Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-booktoohardtoforget.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Romancing the Clarksons, #3
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Elliot Brooks
Heroine: Peggy Clarkson
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 25, 2017
Started On: June 03, 2018
Finished On: June 08, 2018

Too Hard to Forget, the third book in the Romancing the Clarksons series by the impressively talented Tessa Bailey was a delightful read in so many ways. Too Hard to Forget tells the story of the youngest Clarkson Peggy, and how she makes use of the opportunity of the road trip the Clarkson siblings take to make a pit stop which she believes in all probability would allow her finally move on and forget the one man who has ruined her for all others.

Peggy, like her mother Miriam writes at the beginning of the novel, is a character with a million facets to her that you can never truly understand even if you spend a lifetime trying to. Its not that she is difficult as a person, no, the farthest thing from that. Peggy is made of a breed that allows you to see the wonderful bits to her as you watch, wait, and learn from her life.

Peggy might seem like the air-headed and most naive of the bunch, but Peggy’s heart is one that is pure gold. When you think you have finally figured her out, she manages to surprise you yet again.

Peggy turns up at her old university to face her demons head on, believing that she would be able to exorcise the man known as Elliot Brooks from her heart, body, and soul once and for all, and leave him wanting more while at it.

Elliot Brooks, head coach of the Bearcats, and known as the Ki,ngmaker is a man who is devoutly Catholic, continually paying penance for the part of his life that fills him with regret and loathing. Elliot is a man who was raised in a Catholic household as an only child, and has no particularly happy family memories to show him that life could be more than repenting for sins perceived and otherwise.

Elliot’s focus has always been on winning and baseball, and his life had held no room for a wife with whom he had had no particular affection, except for the child that had been born of their perfectly serviceable marriage. It is the death of Elliot’s wife that hits him the hardest, the guilt for all that he had not done, all that he had failed to do, and above all, his fiery attraction to a woman most unsuited for him, that makes him break all the rules.

Even as Elliot gives in, he keeps pieces and chunks of himself from Peggy, until at long last, he drives her out of his life, seemingly forever. Three years later, Peggy is back, more beautiful than ever, and to Elliot, she still represents everything that is sinful, every reason why the Church itself exists as an establishment for sinners to pay their penance and to remind themselves of what is more important in life. It is however a fight that Elliot loses every single time Peggy is within arms distance, a fight he loses to his innermost self which wars against his desire to completely possess Peggy one minute and walk away the next. All because he does not believe that he deserves the kind of light that Peggy has always shed in his life.

Too Hard to Forget is a novel that amazed me at every turn and made me sigh and swoon in equal doses. There is not a single aspect of the story that I would change, and it was undoubtedly precious from start to finish. Peggy’s character wasn’t one that I had warmed up to in the previous books all that much until her own story began in this installment. And once it did, I couldn’t get enough of her. That in its entirety is a rarity because it is usually the hero or the hero and heroine together that I can’t get enough of in most novels. But in this instance, once I fell in love with Peggy’s character, I did so for life, just like Elliot did and was fool enough not to recognize and accept it for what it was.

Peggy’s heart like I mentioned, is one that doesn’t allow her to usually see the bad in people. Perhaps that is where most would call her naive. But then again, the world needs more human beings like Peggy, who would be willing to go out on a limb for those that majority would usually not bother with. Perhaps that is in a way one reason why Peggy follows Elliot into the locker room and the rest, as they say is history.

While Peggy does believe she would find a way to move on from Elliot, it doesn’t really work out the way she had planned or thought it would. In the end, Peggy faces some hard truths about her own self and her need for Elliot’s brand of “love”, making her realize that she is worthy of more than the destructive kind of passion and love that exists between them. But of course, Elliot is not ready to give up without a fight, the fight for the love of his life, a woman he has wronged in so many ways as he has wronged himself by denying the happiness that could have rightfully being his, if only he had had the courage to move past his fears and preconceived notions of what life should be about.

Tessa Bailey’s mark is stamped all over the book, in spades. Dirty talk good enough to drench all your panties, sex scenes hot enough to singe and make you want and want more, and a hero who has control stamped all over his DNA, and loses it so spectacularly for the woman who owns his heart.

I would recommend this for everyone and anyone who loves an obstinate hero and a heroine who you would root for with every fiber of your existence. Yes, it is that kind of book.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Emotionally nuanced to perfection, Too Hard to Forget is wonderfully smutty, edgy, and made ALL of me clamor for more. This just might be in the run for my favorite Tessa Bailey yet; and that is saying a lot!

Favorite Quotes

“Shut your mouth.” His forehead ground against hers. “Shut your beautiful, ripe, little mouth.”
Desire thickening in her blood like oil, Peggy removed one of the hands he’d fisted on the locker, lowering it to the space between her legs. His nostrils flared, hot exhales bathing her face, eyelids slamming to a close. But she didn’t let his massive presence intimidate her. One by one, she smoothed open his curled fingers, then cupped Elliott’s hand at the juncture of her thighs, encouraging him with a roll of her hips to mold the flesh beneath the built-in panties of her cheerleading skirt.
“It’s okay to need this.”
“No.” His denial was a near-roar. “It’s not.”

With a jagged breath, Elliott grabbed up Peggy’s other leg, drawing it high around his waist as she guided his arousal toward her core. He entered her with a biting slam against the locker door, releasing the vilest of epithets into her ear. “Jesus Christ. This is what sin feels like,” he rasped. “Wrong and right, at the same time. Life and death. Blond, long-legged, and tight.”

The head of his rigid cock pressed against his belt buckle, straining painfully inside his pants. “That’s not how it works,” he rasped. “Prayer isn’t an excuse to sin.”
Peggy’s knee moved up and down the side of his thigh, and just knowing her legs were apart, her pussy out in the open, blasted another hole in his resolve. “No one will know. Touch them. Be as rough as you want,” she breathed. “I remember what you like. How you like to get mad at my body. Frustrated at it for making you want something natural.”
“Nothing natural about what we did.” His touch moved down, stopping a mere inch from her breast, fingers flexing. “You made me behave like a beast. Some of the ways I took you…some of the places…”
She groaned and it broke him. Knowing the memories had caused such a harsh sound of longing brought his clutching hand to her breast, where it kneaded the taut mound once before racing under her shirt. Lust railroaded him, and he was out of his mind with need to feel her bare skin. “Yes, Elliott. More.”

With a possessive snarl, Elliott pressed her to the wall with the use of his mouth, increasing the power of his suck until she cried out, twisting his hair with frantic fingers. She tugged him away with a cracked sob and then her lips were so close. So damn close. The most tempting of fruit. And he descended on their parted perfection like the Apocalypse was upon them.
“How do you do this to me?” he groaned against her mouth. “I can’t even get my dick hard unless I think of you. I bet you love knowing that.” The ensuing kiss was brutal, his tongue driving deep and claiming. “Bet you love knowing that sliver of stomach you showed me today in the car made it necessary to jerk off in my office with the door locked.”

She held her breath and waited once inside. Only a couple seconds passed until he blew through her doorway—sexual and intimidating—kicking the door shut, lifting her off the ground to attack her mouth. Peggy moaned into the kiss, her thoughts going fuzzy when Elliott’s tongue slipped past her lips, his free hand stroking down the side of her face, smoothing her hair in an affectionate gesture that made the last three lonely days worth every second. God. God. His huge presence combined with the passion of the kiss to rock the atmosphere. Thunder boomed outside, but she swore it was happening in her chest, between her legs. The smell of him and rain and…chocolate…was amazing.
“Shit,” Elliott rasped, pulling back. Rubbing a thumb against her lower lip, he dropped a kiss on her forehead, then reached into his jacket to remove a small, crushed bakery box. “This didn’t go according to plan,” he grumbled. “Nothing with you does.”
“What’s in there?”
“A cupcake. For your birthday.” He cleared his throat. “Happy birthday.”

Holy shit. Peggy shoved at Elliott’s shoulders, putting his back up against the bench, his expression rife with lust and anticipation as she applied the latex, sucking in a breath when she felt him pulsing against her fingertips. Using the bench’s wooden back for balance in her left hand, she moved higher on his lap, guiding his erection home with her right. “Oh God, oh God,” both of them groaned in a seemingly endless loop, as she sank down—
With only half his erection inside her, Peggy started to shake, the orgasm she’d spent so long chasing, busting through the dam of her middle and drowning her, dragging her under the churning relief. She felt Elliott’s hands in her hair, his powerful grip steadying her, mouth blocking her scream with a kiss. The kind of kiss you gave someone you might die without. Fast, slow, heads turning, bodies twisting. A full body kiss. “More. Elliott. More.

Peggy contracted her most intimate muscles around Elliott’s girth, listened as rusted epithets married in his throat, felt his fingers dig into the flesh of her backside. “These inches of yours,” she breathed up against his ear, licking the lobe, catching it between her teeth. “They’re the only ones that know the right spot to hit…the only ones that can make me scream. Or feel a damn thing. Please.”
Her back landed on the bench, the wood’s coldness reaching through the back of her jacket to wrap around her spine. But the rest of her…oh God, the rest was so fucking hot, she knew the word fever would forever hold new meaning. Elliott descended on her with the power of a pack of wolves, caged inside one man.
“Get your knees up. Get them up,” he snarled. Without waiting for her to comply with his command, he reached back and pulled her knees even with her hips, just out to the side. And that first drive with Elliott’s full weight on top of her was so glorious, it might have topped the orgasms he’d already given her. The positivity that she was being dominated, that she was prey and couldn’t escape his pinning heaviness, the thick evidence that he was man…it caused starburst to erupt behind her eyes, in her belly, all along her nerve endings.

As if sensing her resolve, Elliott set out to crush it, his mouth stamping down on her possessively, his tongue sweeping into her mouth and letting her taste his frustration. “Touch me,” he urged against her lips. “Skin on skin.”
She shook her head, trying to distract him with more kissing, but he pulled away, those eyes drilling into her, his lower body grinding in rhythmic devastation, sending her so close to the point of no return, she lost her ability to think straight.
“Damn you, Peggy,” Elliott growled, pressing his face into her shoulder. “I need your hands and eyes. I missed them most of all.” Their hearts slammed into each other between them, in perfect time with his rolling hips. But only hers was fracturing, splitting right down the middle, little pieces falling away as he continued. “No one ever touched me like you did. I’ve needed it, baby. I’ve been dead without it. Dead inside. Please.”

You’re making my chest hurt.”
She dropped the fork onto the plate with a clatter. “What?”
Elliott’s gaze cut away, clearly having surprised himself. “The way you’re sitting there…the sun making your skin glow.” He sat up straighter in an abrupt movement that dipped that mattress. “Looking at you makes me want to forget everything else and never stop. Every time I’m with you, I come closer to giving in. Setting aside my responsibilities so I can spend more time looking and listening to each and every damn word out of your mouth. Every time.”
Heart running circles around her rib cage, Peggy set the plate of food aside and threw herself at Elliott, laying across him horizontally, her lower half still twisted in the sheet. “You don’t have to set anything aside, you can just shift them a little.” She smiled into his chest hair. “I’m short. I’ll fit.”

Peggy turned, giving the coach her back, watching him over her shoulder, raising both arms in the air and clapping her hands together. Once. “We are the Bearcats and we want to win.” With a hip roll, she turned, sliding into the V of his thighs, smiling as he sucked in a winded breath. “We did it once before and we can do it again,” she continued, holding his knees for balance as she dipped down low and rose slowly, slowly, bumping her hips sharply to one side, and then the other, until Elliott finally gave in, reaching into his sweatpants, his hand moving in vigorous strokes. “Please don’t make us mad. ’Cause we’ll get nasty and mean,” she whispered against his mouth, before licking at the parted seam. “And we just might decide to roll over your team.”

Her back landed on the kitchen table a split second later, Elliott grunting above her as he shoved down his sweatpants, ripped off her underwear, and rammed home with a shout. “Christ. Christ, what you do to me. It’s the devil’s work.” He mounted her body, dropping his face into the crook of her neck. “When a man loses control of one part of his life, all others follow. All others.”
“And I’m the catalyst?” Peggy whispered, her voice shaking. “Guess you better punish me for it.”
When his hips gave that first rude pump, she felt it up in her throat, choking her and setting her free, all at once.

Elliott wasn’t having it. He slipped his left hand up and down her thigh, moving a little higher with each stroke. “Did you have to change your panties when you came upstairs, baby?” He tucked his thumb just beneath the material of her underwear, dragging it in an arc, stopping just a few inches from her pussy. “When you put on the new ones, I bet you gave your clit a little rub. Just once around with your middle finger. Maybe twice. But you stopped because you felt bad about fingering yourself in someone else’s house, sun out and everything. Did I get that right?”
“Yes,” she breathed, tilting her head to the side, giving Elliott an opening to scrape his teeth up the side of her neck. “How did you know that?”
“I know, because even though you were damp and horny in someone else’s kitchen, you’re a good girl deep down.” He sensed her withdraw at that, just a touch. But he wasn’t finished. “And I know because when your pussy gets wet, that real, aching, slick type of wet, you want to hold out for my cock. Don’t you?

“Yes,” she wailed as Elliott did just that. Tended to her like they had only one minute until the Apocalypse. His stiff tongue raked over her clit, lapping at it, while his middle finger slipped through moisture into her entrance. “Yes
“You don’t need to tell me yes when you’re this wet,” he groaned, stabbing his tongue as far inside her as it could go and drawing it out slowly, until his stubble met her sensitized flesh and scraped, before repeating the move several quick, mind-spinning times, all while his thumb strummed over her clit. “Keyed up in my passenger seat, wiggling around like I was already tongue deep in this soaked pussy of yours. Were you remembering how much I love licking it?”
Elliott pushed two fingers inside Peggy and her hips jerked off the bureau, her bare ass slapping back down into the surface as she cried out, “Oh God. Yes, I remember.”

“My favorite part was afterward. After you’d come enough to be fucking delirious…” A prolonged suck of her swollen nub that had her legs shaking, one knee bashing off the wall. “Then I’d slide you toward me or flip you over, whatever you were begging for, and your cunt would be so shiny for me. Ready for a pounding from my cock. Gorgeous.”
“Ohhh.” Her fingers plowed into his hair and gripped tight. “Do that again. Don’t stop. I need to. I need to—” Her pleas ended with a scream when Elliott pushed his fingers deep, jiggling them rapidly, while his mouth applied the sweetest amount of suction to her clit and sensation exploded below her waist. “Elliott. Jesus Christ.”

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Review: Banish Misfortune by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookbanishmisfortune.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: John Springer MacDowell
Heroine: Jessica Hansen
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 01, 1985
Started On: January 04, 2018
Finished On: January 13, 2018

Banish Misfortune by Anne Stuart (republished as When the Stars Fall Down) is nothing short of a masterpiece, written when I must have been running around with a bottle in one hand and a toy in the other. Yet, it is the kind of tale that makes me wade through the thousands and thousands of books in the romance genre to meet that one special book. That special book that has the uncanny ability to wash away the effect of a thousand lackluster reads, and Banish Misfortune was a book that ticked all the boxes in the category.

Banish Misfortune is a complex story. There are layers to it that you would have to peel back and assess if you were to write a comprehensive review that would do the book justice, which I don’t think I would be able to do. The are two parts to the story, the latter of which carries a secondary romance, just as equally enticing even as short as it was.

Jessica Hansen is a woman determined to climb the corporate ladder of Kinsey Enterprises. Engaged to the prodigal son of the owner of the company, it seems as if there is no line that Jessica wouldn’t cross in her attempt to achieve that prize she has been working for all along. Jessica’s past is a complex and a complicated one at that, one that had shaped her into becoming the Ice Queen, an image which she had started to put on for show because that was easier than bleeding from the scars that had never quite completely healed over from childhood.

Jessica’s path crosses that of John Springer MacDowell owing to her relationship with his parents. Springer is a man that carries on his shoulder a ton of baggage of his own. His strained relationship with his father for one had defined a lot of aspects of his adult life, from quitting his what could have been a professional career at basketball and joining the military, to his inability to commit, even during his brief marriage that had fallen apart owing to his amatory nature.

When Springer comes across Jessica at his father’s home, he wrongfully assumes her to be one of his paramours. The sparks that fly between the two could zing anyone caught in the crossfire, but there is more to their story than just having a chance meeting, falling in love, and carrying on with their happily ever after.

Jessica’s background is revealed slowly, as Anne Stuart painfully exposes the gaping wounds that had scabbed over her unhealed scars, the ugliness of it all somehow beautiful because Jessica had fought every inch of her way through a childhood that could have taken down anyone else. Neglect, abuse, and a whole lot more played its role in molding Jessica, and being away at university for the lack of anything better to focus her attentions on had been the one place where she found and perfected her coping mechanism.

However, Springer has a way of getting through to her defenses, crumbling down the icy walls around her heart, and the numbness that encases her from the outside, which usually makes it impossible for people to reach to her. Springer with his protective and yet at times formidable nature, teaches Jessica that the pleasure of lovemaking could be just that. In the end, the consequences of that act, together with the curveball that life throws Springer’s way is how they go their separate ways, only to return to each other, because there is no way that two people who are so meant to be together could stay apart for that long.

Like I mentioned earlier, there is a secondary romance that complemented the heartache, pain, and immense joy the main protagonists brought to the story. The story of Marianna, a single mother who had been singed badly by the actions of her ex-husband, who finds love with the reclusive Andrew Cameron, a Scottish man, younger than Marianna, and yet able to meet her on equal footing in every single way.

Just stating that I loved Banish Misfortune would be an understatement. But I am pressed for words to describe how I felt as I was reading the story. There was so much emotion wound around it that it was impossible not to give into the tears that were begging for release at each and every emotionally intense and at poignant moment of the story.

Jessica fighting her way back to a semblance of normalcy was one she did on her own which made me love her all the more. She could have chosen to take the “easy” way out, but then I don’t think she would have survived had she taken such a decision. Springer also didn’t have it easy, given that all the “forces” were working against him when he wanted to pursue what had blossomed to life between himself and Jessica, as imperfect as all of it had been.

The secondary romance? Totally amazing! I loved Andrew, the way he saw Marianne and finally managed to penetrate her defenses. Pun intended.

Recommended for anyone and everyone who loves multi-layered stories, romances with a ton of emotion packed into it. Anne Stuart certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Final Verdict: It is a testament to Anne Stuart’s mastery that Banish Misfortune stands the test of time even 33 years since initial publication of this novel. There is simply none like her.

Favorite Quotes

She could lie back in the grass, feel it tickling her skin, and the noisy gruntings and moanings were a distant irritation. The hands on her skin melted away, and she was gone, floating with the puffs of clouds. Doesn’t the sky look green today, she thought dreamily, staring down. And then it was gone, ripped away from her with a sudden, shocking violence, as his bleary, raddled, lecherous face hovered over her, breathing heavily. Wave after wave of Scotch-laden fumes covered her face, choking her. She opened her eyes, staring up at him, and began to scream. “Dammit to hell!” Lincoln swore, scrambling off her in panicked haste and retying his robe with nerveless fingers. “Stop it, for God’s sake! Shut up!”
Turning slowly in his arms, she slid her hands up around his neck. He was looking down at her, an ar-rested expression on his dark face. And there on the windswept, deserted beach, she reached up and pressed her mouth against his unsuspecting one. Deliberately she kept her mouth soft, pliant, waiting for him to make the next move. She could feel his hesitation, indecision, and she increased the pressure, reaching out with the tip of her tongue to lightly touch his lower lip. She heard a low, muffled groan, and then his hands were cupping her close-cropped head, holding her gently as he deepened the kiss, his mouth warm and wet and hungry on hers.

She made one last, hopeless effort to summon up the green pasture, the clear blue sky, floating, floating… Until the slow, steady invasion began to rip through the cloudlike veil, and her eyes flew open, staring up into his intent ones, as he slowly filled her, the smooth fluidity of his movement telling her that even if her soul wasn’t ready, her body was. “Stay with me, Jessie,” he whispered thickly. “Don’t leave me alone while you go off to never-never land. Feel me, feel this.” He slowly withdrew, then arched up to fill her again. “It’s real, it’s good. Stay with me, Jessie.” She had no answer for him. She was lost forever, trapped, not by his strong, hard body, but by the long-dormant desires that had risen beneath his skillful handling.

“Don’t,” she gasped in a weak cry. “Don’t do this to me.” The clear blue sky faded forever beyond reach, leaving only the midnight darkness. “I can’t stop, Jessie,” he murmured. “I have to.” And his hands reached down to cup her slender buttocks as he thrust deeper, deeper, his muscles bunching under her clinging hands as he drove her onward, further and further, their skin wet and clinging, their breathing rapid, their hearts pounding. No, she wept inside. No, I won’t. I won’t let him And then suddenly, in the midst of her protests, it shattered, the one inviolate part of her, and the midnight darkness split apart as her body arched up against his.

He kicked the door shut behind them, standing over her as he fumbled with his tie. The streetlights were the only illumination as she lay on the faded patchwork quilt, looking up at him out of shadowed, wary eyes. His usual expertise seemed to have escaped him, for the tie knotted, and he had to yank it over his head, the buttons on his shirt caught, and he sent it spinning. He was yanking at his belt when he caught her eyes.
“God, Jessie, you make me so crazy,” he muttered, sinking on one knee on the narrow bed beside her.
His hands were shaking and not at all deft as he stripped the panty hose off her, and he almost strangled her with the slip as he pulled it over her head.

And then, unexpectedly, before he had more than set up the age-old rhythm that had once disgusted her, the familiar-unfamiliar tightening gripped her, arching her up against him, as wave after wave swept over her. It was mysterious, overwhelming, indefinable, and she wept against him, her tears hot on their damp skin. He cradled her against him until the last spasm passed, and in sudden shyness she tried to pull away.
“Not so fast,” he whispered in her ear, his teeth capturing her sensitive lobe and nipping lightly. Another ripple of pleasure shook her body, and he laughed breathlessly.
“Do that again,” he murmured, biting her again. Her body trembled once more, and he pushed against her.
“I’m afraid I’m not quite finished,” he added politely, his tongue lightly tracing her tremulous lips. “And I don’t think you are, either.”

He stood there, staring at her.
“Woman,” he said again, his rich Scottish accent caressing the word, “you’re not sorry at all.”
She had to turn her face to hide her sudden smile, and she missed his swift movement. One moment he was standing in the middle of the room, eyeing her with his usual irritation, and the next moment he was beside her, one strong, beautiful hand sliding behind her neck, under the heavy mane of chestnut hair, tilting her head up to look at him. She did so easily, too surprised to resist.
“Woman,” he whispered, “you’ll drive me mad.”
And his mouth caught hers, in a brief, deep kiss that tasted of brandy and pipe tobacco and of an intense longing that left her shaken. She raised her hands to touch him, but he had already moved away, not even aware of her incipient response.
“Happy Christmas, Marianne,” he said, and was gone.

Not another word was spoken as he stripped off her clothing, the jeans, the loose cotton tunic, the wispy bra and panties landing in a pile on the floor. She could be glad the wall supported her, otherwise there was a good chance her knees might give way. His mouth and hands were everywhere on her, feverish, demanding, arousing her and arousing him to a level past thoughts and memories. He was rough in his need, rough in his haste, but the thoughtlessly delivered pain only made her love him more. He was lost in mute anguish, and she could soothe him, bring him sweet forgetfulness if only for a night. She reached out her hands, tentative hands that slowly became more sure as she gave herself up to his overwhelming need.

She made one last attempt.
“But I always wanted a man who could carry me up to bed,” she wailed, grasping at straws. A devilish smile lit his dour face.
“Well, I could do it if I had to,” he allowed, “but I might strain something. It would really make more sense if you carried me.”
“You…” She opened her mouth in outrage, and he kissed her, deeply, completely, his tongue silencing her as his hands pulled her hips across the table to him. He was very strong, she noticed distantly. And very aroused. And she began to shiver in his arms.
“Take me to bed, my lioness,” he whispered. She smiled up at him through the haze of passion she could no longer fight.
“Follow me, shorty.”

“Marianne, my sweet viper, I am twenty-nine years old. I assure you, I know very well what I’m doing, and just how to do it. And I know what I want, have known it since I caught you in my raspberry bushes last summer.”
He’d warned her, of course. He’d told her women hadn’t complained about his lack of size, but she’d thought he’d been teasing her. But he’d been nothing more than truthful. Andrew Cameron was a great deal more man than Tom Trainor, so much so that Marianne suddenly panicked. He must have felt the tension race through her body. The moment he slipped out of the corduroys he pulled her back into his arms, his strong, rough-textured hands oddly soothing.
“Hush, my brave lioness,” he whispered, though she hadn’t said a word. “I promise you I won’t hurt you. I’ll never hurt you.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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Review: Father Mine by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookfathermine.jpeg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novella
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #6.5
Publisher: NAL
Hero: Zsadist
Heroine: Bella Soang
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 07, 2008
Started On: January 03, 2018
Finished On: January 04, 2018

Father Mine, a novella set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a story that I somehow seem to have missed out on when I first started reading the series in a frenzy. Anyone who has read my reviews on the books in the series would know that Zsadist is by far, my most favorite hero, and it is with excellent reason.

In Father Mine, the focus is on the continued struggle Zsadist has in terms of his past. A past that is as horrific as they come, where he had been taken as a blood slave, kidnapped at a tender age, and all sorts of atrocities subjected to him by the female that had kept him captive.

Zsadist comes with a wealth of pain in his heart, a soul that had numbed down in order to protect himself, an anger that had been destructive in its force and zeal that had simmered down upon mating with Bella. Even that had not been the easy journey that most romance stories would have made out of it. No. Zsadist had to work for every inch of peace he carved for himself, and the pregnancy along the way had just been another curveball that life had thrown his way.

It is in Father Mine that Zsadist’s past once again rears its ugly head in the form of nightmares that are all too realistic for him. Even though Bella knows that Zsadist’s inability to connect with their precious daughter Nalla comes from elements of his past, she has no idea of the depth of the horror that still has the ability to lock him down and get the best of him.

I believe that Father Mine and its conclusion was a much needed one in terms of Zsadist and Bella’s relationship. JR Ward’s love for Zsadist’s character shines through whenever she writes about him. Not that she doesn’t give it her all when it comes to other characters. But there is something special about the way she takes care of Zsadist, which is perhaps one of the reasons why a large percentage of readers fall, and fall hard for Zsadist and remain Zsadist loyalists throughout the series.

Bella’s insecurities as a woman who has given birth, whose physical and mental health had been subjected to a whole lot of ordeal in the process is also taken into context. The way Zsadist erased every single one of her doubts was just the icing on the cake when it came to this novella.

Loved, loved, loved this novella. An excellent installment in terms of Bella and Zsadist’s story to give their story the ultimate conclusion. Because just like real life doesn’t serve you with a happily ever after on silver platter, this made their love, pain, and struggles all the more believable and their happily ever after that much more worth it.

Recommended for fans of Zsadist!

Final Verdict: Sheer perfection is Father Mine in every single sense. Nothing more, nothing less.

Favorite Quotes

He moved her hand up and down on his shaft. “I’m desperate to touch you again. All over.” She came closer to him, moving through the sheets. “You are?”
“How could I not be? You’re the most perfect female I’ve ever seen.”
“Even after—”
He shot forward and pressed his lips to hers. “Especially after.” He pulled back so she could read his eyes. “You are just as beautiful as the first time I saw you in the gym all those nights and days ago. You stopped my heart then—just froze it in my chest. And you stop it now.”

“Feel me,” he groaned, arching into her. “Feel me and know—Oh, God.”
She felt him, all right. Wrapped both her hands around him and stroked him up and down, riding his hard length.

“Is this good for you?” she whispered.
All he could do was nod and moan. With her gripping him like that, surrounding him with her palms, working him, his brain had pretty much shorted out.
“Bella . . .” He reached for her with his bandaged hands, then stopped. “Damn gauze—”
“I’ll take it off for you.” She pressed her lips to his. “And then you can put your hands wherever you like—”

“Fuck.”
He came. Right then and there. But instead of feeling let down, Bella just laughed in the deep, throaty way of a female who knows she’s about to get sex from her male.

“You sure you’re going to be okay with this?”
If it meant she could be with him as his shellan?

“Nalla will be fine. She’s just next door if she needs me, and she’s started to sleep through big hunks of the day so . . . yes, I feel all right about it.”
“You’re . . . sure?” Bella looked up at him.
“Yes. Absolutely sure—” Z threw down his shirt, dematerialized right at her, and took her down on the bed, all but tackling her. His bonding scent went crazy as his mouth ground into hers and his hard, heavy weight pushed her down into the mattress. His hands were rough with her nightgown, ripping it as he wrenched the two sides apart. As her breasts were bared, he growled deep and low.

“Shut up and get inside of me,” she barked, grabbing the back of his neck and pulling him down to her lips.
He roared and punched into her core, the penetration a bomb that went off in her body, sparks shooting through her, igniting her blood. She gripped his ass hard as his hips jackhammered until he followed where she was, coming in a massive, full-torso contraction.
The instant it passed he threw his head back, bared his fangs, and hissed like a great cat. Arching back into the pillow, she put her face to the side, giving him her throat so that he—
As Zsadist struck hard and deep, she orgasmed again, and while he drew on her vein the sex pounded on. He was even better than she’d remembered, his muscles and bones churning on top of her, his skin so smooth, his bonding scent blanketing her in that special dark spice.

When he moved down to her stomach she started to get hot and restless again, and he smiled up at her. “Have you missed my kisses, darling mate? The ones I like to give you between your thighs?”
“Yes,” she choked out while anticipation shivered through her. Given the erotic little grin on his face and the evil cast to his yellow stare, he was once again a male with plans and a wide-open schedule.
He rose up on his knees.
“Open your legs for me. I like to watch you—Oh . . . shit . . . yeah.” He rubbed at his mouth like he was warming the thing up. “That’s what I’m talking about.”

“Nalla?” he whispered as he bent down.
His daughter pursed her little lips and held on even stronger.
“I can’t believe that grip of hers.” He let his forefinger brush lightly on his daughter’s wrist. “Soft . . . oh, my God, she’s so soft—”
Nalla’s eyes flipped open. And as he looked into a stare the exact golden color of his own, his heart stopped.
“Hi . . .”
Nalla blinked and waved his finger and transformed him: Everything stopped as she moved not just his hand, but his heart.

“You’re like your mahmen,” he whispered. “You make the world go away for me. . . .”

She was on her way into the nursery when Z came through the door. She couldn’t help beaming at him.
“Your cast is off.”
“Mmm-hmmm . . . come here, female.” He walked over to her, wrapped his arms around her, and bent her backward so she had to grab onto his arms to stay upright. He kissed her long and slow, rubbing his lower body and his huge erection into the juncture of her thighs.
“I missed you,” he purred against her throat.
“You just had me only two hour—”
His tongue in her mouth silenced her, as did his hands, which ended up on her butt. He carried her over to one of the windowsills, propped her up on the molding, unzipped himself, and—
“Oh . . . God,” she groaned with a smile.

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

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Review: Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookloverawakened.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #3
Publisher: Signet Book
Hero: Zsadist
Heroine: Bella Soang
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: September 1, 2006
Started On: August 02, 2016
Finished On: August 08, 2016

“I was dead until you found me, though I breathed. I was sightless, though I could see. And then you came… and I was awakened.”

Let me just take a moment before I begin my review to thank J. R. Ward for telling Zsadists’s story as it is, without pretensions and bringing to us a character that is so very flawed, yet the best of the Brotherhood. Yes, the best. Fact that Ms. Ward could have dragged Zsadist’s story on as a secondary tale in the series up till readers were ready to go into a tizzy with wanting, something many authors tend to do when they identify with a character readers absolutely want to read about; the fact that Ms. Ward saw it fit to deliver this story as the 3rd installment in the series is something that at least I am eternally grateful for.

Zsadist’s story is by no means an easy tale to tell. Having been taken on as a blood slave by a woman that had kept him practically chained in the bed for her pleasure and violated him in every single way possible to do that to a person, well, needless to say Zsadist comes from dark stock. The only woman who had been able to shake him out of the deep and dark aura that surrounds him had been Bella, even be it for a brief moment, a daughter of a family considered quite high in rank in vampire lineage, something which makes Zsadist more wary.

Zsadist keeps himself apart from the rest of the members of the Brotherhood. He doesn’t feed as they, doesn’t take pleasure in sex as they do; he considers himself dirty, something to be left on the sides of the streets for stray dogs to come and pick on. But his twin brother Phury refuses to let him be so, but even his attempts to reach out to Zsadist gets him that far.

It is upon Bella’s abduction by a Lesser who had wanted her for himself that forces Zsadist to step out of his comfort zone and face all of his fears, one by one. Zsadist is relentless in his hunt for Bella, and once he finds her, he is the one who nurses her back, even if it kills him to see his body react in that “ugly” manner towards her femaleness. For anyone made out of lesser stuff than Bella, making Zsadist come around would have been an impossible feat.

I have rarely come across novels that feature sexually abused heroes. Heroines, yes, multiple times. Heroes, I can practically count the books in one hand. And one who has been violated to Zsadist’s extent? Never. Amazing is how Ms. Ward handled the whole situation so beautifully. Giving Zsadist the time to adjust, to face his nightmares, to learn that his responses towards Bella are inherent in him as a male warrior would for his mate for life. Bella’s utter patience when it comes to Zsadist, even when it kills her at times, the attempts Zsadist makes numerous times to push her away, Bella does hold on strong.

It was indeed an interesting facet of the novel to see Bella come into her needing in this novel, the first of its variety that has been described since the series began. Needing is the time when female vampires go into their fertile period, the need for them to mate so incredibly painful that there is no male in scenting distant to be unaffected by it. Zsadist had practically decided by that point in time that he would not be able to bed Bella and consider himself unsullied. What a glorious and healing experience did Bella’s needing turn out to be for Zsadist! And what an erotic experience for Bella, not to mention the readers! Not that it was easy for Zsadist to give in, but the nature of his beast didn’t give up until Zsadist experienced what pleasure is like, why mates would kill for their women and why bonding is such an integral part of vampire biology.

To say that I loved Zsadist’s story would be a grave understatement. I loved, adored and reveled in how Zsadist made me feel. There is nothing, absolutely nothing I would have changed in his story. Ms. Ward definitely pulled all the punches when she wrote Zsadist’s book, and it shows. Having read around 5 books in the series so far, I believe that a hero that could topple Zsadist from the position he is in my heart would be an impossible feat. I am looking forward to Rehvenge’s book however. And I believe I am not alone in feeling this way.

I recommend Zsadist’s story even if you are not a fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The fact that Zsadist wanted to become a better version of himself before claiming Bella in the end just made me love him more! The little epilogue tucked at the end, the first of its kind I believe in this series, was more than enough to make this heart of mine melt. Just read the first three books. Trust me, it’s more than worth it!

Final Verdict: Raw and powerful, Zsadist’s novel is a stunning masterpiece by J. R. Ward!

Favorite Quotes

“Zsadist?”
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Relax your mouth for me.”
Careful not to crowd him, she propped herself up on her forearms and got in close again. His lips were shockingly soft except for where the upper one was scarred. To make sure he knew the imperfection didn’t matter to her, she deliberately attended to that place, returning there again and again.
And then it happened: He kissed her back. It was just the slightest movement of his mouth, but she felt it all the way to her core.

But then he frowned and looked at her. “Wait, I’m supposed to kiss you on the mouth first, aren’t I? I mean, males start at the top and work their way down, don’t they?”
What an odd question… like he’d never done this at all?
Before she could reply he began to move back, so she sat up and captured his face in her hands.
“You can do whatever you like to me.”
His eyes flashed and he held his position for a split second.
Then he lunged at her, taking her down onto the bed.

His lips parted, and his tongue led the way as he dipped down. His mouth was warm on her flesh, so very tentative, kissing, then sucking her nipple inside. He tugged, then ran a languid circle around her, then drew her in again… and all the while his hands stroked her waist and her hips and legs.
How ironic that he’d worried he wouldn’t be gentle. Far from brutal, he was positively reverent as he suckled, his lashes down against his cheek as he savored her, his face worshipful and rapt.
“Christ,” he murmured, moving to her other breast. “I had no idea it would be like this.”

“Bella, I don’t think I can stop. There’s this… roar in my head telling me to keep my mouth on you. How can I make this… okay for you?”
“Make me… finish me,” she said hoarsely.
He blinked as if she’d surprised him. “How do I make you come?”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing. Only faster.”
He was a quick study as he figured out what made her go wild, and he was ruthless once he discovered how to give her an orgasm. He drove her hard, watching her as she shattered apart once, twice… many time. It was as if he fed from her pleasure and was insatiable.

“Make love to me,” she said.
He moaned and started to move like a great wave on top of her, that thick, hard part of him stroking the inside of her.
“Oh, shit…” He dropped his head into her neck. His rhythm intensified, his breath shooting out of him, rushing into her ear. “Bella… shit, I’m scared… but I can’t… stop…”
With a groan he propped himself up on his arms and let his hips swing freely, each thrust nailing against her, pushing her farther up on the bed. She grabbed for his wrists to hold her body in place under the onslaught. As he pounded, she could feel herself getting near the edge again, and the faster he went, the closer she got.
Her orgasm slammed into her core, then raced throughout her body, the force stretching her out so she was infinitely long and infinitely wide.

As if he sensed what she needed, he twisted his body around so he could stay inside of her while giving her access to his throat.
“Feed,” he said hoarsely, his body moving into her and pulling back. “Take what you need.”
She bit him without hesitation, piercing right through the slave band, going deep into his skin. As his taste hit her tongue, she heard a roar leave him. And then the strength and the power of him washed over her, through her.

He closed his eyes, so exhausted he could barely breathe. He was flat on his back, legs splayed out, arms lying wherever. He’d been in that position since he’d rolled off Bella maybe an hour ago.
He felt like it had been a year since he’d come back into the room the night before. His neck and wrists burned from the number of times she’d fed from him, and the thing between his leg was sore. The air around them was saturated with the bonding scent, and the sheets were with with a combination of his blood and the other thing she needed from him.
He wouldn’t have traded a moment of it.

Bella eased up and slid the it inside of her. As beat as he was, he groaned in ecstasy. The feel of her was something he couldn’t he enough of, and he knew it wasn’t because of her needing.
She rode him, planting her hands on his pecs and finding a rhythm with her hips because he couldn’t thrust anymore with his. He felt himself gearing up for another explosion, especially as he watched her breasts sway with her movement.
“You are so beautiful,” he said in a hoarse voice.
She paused to bend down and kiss him again, her dark hair falling around him, a gentle shelter. When she straightened, he marveled at the sight of her. She was glowing with health and vitality from everything he had given her, a resplendent female who he…
Loved. Yes, loved.

“Go to hell, Zsadist. Go there right-“
He moved fast as a lightning strike, taking her down hard to the bed, tackling her with his weight.
“I am in hell,” he hissed, pushing his hips into her. He swiveled them against her core, that massive erection pushing into the soft place he’d just had with his mouth. With a curse, he pulled back, unzipped his leathers…
and thrust into her, stretching her so wide it almost hurt. She cried out at the invasion, but tilted her hips up so he could go in even farther.

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

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Review: Until You by Judith McNaught

Format: E-bookuntilyou
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Westmoreland Saga, #3
Publisher: Pocket Books
Hero: Stephen David Elliott Westmoreland
Heroine: Sheridan Bromleigh
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 1, 1995
Started On: January 29, 2016
Finished On: January 31, 2016

Until You by Judith McNaught is one of my favorite books by an author who would always remain as one of those that are unforgettable for me as a romance reader. For myself, authors like Judith McNaught remains as my go to authors when most books of today fails to satisfy me and hit all those spots that need to be petted and stroked when I pick up a romance to read.

Until You is the 3rd book in the Westmoreland saga and tells the story of Stephen David Elliott Westmoreland, Earl of Langford, Baron of Ellingwood, Fifth Viscount Hargrove, Viscount Ashbourne. Well, that was a handful if ever there was one. Stephen is the younger brother of Clayton Westmoreland, the much revered hero of Whitney, My Love, the book that saw Judith McNaught rise to stardom. All the books in the series are 5-star reads for me. However, for some reason, Stephen has always occupied a special spot in my heart, perhaps owing to the fact that he is a hero overlooked by many fans of the author.

Stephen finds himself in a fit of bad luck when an accident makes him responsible for informing the deceased’s fiancée that her intended had met an untimely demise. Unknown to him, Sheridan Bromleigh, the woman who was entrusted by the bride-to-be’s father to safely transport her from America into the hands of her betrothed finds herself in a bit of a fix with the bride having eloped with another man. Sick with fear that she would be imprisoned or worse, not knowing what had happened to the groom in question, Sheridan meets an accident that nearly ends her life, leaving her in the hands and of Stephen himself.

Stephen believes that the woman who has somehow invaded his very thoughts and desires is the fiancée of a dead man, whose death he holds himself responsible for. It doesn’t help matters when Sheridan wakes up with no memories whatsoever of how she got there and what had happened before. Stephen’s reluctant attraction to Sheridan is clouded by the fact that Sheridan is led to believe that Stephen is her intended husband. The fact that she cannot recall any memories of a man as Stephen makes her panicky, but the moments of tenderness that catches Stephen unawares as he unknowingly starts courting the woman he would take as his wife makes her believe in the connection that exists between them.

Truth comes to light at one of those hold your breaths moments and the sheer betrayal that Stephen feels and his ruthless reaction towards it is perhaps the reason why I love Until You so much. It is the way he reacts that gives the book the angst factor, that makes my throat close up, no matter how many times I read this story. Characters from other stories make their appearances, giving a helping hand in a romance that is fraught with tension. Stephen proves to be a hard nut to crack, but then again if he were that easy, I believe I wouldn’t have loved him half as much.

A classic for me, if ever there was one. Recommended!

Final Verdict: Does not disappoint. Ever!

Favorite Quotes

His warm breath in her ear sent shivers up Sheridan’s spine, and she turned her face away from the cause, which brought her lips into instant contact with his. Stephen had intended to kiss her as Burleton might have done, but when her soft lips parted on a shaky breath, his intentions slipped from his mind.
Sheridan knew the moment his arm tightened on her waist and his lips began to move insistently against hers that she couldn’t have been expecting this… not the stormy rush of sensation that made her gasp and cling tighter to him, nor the compulsion to yield her mouth to his searching tongue, nor the frantic beating of her heart when his fingers shoved into the hair at her nape, holding her mouth tighter to his while her body seemed to want to meet and forge into his.

Stephen said abruptly, “Since we’ve ruled out rouge and curtsying, what are you interested in?”
You, Sherry thought. I am interested in you. I am interested in why you seem uneasy right now. I am interested in why there are times when you smile at me as if you see only me and I am all that matters. I am interested in why there are times when I sense that you don’t want to see me at all, even when I’m in front of you. I am interested in anything that matters to you because I want so much to matter to you. I am interested in history. Your history. My history. “History! I like history,” she provided brightly after a pause.

Her smooth brow furrowed in bewilderment. “I can’t quite remember what sort of injury it was, however.”
“A head injury,” Sherry provided helpfully.
“Yes, that was it.” Her bright blue gaze darted to Sherry’s head for a moment. “It looks as if it has healed.”
Dr. Whitticomb intervened. “The injury has healed,” he reminded her. “But there is still a troublesome aftereffect. Miss Lancaster has not yet recovered her memory.”
Miss Charity’s face fell. “My poor child. Do you know who you are?”
“Yes.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Who am I?”

Stephen felt her hand slide up his chest, felt her press closer to him, and he claimed his victory, plundering her mouth with his, teasing and tormenting her, and she responded instinctively. The fires within her that had fueled her tempestuous rebellion earlier, now burned hot and bright with passion, and Stephen found himself in the midst of a kiss that was wildly erotic—and rapidly getting out of control. His hand was sliding over her breast, cupping it, and she was straining toward him in sweet abandon, offering her mouth to him. He told himself to stop and kissed her deeper instead, making her moan softly, and when she kissed him back, tentatively touching her tongue to his lips, it was the gasp of his own breath that he heard.

Every nerve in his body was screaming for release and still he held himself back, driving deeply into her, while the muscles in his arms strained with the rest of his body, refusing to deprive her of the same pleasure she was going to give him any second now. She was whimpering, eyes closed tightly, desperate for something she didn’t understand, afraid to have it. Afraid not to. Sobbing with desire, needing reassurance. He gave it to her in a hoarse whisper. “… Any second now…”
She went up in flames before he finished the sentence, her body clenching his, and Stephen heard himself groan with the extravagant splendor she was somehow making him feel. And then he gave himself over to it, driving toward it… and then past it, climaxing, his body jerking as he poured himself into her.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BookDepo

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Review: Once and Always by Judith McNaught

Format: E-bookonceandalways
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Sequels, #1
Publisher: Pocket Books
Hero: Jason Fielding
Heroine: Victoria Elizabeth Seaton
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January, 1987
Started On: January 26, 2016
Finished On: January 26, 2016

Judith McNaught is one of the most revered authors in the romance genre, and with good reason. Her books have turned many a romantic soul into romance readers, giving them all something to dream, sigh and moon over. I have read all the published works by Judith McNaught to-date and loved almost each and every single one of them. I have revisited the books that I consider my favorites many a time. Most of those re-reads took place before I established my blog in 2009. So here goes, a review for Once and Always, a tale that for me, stands the irrevocable test of time itself.

Jason Fielding, the Marquess of Wakefield is a man who hides a wealth of pain beneath the formidable exterior of his. Life has taught him time and yet again that love and happiness is not meant for the likes of himself. His failure of a marriage and the consequences left behind in the wake of the disaster that particular venture had proven to be makes Jason a man wary at best of getting entangled with the opposite sex in a way that would lead to anything permanent. Most of all, Jason considers his heart closed off forever. His less than stellar childhood had also taught him that valuable lesson. That is until Victoria Elizabeth Seaton makes her way into his life and changes it forever.

18 year old Victoria is forced to leave the home that she has known all her life that is in America and sail to England where her maternal relatives await her and her sister’s arrival. From the moment Victoria and Jason meet, sparks fly. Victoria being the kind of person who is concerned about the welfare of those around her clashes at every turn with someone like Jason who has closed himself off from caring about what goes on in other people’s lives. Moments of hilarity and mirth fill this novel, at least during the beginning of the “courtship” stage where Jason hardly knows what to do with Victoria and Victoria in turn wants nothing more to do with the likes of him.

Moments of truce disappear into thin air more often than not, especially with Jason’s plans to wed her off so that the Duke of Atherton would stop trying to push him to take her as his wife. Victoria is equally determined to stay unwed, until her beau from America returns for her. But alas, as fate would have it, with more than a little helping hand given by the Duke, Victoria finds herself wedded to an exasperatingly beautiful man, who makes her senses go alive with the merest of touches. Each kiss and caress exchanged convinces Victoria of the fact that when it comes to her and Jason, falling in love is a foregone conclusion. But their future and happiness depends on how soon Victoria can make Jason see that when it comes to her, he would always get nothing but the purest of love.

Once and Always is a wonderful novel to immerse yourself in, if you like romances that deliver a ton of angst that can make you tie yourself up in knots, even when you know that the inevitable conclusion would be a happy one. Jason is a hero whose commanding presence alone makes a woman go gaga over him. Taming someone like Jason is a task for someone who is as strong as Victoria, someone who wouldn’t back down in the face of all the rejections and walls that Jason puts up, all because he can’t bring himself to be that vulnerable towards someone, ever again. But tame him Victoria does, and the result of course is a man whom you would indeed fall head over heels in love with.

This is exactly why Judith McNaught is an author that remains unrivaled in her contribution to the world of romance. Tempestuous, angst ridden and filled with so much love and passion that you would feel like dying if you didn’t read it to its ultimate and very satisfying conclusion, Once and Always managed to keep me spellbound, and God knows how many times I have already re-read this particular book already.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Jason and Victoria’s love is bold and vivacious; it is all encompassing. Not to be missed!

Favorite Quotes

“Have I made another social blunder—like failing to knock?” he inquired in a low, amused voice, his lips offensively close to her cheek as she took her seat. “Is it not the custom in America for a gentleman to seat a lady?”
Victoria jerked her head away. “Are you seating me, or trying to eat my ear?”
His lips twitched. “I may do that,” he replied, “if the new cook provides us with a poor meal.”

Charles pushed her out the door under the guise of escorting her to her carriage, and Victoria halted and swung around on the stairway. Like a beautiful, outraged goddess she stood trembling with wrath, staring down at Jason. “Am I to understand,” she enunciated furiously, “that the engagement you said was ‘off’ was our engagement?”
Jason’s only answer was a tightening of his jaw, but his silence was a tacit admission, and she glared at him with blue sparks shooting from her eyes, heedless of the servants who were staring at her in paralyzed horror. “How dare you!” she hissed. “How dare you let anyone think I would consider marrying you. I wouldn’t marry you if you were—”
“I don’t recall asking you to marry me,” Jason interrupted sarcastically. “However, it’s reassuring to know that if I ever took leave of my senses and did ask you, you’d have the consideration to turn me down.”

Victoria saw something primitive and terrifying flare in his eyes as his hands tightened on her arms. She jerked back, a scream rising in her throat, but his lips covered hers, stifling her voice with a demanding insistence that stunned her into immobility. Like an alarmed rabbit captured in a painless trap, she struggled until she felt his hands stroke soothingly up and down her spine and shoulders, while his lips moved on hers with inflaming expertise.

“William Rogers,” Charles shot back in a challenging voice, “and he’s tall, conservative, mature, intelligent, and handsome. He’s also heir to one of the finest estates in England. I think he would do very well for Victoria.”
“No.”
“No?” Charles burst out. “Why not?”
“I don’t like the way Rogers sits a horse.”
“You don’t like—” Charles bit out in angry disbelief; then he glanced at Jason’s implacable face and sighed. “Very well. The last name on my list is Lord Terrance. He sits a horse extremely well, in addition to being an excellent chap. He is also tall, handsome, intelligent, and wealthy. Now,” he finished triumphantly, “what fault can you find with him?”
Jason’s jaw tightened ominously. “I don’t like, him.”
“You aren’t going to marry him!” Charles shot back, his voice rising.
Jason lurched forward in his chair and slammed his hand on his desk. “I said I don’t like him,” he said through clenched teeth. “And that’s the end of it.”

But in the mounting turmoil of their kiss and unaware of the hardening pressure against her stomach, Victoria let her fingers slide into the soft hair at his nape while her body automatically fitted itself to his—and suddenly everything changed. Jason’s arms closed around her with stunning force, his mouth opening on hers with fierce hunger. He parted her lips, teasing her with his tongue until he coaxed her to touch her own tongue to his lips, and when she did, he gasped, pulling her even closer, his body taut with fiery need.
When he finally lifted his head, he stared down at her with an odd expression of bemused self-mockery on his ruggedly chiseled features. “I should have given you diamonds and sapphires the other night, instead of pearls,” he commented. “But don’t kiss me like this again until after we’re married.”

“You have a very peculiar idea of what being a wife means,” he mocked savagely. “Now, get out of here.”
“Damn you!” Victoria blazed. “I don’t know how to be a wife, can’t you see that? I know how to cook and sew and look after a husband, but you don’t need me for that, because you have other people to take care of you. And I’ll tell you something else, Lord Fielding,” she continued, working herself into a fine rage, “I may not be a very good wife, but you’re an impossible husband! When I offer to play chess with you, you get angry. When I try to seduce you, you get nasty—”
She saw Jason’s head jerk up, but she was so angry she didn’t pay any heed to the stunned expression on his face. “And when I bring you a gift, you go off to London to see your mistress!”
“Tory,” he said achingly, “come here.”

Beneath her she could feel the pulsing of his rigid shaft, the fiery touch of his heated skin, the violent hammering of his heart against her breasts. But instead of taking her, as she expected, he gazed at her with desire raging in his eyes and humbly said the words he had tried to force her to say last night. “I want you,” he whispered. As if he didn’t think he had humbled himself enough, he added, “Please, darling.”
Feeling as if her heart would break with the love bursting in it, Victoria answered him with a melting kiss. It was answer enough.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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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.

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