ARC Review: The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthelullabygirl.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Series: Angie Pallorino, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddocks
Heroine: Angela Pallorino
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: May 14, 2018
Finished On: May 20, 2018

The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White is the second book in the Angie Pallorino series, books centered around the lead female detective, aka Angela Pallorino (Angie). These are not standalone books, so if you want to immerse yourself in the ‘dark’ escape that this series provides, you will have to read the books in order. I say dark escape because Loreth’s books delve into the darker side of suspense with just enough romance going for it to suit readers like myself.

The Lullaby Girl begins two weeks or so after The Drowned Girls end, rather eventfully I must add. With Angie taking down a serial rapist turned killer (Spencer Adams) working her now life partner (of sorts), Sergeant James Maddocks, Angie’s life had considerably turned upside down since the hunt for Spencer had started. Angie, who had then being working sex crimes, had been partnered with James, the man she had tied to a motel bed and drowned herself in him on her way to oblivion – Angie’s method of escape from the voices that hound her.

Since then, Angie and Maddocks had managed to bust wide open a case that has all the elements that makes society gasp in indignation and fear. A rapist & killer who mutilated his victims, who had found easy pickings aboard a ‘pleasure vessel’ known as Amanda Rose, which had also exposed dirty politicians that had benefited from the operations.

While Angie had been placed on leave until the investigation into the culmination of the Spencer Adams angle in the case had ended, Maddocks meanwhile had continued the probe into the human trafficking of young girls and how far the tentacles of the case reaches.

Angie had in the meantime, started inquiries into her childhood, the lies which had pretty much defined her existence having come out into the open during the strenuous hours spent on the case. It is as Angie digs her heels into finding out more, that two detectives seek her out on a cold case of a DNA match with Angie’s, bringing home the possibility that Angie must have family somewhere that could possibly have been looking for her all these years.

With her position as a detective in the department at peril and placed in the social media division, Angie has no choice but to go along for the ride, if only for the ‘benefits’ being on the job would bring in the line of her own investigations. But resent the punishment, she definitely does.

So finds Angie going along with the investigations into her past, while Maddocks pursues the leads on his case, which takes on Russian organized crime amidst international human trafficking angle which brings takes the case to a whole new level. But it is when these two separate and distinct investigations collide that things take a turn which brings the whole house of cards tumbling down.

The Lullaby Girls proved to be just as engrossing a read as it’s predecessor. Angie’s character was just as thorny, perhaps more so owing to the different upheavals that her life has been subjected to along the way. Angie doesn’t see the destructive path she is on, though it is hard not to empathize with what she’s going through as well. She has had her whole world turned upside down, and to come to know that she had had a life that was vastly different from what she remembers to be her childhood, enables her to understand her affinity with crime solving and sex crimes in particular.

The inability to see the “difficult” side of her character prevents Angie from seeing the punishment she is given at the department for what it is; that it had been owing to her actions and behavior along with her strained relationships with her partners, and her lack of ability to follow orders while keeping a level head about it.

This of course makes Angie lash out, and lash out she does, which makes things pretty difficult for Maddocks. Because for Angie, there is nothing more vulnerable than letting someone into her life to a point where he would have the ability to destroy her whole world, if it ever comes to that. Angie likes control, well let’s be honest, who doesn’t. But then again, Angie’s need for control makes it almost impossible for her to see the damage she is doing to her own life, the relationships she forges with everyone around her, and her inability to connect with people long enough to forge meaningful relationships with them.

And then there is Maddocks. Whose own life has clearly not been a walk in the park. The case which forces him to return to his old haunts brings back the memories of a failed marriage, his idealistic views on what his life should have been like, his frayed relationship with his daughter, and most of all, his tendency to be attracted to the broken that needs fixing, which explains Angie and his need for her in his life.

Like I said in my review of the first book, if it were any other man but Maddocks, he would have washed his hands off of Angie and walked away a long while back. But there are reasons which makes Maddocks stay, reasons which I as the reader see for myself when I keep wading through the complexity that is Angie. There is that damaged side to her character which is hard not to empathize with, and there is that wonderful person she could be if there wasn’t so much darkness clouding her life, a person that peeks through from within the layers every once in a while that makes Maddocks’ patience worth it.

Angie coming full circle with her past and uncovering the roots of her beginnings was something to behold. I enjoyed every single minute of it, rooted for Angie with every fiber of my being, and held my breathe every single time things started heading south. But life holds little meaning, if it ain’t for the struggles which you triumph through.

Recommended for fans of thrillers and suspense novels that keeps you at the edge, because a book that doesn’t make you sweat for the characters you root for, ain’t a book worth reading.

Final Verdict: The Lullaby Girl delves deeper into the psyche of Angie and brings to the forefront the horrors of sex-trafficking, taking on the world of transnational organized crime, delivering a story as informative & unsettling as they come.

Favorite Quotes

People don’t understand the toll that job can take on a police officer or his family. They don’t know how we all have to tiptoe around the ugly side of the job, the mood swings, the depression, the drinking.

He caressed the line of her jaw with his thumb. And something fierce and angry erupted inside her—a desperation to burn down her own insecurities, to kill the pain, to blind herself to the fear of what her own memories might reveal, the realities that she might have to face about what had happened to her in childhood. She grabbed his tie and yanked him closer. Drawing his head down, she reached herself up and pressed her mouth hungrily to his. His lips were cold from outside. He hesitated a nanosecond before suddenly cupping her buttocks and jerking her hips tightly up against his pelvis. His mouth bore down on hers, forcing her lips open. He slid his tongue inside, met hers. Lust blinded Angie as she felt his erection stiffening against her belly.

His eyes, intense, held hers as he allowed her to pin his wrists above his head against the floor. Angie straddled his hips and slid the crotch of her skimpy panties aside. Widening her knees, parting her thighs, she sank down onto the hot, hard length of him. With a bliss-filled sigh she spread her thighs farther, making him go deep, deeper. And she began to rock her hips, creating friction deep inside the core of her body. Her breaths came fast, faster. She rocked harder. She became slick around his erection. Her body began to tingle. A hot, raw anger exploded, ripping through her gut, driving her wilder. She closed her eyes, put her head back, mouth open wide, panting, her skin going damp. And she rode him hard and fast and half-clothed, forcing her mind back, mentally reliving that very first night she’d spent with him at the Foxy Motel. She gasped suddenly, froze, then cried out as muscle contractions slammed through her in rolling waves, taking control of her body.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthedrownedgirls.jpeg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Angie Pallorino, #1
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddock
Heroine: Angie Pallorino
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: June 20, 2017
Started On: March 03, 2018
Finished On: April 21, 2018

Loreth Anne White’s voice in the romantic suspense genre is one that resonates with readers like myself who need that dark edge to their reads. This makes Loreth’s books heavy reads, and mind you, they can get quite heavy because they delve into the darkest and most forbidden aspects of humanity itself. But for all that and more, Loreth’s books are unbeatable, and I would never have it any other way.

If I am not mistaken, this is the very first series of books that Loreth has written, interconnected in terms of stories and characters with one another. Entitled “Angie Pallorino” after the lead female detective in the series, The Drowned Girls as the debut novel deals with crimes of the kind that would make a woman look twice over her shoulder in paranoia, lock their doors and double and triple check to see whether they are actually locked, and worry about the whereabouts of loved ones, especially if they deviate from the normal hours they keep.

Angie Pallorino works on sex crimes at the Victoria Metro Police Department. Angie comes with issues that are layered with issues, and she is one of the most complex female leads I have ever come across. Angie has a way of dealing with the darkness inside of her, the voices that won’t quit, that feeling that has always hounded her that the life she has been living wasn’t really hers. Did I mention that she was complex? Yes, Angie is the definition of the word itself.

Usher in Sergeant James Maddocks, the newest recruitment to the Department, who is actually hired for the job that that Angie herself has been eyeing for quite some time. Coupled with the fact that the guy Angie randomly hooks up with at her pickup bar the previous night, the man she had labeled as “Mr. Big Dick”, and made her react in a way that was totally unlike her when it comes to her anonymous hookups turns out to be the one and the same? Needless to say, the tension and sparks between the two were very much a part of the unfolding story.

When a Jane Doe is discovered by a tour guide, with signs of mutilation of her sex organs, with a cross carved into her forehead, the tingles running up and down Angie’s spine tells her that this was no ordinary criminal that had done the deed. That it in fact looked like the perpetrator that Angie and her now deceased partner had been after for serial rape cases that had landed on their case pile, a lead that had gone cold for two years, now surfacing once again, and in a way that does not bode well at all.

When a second dead body surfaces, also bearing similar marks on her body, thus begins the investigation to find the person behind the heinous crimes. With the newly elected mayor reportedly having promised to make the city “great again”, the department is under enormous pressure to deliver, and to deliver fast and without bumbling it up in the need to rush.

What unfolded was way more than I bargained for, even knowing that Loreth is capable of taking a story in a direction that readers usually wouldn’t see coming. There are multiple threads running through the story the entire time, and in hindsight I wondered if that could have been the reason as to why one of the most crucial aspects of the story didn’t get much time – i.e. the villain and how he came to be who he was.

The discovery of his premises, the fate of his father when he was young, and the theories that had been floating around about what had made the monster out of a child who had seemingly looked happy in his childhood pictures was one that I wanted to read about. I feel that when authors write about evil personas such as the villain, they do so after a ton of research, and its not easy to craft a character as such without investing a lot of time on them. The villain in his own right, in novels like this, becomes part of the main protagonists in the story that unfolds. But, given the direction that the story took, taking readers onto sex crimes on an international scale, I suppose the villain that brought so much horror to the minds of the readers was a little overlooked in the end.

But, that does not by any means indicate that the story was lacking. The furthest thing from that in fact. I was fascinated with the multitude of connections, the painstaking work involved in terms of investigations, the interviews, the tedious work of corroborating witness statements etc. that goes into crime solving – not just solving a crime but making the charges stick.

However, in the end, it was Angie’s actions that came to the forefront; her “rash” actions that had saved the lives of two very important people in her life, or two people who could become the most important in her life, that changed the ending.

Loreth has an ability to bring to life a scene in a way that makes you feel like you are walking right through it. Every single aspect of the scene from the chilly, foggy, and wet weather of the region in which the story takes place, to the creepy characters you encounter along the way; all that and more are more or less alive, in front of you, like a myriad of images that goes through your mind as you read along. That is one of the aspects to Loreth’s books that makes them so darn difficult to put down and makes you crave for more.

Detective James Maddocks aka Mr. Big Dick (I like the sound of that way too much), is the type of hero that makes you swoon, even without realizing it. There is a way about him that just soothes those jagged edges to you, makes you simmer down a little, sit up and take notice of a man whose tamped down sexuality makes it all the more prominent perhaps. James and his life story takes a backseat to the baggage that Angie brings to the table. Angie is the one whose past comes roaring to life, making her question every single thing that has been part of her life narrative as long as she could remember. Her volatile temperament certainly does not help, and if it were a man less patient than Maddocks, they would just walk away and wash their hands off of her.

But then there are the moments in which Angie shows that side of hers that is vulnerable, hurting, and in need of someone that understands where she comes from. This is in fact the place from which she takes on the offensive; in her mind, lashing and fighting out is way better than letting people know exactly where to prick and prod if they intend to hurt her. Plus, the crimes that she works on? They are the kind that would probably make you go home and drown your sorrows in alcohol or worse when it gets to be too much. Or in Angie’s case, her outlet comes in the form of random sexual encounters with strangers, the high she gets out of being in control of the setting, when in reality her life is spiraling out of control and there is nothing much she can do about it.

If this is your very first read from Loreth, worry not. She has a couple of standalone romantic suspense titles that are absolutely to die for. I for one, can’t wait to find out what Loreth has in store for Angie and Maddocks in the next couple of books.

Final Verdict: Involuted and engrossing, The Drowned Girls is an eye opening tale of human depravity at its most obscene perhaps, because it speaks to parts of your conscience that everyone tries to hide from. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

We all lie.
We all guard secrets—sometimes terrible ones—a side to us so dark, so shameful, that we quickly avert our own eyes from the shadow we might glimpse in the mirror.
Instead we lock our dark halves deep in the basement of our souls. And on the surface of our lives, we work industriously to shape the public story of our selves.

There is none righteous, no, not one. —Romans 3:10

Angie shut out the voice, opened her thighs wider, and sank deeper onto his dick. She rocked her hips faster, filling herself, making herself hurt. She was close, so close, and he could feel it. He bucked under her, wilder, wilder, thrusting his cock up into her. She tried to pull back, to deny him full pleasure, but suddenly she froze, her entire body going rigid, as if in rigor. Her breath caught in her chest, and she held still a moment, red lights pulsing, bass beating. And suddenly, she came, her vision blurring, a cry suffocating in her throat as her muscles contracted and released in hot, rolling waves. She collapsed onto him, her breasts against his rough chest hair. He was still hard inside her as aftershocks continued to ripple around his erection.

He called after her. “You got a name there, warrior princess?”
She paused, hand on doorknob, and the devil on her shoulder whispered, Yes, you can control this. You can stop anytime you want to . . . Besides, she was only human. She could have a life. It wasn’t as though it was forbidden to have a relationship. As long as she held the reins, all the control.
“Angie,” she said.
Silence.
“You?” she asked.
He smiled slowly, one side of his mouth curving slightly higher than the other. “I’ve got your number.” He paused. “Angie.”

Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will bear silent witness against him. —Locard’s exchange principle

. . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. —Romans 3:23

The rules twisted down into a hot vortex of total oblivion as her mouth, her hunger, her aggression met his, tongues tangling, mating, rough, taking. He fisted her hair, tilting her head farther back, as his other hand slid down her spine. He cupped her buttocks and yanked her hard against him. His shirt was completely plastered to his body, and she could feel every inch of his muscular contours under the wet fabric. She could feel the long hardness of his big, gorgeous dick straining against his zipper as he pressed against her pelvis. Heat pooled molten between her thighs. Dizziness swirled, and her knees began to buckle out from under her. She wanted him. All of him. Inside. Deep and fast and hard and rough. Out here. Right now.

Naked, Angie sat on the edge of the bed, Maddocks standing between her legs while she undid his pants, a lust building, boiling, deep inside her. She slid his pants down his hips and that gorgeous dick swelled free. She caressed him, taking him into her mouth, holding his hips as she worked him with her lips, her tongue. His hands clamped down hard on her shoulders, his fingers digging deeper and deeper into her skin as she stimulated him to the point that he groaned, fisting her hair. He stopped her suddenly, pulling her off his wet erection by moving her head back. His gaze, dark, dangerous, locked with hers, and he shoved her backward and hard onto the covers.

He moved slowly at first, achingly slowly, and a tension of another kind built inside her as she wiggled to free her hands again but couldn’t. And her eyes flared wide. She was struggling to breathe.
He gave a powerful thrust, and he was inside her, up to the hilt. She gasped, and he moved his hips harder, driving himself yet deeper. Her eyes watered as he began to fuck her, his heavy, muscled build pumping her deep into the bedding, her hands trapped high above her head.

“Please, Maddocks,” she whispered. “Please.” He swallowed, his muscles beginning to shake against his battle to suddenly control himself, sweat slicking over his skin, and suddenly he gasped, and came powerfully, uncontrollably, inside her, his fingers digging into her flesh as his body took charge, shuddering him inside her. Tears filled her eyes as Maddocks, spent, lowered himself slowly down onto her, then rolled onto his side, withdrawing from inside her.
“Angie?” he whispered, his eyes refocusing.
Tears leaked out from the corners of her eyes, onto his covers. And she still ached with desire, and she felt shame, defeat, guilt. He stroked her cheek and moved a damp tangle of hair off her face. “Did I hurt you? What is it?”
She shook her head, unable to voice it, unable to tell him what was going on, unable to understand herself. And she was filled with embarrassment.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “So sorry.”

His vision swirled as he thrust and entered her hot wetness. She sighed softly as if with relief. Maddocks moved slowly, tentatively at first, rocking into her, and she met each of his thrusts with soft, sure movements of her hips—a pace as old as time, a rhythm that matched the waves upon which his boat rocked. And inside him a blinding pressure began to build. He could feel her growing hotter, hungrier, beginning to move faster. He thrust harder, faster. She wrapped her legs around him, hooking her ankles behind him, taking him tight into her arms, as if she couldn’t get him deep enough, as if she wanted to absorb and consume him wholly.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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ARC Review: Wildfire by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookwildfire
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Fire, #3
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Malcolm Gunnison
Heroine: Sophie Jordan MacDonald
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: February 14, 2017
Started On: January 28, 2017
Finished On: February 09, 2017

Wildfire is the 3rd book in the explosive Fire series, a spin-off from the delectable Ice series by Anne Stuart. Readable as a standalone, Wildfire tells the story of the Committee operative Sophie Jordan MacDonald who had made the blunder of falling for the charm that her target had exuded in spades, and marrying the monster with whom she had suffered for the past 3 years. Knowing that no one from her former life as an operative would be coming to rescue her as she had bungled up the mission in a major way, Sophie is counting the days until she can escape, that is until Malcolm Gunnison walks into her life and throws everything into a spin.

Malcolm’s mission is one that is straightforward. But the minute Malcolm crosses paths with his target’s wife, the whole operation changes its focus. Malcolm who is not given to feelings of the tender kind finds himself strangely fascinated by a woman he knows he should be able to walk away from. The fact that Sophie’s husband outlines his plans when it comes to her does not help matters. In fact, it pushes Malcolm and Sophie together in a way that makes the sparks literally fly.

Though Wildfire would not be my favorite book in the series thus far, it still carries the trademark Anne Stuart style in delivering a story that heats up and delivers from the onset. The one thing that irked me was the continued references towards how Sophie had been a rookie who should not have been sent into the mission that had changed her life so drastically. The repetitiveness of that particular statement almost throughout the book was a bit off putting to say the least.

Nevertheless, with Malcolm, Anne Stuart once again presents her readers with a hero as ruthless and delicious as they come. There is no turning away from the mastery he wields in the bedroom – well the bedroom comes later, but hey, you get what I mean. If you have ever read an Anne Stuart book, it is how she delivers bad boys of the kind that makes you want that keeps you coming back for more. That and the wit and charm she puts so effortlessly into her books. And she does not disappoint when it comes to Wildfire.

I loved Sophie as well. Her vulnerability and her strength was a combination that made me fall and root for her. The ending when it came was classic Anne Stuart as well. I couldn’t have asked for more!

Final Verdict: Wild is the fire that rages between two operatives who have no intention of falling in love. Deliciously sensuous in the way that only Anne Stuart does it!

Favorite Quotes

“Touch me and I’ll kill you.”
“You and what army?” Before she knew what was happening, he’d crossed that last bit of space, slid his arm around her back, and yanked her against his hard body. “Don’t be a hypocrite. We both want it, and it helps the mission. Man up, Jordan.”
It was a shock, hearing her maiden name for the first time in years. She could feel him, his hard cock unmistakable beneath his jeans, pressing against her stomach. “I don’t think that’s exactly what you’re expecting me to do.”

He was right. She’d wanted this from the moment she first saw him, whether she wanted to admit it or not, and his tongue in her mouth was the first claim—her response, the first acceptance.
His body pressed hers against the wall, and she felt him reach between them, unfastening his jeans, and she panicked for a moment, lashing out at him. He caught her wrists, holding them tightly together, and began to pull up her skirt. She wanted to shove him away, she wanted . . . she wanted . . .

He shoved into her, and she gasped, shocked at the unexpected size of him, the thick cock deep inside her, so good . . . so good . . . and she tightened her arms and legs around him as spasms of pleasure washed over her. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe, she just wanted to feel. She needed this to last forever, and she rode him, his hands on her hips, sliding her up and down on his cock. She threw her head back, wanting to scream, and he sank his head against her neck, his teeth against her shoulder, the sting of his bite sending her over the edge.

Another wave hit her, and this time she did cry out, a wordless sound of rich pleasure, and he pulled away from the wall, turning around, still holding her as he moved, in and out, his thickness a wicked torment, harder, deeper, until he was suddenly rigid in her arms, in her body, his breath rasping as he poured himself into her, punctuated by each jerk of his hips, and she let go, let go of everything, drowning in sensation, in him, in Mal.

“Move back,” he said hoarsely. “Please.” Her face was very still. She hadn’t touched him yet, but he could feel her long, cool fingers so close to him that he wanted to groan. “Why?”
“I want to suck your breasts.”
“It doesn’t turn me on,” she said in her cold little voice.
“Maybe you haven’t had the right person do it.”

He took her other breast in his strong hand, squeezing her just to the point of pain but no further, and she bucked again, letting out a tiny moan.
He lifted his head. “In case you ever find yourself in a position to make love to a woman,” he murmured, “you need to remember that breasts are different with everyone. A lot of women need gentle coaxing, almost worshipful attention. But more women than you’d imagine need a little roughness.” He pinched her breast, and he saw the reaction in her face, the dazed expression in her brown eyes. They’d been soft before, except when she was staring at him in rage, but now they were positively unfocused in reaction to what he was doing. “You’re one of the ones who need a little roughness.”

“Come in my mouth,” she whispered.
He no longer had a choice. His body bucked, and she held onto his hips, taking him in, everything, her fingernails digging into his skin, and as he exploded he thought he felt an answering orgasm ripple through her body as she straddled him.
She drew back, away from him, sprawling on the floor in what should have been graceless exhaustion but instead looked like pure sexual abandon. He’d climaxed, come hard in her mouth, but he wanted more from her, he wanted her every way he could have her, and this time it was for nobody’s pleasure but theirs.

She began to shiver, and he thought that if she dared to make any sound, she would have told him she couldn’t take any more, but he knew she could. That ripple of reaction was hardly strong enough to take her over the edge, give her the release she needed, and he kept up his steady pace, into her, deep, so deep, and he heard an almost imperceptible sound from the back of her throat. It made his cock swell even more inside her, and he slid his hand under them, finding her slick clitoris, circling it. She was shaking so hard he felt the need to hold her together, keep her safe, pushing, pushing, until she froze, a low, keening sound coming so quietly from within her, a sound more powerful than a full-throated scream, and he went over the edge with her.

She was beginning to stir, getting restless, and he knew she was going to pull away, and he wouldn’t be able to stop her, not without drawing attention to them. With strong but gentle hands he turned her in her arms, pushing her hair back off her face, and put his mouth on hers, kissing her with extraordinary sweetness. He swallowed her strangled sob, and she kissed him back, sliding her arms around him and pulling him close, so close, their sweat-slick bodies growing chill in the night air, and he wanted to say something, tell her something, but he couldn’t imagine what. So he simply kissed her, until she pulled away from him, disappearing silently into the darkness.

She wrapped her legs around his slim hips, her fingers tight on his shoulders as he moved inside her, steady, deep, and she wanted more, needed more. This was like nothing she’d ever felt before, it was sex, it was fucking, it was making love. Her heart seemed to flow through her body, into his, a total joining that beckoned her, frightened her, almost destroyed her. He was so big it hurt, a sweet pleasure-pain that simply moved her deeper into this dark, magic, scary place where there was no Sophie, no Mal, just them, sliding together in the murky light, and she felt another orgasm building inside her, deep and powerful, and she knew if she climaxed her heart would explode, and she didn’t care, didn’t care at all.

He reached down, caught her hand, and pulled it away from him, shoving her onto her back. He was going to leave her there, wet and wanting, he was going to turn his back on her and walk away . . .
The hell he was. He shoved her legs apart, moving between them, and thrust his cock into her so hard she cried out, not in pain but in fierce satisfaction. She was everything he wanted—she was nothing but trouble.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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Review: A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookadarklure
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Cole McDonough
Heroine: Sarah Jane Baker / Olivia West
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 1, 2015
Started On: January 20, 2016
Finished On: January 22, 2016

She tied him a fly, using a pattern she’d designed, one that had given her untold luck with those silvery fish, those fighting steelhead. She was anxious for his return.
“Does it have a name?” he said, when she gave it to him.
“The Predator.” She smiled. A little embarrassed.
His eyes turned dark, and her heart beat faster. His voice dipped low. “It’s a fine name.”
He regarded her for several heavy, silent beats. She felt an atavistic pull, the hairs on her arms rising toward him, as if in electrical attraction. He leaned closer and her mouth turned dry. And he told her about the wild blueberries. Down by the bend in the river.
She took the lure.
She went in search of the berries.
She never came home.

Some books are hard to review because lets face it, they were really not worth the time and investment you placed in reading them. But others, they are tough because you are afraid that you wouldn’t be able to do justice to what the book did to you. It ravages you in a way you would never forget anytime soon. It brings forth emotions that you thought you wouldn’t ever feel. It violates and heals you in equal doses and you know you would never feel the same, ever again. A Dark Lure was that kind of book for me. It is dark, incredibly dark, which is why I loved it so much, not to mention the fact that Loreth Anne White has a penchant for writing the kind of stories that makes you feel one with the tale as it unfolds, the best kind of stories if you ask me.

Sarah Jane Baker or Olivia West as she is known as later on, is a survivor. A survivor of a terrible ordeal which had seen her imprisoned by the infamous Watt Lake Killer. She is the one who got away from the killer’s clutches and lived to tell the tale of the horrors that she experienced at his hand. Almost 12 years to the day that Sarah was taken, the Watt Lake Killer returns, determined to finish the hunt that he had started years back – the brief reprieve that had happened only wetting his appetite for his Sarah all the more!

Cole McDonough is an ex-military psychology and philosophy scholar turned war correspondent turned narrative nonfiction adventure writer, who has made a name for himself with the evocative books he has written. The words he writes on paper speaks to Olivia on a level that she knows spells trouble. But the imminent death of her dear friend who is Cole’s estranged father makes her throw caution to the wind and summons the prodigal son home after 13 long years. Which means that there is no turning away from the answering need that flares to life in Cole, a man who had been on the verge of giving up because life had dealt him a cruel blow in a life that had been lived chasing one story after another.

Olivia’s whole world is thrown off kilter when the flashbacks begin, the panic and anxiety that she had lived through and survived before comes knocking on her door once again, the seemingly coincidental happenings around the ranch being all too close for comfort to what had happened to her all those years back. And all the while, the killer lurks in the shadows, drawing her deeper into a web of his making, determined that he wouldn’t lose to her this time around.

Loreth has penned a tale that practically takes your breathe away with this one. Be it the killer, the hero or heroine or even the secondary characters, there is no one that appears to be of the cookie cutter variety. I loved the fact that the villain, instead of being the hideous looking versions they are in most books, the Watt Lake Killer turned out to be as charming as they come. His ability to draw people towards him, be it man or woman, was what fascinated me. His past as it was revealed in bits and pieces – not enough to appease my appetite for more, was one that unsettled me. Well, his whole character was unsettling in one way or another and that was the sheer brilliance in it for me. A villain that makes you think and wants to explore beyond the mere projections on paper is one that intrigues me. I loved A Dark Lure for that very reason!

Loreth’s mastery comes to light in the way she juggles the voices of three different “writers” in this story. There is Loreth’s own voice. Then there is Cole, who is a writer of a different kind who writes nonfiction on survivalists whereas Melody Vanderbilt, whose unpublished manuscript tells the tale of what took place almost 12 years back, how Sarah had been ensnared in the trap laid out by an enigmatic killer and gone missing; that was one of the cleverest parts of the plot if you ask me. To read about the tragedy, the one that had made Olivia West out of Sarah Jane Baker, the story of how Sarah had had to go through all of it all alone; that was sheer genius on the part of Loreth and I cannot rave about it just enough.

Olivia’s story is an extraordinary one of strength, survival, fortitude and human instinct to protect oneself. It was amazing the fact that she had managed to carve a different sort of woman out of herself and being able to weather it through. I am not making light of what she went through. No, never that. She had plummeted to the lowest of the lows, the physical scars on her body just a surface indicator of what she had been subjected to, gone through and come out stronger, all because of it. Olivia is vulnerable to her very core, but she has learnt the hard way to tamp down on that vulnerability and project strength from within.

The fact that she is able to empathize, love and care for others even after having witnessed the darkest of human nature is one of the many reasons to love and admire her character. The painful memories of what she’d undergone are ones that keeps the pages turning, your heart shaking. In a way, Cole’s musings were spot on. How does anyone for that matter, ever move on from something like that? Would they ever be “normal”? Or would they have to carve a new “normal” that works for them and just make the best of it? All of these are thoughts that haunts you long after you are done and you can’t help but be moved on a level that is beyond your understanding.

Cole makes for the perfect partner for someone like Olivia who would most likely live through a lifelong process of healing. There is no pill in the world, no amount of therapy in the world that would ever make someone who had gone through what Olivia had whole in a sense that we think is what should be. I believe that Cole’s patience, abundance of empathy and the life he has led till then is what makes him the perfect person to bring Olivia out of hiding from her emotions and the love that she craves above all else. A beautiful and passionate woman as Olivia should not live hiding from her true nature. And I believe that given time, she’d get there with Cole by her side.

Loreth’s writing is one that is deeply evocative. It is descriptive in a way that makes you feel like you are inside the pages, haunted by the trees shrouded in darkness, where evil lurks just beneath the surface. It makes you feel the rioting emotions that courses through Olivia as she feels the ground shake beneath her, pulling her headlong into a nightmare she’d already once lived through and survived. It makes you see the pain, darkness and the fluttering hope that lies at the heart of the characters who are all scarred in one way or other, as they are brought together by the machinations of fate. It makes you hear even the owl that hoots, as it watches through the darkness to the evil stalks you and once again melts into the night, leaving your heart rapidly thumping in your chest in its wake. Few authors can bring forth these emotions as such when you turn the pages and this is exactly why I would keep coming back for more!

Loreth’s stories are all consuming. Every book that I’ve read from hers has been better than the previous one in that regard. I fervently hope that the trend continues because Loreth has become my go to author for romantic suspense of the dark variety. I now have to lie patiently in wait until Loreth’s newest romantic suspense, In the Barren Ground hits the stands come August 16. Guess till then, I would have to satisfy myself with some of Loreth’s Harlequin Intrigue titles that sounds like they would deliver stellar reads.

Absolutely, definitely, recommended!

Final Verdict: Incredible storytelling from start to finish! Kept me mesmerized all throughout!

Favorite Quotes

Cole drew her more firmly against his body, his mouth pressing down harder. Blinding desire swelled through her, obliterating all thought, all memories as she opened her mouth under his. His tongue slipped into her mouth, tasting, devouring her, and she leaned up into his kiss, into his solid body, her tongue tangling furiously with his as her own hunger consumed her.
His stubble was rough against her face. It made her more fierce, hungrier. She felt the hard length of his erection press against her pelvis as he backed her toward her cabin.

Anticipation, anger, fear—it all smashed through her as she closed her eyes tightly and angled down onto his cock, opening her legs wider as she sank inch by inch onto the delicious length of hard, hot shaft. Her breath caught at the shock of the sensation of him inside her. But she pushed against pain until he was in to the hilt, right up against her inner core. And she felt a sweet, quivering explosion of wetness as she adjusted to the size of him. It was an exquisite, titillating kind of hurt that just drove her higher, wilder.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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ARC Review: Driven by Fire by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookdrivenbyfire
Read with: Adobe Reader for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Fire, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Matthew Ryder
Heroine: Jennifer Gauthier Parker
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: February 16, 2016
Started On: January 18, 2016
Finished On: January 18, 2016

I have been stalking Netgalley since forever, in anticipation of the release of the second book in the Fire series by Anne Stuart. As usual, once I had this baby safely in my TBR pile, I couldn’t focus on any other book, which is a given when it is the newest release by the Queen of Romance herself. I finished this in one sitting, which is rare for me these days. I always tend to take breaks now, the days of reading a  book straight in 4 hours a thing of the past as I have grown older. But Driven by Fire demanded that I lose sleep over it as I raced to the finish line, determined that I wouldn’t miss out on any of the deliciousness that is a fresh Anne Stuart novel.

37 year old Matthew Ryder is a member of the infamous Committee, a group of high level operatives and assassins who are trained in the art of deception and all the skills required in order to preserve democracy in its member countries. 28 year old Jennifer Gauthier Parker is a member of the notorious Gauthier family of organized crime and political power, one that she has distanced herself from a long time back. A pro bono lawyer, Jenny is hellbent on doing good where her family is determined to live their life doing just the opposite.

Ryder and Jenny’s paths cross during a night that Jenny’s father reaches out to her to save her youngest brother. Stubborn in her belief that her brother is innocent where a heinous crime such as human trafficking is concerned, Jenny is the one who prevents her brother from ending up in the hands of the ruthless operative who stands in her way, and later finds herself turning up on his very doorstep, determined that The Committee help her where one of the victims of the trafficking ring are concerned. Little does she know that once she enters the den that is Ryder’s fortress, nothing in her life would remain the same, ever again.

Ryder might dislike the fact that he and Jenny are thrown together, with both having to stick it out until he can find out who it is that has it out for the seemingly innocent Jennifer Gauthier. A man who is more cynical than most, Ryder prefers his life without commitments of the kind which features women like Jenny. While his reaction towards her on a physical level makes him think that he has gone too long without a woman, his suspicions about Jenny holding back something from him makes for the pivotal point in the story, and one that may turn out to be a tough selling point for many a reader. But true to the style of the legend that Anne Stuart is, she makes the relationship that fosters and grows between Jenny and Ryder one that reaches its ultimate explosive conclusion, delivering a read that is combustible on many a level.

I also have to admit. Between the two books that have been published in the series so far, the clear favorite of mine would have to be the debut, Consumed by Fire. Ryder is ruthless in a way that makes the James Bishop look like a wuss. I am not kidding. But the reason why I love books by Anne Stuart is because she doesn’t shortchange in her delivery of ruthless heroes. She makes them stay true to their character. They don’t turn into a puddle of gooey softness the minute they know of their vulnerability towards the heroine. Just the opposite in fact. They fight their emotions, and they fight it hard, but inevitably its a losing battle – thank God for that. Ryder while ruthless in a way that most readers might have a problem forgiving, I loved him, all that ruthlessness as well. But I did wish that he had to grovel a bit more where Jenny was concerned. But then again, Anne Stuart delivers heroines who are pragmatic at best – while they are strong and independent, they have no qualms about accepting their fate where their love for the hero is concerned.

Jenny is a heroine who has it bad. With a family that cares naught for her, and a family that one should be leery of at best, it is Jenny’s naivety that gets her in trouble as it is. Naivety in trusting the wrong people, in being too trusting – period. With Ryder, even though Jenny knows that she might not survive his brand of ruthlessness, it is because she doesn’t trust Ryder to do right by her that she continues to skirt away from coming clean with him. Given the circumstances, I wouldn’t have accepted an agent of Ryder’s caliber to turn his back on his mission, and I think Jenny knew that deep in her heart. I think one of the reasons why readers would have a difficult time in coming to terms with what happens as the story progresses is because there is seldom any talk of Ryder’s past, where he comes from and what makes him tick. Consumed by Fire tended to be more well rounded in this regard which is why it was more splendid in that manner and ended up being the five star read it was for me. But like I said earlier on, I didn’t have any qualms with accepting Ryder and Jenny as they were, but this heart of mine did wish that Ryder would have redeemed himself, just a tad more where Jenny was concerned.

I was ecstatic to come across two characters who are most likely to get stories of their own if Anne Stuart is going to continue with the Fire series, which I dearly hope she does! Jack Abbott and Remy Vartain makes for two secondary characters that appeared in this novel for whom I would love to have their own stories! Especially Jack Abbott. Anne Stuart seldom writes about heroes and heroines who have known each other for a while. For her, it is always a case of a chance meeting that explodes into something hot, worthwhile and long-lasting. Abbott’s story if I am not mistaken, is set to follow the less traversed road and I can’t wait to indulge!

Driven by Fire recommended for fans of ruthless heroes. You don’t need to read the series in order to enjoy this one. But be warned. Ryder will shake and throttle your comfort zones, if you have one where ruthless heroes are concerned. For those who love Anne Stuart’s brilliance in crafting them as they should be, Driven by Fire should be a hit!

Final Verdict: Caught between loyalty towards family & the fiery love for a ruthless operative. This is why Anne Stuart tops the game – every single time.

Favorite Quotes

He pushed his tongue past her teeth, and she shuddered in response. At some point her hands had come up from her sides and landed on his shoulders, but instead of pushing him away, which she no doubt would have wanted to do, she was digging her fingers in, pulling him closer to that delicious body of hers.
He wanted to fuck her. It would be easy enough to hoist her onto the butcher-block countertop, yank down that baggy pair of boxers, and thrust inside her. She’d like it—he’d make sure of that— but horny as he was, she wasn’t worth the trouble it would bring.

She opened her mouth to tell him to get off of her. She opened her mouth to tell him no. She opened her mouth to the man who’d hurt her, and she lifted up and pressed it against his.
His reaction was instantaneous. He cupped her face, holding her still, and slid his tongue between her teeth, an intimacy that startled her into even greater arousal. He kissed her with such thoroughness, his tongue dancing, tasting, teasing, and she heard her soft little whimper of response as her fingers tightened on his shoulders and she closed her eyes.

“Please,” she whispered.
He was kissing his way down her neck, over the soft swell of her breast.
“Please what, Parker? Please leave you alone?”
The words filled her with despair, and she shook her head wordlessly.
“Please put your mouth on my breasts and suck?” he suggested softly. “Is that what you want?”
“Yes.” She couldn’t believe it was her voice. “Please,” she said again.

She should touch him, pleasure him, get him ready—the thoughts swirled through her brain—but then she felt him, rock hard against her, and his solid thrust went in deep, so deep, and she slid her arms around him, pulling him tight against her. Her nipples were so hard they hurt, pressed against the silky smoothness of his muscled chest as he moved, sliding his hands under her butt and lifting her up so he could go deeper still. He was huge, so big she wasn’t sure she could take all of him, but he whispered in her ear, his tongue tracing her lobe, reading her fears. “You can take me. Just relax.”

He was all around her, in her head, in her heart, in her cunt, and she wanted to devour him, own him, never let him go. His slow, steady thrusts made her gasp, getting her used to the size and power of him, stilling her apprehension, stoking her desire, as sweat slicked their bodies until they were slapping against each other, hard, fast, again, again, again.

He braced himself over her, kissing the side of her mouth, letting his tongue trace her lips, slip past her teeth to coax her tongue forward, kissing her as he’d never kissed anyone before. He moved his mouth to her ear, biting into the lobe, and she made a muffled sound of pleasure. “I need more,” he whispered. “I need you to take more of me.”
He felt her hesitation, and he kissed her mouth again. “I’ll help you,” he murmured, licking the side of her neck, and he slid his hand down between their sweat-slick bodies to find the bud of her clitoris.

He was almost home, and he knew he should hold back rather than risk making her uncomfortable, but need was raging through his body, and he needed his entire cock deep, deep inside her. He pulled out, pushing in gently, then pulled out again, and she reached up and caught his arms in her tight grip. “No,” she said. “I want all of you. Give it to me.”
He couldn’t have stopped himself to save his life.

“I’m not mourning Soledad and Billy,” she said in a voice so soft he almost couldn’t hear it.
“Then what are you mourning?”
“Loss,” she said, turning her back on him and walking to the window. “The loss of my brother, loss of innocence, loss in the belief that I knew what I was doing. You.”
“What about me?”
She kept her face averted, her back straight. “I’m mourning the loss of you.”

A moment later he pulled away, and she went flying through the air, ending on her back on the huge bed, staring up at him in shock as he ripped off his clothes, then crouched over her like a predatory beast. “I don’t care if you’re afraid of me,” he growled. “I don’t care if you’ve been hurt. All I care about is fucking you as hard as you can take it. I’m going to make you come so hard you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to hell. I’m going to fuck you so hard that no one will ever come close. You’ll never get me out of your mind, out of your body.”

He kissed her mouth, slowly, deliberately, his tongue making lazy swirls inside her mouth, his teeth biting down on her lower lip, his hand sliding down her stomach to touch her once more, and she could feel the excitement building almost instantly, and she wanted him, so, so badly. “I need you,” she whispered, her voice raw.
“I need you inside me.”
“Then take me in your mouth.”

Purchase Links: Amazon

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ARC Review: In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookinthewaninglight
Read with: Adobe Reader for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Blake Sutton
Heroine: Meggie Brogan
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 3, 2015
Started On: November 6, 2015
Finished On: November 10, 2015

Meggie Brogan returns to her hometown of Shelter Bay because she wants to prove that she has indeed left her past behind. The past that involves the brutal murder of her sister Sherry, a murder that had rocked and torn asunder the idyllic town where she had grown up in. The murder that had splintered her family, having now left her all alone in this world, except for the man who wants to make her his, if only she would let him.

A true crime writer, Meggie has never broken the cardinal rule of not picking an unsolved case, which is sort of what Sherry’s case is. Although the killer had been identified and things had gone horribly wrong in between, Meggie can’t help but believe that a part of her subconscious keeps holding back fragments of the memories associated with the day Sherry had been killed. Returning to her hometown raises more skeletons from her closet, ones like the sexy Blake Sutton, the man she had left behind when she had fled her home all those years ago.

Blake has got his hands full with being a single father to his son Noah and trying to restore his family’s place of business to its former glory. And then in walks the woman that had gotten away, the woman whom he has never forgotten, though so many things had happened in his life since then. Meggie’s quest to write a book on her sister’s murder brings a fresh source of worry for Blake even amidst the haze of desire for her that almost obliterates everything else. The town of Shelter Bay is about to be rocked to its very core once again as Meggie’s quest for the truth takes her deeper into a web of secrets, lies and half-truths, secrets so deadly that she might not live to tell the tale she came home to write.

Loreth Anne White writes a mean story with in In the Waning Light, throwing the reader into the chaos that she has so beautifully crafted. I was in shock, in awe and everything in between as I kept turning the pages, trying to piece together what had happened that fateful day when Sherry had died such a brutal death. Meggie and Blake’s connection that rekindles was another factor that kept me glued to the pages. Though Loreth doesn’t spend all that time discussing their past, the bits and pieces tossed in between makes for wholesome reading, showing a passion that had refused to die even with all that distance and time that had come and gone since then.

There is so much tragedy and loss in the story that I at times felt like I was totally going to lose it. The secrets as they came forth like a dam that had broken, kept me on my toes, afraid of what just might be around the corner. I think it was because of all the factors above that In the Waning Light turned out to be a story that really got to me. I kept telling my husband about this great book I was reading; I was like a child with a beautiful sleek new toy that was all mine and I wanted to savor it in small doses but wanted to just take all of it as well. I actually managed to convince my husband to read this book, my husband who rarely reads, if ever. This book consumed him just like it did me, he barely even made the time to watch any of his favorite TV shows, just holed himself in the room and kept reading, cursing me all the while for giving him a book that refused to let go.

There is such beauty to the way the settings are described in this story that I absolutely fell in love with it. There are authors who try too hard to describe the scenes they are writing and end up failing miserably, making the reader flip through the pages just to get to the story that is at its core. Believe me, cos I have read my fair share of those books. But In the Waning Light tossed all that out of the window and made me sigh and yearn at the magic that Loreth was weaving right in front of my eyes. It is almost as if you are engulfed in the fog described, being tossed around in the roiling sea while the wailing wind tries to snatch you from the scene before it engulfs you as a whole. That was how I felt through every single scene in the book. It was all encompassing. It was that gripping, and I loved the sensation of being thoroughly swept away!

The suspense itself was topnotch. The clues lead the reader on a wild goose chase and then some. But at a certain point, you start getting a feel for who the murderer could be, that is if you are the type who questions every character that you come across in the story.

A small town brimming with secrets everyone is keeping from the other person, even their loved ones, those secrets that can rip families apart and toss a town inside out; those are the type of secrets that Loreth was dealing with In the Waning Light. A heroine suffering from a memory block, the same memory block that perhaps had saved her life long ago, the very block that prevents her from committing to anything or anyone in her life except for her passion of writing true crime.

If there ever was a romantic suspense that I would recommend the hell out of this year, it would be this.

Final Verdict: Blew me away. Completely. Cannot recommend it just enough!

Favorite Quotes

She leaned in toward him, her lids lowering, and desire gushed hot through his gut, kicking every residual thought clean out of his head and sending his blood south with a sweet, pulsing delirium as his lips met hers. Her mouth was cool, soft, firm, and she opened to him.
He slid his fingers up into the dense, soft waves at the nape of her neck. A moan slipped from her throat, and her hand touched his arm, moving up his biceps, along his shoulder, encircling his neck as she pulled him closer, and opened her mouth wider, moving suddenly faster, hungry, her tongue, slick, warm, mating, warring with his.

He reached for her hands, and drew her to him, slowly, inexorably, giving her time to stop him, the question implicit in his pacing, in the darkening pools of his eyes. And when she didn’t resist, he yanked her firmly against his solid frame, his other hand sliding down her hips and cupping her buttocks. He pulled her pelvis up against his groin as he forced his mouth down hard on hers. She felt his erection pressed between them.
Heat exploded logic from Meg’s mind. She came up onto her toes, arching into him, opening her mouth under the crushing aggression of his hunger, her tongue tangling, fighting with his.

Sex with Blake was elemental and it was rough. It was slammed up against the wall, her legs wrapped around him, and it was back down on his bed with her on top of him rocking against his pelvis, milking him, panting, a trembling tension building in every fiber of her body as she clamped his wrists down above his head, and he bucked under her, up into her. He flipped her onto her back, and she tasted blood as his teeth raked and bit her lips, and she responded with equal ferocity. He kneed her thighs open wide, and thrust up into her, impaling her, forcing her to gasp and burn with each push to the hilt of his thick cock. She felt the wet heat of his mouth down her belly, at her groin, his tongue inside her. And she shattered like bridge cables that had held too taut for too many years, suddenly exploding in an almighty crash as rolling contractions seized her body and her mind.

She eyed him. “If I didn’t know better, Mr. Sutton, I’d say you were jealous.”
His features tensed, and his eyes grew dark. She swallowed. He stepped forward, grabbed her shoulders, and kissed her hard, backing her up against the wall. “Maybe I am, Meggie Brogan,” he murmured over her mouth, his hand sliding down her back, and cupping her buttocks. Heat arrowed instantly into her groin. She was turned on by his rough and sudden intensity. “Shall we christen these nice clean carpets?” he whispered, his mouth moving down her neck, down to the vee in her shirt. Her nipples contracted.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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ARC Review: Consumed by Fire by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookconsumedbyfire
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Fire, #1
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Alexander Bishop
Heroine: Evangeline Morrissey
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: May 26, 2015
Started On: May 10, 2015
Finished On: May 11, 2015

Ever since I received an ARC of this number on Netgalley, I have been biding my time, savoring the delicious fuzzies that has been coursing through me at the thought of delving into an Anne Stuart novel, and that too a romantic suspense of the variety of the ICE series that first got me hooked onto her writing. If you have never read the wonderful books in the ICE series, worry not. The debut book of the Fire series works wonderfully well as a standalone though I would recommend reading the ICE series because ALL of them were FIVE STAR reads for me!

Consumed by Fire stars a member of the infamous Committee, a group of elite mercenaries of sorts funded by the richest of the rich, the aim to keep democracies functioning across the globe. Leaving the technicalities of all that aside, Bishop is a hero that perfectly fits the mold of heroes that Anne Stuart is famous for delivering, especially in her ICE series. Cold, aloof, and beautiful for the lack of a better word. Yes, the heroes Anne Stuart creates are nothing short of a work of art.

When Evangeline Morrissey encounters Bishop and his partner during one of their missions, Evangeline has no idea what she is getting herself into when she agrees to have dinner with a man as enigmatic as they come. Every brain cell that has made Evangeline the academic she is flees South, leaving her in the throes of passion of the kind she has never experienced before. But the next thing she knows, the man who takes her as his wife and gives her three days and nights of soul searing passion leaves her, taking her diamond earrings along with him.

Fast forward to five years later and Bishop once again enters her life, in the name of keeping her safe from his enemies that has found out that when it comes to him, his only vulnerability lies in the woman with whom he got married to all those years ago. Thus begins the ride of a lifetime, a story that sweeps you away on the sort of journey that only Anne Stuart and her mastery is capable of delivering. There is not a moment of dullness to be had, not a thing I would change in this absolute perfection of a novel that Anne Stuart has penned. Yet again, I bow down to the absolute wizardry behind every word she writes, the darkness in her novels exactly what this wretched soul of mine craves. There is none like Anne Stuart and I fear that there would never ever be!

I’ve missed the ICE novels. Knowing this was coming out within this year was a godsend. And getting my hands on it before it’s release was one of the best ‘gifts’ I could’ve ever received this year. Anne Stuart stormed her way into my reading life through her ICE series. I’ve neither forgotten nor left behind the memories of how each and every single book in the series made me feel. So to have a book that brought back with it the exact same feeling of exhilaration was more than enough reward for having waited patiently for a novel like this to come out. And thus once again dear Anne Stuart, you have proven to your fans that when it comes to writing books of the kind, none compares to you!

James Alexander Bishop; the man has a way with tangling your insides up with need, the need to see him fall hard and fall bad, the need to claim him as your own. You don’t get heroes who are demanding in bed and mushy and sweet out of it when it comes to Anne Stuart and especially the ICE series. What you get are men who tests the very limits of your acceptance & patience & yet somehow you can’t help but fall irrevocably in lust and love with every single one of them. James Bishop steals your heart from the minute his devastating brand of charm seduces the heart of Evangeline’s and nothing that he did thereafter could change the fact, which is saying a lot.

I loved the subtle differences in the heroine this story had to offer. In ICE novels, it’s almost always the case for the hero to be the one in icy control, forever able to deny his feelings for the woman who changes the very core of existence. The women though strong, tend to not be dangerous in their own right. With Evangeline I felt that she was more than equally matched for Bishop in more subtle ways. Like the way she could hold her own when it comes to him even with the sheer rage that courses through her veins coming across him five years after he’d abandoned her. The fact that she could stimulate his mind, push HIS comfort zone and make him face the reality of his messed up feelings when it comes to her was telling in itself. Pairing an academic and a professional assassin who strikes off sparks against each other that rivals even the most fiery of lightening storms; therein lies the sheer ingenuity that is Anne Stuart.

The perfect balance of romance, action & scorching hot sex, heated enough to melt a few of your brain cells and then some is what Consumed by Fire delivers. An apt title if you ask me, considering the fact that when Bishop and Evangeline come together, there’s nothing short of a major avalanche of feelings, angst and sexual tension happening that seems crazy enough to pull and claw at you until they give in to the visceral need deep inside of them. Loved Bishop and Evangeline & practically everything about the novel. And dear Anne Stuart, thank you for an ending that gave me the sort of closure I needed after the sort of wild roller coaster ride that was this novel. This one lands straight up in my favorites shelf. Can’t wait for Ryder’s story to come out!

Final Verdict: Consumes your very being & puts your senses afire. Anne Stuart’s mastery remains unrivaled!

Favorite Quotes

She reached up and tried to unfasten the buttons to his shirt, but the fabric was wet and stubborn, and she needed to feel his skin against her. She yanked at in frustration, and he laughed softly against her neck. “Patience, Angel,” he whispered, covering her frantic hands with his. “I’ll take care of it.”
He released her, only for a moment, as he simply ripped the shirt open and yanked it off. She knew what kind of strength was needed to tear that wet linen, and she shivered.

His head moved down, his mouth latching onto her nipple, sucking, and she felt a spasm of reaction between her legs. She liked this. Men had always been so gentle with her breasts, so tender, and she’d felt nothing.
James Bishop was rough, demanding, and she could no more resist those demands than she could fly. He moved to her other breast, leaving the first distended and needy, and when she felt his teeth on her a spasm rocked her body, shocking her.

“Shhhh,” he quieted her. “There’s nothing to be sorry about. No rules, just what feels good. And what I want now is you. I’m going to fuck you, fuck you fast and hard, and you’re going to take it, aren’t you?” His voice was low, intense, and he was doing something with his hand. It took her a moment to realize he was sheathing himself with a condom; she had no idea where it had come from and she didn’t care. “You’re going to let me fuck you blind, and when you come you’re going to put your mouth on me and scream into my skin until you can’t scream any more. And then I’m going to take you into the tiny bed in your room and we’ll do it all over again.”

“Not yet,” he growled in her ear. “Don’t come yet.” “I don’t … know if I … can help it,” she gasped. “You can.” He punctuated his words with a hard thrust that pushed her up against the wet, slippery wall. “You can do exactly what I tell you to do. You’re going to let me fuck you, and you’re going to fuck me back, and when I tell you to come then you will.”

“Put your mouth on my shoulder,” he whispered in a tight voice. She obeyed immediately, licking the water off his skin. “Bite,” he said, slamming her back against the tile, going rigid in her arms, and her pent up release erupted, a scream started in the back of her throat, and mindless, blind, she sank her teeth into his shoulder, harder as each wave hit her, an endless trail of climaxes, each one stronger than the last, until she was sobbing, she could taste blood, and he was still thrusting inside her, slowing almost imperceptibly.

He’d pushed himself up on his elbows, and was looking down at her in the inky darkness; and for a moment they were suspended in time, staring at each other. “Fuck it,” he said finally, sliding one hand behind her neck to pull her mouth up to his.
His kiss was air to a drowning man, oxygen to an asthmatic. His open mouth closed over hers and his breath filled her lungs and her veins, and she was alive again, blood pumping through her body as he kissed her, his tongue sliding against hers with such perfect intimacy that she wanted to weep.

He’d been a carefully banked fire, but with her hands on his skin he seemed to explode, and his patience vanished. He reached down and tore her cutoffs open, the strength in his hands shocking her as the zipper and denim gave way, yanked them down her legs, complete with her underwear, and threw them into the darkness. Her uneasiness returned—this was Bishop, this was a stranger. This was her husband, this was a thief and a liar. This was the man she loved, this was the man she despised. This man was a lover.
This man was a killer.

She heard the rip of his zipper, the quick shove of clothes, and for one brief moment the head of his cock against her, large and heavy, and it had been so long…
He thrust into her, hard, and she cried out. not in pain, though it hurt, but with a pleasure so powerful it shook her. He was so big, filling her, and it seemed as if she’d been empty forever, needing him, only him, and no one could take his place.

He pulled out of her, and she screamed in protest, hitting him. He was panting in the darkness, and his hands were rough as he flipped her over, yanking her hips up. “This way,” he growled, and pushed in again, deeper than ever, and she wanted more. The pain wasn’t important, the feel of him deep, deep inside her was what mattered, and she let go, taking his fierce thrusts with such raw satisfaction that she might die from it. This was life, this was what she needed, only this, forever, in the darkness.

“Let go, Angel.” His voice was a rasp in her ear, and she heard the name with a twisted kind of joy. “Let go of it all.”
She shook her head, beyond words, fighting it, fighting him, fighting to survive. He was stripping everything from her, she would die…
“Let go, Angel,” he whispered again, and it sounded like love. “I’ll catch you.”

“Please…” she gasped, as he rubbed her clitoris, her entire body vibrating with frustrated need. “It’s too much.” He let go of her breast with a sucking pop, and unbelievably the sensation brought another sharp stab of desire. “nothing’s too much,” he growled, pulling back. Before she realized what he was doing he’d flipped her over, pulled her onto her knees at the edge of the bed, and he pushed into her from the back, past her wet, swollen tissues to the very heart of her, so deep, so deep, and she buried her face in the sheets that smelled of their sex, clinging to them, panting.

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