Review: Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookrecklessconduct
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Marcus Fox
Heroine: Harriet Smith
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November, 1996
Started On: October 07, 2017
Finished On: October 13, 2017

Never have I laughed so hard and so much while reading a romance novel in recent times as I did when I was reading Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier. I would always be forever grateful for having found Susan Napier’s books because they are aboslute gems in the world of Harlequin romances.

Reckless Conduct is a novel that is to be lauded for so many reasons. It has got that oh-so-good-i-am-going-to-die-of-laughter variety of humor going for it. There is a deliciously controlled hero who made every single sense of mine stand on high alert. Then there is the heroine, whose makeover and clumsy antics, plus the way she seems to always find herself in one tantalizing position after another with the hero became one I reveled in. The sense of want and desire that is continuous thread throughout the book was one that I found heady and enjoyable on so many levels.

Harriet Smith, the heroine is someone who has continually being considered as staid, boring, and conventional. However, all of that changes when Harriet decides to have the makeover of a lifetime which turns her from the wallflower so to speak to the stunningly beautiful and curvaceous woman that turns heads as she makes her way to the office on the morning following the makeover.

Marcus Fox is the chairman of the board of Trident Finance where Harriet works. When Marcus enlists Harriet’s expertise on a personal matter, Harriet is forced into close proximity with a man who makes her want to throw caution to the wind, who brings back that edge of spontaneity to her character which had died a painful death under the hands of her ex-fiance’. It also makes her want to flee because she is reluctant to get into something that could spell long term heartbreak for her. That sense of awakening in a heroine as reluctant as Harriet was one of the best aspects of this book.

If you are a fan of Harlequin romances, this is a must read. Susan Napier is brilliant in her execution of romance novels. Her books have foresight and depth to them that few Harlequin authors bring to the table. Her stories are less than conventional and for me that is one reason why I absolutely adore them and indulge in one every now and then.

Definitely recommended. If not for the laughs, for the sheer experience of Marcus Fox in all his glory. Loved the last chapter. Made me want to bawl my eyes out, and smile from ear to ear at the same time.

Final Verdict: Susan Napier wows her readers with unconventional stories that stand out for their sensuality and strong leads. Reckless Conduct is classic Napier in this sense and I cannot recommend it well enough.

Favorite Quotes

‘Not only is Fleet indiscriminate, but he has no respect for the woman’s privacy when he notches up a victory. He’s an inveterate boaster about his conquests. He’s even been known to bet on the outcome of a date. All he’s interested in is having a good time, and he expects the women he goes out with to have the same free-and-easy morals—’
‘Good!’ she snapped, using the element of surprise to grasp his solid wrist and push it sharply away from the control buttons so that the doors sprang open.
‘Good?’ Marcus Fox stayed rooted to the spot as she stepped out onto the thick grey carpet of the executive-suite foyer. ‘What do you mean—good?’
Harriet turned to look at him and was deeply gratified by his censorious expression. At last she had surprised a genuine reaction out of him!
‘I mean good, he sounds like a really hot date,’ she said with a reckless toss of her head.”
“A hot date?’ He repeated the words slowly, as if they were in an alien tongue.
‘Yeah, you know—one where there’s a lot of action.’
‘Action?’ The doors were closing on him and he darted out between them with a startling burst of agility for such a powerfully built man.
‘Fun.’
His black brows lowered even further as he towered over her. ‘You’re going out with Michael Fleet for fun?’ he rumbled.
‘Well, I’m certainly not going out with him in order to have a perfectly miserable time,’ she said sweetly.
He dismissed her dripping sarcasm with an impatient wave. ‘Miss Smith, I wonder if you’ve quite grasped the import of my remarks?’
‘Of course I have,’ she said in exasperation. ‘You’re warning me that by tomorrow I’ll just be another notch on the matchwood that passes for Michael’s bedpost.’
‘Miss Smith!’
‘Mr Fox!”

She sat down with relief, only to find that her narrow skirt shrank alarmingly up her slender thighs. She pretended not to notice. She hadn’t taken into account things like bending and twisting and sitting when she had been burning up the boutiques during the long weekend. She had just stood in front of the mirror and ruthlessly bought whatever the shop assistant had recommended.
Harriet folded her hands in her diminished lap and tried to remember everything she had ever read about miniskirt etiquette. Did one cross one’s legs or slant them primly parallel to the side? The idea of being prim decided her. She slid one knee rashly over the top of the other. The skirt retreated another crucial few centimetres.
Marcus Fox’s steepled fingers collapsed and his voice was slightly hoarse as he began ominously, ‘Miss Smith, I am about to break one of my cardinal rules about not allowing personal problems to intrude on matters of business.’

He rose abruptly from his chair and, against the tinted window, he was suddenly a dark, shadowy figure sweeping across her dazzled vision. Harriet’s heart pulsed erratically in her ears and, even knowing that the width of the desk was between them, she instinctively shied away from his dominance, a slender heel catching against the chair-leg behind her as she did so, half wrenching her shoe from her foot and throwing her off balance.
She stumbled forward several steps, banging her hip as she ricocheted off the sharp corner of his desk. One windmilling hand clipped the eyepiece of the telescope and it teetered on its extended tripod. Harriet whipped around to clasp and steady it, letting out a small cry of pain as a bolt on one of the legs jammed into her knee.
“What on earth—?’ Marcus Fox was there immediately, untangling her from the apparatus and setting them both upright.
‘I’m sorry,’ she gasped, hopping on one leg as she tried to refit her shoe.
He let go of the telescope to support her by her shoulders, half lifting her with easy strength to perch on the edge of his desk while she fumbled. ‘Little fool,’ he said gruffly. ‘What are you wearing heels like that for around the office? You’re an accident waiting to happen.’
‘To stop people like you calling me little,’ she huffed.

“They’re not pantihose,‘ she said absently, thinking gloomily that it didn’t take much to make expensive elegance look cheap and tacky. Maybe black hadn’t been such a flattering choice after all.
‘I beg your pardon?’
He hadn’t moved and Harriet was acutely aware that he was standing between her legs, the fabric of his dark trousers brushing against the sensitive skin of the insides of her knees. This time the threat posed by his proximity was unnervingly real. He was overpoweringly close, his warmth radiating through her like an invisible touch, his clean male scent creating a curious disorder in her senses. He made her feel both fragile and vulnerable and she panicked lest he detect her irrational fear, rashly seeking to repulse him with offensive brashness.
‘I said I’m not wearing pantihose. They’re stockings. See?’ She provocatively lifted her knee to press it against his hip, and flipped back her hem to reveal the lace-trimmed suspender that gripped the opaque band of her laddered stocking. A strip of smooth, naked thigh was also inadvertently revealed—a starkly erotic contrast to the black lingerie.

Feeling safe and yet aware of a tantalising danger, Harriet inhaled and let out a shuddering sigh and wriggled deeper into his lap. The malleable outline against her hip was large, and Harriet felt another wave of prickly heat wash over her as she indulged her sinful curiosity and wondered what it would take to arouse a man of his iron self-control and how different he would feel in his state of excitement.
She imagined what would happen if she was lying like this in his arms but for some inexplicable but necessary reason they were both completely nude. Surely he wouldn’t be unaffected then, no matter how skinny or pathetic he thought she was? He was a man and he wouldn’t be able to help himself. He might fight against his primitive instincts because he didn’t want to hurt her, but he would eventually succumb to the feel of her naked breasts and thighs rubbing against him. He would kiss her fiercely, and smother her small breasts in his big, clever hands, and then he would go thick and hard against her squirming bottom and he would turn her in his lap and—

Intent on preventing him from reaching the bottom of the pile, Harriet hastened forward, but she was too late. His eyebrows shot up as he studied the final cover.
‘Sexual Fulfilment: Erotic Techniques To Enhance Female Pleasure’
‘Give me that!’ Flustered, she tried to snatch it out of his hand.
‘Give you what? Sexual fulfilment?’ he enquired with a wicked grin, easily evading her attack by catching her wrist and pulling her down onto the bed beside him. ‘Why, Harriet, I’m flattered by your eagerness but it’s rude to grab.’
‘I meant give me the book!’ she grated at him, feeling the heat of his thigh against her hip as they bounced lightly together on the edge of the bed.

He kissed her deep and hard, burying his mouth in hers, using his teeth to tease her lips apart and his tongue to thrust roughly inside. His hand slid from her upper arms to her ribcage, his fingers splaying up her slender sides, gripping her, supporting her torso while he slowly twisted from side to side, massaging her breasts with the rigid muscles of his chest. With a groan he turned her even further into the heated embrace, forcing her head back with the power of his kiss, lifting his knee to rest his thigh heavily across her sprawled legs, urging her against the hardness between his legs.
‘Kiss me; touch me the way she was touching him.’ He whispered the ragged command into the moist depths of her being, and she felt him tear at his buttons so that his shirt parted across his smooth, hot chest.

“Marcus—’
He bit her throat, his fingers curving into her soft waist as he sucked at her flesh. ‘Yes, say my name; tell me where you want me to stroke you; tell me what excites you…’
Everything excited her. She could barely string two coherent thoughts together, let alone utter any words. All that came from her lungs were gasps and tiny whimpers and moans that seemed to drive him into a greater frenzy.
Harriet clutched at the thick-hewn shoulders under the loose white shirt, her manicured nails biting into the rippling muscle and raking down his biceps, causing him to arch and shudder and rub himself more frantically against her. The heat was coming off him in waves, the muscles in his arms and chest jerking with convulsive tension, his hot mouth ravishing her senses as he hungrily devoured her response to his astonishing explosion of desire.

“I knew you weren’t wearing a bra,’ he muttered harshly, covering the delicate mounds with his palms, cupping and shaping her with his fingers, finding the soft nipples with his thumbs and tracing their outline by feel, circling them over and over again, drawing them out with the gentle pressure of his nails. ‘I could see these shadowed against the cotton… dark, smooth, round discs that I wanted to touch and lick and suck until they were ripe and wet and hard… as hard as I was…’
He nuzzled her mouth as he told her what else he had wanted to do to her breasts with his tongue and hands and body while she had been standing there talking, innocently unaware of his lustful fancies, and his eloquent description made Harriet so dizzy that if she hadn’t been lying down she would have swooned like a Victorian maiden.

He donned the protection without the least sign of modesty or embarrassment and Harriet fleetingly compared him with Keith, who used to fumble around in the dark, as if it was an offence to his masculinity. She even suspected that Marcus lingered deliberately over the intimate task, enjoying having her watching him touch himself, heightening their anticipation of the pleasure to come.
‘Next time you can do it for me,’ he promised huskily, and with a stunningly swift movement caught hold of her ribcage, his thumbs curving up under her breasts as he pulled her down on her knees to straddle his lap, arching his hips so that he slid smoothly inside her in the same fluid motion.
‘Oh!’ Harriet’s hand spread across his chest as she felt him take a heaving breath and arch up again, pushing deeper, tighter, a huge, hard invasion of heat that made her instinctively grip his hips with her knees and rock forward, flexing her inner muscles around him.

“Don’t move.’ This time she knew that his grating harshness wasn’t anger, it was rigid self-restraint. She obeyed, her bottom settling on his iron thighs. After a few moments of absolute stillness Marcus lifted his head and gave her a lazy smile that made her toes curl in her black shoes.
‘What now, Mr Fox?’ she teased him throatily.
‘Now?’ His hands swept down her sides and over her stockings to the knees that were wedged against his hips, and then slowly followed the same course back again.
‘Now, Miss Smith, we stay like this for the next ten hours.’

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: Chain of Love by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookchainoflove
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Sinclair MacDonald
Heroine: Cathy Whiteheart
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 1, 1983
Started On: April 03, 2016
Finished On: April 09, 2016

Anne Stuart has sort of become my go-to author when books are failing to give me what I am looking for. When you pick up an Anne Stuart novel, you are guaranteed a story that will stay with you for a while, if not for a lifetime. Even Chain of Love that was published a year after I was born, managed to give a read that held me enthralled, though I didn’t quite agree with one incident that took place in the book.

Cathy Whiteheart is coming out of a relationship that she never would have pegged as one that would turn abusive. Holing up inside of her own sanctuary, Cathy refuses to go out and make nice with people. She just does not have it in her. That is until her sister Meg forces her to do so and in the process thrusts her in the path of the sinful Sinclair MacDonald.

Sinclair otherwise known as Sin to his friends, is a man who is handsome, charming and seems to have got it all. Cathy does not trust the way her body reacts in Sin’s presence. Furthermore, her reactions are not what is normal for a woman like her, who had sworn off of men because she just cannot handle another relationship of the sort that had nearly broken her to begin with.

However, Cathy is no shy damsel in distress even though she might have gone through hell in her previous relationship. Far from it. Cathy remains spirited, the fire in her burning anew when Sin makes it impossible for her to hide from the feelings that starts to churn deep inside of her. I at times felt a bit overwhelmed for Cathy. Because once Sin had her in his sights, there was no way that she could have prevented the chain of events that led to its ultimate conclusion.

While Sin’s frustrations when it came to Cathy was understandable, his one act during the latter part of the story made me take a step back. But then again, given how Cathy reacted to it right after made me think that that even though I might abhor the reaction on Sin’s part for what it was, it seemed to have worked with Cathy. I would like to think that getting physical never solves your problems. But perhaps in the heat of passion, sometimes that is all there is left.

Recommended for fans of Anne Stuart. There indeed is no author who even comes close to what she is.

Final Verdict: Sin MacDonald is a man made for sin. No choice for Cathy but to give in!

Favorite Quotes

“Don’t you think it’s a little dark for sunglasses?” he inquired gently, reaching out and taking them from her face before she had a chance to gather her wits and stop him. The car was parked outside her apartment building, and he was hunkered down on the sidewalk, inside the open passenger door, staring at her face in great concentration. The streetlight was very bright overhead, and she heard his sudden intake of breath.
“My God, they’re green,” he murmured, his voice low and husky. “If I’d known that I wouldn’t have let you wear those damned sunglasses for so long.”

The elevator arrived; the door swished open beside him. Those searching hazel eyes looked at the elevator, and then back at Cathy’s motionless figure waiting by her door. Slowly he straightened up, and the panther look was back on him in full. He headed into the elevator, did a sudden about-face and turned back toward her, stalking her like the jungle beast he so resembled.
Before she had time to react he had pulled her slender body against his, hard. Her hands were caught between them as she instinctively raised them to ward him off, trapped against his broad chest. “To hell with keeping my place,” he said succinctly, and lowered his mouth to hers, gently at first, as if not to frighten her.

“Open your mouth, Cathy,” he whispered as he moved back to recapture her lips. Closing her eyes, she obeyed, letting him regain possession of her mouth even more intimately than he had before. His tongue explored every inch of her warm, moist mouth, demanding and drawing from her a response that she had never given another man. Her heart was pounding, her breath coming in quick, shallow pants, and her entire body trembled from pent-up desire. She could feel the flat surface of the wall behind her while every square inch of his body seemed burned into her flesh, and still he kissed her, as if he could never get enough of her willing mouth.

There was nothing tentative about this kiss, none of the reassuring gentleness of the night before. He kissed her long and deep and hard, with a kind of savage tenderness that was inexplicably arousing. Pressing her back into the soft mattress, he half covered her body with his, his long, bare legs holding the lower part of her body captive, as he plundered her willing mouth. His hand, which had been stroking her neck with long, sure strokes, moved down to caress one full, straining breast, his thumb rubbing gently until the tip hardened in fevered response beneath the silk gown. All her free will seemed drained away, leaving her a grateful captive of his knowing hands.
“Oh, God,” he muttered against her soft mouth. “I want you so much.” The hoarse words warmed her fluttering heart as she pressed closer.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Love Conspiracy by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookloveconspiracy
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Daniel Bishop
Heroine: Kathleen Kendon
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 1, 1990
Started On: January 16, 2016
Finished On: January 17, 2016

36 year old Daniel Bishop is a financial magnate heading his family business, on the verge of getting hitched to a woman of his mother’s choosing. Daniel remains a bit removed from the machinations of his formidable mother, whose most recent of problems has everything to do with her grandson Todd getting engaged to a woman who is the farthest thing from the impeccable background that she would have chosen and accepted within the folds of her family.

23 year old Kathleen Kendon is unwittingly drawn into the drama that is the Bishop family through Todd, Adelaide Bishop making it clear in too many ways to count that her “engagement” with Todd wasn’t accepted. At all. However, Kathleen is one made of sterner stuff and one who has a chip on her shoulder when it comes to confrontations of the nature. Having being brought up as a State ward in a small orphanage, owing to the death of her parents at a very young age with no relatives to speak of, Kathleen is more than able to stand her ground where the elder Bishop is concerned. But when it comes to Daniel, well, that is another story.

Daniel’s engagement to the female version of himself should have been reason enough for Kathleen to cease thinking about him. But, for the very first time in her life, Kathleen finds herself confronted with desire of the kind that she cannot turn away from, the kind that she knows deep inside, spells trouble for her heart and soul.

Daniel himself is drawn to Kathleen on a level he would rather not be, having learnt his lesson the hard way, years back. But Kathleen answers to a need inside of him that grows stronger each passing day, until all of it comes to head with a satisfying conclusion at the end.

Susan Napier is one of those authors that any fan of romance that clamors for angst and unpredictable storylines must read! The Love Conspiracy had the sort of storyline that signaled to me that all wasn’t what it seemed to be. But when all was said and done, I couldn’t have imagined that things would turn out the way it did. That was enough reason for me to fall in love with the story.

Daniel’s character was by far the most complex. There is a hidden facet to him, the tiger that lies in prowl, ready to spring into action the minute it needs to, that catches you unawares. Daniel tamps down his wild side in the ruthless manner that is required of him when he takes the reins of the family business. But that doesn’t mean that the passionate side of him has been taken completely under submission. No. And Susan Napier shows us in one delicious scene after another, how wrong we can be in our initial perception of a character.

Kathleen was a feisty heroine, who drew the hidden facet of Daniel out and made him embrace it once again. There is a fire to Kathleen’s character that makes people be drawn towards it. The reason I loved her was because she is not afraid to look deep into herself and accept it when she is at the wrong end. Given Kathleen’s young innocence, it is a given that she wouldn’t react very well to the possessiveness that grabs a hold of her when she embraces  her burgeoning feelings towards Daniel, which is not made easier by the fact that he is engaged to another woman, who is far more suited for him in the eyes of everyone else. I loved the bits where Daniel talked to her, tried to make her understand and see things from his point of view. And I loved Kathleen for trying.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Sizzles your nerve endings with wanton longing!

Favorite Quotes

‘Ah,’ Kat nodded sagely. ‘You like your sex dressed up. I bet you insist on having the lights off, too. Or do you close your eyes in case you see anything nasty? How do you know you’re not asleep? How does she know?’ She laughed, exhilarated by the brief flash of temper that penetrated his coolness, and the novelty of saying such wicked things with impunity. He was asking to be shocked.
‘I’m very articulate. I tell her.’
‘W … what?’ Kat’s laughter died in her throat. Her eyes widened on his bland face.
‘I like to describe what I’m doing, and what it feels like, and what I want her to feel,’ he continued in the same soft, measured voice. ‘Most women find it … instructive … as well as arousing. I don’t, however, talk in my sleep.’

‘Don’t crowd me, Daniel-‘
‘The hell I will! I’ll do more than crowd. You’ve had your fun tonight, Kathleen. Now it’s my turn .. .’
There was a rough, cold, aggressive passion in the threat that prompted her to struggle until he put his mouth against hers. The contact burned so much that the recoil was instant and mutual. There was no sound but Kat’s ragged breath. Daniel wasn’t breathing at all. Oh, dear heaven, no! was her last thought before the face above her cleared of its dark, rigid shock and displayed instead a hungry curiosity that swept resistance before it. The second kiss was equally tumultuous, but this time there was no drawing back. The thrust of his tongue in her mouth allowed no polite preliminaries; it was a furious battle for ascendancy, Kat’s arms rising stiffly to lock around his neck, her fingers sliding up into the thick black hair at his nape as he wrapped her breasts and hips against his lean hardness. His hands spanning her waist, Daniel suddenly swung her around, pushing her backwards over the thick carpet until Kat walked into the side of the padded brown leather couch half-way across the room. He arched her over the high back, tipping her hips into his until she gasped into the dark, echoing cavern of his mouth.

Belatedly she began to struggle, to deny his conquest, hands tugging helplessly at his iron wrists as his hands contracted around her sweetly aching breasts. Watching the frantic passion of her struggles, Daniel felt a bolt of pure energy explode inside him, generating immense’ heat. Colour poured into his face as a groan tore loose from the cramped vault of his chest, his eyes closing as he bent his head, no longer laughing, no longer triumphant, suddenly as helpless as she against the physical onslaught, a violation of mind and will.
His mouth parted fiercely against hers, his hands on her breasts no longer subtle and skilled but rough and eager, seeking to assuage the need generated by blood boiling violently through his heart and loins. His body moved against hers as if he would merge them through the constricting cloth by sheer force of desire. A tremble began to shiver through Kat’s body until she cried out with the agony of building tension. He swallowed her cry, driving more deeply with his demanding tongue, a searingly graphic representation of the act that, in their minds, was already taking place.

She arched against him, trembling, and his groan was muffled against her skin as his hands moved druggingly over her.
‘Daniel yes .. .’ he corrected her in a rasping whisper, moving his lips against her bare shoulder where the torn strap had fallen away. He tugged at the stretchy fabric, pulling the damaged edge down over her white cotton bra. Her nipple was a dark point against the thin white cotton. He found it with his teeth as he cupped his hand around her lush fullness, his thighs tightening around her trapped leg, forcing her hips into intimate contact with his potent maleness. Kat’s fingers dug into the taut muscles ridging his waist as he roughly pulled aside her bra and began to suckle the creamy flesh beneath.

She was awash with pure sensation, the slide of silk beneath her, the brush of his sweater against her sensitised breasts and belly, the musky male scent of him seducing her willing heart and mind. .
‘That’s right, kitten … burn for me, ache for me .. .’ he whispered as he nipped her skin. ‘This is what I’ve been thinking about all day, why I couldn’t concentrate … I was thinking of you, waiting for me in my bed … But we’re not going to hurry. We have all night, and the first time should always be slow and easy . . . a glorious, long-drawn-out agony of sighs.’

Purchase Links: Amazon

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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: Substitute Lover by Penny Jordan

Format: E-booksubstitutelover
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Hero: Gray Chalmers
Heroine: Stephanie Chalmers
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1, 1988
Started On: November 29, 2015
Finished On: November 29, 2015

To think that I was barely six years old when Substitute Lover was initially published, and I am enjoying this book after so many years have passed since then, attests to the talent that authors like Penny Jordan wielded in the romance genre. Though Penny Jordan is no more, I read her older books with the fondest of memories, memories of how her books used to spin and weave magic for me, which made me want to read more of the same. My reading did move onto other circles, especially given the fact that most Harlequin titles of today just seem lackluster in comparison, few giving a reader their worth in money spent.

Substitute Lover tells the story of 28 year old Stephanie Chalmers, a widow going 10 years, who has to force herself to return to the place of her “wedded life”, a marriage that had done a number on the innocent and naive girl that Stephanie had been back then. The one thing that should calm her in the midst of the storm that is blazing to life inside of her at the mere thought of going back should be Gray Chalmers, the man who had stood by her all these years, pushed and prodded her to move on with her life, offering her the shoulder of friendship when she had needed it the most. What she doesn’t count on this time around is for her feelings towards Gray to turn towards murkier waters, surprising her by the ferocity of what strikes her, when she has an aversion to being touched by the opposite sex after the number her brief marriage had done on her.

Gray was done being patient, standing on the sidelines and watching Stephanie remove herself from even the possibility of a shared life with another. Thus brings about the charade about Gray needing Stephanie to ward off the unwanted attentions of another woman, a task to which Stephanie takes to all too well, leaving her floundering in the wake of the emotions that being up close and personal with Gray brings about.

Substitute Lover is a novel that was full of the angst of the kind that I love and revel in. I treasure old Harlequin titles for this reason. Even though miscommunication and sheer stubbornness on the hero or heroin’s part to see the truth is not what I am talking about, there is a certain kind of lure to the kind of angst some of these books deliver and Substitute Lover managed to deliver just the right touch of it. The agony that Gray himself goes through to keep his end of the bargain, the scars and horrors of the past that Stephanie has to deal with to move on were the reasons the pages kept turning into the wee hours of the night.

Stephanie’s short lived marriage is the kind of stuff nightmares are made of. To think that she had suffered through it all alone, blaming herself for failing to be the woman her husband had required her to be was one that struck an emotional chord deep within me. Gray’s pain and the secret he has held on for so long made the story that much more delicious and I loved every single moment of this wonderful story. Reading and revisiting books by an author who made me fall in love with a genre I continue to read 15 years on is my way of giving tribute to someone who has illuminated the world of so many romance readers with the wonderful hues of bright and colorful lights of lust, angst & ever lasting love. 

Final Verdict: Penny Jordan definitely knows how to deliver on the angst. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

A thrill of some dangerous and alien emotion raced through her. Without being aware of the provocation of what she was doing she touched her tongue-tip tentatively to the dry outline of her lips.
Someone shuddered. Herself, or Gray ? She looked up at him, and trembled beneath the expression in his eyes.
‘Do that again and I won’t be responsible for what happens next,’ he warned her in a curiously rusty, hoarse voice, that trapped her attention, focusing it on the shape of his mouth.

‘I want to see what you’re feeling when I kiss you.’
Gray. No . . . don’t…’ She struggled to free herself, squirming against the almost painful hardness of his body, until she realised the effect her frantic movements were having on him.
He watched the hot colour scorch her skin with cynical detachment, demanding acidly, ‘You’re not that naive, surely, Stephanie. Rub yourself against any normal man like that and you’d get exactly the same response.’
When her embarrassed colour deepened he smiled sardonically and bent his head to her ear and mouthed softly, ‘I’m a man, Stephanie, and not a machine, and what you’re doing to my body right now is driving me right out of my mind.’

Quite when her lips parted to the subtle persuasion of his tongue she didn’t know.
It seemed as though one moment he was kissing her as though he was comforting a hurt child and the next the touch of his mouth had aroused such a storm of passion within her that she was clinging helplessly to him, responding to every passionate movement of his mouth against her own with a responsiveness that her conscious mind could only observe with awe and disbelief.
His robe had come open and her breasts were pressed against his chest, only the thin cotton of her nightdress between them.
His hands moulded her body, caressing her back, his touch making her spine arch, making her …

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Meant to be Married by Ruth Wind

Format: E-bookmeanttobemarried
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Men of the Land
Publisher: Harlequin Treasury
Hero: Elias de Jesus Salimento Santiago
Heroine: Sarah Greenwood
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 15, 2011
Started On: October 18, 2013
Finished On: October 18, 2013

‘Absence is to love what air is to fire. If it is small, it soon goes out. If it is great, it burns stronger.’

Ruth Wind is an author who has an amazing way with words. It is evident in the style of writing that she uses to bring her stories alive with the different nuances and colors that makes her books the vibrantly haunting reads that they are.

Meant to be Married is the story of the love affair between Elias Santiago and Sarah Greenwood, a love that had blossomed from friendship between two people whose families have been warring for decades. Their love had been an all consuming one that had left them with no room but to give it their all. But then Sarah’s father wouldn’t have his only child marrying one of the enemy and that is how these two find themselves torn apart from each other until 12 years later Sarah returns home which once again stirs up things between them.

Elias is a proud man, his pride evident in the way he holds his head high, has made a name for himself and proved himself a successful man capable of a lot more than people would have given him credit for. And when Sarah strolls back into town, the well ordered life that Elias had been living for a long while now comes crashing down at his feet, awakening all those emotions that had made him the adolescent who had been drunk on the love that had pretty much devoured them both.

Elias might want to enact his revenge on the man who had almost ruined his life 12 years back by using Sarah as the tool to achieve that, but that is not exactly how things turn out when both Sarah and Elias realize that for both of them, the other had been what had in actuality made their lives complete. But for them to have even the slightest chance at happiness, Sarah would have to stop running from her past and Elias would have to let go of his pride in order to go through that final stage of acceptance and love that would lead them through the rest of their lives.

While I loved Elias as a hero, I found that even towards the end he was a bit too stiff and unrelenting for me to really believe that Sarah and the love he has for her had won over the fire of hatred that has burned through him for far too long. Sarah had a way of running from everything that made things overwhelming for her and not without reason too, but at least she tried to do what no one else has had the courage to do; to heal the rift between the two families by finding out the actual truth about what had happened a long, long time ago.

All in all, I wouldn’t say that this is a bad read but rather a story that failed have that wow factor because I couldn’t really believe that in the end Elias would accept the truth and move on based on the history of the enmity between the families. Perhaps an epilogue would have done wonders to convince readers like myself who remains a wee bit skeptical even after the happily ever after.

Recommended for fans of Harlequin romances and fans of Ruth Wind.

Final Verdict: Ruth Wind is an author who takes you deep into the heart of any book she writes.

Favorite Quotes

It was Eli who stood there, his hair dripping, his face wet. The white cotton shirt stuck to his chest and arms, transparent against his dark skin, and his eyes burned as he stared at her.
A bolt of pure, undiluted hunger filled her, rushing through every cell, making her body ache. She might even have made a little sound, part fear, part need.
Without a word, he came in, put his cold hands on her face and kissed her.

“His clothes were wet, but they warmed as he pressed into her, warmed with the heat of his flesh and the heat of her own, and Sarah arched into him, put her arms around him, pulled him closer overwhelmed at her need to absorb the taste of Elias, remembered and not remembered, darker than it had been, seasoned with years and lost dreams and a thousand moments of yearning.

She held him fiercely as he met his release, and clasped his head between her hands and whispered his name, over and over.
Elias. Elias. Elias.
And then she was set free, her soul tangling with his, as she soared into the completeness that she had found only with him. She held him as tightly as she could, her arms and her legs wrapping him close, wanting to somehow make him part of her, so he could never be torn from her again.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Harlequin

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