Review: The Vanity of Roses by Lily White

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Callan Rose
Heroine: Lisbeth Rebel Rose
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 17, 2020
Started On: June 15, 2020
Finished On: June 19, 2020

I have forgotten how I came across The Vanity of Roses by Lily White. Not that it matters, but I like remembering how a book came to my attention. Perhaps it has got something to do with the fact that this book promised to deliver a ruthless hero who in turn would give the story the angst that I so crave in my romance novels. But alas, all of what I was hoping for never did materialize in the story as I wanted it to.

The Vanity of Roses begins at a point where a tragic event takes place at the Rose Estate, home of Lisbeth Rebel Rose. The hero, Callan Rose was a servant boy in the family back then, at the beck and call of none other than Lisbeth who made his life a living hell. Ten years later, the roles are reversed and gives Callan the perfect opportunity to get back at Lisbeth for all the pain and misery that she had put him through.

However, even as Callan is at his most ruthless self, he loses his edge when it comes to delivering that needed lesson to Lisbeth. At the same time, Lisbeth fights back, until at long last, she gives into the push and pull factor between them, what she had perhaps craved all along and never quite accepted at heart. As the story plunges to its end, the stakes have never been higher, especially with both their hearts on the line; the question being, who will fall first into the deep abyss that is love?

While I found Ms. White’s writing style to be one that is highly readable, for the most part, The Vanity of Roses was filled with repetitive inner monologue that was tiresome so much so that I skipped parts of the story to reach those bits where things were actually happening. Lengthy descriptions trying to portray the hero as the badass character that perhaps Ms .White envisioned him to be also proved to be tiresome. Heroes are ruthless by showing to readers what they are capable of through their actions, not by painting a picture of the same without concrete action to back it up with.

The secrets when they were revealed about what took place that fateful day, which served to be the whole premise of the novel, was an overblown one in my opinion. We all get it. The family is dangerous, but to prove that point, to commit a crime so heinous – that to me was totally unrealistic, not to mention the fact that there was a noticeable lack of any mention of an ongoing investigation into the event, which for all intents and purposes remained unsolved.

I am guessing that above all of that, my biggest discontentment about the story arose from how I felt about main protagonists. For one thing, I found the Lisbeth to be quite awful at the beginning and for the most part. The way she thought that a mere apology would suffice for her bullish and cruel behavior was just unacceptable to me. She did nothing to redeem herself in my opinion, and I found her attempts or apologies to be half-hearted at best.

Callan also fell way below my expectations. I went into the story, pretty excited by the blurb and expecting a hero that would blow me away. He was big, brawny, good looking, and scarred in the way that makes for the most exquisitely crafted heroes. But alas, there was nothing about him that showed the growth of his character as the story progressed. At first, his revenge on the heroine or the way he at least tried was interesting, but it was evident from the start that he would not be able to see it through.

All in all, I ended up believing that neither Callan nor Lisbeth deserved the other. Or perhaps they do, because I found them both to be equally disappointing. The saddest part though was the fact that this could have gone in a totally different direction, had the main protagonists not being so unlikable.

Recommended for fans of mafia themed romances. There is a reason I steer clear of them. This one says it all.

Final Verdict: The Vanity of Roses fell short of every expectation I had when I first picked it up. Proved to be disappointing, most of all the main protagonists.

Favorite Quotes

Quickly stuffing towels away, I slowly pushed to my feet as I filled each shelf, my eyes seeking each tiny slit to peek through as I stuffed the last towel in.
I was at my full height when I dared look one more time and found a pair of whiskey eyes pinning mine through the slat. My heart stopped with a painful rattle.
Oh my God…
Callan’s dark stare didn’t waver. His body didn’t stop fucking that woman’s face. And she had no idea I was standing here.
But he did.

“I won’t be gentle,” I warned, my finger pressing down to find her panties were soaked.
She shook again, her mouth seeking the violence of my kiss.
We were balanced on a precipice with the threat of falling over, our eyes locked, our lips brushing, our bodies ready to give and take despite the hate we felt.
When she didn’t answer, the last cord of self-control I had snapped.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
I flicked her panties aside at the same moment my mouth took control of hers, and while my tongue swept in to taste her for the first time, my finger dove deep inside her body.
Victory was the flavor of her first sensual moan.

Breathless, I asked, “Don’t you think this is a bad time to have this discussion?”
I could feel him smile against my skin. “I think this is the best time, actually.”
Notching the tip of his cock at my entrance, he lifted his head to lock eyes with mine.
“Why’s that?”
One long thrust and he filled me completely, his cock so deep that I swore I could taste him in my throat. His hand locked on my thigh to push my legs open wider, his hips so frustratingly still that I thought I might scream.
Leaning down, his mouth brushed mine as he answered, “So that neither of us make the mistake of forgetting what we’ve done to each other and fall in love.”
“I won’t fall in love.”

Our bodies slapped together again, the orgasm I’d been chasing finally igniting inside me until my body shook against his, my mouth opening on a silent scream as pleasure flooded every cell.
Callan’s hand slid from my breast to my throat, his teeth sinking down, the scruff on his jaw so rough on my skin that it competed against the hard planes of his body claiming mine.
He held me there while wave after wave of the orgasm broke me to pieces, the release shattering me, the tremors as violent as him.

I released her throat when panic flooded her body, shoved my pants down with one hand and grabbed her breast with another. And while she coughed to finally have air fill her lungs again, I drove myself inside her, her cunt clutching me, desperate to be filled, greedy.
She surprised me with her raspy words. “Again. Do it again.”
My head snapped up, and I met her sultry stare, my hips going still while my cocked remained sheathed inside her.
I spoke carefully in response.
“You like that edge, don’t you? The one between life and death.”
Lisbeth nodded, insanity behind her eyes.
In that we were the same. I loved it, too. A little too much.

Thrusting inside her with one hard shove, I buried myself to the balls, practically sipping on the scream that tore from her throat, part anger at what I’d said and part lust.
That’s the thing with bitches: they’ll pretend they want to be worshipped when the truth is they want to be stripped of their power and fucked dirty against a wall.

“Ride my tongue, beautiful. Show me how much you want this.”
My body bucked as the tip of his hot tongue flicked the swollen skin, my hips moving as if on their own, directing him, riding his mouth as he licked and nibbled, driving me just to the edge of ecstasy before pulling back.

Purchase Links: Amazon

Review: Heart of Stone by Diana Palmer

Format: E-Bookheartofstone
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Long, Tall Texans, #35
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Boone Sinclair
Heroine: Keely Welsh
Sensuality: 1
Date of Publication: September 01, 2007
Started On: February 10, 2020
Finished On: February 14, 2020

Diana Palmer is an author I read often when I first discovered the treasure that Harlequin romances presented when I initially stumbled upon them.

I was fascinated by the cruelty of heroes that she tended to create so effortlessly, the ton of angst in her stories, and the grovelling that the hero often had to do to finally win the affections of the heroine.

Since I have been seeing a lot of Diana Palmer on my Amazon recommendations page recently, I decided to give one of her titles a go, and hopefully recreate the magic that I had once basked under when it came to Diana Palmer. Alas, my expectations were never met, and I even wondered how I managed to finish the story as disappointing as it was.

19 year old Keely Welsh has been in love with 30 year old Boone Sinclair since she had been thirteen years old. Coveting him from afar, Keely is best friends with Boone’s sister and younger brother. Even though Keely knows in her heart that Boone would never be interested in someone like her (he goes out of his way to ignore everything that is about her), she remains single, on the fringes, in an unrequited love affair of her own making.

A turn of events brings Keely to a point where she enters into a pretend relationship with Boone’s younger brother, which sets the ball rolling where Boone is concerned. Keely’s life is shaped by a mother who couldn’t care less about their situation, and a father who is of the less than savory type. A mother who tends to sleep around has left its mark on Keely in more ways than one. It is not hard to understand why Keely stays the way she is.

When all of it comes to a heady conclusion, of course Keely and Boone do end up together, but I quite don’t get how they ended up so. There was very little romance and sexual tension between the two, and there were too many characters coming and going in the midst, that you are left clueless as to who is who if you haven’t been following this “series” in order.

Boone and Keely also spends so much time apart from each other in the story, that I don’t quite know how they found their ideal footing to embark on a relationship of any kind. There was very little exploration of the characters together for the reader to draw them to either of them.

I remember Diana Palmer’s books to be dramatic, angst-ridden, with often possessive and cruel heroes in the mix and delicate heroines with a backbone, which was sadly not the case with this one.

Recommended for die-hard fans of Diana Palmer novels.

Final Verdict: Heart of Stone fell short of every expectation that I had, delivering a lackluster read with too many aspects that didn’t work for me.

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

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Review: Too Hard by Alexa Riley

Format: E-Booktoohard
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Erotic Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Butch Barton
Heroine: Harlow Harrison
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 04, 2019
Started On: May 17, 2019
Finished On: May 18, 2019

Too Hard by Alexa Riley features heroine Harlow Harrison and hero Butch Barton, Butch being much older than Harlow. Harlow with her fascination for technology and Butch with his own construction company are two people whose lives would never have crossed each other’s had it not being for an emergency plumbing situation that arises at Harlow’s place.

From the moment both of them lay eyes on each other (as it always does happen in Alex Riley novels), these two develop the hots for each other. While Butch does resist at first owing to the huge age gap, Harlow has no such problems as she is a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get what she wants.

An Alexa Riley is good when you need a smutty novella that would not require much from the reader. While there is the usual dose of sensually charged scenes in the novel, the scenes sort of lose their appeal because of my inability to connect with the characters on a more emotional level. It wasn’t the age factor that put me off, but it felt as if I was just on the fringes, observing two people who had the hots for each other going at it. I wanted more, and sadly that did not materialize in this story.

Recommended for fans of Alexa Riley.

Final Verdict: Too Hard delivers smut well and good, just not enough emotional depth to give the story the wholesome edge it deserves.

Favorite Quotes

I drop the screwdriver from my hand and brace myself with both my palms on his chest. I know this orgasm is going to rock my whole world and I dig my fingers into his shirt as I feel it get closer. My eyes lock with his as I search for something. I’m so close but I need more and I don’t know why I’m not cumming. At first I thought I was going to go over instantly, but now I’m teetering on this edge and can’t go over it.
“Good girl.” His words are my undoing and the unknown thing I was looking for was his approval. That’s all I needed for him to push me over the edge and send me into pure pleasure. I cry out his name and my whole body shakes as warmth swallows me. I close my eyes. I fall into it and let it take me over as a peace I’ve never felt blankets me.

“You’ve got a body made for me.” Her pussy grips my fingers and I groan at the sensation. “I can’t stop now that I’ve had a taste.”
I take my fingers out of her and turn her around so I can lick her pussy. I push back into her warmth and she cries out while I rub on her G-spot and suck on her pussy lips.
“Butch, I’m so close,” she whines, and it makes me feel like a god.

“More,” she whispers, wiggling her lower half, and I know she’s probably soaking wet for it.
“I’ve got plenty where that came from.” I wrap an arm around her waist and lift her up as her legs go around me. I tear off her thong and thrust all the way inside of her wet pussy while still standing up.
She cries out and clings to me, and I hold her steady as I keep moving. “Shhh, just breathe. It will stop hurting in just a second.” I grip her hips and move her up and down, planting my feet on the floor. “Your little pussy is brand new to this, but it knows what to do.”

Purchase Links: NA

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Review: Prisoner of Night by J.R. Ward

Format: E-Bookprisonerofnight
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novella
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #16.5
Publisher: Gallery Books
Hero: Duran
Heroine: Ahmare, blooded daughter of Ahmat
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 07, 2019
Started On: March 20, 2019
Finished On: March 25, 2019

Prisoner of Night by JR Ward is a novella set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, released just this January. The story begins with Duran, a male vampire held under captivity by another known as Chalen the Conqueror, is tortured both physically and mentally with the sole purpose of breaking him. When the story continues, it is Ahmare, the blooded daughter of Ahmat, a teacher by profession, thrown into extraordinary circumstances, in pursuit of her brother who comes seeking Chalen at his “home”.

It is Chalen who throws Duran and Ahmare together, which kick starts a journey into something both never foresaw coming. Even with all Duran had undergone at the hands of those who worked for Chalen, from the moment Ahmare steps into close proximity, Duran recognizes her as the one he belongs with, even though there is a wealth of issues that he needs to work through, a past he needs to confront, and his own father to contend with. Ahmare, while at first, is distrustful of Duran, she slowly comes to identify that the male with her is one of worth, someone she could definitely fall and fall hard for.

I found Prisoner of Night to be a bit jarring, having enjoyed the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, some books more than others up to this point. But Prisoner of Night had no reason nor rhyme to it, falling into place just like that, with characters that we have never come across before. Of course, the novella Dearest Ivie was also of the same variety, but it was a novella that I enjoyed because there was emotional depth to the story that I could relate to.

Prisoner of Night wasn’t relatable in any aspect. Except for Duran’s character and Ahmare’s considerate nature toward him, there is little in the story that held my attention. There were gory details of violence that just seemed out of place, especially at the points where Duran was first being held captive, and more so where Ahmare was having flashbacks into how she had performed her first kill.

I felt disconnected from both Duran and Ahmare in a large way and because of that the story that unfolded. For me, Prisoner of Night was just a collection of paragraphs about violence and sex. I had problems with how Duran, a vampire who had been violated so badly, multiple times over, found it that easy to be intimate with Ahmare, his very first female. Zsadist’s story was believable after everything he went through because Ward took care and time with his character, to get deep into his psych so that readers were right there with him when things changed for him for the better.

There is also one more aspect to these novels that has gotten kind of tiresome over the years. The continued looking down on humans in general. How are vampires any great as a race than humans when it comes right down to it? Humans are crappy, needy, self-righteous, greedy, and all of those character traits that makes us annoying. But vampires, beyond their ability to live for centuries, aren’t that great either in my opinion. The beginning of the race itself had been steeped in divisiveness, elitism, and a culture that had created a great divide between the glymera, the ruling class, and the normal vampire folk who pretty much have as hard a time as humans do to make ends meet, to survive.

Even though Wrath has at this point in time embraced his role as the King of the species fully, it was his dillydallying that put the entire race in danger, the lack of strong leadership that had actually created the vacuum which had seen his role as king threatened from within the glymera itself. How is that for greatness of the race? Ward needs to tone down a bit on hating humans, because at the end of the day, the vampire race is just as lacking, with the same set of problems that humans face, equipped with an angel who just helps out the elite “brotherhood” with problems they face in their love lives. *mic drop*

Recommended for diehard fans of the BDB series.

Final Verdict: Prisoner of Night was a letdown in every sense. While new characters are welcome, the deep disconnect that is felt from the characters contributed to making this a paltry reading experience.

Favorite Quotes

Duran planted his palms on the tile wall, his great arms bowing out, and then he got to the grind, his abs rolling under his tight skin, his hips working, his lips finding hers until the rhythm got too intense. Looking down her body, beneath her breasts, she watched him go in and out of her, the sight so erotic, she came again.
And again.
And . . . again.
He was filling her up on the inside once more, marking her as males did when they had bonded, mating her in the rawest sense of the word. His face, as he strained and powered over her, was intense, his eyes glowing, his fangs bared as his lips curled off his canines in pleasure.
He was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
And he was alive.

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

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Review: True Enchanter by Susan Napier

Format: E-booktrueenchanter_susannapier
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Richard Marlow
Heroine: Joanna Carson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 10, 1987
Started On: October 26, 2018
Finished On: October 29, 2018

After the high of my previous read, The Sister Swap by Susan Napier, I decided that one more Susan Napier was in order to continue riding the high.

Story begins with Joanna Carson, aunt to one talented and quite young Rebecca, acting as a chaperone to her niece on a movie set, where Rebecca was as one of the lead roles. This is how Joanna starts to spend time, albeit reluctantly, with Richard Marlow, the director of the said movie, a man she believes to be too egoistic and arrogant for his own good. 

Richard had been a promising actor himself, who at the peak of his stardom, went out of the spotlight owing to a life changing accident, which saw him return as a movie director. 

True Enchanter, despite all elements that should have made it work, was a tough story to care about. I liked the hero a bit, and disliked the heroine intensely. In my opinion, she is one of those heroines whom you want to see as someone who was pushing the boundaries on the gender equality agenda, but somehow ends up being annoying about everything. But in all honesty, I just found her tiresome and thought to myself good riddance when I skipped bits and pieces to get to the ending. 

Susan Napier writes strong heroines, and pushes the accepted norms in her books. Feminism as an evolving concept has always been challenged by romance authors to different extents. But then there are the heroines who grate on your nerves because of their “strong ideals” and end up giving the story a bad vibe rather than being an empowering figure to the reader.

Recommended if you like heroines who come off too strong. 

Final Verdict: Tiresome in a way that had me skipping parts of the story to get to the ending. It is my faith in Napier’s abilities as a writer that made me even  try.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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ARC Review: Trapped at the Altar by Jane Feather

Format: E-booktrappedatthealtar
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Trapped, #1
Publisher: Pocket Books
Hero: Ivor Chalfont
Heroine: Ariadne Daunt
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 22, 2014
Started On: November 2, 2014
Finished On: November 5, 2014

Trapped at the Altar by Jane Feather is her debut novel in the Trapped series which turns out to be my very first experience of her writing as well. The premise of this story was an interesting one. Ivor Chalfont and Ariadne Daunt had grown up together, childhood friends, their entwined fate as husband and wife decided when they were merely children. When the time of reckoning had come, Ariadne had been in love with another, so totally not ready to give herself up to Ivor who seemed perfectly at home with what is expected of him.

What could have turned out to be a delicious read somehow headed astray right from the very beginning. Jane Feather’s writing style is not one that is difficult to follow. But turns out, I had a problem with connecting to either Ivor or Ariadne. There were moments in the story where I though I might be able to fall in love with Ivor which turned out to be a couple of false alarms. If you ask me, Ivor was the lesser of the two evils where the two protagonists of the story are concerned.

Ariadne was in love with another man which was fine by me. She was reluctant to enter into a forced marriage which was yet again fine by me. And Ariadne giving up her virginity to the man she had supposedly been in love with was also fine with me. What I wasn’t fine with was the deception she lived under up till everything just pretty much exploded in her face. I felt that Ariadne was just a little bit too spoiled and selfish, and I guess rightfully so when she herself admitted to the fact towards the end of the story. Ariadne has this habit of thinking of just herself and though there forges this connection between Ivor and herself as man and wife, she has a hard time putting her trust in him and letting him know how she feels about certain things related to their marriage.

Ivor was the character I felt that could have turned the story around for the better. Ivor had everything going for him which Ariadne’s lover did not. He had the body, the charm and the sexual knowledge to seduce his wife into loving him and I don’t believe that Ivor lived up to his potential in that aspect. There is this aloofness about him or I should say a stiffness about him that seems almost unyielding. For two people who had known each other and practically grown up together as confidantes and best of friends, I had a hard time envisioning that connection between them. There were scenes where that connection seemed to materialize and then something would happen and it just went poof in the air. Somehow, I wanted more from both Ivor and Ariadne and I never got that.

The whole aspect of Ivor and Ariadne’s forced nuptials is based on both Ivor and Ariadne’s family getting their reputation back at the King’s court. There was an uninteresting storyline about Catholics and Protestants which I couldn’t get into and towards the end, a vague sense of unfinished business that lingered on regarding this particular storyline even when the book ended. I believe that the next couple of books in the series would follow that line of story to the end? But frankly I would have to say that I am just not that interested enough to find out more.

Recommended, if you are a fan of Jane Feather.

Final Verdict: Jane Feather pens a mediocre start to the Trapped series with Trapped at the Altar.

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

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Review: Waiting for it by Rhyannon Byrd

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Hero: Jake Farrel
Heroine: Taylor Moore
Sensuality: 5
Date of Publication: March 31, 2004
Started On: May 28, 2010
Finished On: May 29, 2010

I picked this book up because I always love a romance that tells the story of two characters who have a shared past history together. This novel is about Jake and Taylor who both met one another during their high schooling years when Taylor moved to Jake’s town.

From the first moment Jake and Taylor laid eyes on each other it changed their worlds. However, Jake’s best friend Mitch had worked towards creating enough misunderstanding between the two that Jake leaves town without once looking back at the heartbroken Taylor he leaves behind.

Life moves on and Taylor marries Mitch, who makes for a miserable husband all through. Mitch sleeps around on Taylor, a fact that she knows though she never thinks of leaving him until she walks in to find Mitch in bed with the town whore which finally propels her to leave Mitch after 10 years of miserable existence with him.

A year later, Jake returns claiming that he has always loved Taylor and that he has waited around all these years till Taylor could be his. Though Taylor loves Jake to distraction, she is not ready to trust Jake with her heart though she is more than willing to trust him with her body for the multitudes of raunchy rides Jake takes her on. The whole book is basically porn, most of the pages which I skipped through cause too much of anything gets to be tiring.

I skimmed through more than 90% of the book to unravel the actual story behind, a story that appealed to me and would have made for a better read if the emotional and background development of the characters had been given more depth rather than just focusing on the whole sexual aspect of the story.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | Jasmine Jade

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