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: The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin

Format: E-bookthejadetemptress
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Pingkang Li Mysteries, #2
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Wu Kaifeng
Heroine: Sun Mingyu
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: February 18, 2014
Started On: September 26, 2016
Finished On: October 02, 2016

The Jade Temptress is the second book in The Pingkang Li Mysteries, and tells the story of Mingyu, the most celebrated courtesan at The Lotus Palace. Even though this book can be read as a standalone, to experience the wide range of emotions the unfolding story exposes the reader to, I would recommend reading the series in order.

Wu Kaifeng, known as Constable Wu is a man of serious demeanor, having never shown an interest in her, unlike men of the caliber that Mingyu usually spends her time with. But the murder of Mingyu’s long term patron General Deng Zhi brings Wu and Mingyu together in a way that deepens the awareness that had sizzled to life between them from almost the beginning. of their acquaintance, though neither had acknowledged the fact at first.

While Mingyu is beauty personified with every man who comes to The Lotus Palace enamored by her presence, Wu is the opposite of what one would call “handsome” in the classical sense. But his strong presence, his demeanor, the way he holds himself, his strong sense of seeing justice through, and the way he is helplessly ensnared by the strength of character that Mingyu hides from most; all that and more makes Wu a formidable character, one that I fell head over heels in love with from the minute I came across him in the first book.

Mingyu’s past, the way she had become the most sought after courtesan at The Lotus Palace is one that grabs the emotions of the reader. Similar is how Wu grew up, his character even then one that was different from most children. How Jeannie Lin creates such beauty in a world where murder, jealousy, and traversing the treacherous waters of Chinese imperial politics is one that continues to amaze me. I would always come back for more because similar to authors like Sherry Thomas, Jeannie Lin is one of a kind and there is no giving up on that.

I absolutely loved the story that unfolded in The Jade Temptress, more so than the first book in the series. I have a thing for strong and silent heroes, and Constable Wu personifies all that and more. Mingyu is not the average heroine material that you encounter in most romance books, but she is endearing in so many ways that I fell for her just as hard when it came right down to it.

As the story reached its ultimate conclusion, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty and utter perfection that Jeannie Lin created with the characters, the story, and the ending. I loved the way Kaifeng bought the one thing that mattered most to Mingyu, and yet, waited patiently, biding his time until Mingyu came to him on her own volition. That was profound in a way I cannot describe, because for a woman such as Mingyu, that was a gift that was priceless. I loved the tidbits that showed the struggles both of them go through to make a different life for themselves together – and that in essence clinched the deal for me.

This is one of Jeannie Lin’s best works, and comes highly recommended for fans of beautifully crafted romance novels.

Final Verdict: Magical in a way that only Jeannie Lin can pull off, The Jade Temptress is worth a sleepless night or two!

Favorite Quotes

“I’m ill-mannered,” he continued. “Unsightly. Nothing to anyone that matters.”
Her breathing quickened as he bent to her and he could see her pupils growing wide and dark. The effect was strikingly sensual. Mingyu raised her hand to his face. Her fingers trembled as she touched the hard line of his jaw.
“It’s not true,” she murmured. “You’re not really like that.”
He smiled crookedly at her. “Not ugly?”
“Not…nothing.”
Her face was tilted toward him. She regarded him from beneath her lashes, her cheeks flushed, and there was nothing he could do but kiss her.

“Are we truly supposed to forget?” he asked quietly.
There was no need to mention what he spoke of.
“I haven’t forgotten.”
“Then it did happen.”
He reached for her, but went no farther than the edge of her sleeve. He let the silk slip along his fingertips before releasing it. Mingyu followed his every movement with her eyes.

“Say something to me that isn’t about the investigation,” she implored.
She could see the thoughts flickering in his eyes as he searched for something suitable. It was endearing, if anything about Wu Kaifeng could ever be considered endearing.
“I knew ahead of time,” he began reluctantly. “That this was the day you usually go to see your sister.”
Mingyu’s grin spread so wide she had to place a hand over her mouth to hide it. Warmth bloomed in her chest, spreading out to every part of her until even her fingertips tingled.
“Farewell, Constable,” she said, still smiling.
Wu breathed deep, as if to regain himself. “Farewell, Mingyu.”

“I want you to remember this,” he said as he slid a finger deep within her. Her damp flesh closed around him and a shudder racked her body.
“I will,” she gasped.
Her eyes were black with desire, caught between pleasure and agony, as she struggled to catch her breath. He was going to make love to her as many times that night as he could manage, if only to see that look.
There was no elegance to her now as her hips rose to demand more of his touch. She was talented and treasured and sought after and she was writhing beneath him on the wooden slats of his bed.

Reaching between the crush of their bodies, he strained to find the center of her sex once more. His fingers rasped over the tiny bud as he moved inside her. All at once, Mingyu tightened around him. With a strangled cry, she pressed her face against the crook of his neck as her body shuddered, lost. He followed her, thrusting without grace or skill until sensation overwhelmed him. His very essence poured out of him and into her.
With that rush of sensation, the fog of emotion drained away and his mind cleared. He wasn’t blind. Mingyu was using him, and using him well indeed. Yet every instinct in him wanted to sink his head onto Mingyu’s shoulder, to taste the salt on her skin and to stay for as long as she let him.

He found her sash and looped the length of silk around her wrists to secure her arms overhead, but the gesture was only symbolic. Almost poetic, for someone untrained in poetry. He couldn’t tie her there, he couldn’t keep her.
Unable to reach for him, all Mingyu could do was receive and accept. As Kaifeng lowered himself between her knees, as she felt his long fingers parting her, she stopped thinking of what would come in the next days, or even in the next hours.
Sometimes the answers were simple.
Mingyu held her breath and it seemed like forever before the tip of his tongue touched her, swirling gently and sending her to heaven.

Kaifeng crushed his mouth over hers to claim everything. She wrapped her legs around him, her thighs clasping his hips while the throb of pleasure built until she was floating, surrounded by the scent of sweat and skin and by the unending rhythm of Kaifeng over her, inside her.
Suddenly he took hold of the back of her neck and his rhythm changed, his hips grinding against her to sharpen the sensation. Demanding her release. Mingyu gasped as his organ filled her the same moment his teeth bit into her neck. She cried out incoherently as her release took her. It might have been his name she cried at the height of her climax.

He was the one claiming her this time. There was no doubt of it as his hands gripped her hips, lifting her and then pulling her onto him, driving her closer to climax. Watching her the entire time.
She tried to hold on to his gaze for as long as she could, but the sensations overwhelmed her. She had to close her eyes to block out everything but the feel of him taking her.
“Give in.” His voice was rough and thick with desire as he spoke against her ear, filling her with the sound of him as well as with his flesh. “Just this once, surrender.”
And she did surrender. Her knees weakened as she shuddered uncontrollably around him. Kaifeng held her throughout, kissing her mouth, taking every last breath and gasp that came from her as his own release came upon him.

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.

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

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Review: Phantom Lover by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookphantomlover_susannapier
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Adam Blake
Heroine: Honor Sheldon
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 01, 1994
Started On: September 19, 2016
Finished On: September 20, 2016

25 year old Honor Sheldon finds herself in a bit of a pickle when she is picked up by a police car for skulking around Adam Blake’s house. Being the plain sister, the one that every guy considers as their buddy without their girlfriends or wives getting jealous over her, Honor is intrigued and ultimately seduced by the letters she exchanges with a mysterious man. To find out later that the letters had in fact being written for her beautiful sister Helen is the “icing” on the cake which the rather aggravating Adam delivers altogether too scornfully.

A turn of events however finds Honor as the house guest of a very reluctant Adam, battling with feelings of fierce longing that he rouses in her, even when he is being rather obvious about his despise for everything that she is. Adam finds himself at loose ends when it comes to Honor, the way she knows things about him that he would rather not have anyone know – his very intimate thoughts that Honor was privy to which makes him itch on the inside.

Adam and Honor’s journey to their happily ever after is one fraught with several bouts of arguments with one another, which means engaging in clever dialogue, and one where secondary characters seemed to get more than their share of the story. Although overall I did like the story, this is definitely not one of the best by Napier. However, when it comes to great authors like herself, they make even their “not so best” books somehow work for the readers. This was one of them for me.

The ending was one that I loved. Especially the pictures that Adam sent to Honor towards the end, plus the letter.

Final Verdict: Though not Napier’s best, delivers an altogether funny & charming read!

Favorite Quotes

His hand moved down and suddenly he was weighing her in his large palm, his fingers curving under her breast to her ribs while his thumb rode the upper swell. ‘Look how perfectly you fill my hand…’
Honor bit her lip to stop herself moaning at his throaty murmur of gratified discovery of her size. His thumb moved experimentally against the thinly sheathed peak and this time the sound escaped her control, along with an explicit shiver that arced along her nerves, transmitting an unmistakable message to the man who held her.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Price of Passion by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookpriceofpassion
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Drake Daniels
Heroine: Katherine Crawford
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January, 2008
Started On: September 18, 2016
Finished On: September 18, 2016

Katherine Crawford learnt earlier on what loving Drake Daniels meant. It meant being happy with the status quo, even as she fell deeper in love with him as their affair went on. Drake being the reclusive kind, is a man who likes his affairs to be short. Very short in fact. However, fact that Katherine had been willing to learn from the cues, Drake’s past affairs, and the vibes that he gives off meant that theirs is an affair that lasts longer than the usual.

Drake as a writer is given to long bouts of disappearances, and it is when Katherine turns up at his private bolt-hole which even his publisher and agent had claimed not to be privy to that the story begins. At first, it is as if Drake and Katherine are complete strangers, however, as the story proceeds, one finds out that that is the farthest thing from the truth.

Katherine comes seeking the real Drake, the one that hides behind the mask of indifference, to understand who he truly is. In the end, Katherine and Drake’s story proved to be one that had me hooked from page one. Susan Napier has always had that ability when it comes to her stories. Which is why, I always give her books the benefit of the doubt even when some of them receive low ratings on reviews. Because Napier writes books that deviate from the expected norm – they do not fit into that neat little box where everything goes as expected. She writes a story that you can sink your teeth into.

I loved both Katherine and Drake. I ached for Drake when his past came to light – a past shrouded in damaging betrayal from those that should have protected the child he had been. A childhood that had been seeped in misery with no one to depend on but himself. Though I felt that Drake and Katherine spent too much time apart for my liking in the story, I enjoyed the escape this read provided when I needed one.

Final Verdict: Delivers an emotionally riveting read.

Favorite Quotes

She thought he was angry, impatient with her nervousness. ‘Uh, no, I—’ The pins fell from her fingers, spearing silently into the grass around her feet as she realised he wasn’t angry at all…far from it! If it was possible, he appeared to be even more aroused than before, prowling towards her stiff-legged, his eyes gleaming black in the muted light, the tension in his voice purely sexual.
‘You playing the tease, Katherine?’
‘No, of course not!’ she denied breathlessly, hypnotised by the fluid play of light and shadow across the shifting planes of his hard body as he continued his hunting prowl across the grass, masculinity personified.

She dug her nails into his arms impatiently. ‘Yes, I’m sure…Drake, I want you—I want you to make love to me here, now!’
He didn’t need a third invitation. Nor was there any long-drawn-out foreplay. He tossed off the covers and swivelled them sideways on the bed, tugging her hips to the edge of the mattress, sliding backwards until his feet struck the floor. Propping himself over her on one braced arm, he opened the fastening of his jeans and pushed himself deeply inside her, uttering a thick, guttural sound of satisfaction as she lifted her hips to guide him home. With a twisting jerk of his hips he seated himself even more tightly between her spread legs, the muscles in his thighs rippling under the denim as he braced his feet against the floor, bent his hungry mouth to her breasts, and began the deep, hard, thrusting rhythm that they both urgently needed, bringing them quickly to a mutual, violent convulsion of groaning ecstasy.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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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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