Review: Heartless by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookheartless.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The House of Rohan, #5
Publisher: Impeccably Demure Press
Hero: Brandon George Rohan
Heroine: Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 15, 2018
Started On: May 30, 2018
Finished On: June 02, 2018

At last, Heartless, the 5th book in the House of Rohan series by Anne Stuart is out,  a book that has been long awaited by fans. The fourth book, Shameless was published in 2011, with Anne Stuart promising fans that she would get around to writing Brandon George Rohan (Brandon) and Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury (Emma)’s story. It has been four years since I discovered this delectable series by Anne Stuart and indulged to my heart’s content. Before the arrival of Heartless, I decided to do a re-read marathon of the entire series, which actually made Heartless all that more meaningful to me.

Heartless starts after a period of three years having passed since what took place in Shameless happened. With Brandon living in the Scottish Highlands, recovering and recuperating from the mess his life had become after the war, Brandon is summoned home by his brother Benedick upon the birth of his and Melisande’s second child. Brandon is reluctant to make his way back to England, but it was finally time.

Taking a look at Emma’s life, it sure had changed considerably since then. Someone who had been the youngest madam in England had turned her life around to the point where she was now about to replace Mr. Fenrush as the head of surgery at the Temple Hospital where she pursues her passion of becoming a surgeon. Her triumphs in her professional life had not come easy, especially pursuing a career in the medicinal world as a woman at the time. But Emma has an innate talent that wins her peers over, except for Mr. Fenrush, whose anger towards her often seems more malicious than just professional jealousy on his part.

Emma and Brandon’s story is one that begins way before Heartless does. Which is perhaps why readers have been waiting with bated breathe for their story. Emma had been one of the volunteers at the hospital at the time during which Brandon had been admitted, suffering from war injuries. It is at the hospital that Emma and Brandon forge a bond, that for Emma had been something beyond her wildest dreams, especially for a woman such as herself considered as soiled in the eyes of the society. For Brandon (whose thoughts on their shared time together are revealed much later), Emma had been the lifeline which had held him together, and he had entertained unrealistic dreams of them being together, even knowing that Emma wasn’t probably the wisest choice as a life partner.

When Emma and Brandon’s worlds collide once again at the christening ceremony of Alexandra Emma Brandon Rohan, Emma is hopeful and at the same disappointed that Brandon doesn’t seem to remember her. And it is a game that Emma continues to and is willing to play, as long as it does not put her emotions in peril. However, even with the obstacle of Brandon’s pompous elder brother trying to force a bride on him standing in the way, there seems to be no obstruction strong enough to prevent Emma and Brandon from coming together, except of course for Emma herself.

Heartless was I suppose what you would call mellow, at least mellower than the rest of the books in the series. I understood the need for it. Both Emma and Brandon are broken in a way that no other characters we have come across in previous books have been, not even Brandon’s grandmother whom we encounter in Ruthless. Imagine being ripped off of your virginity in the cruelest way, being forced to sell your body by someone you had trusted, and not having a choice about any of it. Imagine going dead inside, having never sought pleasure in the act of sex, never understanding the pleasure to be had.

It is Emma’s character that requires care in this story. It is usually the male lead who almost always has issues that are seemingly insurmountable. But in the case of Emma and Brandon, it is Emma’s character that needed the TLC factor, and Brandon, having undergone what he had owing to his attempts to drown out certain aspects of the war he had witnessed in drugs and liquor, has the patience and endurance for the slow seduction required of Emma.

Emma’s avoidance of everything to do with Brandon does come with a price. It is an avoidance that is borne out of the need to protect herself, and that tactic applied to an escalating danger to her life ends up nearly costing her life. The period of separation that takes place was one that provided the emotional angst factor in spades, and Brandon never giving up on Emma was something I approved of and loved wholeheartedly. If ever there are two people who deserve to have their happily ever after, it is Emma and Brandon, and knowing that they did achieve it? Makes me smile from ear to ear.

Recommended for fans of the series. Brandon and Emma’s story was beautiful and soothing in a way that deviates from the norm that is Anne Stuart.

Final Verdict: Heartless might be a little late to the party, but it brings along a ton of angst, feel good emotions, and a whole lot of love. Emotionally heavier in comparison to the rest of the books in the series, Brandon has just the right amount of tenderness, steely determination, and sensuality to seduce Emma, for life.

Favorite Quotes

“Hullo, Charles,” Melisande said, and Emma knew her friend well enough to recognize the lack of enthusiasm in her voice. “I hope your wife and daughters are well?”
“As always. Elinor and the girls are in London, alas. Too many social commitments to allow them to escape.”
“And you were afraid our sister and her wretched husband might be in attendance,” Rohan interjected dryly. “You needn’t have worried. Miranda is once again expecting—I think she and the Scorpion are planning to repopulate the entire Lake District—so your wife’s delicate sensibilities wouldn’t have been offended.”

“You’re right,” he said slowly. “The only man who’s going to get in your bed is going to have to love you, and I’m afraid that’s a part of me that never healed.”
It felt like a blow. Why should the word “love” even be mentioned between them? “You’re stronger than I am,” she said calmly enough. “You could take what you wanted. I’m a professional, remember? I know when a man wants me.”
His smile was wry. “Oh, I want you very much. I doubt there’s a man who sees you who doesn’t want you, with the possible exception of my brother Benedick. Even a stuffy old prude like Charles wouldn’t be immune. But you’ve been hurt, you’re weak and trembling, and I don’t make a habit of taking advantage of frightened little girls.”
“I’m not. . .” she started to protest, when he bent down and brushed the softest, sweetest kiss against her mouth, gone almost before it had begun, so quickly that she could do nothing more than stare at him in astonishment.
“You are,” he said softly. “Good night, Emma.”
She stood outside her door, bemused, as he faded into the shadows. She put a hand to her lips, expecting some monumental change. They were no different—soft, slightly open. He’d kissed her, and life would never be the same.

She knew it was hogwash, just as she knew he didn’t belong in the rough wards of St. Martin’s Military Hospital. He had the voice of a gentleman, and she had yet to meet anyone who could falsify those tones. She had kissed him anyway, the soft brush of her mouth against his—harmless, innocent. Until the last night, when the kiss became something quite different.
He’d grown stronger, he’d been sitting up in bed, and she’d moved her chair closer, night by night. For some reason she continued to hold his hand—the human touch kept him tethered to this earth, she thought, never realizing it kept her tethered to him. Until the last night, or early morning, when she rose to leave him, and leaned over to give him her chaste, affectionate kiss.
Instead he’d caught her arm, tugging her off balance, and deftly managed to slip his hand behind her head to hold her in place while he deepened the kiss, pushing her mouth open with his, using his tongue.
She’d been too shocked to react, had simply let his kiss her, long and slow and hard, so thoroughly she felt. . . she felt. . .
His grip loosened, and she stumbled back from him, her hand to her mouth. “Harpy. . .” he’d said, laughter and concern in his voice, but she whirled and ran, through the crowded ward without a backward glance.

“Why did you kiss me?”
He jumped. That was the very last thing he expected—he’d assumed she’d ignore the incident, skittish as she was, and he wasn’t prepared for her flat question.
He knew he hadn’t shown it though—he was an even better master of his reactions than she was. “That’s an inordinately silly question. I wanted to. There’s something about your mouth, I think. Why? You didn’t seem to mind.”
Her face had whitened, which he found extremely odd “You didn’t give me a chance to mind,” she mumbled, taking another hasty drink. He was going to have to tell Noonan about it. In the north they usually got by on gallons of hot, strong tea, but given that he allowed himself no other liquids, Emma’s drink might be a worthy addition to Noonan’s limited cooking repertoire.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “Should I have kissed you longer? Harder? Deeper?”

She rose suddenly, setting down her empty cup, and there was just the faintest bit of chocolate on the corner of her lip. “I really need to go back upstairs,” she said hurriedly. “I feel unwell. That is, if I’m to leave tomorrow I should probably rest. . .”
She’d been backing away from him, with good sense, since he’d risen as well and was moving toward her. He caught up with her just before she reached the door and casually pulled her away from it, backing her into the corner of the room away from the windows. Near a divan.
“I’ll let you go,” he said softly. “In a minute.” And he set his mouth against hers, his tongue licking out to taste that tiny bit of chocolate.
She shuddered, but it wasn’t in disgust. Her hands had come up to his shoulders, but they’d moved beneath his jacket, clutching the soft cloth that covered his shoulders, and the sound she made was one of soft, unexpected pleasure.

Words began spilling from his mouth then, when he’d been so determined to be silent. “Yes,” and “fuck” and “more” and “yes” as he moved faster, his own body beginning to shake with the power of his overwhelming lust. He couldn’t, wouldn’t say the word “love” but he could push into her, with dirty words whispered in her ear that made her tighten around him. He was fighting a losing battle with self-control, and he wanted to lose it, but she wasn’t quite ready, though he knew from her breathing, from a thousand other physical signs that she was near. “Don’t,” he said, his mind blank, “give it,” he muttered, and the battle was lost. “Now,” he groaned, feeling his seed boil up from his balls and spurt into her, and the last word he spoke, as he pulled free and collapsed beside her, was even worse.
“Harpy,” he said, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

If they’d been on that bed it wouldn’t have been he who was weeping. Emma and beds had an obvious connotation—in fact, the idea of any bed made him think of Emma. Any flat surface. Up against a wall. In a chair—he hadn’t done it in a chair for years. . .
He slammed a door on his thoughts. “Did I ever bed you in this house?”
She turned, and he couldn’t read her expression. “I assure you, until last night I had been blissfully celibate for eight years.”
He froze. “That’s not possible!”
She turned, calm and controlled, raising an eyebrow. “How so?”“You . . . that is . . . you . . .” he hadn’t been at a loss for words since he’d be a callow youth, and he simply stared at her in disbelief.
“I retired from the day to day tasks of a bordello and concentrated on the business side. Once a whore, always a whore, but in fact my hard-learned skills have not been put to the test for a very long time. I hope I proved satisfactory, my lord. I would hate to receive money for inferior performance.”

“You’re my harpy. You always say awful things. Do you want to leave?” He would let her, of course. He would let her out of his life if he had to, if she had to. He would die, but he would do it. For her.
“I want to stay,” she whispered.
The buttons on the night dress unfastened easily—the fussy thing wasn’t without merit. He could feel the tremor in her body and he knew she had to be handled carefully, not with the brute passion of the night before.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said.
She was holding very still as his hands moved lower and lower, the tiny pearl buttons releasing with just a flick of his shaking fingers. The gown parted to show her moon-silvered flesh, and he caught his breath. “I could wish you weren’t so perfect.”
“The ugliness is all on the inside,” she said.
“There’s no ugliness in you anywhere. There’s only pain.”

She heard her own scream with shock, and she quickly slammed her hands over her mouth, as a fierce, hard response rocketed through her, strange and untenable. “Don’t—” she gasped, but he was past listening, and then she was past protesting as she felt a sharp energy begin to build, to suffuse her body with something that surely was wrong. She was past fighting it, past worrying about it, and when she felt him slide two long fingers into her as he licked and sucked and bit, then she was gone, unable to stifle her response as it took over her body, leaving no room for herself there.
It was like being thrown over a cliff, sailing through dark, powerful winds and ending in a storm-tossed sea, and she could do nothing but hold onto him like the life raft he seemed to be, the only thing solid and safe in her mad, swirling world. Every muscle in her body had seemed to lock, as those waves crashed over her again and again. She couldn’t stop it, she couldn’t control it, and then she no longer wanted to, giving herself over to the wash of feelings. She hadn’t even realized he’d moved up, over her, until she managed to open groggy eyes to stare at him, at the triumph, the satisfaction on his face, things she could rail at, except for that shocking streak of tenderness in his eyes.

But when he pushed back in it was even more wonderful, and her hips rose to meet his, the walls of her sex tightening around him as her hands clutched his biceps. This was possession, but a different kind, a glorious one that she could hold in her heart. He took her, claimed her, but she took him as well, into her body, into her heart, into her soul, where he would always stay, no matter what happened. She finally let go, giving herself to him, to the rampant, building pleasure, to the joy of love that had cracked her guarded heart, as he thrust, each push a promise he couldn’t keep, but it no longer mattered. Deep and harder and harder and she wanted more, craved more.
“Yes,” she whispered fiercely. “Again. Again. More.”
The darkness that was closing around her split with lightning, and suddenly everything ceased to exist, only man and woman, elemental, eternal, as she seemed to burst apart in a shower of pure sensation. She could feel him with her, her love, her soul, joining her, flooding her, and she took everything in savage satisfaction and a guttural sob of triumph.”

Emma appeared dumbfounded, a rare occurence for his beautiful bride. “No,” she said. “That is … I didn’t say yes… I still think we should…”
Brandon took care of her protests in the most efficient way possible, and when she was too breathless to speak he glanced at Ellis. “Well, for the time being you’re my butler, and you will leave and see that no one disturbs you for the next hour.”
“Hour?” Emma said, sounding alarmed.
“Make that two.” He focused all his attention on Emma. “And take the damned dog.”
When they were finally alone, he turned back to her, and she was wiping tears from her cheeks. “Damn these things,” she muttered. “I only started crying five weeks ago and now I can’t seem to stop.”
“That’s all right, Harpy,” he murmured. “I’ll always be here to dry them. Accept it- there’s no way you can win against the assembled might of the Wicked Rohans. You’ll marry me and live happily ever after.”
“No one ever does,” she said.
“You will,” he said firmly. “I promise you.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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Review: Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-bookwickedintentions
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #1
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Lazarus Huntington
Heroine: Temperance Dews
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: August 1, 2010
Started On: May 31, 2016
Finished On: June 01, 2016

Having finished the Princes trilogy, I turned my attention towards the Maiden Lane series next. Wicked Intentions is the debut book in the much raved about Maiden Lane series and a book I must say that I loved to pieces from start to finish. True to her trademark, with Wicked Intentions, Hoyt once again delivers a story that can only be termed unconventional at best, with a hero and heroine who are unabashedly unapologetic in embracing who they are meant to be, when they accept the truth that their collective future lies with one another.

Lazarus Huntington, known as Lord Caire is a man who is known for his unusual sensual appetites. Searching for a murderer in St. Giles, where the poorest of the poor live, Lord Caire enlists the assistance of the most unlikely of partners, Temperance Dews, a 28 year old widow, running the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children alongside with her younger brother Winter Makepeace in the slums known as St. Giles.

Though Temperance would like to say no to Lord Caire’s request, what he offers in return is too crucial for the home for Temperance to turn away from. Even though Lord Caire does not tell Temperance whose murder it is that he is investigating, every expedition in the dark of the night that these two embark upon brings them closer to one another in a way it would not have been possible if otherwise. Lord Caire in return, introduces her to members of the elite society, from whom she might be able to procure required funding to keep the home up and running, a home that is running seriously low on funds.

While the investigation brings simmering to the forefront, emotions that Lord Caire and Temperance would not have dared otherwise give voice to, there exists the fact that for someone like Lord Caire who does not believe in the happily ever after, his place does not lie with a woman like Temperance. Similarly, Temperance deals with her misgivings about someone like her, who is not part of the elite society being with a person as important in the inner circles of the upper echelon as Lord Caire. However, none of that truly means anything in the grander scheme of their unabashed desire for one another.

I loved all aspects of Wicked Intentions, especially the backstory of the heroine Temperance. Here is a heroine who is less than perfect, who succumbed to temptations that she should not have, a sin for which she has been atoning for in more ways than she realizes. Her previous marriage while it had not been a bad one, had not been enough for a woman like Temperance, someone who hides her sensual nature behind the life of atonement that she has chosen for herself since the untimely demise of her husband.

Lord Caire on the other hand, having had a difficult childhood, has a hard time with intimacy of the kind that appears normal for most of us. While the story hints at his wild sensual needs, I did not witness any sort of overly risque behavior on his part, though yes, he makes for a very fine specimen in the arena of bed sport. The sex scenes while tastefully done, were of the panty drenching variety, and I kid not. The carriage sex scene in this story has got to be THE hottest and wildest scene of passion that takes place inside a carriage, from all the historical romances that I have read to-date. There is also the jealousy that Lord Caire exhibits, at the merest mention of Temperance’s deceased husband – I had such a fun time reading about the way Lord Caire goes practically rigid whenever his name comes up in discussions, quite heated ones at that I must say.

The only aspect that I wished had been explored further was why Lord Caire shied away from intimacy of the kind that most of us take for granted. Though I understood the psychology behind a past that had marked him, I just wished for a deeper understanding of where he was coming from.

As expected, this book also introduces characters that would get their own books as the series progresses along. One secondary character very prominently featured being Temperance’s sister Silence Hollingbrook, whose marriage lies in utter ruins by the time Wicked Intentions ends, wetting the appetite of the reader definitely for more!

A very satisfying start to the series all around. Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Entices to immerse oneself in the enchanted world that Hoyt builds around you!

Favorite Quotes

One moment she was crying in fury up at him and the next he’d swooped down and caught her mouth. Hard, with no mercy. She gasped at the shock. He ground his mouth against her soft lips. She felt his teeth, tasted his hot tongue, and that part of herself, that wretched, sinful, wrong, part broke free and went running. Reveling in his savagery. Rejoicing in his blunt sexuality.
Completely out of her control.
Until he raised his head and looked down at her. His lips were wet and slightly reddened, but otherwise he showed no sign of that devastating kiss.

“Pay attention.” His voice was ragged now.
Something wild and feminine thrilled at the roughness of his voice, at the knowledge that she was affecting him, despite his sophistication. She opened her mouth beneath his, biting back at him, and he inhaled sharply. Then his mouth was crushing hers, roughly, almost out of control, a male creature dominating a female. His female.
He shifted again, his penis drawing back, finding her entrance and notching into her. He raised his head only far enough to whisper, “Now.”
He shoved powerfully.

She tore her mouth away from his, panting, her wrists twisting under his hold. “Stop.”
“No,” he whispered, an unseen ghost. “Let go.”
“I can’t.”
“You can.” He levered himself up a little more and began a slow twist of his hips as he drove into her, and somehow, the pressure, the pleasure, the heat, and the expectation all released at once.
She flew apart, sobbing, gloriously free, no mind, no soul, only a single throbbing point of shining beauty.

She licked him, tasting, wanting to bite. Wanting to devour this man she could neither let go nor fully possess.
She opened her mouth over the tendon at the side of his neck and bit down hard.
He cursed, the sound loud in the carriage. He took her head between his palms as if to forcibly dislodge her, but then abandoned the attack. Instead his hands were suddenly at her skirts, pushing, shoving them upward as he continued to curse steadily.
She clutched at his shoulders to keep her balance as he jostled her, bringing her legs to either side of his hips. She could feel her skirts up around her waist, but she had her eyes closed, savoring the taste of his flesh in her mouth.

She arched her back, feeling his cock, large and insistent, those fingers, assured and relentless. This was wrong, so wrong, and it felt so very, very good.
“Temperance,” he whispered, sliding his left thumb across her mouth as he rubbed his right against her clitoris.
She opened her mouth, licking his thumb.
“Temperance.”
Her hips bucked, once, twice. Her head fell back even as she drenched his penis in her orgasm. She opened her eyes as she came, watching him beneath lowered lids. His face was drawn, his mouth a tight, tortured line.

“Damn it, Temperance.” His voice, normally cool and dispassionate, was ragged.
She smiled and leaned forward, rubbing herself against him, using his hard, hot flesh to arouse herself. She bent, tilting her hips, and took his bottom lip between her teeth.
He might’ve sworn then—the words were unintelligible—but his purpose was certainly clear. He grabbed her hips in a firm hand and brought her up, shoving his cock in place with the other hand and bringing her down hard.
Oh, ecstasy!

He slapped her bottom through her skirts. “Ride me.”
She pouted. “No.” She liked this, this subtle grinding, this wonderful rubbing.
“Ride me, damn it.” He pressed his thumb against her, and for a moment she saw stars.
Then he took it away again.
“Nooo,” she moaned.
“Then ride me. Please.”

She wanted to tell him—to cry aloud to him—how very much he meant to her. But then she lost her pace, faltered, and fell against him, her body convulsing uncontrollably. Dimly she was aware that he clutched her hips with both hands now, that he was bucking beneath her, driving his length again and again into her open flesh. She sobbed into his shoulder, waiting, her muscles turned to liquid, her center a furnace. He pumped into her without mercy, and she turned her head to watch him, saw when he tilted his face to the ceiling, his mouth open, his teeth bared in a silent bellow.
His semen flooded her.
He was arched, his hips tilted up, her knees nearly off the seat as he held himself in her, pumping out his essence.

He positioned his cock at her entrance, his mouth open and panting, and she watched him as he shoved himself inside her. His head was arched back as if he suffered some unbearable pain. As if he were about to expire.
“Oh, God,” he panted. “I can’t… I can’t…”
And he began pounding into her, shoving her back into the chair, clutching her legs against his chest so that she had no purchase, no way of defending herself against his assault.
Not that she wanted to.

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

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Review: Dancing on Coals by Ellen O’Connell

Format: E-bookDacingoncoals
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Gaeten
Heroine: Katherine Grant
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 29, 2011
Started On: December 9, 2011
Finished On: December 10, 2011

You know those books that refuse to let its hold on you go even long after you are done? Yep, Dancing on Coals by Ellen O’Connell is one such novel that I lay thinking about long after I was done. The characters, the passion, the violence and the undying love between two people who are so obviously two halves of one just kept coursing through me, wishing that I could keep on reading their story forever.

The year is 1881 and Katherine Grant is on her way home to New York after travelling throughout the country. The only girl amongst 5 boys, Katherine had grown up running around with her brothers in different parts of the world ever since their mother had died when she was 6 years old. The only reason she had left home unknown to her family had been because they had not believed in her when she had needed it the most, and as Katherine figures, what her family doesn’t know cannot hurt them.

But when armed robbers attack their stagecoach and everyone else but Katherine is killed, her savior comes in the form of Nilchi, an Apache warrior whose lean good looks and fluency with English puts her at ease even with Nilchi’s older brother Gaeten glowering at her, hatred spitting from his eyes at every turn.

But not long after, Gaeten and Katherine are forced to team up, Gaeten’s promise to his younger brother on his deathbed the only reason that prevents Gaeten from testing the sharpness of his knife against the white woman’s throat. Gaeten’s hatred for the White runs and courses deep through his veins. The haze of rage that blinds him is a vicious one ever since his parents had been killed by white men when he had been just 9 years old. But through every harrowing escape that Katherine and Gaeten make together, he comes to realize that even if Katherine is a white woman, the courage of an Apache runs through her blood.

Ellen O’Connell writes romances that are a dying breed in present days. Her honest portrayal of life what it was like back then, the violence, bloodshed, thievery and murder that was part of the daily life comes across vividly and there isn’t one aspect of the novel that I would change. The setting, the characters and the way she brings forth the connection, the sizzling attraction and the oh so strong love between Gaeten and Katherine was just perfect.

Gaeten’s thoughts remain hidden until Chapter 9, the only way to garner his feelings being by how Katherine views his expressions and his behaviour when it comes to her. Even bound by his promise to his brother, Gaeten would like nothing more than to leave her behind, but unbeknown to him, the connection that is forged between them during their escape and trek through the wilderness binds him to her, even when Gaeten tries so hard to deny it. I was halfway in love with him even way before that, the minute he charged into the story on horseback, intent on killing the woman who would later turn his life around. And as the story progressed, I was mesmerized by Gaeten, the way he slowly transforms and leaves behind the black rage that surrounds him, the healing which comes from Katherine’s acceptance of him, just the way he is.

Katherine is the type of heroine that is trademark Ellen O’Connell. She creates them courageous with an inner beauty that makes it inevitable that the reader would fall for her as well. Katherine is a practical woman, who had turned away from her fiance back home when he had done something she would never abide by. Even when fear for her life at Gaeten’s hands makes her tremble, she doesn’t back down, making it that much harder for Gaeten to dismiss her as just another white woman. The way she accepts, loves and desires Gaeten just the way he is makes for one of the best aspects of the story, the way she “tames” her fierce husband reason enough to revel in this story.

Exceptionally crafted as is usual for Ellen’s novels, Dancing on Coals is a novel not to be missed for fans of the genre. To read the beautifully done afterword is enough reason to read this novel, the research that Ellen has done to write this story one that shines throughout and one that I applaud wholeheartedly.

Favorite Quotes

He entered her in a single hard thrust, opening her, stretching her and forcing a moan of surprise from her. She was ready, so ready, and yet totally unprepared. She’d been wrong. She was still virgin to this, to his strength and her need, to the pleasure and the pain and the sheer triumph of having him. He drove into her and she rose to him, clutched him tighter, harder. Her nails raked and dug into his back, her teeth into his neck.

“Your skin is white, but I think the white god made a mistake, or maybe he did it on purpose to play a joke. He gave you an Apache heart.”

She toyed with the top button of his shirt. “Do Apaches kiss?”
“The people believe the mouth is only for eating.”
“Oh.” She didn’t try to hide her disappointment.
He shifted her against him a little and cupped her breast with one hand, his thumb rubbing across the nipple. “They also believe a woman’s breast is only for nursing a child.”
Lowering his mouth over hers, he ran his tongue between her lips, exploring her tongue, making her shiver with a stroke along the roof of her mouth.
When he raised his head at last, she whispered, “I’m glad you’re an unbeliever.”

Facing him, she saw what she didn’t need to see to know. Even if most wives experienced being washed by a fully aroused, naked husband, they would never know this — a man no words had been invented to describe, beyond handsome, beyond beautiful. His skin glowed copper in the light from the fire, shadows emphasizing the curves of muscle and planes of bone. His erection was hers, for her.

If a man could taste wind and fire, they would taste like Katherine. When he stood in high places looking down on things made small by distance, he tried to feel what the eagle felt soaring free on the wind. He was an earthbound man. Only his spirit could ever soar, and only Katherine raised him so high.

He entered her slowly, determined to keep a tight hold on the lust pounding in his veins. She wrapped her legs higher, took him deeper and deeper. Her hands dug into the muscles of his rear, urging, telling him what she wanted and what he needed were the same. He obeyed and thrust harder, driving into her not with anger but with a desperate raw need. He felt her climax, her body arching, tightening and contracting around him as she cried out against his neck. He shuddered with the intensity of the explosion that wracked his body and spirit and wrung a deep cry from him.
“Katherine.” I was afraid. I missed you. I love you.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Smashwords

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Review: Houston, We Have a Problem by Erin McCarthy

Format: E-bookhoustonwehaveaproble
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Florida Doctors, Book 2
Publisher: Kensington
Hero: Dr. Houston Hayes
Heroine: Dr. Josie Adkins
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publisher: October 18, 2005
Started On: May 8, 2011
Finished On: May 13, 2011

Though I have had this book in my to-be-read pile for ages, I finally took the plunge after reading the enthusiastic review that my friend Zahu posted on Goodreads. We both (and I guess more than half of the romance reading population) have a thing for hot and tortured heroes who exert rigid control over their emotions and suddenly along comes the bubbly heroine who seems to bring down the walls of reserve that the hero has built so painstakingly over the years within just a couple of minutes. I absolutely love these types of books and though this book didn’t deliver on all of my expectations, nevertheless it turned out to be one hell of an entertaining read.

33 year old Dr. Houston Hayes has a huge problem that won’t go away in the 27 year old surgical resident Josie Adkins who is driving him completely nuts with her klutziness that brings to light just how much he wants Josie flat on her back, with him on top. Houston has never had a problem with the rules he has imposed on himself to never enter into a long term relationship and to never get involved with a co-worker. But the minute Josie Adkins steps into the picture, all Houston’s heart is capable of telling him is that rules are meant to be broken.

Josie is appalled that she has the Dr. Hayes-induced Dropping Medical Equipment Syndrome whenever she is around Houston. Her friend Sara keeps telling her that its the haze of lust that takes a hold of her whenever she is in Houston’s vicinity that plays havoc on her usual capable self.

When Houston proposes to Josie one single night of passion to get rid of the inconvenience of having the hots for each other all the time, Josie is reluctant because she is not the type to get physical in a relationship without her emotions getting involved. But every inch of Houston from his short black hair, to his gorgeous blue eyes, and all down the length of his muscular, toned body that screams power and control has Josie saying yes to abandoning herself to his lethal brand of seduction that has Josie screaming much more than yes long before the night is through.

But what was supposed to be just one night of passion cracks open the walls of reserve that protects Houston’s emotions and though he would rather die than admit to the fact, being over Josie is the farthest thing that Houston feels. Josie though she promises herself that she deserves someone who loves her and wants to commit to her, nevertheless finds herself falling for the complete opposite of what she needs though Josie is still strong enough to say no where it counts. Houston is a man who has a lot of issues with his past, his childhood playing a major role in how his character is portrayed in the story. For Josie and Houston’s problem to be totally over, they both do a lot of intense soul searching and makes some hard choices before achieving their much needed happily ever after.

I absolutely loved what Erin McCarthy delivers in the humor department in the story. From the first line itself, this book was a continuous laugh fest with Josie’s quirky comebacks and her sense of humor which is evident from the way she thinks out aloud about stuff. Houston is a delicious hero, and yes I say delicious in the best possible way. He is tortured hotness and broodiness in one package and his lethal brand of seduction left me breathless at all times. With borderline erotic sexual content, this book is recommended for fans of contemporary romances that delivers on character development, humor, love and rapid heartbeat inducing love scenes guaranteed to fire up your insides.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo

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ARC Review: Negligee Behavior by Shelli Stevens

Format: E-booknegligeebehavior
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Carina Press
Hero: Marco Vargas
Heroine: Brandy Elizabeth Summers
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 23, 2011
Started On: May 1, 2011
Finished On: May 1, 2011

Yowza! What a fantastic piece of romance this turned out to be from one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Negligee Behavior which is to come out on the 23rd of this month pets and strokes all the right places with the right balance of quirky humor, romance and red-hot passion of the body hair singeing variety and I loved every single moment of Marco and Brandy’s journey to happily ever after.

29 year old Marco Vargas co-owns a bar with his friend Sebastian and likes his life the way it is. He definitely never thought that 30 year old Brandy Summers would hijack his motorbike in her crazy wedding attire one hot afternoon in her attempt to get away from her boyfriend Gordon who is hellbent on getting hitched and turn his life completely around.

A feeling of being suffocated and doubts that she should not feel are all that plagues Brandy as she stands beside her boyfriend Gordon in his impulsive attempt to say their I-do’s in a rat-infested Elvis chapel in Vegas. A high school choir teacher by profession, Brandy is the sole heiress to the exclusive lingerie chain Sugar and Spice, the fastest growing lingerie chain in North America. Having grown up surrounded by picture-perfect models all her life, Brandy suffers from self-esteem issues and hides behind a facade of frumpy clothing through which Marco sees the beautiful and desirable woman inside even if its the last thing that he wants to see.

Brandy is as taken aback by the heady desire that takes a hold of her whenever she is around Marco who does so much more than just rescue her when shit hits the fan, as is Marco by the possessiveness that streaks right through him when it comes to Brandy. And when Brandy pulls all the stops and gets a sensational makeover with the help of the mouthy and smart-ass bartender Valerie, there is no stopping the tidal wave of desire that explodes between them.

However, both Brandy and Marco have secrets of their own which they keep from one another for their own reasons, not wanting to do anything that would shatter the fragile bond that forms between them as the days pass by. With enough humor in the right places that had me laughing out loud several times earning me the are-you-going-crazy? looks from my husband, I thoroughly enjoyed this delectable contemporary romance which was fun, sweet and heady all at the same time!

I loved the vivid characters that were brought to life right from the very start, rendering each of them to be a vital part of the story. Some of my favorite characters include Valerie the bartender, Sebastian, co-owner of the bar and Brandy’s mother whose spunky nature was a real surprise. Marco is such a dreamy and sensationally sexy hero that I found myself sighing each and every single time he calls Brandy “princess” and my heart just sped its beat up a notch whenever his primal instincts came out to play.

Brandy is such an endearing heroine who earned my wholehearted approval right from the very start with her quirky comebacks and sensitive nature at the core. The way she grows and blossoms as the story progresses along was one of the best parts of the story. And as I have been telling Ms. Stevens on Twitter, anyone who reads Negligee Behavior would definitely want to read the story of Sebastian and Marco’s younger sister Elena. There is this vibe between them that definitely has the makings of another breathtaking romance which I am definitely looking forward to! *hint, hint*

This one definitely makes it to my “favorites” list of contemporary romances for 2011 and I recommend it to everyone who loves a good contemporary romance with a sexy as sin hero and a heroine who you would most definitely relate to and delivers so much fun that you would wish the story to never ever end.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo | Carina Press

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Review: Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Harlequin Historical Publisher Series
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Ryam
Heroine: Shen Ai Li
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 1, 2010
Started On: March 13, 2011
Finished On: March 15, 2011

With only two historical novels published to her name, Jeannie Lin has shot into my list of favorite authors after being totally and utterly captivated by the tale of love, Tang Dynasty politics and the beautiful sensuality that she wields in her stories. I picked up Butterfly Swords right after I was done with The Taming of Mei Ling which was just a teaser into Jeannie Lin’s capability in keeping readers enthralled by the magic that she creates with the words – because simply put, it was just utter and sheer magic that leaped out from each and every one of these pages as I read along.

Set in 758 AD, Tang Dynasty China, this is the story of the sixth child and only girl of the Emperor of China during the time. Ai Li is on her way to meet her husband to be, Li Tao, a military governor in one of the provinces when she learns that her sense of honor would not let herself marry a traitor to the Emperor. Though she knows that the consequences of  fleeing from Li Tao would be catastrophic, with a sense of inborn courage, Ai Li is all set to travel back to Changan, the Imperial Capital when she comes across the foreigner more commonly known as barbarian amongst the Chinese then who calls himself Ryam.

19 year old Ai Li has always had a sort of sixth sense when it comes to judging people. And although her culture, society and decorum demands that she shun the warrior with blond hair and blue eyes, her sense of honor and respect for a man who willingly put his life on the line to come to her rescue has her requesting his help in returning to the Imperial city.

Ryam is a man who has got the wandering swordsman thing down to a pat. Following in his father’s footsteps who had imbibed in drinking and foolhardy fighting after the loss of his beloved wife had been Ryam’s way of life until he is recruited by Adrian, a prince by his own rights who admires Ryam’s mighty skill with the sword. A mission that goes horribly wrong which had nearly killed Ryam in the process has left him with a terrible sense of guilt that clouds all his senses until the beautiful and enchanting Ai Li enlists his help and Ryam agrees against his better judgement.

For the first time in Ai Li’s life, she gets to spend  time with a man who listens to her, values her opinions and has a way of making her feel things that she shouldn’t feel for someone like Ryam and keeps messing with her head. Ryam who has all the worldly experience under his belt when it comes to seduction and women finds himself for the first time smitten with a virgin who has no idea what she does to him just by existing.

Though their attraction and the awareness that springs forth between them is an immediate one, the sexual tension of the sizzling variety is a long drawn one which keeps the reader on tenterhooks, awaiting that moment when Ai Li and Ryam would surrender and give themselves to each other. Every single touch and look exchanged stokes the fire that burns between them, making this a read worth savoring and sinking into just for the web of sensuality that surrounds the reader from the beginning.

Ai Li and Ryam’s journey towards happily ever after is not an easy one. The intricate details of the politics and the responsibilities that one shoulders in holding a position such as being the Emperor of a country as China comes to light as the story unfolds making this one of the most interesting historical romances that I have read to date. It’s always refreshing to read a historical that is not based in the UK involving the ton and the patriarch British society and Jeannie Lin has carved a place for herself as one of the unique voices in the historical romance genre.

There were numerous things I loved about this story. Both Ai Li and Ryam’s characters reel you in from the first encounter itself, making you root for their happily ever after all throughout. Ai Li has such a sense of honor ingrained into her that she is willing to forgo everything that she holds dear just so that no shame would come to her family. Ryam who is the exact opposite to Ai Li in each and every way just turns out to be the man who complements her in every way. Though I would have loved to know more about Ryam’s past and where he came from, nevertheless he makes for a pretty well rounded character whom I loved for his undeniable need for Ai Li and her touch that continues to sooth and arouse him at the same time. And loved those sword fights between Ai Li and Ryam. I didn’t know that fighting could end up being so erotic!

The secondary characters that we meet along the journey are all interesting ones that do not distract us from the actual main story. I found my interest piqued to find out more about Adrian and his wife Miya who gave up the throne to become his wife. And towards the end, I found myself oddly intrigued and a little bit helplessly fascinated with Li Tao who comes out as a villain at the beginning and left me with mixed feelings towards the end. I am hoping he would get his own story and that I would love seeing his cold and controlled self brought to his knees by a woman who is his match made in heaven. Oh yes, I am an evil, evil woman who gets her fix from seeing heroes crumble to dust at the feet of the women they love!

Since I loved this story so much, I couldn’t help but feel cheated out of an epilogue which would have done wonders for the story. Though the ending as it is is not a bad one, I would have loved seeing Ai Li and Ryam actually live through their happily ever after, maybe have a couple of babies and experience all that comes along with finding your soul mate to share your life with you forever.

Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin cannot be recommended highly enough. This is a historical romance any lover of the genre MUST read.

I end my review with some of the scenes that just leapt out of the pages at me whilst I was reading, that I just can’t help but want to share with all of you.

Favorite Quotes

One moment she made him swear not to touch her and the next she was kissing him into madness. If she made a single move towards him, made a single sweet sound he’d take hold of her, lower her to the ground and make her his right now with the fierce throb of combat and their wild escape still in his veins.
Some part of her must have known it. That was why she stayed petrified, her only movement the rise and fall of her breasts, as she struggled to breathe.
“Tell me what it is you want from me and it’s yours,” he promised dangerously.

She clutched at the front of his tunic and sank against him, closing her eyes when his mouth captured hers. It was always like this. Possessive, devastating. He knew how to make her melt into him, how to steal her breath and fold himself around her until she couldn’t think of anything but him.

Through the slick heat and the unbelievable tightness gripping him, Ailey was there. When he shut his eyes, he saw her face.
Mine, he thought as the blood rushed through his skull. For as long as she would have him. To the ends of the earth if she needed him there.
He was a fool.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Harlequin

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Review: Breaking Daylight By M. J. Fredrick

Format: E-bookbreakingdaylight
Opens with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Hero: Alex Shepard
Heroine: Isabella Canales
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 5, 2010
Started On: February 11, 2011
Finished On: February 12, 2011

Breaking Daylight is a novel I picked up on a whim, because I always love myself a good romantic suspense that includes a trek through the wilderness of a jungle which creates an environment that throws the hero and heroine together, regardless of their distrust and animosity towards the other. This one has been sitting in my TBR pile since then and I finally decided to take the plunge and read my first M.J. Fredrick last night. Despite the one review I read on Amazon which didn’t encourage me overly much to read this, I loved the story that unfolded and would definitely look forward to more by Ms. Fredrick.

Master Sergeant Alex Shepard hates trekking through jungles with a passion. A member of a team of rangers, Alex is the adopted son of his parents from Texas and looks forward to the day that he can claim the innocent and pure Rebecca back home as his own. Alex had grown up with a drug addict mother who had whored her way through life and made her son sell drugs for her until it had all come to a halt the day she had been killed by cops in pursuit of her. Though Alex had adjusted well to family life and the warmth and love that his adoptive parents bestow on him, their lurks emotional scars of a deeper kind which makes him long for the whole white picket fence with a family of his own regardless of the fact that he feels unworthy of such goodness in his life.

24 year old Isabella Canales leaves home when she is 18 years old in pursuit of adventure and finds more than she bargained for when she trusts the rich and charming Santiago Saldana who in reality is the baddest of bad asses when it comes to drug kingpins. Isabella makes her way to Central America in order to pursue her studies in Spanish and Immersion and had payed her college fees by strip dancing until she had met Santiago who had practically imprisoned her and made her bend to his every will and whim for the past 6 years. Stunningly beautiful, Isabella finds the courage to escape when her son Hector is taken away from her by Santiago in order to further manipulate her for his use.

It is when one of the DEA agents who infiltrates the Santiago gang is unheard of for a couple of weeks that Alex and his team partner up with DEA agents to find out what has happened to him, surrounding Santiago’s property deep in the remote areas of the jungles. Though the very first sight of gorgeous Isabella pleasuring herself surrounded by bath bubbles gets to Alex in a way he refuses to admit, it is Alex that ends up protecting a woman he feels nothing but detest and anger towards, because she had lapped up each and every luxury at the hands of someone like Santiago which brings memories of his own childhood too close to the surface. Isabella knows that the silent soldier whose eyes flash loathing at her would never understand what drives her and the deep rooted terror inside of her that Santiago would get his hands on her before she can find out where he had sent her son off to.

Isabella is someone who has never had a man want her just for herself. And so when Alex turns to her in despair upon hearing that his Rebecca was going to marry someone else, Isabella is helpless to stop the tide of desire and red-blooded lust that takes a hold of both of them for an unforgettable night that brings her shields down and makes her hope and yearn for things better left unsaid.

With Isabella on her way back to the States, Alex thinks it to be the last time he would ever see her and instead finds himself tailing her once again to see whether she draws Santiago in for the DEA to swoop in and arrest the one man who has eluded their every attempt at arrest in the past couple of years. Longing, desire and feelings better left unnamed all attack Alex full force as he begins to learn who Isabella really is inside and out and as both of them give into the combustive passion between them, so rises the danger that surrounds them together with betrayal from a person Alex trusts more than anyone else in his life.

I loved a lot of things about my first novel by Ms. Fredrick. First of all its fabulous cover showing off Alex’s magnificent chest with the dog tags just makes me nearly swallow my tongue each and every time my gaze is riveted upon it – which seemed to happen pretty much often the whole of last night. The man himself once I got to know his character and of course the way he just practically vibrates with intense longing each and every time he and Isabella are together just made me fall for him – big time. I love myself a tortured hero as much as the next gal in the world of romanceldia and Alex fits the description to a tee which makes him the best kind of tortured alpha hero out there! And I definitely sighed over the way Alex can’t help but call Isabella Bella or Goddess depending on his mood. *sigh*

Isabella Canales is a rare type of heroine for a romance novel. She has made huge mistakes in her life, had danced at strip clubs to make ends meet, had been young, naive and shallow enough to fall for a man like Santiago for which she had paid with 6 years of her life which had certainly not been a life one could be proud about. In spite of all that and maybe because of that, Isabella is a strong woman who is not without her own insecurities when it comes to relationships and love but nevertheless doesn’t hide behind denial when she does fall for Alex, a man who is truly worthy of her love and affection. Her loyalty towards her son, the one guy who means the world to her and her relentless pursuit of him regardless of what she has to put herself through along the way earned her my admiration and approval because she is just the kind of strong woman that Alex needs by his side.

Although I loved so many things about this story, I couldn’t help but feel cheated at the ending because I was expecting a nice little epilogue where I could see my Alex all happy and free of the shadows that seem to be a part of him. Its just my opinion that an epilogue would have indeed made this story a 5 star read and made it one of the unforgettable kind.

Favorite Quotes

He kissed her again, his mouth demanding. He lifted her, carrying her down the hall. She wrapped her legs around him and clung even as he bounced her off a corner, a wall, and finally onto the bed, following her down. He rose up just enough to unbutton her top, his breathing hot and fast, and he flashed a grin at her.
Alex. Grinned. At her.
Her heart tumbled all over itself.

“Bella.”
He kissed her soft mouth, his touch playing between her smooth thighs, stringing her tight as a bow, and then he was ready, over her, in her, and she was crying out, clinging to him, bowing beneath him.
He tucked his head into the curves of her throat and rode out her orgasm, knowing he wouldn’t follow.
She smiled up at him, a lopsided smile, like she didn’t have control of her muscles. The idea, the smile, made him feel like king of the world.

Recommended for fans of romantic suspense.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Samhain | BooksOnBoard

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