Review: The Angels’ Share by J.R. Ward

Format: E-booktheangelsshare
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Bourbon Kings, #2
Publisher: NAL
Hero: Edward Baldwine
Heroine: Sutton Smythe
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 26, 2016
Started On: September 02, 2016
Finished On: September 29, 2017

Even though I usually write my reviews before starting on the next book in the series, the part of my life that was dedicated to reviewing  romances that I read and enjoy so much took a hiatus in recent times. But I am someone who believes in the “better late then never” concept when it is about people and things that matter above everything else.

The Angels’ Share, book 2 in The Bourbon Kings trilogy picks up where the first book ends. That things are a mess for the Baldwines would be an understatement. With their father dead, the family’s finances in a mess, it is Tulane Baldwine (Lane), the poker playing former man-whore who returns home to pick up the pieces. Four siblings, all of whom are “estranged” from one another in different ways; JR Ward lays out a complex family for readers to sink their teeth into, and the surprises keep coming forth, urging the reader to turn the pages faster to get to the inevitable conclusion of it all.

Lane has his work cut out for him in trying to make sense out of the mess that his father has left in the wake of his death, an autopsy of which proves more than what Lane bargained for. William Baldwine is not the beloved father figure that most would presume he would have been. Instead, he is the father who destroys a family with his words and actions, and inaction when it came to Lane’s eldest brother Edward..

One has to read the trillogy altogether to get a sense of just how deep JR Ward digs when it comes to the Baldwines. Having never read anything else but the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by the author prior to picking up this particular trilogy, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but in usual JR Ward fashion, she blew me away with the depth that she brings to her characters and the story.

While I didn’t particularly root for the Edward and Sutton connection (which I am pretty sure I would be in the singular minority in this case), I felt intrigued by Gin’s story most of all. I think that would have been the case for most readers. Gin and her ongoing tit-for-tat, explosive relationship with Samuel T. took my breathe away every single time they were in the same room together. Gin’s inability to face her inner demons, to right the wrongs of her past, to accept herself for who she is, to draw on her inner strength and fight; those were all things that I wanted for her, from her. That in my opinion is a character well written.

Gin is not without her fair share of faults. But, given all that, I fell for her, hard. Unlike most of the characters in the book, and even Lizzie for whom I just had a passable liking at best, Gin stood out from everyone else like one of those exotic creatures gracing the cover of a glossy magazine tossed on a pile of old, worn and torn ones that no one would look at twice. That is how Gin materialized for me in the story and captivated me all throughout.

Enjoyable in a way only great storytelling can deliver, The Angels’ Share provides for enjoyable reading.

Final Verdict: Incredible, the level of depth to the story. It just keeps getting better.

Favorite Quotes

It was not supposed to go like this, he thought to himself. He’d banked on her backing away from him, leaving him alone, forgetting about the damn doctor.
“Sometimes the land must accept the storm,” Shelby whispered.
“What?”
She just shook her head as she moved up his lower body. “It’s not important.”
And she was right. Nothing much was important at all as she was the one who kissed him, her lips soft and shy, as if she knew nothing about seduction.

His hands swept up and cupped her breasts as his hips rolled against her, stroking her with an erection that was so hard, so distinct, she didn’t know whether he’d taken his pants off. Her skirt didn’t last long, Edward taking advantage as she arched up to his mouth to release the back fastening and do away with it.
Her stockings followed suit.
And then her panties.
And then his mouth left her breasts … and went other places.
The orgasm was so strong, her head knocked into the hard table, but she didn’t care. Throwing her palms out, they squeaked against polished wood as she called his name freely.
There was no one to know.
Nobody to hear.

He whispered something in her ear that she didn’t catch.
“What?” she said.
“Nothing.”
Edward stopped her from asking again by kissing her some more. And then he was moving inside of her, his erection still hard, his hips still strong, his need still for her.
For some reason, her eyes watered. “Why does this feel like you’re saying good-bye?”
“Shhhh …” he said before kissing her again.

Samuel T. to Gin – “What I really want to say is two things,” he continued. “First, I want you to know you’re better than that, and not because you’re a Bradford. The truth is, no matter what happens to the money, you’re a strong, smart, capable woman, Gin—and up until now you’ve used those virtues in bad ways, dumb-ass ways, because quite frankly, you haven’t had any real challenges put in front of you. You’ve been a warrior without a field of battle, Gin. A fighter without a foe, and you’ve been lashing out at everything and everyone around you for years now, trying to burn off the energy.” His voice grew unbearably hoarse. “Well, I want you to channel all that in a different way now. I want you to be strong for the right reasons. I want you to take care of yourself now. Protect yourself now. You have people who … you have people who love you. Who want to help you. But you’re going to need to take the first step.”

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

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Review: Cry for the Moon by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookcryforthemoon.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Yorktown Towers, #4
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Simon Zebriskie
Heroine: Marielle Brandt
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 01, 1988
Started On: December 15, 2016
Finished On: December 17, 2016

Widow of six months, Marielle Brandt turns up with her five year old daughter Emily and eighteen month son Christopher at the doorstep of Farnum’s Castle, against all the advise doled out by the elderly attorney, who from the onset tries to convince her to sell the derelict building which Marielle is now to call home.

Left destitute with a mountain of debt by her husband, Marielle leaves behind a life which she particularly wouldn’t miss. The attorney goes as far as to tell her that the building is haunted, which does not in the least deter a very undaunted Marielle. The determination with which she was going to make Farnum’s Castle perhaps borne a bit out of the fact that she has nowhere else to go.

When one of the tenants of the building, the mysterious Simon Zebriskie encounters the very young Marielle, whom he considers so owing to perhaps his failed marriage from before, he is distrustful. Not so much because she is untrustworthy, but a distrust that stems from a side of himself that he had thought had gone dormant that comes to life with Marielle’s presence.

Simon is a man paying penance for something that had meant the end of life as he had known it, which had afforded him a life of luxury that is a distant memory from what his life is like now. With an odd cast of secondary characters who magically brings the “Gothic” side of the story alive, Cry for the Moon is once again a testament to Anne Stuart’s ability that remains unrivaled even with the multitude of romance writers out there.

A book written when I was in my early childhood, and yet even today stands firm with the test of time is exactly why I would always pick an Anne Stuart to chase away my reading blues. In Simon, there is the deliciously tender hero that any reader would fall in love with. Minus the anti-hero qualities that makes Anne Stuart so famous in the development of heroes in her novels, Simon is a man haunted by a past that makes him aloof and reluctant in many ways to confront his rioting emotions when it concerns Marielle.

Marielle on the other hand, is the strong, kind, and yet emotionally scarred heroine that anyone would root for. Her reluctance to step into anything with Simon comes from a marriage that had failed her miserably when all had been said and done. Having gotten married at a young age, Marielle would rather forge ahead on a path of her own making and do it alone, and yet, she cannot help but be ensnared by the passion that rises to the surface and explodes with every deliciously lazy kiss that Simon lays on her.

Final Verdict: Beautifully rendered, Cry for the Moon belongs in the collection of gems with which Anne Stuart has enriched the reading lives of many a romanceaholic like myself. Recommended.

Favorite Quotes

“Let go of me,” she said, her voice a hushed command in the still room.
“Yes,” said Simon, not moving.
“We can’t do this.”
“No,” he agreed.
“Simon.”‘ Her voice held a very definite note of warning.
“Yes,” he said. Then, “No.” And then he dipped his head, blotting out the moonlight, and his mouth caught hers.
Unbelievably, it had been years since she’d been kissed. Possibly not since the night Christopher had been conceived, and she wasn’t even sure of that. And she’d never been kissed the way Simon was kissing her, all urgency gone now, slowly, thoroughly, his mouth touching and teasing and tasting, nudging away her panic until she had no choice but to soften her mouth, to part her lips for him, to let him take possession with a sudden sly ferocity that left her trembling beneath him.

Suddenly she decided to shock him in return, to prove to him that she wasn’t the skittish little coward he seemed to think her. Reaching out with the tip of her tongue she touched the firm contours of his lips, teasing the edge of his teeth, exploring, very gently, very shyly.
She was unprepared for the intensity of his reaction. He’d been standing there completely passively, hands at his sides, when a strangled groan caught at the back of his throat and he pulled her into his arms, his tongue meeting hers. He picked her up and turned her in his arms, pressing her against the graffiti-covered wall of the apartment as his tongue took up where hers had left off.

Simon paid no attention to her protests. He kissed her, his mouth covering hers and sealing her objections as his long, deft fingers stroked and caressed her. Now she was clutching his arms, fingers digging into his hard-muscled flesh. She wanted to beg him to stop—except that she didn’t want him to stop. She wanted him to keep on, keep on forever, his hand between her legs invading her, arousing her, taking her from blind innocence to someplace dark and dangerous and overwhelming.
Marielle tore her mouth away from his. “No!” she choked. “No, stop! I can’t stand it! I can’t…”
“Yes, you can.” He was relentless, and for just a moment she fought him, pushing against him. Then the first wave hit, a jolt of sheer, agonizing pleasure shooting through her with the power of an electrical charge. She went rigid in his arms, shock and reaction keeping her still for a moment. Then her body convulsed against him as wave after endless wave of response twisted her into a helpless rag doll.

She shut her eyes, still tense, still waiting. But he made no move at all, despite the power vibrating in his arms, despite the need covering his body with a fine film of sweat. “Look at me, Marielle.” There was a hoarse note of pleading in his voice, one she couldn’t resist. Her eyes shot open. “Say something, Marielle. Anything.”
“I thought you liked me quiet.” It didn’t sound like her voice. It was raw with need and wonder and emotion.
He still didn’t move. “Not that quiet. Say something, Marielle. Say you want me.”
The ghost of a smile twisted her mouth. “Of course I want you. I’ve never in my life wanted anyone the way I want you. I never thought I’d want anyone the way I want you. I want you, I need you, I…” His mouth silenced the last, dangerous statement that might have slipped out, and his body pushed into hers, settling deep.

Maybe it was the two glasses of wine, or the roller coaster of emotion she’d been riding; maybe it was just time to take a chance and stop being so damned serious. Marielle lifted her flowing black chiffon skirts, just high enough to expose black lace ankles and spiky black shoes, and sauntered across the room toward a wary-looking Simon. “Saint Simon,” she murmured, her voice low and throaty when she reached him, “am I another one of your charity cases?” And before she could think better of it she reached up and pressed her red-painted lips on his, her heady perfume enveloping them both.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-bookdukeofpleasure.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #11
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Hugh Fitzroy
Heroine: Alf
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November 29, 2016
Started On: December 06, 2016
Finished On: December 12, 2016

Elizabeth Hoyt is an author who writes with a flair that grabs the reader from the start, her heroes and heroines having that edge to their characters that makes a world of difference when it comes to the world of romance, especially today. When I “discovered” Hoyt’s books, I devoured them in a frenzy that left me stunned, because it had been so long since an author has had that effect on me.

Duke of Pleasure, which is the 11th book in the Maiden Lane series came out almost towards the end of 2016. It was a book that I had been waiting for quite eagerly, just like the legions of fans of the Maiden Lane series out there. While Duke of Pleasure didn’t quite live up to all the expectations that I had for the novel, it however, in classic Hoyt style, delivered a read that made me sigh and swoon in all the right places.

With a Maiden Lane novel, you get not just a romance that is beautifully crafted, but an adventure that goes along with it, which is one reason why these novels are so damn good. Duke of Kyle, aka Hugh Fitzroy is a man tasked with a very important case, not just by anyone, but the King himself; bringing down the Lord of Chaos, a group consisting of the very upper echelons of society participating in most vile and despicable acts for revelry of their own. A mission easier said than accomplished, all things considered.

Following a lead deep into the recesses of the filth of the city is where Kyle encounters none other than the Ghost of St. Giles “himself”, someone who fights and defends the weakest members of society, the ones that law enforcement officials seldom bother protecting. From the moment Kyle witnesses the grace with which the Ghost fights, his interest is one that is piqued in earnest, more so given the fact that he sees the Ghost of St. Giles as the woman she is under the mask and costume she wears.

Moonlighting at night as the Ghost of St. Giles, Alf resumes the role of the boy that she has been as far as she can remember. Having grown up on the streets with no one to look after her, Alf is as tough and resilient as they come, amassing a wealth of secrets along the way in the tasks that she carries out for those who seek out her help. Having rescued Kyle once, Alf is drawn to him in a way that is foreign to her, something that she has never let herself open up enough to experience before.

Finding out that Alf and the Ghost of St. Giles are the one and the same not only stuns Kyle, but makes him realize just how much he has been deluding himself when it comes to the slumbering beast inside of him. Having succumbed to passion’s wily nature before and paid for it, Kyle is a man who is the classic example of “once bitten, twice shy”. Feeling the tendrils of desire that rocks the iron bars of the cage within which he had locked that side of himself does not settle very well with Kyle.

Alf on the other hand, innocent in terms of the guileless nature behind her desire for a man who takes her breathe away, is just two steps short of falling head over heels in love with a man who is far above her station in every single way. But the heart has a way of wanting what is wants, consequences be damned, and that is how Alf finds herself taken in by the powerful embrace of the Duke who wants her, and at the same time seems to wage an inner battle with himself every single time he succumbs. The quest to root out the evil of the Lord of Chaos also comes with a price, one that both Kyle and Alf might have to pay in terms of the lives of the ones they both hold near and dear to their hearts.

While I found myself enamored by the characters of both Kyle and Alf, I felt that there could have been more to their coming together than what was delivered in the story. I just felt a lack that I cannot quite put my finger on. Maybe it stemmed from the fact that the hero from Duke of Sin, the 10th book in the series was ruthless in a way that spoke to me on so many levels, and I was perhaps hoping for the same or more from Kyle. Either way, even with the tiny bits and pieces of misgivings that I had, I nevertheless enjoyed the journey which Hoyt delivered amazingly well.

I just loved the inside cover of this book so much so that I decided to include it in my review. Let the drooling and sighing begin!

dukeofpleasure2

Recommended for fans of the series & historical romances that deliver reads worth sinking your teeth into.

Final Verdict: The Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt is decadent in a way few historical romances ever are. Duke of Pleasure delivers everything that a reader could want when they sit down with one of Hoyt’s books.

Favorite Quotes

A tall man in a ragged brown coat and a filthy red neckcloth stepped forward. Hugh half-expected him to make some sort of a speech, he looked that full of himself. Instead he drew a knife the size of a man’s forearm, grinned, and licked the blade.
Oh, for—
Hugh didn’t wait for whatever other disgusting preliminaries Knife Licker might feel were appropriate to the occasion. He stepped forward and smashed the bottle of very fine Viennese wine over the man’s head.
Then they were on him.
He slashed and felt the jolt to his arm as he hit flesh.
Swung and raked the sword across another’s face.
Staggered as two men slammed into him.
Another hit him hard in the jaw.
And then someone clubbed him behind the knees.
He fell to his knees on the icy ground, growling like a bleeding, baited bear.
Raised an arm to defend his head…
And…
Someone dropped from the sky right in front of him.
Facing his attackers.
Darting, wheeling, spinning.
Defending him so gracefully.
With two swords.

He slid on cobblestones as he ran to the lane. Someone yelled from behind him. And then he was in another narrow passage. There was an abrupt right-angle turn, and he took it, ignoring the yowl of a cat as he raced by, and then he burst into a courtyard.
The Ghost was there.
On the ground, her half cape a black whirl as she danced with her swords, their prey cornered. Something caught his attention about her movements—something not quite right—but as he watched, she knocked aside the man’s knife and placed her long sword against his throat and the thought died.
She smiled.
And he was amazed that anyone thought her a man.

Hugh watched her sheathe her swords. He touched his finger to her chin, feeling soft skin, and tipped up her face. He couldn’t tell the color of her eyes in the dark and behind the ugly half mask, but he saw the glint of moonlight in their depths.
“Who are you?” he whispered, that strange wildness still in his veins.
She didn’t answer.
So he did what he’d wanted to do since he’d first seen her tonight, there on the rooftops of St Giles: he bent and covered her mouth with his. Her lips were soft, so soft, and she tasted of wine and honey. He angled his head, drawing her slim body closer, sliding his tongue along her bottom lip until she opened her mouth beneath his.

She leaned a little closer and pressed her mouth to those pretty, pretty lips and inhaled his breath.
For a moment he was still beneath her, and then he moved, his hands rising slowly to grasp her arms.
She drew a little back, watching him.
His eyes opened, black and drowsy, staring into hers. He seemed entirely unsurprised to find her in his library, kissing him.
She smiled and for the first time that night felt herself settle. She placed her hands on his shoulders and straddled his lap. Knelt on the chair and bent her head to his again, opening her mouth over his, her palms on either side of his face.
The book tumbled to the floor.
She skimmed over his upper lip, feeling the odd prickle of his stubble. Caught his lower lip between her teeth.
An ember fell on the hearth.
Something sparked, and he took charge of the embrace. He opened his mouth beneath hers, angling his head, kissing her slowly, lazily, lushly, as if he had all the time in the world.

At that moment Alf opened her eyes, and he inhaled silently.
Her eyes were sleepy and a little dazed. Her cheeks flushed from sleep and, no doubt, the warmth of his sons, snuggled so close to her. She looked at him and seemed to become aware almost at once, her brown gaze sharpening. There was the mocking amusement he’d seen from the lad, Alf, the biting wit.
But now it was in feminine form.
She stared at him, and her soft pink lips—God, he’d been a blind fool to ever have thought that the mouth of a boy—smiled. Full and warm. Like sunshine. Like joy and hope.
The smile of a woman. Lethal as a spear to the chest.
Dangerous. Seductive.

He held her fast with his gaze and demanded, “You’re not what, Alf?”
Her pointed chin jerked up and she glared at him. “I’m not female. Not anymore. It’s been too long. I’ve been a boy too long.”
“My cock would beg to differ.”
Her mouth dropped open. “Wha—?”
He grabbed her wrist and dragged her over the bed, and thrust her hand crudely against the sheet covering his crotch. “Do you feel me? I’m hard for you.” He ground his cock up into her captive palm. “And I assure you I’m not at all interested in boys or men. Only women.”
Only you, a treacherous part of his mind whispered, but he ignored it. He was doing this for a mission, just that. It had nothing to do with the two of them. With the desire to see her bloom into the woman he wanted deep in his conflicted soul.
She stared down at her hand over his cock and her fingers flexed once.
He bit back a groan, and the thing within him, the thing locked away, rattled its chains.

She looked up at him, this powerful man. “What do you want from me, guv?”
“I don’t know,” he muttered, sounding angry—whether at her or himself, she couldn’t guess—and his hands pulled her against his hard body.
He bent and took her mouth, sliding his tongue against her lips until she parted them. Until she let him in with a relieved sigh. She’d missed this. Missed him. She’d wondered if he’d decided he was done with her.
Apparently not.
His fingers brushed over her bare neck, ticklish and sweet, even as he thrust his tongue inside her mouth again and again.
“Alf?” The call came from outside the room.
For a second more he continued to ravage her mouth as if he couldn’t tear himself away from her, and then Kyle lifted his head. His lips were reddened, his eyes dark.
Carefully he tucked a lock of her hair back inside her cap. “I don’t know what the hell I want from you.”

“I’ve hardly seen you,” he said moodily.
“I thought that was what you wanted,” she replied, her small expressive face closed. “You kissed me and then said you didn’t know what to do with me. You avoided me.”
“That hardly matters.” He flung up a hand irritably. “I didn’t know where you were.”
She lifted her chin. “I didn’t know I was supposed to be telling you everywhere I go, guv. You never mentioned.”
“Didn’t I?” he growled, taking that chin in hand.
He glanced at the windows. The boys were chasing the puppy down the graveled path. He bent and took her mouth, hard and fast and not nearly enough.
Not nearly enough.
When he raised his head again it was to breathe words across her parted lips. Words he didn’t stop to think about. Words that came straight from that part of himself he’d thought he’d locked away deep inside: “I’ll say it now, then. You tell me where you are and what you’re doing until such time as I’m done with you, do you understand?”
“Oh, I think I understand, guv,” she whispered, and though her words were a concession, her tone was not.

With her hand she squeezed the part of his cock that didn’t fit in her mouth and then began stroking up and down.
“They’re gone,” he muttered, his breath hitching, his hips rolling in little pushes he couldn’t seem to stop.
Oh, he wanted her. He wanted her.
She looked up at him and sucked harder.
It was dark, but she could just make out the glitter of his eyes. He was watching her. Down on her knees, with his cock in her mouth, sucking him.
His nostrils flared and that beautiful upper lip curled.
She rubbed the tip of her tongue underneath the head of his penis and he gasped. Slid his hand down her face in a caress.
Touched the corner of her wet, stretched lips with his thumb.
And came, flooding her mouth with his bitter seed.

He pressed into her, wide and thick. Hot, so hot.
There was a pinch.
But she kept her eyes on him, staring. His lush mouth was almost grim, and his forehead shone with sweat. He’d propped himself up on his elbows above her.
He thrust again, more of him entering her—stretching her—and she saw him clench his teeth.
She wrapped her legs around his hips and stroked the back of his leg with one foot.
He jerked and his hips met hers, his entire length buried inside her. She was stuffed full of him.
He inhaled through his nose and his nostrils flared.
She raised her head and whispered in his ear, “Are you going to fuck me now, guv?”
“Little devil,” he breathed.

“Ride me,” he rasped.
She blinked, not fully comprehending, but he was spreading her legs farther apart, taking away his knee and lowering her to his cock.
Oh, if she’d thought it large before, that was nothing to how proud he was now. A dark, angry red, heavy and full, thickest at the middle, and the foreskin stretched taut about the ridge of the head. She wanted to stare. To look her fill and perhaps feel it with hands and tongue.
He had other ideas.
He took hold of himself as she watched and rubbed his prick against her wet quim. “Sit.”
She could feel him at her entrance—there—big and waiting. She leaned a little forward, placing her hands on his shoulders and meeting his eyes.
Staring into his eyes as she tilted down and felt him breach her.
His nostrils were flared, his gaze implacable. “More.”

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

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Review: The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

Format: E-bookthelotuspalace
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Pingkang Li Mysteries, #1
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Bai Huang
Heroine: Yue-ying
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 27, 2013
Started On: February 07, 2016
Finished On: September 25, 2016

As is the norm with historical romances written by Jeannie Lin, the series entitled The Pingkang Li Mysteries is also set in Tang Dynasty, China in 847 AD.

The story is centered around a pleasure house known as The Lotus Palace, an elite house of courtesans in the pleasure quarter of the North Hamlet, also known as Pingkang li. Yue-ying, the heroine of the story, is a personal assistant going on four years to Mingyu, an elite courtesan at The Lotus Palace. Having been deemed not proper courtesan material Yue-ying had been relegated to the status as such.

Bai Huang on the other hand, is a well-known figure in the entertainment district. A notorious flirt, who is loose with his money, and considered to be openly courting Mingyu.

When the youngest of four beauties at The Lotus Palace gets murdered, that is when the story actually begins, with Bai Huang coming under suspicion from the investigating head constable and the magistrate of the district.

Though it took me a couple of tries to get through the first few chapters of the story which was a bit slow for my liking, I am glad that I persevered and kept going because the larger part of the story was one that I enjoyed in every way possible. I would go as far as to say that what unfolded then was classic Jeannie Lin in every way and that I had missed indulging myself in the beauty that she creates in her stories.

The Lotus Palace is a story that has a lot going for it. Multi-faceted characters, be it the lead or secondary characters, with the story being rich in detail when it comes to Chinese culture, history, and the hierarchical differences that existed between the different members of an establishment, even one such as a pleasure house as The Lotus Palace. Furthermore, the murder mystery proved to be an intriguing aspect to the story that kept me turning the pages as I got deeper into the story.

Bai Huang is one of those lighthearted heroes that has an abundance of charm to their character at first glance. But it is Yue-ying that sees through the facade that he puts up, the man beneath all the pretense and frivolities that he presents to the larger society. Even though Yue-ying promises herself that the likes of Bai Huang are not for women like her, it proves to be harder than she thinks when it comes to defying the tidal wave of desire that Bai Huang’s kisses and caresses unleash in her.

Bai Huang’s courtship of Yue-ying was a beautiful one for me. His gentle wooing and firm stand when it actually came down to it proves to be too much for even Yue-ying to walk away from. Yue-ying’s past is one that is dark, one that rightfully should have made mincemeat out of a lesser woman. But Yue-ying proves time and yet again that she is made of sterner stuff than what people usually judge her to be. As she helps Bai Huang to uncover the truth behind the murder that has shaken the entertainment district to its core, Yue-ying discovers that a future with a man like Bai Huang might be possible, if she would be willing to put herself on the line and put her trust in him.

Recommended, for fans of richly crafted historical romance novels!

Final Verdict: Beautifully told in a way that is uniquely Jeannie Lin, The Lotus Palace is a book not to be missed.

Favorite Quotes

She had never done this before, she realized a moment before she pressed her lips onto his.
His mouth was warm and yielded only a little as she moved closer. She parted her lips to test the texture of his lips and, with the smallest touch of her tongue, the taste of the kiss. She could sense the shudder that traveled through him. It made her breath catch and her stomach flutter with excitement.
This was a gift indeed, but not one that he gave to her. It was a gift that she took for herself.

She could feel his presence over her and hear the deepening of his breath. Her fingers curled reflexively over the pallet as she waited. His first touch upon her could be anywhere and her skin tingled with anticipation.
He laid the flat of his palm between her shoulder blades, pressing lightly. The weight was possessive, but reassuring. He slid it along her spine in one broad stroke.
“You can breathe, love.”
There was amusement in his tone. It was the second time he’d used such an endearment with her. It was presumptuous, but the words still made her quiver.

“This, you like,” he murmured before bending to kiss her.
She sighed against him, accepting the kiss, returning it. The soft caress of his lips quickly grew hard and urgent. Though he tried to hold his weight off her, his hips moved restlessly and she could feel how aroused he was. Yet he did nothing more than kiss her. Yue-ying circled her arms around Bai Huang’s shoulders and arched into him, losing herself in the simple pleasure of touch and warmth and closeness. And of him.

Her hand paused on his abdomen, her little finger just brushing the scar beneath his ribs, before dipping lower.
He shuddered as her hand closed around him. He had been aroused for days, living so close to her, hearing her dressing and washing from the other side of the wall. Her fingers circled him and her hand ran along his entire length, stroking him until he was so hard it bordered on pain. Her grip was knowing, teasing, merciless.

She rested her palms flat against his chest once she was fully seated onto him and the moment of stillness drove him mad. He wanted to thrust up into her, to seek more of that heat and the unbearable pressure of her surrounding him, but if he did it would be over quicker than it began.
Her weight shifted in his lap. She bent to kiss him on the chin. The gesture was sweet, almost innocent, but the change in position caused her muscles to tighten intimately around him.
“Yue-ying.” He gritted out her name.
She had begun to move over him and he was enslaved inside her. Her voice was a seductive whisper against his throat.
“Lord Bai.”

The last of his control was gone. He couldn’t think to pull out of her. He couldn’t stop the flood of his seed into her and the dark wave of pleasure came with such force that he was blinded. He held on to Yue-ying and distantly heard her cries through his own release as he continued to stroke her. Then she was shuddering against him and clinging to him, her nails digging into his shoulder.
It was beautiful. He had no other words for it.

“Last night,” he began.
She stopped him. “Lord Bai.”
“You’re blushing.”
“The day is uncustomarily warm,” she returned without pause.
“Is this love?” he asked simply. His voice was low and sensual.
“Scholars and their romantic notions,” she chided, though her heart was hammering inside her.

There were no preliminaries, no soft caresses or whispered words. Though sensation built within her, the act wasn’t as much about pleasure as it was about possession. Even when he took her breast into his mouth as her pleasure rose, it was an attempt to claim her further. His tongue rasped against her nipple until she wept and moaned. With each thrust of his hips, he was willing her climax, her surrender to him. And she did surrender, her muscles taut and straining until she thought she would break.

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Review: To Love a Man by Karen Robards

Format: E-booktoloveamankr.jpg
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Sam Eastman
Heroine: Lisa Bennet Collins
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 05, 1988
Started On: September 23, 2016
Finished On: September 24, 2016

39 year old Sam Eastman is a mercenary soldier working within the borders of Rhodesia, amidst the civil war that was taking place. A single father, Sam is determined that no job is too despicable if it were to get him the money he needed to start over.

25 year old Lisa Bennet Collins is the rich socialite heir apparent, who had pretty much had her life handed to her on silver platter. She had believed that happiness was hers for the taking, and simply followed the steps which she thought would bring her that. Getting engaged to the dreamily handsome football-playing son of a state senator had been the natural progression of that life, until it had all come crashing down, bit by bit.

A lifetime later, when Lisa turns up in Rhodesia as part of an assignment that would propel her into a career where she could write stories that actually mattered, she gets into more trouble than she bargained for, and gets rescued by none other than Sam. Their attraction to each other is instantaneous, their coming together as passionate as it gets, giving Lisa pleasure of the kind she has been denied all her life.

What happens next is what makes the story a hard pill to swallow. Misunderstandings, plus the behavior on the part of both Sam and Lisa makes it difficult to identify which character you should be rooting for. Like many readers, I felt that Sam was an asshole of the first order. Given that, I do have to mention the fact that his past, the scars he carries from a marriage that had eviscerated the man he was, his childhood; all of that contributed towards making him react the way he does. Inexcusable, but I understood where all that stemmed from.

Lisa on the other hand, is just as scarred, but in a different way compared to Sam. It is not easy for Lisa to relate to a man of Sam’s caliber, masculinity, and brashness, but in his arms Lisa does find what she has been craving for, what she had not thought possible all her life. Her scars run just as deep, and somewhere along the way, fall she does, and hard, for Sam and his touch that brands her as his right from the start.

The ending was what saved the story from being categorized as one of those reads that most women wouldn’t find pleasure in reading. I believe that the time apart gave Lisa as a character the time to grow, to learn how to stand on her own, which I see as something important if you are to love someone the way she loves Sam. The groveling was done to a fine art on the part of Sam, with him going after Lisa proving to be the saving grace, which otherwise I would have probably thrown my e-reader to the wall.

Recommended for those who can take a hero who is pretty rough around the edges, who will test your patience, and reforms to a point where you can at least think about forgiving him for all  that was said and done.

Final Verdict: In To Love a Man, Robards delivers a hero that might not be for everyone.

Favorite Quotes

He thrust into her with hard urgency, and Lisa gasped with pleasure, thinking she would die of pure bliss. His answering growl inflamed her. She rose and fell with him as he moved in, then out, then in again, in a relentless, driving rhythm. Her head was thrown back, her mouth wide open as he took her, her nails digging mindlessly into his muscled back. There was no room in her head for anything except the wonder of her own need. Then his hands closed over her buttocks, lifting them so that he could thrust more deeply inside her, and his mouth clamped over hers with a harsh groan. Lisa could stand no more. Pleasure that had been denied for years burst gloriously inside her, and she cried out against his mouth. He felt her joy and responded with one final, savage thrust, holding himself inside her, shaking. Then it was over.

“God,” she heard him mutter. The word sounded strangled. Then his hands were tugging at her shorts, his fingers shaking as he fumbled with the knotted rope that served as her belt. She lifted her hips off the ground, aiding him as he dragged her shorts and panties and shoes off together. Then his big body was upon her, his weight crushing her into the ground as his hands thrust her bra out of the way of his marauding mouth.
“Now,” she cried, moaning, her legs opening to him of their own volition. “Oh, now, Sam, please, now!”
He thrust into her urgently, his hardness impaling her soft flesh.

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Review: This Side of Heaven by Karen Robards

Format: E-bookthissideofheaven
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Dell
Hero: Matt Mathieson
Heroine: Caroline Wetherby
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 1, 1991
Started On: September 21, 2016
Finished On: September 21, 2016

32 year old Matt Mathieson, is the widowed and single father of two boys, going two years since his wife had died. Determined never to marry again, Matt’s life and that of his small family changes drastically when his wife’s sister turns up on his doorstep, having traveled all the way from England.

22 year old Caroline Wetherby is the beautiful half sister of Matt’s deceased wife. Having being left destitute with the death of their father who had made his life in the gambling halls throughout the city, Caroline travels all the way to America to find refuge with her sister, someone she has not seen in 15 long years. Wary of what would happen, telling herself its a mistake, she nevertheless has no choice, only to turn up and realize that her sister is no more.

Though Matt does not want much to do with Caroline, a small part of him is unable to turn away from Caroline’s need for a place to stay. The practical side of his character tells him that they all need a female presence around them, that his boys need a motherly influence in their lives. Against the wishes of his boys, Matt offers her shelter in return for her services as a female of the household, never knowing truly, how Caroline would prove to him that she is unlike any woman he has known before and would ever come across again.

This Side of Heaven has a trope that I love reading about. The reluctant and widowed hero, who for whatever reason believes that he would never remarry and the woman who turns up and throws his life into complete disarray. That was one of the reasons why I picked up this title, plus the point that I am a fan of Karen Robards, mostly of her earlier works. Though some of her books have failed to deliver on a large scale, the ones that do, do so remarkably well, which is one reason why I keep revisiting her older titles every now and then.

Though I liked the story that unfolded, the slow sizzle of awareness between Matt and Caroline, the story that I envisioned for them failed to materialize in between. On the plus side, Matt was not a hero of the asshole variety, as most heroes tend to be in earlier historical novels. However, their coming together was not the joyous and fireworks filled affair I thought it would be – at first. Nevertheless, Matt & Caroline were characters that grew on me.

Though the ending where Caroline nearly meets her maker at the hand of the villagers who see her for something else other than what she is proved to be sort of anticlimactic, I would still recommend This Side of Heaven because I enjoyed reading this in one sitting.

Final Verdict: Though not Robards’ best, This Side of Heaven delivers a great read!

Favorite Quotes

Matt looked at her for a long moment without answering, his face dark and his eyes restless. Then he laughed, a short, harsh sound that had nothing of amusement in it. “What does that mean, my poppet? Are you sure you want to know? But I’m going to tell you, since you’ve asked, whether you want to hear it or not. It means that you’ve been a raging fever in my blood for months. I can’t think, I can’t work, I lie awake nights going mad with wanting you. Is that enough to send you flying back to the house, or do you want to hear more?”

He kissed her as if he was starving for the taste of her mouth, kissed her as if he’d been hungry for eternity and, now, having been offered the sustenance he sought, was determined to have his fill. This was no gentle wooing, but a hard, needy taking, and Caroline could do nothing but cling to his shoulders and open her mouth to his and yield.

“Trust me, poppet,” he whispered in her ear. Caroline was briefly reminded of Eve and the serpent, who must once have murmured something very similar. But then his long fingers were moving lower yet, sliding down between her legs to touch her there so gently that the fire that ignited inside her as a result was almost shameful, and she no longer entertained any rational thoughts at all. Because surely that undemanding pressure should not in itself be enough to create such an inner burning! It was like liquid fire, a most pleasurable liquid fire that made her breathing quicken until she was almost panting and her body writhe against the hand that caressed her and the hard male body pressed close against her back.

“God in heaven!” he muttered as her lips brushed the whitened ridge and were withdrawn. The grin disappeared entirely in favor of a grimace as his eyes flared and turned dark “Then he was pushing her back down and lowering himself atop her, kissing her as if he would steal her very soul, his hands everywhere, caressing and arousing and possessing, lifting her legs to encircle his waist even as his body staked the most primitive claim of all.

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ARC Review: Cold Malice by Toni Anderson

Format: E-bookcoldmalice.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice, #8
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Steve McKenzie
Heroine: Theresa Jane Hines
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 12, 2017
Started On: September 07, 2017
Finished On: September 13, 2017

The Cold Justice series is well into its 8th book, with Toni Anderson hitting the mark with each single installment in the series. That is what I call well researched books that keeps the pages turning and the readers coming back for more. And I have definitely been coming back for more.

Cold Malice, just like every other book in this series, takes on a prominent issue in current society. The rise of white supremacist movements in countries like the United States, putting into peril years of painstaking work into building more inclusive societies. Toni’s insight and the way she handles sensitive issues of this nature continues to amaze me in every single one of her books and Cold Malice was no exception.

Theresa Jane (Tess) is the one surviving daughter of the infamous Hines family, notorious for its extremist right wing philosophies that had turned deadly. With her younger brother Cole, Tess had found refuge in the kind woman that had adopted them, and had grown up trying to run from a past that seems to be catching up with her in a way that leaves her cold on the inside.

When Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steve McKenzie (Mac) comes back into Tess’s life, it is as if a ghost from her past has come calling, a ghost that she had clearly thought and believed to be dead in the events that had taken place that fateful night when the lives of the Hines family had met its ultimate deadly conclusion. A string of hate crimes is what brings Mac to the scene, an FBI agent who had slowly risen through the ranks to prove himself capable and beyond the trashy background from which he had emerged. For Mac, his career comes first and foremost, and if Tess still reminds him of that little girl he had failed to protect all those years ago, he would just have to deal with it.

With Mac in charge of the investigating team, it is one harrowing experience after another that pits Tess and Mac together, each having to rely on the other to get through. Trust comes hard for both of them, especially Tess who has always had to isolate herself from the rest of the world lest the truth of her background emerge and harm her prospects for a life of normalcy that she strives so hard for. For Mac, even though he is 99% certain that Tess has not one prejudiced bone in her body, it is that 1% that makes it hard for him to trust her on a level that he should, given the way he reacts to her at every molecular level of his being.

A killer with an agenda that targets the awakening of the slumbering beast, Mac finds himself running a race against time in trying to put everything together. In the midst of it all lies the searing passion that he shares with a woman he may never have forgotten, a woman who stirs his very soul and makes him think of a future other than that of one filled with ambition to further his career.

I loved Cold Malice, just like I have loved reading every other book Toni has written. Toni’s books come bearing interesting tidbits of information about what law enforcement itself is like at its heart, how painstaking it is to go through tons of evidence, especially in light of the world of information exchange that we inhabit today. Furthermore, the concept of “ghost skins” that I came across in this book was one that fascinated me. Extremist movements such as the white supremacists, going through the ranks of government service, embedding themselves deep within the system, until the time comes for them to rise and act on their twisted agendas. It is a concept that makes shivers run up and down my spine, the kind of meticulous and painstaking planning and patience that it would take for a group of people filled with so much hatred for anything that they do not agree with.

The tidbit on child marriages still being allowed in most parts of the US, more so than most people think also gave me a pause. We are all quick to judge when the lesser developed countries have archaic laws that allows these marriages to take place, that violates a girl in so many ways that it does not even bear thinking. Yet, the country that sits at the position of the leader of the free world itself has festering within, the kind of policies and laws that should have been done away with a long time ago, to protect the rights of every child. Perhaps it is a significant fact that even though the US ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995, it failed to implement the terms of CRC at home, owing to contentious politics within.

I loved both Mac and Tess. As a hero, Mac is a specimen worth salivating over. There is a vulnerability to him that he hides, and he hides it well. A failed marriage that has left its mark, a childhood that drives him to be the person he is. Labeled a sex god by Tess, he is very well worthy of the term as he takes the straitlaced Tess and teaches her how fun, and oh so good sex with the right person can be. Tess is a mass of contradictions unto herself. Yearning for the kind of closeness and love that she believes are possible only in Disney fairy tales, she never thinks for a moment that the man from her past that she had fallen in love as a child would be the person who would change it all. I felt every single scar on Tess’s soul deep within. It is amazing how Toni can craft characters that are deep and multifaceted as Tess. I loved her

Cold Malice is a novel done well, delivering a story that would stay with the reader for a long while. The subject matter alone is reason enough.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: There is no running from a past hellbent on playing catch up. Toni delivers an unputdownable read in Cold Malice!

Favorite Quotes

Instead of backing away, he lifted her up until both her legs wrapped around his waist and he positioned himself against her entrance. Then he held both her hands against the door and stared deep into her eyes as he pushed slowly inside. Her head went back as she cried out and her back arched.
She went blind as pleasure rushed through her.
He dropped her hands and grabbed her ass. She gripped his shoulders as he eased farther inside. Sweat beaded on his brow and ran down his temple. She tasted it on her tongue.

After a few seconds, she deliberately clenched her muscles around him again and he growled his approval. He started moving then, pumping in and out of her in long, deep strokes.
Dear Lord. It felt like Heaven. She whimpered at the pleasure that was flooding her senses. Every muscle in her body was trembling with need to race to that sharp edge of completion, but she wanted it to last, too. She wanted to go slow. And fast. And everywhere in-between. Mac changed his stance and she felt him inside her, touching a place that made her insane with want.
“Oh, God.” Her nails raked his shoulders as her body clenched around him. She wanted to be the girl from her fantasies, the one who asked for and got what she wanted. “More.”
“Is this what you wanted?” He drove into her over and over, holding onto her and thrusting deep at the same time.
“Yes.” She gasped. “This is what I want. You inside me. It’s perfect. You’re perfect.”

When her eyes closed he took over, gripping her hips, grinding her against him, gathering a handful of her hair in his fist and rearing up, trying to get even deeper inside. And he was the one in charge, in control, right up to the moment she put a twist into the way she rode him and he was gone. She cried out as his world turned black.

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