Review: Just Once by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookjustonce
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Hero: Shane Maddox
Heroine: Katharine Burke
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 29, 2013
Started On: May 20, 2016
Finished On: May 22, 2016

It had been a while since an author has taken command of all my senses when I read a story, which is why I found myself going on a reading binge on everything and anything that I could find by Julianna Keyes. At the cost of repeating myself, that is because her books opened up a whole new world of possibilities in a genre which I sometimes fear has grown stagnant with too many books with too little quality to measure them by.

Just Once by Julianna Keyes has to be my “least” favorite from the bunch of books I have read from Julianna up till now. But even then, it is a book that delivered on most fronts, which is why I loved it even with its shortcomings.

Written in the first person from the heroine Katharine Burke’s point of view, Just Once tells the story of how Kate finds herself feeling amiss, becoming disillusioned with her life, even though as a travel writer, Kate has done things and being to places most people can only dream of. Perhaps it was Kate’s desire to get back to her roots that finds her traveling to the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado, where she had spent three summers as a teenager, a place she had never forgotten even though it had been ten years since.

As the new kitchen/cabin manager, Kate hopes that backbreaking physical labor plus the serenity that comes with being surrounded by nature would rewire her brain and remove that desolate feeling that had been hounding her of late. Kate’s encounter with Shane Maddox, the ruggedly handsome and stubborn ranch foreman becomes her biggest challenge in working on the ranch, not to mention the wild and hedonistic desire that he invokes in her being a bit problematic as well. However, when Kate realizes that Shane also shares the same desire as her, at least when it comes to the bedroom, an agreed upon one night stand turns into two and before they know it, both Kate and Shane are embroiled in a passionate affair that neither saw coming.

While both Shane and Kate didn’t reel me in as the protagonists of other novels I have read from Julianna, I still loved the premise and the whole setup of the story. There’s a lot of hard labor that goes into every aspect of keeping an establishment such as a ranch guesthouse up and running. Just Once lets the reader get a bit of insight into what life is like on the other side of the equation, the one which we seldom give any thought to when we are enjoying a vacation or a timeout from the daily grind of life.

Two characters whose unfinished story that caught my eye would be that of Brandon and Hailey. I keep wondering whether Julianna would ever write down their story because there seems to be a wealth of angst to be explored in their union, if ever there is to be one.

Just like the rest of the novels by Julianna that I have read and loved, Just Once also comes bearing enough angst, spiced up sex and with a hero who cannot get enough, just like the heroine. Which is the utmost of reasons why I will always keep coming back for more where Julianna is concerned. 

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Julianna pens down yet another sinful tale of love that strikes when you least expect it.

Favorite Quotes

“But I promise to make you come,” he whispers. “And come and come and come. Until you can’t take any more.”
“Shane…”
“And then I’ll make you come again.”
Oh God.
“And when you can’t walk tomorrow, it won’t be because of your leg.”

I slide up the bed and he releases one hand so I can brace myself against the wall. I give him everything, thighs wide, meeting and accepting each brutal thrust. Sweat gathers on his brow, and his mouth mashes against mine, teeth clashing, tongues mating, until finally—finally—the pressure that’s been building for weeks finds the outlet it’s been looking for. Everything in me converges in that one place, clamping down tightly and refusing to release until Shane lets go too, until he goes rigid above me, eyes locked on mine, and we both give in. I moan into his mouth as I come, and he swallows my cry and answers with a strangled sound of his own, hips pulsing against mine, dragging every last ounce of pleasure from our exhausted bodies.

I lower a trembling hand between my legs, trying to touch myself, to finish what Shane has started, but he whispers soothing words in my ear and takes my hand away, returning it to the mattress. “I’ve got you,” he says, breath tickling my neck.
“I can’t take any more,” I moan. “What are you doing to me?”
He pounds into me harder and harder, stroking over that spot again and again until everything in me converges in one place, then finally dips his fingers between my legs, rubbing roughly and grunting, “Come,” in my ear.
I’ve been called stubborn most of my life, but not now. My body’s not listening to me anyway. It’s found a new master, and his name is Shane. I come. I come harder than I’ve ever come in my life.

My head drops back. “Oh God.”
“He can’t help you now.” Shane turns his attention to my other nipple, biting down harder than expected and making me jerk in his arms. “Remember,” he warns, not removing his mouth. “Only say no if you mean it.”
“You make me forget,” I whisper.
Shane looks up and pulls me forward to straddle his waist, raising his lips to mine. “Me too.”
Finally—finally—he kisses me.

He thrusts impossibly hard, answering the request, shouting his release as he comes inside me. I feel a sudden wet heat between my legs and clutch him tightly, unable or unwilling to let go. When he shudders one last time, we’re both breathing hard. I can feel his heart beating against my chest, the echoing thud of mine, his sweat-damp hair on my temple.
Eventually he eases out, and as my body struggles to release him, I realize he was wrong that day on the hike when he told me I wasn’t used to fucking. The truth is, I wasn’t used to making love.

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

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Review: Going the Distance by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookgoingthedistance
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Hero: Jarek Andrew McLean
Heroine: Olivia Clarke
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: January 27, 2015
Started On: May 19, 2016
Finished On: May 20, 2016

Julianna Keyes has wormed her way into my heart as an author who can deliver on all fronts, especially with the sort of characters that I love and can relate to. There are no magic solutions to problems that exists between the characters in her stories. Which is perhaps why I find it all so very realistic and convincing. Real life seldom sends your way the variety of men who one tends to encounter in most modern romances. Some of the heroes I encounter makes me want to take out a bodice ripper just so that I can read about a hero who might be an asshole, but still maintain some of those characteristics that are inherently male and yet so difficult to come across in stories of today. Which is why Julianna has become an author who is that much more precious to me. Because writers who stay true to where their characters take them are so hard to find now.

Going the Distance is a novel mostly set in the rural Chinese town of Lazhou and is told in the third person. Olivia Clark moves to the small rural town where she is practically a stranger as a kindergarten teacher. Olivia, while she craves the anonymity her position in a foreign land offers where few of the locals if ever can speak a word of English, the loneliness that she feels is a bone deep one. However, it was a step crucial to maintain her sanity from the recent past that had hurt her in a way she never thought possible. Her sole contact with people she can at least have a full conversation with comes from the crew of the Brant Construction site, which is how her path crosses that of Jarek Andrew McLean’s.

Jarek is a man who prefers to keep to himself. His previous occupation as an interrogator makes him more so, his childhood mired in violence that had left its mark on him making him taciturn at best. However, no matter how hard Jarek might try to stay away from Olivia, it turns out to be a lost cause as he becomes intrigued by the woman who does not seem to play by the rules that Jarek wants her to. Competing with the memory of an ex fiancé with whom Olivia had been with for more than half of her life is something that Jarek does not want to do, but finds himself dealing with the kind of emotions that he has never had problems with before.

As Jarek and Olivia enter into an affair which they both loosely agree would be done when their time in China comes to an end, both finds in the other the kind of healing that they didn’t believe they needed, but was exactly what their parched souls had been craving for. None of it comes easy, as it rightly should not. Real life is not made up of rainbows and unicorns and happily ever afters as we would like to think. It is messy, difficult and at times tiring, making you want to give up on the things that makes your life hellish. That is exactly what Going the Distance brings to readers, the ups and downs, the highs and lows and the beauty that emerges from all that chaos.

Julianna has a way of delivering just the right touch of angst that makes me such a diehard fan of her novels. This was such a beautiful story in the way it was told. There is no magic formula that stops the hero from becoming better, from conquering the shackles of his past that still binds him to it, nor is there one for the heroine to get over the loneliness, heartache and feeling of having being betrayed by those who should never have done so in the first place. 

On the surface, both Jarek and Olivia might seem to be your average hero and heroine. He is taciturn and rude at times making you want to shake him up, sexy and commanding in a way that is subtle yet vivid. I’m finding that Julianna is a mastermind in creating heroes with just the right touch and I find Jarek to be no exception. While Olivia is beautiful and smart, there is a loneliness deep within her that she tries to hide from, the best she can. Meeting Jarek and feeling the spark of want for the first time in a year has her taking a chance on a man who panics the moment she kisses him. Yes, she takes the chance and does so. But Jarek has so many demons hounding him, he breaks out in sheer panic every single time he believes that he and Olivia are becoming close. One night stands are how he likes his women, informal transactions at best to scratch an itch from which he can walk away the moment he chooses to.

Jarek and Olivia’s “non-relationship” relationship is one that is filled with a lot of potholes which is the reason why it was such a swell read. I love angst of the kind delivered right and I believe that there are too few books these days that hits the right combination when it comes to it. I loved the fact that Jarek was the asshole of the year at first and gave Olivia such a hard time. And yet at the same time how he couldn’t help but be concerned about hurting her and trying to think up of ways to make amends. From the onset, he is smitten, yet unable to accept the truth. Which was realistic because he has never been in a position to offer anything more to a woman and never had he been tempted to, until Olivia.

The whole setup in China, living in a remote area of China not to say the least, where you don’t know of anyone, where people mostly just treat you to a polite hello and nothing more was driven home in the story. I visited China just once, and had the fortune of visiting some places mentioned in the story. While China got into my blood in a way I never would have thought possible and would love to revisit one day, I think it would take a lot of courage on the part of anyone to make such a bold decision and move to practically the middle of nowhere and start afresh. While I would have loved to see Olivia continue her tenure in the school where she eventually won the hearts and minds of the adorable kids she was teaching, I understood her decision to leave them behind even had it been a difficult one. 

My message to Julianna is to never stop writing her characters as they are. Never give into the ‘accepted’ mold of the hero and heroine that is turning this beautiful genre into a mushy fest which sometimes I have a hard time not gagging over. But authors like Julianna makes me hopeful that there still exists a couple of authors out there who do the genre justice. 

Absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Going the Distance is yet another masterpiece in the way it’s so well thought out and crafted. Jarek and Olivia’s story is definitely one that is worth giving up a corner of your heart for.

Favorite Quotes

“You’re so hard,” she murmured in his ear. “So big. I want to feel you come in my hand, Jarek.”
“Fuck.” He ran his free hand over his eyes, as though he could block her out.
To be honest, Olivia was surprised to hear herself say the words. She’d never talked dirty with Chris; never really wanted to. But something told her Jarek wanted to hear it, wanted the okay to sully her hand with his release, to know he hadn’t talked her into doing something she didn’t want to do.
She kissed the shell of his ear, bit on the lobe. “What are you waiting for?” She squeezed her hand tighter than she thought he’d like and he came, back arching, teeth gritted, a pained sound dragged from his throat.

He gripped her hips, pulled out and shoved back in, too hard. Her breath hitched and she winced, and he kissed the corner of her mouth. “I’m sorry.”
“Do it again.”
So he did. She held onto the desk and later onto his shoulders, and he held her hips and pounded into her with all the zealousness of a man possessed, and none of the finesse she’d probably gotten from her ex. He could feel her and smell her and hear her, and in no time at all she fit him.

“What’s your favorite movie?”
“Alien.”
“Ugh.” Then, “Jarek.” Not a sigh. An order.
“I’m going to fuck you, Olivia.”
“Good.”
“Hard.”
“Good.”
“Harder than before. As hard as I want to.”

He kicked her knees apart and held her in place as he fitted his cock to her glistening folds, then rammed inside, deep and hard, making her cry out.
He didn’t ease up. He didn’t take it easy. He fucked her, like he hadn’t really done before. He gave her everything, rough and hard, like he’d been wanting to and worried she couldn’t handle. She groaned and moaned and clawed the mattress, writhing like she was trying to get away and get closer, but he didn’t let her go anywhere. He held her down with one hand and gripped her hip hard with the other, knowing he’d leave marks on her tan skin and not giving a fuck.

She straddled him as he freed his cock and rolled on a condom, then dragged her down where he needed her most. Her eyes sank shut and she bit her bottom lip, taking him deep. He watched her face, stroking her neck and her back, eyes settling on their joining bodies. He heard her breath hitch and looked up to see her flushed cheeks as she watched him watch them. She smiled and he kissed her, thinking that he’d been doing a lot of kissing this past month. Maybe more than he’d ever done in his whole life, all combined.

He curled over her, moving his hands to squeeze her slim shoulders as he pounded inside, pouring out his release with a groan, burying his forehead in her neck. When their breathing slowed, she lifted a hand to stroke his hair, soothing him, as though she somehow knew he needed it. Letting him know without words that he could trust her, too.

“I was hoping your first time sleeping over would alleviate your fear of spending the night when you realized nothing terrible would happen.”
His laugh was pained, muffled by her skin. “It’s the opposite of terrible, Liv. You feel so fucking good. All over. You’re the best thing I’ve ever felt.”
She ran her fingers through his curls, letting them tangle. “You’re sappy in the morning. Is that why you avoid staying over?”
“Guilty.” He rocked against her, his pubic bone hitting her clit and sending her over the edge. He followed, lips fastened to her neck, hard enough that she knew she’d have her first hickey in years.

She squirmed and complained and he ignored her, pressing into the soles of her feet with his mean, awful fingers, dragging them up her calves, finding muscles she didn’t know she had. “Please,” she gasped when she was about to combust. “Stop. But don’t stop. Please.”
Her eyes flew open when he sat beside her, back resting against the padded headboard. He dragged her onto his lap so she straddled his muscled thighs, and she waited, quaking, as he rolled on a condom. She suspected he was suffering as much as she was, but it wasn’t confirmed until he held her hips and guided his cock inside her that he cursed furiously and pressed his head back as though in agony.

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

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Requested ARC Review: The Way That You Play It by B.J. Thornton

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: ContemporaryRomance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Hero: Trenton Michael Buckney, Jr.
Heroine: Caroline Curran
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 7, 2011
Started On: June 30, 2011
Finished On: June 30, 2011

The Way That You Play It by BJ Thornton set to release on the 7th of July is a novel that fans of romances who love a bit of music with their romance ought to read. It tells the story of the 29 year old Trenton Buckney who has lost all 3 jobs which he had been working to support his mother and baby sister. From Bibb City Georgia, Trent is down on his luck, a man at his wits end as to what to do to turn his life around whilst deep inside he fears that it might already be too late for him.

31 year old Caroline Curran is a song writer who has been cheated out of everything by her slimy ex-boyfriend who has dumped her for a much younger and happening singer. Caroline might still feel like bawling her eyes out every time she sees the much younger woman’s pictures plastered all over magazines but she is determined to get back every dime he owes her even if it means resorting to less than legal means to get what she wants.

When the beaten down looking Trent turns up looking for her, courtesy of Reyes, the man who seems to be hellbent on making a favorable impression on her and whose motives remain unclear to Caroline, she is taken-aback at first until she hears the magic that Trent’s voice can weave. From then on, Caroline is determined that she would pick up the pieces of her broken professional life and that Trent would be her means of achieving that.

Trent is afraid to let hope rein in and lodge itself permanently in his heart, afraid that everything will come crashing down the minute he lets his guard down and give into what Caroline makes him feel. As his music career moves forward so does his burgeoning feelings towards Caroline until his tenuous control on his emotions break finally, releasing them both to embrace a passion as heady as the beautiful music that they make together.

But Trent’s happiness is a short-lived one when his past actions come calling, forcing him to walk away from the only thing that his heart yearns for in its otherwise bleak existence. Their happily ever after when it comes is a hard won one which makes their union all that much stronger and their story a more wonderful one on all counts.

The Way That You Play It is a great romance that encompasses the struggles of a nearly broken man who emerges a winner through no small feat. Though Trent might not be your typical hero material, he is nevertheless a lethal combination of charm and a body that could provoke a saint to sin. Caroline is just the right woman for a man like Trent with her combination of sweetness and the iron grit that lets her dig her heels in when Trent pushes her away when he actually needs her love the most.

The story between the enigmatic Reyes and Caroline’s best friend Jackie is an interesting one that was left unresolved by the end of the story. I am hoping there might be a story loosely tied with this one in the future that would give them both a fitting happily ever after even though Reyes does come off as a bit of a snob and control freak in this story though he might have had the best of intentions.

The Way That You Play It is a beautiful and different contemporary romance that fans of the genre should give a go just to experience the difference. With two characters who makes you root for them right from the very beginning, The Way That You Play It would make for an ideal summer read to escape reality, one page at a time.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Omnific Publishing

[xrr rating=4/5]

Caliber Seal: GREAT READ!