Review: Don’t Kiss the Bride by Carian Cole

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Jude Lucketti
Heroine: Skylar
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: January 31, 2021
Started On: March 15, 2021
Finished On: March 17, 2021

Carian Cole is a new to me author that I found through my Kindle Unlimited recommendations. Being the huge fan of May-December romance tropes that I am, Don’t Kiss the Bride seemed to be right up my alley, with a marriage of convenience theme in the mix.

18 year old Skylar who is going through her last year of high school, is someone who has it tougher than most in life. Skylar makes ends meet by working after school and suffers from an eating disorder brought on by neglect. Her father having left Skylar and her mother to their own devices, she is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to even taking care of her own health, both physical and mental.

As luck would have it, Skylar’s run in with 34 year old Jude “Lucky” Lucketti brings her the fortune of a lifetime. Jude, a sexy, broody construction worker, from the first time he meets Skylar, there is something about her that tugs at his heartstrings and makes him want to protect her. When Jude becomes privy to the extent of Skylar’s plight at home, he offers the seemingly perfect solution: to enter into a marriage on paper only, so that Skylar would be under his care which would get her the help that she needs. They would just be roommates or rather housemates, nothing more, nothing less.

Jude himself comes from a broken family, his father having left their home when he was seventeen. Jude blames himself for the black hole into which he had sunk at that point, running around with the wrong sort of crowd and losing his way. He blames himself for how his sister went missing and it is perhaps one of the reasons why he is so driven to help Skylar by moving her into a better environment where she could recover in peace.

What Jude does not factor into the equation is how he is drawn to Skylar on a level that would be frowned upon by many and shunned by society at large. The fact that Skylar seems to be drawn to him just as much only makes him more determined to stay firm and true to his original plans when they initially said their I do’s. But fate has a way of bringing two halves of one soul together and there is no fighting the tide when the need is as ferocious as the waves that break ashore during the violence of a summer’s storm.

I loved this story for so many reasons. Carian Cole’s writing is beautiful and draws the reader in like an old friend whom you have come to call on after years. Within the pages you find the comfort of the words spoken by that friend, which both ravages and soothes your inner being.

I loved Jude in all his glory. He is charming, sexy, broody, and kindness itself when it comes right down to it. Haunted by his sister’s memories, Jude is someone who is torn between being the platonic husband on paper only to being Skylar’s husband in its truest form. The struggle is only too real when the desire between them pushes all his buttons. Once they give in, there is no stopping where it takes them in their relationship, as fragile as the bond maybe when they start out. When Jude’s past comes calling, it is then and only then the reader is exposed to the darker elements of Jude’s soul which I absolutely loved!

I loved Skylar; who wouldn’t? She is a survivor amidst everything else. She is strong, beautiful on the inside and out, and an old soul at that. She finds affinity with Jude on many levels, desires to be his above everything else, and is willing to understand that the lifeline he offers is the only way she can get herself onto the road of recovery. When Skylar embraced the darkness within Jude, that was when I knew that they would be able to weather any storm that may come their way.

I admired the fact that Ms. Cole did not make light of the recovery of the mental health aspects explored in the story. Skylar’s mother was beyond help – her husband had tried and so had Skylar. There is a point at which those around you can no longer offer you the help you need; when you refuse to acknowledge the need for that help. That is a message that we all need to understand as the world increasingly battles with rising numbers of mental health patients.

Getting over mental health issues is a tough and lonesome journey for the one that suffers from it – no matter how much those who love you may surround you, there would always be aspects of it that you would have to suffer through on your own. Which is why I found Ms. Cole’s take on Skylar’s journey to recovery something I could relate to – there was no magic pill nor therapy session which was the hallelujah moment – but rather it was a process as it should rightfully be. There were triggers which made it difficult for Skylar to push past her fears and those were the moments Jude’s understanding mattered the most, and I loved Jude for being sensitive a soul enough to know when those moments presented themselves.

Society would judge the relationship between Skylar and Jude to be an uneven one; after all, Jude is the one who has the financial independence that allows him to look after Skylar. He is also the mature adult in society’s modern definition, and it was with sensitivity that Ms. Cole handled those aspects of the novel as the story progressed. I found the relationship between Skylar and Jude evening out as Skylar came to her own self when she started to make progress in her recovery. The fact that she is as fiercely protective of him as he is of her made my heart full in ways I cannot express.

During one of Skylar’s inner monologues regarding Jude, she thinks along the following lines, “I’m captivated by the hard and soft sides of him—rough in just the right moments, but so incredibly gentle in the perfect moments, too. Jude may not talk much, but his touch speaks a thousand words.” I was right there with Skylar and found myself nodding along with her sentiments of who Jude is. I don’t think I can sum up his character better even if I tried.

Highly recommended for fans of Carian Cole, those who love age gap romances, marriages of convenience, and heroes whose contrasting sides makes you melt on the inside.

Final Verdict: Don’t Kiss the Bride carries such a surprising mix of sweet tenderness with darkness of the kind that speaks to your heart!

Favorite Quotes

I put my hands on his chest and slide them up to his shoulders. As he bends toward me, I close my eyes and lift one of my feet up into that flirty flamingo pose we see in movies.
Our lips touch softly, until he tilts his mouth over mine, capturing my lips with his. A barely audible gasp escapes me and he inhales it with a slow, sensual suck of breath. His hand squeezes my cheek, and then he pulls away, slowly dragging his thumb across my jawline before he turns to Carol and walks off to speak to her.

Neither one of us makes an effort to move. We stay there, quietly breathing together. Our entwined fingers slowly dance against each other. Hers long, soft and thin. Mine thick and calloused.
Resistance crumbles, and I turn toward her face, just inches from mine.
I don’t know who kissed who. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was her.
Doesn’t matter, because my mouth is on hers when it shouldn’t be. But fuck, her lips are soft and sweet, and I can’t resist one more taste of her.

“Is that what you want?” His lips touch my nose, then wait, hovering just a breath away.
I nod as we breathe against each other. “Yes.”
My answer is a subtle invitation. If he chooses to accept it, then any touching or kissing from this point forward won’t be an oops or an accident.
It’ll be a conscious choice. A decision we made together right here on my bed.
Fisting my hair, he gently pulls my head back, angling my neck up toward him. My eyes fall closed as he presses his lips to my throat and holds them there, warm and soft, before lightly sucking. My breath catches when he slowly drags his mouth up to briefly touch mine—whisper soft and gentle—before lifting up and bringing his lips back down to the base of my throat. Open-mouthed, teeth grazing.

When I reach for his pants, he nudges my hand away.
“No,” he whispers with his mouth against my ear and his fingers buried inside me. “Tonight, I just want to fuckin’ devour you.”
In a blink, he disappears under the blanket and quickly lowers my sweatpants. His mouth joins his hand between my thighs. His tongue laps at my throbbing clit, his lips cover me, so warm and wet.
I turn into a quivering, wet, orgasmic, lovesick mess.
Closing my eyes, I let go of everything, cling to him, and let myself get lost in us.

“Kiss me,” she whispers, pulling on the chain of my necklace.
I can’t resist anymore.
Grabbing her waist with my free hand, I pull her hard against my body and crush my lips down on hers. Her gasp of surprise fuels the fire she’s already stoked with her inviting touches and perfect words. I move my hand over the curve of her ass and down to the back of her bare thigh, lifting her until she hops up and wraps her legs around my waist.
Kissing wildly, I kick the bedroom door shut with my foot, then push her back up against it. Breathless, she snakes her arms around my neck.

Effortlessly, he lifts me up and lays me down on top of his puffy charcoal comforter. I lie back and watch him as he removes my shoes, then stands between my legs as he unzips my shorts and tugs them down, along with my panties.
“I think I just want to stand here and look at you all night,” he says, inching his hand languidly up my thigh like he’s got all the time in the world. His eyes sweep over me and he gives his head a little shake. “You’re so fucking beautiful.”
I peek at him through my lashes. “I could say the same about you.”

“Touch me,” he says, his voice hoarse with desire.
I stroke him slowly, gripping him in my palm and caressing the hot, damp tip. His head bows down, his hair falls over his face, his eyes close. My heart swells with adoration and lust for him. Leaning forward, I put my lips against his flat stomach. His ab muscles flutter deliciously as I rain a slow trail of kisses from hip to hip. I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning, getting an amazing gift in the form of sexy tats and an incredible body all wrapped up with a big red bow of sweetness on top. He groans and grabs my shoulders, pulling me up to meet his lips, kissing me with such hunger I can’t breathe
.

“I want you,” I whisper with my lips against his ear.
“You’ve got me,” he whispers back.
The tear of the foil packet permeates the silence of the dim room, and a few seconds later his hands are on my outer thighs, his fingers digging roughly into my flesh. He pulls me closer and thrusts into me balls deep, stretching me to take his full length. I let out a gasp that’s half-pain and half-pleasure. I don’t even care that it hurts a little, because watching him lose himself inside me is like watching art come to life. The way his tattoos, shiny with sweat, flex with his muscles. The way his long hair flies around his head with every thrust. The rivulets of sweat dripping down the center of his chest. The bite of his teeth into his lower lip as he drives into me.
Pure. Hotness.

“Don’t mess with me, Skylar. You’re not gonna like it if I put my hands on you like this.”
I reach up and touch his cheek, running my finger over the dark stubble. He stares at me through half-closed, dark eyes.
“Try me,” I whisper.
Without wavering, I hold his gaze. Whatever he needs right now—I’ll do it. I’ll be it. He’s been my rock since the day we met—never wanting or expecting a thing in return. He’s not drowning his feelings in the bottom of a bottle on my watch.
Suddenly, his hand flies up and grabs the back of my neck, pulling me hard to meet his lips. He kisses me ferociously, his tongue carrying the bite of whiskey. He palms my breast, twisting, pinching, and tugging my nipple between his fingers until I cry out.

“I don’t want you looking at me.” The anguish and self-hatred in his voice and in his eyes rip my heart in two.
Turning on my side, I reach for him, wanting to kiss all the hurt away. “Lucky—”
“Do it or get the fuck out.”
With a quiet nod, I flip back over onto my stomach, and he grabs my hips, pulling me up onto all fours and yanking me back to meet him at the edge of the bed. His hands grip my waist and he drives into me hard, fast, and unforgiving. Moaning his name, I clutch the comforter in my hands, head down, as he slams into me, his balls slapping against my wet pussy with each pounding descent. I’ve never had sex from behind, and it’s painfully primal but so intensely erotic. I don’t know if I should be ashamed or proud of myself for enjoying the raw, animalistic sensuality of it.
And him.

When I arch my back, pushing to meet his thrusts, my walls clench around him again and again as wave after wave of orgasm rolls through me. As I’m reeling from the last of the lingering shudders, I cry out when he suddenly pulls his cock out and pushes me flat down, covering my entire body with his. The length of his stiff shaft wedges between my ass cheeks and spurts hot cum onto my lower back. He bows his head down into my neck and kisses my shoulder blade, biting my flesh and panting heavily, whispering words like wet and tight and so fuckin’ perfect. A shiver of ecstasy cascades down my spine. He stays there for a long time, with his sweaty chest pressed against my back, and I revel in being entirely enveloped by him, trapped in his powerful embrace.

My head falls back against his shoulder and I turn to kiss his neck, nipping at him with my teeth. Water splashes as his hand dives between my thighs like a shark. Two thick fingers zero in on my G-spot, curving upward with precision and rubbing rhythmically. Whimpering, I grip the sides of the tub to steady myself as I rock back and forth, thrusting up into his hand, then back against the ridge of his cock.
He grasps the side of my face and turns me to him. Our lips clash, breathless and needy. He crosses his legs over mine, pinning me down. My body is buzzing, my hips rolling up and down, back and forth. The tip of his thick cock pushes between my ass cheeks, nudging my pulsing entry.

He untangles his legs from mine, grabs me beneath my knees, and bends each of my legs up over the edge of the tub, spreading me wide over him. I grasp the slippery sides of the porcelain as he lifts me by my hips, positions me over his cock, then lowers me down onto him.
“Holy shit,” I gasp as he spears my pussy hard and deep.
Cupping my ass with one hand, he guides me up and down his shaft while his other hand reaches between my thighs, circling and lightly slapping my clit.
I feel his lips on my wet back, kissing a trail up my spine to the curve of my neck. His breath is ragged, matching mine, as we move faster and harder, splashing hot water around us in waves as my body plunges deliciously down onto his.

Grabbing her throat, I pull her up to me and kiss her deep, delving my tongue into her mouth until I own her every breath. She pants against my mouth with her small hands splayed across my hips.
I pull out almost completely, and she gasps in frustration. Resting the tip of my cock against her entry, I cup her face in my hands and kiss her lips softly, then pull away, hovering just millimeters from her mouth. Slowly, I push into her just a fraction. Her wet lips envelope me, deliciously tight and hot.
“Give it to me,” she begs.
“Look at me,” I whisper. She opens her eyes and stares into mine, and I watch her eyelids flutter half-closed when I feed my cock into her inch by inch. She looks so fucking beautiful and sensual, it takes all my self-control not to cum instantly.

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepo

Review: Once Touched, Never Forgotten by Natasha Tate

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Stephen Whitfield
Heroine: Colette Huntington
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: September 01, 2011
Started On: November 19, 2020
Finished On: November 21, 2020

Once Touched, Never Forgotten by Natasha Tate tells the story of super executive Stephen Whitfield and pastry chef Colette Huntington, who embark on an affair lasting a period of five months, which leaves Colette in love and pregnant with Stephen’s child. Both of them had entered the affair with eyes wide open, with zero expectations from one another except for the good times in bed. Or so they both told themselves until Colette disappears, ending their affair and leaving Stephen reeling in its wake.

Five years later, their paths cross again, and this time, the secret that Colette holds close to her heart is revealed, which ties them together in a way that Stephen is unwilling to overlook. Demanding that Colette be his, once again it is treacherous waters these two traverse, as emotions run high and love overlooked leads to heartbreak.

I seriously wanted to like the story that unfolded. The writing was good, easing the reader into the story in a way that makes you feel totally at ease. At the same time, the sexual tension was off the charts hot, with Ms. Tate’s ability to take the story from zero to hundred, just like that.

What I had problems with was Colette as a character. I understood that she was only looking out for herself at first, when she resisted Stephen at every turn. Then it was her unborn baby that she wanted to protect from being treated as a responsibility if Stephen were to be put in that untenable position, given what she knows of him and the very scant little discussions they have had on commitment and love up till that point.

At the same time, I felt that Stephen had more heart to him than Colette was willing to give him credit for and was more sensitive than Colette when it comes right down to it. Both come up from screwed up backgrounds, which of course means that each carries a shit ton of baggage when all is said and done. While Stephen understands the psychology behind Colette and what drives her to reject him time and yet again, Colette never attempts to do the same for him, which is where it rankled.

I felt like Colette never did fight for Stephen and the love she supposedly felt for him, being to hung up on her past. Instead, Stephen is the one who does all the chasing, pursuing, and convincing – which means as a reader I felt cheated because I want both protagonists to be in it wholeheartedly, to understand what each other did wrong for there to really be an equal partnership based on love and trust for the long term.

Recommended for fans of Natasha Tate and those who love combustible category romances. Stephen definitely does heat up the pages!

Final Verdict: Affairs embarked on with the best of intentions often leads to emotional disaster – Once Touched, Never Forgotten is all about that and more as Stephen and Colette finds their way back to each other again!

Favorite Quotes

“Do you know I still dream about your hair?”
The low rasp of his voice, soft as velvet, made her tremble. He must have detected the subtle shiver along her flesh because his grip tightened against her shoulders and he dragged her closer. As much as she wanted to pull free, another part of her responded to the demanding strength of his touch, to the command underscoring his nearness.
Lifting her hands to push him away, she froze when her fingertips touched the warm thickness of his wrists. Her thumbs pressed against the channel of tendons at the base of his palms while her fingertips involuntarily recalled the hard landscape of bones and flesh in his forearm. She heard his swift intake of breath, watched his chest expand and rise, and her hands refused to abandon his smooth, hair-dusted skin. Time stretched, grew taut, while the silence beat between them.

Before she had a chance to prepare herself, his warm palms cupped her face and tilted her mouth toward his. Her startled inhale did nothing to deter him, and his dark head dipped toward hers with unerring accuracy. Her fingers flew to his forearms even as the muscled wall of his chest bumped her breasts, pressing her against the closed door while his mouth covered hers. The fiery, voracious, delicious assault of his lips stunned her. Consumed her.

He stared at her mouth, that lush, kissable mouth, while one hand moved inexorably up along the silk spine of her dress and to the back of her arched neck. He wanted to taste every centimeter of her defiant, trembling softness, to explore the fine, delicate curve of her upper lip, to nip at the lush, petal-smooth swell of it until she moaned beneath him.
Just thinking of how she’d respond, he felt the hairs along his arms lift, priming him for the battle he fully intended to win.
She stared at him, her hazel eyes huge and alarmed within her flushed face, while her hands shoved blindly at his shoulders. “Stephen—”
He caught her protest with his mouth, every last sense focused on the exquisite fit of her lips beneath his.

His expression was intense as he walked around the desk and then held her against the back of one of his armchairs. His hands, pressed tight against the base of her spine, were steely against her softness, the iron muscles of his thighs pressing heated awareness along her flesh despite the layers of clothing between them.
Low against her pelvis, she felt the hot, insistent pressure of his arousal, undeniable in its masculine quest for satisfaction. “Stephen,” she gasped.
“Kiss me,” he growled, his hips grinding against hers while a treacherous dampness gathered between her legs. “Kiss me and I’ll consider a compromise.”

Slowly, he drew her feet wide, planting them beside his spread thighs. He moved to her knees next, his warm hands pressing them open beneath his intense gaze. His nostrils flared and his eyes darkened with arousal as his attention dipped.
Exposed, open, and flooded with a damp, yearning heat, she swallowed against the searing touch of his gaze upon her shadowed flesh. A sweet, shocked tremor of embarrassment and desire leaked through her chest, making it difficult to breathe. She knotted her hands against the supple leather of his chair, gripping the edge of the armrests while he stared at her. She remembered how he’d looked at her every time they’d made love, as if there were no one in his world but her. She could read his arousal in the huge, hard bulge between his legs, in the darkened crests of his cheeks and glittering eyes. And for the first time in over five years she felt beautiful. Wanted.

And still he plied her flesh, his tongue invading her with devastating softness. The savage sensation of losing control, of quivering atop a chasm of release so acute, had Colette fighting for control at the same time as he urged her surrender. Her heart thrashed within her ribs, she could no longer keep her eyes open, and her knees pulled high as she rocked and rocked and rocked against his mouth. Exquisite pleasure twisted high as he consumed her, until the steady slide of tongue and lip and heat became too much, too intense, too … too everything. She catapulted into careening spasms of rapture, contractions cresting in wave after wave as she shuddered and groaned.

Thoughts failed her as she reached the summit, her body trembling and spasming with each delicious stroke. An aching combination of desperation and love filled her heart to brimming as Stephen gripped her hips, drawing out the pulsing pleasure of her inner muscles. Clenching him deep inside, she leaned to balance against the granite plane of his stomach while he found his own bucking release. Watching the play of emotions in his face, knowing that she’d brought him the same intense pleasure he’d brought her, made her want to weep.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Harlequin

Review: The Duke’s Treasure by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Arrangement, Anthology
Publisher: Kensington
Hero: Beaumont Halliwell
Heroine: Josephine Loman
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 28, 2020
Started On: June 22, 2020
Finished On: June 22, 2020

The Duke’s Treasure by Minerva Spencer delves into a marriage of convenience between 35 year old Beaumont Halliwell, Sixth Duke of Wroxton and 23 year old Josephine Loman. Beau having returned from war to find his family impoverished and in need of finances of the kind that Josephine’s father has to offer in return for his hand in marriage. These two are opposites in every way, with Beau being sinfully good looking from the ton while Josephine is plain and has no beauty to offer.

As she enters the marriage, Josephine carries a secret close to her heart that she vows never to let be known. That she has fancied Beau from way back when they had first met, the incident which had not even registered for Beau. With the marriage having taken place, Beau expects nothing more from his wife than bed-sport and companionship, having no expectations beyond that when it comes to a union that he had been forced into.

However, from the very first night of their marriage, Beau is taken by surprise when it comes to the chemistry that sizzles between them, and how different his marriage turns out to be from the get go. However, trouble is not afar, as his past comes calling, trying to win his affections over once again, creating friction in the fragile ties being forged between him and his spouse.

This was a very sensible marriage of convenience story for the most part, with communication between the Beau and Josephine doing away with the misunderstandings that would otherwise have been plentiful in a marriage such as theirs. For the most part, Beau is the one who gets ahead of the misunderstandings that may arise, because he chooses to explain to Josephine where he is coming from and comes clean on whatever secrets that maybe buried in the half truths that comes to light during the course of their marriage.

The story did actually have the fundamentals in place to deliver a good and healthy dose of angst, but in the end, even without it, I enjoyed the story that Ms. Spencer delivered via this novella. The heady sensuality that was interwoven into the story made it so, the connection between Beau and Josephine an undeniable one that made for scrumptious reading. The only thing I could have wished for was for this to be a full length novel, which could have been ideal for bringing a healthy dose of conflict and angst to the story.

Recommended for fans of historical romances with that bite of sensuality that takes you by surprise, all in a good way!

Final Verdict: The Duke’s Treasure is a surprisingly delicious morsel of a story, recommended for those who love a healthy dose of sensuality in their stories!

Favorite Quotes

“Yes, Josephine, take what you want—use me,” he whispered as a second finger joined the first, the uncomfortable burn only momentary before the friction was pleasurable, the motion hypnotic.
Jo hadn’t even noticed he’d lowered his body over hers until she felt the puff of hot air on her sex. Before she could move or close her legs or do anything, his tongue pushed between her folds and his lips closed around her throbbing peak. Jo sobbed as he sucked, his hand still moving in controlled thrusts, until her hips began to buck wildly.
He gave a breathless laugh and pulled away just as a wave of pleasure slammed into her. And then again and again.

“You’re small—so tight,” he purred, his hips beginning to pulse, only lightly at first. “I want to fill every part of you,” he hissed, his thrusts smooth and strong. “Tilt your hips, Josephine—take me deeper, as deep as you can.”
Jo did as he bade and he groaned, his hips beginning to drum.
Jo clenched her teeth but reveled in the signs he was losing control—his movements less precise, his breath coming in harsh gasps, and the part of him that was inside her was so very hard. This was all her doing; she was the reason he looked less and less like a cool aristocrat and more like a feral, earthy, primitive savage.

“Did you wear this hideous nightgown to express your displeasure?”
She gave an adorable gurgle of laughter. “Yes, is it terribly obvious? I just thought—”
“I want it off. Now,” he said, standing and lifting her to her feet along with him. “Do you want to dress in a way that pleases me, Josephine?” he murmured as his fingers made quick work of the few buttons.
“Yes, of course.” Her voice was flatteringly breathy.
“Then you will wear this for me in the future.” He lifted her gown over her head and flung it aside.
“I want you waiting for me in nothing from now on.”

“Watch me as I take you,” he ordered her, his heavy-lidded eyes dropping to where he was pressed against her opening. And then he entered her in one smooth thrust.
Unable to look away from the place where they were joined, Jo cried out as her body struggled to accustom itself to his thick length.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he gritted, holding her impaled for a long moment before pulsing his hips in sharp thrusts. “I’ve thought about being inside you all day long,” he said while they stared at the mesmerizing sight of his slick shaft sliding in and out of her body. “Did you think of me today, Josephine? Did you want this?” He lifted her hips up until only his crown was inside and then brought her down hard.
“Yes,” Jo gasped, shuddering at his powerful assault.

“You are so wet for me,” he murmured into her neck, biting and kissing and licking while he pulled her tightly against his chest and drove her ruthlessly toward her climax.
When she began to shake and cry out he kneed her thighs apart and entered her with a punishing thrust, riding her hard while teasing another orgasm from her just before burying himself to the hilt and emptying deep inside her.

“Have you pictured yourself spread out on a bed like that ever since, Josephine? Naked, exposed . . . vulnerable,” he whispered, his hand never stopping. “Am I the man in your fantasy? I hope so. Am I cruel? Wicked? Relentless?”
Jo bit her lip hard enough to taste metal. She would not—she would not—
“I would tie your wrists . . . restrain your ankles . . .” he murmured, his voice hypnotic, his breath coming in rapid, heated puffs on her throat. “If I had you bound that way . . . what do you think I would do . . . Josephine? Do you think I’d make you . . . come?”

“Shhhh, I’m not going anywhere, my lovely, needy darling,” he whispered, positioning something bigger and hotter against her entrance. “This is what you want,” he told her.
“Yes.”
“Yes,” he agreed, “and I’m going to give it to you. Hard.”
He took her with agonizing slowness, making her feel each and every inch, his body sinuous and undulating, his thrusting slow, lazy, deep.
“Tell me the way you want it,” he said, his voice strained, his body slick with the effort of resisting his own need, but his motions smooth, thorough, controlled.
“Please,” she whispered.
“Tell me,” he ordered through gritted teeth.
“I want you . . . hard, Beau.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | eBooks | Apple Books

Review: The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Bookthescotbedshiswife
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical
Series: Victorian Rebels, #5
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Gavin St. James
Heroine: Samantha Masters
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 03, 2017
Started On: March 04, 2020
Finished On: March 22, 2020

The Scot Beds His Wife is the fifth book in the Victorian Rebels series by Kerrigan Byrne. It tells the story of Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne and Samantha Masters, who arrives in Scotland from America, fleeing possible prosecution from having killed her significant other.

Samantha assumes the identity of Alison Ross, who holds the rights to the property that Gavin wants to make his, what he sees to be his finally link to freedom. With Samantha standing between him and what he covets the most in this world, he strikes up a bargain with her which includes a marriage of convenience.

When Samantha arrives in Scotland and meets the notorious Gavin St. James, she is not at all prepared for the way that he sets her senses ablaze with a fleeting touch and that searing glance of his. Even though Samantha is determined that she would not fall under his spell, as danger comes seeking her out, there is no other option but to give in. And  give in she does, not only because she must, but she wants to. Because the delicious torment it is being pleasured by the wicked Earl demands nothing less.

As Samantha and Gavin begins to find their footing in a marriage that neither had thought would be everlasting, secrets that could tear them apart comes to the surface, especially the ones Samantha keeps close to her heart. To find their way out, each must be willing to put their heart on their line and gamble with what is most precious to the other, their love for one another.

Gavin’s backstory is one that made me want to weep copious amounts of tears because there is no other way to react to what he had gone through as a child and his journey to adulthood. Gavin’s relationship with his elder brother is of the most complicated variety; there is no easy way out of being in love with the bride of your own flesh and blood. But it is beneath the surface one must look to understand the story within. The details of Gavin’s past interwoven with the present was enough to make my heart bleed raw from the pain, and the result had been for Gavin to believe that everlasting love was not for the likes of him, ever.

Samantha’s past is just as harrowing, especially once she had committed to becoming the wife and a member of the ill-famed Masters Gang in the US. Samantha’s fate had pretty much been sealed when her hand in marriage was planned to someone old enough to be her father. When her gang of brothers had turned up at her home at that point in time, Samantha had taken the lifeline that had been hers for the taking and run with it, only to realise that she had jumped from the frying pan into the roiling fire.

What surprised me the most (in a good way), was how much I actually enjoyed Gavin’s story when I initially saw him as a character who was too mellow for my liking. As fans of Ms. Bryne’s work would know, her heroes tend to be unabashedly masculine, alpha, and tantalizing in a way that takes command of all your senses. I though Gavin to be a bit less so, perhaps because of his laid back nature in the previous stories when he made an appearance. There were also reasons behind him appearing as such, which I am no privy to, having read his story. I am glad that Gavin proved himself to be more, so much more than what I initially thought him to be.

Gavin and Samantha are two contrasting characters, who, each in their own way, are looking for that undefinable something that humanity as a whole yearns for; that sense of belonging that comes from finding deep and abiding love with your equal in every sense. Ms. Byrne has done a splendid job of bringing those contrasts between Samantha and Gavin together in a way that makes for a breathtaking read.

To sum up, The Scot Beds His Wife is the story of the least fierce hero of the Mackenzie clan. The brother whose beautiful mother paid dearly in her marriage to the brute that had be their father. The brother who had borne the brunt of his father’s wrath because he had not been cruel, and there had been a gentleness to his soul that had made his father want to beat it out of him. A smuggler, a hedonist, son, and a brother who never wanted to carry the weight of the family name.

Samantha is the gunslinger and widower who comes to Gavin’s land to take away what he covets the most, what he thought would finally bring him the respite and escape he so craves; respite from the rage that swirls inside of him and the need to destroy that wars constantly with his soul. Samantha who assumes the identity of someone else, is carrying a secret that could devastate them both, who never thought she would fall for the highlander who claimed he would be partially faithful to her.

Recommended for those who love the Victorian Rebels series, who loves passionate historical romances set in the beautiful highlands, and those who love an unconventional heroine in their stories!

As always, quotes I have selected from Ms. Bryne’s books overwhelms the senses, every single time you revisit them, even months later.

Final Verdict: The Scot Beds His Wife tells the tale of two people who never thought they needed love and find it in the most unlikeliest of places through a marriage of convenience. Beautifully told as only Kerrigan Byrne can!

Favorite Quotes

“Give it here,” she demanded.
“Give it here…?” He drew out the last syllable.
“Please,” she muttered, galled to the core that she was even having such a ridiculous interaction.
“Gladly.” The beauty of his smile stunned her blind, which must have been how he was able to cup the back of her hand with his, in order to set her handbag in her open palm.
The tiny striations of her lace gloves became her only feeble defense against the feel of his coarse flesh against hers. The weight of her returned handbag drove her knuckles deeper against his palm.
A rough exhalation drew her notice. Nothing about his haughty, nonchalant expression had changed.
And yet … everything had.
The rim of his nostrils flared with quickening breath. His lids became heavier, drawing to half-mast. His sinfully full lower lip drew tight against his teeth before he consciously seemed to relax it.

With a stunned gasp, she turned her head, tearing her lips from his.
In the time it took for her to form the indignant words “What the fuck do you think—” Gavin’s decision was made, and it no longer paralyzed him.
His fingers released her wrist and anchored in her hair, where they’d previously itched to be. His next kiss was so fierce, it drove her head against his palm, and the back of his hand against the tree.
Her lips were already parted, and he pressed them wider.
This wasn’t a kiss, but a claiming.

He controlled his thrusts with absolute precision, his long fingers working together to create a wash of pulsating bliss that seemed to rise from somewhere deep, deep inside her, until suddenly every muscle in her body tensed and arched. It broke through her like a tidal wave, brimming over her veins and washing her flesh in a crescendo of effervescence. The peaks of the pulsing waves lingered, the valleys only a momentary respite before she was barraged again.
Samantha kept her neck arched, her eyes fixed on the sky above and, even through the heavy storm clouds …
She saw the stars.

The hands on his shoulders slid up his neck, then seized his jaw and pulled his lips the rest of the way to meet hers.
She made a sound he’d never heard from a woman before. There was nothing coy or teasing in it. Nothing seductive or husky or practiced in the least.
It was pure. Honest. Need.
And he was lost.
Maybe he’d been losing himself slowly since the moment she’d barged into the Highlands, guns blazing, eyes snapping, and tongue lashing.

Inside her body, where he still remained. Hard. And hot. And pulsing.
What?
Five breaths. Five breaths was all it took him to recover.
A hum of masculine satisfaction rumbled deep in his throat before he threaded his fingers through hers and slowly guided them above her head as he finally began to move.
Her eyes flew open and she gasped at the sight. Even though she’d seen him dozens of times, his beauty still had the power to startle her if she wasn’t prepared.
Hadn’t he just…? How was he still…? Oh God, that felt good …
“The only Mackenzie trait I’m glad of, lass,” he said by way of arrogant explanation. “We spend ourselves more than once.”
Jesus Jehosephat Christ.

“Don’t think that just because we’re married, you get to tell me what I can and canna do. Didn’t you notice that your brother left the word ‘obey’ out of the wedding vows?”
Lord, but he loved it when her azure eyes flashed with temper.
“Och.” He chuckled, scratching at his morning shadow-beard. “More than a slight oversight on his part. Tell ye what, if ye prove to me that ye can ride, then ye can go.”
“Fine.” She shot him a triumphant smirk. “I think that bay mare would do nicely.”
“I find it charming, lass…” He let his thought trail away as he sidled closer to her, a wicked intent heating his blood and already pulsing in his loins.
“Find what charming?” She shied away, but not fast enough.
“That ye thought I meant for ye to ride a horse.”

“I can ride,” she declared. “I’ll ride you witless, Gavin St. James.”
Just when he’d thought he couldn’t get any harder—she had to go and prove him wrong.
“By all fucking means,” he growled. Seizing both her mouth and her lean hips, he controlled their roll, levering her above him even as he sucked her tongue deep into his mouth.
Bunching her skirts in his fists, he burrowed his hands beneath them, sliding his fingers over the silken flesh of her thighs until he found the soft hair between. Cleaving her folds apart, he found the slippery cove of her body already wet and ready for him.

Lord, but with just a few kisses, her husband set her skin on fire, and released a wet flood of preparation all at once.
A fucking miracle of biblical proportions, that was sex with Gavin St. James.
In a sinuous motion of both unparalleled grace and strength, he stretched his magnificent body onto his back, all the while lifting her hips and dragging her up his torso and past his shoulders.
“What are you—”
His wicked mouth answered her, but not with words.

He drilled into her, the hard planes of his hips pounding against her as a fresh storm of pleasure began to build deeper within her loins. She shivered and convulsed, gritting her teeth together to keep herself from screaming. She enjoyed the wicked, brutal sounds their bodies made, the growling breaths that exploded from him.
He pushed her to her elbows, his hands both rough and reverent. He took her like a stallion mounted his mare. This was not their usual encounter, she realized.
This was a claiming.
He was a hunter, a predator. And now, she’d become his mate.

He took her mouth with his own, slanting his lips over hers, licking the salt of her tears from the seam with his velvety tongue.
She opened for him, accepted his possession, his love, and all the emotion he poured from his lips into hers. No longer was he the leisurely lover, the infamous rake. This time, his kiss conveyed a desperation she’d never felt from him before. A passion she’d not known him to be afflicted with.
Her response to it was instant and fierce. She threaded her fingers into his lush hair and turned her hands into fists, imprisoning him to the onslaught of her answering ardor. A lifetime of loneliness flared between them, fusing them to each other, offering what neither of them had ever been able to claim.
Belonging. He was hers. She was his. And neither of them would be alone again.

She was so lost in his mouth, that she hadn’t realized he’d pushed her onto the seat and pulled up her skirts until he was moving against her. Thrusting inside of her.
Her body was ready for his intrusion, wet and warm, open and needy.
His possession brought her to life, warming the blood from ice in her veins. Lifting the weight of guilt and sorrow, turning it into a taut and frantic lust.

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Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Format: E-Bookthebridetest
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Kiss Quotient, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Diệp Khải
Heroine: Trần Ngọc Mỹ
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 07, 2019
Started On: June 03, 2019
Finished On: June 07, 2019

The Bride Test begins ten years prior to the period in which the story is based, during a funeral. This is where readers are introduced to the hero, Diệp Khải, who is unable to show his grief from having lost his best friend. Everyone around him criticizes him for not grieving in the “right” way – making Khải believe that he is deficient in a way that is irreparable.

Trần Ngọc Mỹ is a single mother, trying to make ends meet in the poorer parts of Hồ Chí Minh, Việt Nam, where she encounters Khải’s mom at her place of work, on the hunt for a bride for her youngest son. Though Mỹ is not exactly what she had in mind when she began the search, something about Mỹ makes her believe that she could be the ideal choice for Khải.

Though Mỹ has her reservations, it is her own mother who convinces her that through this marriage of convenience, Mỹ could provide for a better future for her daughter than the poverty-ridden life that lies ahead of her. Thus convinced, Mỹ makes the journey to America to meet her future husband.

When Khải is confronted with the inevitable, though he tries hard to stay indifferent and out of Mỹ’s way, somehow he ends up getting emotionally attached to Mỹ, without realizing it. Khải being autistic is an aspect of his character that Mỹ has no knowledge of, and Mỹ has her own secret well under her sleeve; the fact that she has a daughter back home for whom she would practically lay down her very life for.

It is an endearing, at times hilarious, and a bit heartbreaking of a journey that these two embark upon to reach their own happily ever after. I believe that The Bride Test did a marvelous job of bringing Khải to life, with his oddities and the ways in which his mind works differently when it comes to what is “normal”.

While I enjoyed The Bride Test, I believe that I felt a lack of emotional connection to Mỹ that detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. I would have liked Mỹ better had she understood Khải, what autism means, and how difficult certain aspects of life could be for someone like him. Instead of trying to understand where Khải was coming from, most of the focus of the novel was on Mỹ and how she becomes empowered enough to stand on her own two feet.

I applaud the fact that Mỹ stood up for herself amidst all odds and made everything work for her. Even at the very end, Mỹ’s strength of character is what stands out in the novel, more so than the love between Mỹ and Khải. On the contrary, The Kiss Quotient worked so well because both Michael and Stella were on the same page at the same time, and there was never ever a doubt in my mind that they belonged together, right from the start. When they made an appearance in this story even, the connection between them is one you feel deep in your heart, and I wanted that for Khải with every fiber of my being.

Mỹ may not have had the sophisticated education that she had to forgo when she got pregnant out of wedlock, but every aspect of her character speaks of intelligence, emotional and otherwise. Which is why, I felt the lack so severely when it came to Mỹ’s lack of interest perhaps, in digging deeper into Khải’s psyche and trying to understand him – what makes him the way he is. Not to mold herself to suit his needs, but rather so that she could meet him on an even footing in accepting him for the way he is.

I understand that Khải’s level of education must have been a huge deterrent when it came to Mỹ and breaking down barriers. However, I wish she had shown more interest in the person who Khải is than what materialized in the story. At least Khải acknowledges to himself that he hadn’t done much to really get to know Mỹ, mostly owing to the fact that he has correlated that caring for someone means losing that someone altogether.

I wish Mỹ had wanted to explore more of Khải’s fascinating mind and the way he views the world. Had she taken that time, she would have realized that Khải was indeed different. The fact that she had been his first should have driven home the point in my opinion. Why else would a man who finds it difficult to socialize and accept physical contact go all the way? This is where I would have liked Mỹ to use her emotional intelligence to pick on the cues and understand the man Khải is, for better or worse.

I think Mỹ finding herself and charting her own course in life (which is all well and good), took away the focus from exploring the depth of feelings between Khải and Mỹ together. Mỹ made it seem as if it was of no consequence to her whether they ended up together or not, while Khải was moved to the point of obsession with her. Somehow I wanted way more for Khải than what Mỹ ended up giving him.

Recommended for fans of Helen Hoang and those who fell in love with The Kiss Quotient. Some of you might end up loving The Bride Test more. But for me, my heart belongs to Michael and Stella all the way.

Final Verdict: The Bride Test explores the everyday struggles of being autistic, making the reader think beyond the scope of the book. I loved Khải for all that he was, just the way he is.

Favorite Quotes

Those tears.
They shattered him. He brushed the saline away with his thumbs.
“I’m okay,” she whispered. “Don’t worry. I—”
He took her mouth, pressing his lips to hers as the feel of her shocked through his system. Soft. Silk. Sweet. Esme. When he realized she’d gone stiff, he started to pull back in horror. What had he been think—
She softened against him, kissing him back, and that was it. His thoughts burned away. Something else rose from the ashes, something he’d kept chained up so long it was all fierceness and animal hunger. He stroked his tongue over her lips, and when she sighed and parted her lips, savage victory swept through him. He claimed her lips, claimed her mouth, claimed the liquid heat inside that tasted of vanilla and strawberries and woman.

“Come here,” she said.
His body obeyed on its own, edging between her knees and covering her, lining them up just right. The lure of her lips was too much, and he kissed her with a touch of desperation. When he rolled his hips, his cock slid over her, and the tip lodged inside of her. Just the tip. He went flame hot everywhere, his back, the base of his skull, his scalp.
This was happening. Him and Esme. Together.
He kissed her deeper as he pushed in slowly. Each inch changed him, broke him down and put him back together again, until he finally seated himself inside her completely, and she threw her head back and moaned.
For a moment, he was too overwhelmed to move. He’d pleased her.

When he started to move his hips as he caressed her with his fingers, she couldn’t stop the sounds escaping her throat. Stroked inside and out, treasured, loved. She wrapped her arms around him, holding him in every way she could as their bodies found a rhythm.
He was here. He was hers. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Kisses everywhere, on her lips, on her throat, her shoulder. Temple to temple, heavy intimate breaths, whispers in her ear, answers.
Like this?
Like this and this and this.
Her hips rose sharply off the floor, pressing as close to him as possible, high, higher, higher. Head thrown back. Too much, too good, so good. A trembling moan. Strong convulsions, over and over and over.

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Review: The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Bookthemarriagebed
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Guilty, #3
Publisher: Avon
Hero: John Hammond
Heroine: Viola Courtland
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 28, 2005
Started On: April 24, 2019
Finished On: April 28, 2019

The only instance that I am glad when I am “too late to the party” is when I discover an author with a treasure trove of books worth digging through. Laura Lee Guhrke has been that for me ever since I stumbled across her title And Then He Kissed Her. Since then, I have been reading her books on and off again, and I have enjoyed each of those reads immensely. Laura Lee Guhrke is the kind of author who does away with the details that are not needed, brings just enough angst to the developing story, and delivers so beautifully on the sexual tension she builds along the way.

I came across this particular title in my continued search for similar books as that of Sherry Thomas’ novel, Ravishing the Heiress. It is a novel that has been on my re-reads shelf since I first read the book in 2012. I wanted a similar kind of story that would deliver a ton of angst, and though both the stories have a great number of differences to them, I loved each in their own way.

It is 1833, and it is common knowledge among the peers of London that Lord and Lady Hammond (John Hammond and Lady Viola Courtland) cannot stand each other. Each goes out of their way to avoid one another, an estrangement that has lasted nine years which had definitely left its mark, especially on Viola who had felt the betrayal anew every single time John had taken on a new mistress in the wake of their separation.

A sudden turn of events changes things overnight, when suddenly John wants an heir from Viola, which means a return to their marriage bed, a thought that scares and repels Viola at the same time. Viola had stumbled head over heels in love with John when she had laid eyes on him at the tender age of 17, and that love she believes has long since died a painful death, buried deep within the scarred remnants of her heart.

John is adamant that Viola return to him, even though Viola makes him work to earn his entrance back into her life, bit by painful bit. John is a man who has never understood or perhaps known love in its purest of forms. Childhood had left its mark on the boy he had been, who had grown into adulthood without understanding the very nature of love and how to reciprocate that feeling in return.

When responsibility of his title had been thrust upon him, he had not been ready to take it on, especially not with the mountain of debt that had come along with it. Marriage to Viola had been a practical decision for him, but the one thing that had not changed is how his wife still has the ability to seduce him in ways he had never forgotten.

What makes The Marriage Bed stand out is how Ms. Guhrke handles everything. Without vilifying any particular character, she does an admirable job of bringing to light the complexities of human emotions and the ties that bind us when all is said and done. Viola had been young, with a heart full of passion and love, which was not reciprocated on the part of John, especially the part on love. A man who keeps his past buried and buried well, John does a good job of hiding from the demons that haunt him, a fact that comes to light as these two come together once again.

While what John had done while married to Viola would not win him any points, he did what any man in his position would have done, especially during the time. His wife had turned him away, and he had been too proud to ask her what it is that had made her do what she did. Viola’s maturity years later and her friend Daphne’s advice played a huge role in changing her perception of John towards the end, and giving their marriage a chance once again. Their marriage had been all about passion at the beginning, with no time taken to get to know one another, to find a common ground – which as Daphne explains, is important for any long lasting relationship.

At certain points in the beginning (since I never did read the first or second book in the series before jumping into this title), I disliked Viola and her at times seemingly impetuous nature. However, I fell completely in love with her at a very significant point in the book towards the end, and I believe Ms. Guhrke made the journey towards that a very worthy one. I absolutely adored the ending. Definitely could not have asked for more after all the emotional upheavals that the story delivered, in spades.

Final Verdict: Unconventional and realistic, with characters who are extremely flawed making the story relatable on many levels. Ms. Guhrke definitely knows how to tell a story!

Favorite Quotes

“Don’t. People are watching us.”
Being John, he ignored that. “If you have forgotten all about passion, and it is my fault, then I need to rectify my mistake, don’t you think?”
“John—” She broke off, forgetting whatever she’d been about to say as he kissed her ear and his thumb began to caress the line of her jaw.
“I could think of all sorts of ways to remind you,” he went on. “If you let me.”

He made a rough sound against her mouth and broke the kiss. He leaned sideways and with a sweep of his arm cleared the desk, sending the stack of books toppling off the side and onto the floor. Then his hands cupped her buttocks and he lifted her to set her on the desk.
He reached for the sash wrapped around her waist, untying the bow with a hard, quick tug. He parted the edges and pulled her dressing robe apart. His fingertips touched her breasts through her nightgown, brushing back and forth over the hardened nipples. Pleasure rose within her, pleasure long forgotten, pleasure that made her gasp and shiver with excitement.

His body was wet, his mouth was hot, and the feel of both disintegrated any resistance left in her. Like a dam breaking, the hunger she had been holding back for years was unleashed in an instant. With a cry, she turned and wrapped her arms around his neck. She caught his mouth with hers and kissed him, a hungry, open-mouthed kiss borne of being so long without him, of being alone and hurting. She clung to him now, kissing him with all the passion she had denied to him and to herself.

He pressed his hips against her, and she felt his arousal, hot and hard against her tummy. She took him in her hand, her fingers not able to completely surround his shaft, and she stroked him, her hand exploring the shape, a shape still so familiar.
He stopped her. “I want to be inside you,” he said with sudden urgency. He grasped both her hands in his and pulled them both down onto the bed. Then he rolled her onto her back and his knee moved between her thighs, urging her legs to part.
“Open for me,” he groaned, settling his body over her, resting his weight on his forearms. “Now, Viola, now.”

He gave a hoarse cry smothered against her hair and slid his arms beneath her, crushing her against him as if he couldn’t get her close enough, thrusting as deep as he could. He shuddered violently as his own pleasure was at last unleashed, and his body went rigid as the warmth of his climax poured from him into her.
He collapsed on top of her, breathing hard against the pillow. His hand came up to stroke her cheek. “Viola,” he groaned. “Oh, God, Viola.” He sucked in deep breaths of air, pressing kisses against her hair and her ear and her temple. “Meant it,” he told her in a hoarse, fierce whisper. “Meant every damn word.”

He made a rough sound and stopped her. He caught her hands and shoved them away. Gripping her shoulders, he pulled her to her feet. He kissed her hard and his hands began tugging at her skirts, pulling them up, quick and desperate, out of control.
Tossing up yards of silk and muslin, he wadded her skirts between them, then he gripped her buttocks in his hands and lifted her. “Wrap your legs around me,” he ordered, and when she did, he impaled her against him as he pressed her back against the wall.
“Oh God, oh God,” he groaned, and thrust into her hard—once, twice. Then he came, tremors running through his body as he climaxed.

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

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Review: Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory

Format: Paperbackbitterleaf
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Jove
Hero: Jeremy Delvin
Heroine: Meredith Whitney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 01, 1983
Started On: March 15, 2019
Finished On: March 18, 2019

Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory aka Candace Camp was first published when I was just barely one year old. Since this book has never been released in the eBook format, I purchased a used paperback copy of the novel sometime back. This book was listed in one of the recommendation threads I had been searching through way back, in my attempt to find novels where plenty of angst is to be had in a story that brings together two strong willed characters in a marriage of convenience.

When Bitterleaf begins, 21 year old Meredith Whitney, considered plain and gawky because she is taller than average and is not considered a beauty that would turn a man’s head, goes to Charleston with her stepfather Daniel Hurley. Meredith’s mother had died sometime back, leaving her with her stepfather, whom she had grown to love and respect in time. Under Daniel’s hands, Bitterleaf, the homestead where Meredith had grown up, had flourished and prospered, making Meredith a wealthy woman in her own right.

It is when Meredith, in her bid to escape the companionship of her vapid cousin Phoebe steps out into the market with her stepfather that she faces the man who would change her life in ways she would never have thought possible. Jeremy Devlin, a member of the aristocracy, whose uncle finally has enough of him and sends him on his way to the colonies as an indentured servant, finds himself purchased by none other than the man accompanied by the haughty woman whom he promises to teach a thing or two, if he ever has the chance.

Even though Jeremy finds Meredith to be plain and lacking in terms of beauty, there is something about her that draws him to the “Amazon” that she is in his mind. Jeremy prefers women who are more comely, but it is Meredith and the way she looks at him, with innocent wonder in her eyes that makes him burn.

For Meredith, laying eyes on the tall and sapphire-eyed Jeremy is the end to life as she has known it. Meredith, who had considered herself above those ruled by their want for pleasures of the flesh, finds herself wanting something that she herself does not even understand. It is perhaps owing to this and Jeremy’s frustration with Meredith that culminates in the resulting events, causing a rift that practically defines the whole story from that point onward, casting a dark shadow on every interaction that takes place between Meredith and Jeremy, especially when they are “forced” into a marriage of convenience.

I wanted to like the story, I really did. After all, this had all the ingredients that should rightfully satisfy my appetite for the less than conventional/accepted romances by readers today. To a certain point in the story, everything did work for me. But from the point where Meredith couldn’t seem to come clean about what was bothering her, how she started to continually grate on my nerves (now imagine poor Jeremy who actually had to put up with her?) was the point of no return for me when it came to my dislike for Meredith as a character.

Meredith turned out to be a tiresome, hateful in some ways, unable to look beyond her own insecurities that are of course ingrained deeply in her psych. However, for me, just like a man’s inexcusable behavior towards the heroine is not forgiven all because of what he may have faced during his childhood, I hold the heroine too to the same standard. I found Meredith wearisome especially when it came to not being able to see Jeremy’s desire for her for what it truly was – desire for the woman he wants above anything and anyone else.

Meredith never gives Jeremy the chance to explain things, which once again puts a black mark against her already laborious character. I dislike couples who detract from the enjoyment of the angst that should rightfully be present in a book such as Bitterleaf, but Meredith’s way of being unable to open her mouth without something scathing coming out of it, her self righteousness above everything else was certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to Meredith and the story itself.

I felt that the story would have been better had Jeremy left and Meredith finally had to face the erroneous assumptions she had made about a man who would would have given her everything. She should have learnt the hard way that Bitterleaf alone wouldn’t give her lifelong happiness. The way one of the secondary characters left the story was also a bit of a sore point. While I understood Meredith’s jealousy, I found her inability to forgive and move on a sore point, especially when nothing had actually happened. For me whatever good that was Meredith was overshadowed in a large way by her critical nature. Her inability to look beyond and see the larger picture.

In the end, I skipped through huge chunks of the story just so I could reach the ending because I had invested a lot of time in reading Bitterleaf, not to to mention the first half of the story that was enjoyable.

Final Verdict: Bitterleaf’s name is synonymous with a character trait that defines the heroine. I expected more from the story than a woman who could not look past her own insecurities.

Favorite Quotes

“Jeremy, what are you doing? Stop this at once.”
He chuckled. “Your voice lacks conviction.”
“You startled me, that’s all.”
An eyebrow quirked in disbelief. He dropped her glove on the ground and placed his hands on either side of her face, imprisoning her head and forcing her to look at him. For a long moment, he stared into her green-brown eyes, and then his face lowered. Meredith closed her eyes and sought to pull away, but his grip held her firm. Jeremy’s lips took hers gently, moving upon them in exploration as if he had all the time in the world before him.

At first his kiss was harsh and angry, more a demand than an expression of feeling, but at the touch of her soft lips it didi not remain so for long. His lops gentled as he tasted the sweetness of her mouth. He worked at her with tongue and lips and teeth, exploring, hungry, until she responded with a whimper and her arms came up to curve around his neck. Her tongue met and matched his, easing tentatively into his mouth.
Jeremy shudderedm hurled violently into a relam beyond reason, aware of nothing but the supreme pleasyre he held in his arms. He rained wild kisses across her face and neck, mouthing the soft flesh of her throat, nibbling her sensitive earlobes. Meredith moved in his arms, unable to absorb the multitude of delights he showered upon her.

Suddenly his lips dug into her fierecely. He wrapped his arms around Meredith, pulling her down with him until they both knelt on the floor. Jeremy pressed her torso against his firm body, savoring the thrust of her breasts against his chest. “Meredith,” he breathed. Holding her, he lay back on the floor, pulling her on top of him. It seemed to Meredith a surprisingly natural place to be.
With one hand he shoved down the bodice of her dress, and his mouth trailed down her neck and chest to explore her breasts. He made asoft, wordless noise as he took her nipple into his mouth and felt it harden at the touch. The sound stirred Meredith almost as much as his caressing tongue. She felt strangely weak and melting, itching, yearning.

Jeremy drew back, panting. “God, you tempt me. But I won’t take you like this, on the floor of the study. Not the first time. We shall splendidly be married and marvelously naked in our own bed. I wanted to give you a taste of what you’re ‘buying.’ Perhaps there will be women who snicker, but you can bet there isn’t one who wouldn’t trade places with you, because you’ll wake up smiling. They’ll pretend to pity you, but in reality it’s envy they’ll feel, thinking about the nights you spend tumbling in my bed, well-serviced, while their own husbands are out wenching at the tavern or sporting with a slave girl or too tired or lazy or old to give their wives pleasure. They yearn, my love, they hunger for a young, healthy male like a mare in heat. Believe me, they’d grab at what you have. They’d pay any price to have the sleepy, well-loved look your face will wear. Maybe you bought me on the auction block, but I’ll give you more than you could ever pay.”

“Jeremy,” she sighed when his mouth released hers.
He nibbled at her earlobe, sending bright shivers all through her. “Say it again.”
“Jeremy?”
“Yes.” His breath came hard, in short gasps, his skin as burning and damp as that of a man in the throes of a swamp fever. “My name. You’ve never said it. Jeremy.”
“Jeremy,” she repeated in wonder that he should want her to say his name.
“Oh, Meredith, Meredith.” His mouth was running wild over her neck and shoulders.

“Oh, Jeremy, you won!” Meredith’s eyes sparkled.
The hand that had lifted her up fastened behind her neck and turned her to him, his mouth sinking into the softness of hers. The warmth that had mushroomed in her belly now shot through her enture body. Meredith didn’t give a thought to the other spectators. Instead, she wrapped an arm around Jeremy’s neck and pressed her lips against his. He was hot, his shirt damp beneath her hands. Her nostrils were filled with the pungent odor of horse and sweat. Boldly, instinctively, her tongue flicked out to scoop up the tiny droplets beading his upper lip. Her movement interruped their kiss, but Jeremy didn’t seem to mind. He made a startled, almost animal growl deep in his throat. His free hand slipped beneath her volumnious cloak, straining her against his body, and he kissed her with even more passion, his tongue raking her mouth.

His hands went to the sash of her wedding gown, untying the knot and letting the belt fall. Slowly, savoring the moment, he shoved back the heavy velvet robe, exposing her body clad only in the almost transparent nightgown. She heared him catch his breath and glanced up. His face was flushed, the eyelids heavy, shuttering the intense blue gaze. The dressing gown crumpled silently to the floow as he studied her. All mockery fled from his face as he looked at the swelling mounds of her breasts, nipples dark against the thin material. His eyes moved downward, taking in the smooyth line of her legs, hazily revealed beneath the cloth, all the more tantalizing for their faint concealment. Meredith watched him, braced for a jest or offensive mark, but none came. She sucked in her lower lip, Jeremy’s eyes darkened to a deep midnight blue. “Meredith.”

He began to move within her, but unlike their earlier lovemaking, he thrust again and again. Instead of satisfying her ache, it seemed to make it grow until Meredith involuntarily rolled her head from side to side. Jeremy pounded into her, and she arched up to take him in more fully. She wanted all of him. And something more. She didn’t know what, but the urge was deep and driving.
But Jeremy knew. At her whimper of frustration, he began to move faster, his hips churning, carrying her with him to a new universe of blinding pleasure. He hurled her higher and higher, until she was gasping for breath and clutching at his back, her nails digging unthinkingly into his skin.

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

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Review: Bad Princess by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookbadprincess.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novella
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Finian Bellamy
Heroine: Brinley Cantrella
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 27, 2017
Started On: June 20, 2018
Finished On: June 22, 2018

Bad Princess by Julianna Keyes is a novella that I enjoyed immensely. One reason being that it was different and lighthearted for the most part, while giving readers two characters that you could root and fall for. Julianna Keyes is an author who is immensely talented in the way she invokes so much emotion with every book she has written to-date. I know what I am talking about because except for her latest book in the Burnham College series, I have read everything that she has written and published in the genre.

Bad Princess as the title alludes to, is the story of the younger princess of the Kingdom of Estau, born three years after the birth of the most precious and beloved daughter of the Kingdom, Princess Elle Vida. Princess Elle had been the perfect princess; nothing in her life had been out of sync, never had she misbehaved. She had always done what had been expected of her, that is until she had abdicated the throne and eloped with a commoner when her marriage had already been arranged with a Prince from the neighboring Kingdom of Lenora.

Meanwhile, Princess Brinley Cantrella, with her penchant for mischief and “misbehavior”, is considered lacking the proper decorum that is required of a princess. Knowing that she would never be able to live up to the image of perfection that is her sister, Brinley perhaps had gone out of her way to live her life exactly as she had wanted. Causing scandals is her nature, and getting the opportunity to go to university, away from the prying eyes and ears of the Kingdom had been a godsend for her, that is until duty once again calls her back home.

With Elle having eloped and left the duty of marriage to Prince Finian Bellamy hanging in the balance, it is Brinley who eventually has to step in to fill the role, especially being caught in her most clandestine position yet, with none other than Prince Finian, her sister’s ex-fiance’. For Brinley, this marriage of convenience would be the ultimate punishment; getting married to the man she has loved since she was five years old, but knowing he would never love her in return.

So starts a marriage that is borne out of duty on both parts, or so Brinley believes, until her husband proves her otherwise, in each delicious and wanton encounter in bed and out of it, that leaves Brinley begging for more. However, Brinley’s legendary past is something that is determined to keep up, until she is forced to face her inner demons and accept her own self as being capable and able to course her own chart in traversing through life as an equal partner to her wedded husband.

I believe Julianna did a marvelous job of bringing the touch of modern to a fairy tale romance, the kind of romance we all fall in love with during our childhoods and carry them with us, even till today. I loved every single aspect of this book from the very unusual Princess Brinley who had her work cut out for her when it came to standing her ground and being true to her own self.

I absolutely adored Finnian. He is the kind of Prince I wouldn’t mind being shackled with. In all honesty, Finn and Brinley were made for each other. I fell in love with Finn because he sees right through Brinley, and accepts and loves her for all that she is. Her exploratory nature, her need for messing things up a little, and the way she always gives herself wholeheartedly to each and every adventure that life throws their way are reasons to love her all the more.

I cannot help but be curious to read about Elle’s story, the perfect sister and princess who “lost” her way to the “wicked” lumberjack who had led her “astray”. I hope Julianna intends to write her story one day.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: In Bad Princess, Julianna Keyes delivers a fairytale romance with a twist of modern and leaves the reader wanting more!

Favorite Quotes

She clutched his shoulder and raised onto her toes, kissing him again, breath hitching when he pressed a finger inside. He touched her sweetly at first, then with more confidence, more purpose. A second finger joined in, the heel of his hand glancing her clit, and Brinley couldn’t help but grind against him, even though she wanted this to last much, much longer. He was so good, so—
The library doors banged open and Brinley froze.
Everything froze.
Finn.
His fingers.
The air.
The planet turning on its axis.
The only things that moved were the tourist cameras, clicking frantically as they caught the bad princess in her most compromising position yet.

Finn made the first move.
He put down the tablet and leaned in, closing the scant inches between them, and paused with his mouth a hairsbreadth away. When Brinley didn’t move he closed the remaining space and touched his lips softly to hers.
She tried not to whimper foolishly.
Tried foolishly not to want this.
Want him.
Her husband.
He tilted his head slightly and hers moved as well, improving the fit. They fit together so well. Unfairly well. So temptingly, appallingly well. He nudged her bottom lip and she opened for him, felt his tongue on hers, every bit as skilled as it had been the first time. His hand slipped into her hair and cupped the back of her head, and Brinley let out the whimper she wanted to hide, let him slide a hand over her hip and draw her in so she straddled his lap.

His head fell forward like his neck had grown too weary to hold it up, and she heard him pull in a shaky, steadying breath. She lifted a hand to stroke his back, feeling the ridges of his spine beneath her fingers, the sweat that beaded on his skin. He was waiting for something, composure perhaps, or even more permission, and Brinley opened her legs wider and pressed her heels into the cushion to spur him on.
He started to move, deep, languorous thrusts that reignited nerve endings she would have sworn had been extinguished, and slowly their hips found a compatible rhythm, the slap of their skin growing louder as the intensity increased, as the thrusts lengthened and deepened, as Finn fucked her.
It was that idea, that word, that had Brinley coming undone a second time, something that had never happened before, never even been close to happening. Now it felt like it was totally out of her control, her body responding to stimuli it had been trying for years to tell her it needed.

Brinley writhed in her seat, acutely aware of the weight of his fingers inside her, the reward that waited if she could just behave long enough. Her tutors had tried to teach her the virtues of patience so many times, then given up when their own patience expired.
“I need to come,” she said, her voice hitching. “Please move your hand again. Please touch me.”
He held her gaze, then slowly lowered his head so his mouth covered her nipple, lips fastening around the sensitive skin and sucking hard. Brinley’s back arched and her legs fell apart, and all pretense of not moving fell by the wayside. She felt herself sliding down the smooth leather until her back was on the seat and her husband loomed over her, his fingers thrusting hard inside, finding just the right spot to have her fumbling for her satin clutch, biting into the shiny fabric as she came.

She groaned loud and long into the pillow as he slipped two fingers inside her pussy, her inner muscles clinging to him greedily, thrilling to the rough handling. “Lose the pillow,” he grunted, reaching up to pull it away from her face.
“I can’t,” she replied, fumbling to take it back, barely able to breathe. “Someone will hear.”
“Let them hear. They will stop this talk of divorce.” He punctuated each sentence with a rough lick across her too-sensitive skin, and Brinley trembled all over.
“They will start a new conversation, of an even more embarrassing nature.”
“What’s embarrassing about having your pussy eaten?” Finn asked mildly.

“Fuck,” he growled above her. “Brinley.”
She sucked him harder, hollowing her cheeks, rubbing her tongue on the underside of his cock and tasting the wetness at his tip.
He jerked away and caught her under the arm, pulling her to her feet. “Bend over,” he ordered roughly.
She did as instructed, bracing her elbows on the bed, ass in the air, exposed and anticipating. There was the sharp rip of the condom package and a pause as Finn rolled it on, then he was gripping her hips and working himself into her welcoming body, grinding himself against her as though erasing any doubts between them. Brinley dropped her head to the soft blankets and gave herself over to sensations she could not control. She moaned and writhed as Finn fucked her, his hips driving in so deeply from this angle, so completely. He shattered her and she came apart in his hands, her body conceding, obeying when she never obeyed. And above her he groaned, a long, heartfelt sound as he came, showing her all the things he could not say.

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Review: The Samurai’s Garden by Patricia Kiyono

Format: E-bookthesamuraisgarden.jpeg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Astraea Press
Hero: Hiromasa Tanaka
Heroine: Hanako Shimizu
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 06, 2012
Started On: October 15, 2017
Finished On: December 19, 2017

The Samurai’s Garden by Patricia Kinoyo is a book that I purchased on a whim when I came across the title on Amazon. The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise, set in Japan is one of my favorite movies of all time. Plus, Japan as a country holds a wealth of fascination for me, not the least to do with their discipline, moral code, their love for nature, and their general kindness towards humanity. To read a romance set in Japan, infused deeply with Imperial Japanese culture was something too good for me to pass up.

The Samurai’s Garden is set in the 17th century, a time during when the Samurai were stripped of their powers, leaving a lot of of men lost amidst the changes taking place. In Hokkaido, Hanako Shimizu is a widow struggling to survive the harsh realities of life without her father and her husband. Not that the latter had been of much help when it came to the practicalities of life. But for a woman without the protection of a male in the household, life was a perilous journey, especially considering the unwanted advances of men she would rather not associate with.

When a stranger with two swords hanging at his side comes to her rescue at the market and offers to work at her homestead for a place to stay and warm meals, Hanako wants to refuse. But something about the way Hiromasa Tanaka holds himself makes her trust him enough to invite him into her life.

Justice, Bravery, Benevolence, Politeness, Veracity, Honor, and Loyalty were the seven codes of the Bushido, or “Way of the Warrior”; the code by which Hiro has lived his life up till the point until the new laws had come into place. Rather than head back to Tokyo to be with his family as he should have done, Hiro had gone even further north until he had come to the island of Hokkaido where he meets Hanako, invariably changing both their lives forever.

Working together to make Hanako’s home self sufficient, Hiro proposes marriage to Hanako, an offer that she is reluctant to accept for many reasons. Hanako has always more or less being viewed as a nobody with no special skills to speak of, no family of worth to back her, which means that understanding her own worth is a monumental task for her. Hiro aims to change all that for his Little Flower, as soon as she would agree to do the honors of being his wife.

The Samurai’s Garden was so lovely in so many ways. There is Hiro of course, a man who is as gentle and kind as they come, with a core of steel running through him that makes him oh so very desirable. His dedication towards making their shared home a prosperous and happy one is evident throughout and for those reasons and more I loved him wholeheartedly. There was also the fact that Hiro wanting to allay Hanako’s fears about being done wrong by a worthless husband yet again, does something very uncommon, especially during the time period in which the story is set. That was the icing on the cake for me when it came to Hiro’s character.

Hanako, while she resists Hiro on many levels at first, starts seeing the man of worth Hiro is from day one. However, that does not make it easy for her to trust him with her heart, and the way Hiro wins her over, inch by inch, and how Hanako blooms under his care, love, and attention was so worth it.

In the midst of it all, Hiro prepares the village to face off rogue Samurai, and the final test of their relationship comes when Hiro is called back home to face unfinished business that he had left behind. What the whole story brings together, apart from the way Hideyori Kato’s story ended, a bit anticlimactically if you ask me, everything else was pretty wonderful.

I just adored how Hiro calls Hanako his Little Flower. Made me go awn every single time. The garden Hiro plants and tends to around their property, even with Hanako’s misgivings about its practicality, the flowers that bloom, the beauty, peace, and tranquility of it all which Ms. Kinoyo brings to life so effortlessly with her words was why I adored this book.

Recommended for those who would love to read a romance in a Japanese historical setting.

Final Verdict: The Samurai’s Garden is aptly named in a way that brings a smile to my heart. It reminds me of Hiro and Hanaka, and Hiro’s undying love for a woman who is his equal in every way. Beautifully written!

Favorite Quotes

Hiro stood at the edge of the clearing, swinging an ancient axe in a deadly arc at the trunk of a thick tree. A loud crack preceded the thunderous boom as it crumpled to the earth. The axe continued its work as limbs and branches were separated from the trunk.
Hanako’s mouth went dry at the sight of her handsome guest. He was stripped to the waist, his tanned and muscled arms glistening as they swung rhythmically. She couldn’t resist leaning out of the doorway to get a closer look. Mesmerized, she stared at the rippling muscles on his back. Kenji had never stirred such feelings in her. Of course, Kenji had never subjected himself to hard physical labor. He was an artist and an intellectual.

“Are you certain you are all right?” Hanako asked again.
“I’m fine,” he insisted. “I’m just hungry.”
“Yes, of course. I will prepare your meal,” she said as she scurried toward the cook stove. He noticed her hands shook as she measured the rice, poured water into the pot, and attempted to light the fire. The flame would not start for her, and as she tried again and again, she got more agitated. Finally he got up and stood behind her. He reached around her and put his hand on hers.
“You are too distressed from today’s events. I can do this.”
She dropped the flint and covered her eyes. Great sobs racked her body, and she tried to step away from him, but he gathered her in his arms and rocked her gently.
“You are safe, my little flower. I would not let anyone harm you.”

She let herself dream as his arms and body cradled her. They went through the motions, his right hand and arm directing the improvised weapon, his left hand moving her body. It was amazing how their bodies fit together, how their limbs moved in perfect synchronization. His hands switched as he moved the improvised weapon to her other hand and turned her body so her left side faced the imaginary opponent. Hanako knew the movements had been designed for fighting, but the two of them were engaged in a much different, though equally intense, reality.

He had often imagined her like this, late at night, as he tried to sleep knowing she was only a short walk away. His mind’s eye had constructed the creaminess of her skin, the smooth curve of her body, the warmth of her smile. But the vision before him surpassed all of his dreams. This woman had been created especially for him, and he alone would have the right to cherish her from now to eternity. He would not ever take this right for granted.

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepository

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Review: Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-bookdukeofdesire.png
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #12
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Raphael de Chartres
Heroine: Iris Daniels
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 17, 2017
Started On: December 11, 2017
Finished On: December 16, 2017

Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt is the much awaited final installment in the Maiden Lane series, books that have consistently managed to captivate, woo, and stupendously deliver on all fronts where the romance genre is concerned. Hoyt writes with a flair that is rarely found in the genre; with heart, wit, and a sensuality that takes your breathe away. Why I fell in love with her books is owing to all that and more, and though I was sad to be saying goodbye to the series, I knew in my heart that it was time.

Duke of Desire brings to readers the story of Iris Daniels, Lady Jordan whom we encounter in the previous book in the series, alongside with Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore. Raphael is a man on a mission to hunt down the members of the Lords of Chaos, a despicable secret society whose members consisted of aristocrats who enjoyed preying on the most vulnerable – on the rape and destruction of women and children.

When Iris finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the diabolical intentions of the members of the Lords of Chaos, it is Raphael who steps into rescue her, though it does not seem like that at first from where she is standing. However, as circumstances push them together, Raphael finds himself at odds with his lifelong mission that had set him on the course of pursuing the members of the group. In Iris, he finds a a flicker of light at the end of that long and dark tunnel that glows brighter every passing minute he spends in her company, enticing him to cast the demons that hounds him aside and be free to love her as he yearns to.

Iris having being married before, wants more from marriage the second time around. Being “forced” into “wedded bliss” with Raphael hardly seems like the road to achieving that particular dream she has for her future. But bit by bit, Iris comes to the realization that with Raphael, she just might find everything her heart yearns and desires for, if only she is willing to peel back the layers that makes the complex man that Raphael is, and help him confront his painful past.

For me, Duke of Desire was a story that didn’t quite reach its potential. I felt that there was so much more that Hoyt could have done with the storyline, but missed out on, which made the story a bit lackluster in certain areas.

Raphael however, was a gem of a hero who I wanted to hold close and even cry about at times. His past is one that proved to be graphically all too real at certain points (which was necessary in my opinion), and horrifyingly so close to the truth if you look at the depravity that is human nature all too often. To have suffered what Raphael did, at such a tender age, alongside with the conflicting array of emotions he has for his abuser (which was all too understandable), I found that Raphael’s character was one I fell for without a shred of doubt.

For me, it was Iris’s character that I found lacking. While I loved her for her gentle and giving nature, there was something missing in her, a characteristic that is strongly inherent in almost all of Hoyt’s heroines. I also found the ending of the Lords of Chaos to be a bit anticlimactic after the continued theme in a couple of books towards the end of the series. However, even with all the tidbits that did not work for me, I did enjoy the story and ended it with the hope that Hoyt would continue to write amazing stories that readers like us covet so much.

Final Verdict: Hoyt bids adios to her Maiden Lane series by bringing forth one of the most broken and yet formidable heroes in the series, the Duke of Dyemore. Loved him to bits and then some.

Favorite Quotes

She took his hand in hers and ran the cloth over the veins that roped the back. His fingers were long and strong, and they dwarfed hers, the nails square and pale. She carefully washed each one and then cupped his hand in hers to wash his palm. It was an intimate act. A … caring act. One a mother might perform for a child.
Or a woman might perform for her lover.
Iris caught her breath and straightened to rinse the cloth.
When she turned back her gaze caught his.
He was watching her, his crystal eyes half-lidded, his twisted lips parted.
She felt something inside her clench.

Iris cleared her throat and rubbed in small circles on his upper chest, moving downward, toward one of those nipples. They were just little bits of flesh, weren’t they? A deeper color, certainly, than the surrounding skin, and creped, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Her breath caught as she swept over his nipple with the cloth. Did he feel that? Did it feel any different from the rest of his skin? Did he feel as she did when cloth brushed over her bare nipples?
She dared to peek from under her lowered eyelashes.
His nostrils were flared, his eyes mere slits.

She stretched on tiptoe and pressed the sketchbook to his chest, holding it there with the flat of her palm. “Tell me the truth, Raphael. Now. Tonight. No more evasions and lies. What is it you feel for me? Is it affection—or merely indifference?”
He finally moved then, snatching the sketchbook from her hand and tossing it to a chair.
He wrapped one arm around her waist and fisted her hair with the other hand, bending over her until she had to grasp those broad shoulders or fall. “Believe me, Wife, the last thing I feel for you is indifference.”
Then his mouth was on hers, devouring her, his hot tongue demanding that she part her lips and let him into her depths.

His hips began to move, thrusting gently, shoving his cock in and out of her mouth.
She glanced up and saw his head tilted back, the tendons of his neck drawn taut, and suddenly his hand was in her hair, pulling, trying to make her move away.
But she didn’t want to. She had such power now and she was drunk on his taste and scent. She sucked strongly, moving her hands up and down that gorgeous shaft, feeling as he thrust his cock against her tongue.
He groaned as if he were in pain and his hips shuddered.
And she tasted hot, bitter liquid in her mouth.
Semen. His semen.

He guided her down so that she was pressed against him, his knee right in her softness, her lips spread on him.
Her eyes widened.
“Rock,” he said, watching her.
She grasped his thigh and slowly rubbed against him, her breasts trembling.
“Do you like it?” he asked, looking quite sinister.
“Yes.” She licked her lips. “Yes, I do.”
“You look like you like it,” he murmured low.

“Have you ever pleasured yourself?” he asked.
And she opened her eyes wide in shock. She never … To discuss aloud such things!
His eyes were knowing, as if he’d seen her, lying in her virginal bed long ago, fingering herself.
“Show me,” he growled. “Show me what you do.”
She swallowed and trailed her right hand down, burrowing her middle finger into where she was hot and wet.
Oh! She couldn’t catch her breath. Doing this in front of him as he eyed her dispassionately. As he ordered her to display herself for him. She was on the point, so close, so close, her finger working faster and faster as her scent rose in the air between them.
Her mouth opened wide and her hips stuttered against him, sweet heat flowing through her, infusing her limbs, making her light-headed.
He caught her and drew her against him, pressing kisses into her mouth as he murmured, “So beautiful. So beautiful.”

He licked, flicking her nipple with his tongue on one side and his fingers on the other, and at the same time he ground down on her, shoving her chemise into her pussy, rubbing against her clitoris, until the silk was sodden with her wetness. Until she could hear the soft, slick sounds he made, his body on hers, him pleasuring her, while he would not let her move.
He wasn’t gentle. But then perhaps he didn’t know how to be gentle, and the thought made something inside her weep, even as he drove her up that peak. Maybe this was all he knew: flesh and liquid heat.
Maybe that was all she would ever have from him.
She wasn’t certain it was enough.

She arched beneath him, her hips shoving up, trying to get more of that hand, more of that gaze. He lowered his head and covered her mouth, thrusting between her lips as he slid a finger into her softness.
She trembled beneath him, moaning as he kissed her so deeply she thought she might lose her senses.
He was rubbing his thumb over her clitoris now, fast and hard, and he broke the kiss to murmur in a voice dark as hellfire, “Wet my hand. Show me your desire. Show me all that you are. Let me look at your sweet cunt, swollen and rosy for me. I want to make you weep. I want all your pleasure, Iris, all your pain, everything you are. You are the light in my black night. Come for me.”

Oh God, she wanted him to fill her.
She pressed her palm to the side of his face.
He turned his head and kissed her palm … and at the same time thrust inside her.
She gasped at the sudden invasion. At feeling his cock inside her at long last. At the stretch and the fullness and the glory.
He thrust again and was fully seated, as far inside her as it was possible to be. Her legs were stretched open to accommodate his hips, and he was pressed deeply, intimately into her.
He pushed up on his arms and held himself there as he pulled his cock nearly all the way from her body and then drove back in again.
She opened her mouth, panting, holding his crystal-gray gaze. His hips were working now, driving into her at a hard pace, filling her again and again.
She’d never …
It had never been like this before.
So intense. So intimate. So devastating.

She moaned, long and low, wanting to arch, to thrash, to scream. Instead she opened her mouth and bit his shoulder, tasting salt.
Tasting want.
Then she gasped. “Please.”
“What do you want?” he whispered in her ear, an incubus, dark and alive and in her. “Tell me. What do you need?”
“I …” Her mouth opened, wordless.
“Tell me,” his smoky voice curled around her.
“You.”
He chuckled, dark and low.
“This?” He thrust short and hard into her, the impact sending jolts of pleasure through her body. “Yes, that,” he murmured to himself as if pleased, and did it again.
And again.

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

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