through their own tragedies. Only thing I missed and wanted to see was that impressive control of Ryan’s shatter into pieces where Celestina was concerned. Perhaps I’d have to satisfy myself with the way he laid himself bare to her emotionally, risked it all to let her see that she wasn’t in his life just for the kink they both equally enjoyed and got off on.

Though I enjoy a good emotionally well balanced BDSM romance, I admit that the the whole master/slave concept is definitely not for me. I thought I’d have to grit my teeth over how Ryan kept Celestina from achieving fulfillment, I even jotted down “Ugh. This denial thing.” And then within the next couple of pages, I was proved so brilliantly wrong that I swear had it not been for the AC running in the room, sweat would’ve popped out on my forehead from the combustive heat of it all. Fabulous delivery Ms. Kennedy. Just utterly fabulous!

Under Contract proved to be quite educative in other aspects too. I’ve been encountering news on the drought that has hit California in recent times & would never have thought on how badly actually it is affecting the lives and livelihoods of people in the area. This book actually managed to drive home the point that none of it is easy. I love books that prove insightful in little ways that most might perhaps consider unimportant. And this was one of those books for me.

One little aspect that touched the techie inside of me was how the contract between Ryan & Tina was managed, using a nifty little app that allowed Ryan to key in what he wanted and allowed Tina to select what she was willing to accept. I’ve always held the belief that it is a bit “embarrassing” & perhaps a bit tacky that in books like the Fifty Shade of Grey that lawyers were involved in drawing up a contract of the kind that would have definitely meant people outside the intimate circle of the couple knowing what they were up to. Perhaps that is just the prude in me, but this way? Totally worked!

And man. The cover though! Makes me want to take a bite out of it. That fab looking.

Recommended for fans of BDSM themed erotic contemporary romances.

Final Verdict: Emotional with sex torrid enough to leave a permanent blush all over you!

Favorite Quotes

He spoke quietly, the sound part caress, part scraping over her nerves. “I want you, Celestina. I want the feel of your skin under my hands, to see your spectacular body naked and feel you writhing under me. I want to hear you out of breath from ecstasy instead of nervousness, for you to gasp my name in my ear as you come. I want to push you past every boundary you ever thought you had and for you to go there because I made you. I want you to do things you think are wicked and discover how much you like them. Most of all, I want to be there with you, so I can savor your scent, the hot clasp of your body, lick up your sweat and tears, drink in every small sound you make as you lose yourself to the pleasure I can give you.”

A soft moan arose out of her depths and he made a sound in return, of agreement, and deepened the kiss so she had to tip her head back until it hit the high wooden edge of the chair. He pursued, the kiss going from gently sensual to fiercely sexual.
Rather than frightening her, the increasing demand released some of her nerves, much as he’d promised. As if the power of the kiss broke through her barriers, the careful shell of numbness she’d wrapped herself in.

He helped her wriggle into the sheath dress and zipped it up. “Wait,” she said, her mind clearing. “My bra?”
Loving the way her brow creased in consternation, he pocketed it. “I thought I’d keep it, a souvenir to get me through a dull afternoon.” Unable to keep his hands off her, he massaged her breasts through the light crepe, rolling her nipples so her head dropped back on a moan. “I’ll put my hand in my pocket and remember how this felt, how you shuddered and moaned for me. And you, when your naked nipples brush against your dress, you’ll remember this, too.”

He pushed the chains aside to flank the outsides of her labia, making her struggle anew as they scraped over her sensitized tissues. Managing to roll on a condom, he positioned himself at her hungry entrance, bracing himself on his elbows over her, to find her mouth waiting for his. She arched her back, body begging for the penetration even as her lips pulled at his, pleading moans coming from deep in her throat.
He thrust into her, going momentarily blind with the searing sensation, both at the tight clasp of her body, like liquid fire, and her shuddering response. She wrenched her mouth away, gasping his name. And he answered, reverentially, “Celestina.”

Then he pulled out of her, ditched the condom and came around to her head. He stood over her, his chest still pumping with his harsh breaths, then brushed her sweat-drenched hair back from her forehead. He pressed a finger against her mouth and she opened, drawing it in and sucking on it as he seemed to want. A smile of tenderness softened his face and he replaced the finger with his mouth, drawing on her with a greedy hunger.
Lifting his head, he caressed her throat, spanning it in one big hand.
“Mine,” he whispered.
In that moment, it was utterly, obviously true. Nothing else existed but this, belonging to him. His slave. She could deny him nothing. Not even her shredded heart.
“Yours,” she answered.”

Once he had the vibrator in place and securely strapped on, he entered her again, holding the control in one hand and one of the nipple clamps with the other. She shuddered, anticipating.
Simultaneously, he yanked off the clamp and flipped the switch to the highest setting. Celestina convulsed, screaming indeed, as her body shot into intense orgasm, bucking against his cock and milking him so hard that he nearly came with her.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Carina | ARe

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Review: Man With a Past by Kay Stockham

Format: E-bookmanwithapast
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Joe Brody
Heroine: Ashley Cade
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 24, 2010
Started On: April 2, 2015
Finished On: April 5, 2015

Man with a Past by Kay Stockham is one of those stories that I stumbled across in my quest to find something featuring a widowed hero or heroine. I was utterly convinced to give this a go based on the rave reviews her books seem to receive, noted in particular for her delivery of emotional reads.

Man with a Past deals with ex-convict Joe Brody who returns back to his hometown after spending 10 years in prison for murder. Joe knows that no one would welcome him with open arms but he needs to find a way to stay, at least for his father’s sake.

Ashley Cade is swimming in waters out of her depth, having just moved to the neighborhood. Growing up in group homes has left its mark on her, and the one thing that drives her to strive to make it amidst feeling like the outsider who would never fit in is the dream that she and her husband had shared of bringing up their children in a homey neighborhood which would give them the experiences that they had both never had.

When Joe turns up at her home, Ashley, the one who follows every self-help guide that was ever written has a hard time letting go of her control issues and saying yes to the help that he would provide. The fact that no one else wants to work that hard for such a small pay is one of the reasons she says yes and within no time Joe proves to her that he is more than capable of delivering on his promises where work is concerned.

What troubles both Joe and Ashley from the onset is the attraction that slowly unfurls in both of them, each yearning for the other in a fashion that refuses to be denied. Joe believes deep in his heart that no one would want to be tainted by a man with a past as his and Ashley though she knows that its time for her to move on from the memory of her beloved, has a hard time trusting her instincts when it comes to going all in.

Kay Stockham writes a mean romance, delivering on characters that reach out to you, putting in the angst and emotional factor that makes the story that much more worth delving into. Joe is the character that clutches at your heart right from the very moment he steps into the story. The wealth of pain that he hides in his heart is one that swallows you a whole and you can’t help but feel for him all the way through.

Joe is one of those heroes that all kinds of romance readers would fall in love with without fail. He is sweet, kind and yet a tortured soul that you’d want to soothe no matter what. The fact that he had made something out of himself during the time in prison when he could have let it rot his mind and soul shows strength in his character that is rarely found. That Joe could find it in his heart to be patient when everything and everyone practically worked towards running him out of town was one of the best selling points when it came to his character. And of course, his rough and tough physique that hides the sweet and generous man that he is serves to be the icing on the cake.

Ashley proved to be a strong heroine, who has a hard time coming out of her comfort zone, her mode of survival when she had been growing up. It takes a different kind of strength to shake free the emotional ties that bind and strive to be better, to push yourself out there because you want your child to have the kind of childhood that you’d never experienced. I loved Ashely from her sassy nature to the kind hearted soul that she tries hard to hide, which nevertheless makes itself known time and yet again.

Kay Stockham touches on a lot of sensitive and important issues in this short novel. Deaths of babies associated with vaccination is one of the reasons why some parents tend to forgo vaccinating their children altogether, owing to the fact that certain children can prove to be allergic to certain vaccinations, especially given the circumstances of their birth. I found it quite informative, the concept that Kay explored in this story, an area that I have never yet delved into even with all the reading that I do.

The issues associated with small towns is also one that touched the core issue of someone from outside trying to fit in. Not to mention the tough time that even a wrongly convicted person, having served his “time” has in trying to fit back into society. There’s a lesson to be learnt from each of these issues that Kay has touched and I love an author who can make me think beyond the storyline and well into the issues that are highlighted in the story. All in all, I can honestly say that Kay Stockham is an author I would continue to seek and read because she has the sort of talent that draws the reader in.

Recommended for those that love sweetly emotional reads.

Final Verdict: Emotional, tender & sweet!

Favorite Quotes

Ashley’s laughter ended with a gasp. She pulled away to look him in the eyes, but didn’t put any more distance between them. He stared into the honey-bronze depths of her gaze and waited for her reaction. Waited for her to shove him away and stammer something about how she shouldn’t have hugged him.
Instead her mouth parted and an instant later Ashley raised herself on those sexy, red-painted toes. That was all the encouragement he needed. He pressed his mouth to hers, swept his tongue inside. She tasted hot and sweet, musky.

“What if I want you to?” she whispered. “What if I want you to kiss me?”
Joe turned just enough to glare at her over the shoulder she touched. In her bare feet she nearly met him eye to eye–nearly, but not quite. And although Mac had been taller, Joe was broader, more strongly built. Honed and hardened.
By prison.
“You deserve nice things like that car your date drove. Things I can’t give you.” He swore softly. “Ashley, I can’t give you anything right now because I have nothing to give.”

Still, he did as she asked and she got an eyeful of taut backside and corded muscles. She smoothed her hands up his arms, trailed her fingers to his shoulders, in to his neck and down his spine. She rose to her tiptoes and pressed another kiss to his skin, this one to the tattoo of Josie’s name.
“Ashley.” His voice broke, husky, filled with too much emotion and needing an outlet. Joe turned so fast she gasped, and even though she stood mere inches from the bed, he swept her into his arms to lower her to the surface. Then Joe’s mouth covered hers, his tongue delved deep and she immediately discovered a difference between this kiss and the ones they’d shared before she’d found out the truth.
Joe’s hesitation was gone. Her acceptance of him, of his past, had unleashed something inside him, a fierceness, a tenderness.

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ARC Review: Loving You Is Easy by Wendy S. Marcus

Format: E-booklovingyouiseasy
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Loveswept
Hero: Shane Alexander Develen
Heroine: Brooke Ellstein
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: December 9, 2014
Started On: December 4, 2014
Finished On: December 5, 2014

Loving You is Easy is a book that starts off in an intriguing manner. November 2011, Brooke Ellstein, a 7th and 8th grade Math teacher who also happens to be the daughter of a prominent politician in New York starts corresponding with Sergeant Shane Develeen in the manner of pen pals. Fast forward to July of next year and these two meet for the first time, Brooke having fallen for Shane even with his warning that he is not looking for a girlfriend to mess with his head.

Devastation hits Brooke when a photograph in which she posed for Shane finds its way to the Internet. Feeling betrayed at the knowledge that Shane had been home for more than 2 months and never contacted her, Brooke feels like her entire life is falling apart until Shane walks up to her door, a man scarred from the war, with a gigantic chip on his shoulder that won’t quit. Shane’s only reason for showing up is to put things to right or so he tells himself.

From the start, Shane had believed that a classy woman like Brooke would have no place in her life for a man like him. After nearly losing his life on the job and with the scars to prove it, Shane is adamant and steadfast in his belief and need to keep Brooke at arms length and that she doesn’t expect something more to happen between them than just friendship. But then life and love has a way of breaking even the toughest of them and the more Shane learns about the woman that Brooke hides behind the facade of rigid control and discipline that has been her life, the more little shards of doubt begins to penetrate into Shane’s firmly held conviction that they aren’t meant to be.

Loving You is Easy is a book that is easy to read given that Wendy is an author who writes well and portrays a lot of emotions in her stories. Brooke’s past when revealed turned out to be a heartbreaking one, making one question exactly just how much families and their children suffer when either of the parents chooses to pursue a political career. Brooke’s emotional strength was an admirable trait, her closest friends the ones keeping her sane.

Shane is a bit of a grouch and a tad hard to like but given the circumstances he finds himself in, I guess a little bit of anger at the fates was called for. My disappointment with Shane stemmed from his lack of belief in Brooke, who gives him no reason to doubt her. If it had been just one instance, I could have brushed it off and thanked the stars for the angst that the misunderstanding had brought to the story. But more than once and especially under a situation where Brooke had needed his support, I just felt a bit letdown from all that. The saving grace was the fact that he seemed to pick up the pieces and get Brooke back. I would also have loved to see Shane’s issues related to his injuries and the resultant PTSD looked at with just a tad more detail. Judging from how the story had proceeded, I’d like to bet that Brooke’s best friend Neve is going to get her own story pretty soon!

Recommended for fans of Wendy and fans of war torn heroes.

Final Verdict: With a bit of grouch and a whole lot of classy, Wendy’s newest release gives a good read!

Favorite Quotes

“This guy bothering you?” he asked, not at all interested in getting to know the snake trying to slither into Brooke’s life.
“No,” she said, breathing heavily, her cheeks pink, her expression filled with innocence. She had no idea how sexy she looked in her outfit, or how that loser kept dropping back to ogle her butt. “He asked me—”
Shane cupped the back of her head, leaned forward, and silenced her with a kiss. He hadn’t planned it. In fact, the urge struck him completely by surprise. He chose not to fight it, because in that moment he could think of no words to adequately express the fierceness of his feelings. Possessive, protective, and pissed as shit she’d been enjoying time spent with some stranger rather than with him.

“All right. I get it.” Her running mate’s words broke his trance. “Let her breathe.”
Shane let her go, cursing himself for losing control, for being so rough. Without his support she swayed. He caught her. She appeared dazed, her pupils dilated. “Why’d you do that?” she whispered.
“He was bothering me.”

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

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ARC Review: Imaginary Lines by Allison Parr

Format: E-bookimaginarylines
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: New York Leopards, #3
Publisher: Carina Press
Hero: Abraham Krasner
Heroine: Tamar Rosenfeld
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 14, 2014
Started On: October 31, 2014
Finished On: November 2, 2014

I fell in love with Abraham Kramer when I was twelve years old.

Tamar Rosenfeld had fallen in love with Abraham Krasner when she’d been just twelve years old. Growing up with him had only intensified the feelings and at the age of 19, Tamar decides to put her heart on the line and confess of her undying love to the man himself. The rejection of her love, the answer that Abraham only sees her as a little sister gives Tamar the jolt that she needs to cut ties and heal her broken heart and get over her injured pride. Until four years later, she moves to New York as a sports reporter.

New York is where Abraham lives, his career as a New York Leopards linebacker ensuring that. When Tamar comes to New York, Abraham is determined that he get to spend as much time as possible with her as their schedules would allow. And the more time Tamar spends with Abraham, the more she goes onto realize that she had been kidding where her heart had been concerned, where she had convinced herself that she was so over Abraham. And Abraham certainly doesn’t make it easy for Tamar to move on; he pursues her with a relentlessness that Tamar finds she can only resist so much before giving in.

Imaginary Lines is a story told in first person in the heroine’s point of view. Being the third book in the New York Leopards series and having never read the two books published before this one, I would say that the fact I wasn’t left with a question mark in my head where the secondary characters were concerned is a pretty good signal that this book can definitely be read as a standalone.

Imaginary Lines proved to be a novel experience for me in my journey as a reader of romance. Tamar and Abraham are both Jewish coming from big Jewish families. I’ve never read about a Jewish couple, about their customs and food of choice for celebrations and such and thus it was an interesting exploratory journey of sorts for me. Many a time I used the search the web function on my iBooks to find out what a delicacy mentioned in the story looked like, which holiday were they talking about etc. I even managed to read a bit on Judaism on the religion section of BBC, something I’ve been meaning to do for quite sometime. So all in all, Imaginary Lines turned out to be quite the informative journey for me.

I loved the subtle hint of humor interwoven into the story. There is a sense of humor to Tamar that is hard to resist and if you can read a couple of chapters with a straight face, well you are a person in more control of your emotions than I would ever be. Tamar and Abraham, both turned out to be equally likable characters who are strong, so much in love with each other and yet true to who they are individually. I loved Tamar for having the guts to stand up for what she believed in, facing all that crap because she dared rattle around what pretty much everyone else had thought an area of football that she should have just left alone. Abraham turned out to be the sweetest guy! I sort of expected him to get pissed off and storm off, but he proved me 100% wrong by sticking with his woman and standing by her side even through the most difficult of time. That in essence is what true love is all about.

Being a story told in first person, which is something I don’t like for obvious reasons, yet somehow I get roped into reading books featuring just that, it wasn’t easy to garner Abraham’s emotions, something I felt the lack of. I wanted to see Abraham’s reactions, read deep into his mind, see his thoughts and the way he viewed the shared past of his and Tamar’s childhood. I think the novel would have provided a more wholesome experience to Abraham’s character if the author had integrated his point of view into the story as well. That being said, Tamar seemed to see into who Abraham truly is, seeing beyond the facade that Abraham puts up with the rest of the world giving Abraham a true sense of homecoming after four long years of separation.

Though the story seemed to lose focus on Abraham and Tamar during the first half of the story, it definitely picked up the rest of the way and gave an enjoyable read that is recommended for fans of sports romances. Abraham and Tamar would definitely end up being a favorite.

Final Verdict: Childhood friends to lovers; not your usual run of the mill story!

Favorite Quotes

He groaned and leaned back. The lamplights silhouetted him perfectly, light and dark. Dreams made real. When he looked back, he cupped my face in his hands. “I’ve been resisting doing this for years.”
I just stared. I was melting. I was hot clay under the summer’s sun.
He let out a soft sound of desire. The air between us simmered with need, and my whole body yearned toward him. I could barely think, couldn’t blink. Small breaths slipped in and out of me like the hopeful flutterings of a hummingbird and then his lips were on mine.

The air shimmered between us. With each breath I took, I could feel my body pushing against his, my breasts full and aching as they strained against the fabric of my shirt. My hands smoothed down over his biceps, smooth as carved marble under my fingers, living marble. His hands ran down over my body, coming to rest in the small of my back, holding me tight against him. I ached for those hands to keep moving, to keep roaming. My breath hitched but our locked gazes never faltered.
He pulled me down and kissed me.

When the door snapped closed I turned, heart in my eyes, hot and wild as the man striding across the room toward me. He pushed me up against the wall, and we were kissing, tangled in each other, his tongue parting my lips with exquisite skill until I was moaning under his ministrations. There was nothing anymore, just him and me, the sensation of tongues and lips and sliding hands. His hand pushed my dress up around my hip and curved down around my ass. It slid up to the inside of my leg, and toyed with the thin cloth.

And then he lost control, wild now, plunging and plummeting, so quickly that we were both ablaze. There was no control anymore, no anything, just the fierce dance of our bodies, the beat, the rhythm, the everything, and I wanted more and more and I was blind except for him, it had always been him, and it would always be him—
He let out a great shout, a great noise that ripped from his throat. And then I felt the crystalline desire break me apart, a shattering of tension, bringing a great, crashing wave of pleasure and relief that lost the world to me. There was no world. Only the forever of the night and the brightness of the moon, carrying me on a dizzying rush through the stars. I was awash in desire and joy and happiness, aware of only one thing.
Only Abraham.

He withdrew and then slid back in, slow at first, and then increasing in speed and force. It drove me mad with desire, and I rocked against him, helpless and wanton, meeting each thrust with my own, until I was wild with want and empty of thought. We were hot and fast, light lightning, a storm after a dry spell. We were the roaring ocean, the brightness of the moon, the inexplorable tide that tied them together. I let out a cry and clung to him, and he to me, and we were lost together.
Lost and found.

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

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