Review: The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Bookthehighlander.PNG
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Victorian Rebels, #3
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Hero: Lt. Col. William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie
Heroine: Philomena St. Vincent
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: August 02, 2016
Started On: August 17, 2019
Finished On: August 20, 2019

The Highlander, the 3rd book in the Victorian Rebels series turned out to be my first sampling of Kerrigan Byrne’s stories. Discovering a new author that speaks to you on so many levels is rare and so very treasured, and I intend to go through the back-list of her books in its entirety to sample each and every one of her published works over time.

The hero, 40 year old William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie (Liam), comes from a place of violence. The fact that his childhood had been a difficult one would be an understatement. With an abusive father who had cared naught for the physical and emotional well-being of his children, legal and otherwise, Liam had been the big brother who had taken most of the physical brunt to protect his younger siblings. But that had not been enough to prevent them from witnessing the horrors of a childhood better left in the darker fringes of one’s memories.

The main story begins 20 years later, with the opening chapter focusing on the heroine, Lady Philomena St. Vincent (Mena), Viscountess Benchley, who has been institutionalized by none other than her husband and his family. Mena who grew up with a father who thought the world of his daughter and brought her up to be an intellectual, kind and generous soul, the horrors of her marriage that are revealed in stages to the reader is something that is as old as time itself.

The mental asylum, which was a norm in the past for husbands to commit their wives to just to get rid of them, is the mother load of horrors. Tortured in ways that really leaves a mark on the reader, some may find those particular scenes to be too disturbing for them to continue with the story. However, that particular aspect of the book does not set the tone for the rest of the book as the author brings to readers the stunning and vivid portrayal of a love that was so worth delving into.

When Mena is rescued and her well meaning and newfound friends sends her away to Scotland to evade the clutches of her husband, it is to the keep of Liam she is sent, where the very first moment she lays eyes on the strong, deeply masculine, and beautiful man that he is, something long forgotten stirs to life inside of her. Liam too is shaken by the very physical and visceral reaction he has towards Mena from the onset, but even though both of them might think to avoid each other hoping that the yearning for the other is a fluke on their part, things of course do not work out that way.

Liam’s haunted eyes that bespeaks of horrors and regrets of his life draws Mena to him like a moth to flame. Mena’s gentle strength and wit that had remained unbroken by the violence she had experienced in her adult life speaks to Liam on a level that he cannot comprehend. However, old enemies stirring in the darkness, tempting and beseeching to turn on Liam might prove to be the undoing of what blossoms to life between him and Mena, if her husband’s search for her does not bear fruit first.

I enjoyed my very first novel by the Kerrigan Byrne. Mena was glorious. Beautiful, kind, and soft, with just the right touch of authority to her which made her appealing on so many levels. I rooted for her with every fiber of my being, wanted the best for her because she deserved nothing less.

Liam’s soul is a broken one, even though he does not let it on. Betrayed and widowed, there is a wealth of unspoken pain in his heart. His inability to get through to his own children is a source of continued frustration for him, that is until Mena comes into his life and shows him what that entails. Drawn to each other by the kind of tangible connection that leaves the reader breathless, Byrne does a marvelous job of crafting both characters and bringing them to life.

The sexual tension that is interwoven into the very fabric of the story was just as enticing, and Byrne definitely delivers without leaving the reader hanging. Absolutely loved this gem of a novel and would recommend it for readers who love historical romances with characters that speaks to you. These are two very broken characters who meet and find their way to a happily ever after. Don’t let the barbarity depicted in the first couple of chapters deter you from reading. I believe we have to take the bad with the good to achieve a balanced nuance in order to deliver a story worth sinking into.

The epilogue was super cute and healing in so many ways. Perhaps, Byrne may write a novella depicting two secondary characters who definitely deserve their story to be told somewhere down the line. A reader could always hope!

Final Verdict: There is a rawness to Byrne’s story that speaks to me. A ruthlessness to her heroes that does things to this wanton heart of mine. The Highlander is marvelous in every sense.

Favorite Quotes

Then she saw him.
Her mouth became dry as the desert, and a tremor that had nothing to do with the cold rippled through her.
Though he wore a soiled kilt and loose linen shirt beneath his drenched cloak, he sat astride a black Shire steed with the bearing of a king. Dark waves of hair hung long and heavy with moisture down his back, and menace rolled off the mountains of his shoulders in palpable waves.
Whoever he was, he was their undeniable leader. She saw it in the way they looked to him, in the deference they used when speaking. If not by birth, then by physical laws of nature, surely. As the largest, the strongest, and the most fearsome of them all, he towered above the brawny men as he scowled through the window at her.

“Och, lass.” Liam beat her to it. “These roses are a jealous flower.” Cupping her hand with his, he pressed a thumb into her palm to secure it before plucking the thorn out quickly, to cause her the least amount of distress.
A tiny drop of blood welled from her fingertip.
Liam had no other handkerchief to offer her, and didn’t want to use the one on the ground, so he did the only other thing he could think of, and slid her finger into his mouth. Closing his lips around the insignificant wound, he watched her reaction with rare pleasure.
She froze, her eyes growing round as two glowing moons.
His body’s reaction was just as astonishing, and just as instantaneous.

Liam sprang toward her, grasping her wrists and pulling her back down to him. He sank his fingers into her luxurious hair, loosening the intricate coiffure there, and pinned her head between his two strong palms as he took her wicked mouth with his own.
It was in the joining of their lips that Liam found what he’d come to the chapel seeking. He kissed Mena with a reverence he’d never felt in the entirety of his life. Driven by a hunger that welled from the darkest, most heretical depths of his soul, he knew he’d finally found something worthy of his worship.

He swallowed her shocked gasp and plundered her with his tongue as though she were a lifelong conquest. Digging his fingers into her ribs to keep from taking what she did not offer him, he deepened the kiss, using his tongue to convey what he could not find the words to say.
She wasn’t the only one who was afraid. Liam was terrified.
Of losing her.
Of loving her.
And at this moment, he was in mortal danger of both.

“Kiss me, Mena,” he moaned against her mouth, his hot, sweet breath fanning over the moisture on her lips. “Touch me. Teach me to keep the demon at bay.”
She could only see the whites of his eyes in the dim light, circling the obsidian of his pupil and iris in such a way that truly seemed demonic.
With trembling fingers, she reached up to softly test the shape of his masculine jaw. Bristle scraped against her fingertips as they explored the raw, hard features that she’d always wanted to study, but didn’t even allow herself to look at for too long, lest she be lost.

Then his hand was there, clever fingers slipping into the wet cleft and touching a place no one had ever before paid attention to. He somehow ignited frenzy into her blood with infuriatingly slow strokes. A curious heat unfolded in her core and quickly caught into a blaze of sensation.
Mena writhed helplessly against him, riding his strong thigh as more heat created more friction, which in turn built the flames even higher. What sort of pagan magic was this? How could hands so rough and raw create such smooth, silken sensations against her most tender skin?

“I can’t,” she cried, feeling her knees melt.
His lips left her with a wet, wicked sound. “Ye will,” he breathed against her most intimate flesh.
“I’m going to fall,” she warned weakly, her hips undulating toward his mouth with mortifying wantonness.
“Fall apart in my arms, lass,” he soothed, his hands caressing around to fill his palms with the flesh of her backside, making a cradle of her hips. “I’ll not let ye go.”

“Can ye take more of me?” he panted.
Mena’s eyes flew open. How could there possibly be more? He withdrew yet again, gazing down at her with dilated eyes as he surged forward. He touched a place inside her she’d not known existed, and Mena tossed her head from one side to the other, letting out a high cry of ecstasy.
“Yes,” he whispered fervently. “I knew ye would take all of me, Mena.” He drove forward again. And again.

When another climax blinded her with pure bliss, she locked her legs around his pistoning hips, pulling him impossibly deeper. Shivering pleasure assaulted her in wave after unrelenting wave.
He roared her name to the sky as her pulsing body gripped and stroked at the swelling length of him. Hot spurts of his release spilled inside her. His great body locked with spasms as he crushed her to him and joined her in that place where right and wrong no longer mattered.

Then they said nothing at all when he pulled her above him and split her legs over his lean, sinuous hips. They’d communicated only in gasps and sighs as she’d ridden him with sensual rolls of her body. He’d palmed her breasts in his warm hands and said wicked things in his people’s native tongue while she pleasured herself upon his sleek and magnificent body. Then, when he could stand it no more, he’d dug his strong fingers into the flesh of her hips and driven upward until he’d bowed with such shocking pleasure, Mena had thought his back would break.

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

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Review: Medicine Man by Saffron A. Kent

Format: E-Bookmedicineman.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Hero: Simon Blackwood
Heroine: Willow Audrey Taylor
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: September 27, 2018
Started On: July 07, 2019
Finished On: July 22, 2019

Medicine Man by Saffron A. Kent is by no means, an ordinary tale. It is unique in the way it is told, the way the story unfolds, and the way that the characters demand nothing less, but all that you have to give. It is classic Saffron Kent, as I have come to find, having gone through her entire back-list of books available. Can you hear my soul weeping because there are no more books I can get my hands on when it comes to her?

Medicine Man begins with 18 year old Willow Audrey Taylor, institutionalized at the Heartstone Psychiatric Hospital for four weeks, where she meets Dr. Simon Blackwood, the son of the founder of the hospital. From the moment Willow meets the 33 year old Simon, who should rightfully be a man out of bounds for a patient at the facility, not to mention the 15 year age gap, there is no denying the way she yearns and wishes to make him take notice of her existence.

Simon might act like he does not care, but as the story delves deeper into the lives of Simon and Willow, the picture that emerges is one that is as heady as it is angst-ridden. The taboo factor alone is enough to drive up the reader’s emotions, and the artful way in which Saffron brings in the heat is enough to take the reader from zero to hundred in just the blink of an eye. The connection that is between Simon and Willow is almost a physically palpable one, and it is hard not to be affected by everything, and I mean, every single thing that happens between the two.

Simon is the proverbial definition of a fixer and a lonely one at that. Perhaps that is one of the residual effects of being one. No one else notices just how much you too are in need of reciprocation of the TLC you give out in abundance. Simon carries a lot of pent of up emotions within him, anger too if you ask me, mostly owing to his childhood and the trauma of having watched his mother struggle with mental illness all her life. Simon has no intention of being roped into the same situation, which is where he would end up if he were to give into his feelings for Willow. However, life has a way of throwing one for a loop, and that is exactly what happens when Simon, against all his misgivings, against all reason and rhyme, takes that plunge into the unknown.

Willow’s story is just as tragic, having being diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of fourteen. Willow had always known that there was something different about her, something a little bit off. Trying to hide all of that, putting all of her effort into being “normal”, or acting as such takes its toll. And for someone like Willow, the toll it can take is hundred times worse in comparison to someone who does not suffer from a mental illness. That is exactly what happens when all of her pretending culminates in her being sent to the psychiatric facility, where she is counting the days until it is time for her to walk away – which she intends to do, until Simon walks into her life.

For a reader like myself, authors like Saffron are rare gems in the world of romance. I say this because the romance genre is increasingly filled with books that are intended to be “politically correct” in every single aspect. Good old fashioned romance and angst seems to have taken a long hike, and is often seen as a mirage on a hot and dusty desert.

Finding an author like Saffron therefore, someone who is not afraid of taking the story where it leads her to is refreshing. To read about the men she writes, far from perfect, and oft times abrasive and ruthless is a novelty. Getting to the end is a heartbreaking journey, yet when they do get there, it serves to be the reason why romance readers by large stick to reading nothing but romances – the happily ever after that brims with hope and all the good things in life.

Saffron takes on mental illnesses as a pivotal theme in most of her books. That is with reason too I believe. It is not easy to read about these issues, because for one, I think more than half of the world battles with mental illness in one form or the other. Diagnosed or otherwise, for most, some days are good, others bad, and the rest are those where you feel hopelessness of battling the disease weigh you down in such a huge way that there seems to be no way out. I am one of the few lucky ones I believe, because I have managed to stay off medication after two bouts of coming down with depression, and lifestyle changes have definitely helped. But there are days when I feel the darkness roll in and every day is a day I battle with my anxiety in one form or the other.

To read about something so intrinsically a part of my life since seven years and counting, I identified with many aspects explored in the book. The struggles,  difficulties, and the triumphs. I know what it is like to celebrate those little victories people outside of the illness cannot fathom. Globally, we seem to be moving towards a point where mental illness is more or less accepted by a larger segment of the population than ever before. When I first struggled with mine, I did not have many people to turn to. And that I believe is one of the biggest obstacles to fighting the effects of the disease; having very few who understands, who empathizes, and who can be there for you through it all.

Medicine Man is a beautiful novel in those aspects and more. Perhaps, some might find the whole premise off putting. But we do find love in the most unexpected of places. It is not unheard of for one to fall in love with their therapist. Unprofessional as it may seem, there are many instances where we are drawn towards what is “forbidden” and “taboo”, and Medicine Man, like many of Saffron’s works, explores what is inherently believed to be those areas of life where we should steer clear from. But fall in love both Simon and Willow does, and therein lies the beauty of the world. Just as you can find cruelty in the most unexpected of places, so can beauty struggle to emerge, and that is what Medicine Man is all about.

Recommended to those who love taboo tropes, a hero who can make you weak in the knees, and a heroine who has just enough spunk to see through to a happily ever after that makes you want more and sigh with satisfaction, both at the same time.

Final Verdict: In Medicine Man, Saffron weaves a tale of a love that should never have seen light of day, with mastery and vivid beauty that is solely her trademark. A love so beautiful, fragile, and strong all at the same time.

Favorite Quotes

“Willow.”
He flattens my cheeks with his hands, asserting all his stupid authority over me. Too bad it only makes me hornier and I have to clench my thighs against the shivers running through my lower body.
“What?” I somehow manage to squeak.
“Shut the fuck up.”
I gasp; how dare he?
But it gets swallowed up by his mouth.
I freeze. It’s happening.
He’s kissing me.

Simon…” I whimper when he lets me come up for air.
“Don’t talk,” he orders and resumes kissing me.
Jesus.
His authority will kill me. I’m so fucking wet right now. I moan with how swollen I am. I’m almost tempted to let go of him and rub my pussy. Shamelessly masturbate as he cures me.

“I play with myself, then. I touch my clit and put my finger inside me. But j-just one finger.”
I feel him grazing the column of my throat with his nose as he grinds his erection into my core.
“Yeah? Why just one?” he growls.
His question coats me in embarrassment and I shut my eyes, biting my lip and shaking my head. Simon doesn’t let me escape though. His hand in my hair moves to my chin and he forces me to look at him.
“Why?” he asks, again.
Swallowing, I tell him, a flush covering every inch of my body. “B-because I don’t want to stretch it out. I want to keep it tight and small for you.”

“God. Simon… this is…” I moan as I begin to move as well, my wet, sticky hands coming off his dick and gripping the side of his shirt.
We both rock against each other, my cunt stretched around his cock so tightly. I whimper, my eyes clenching shut. I wish I could keep them open and see it. I wish I could watch as he thrusts his hips in a rhythm, pumping, the head of his dick hitting my clit.
My pussy is clenching, fluttering with every slide. It’s juicing up, probably preparing itself for that massive shaft that keeps working it. My pussy is hungry. I’m hungry.

I want to scream. I want to shout. But my detonation has to be silent because we can’t get caught.
In the midst of my world getting flipped, Simon lets go of my tender, swollen flesh, and comes up to his feet.
I don’t have time to catch my breath or stop shaking when I’m heaved up again, my spine sliding up on the wall, and Simon’s breathing over my mouth, smelling like the rain.
Smelling like me.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers thickly, and then I feel like someone has stabbed me with a knife, and I stop breathing.
I think I’ve died.
And I’m not happy about it. Not at all.

“Then why were you with them in the first place?”
He growls when I circle my palms over his chest. God, he’s sweaty and hot and his muscles bunch up under my touch. It’s like I control them. His heart is booming, and I can feel it. It’s like I control it too.
“Biology,” he clips as I trace my fingers up and down, trying to memorize him.
I sink my hands in his dark chest hair. “This isn’t biology?”
“This is fucking madness.”
This time I definitely feel the shakes roaring through his body. His restraint is turning me on.
Fuck pain. Fuck everything. I want him to move.

“Does my princess like it?” he rasps in my ear, his hand grabbing the back of my neck in a possessive hold while his lips place soft kisses in my hair.
I buck again at the word princess. If he decides to make a habit of calling me that, I might never come down from this high. I might always be falling. Flying.
I look at him with foggy eyes. “Yes.”
“Yeah. I can feel it. I can feel your pussy loving it. She’s fucking strangling me.”

Hours later, when I go to his office and see the closed blinds and hear the two clicks of the door closing and locking, I don’t feel the same satisfaction as I felt days ago.
“Simon, listen—”
“Don’t say no,” he rasps.
There’s so much anguish packed in those three words that my tears start falling. Like I’m the rain and he’s the cloud that makes me flow.
Does he really think I’ll ever say no to him? If he does, then he really doesn’t know the things I feel for him. The things I’ll do for him. The depths I’ll go to and fall in, for him.
Simon Blackwood doesn’t know anything, then.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: The Unrequited by Saffron A. Kent

Format: E-Booktheunrequited
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher:  CreateSpace
Hero: Thomas Abram
Heroine: Layla Robinson
Sensuality: 4.5
Date of Publication: July 13, 2017
Started On: June 19, 2019
Finished On: June 24, 2019

“You know, Layla, falling in love isn’t bad or wrong or even hard. It’s actually really simple, even if there’s no reciprocation. It’s the falling out that’s hard, but no matter how much you convince yourself otherwise, reciprocation is important. It’s what keeps the love going. Without it, love just dies out, and then it’s up to you. Do you bury it, or do you carry the dead body around? It’s a hard decision to make, but you have to do it.”

First of all, let me start by saying, dear Saffron, I am forever grateful to you for writing The Unrequited. You have literally swung up to the position reserved for the authors that I hold in the highest esteem. That is all!

I quite don’t remember how The Unrequited by Saffron A. Kent landed in my hands. I believe it was through one of my countless search attempts for new books on Amazon, especially after the lackluster book that I had just finished reading. The Unrequited gave me everything I wanted and more, and as a romance reader for life, there is nothing that makes me happier.

Being my first book by the author, I waded into the book cautiously at first. I shouldn’t have even bothered, because I felt right at home from the very start. With the heroine Layla Robinson who hides in her heart unrequited love for a man that had gone unnoticed by everyone else for years, that hopelessness now accompanied with the guilt of being “responsible” for sending him away, Layla is not at all prepared to meet her newest professor in poetry, Thomas Abrams who literally and figuratively takes her breathe away.

Thomas is a man hardened under the emotional assault of a life that had gone awry. Married with a son to his name, Thomas is not the kind of man who should rightfully entice Layla. But then Layla is someone who is adapt at finding men who are emotionally unavailable, or so she tells herself as she unwittingly pursues the heady and wanton feelings of desire and want that sparks to life between them.

There is cheating involved in this novel, there is no escaping that. Saffron does not try to justify it either, but rather, she tells the story as is, leaving the reader to make whatever judgements that they may. Because in real life, our emotions, actions, hesitancy, and  inner fears all bring us to the inevitable conclusion that things are not as black and white as we may like them to be. Or deem them to be. The people who always sit on their high horses and judge the rest for being human, are those whose desires and passions have never been tested, or lead a life that is more hedonistic than most, who hate themselves for it and takes it out on other people.

Thomas is an intense man, a poet, who has lost his muse in the wayward direction his life had taken. He struggles with his burgeoning desire for Layla, going above and beyond to push her away. However, Layla seems to be made of sterner stuff than most, and she comes back time and yet again, and revels in the “punishment” that he doles out for her “misbehavior”.

This was a novel that took my very soul on a journey it has not forgotten four months down the line when I sit down to write my review. Sometimes the hardest reviews you write are for the books that steals the very essence of you, taunts you, haunts you, and makes you revel in the emotional upheaval it gives you.

Thomas, my God, Thomas – he just assaulted all my senses and has not left since. He invaded my emotions and took over my whole being in all his arrogance, wiping out basically every other hero I have read and fallen in love with – hot damn! To see Thomas lose his ironclad control was one of the best parts of this story. At the risk of repeating myself, Thomas is a fascinating man. The way Saffron brings him to life; the rough and hard edges to him, the tender and vulnerable side to him, and the passionate poet within brings remarkable beauty to the story.

I loved how Saffron pushes the boundaries of what constitutes as acceptable romance stories. The aspect of cheating in this story may put a lot of readers off, but for me, this was as realistic as it gets. How Layla comes and basically smashes into Thomas’ life, how both of them are so caught up in this web of desire and want, how all of it is tied together with deeper feelings of tenderness and love, which both of them deny at first, and are forced to face towards the end. I loved how the story did not take readers on other tangents that would have reduced the whirlpool factor when it comes to Layla and Thomas. I dislike it intensely when authors create situations to prolong the inevitable, but what is the point?

There is obsession and desire, and then there is Thomas and his need for Layla and vice versa. While the story is mostly written in the perspective of Layla in the first person, Thomas’ view of how things are unfolding, his painful past and the present give insightful clues to readers along the journey. In Layla, Thomas finds the kind of woman who would give him her all, no questions asked. She matches him, word for word, kiss for kiss, and answers to the needs of his soul.

I love how effortlessly Saffron seems to bring out the best and the worst in her characters, how she so expertly wields the words she uses, often as if she is spinning poetry of her own. The interview on Huffington Post on this book perhaps explains that vibe, because according to her, the story does take its premise from a poetry class she attended.

The tightly wound sexual tension in this book is so darn good. The premise of this book alone lends a sharp agony that twists and turns inside of you, and ain’t that the best feeling? Even with the whole world stacked against the two, there is a part of you that remains hopeful that everything would work out somehow.

There is deep pain in the throes of unrequited love. It is a rather heavy burden for one to carry. But carry it, a lot of us do. Because often, we do not get to choose who we fall in love with. The only thing that we can control is how we act upon it.

The epilogue that was published separately from the story was so welcome after all the emotional wrangling that I went through to read this book – which I am sure all readers who have gone through this story would have appreciated. The endless quotes section of the review perhaps hints at how much I loved The Unrequited.

This is no light and easy read – if you are looking for one, this is definitely not the book you should be choosing. But if what you want is a book that would literally consume you in every single sense, this is the book you definitely should be reading.

Recommended for anyone who loves taboo tropes and boundaries pushed. This is for the readers who have at one point or another in life held unrequited love in their hearts for someone. This is that book!

Final Verdict: The Unrequited delivers perfection at every page you turn. It will dominate your every waking thought because Thomas is the man who is going to eviscerate your heart before you are done.

Favorite Quotes

I’ve got goosebumps under the sleeves of my sweater, followed by flashes of heat. I touch the spine of his book, going up and down the length with my finger. The smooth texture of it causes something heavy to swirl inside my chest. It causes me to bite my lip. As if he’s attuned to my actions, his gaze falls on me. We stay connected a beat before we both look away. For that one beat, I saw his eyes flare, and the blue was so prominent, it took my breath away.

“How did you like the class today, Miss Robinson?”
Busted. I wasn’t paying attention—he knows it, I know it, but still I keep up the charade. “Great, as usual.”
“Is that right?”
I nod, keeping my gaze on the desk.
“Remember what I said, Layla?” His powerful, rich voice creates a buzz inside my body. “Lying might land you in trouble.”
I lift up my eyes to look at him. The buzz escalates into a restless trembling and words slip out of my mouth in a thick whisper. “I’m not afraid of a little trouble.”

I palm his hand that cups my cheek. The dusting of hair over his knuckles grazes my skin. It teases my senses, liquefying them, heating them up. I want to suck on his fingers. I want to taste them after he touches me, taste his flesh after it comes in contact with mine.
I’m assaulted by images of him—his fingers—inside me. Inside my needy core. Petting it, soothing it, stroking it. I picture them curling, hooking inside my channel to coax out my juices and then feeding them to me.
The desire is so strong, so alive that I can’t stop myself from nuzzling in his hand. He grows even hazier, covered by a certain mist, sparkling.
Fuck it. I’m doing it. I’m tasting his skin. Just one lick, I promise myself. It won’t hurt anyone.
I turn my face and peek my tongue out. I make contact with the juncture where his fingers meet the palm. The touch is barely existent. It barely registers in this vast, vast universe, but his taste bursts in my mouth—the strongest, most provocative flavor of salt and chocolate.

Abruptly, he fists my curls and stops me. I look at him fearfully, ready to apologize—not for the kiss, but for being the kisser. His gaze reflects passion, stark, raving need, and I shiver, despite wearing layers and sweating with his heat. “Are you trying to kiss me, Layla?” he rasps, flexing his fingers on my makeshift ponytail. He couldn’t tell? Blush rises to the surface and I know I’m glowing like a neon sign. Swallowing, I nod. “Yes.” He inches closer to me, still not touching—as impossible as that is—but infinitely closer. “You want to kiss me, Miss Robinson, you do it right.”

I rotate my hips, searching for that magical friction against the ridged planes of his body. Then I feel it—his erection against my upper tummy. It’s huge. Hard. A heated rod. It’s alive, and when I move against it, I feel it throb. A tortured moan rips out of his chest.
Thomas tears his mouth away from me and even my soul mourns the loss. We stare at each other, gasping for breath. I’m still clung around him and his cock is still nestled between our aroused bodies. I adjust my thigh around his hip, and it throbs with the small movement.
“Don’t fucking move,” he tells me, emphasizing it with a tug on my hair.

“I can do whatever I want with you and you’ll let me. Isn’t that right, Layla?” He licks his lips as if savoring his own words. “I can tell you to jump and you’ll ask how high. I can tell you to strip and you’ll strip as if your clothes are on fire.”
“Yes,” I moan.
He rewards me by grinding his muscular thigh and my cunt pulses. My lust-addled brain commands me to move, to chase the friction, and I do it. I slide up and down his maddening leg, digging my nails into his scalp as the pleasure mounts.
I feel the angry and rhythmic jerk of his cock on my stomach and I love it. I love the fact that I’ve shed all my inhibitions and am reduced to this, a lust-drunk puppet. I love that it gives Thomas pleasure. He isn’t sad anymore, or vulnerable.
Yes, I love all that.

“You want me to make you a grown-up, Miss Robinson?” His eyes smolder, and I’m glad I’ve got my arms around him or I would’ve dropped to the floor in a puddle. Something is so…weirdly erotic in that sentence.
I don’t have time to analyze it because he begins moving his hips, giving me that sweet friction, and Jesus fucking Christ, it’s the best thing I’ve ever experienced. The pressure is making my wounded pussy bleed cum.

“Fuck.” His agonized whisper brings my attention to his bowed head. I loosen my fingers from where I’ve been strangling the beautiful strands of his hair. “Your pussy is so tight, tighter than I ever imagined it to be, and I’ve imagined a lot.”
My breath evaporates as he looks up. He is aroused, flushed and sweating, yet he appears godlike. How’s that possible when he’s the one on his knees? He’s a beautiful, sexy god who has my sticky juices painted on his mouth and chin. It glistens in the yellow light like liquid fire.
“I’m not proud of it. I don’t want to think about it, but you tempt me, Layla, so fucking much. You make me feel crazy.”

“You think I hate you?” A short laugh escapes him, resembling the bark of an animal. “I don’t hate you, Layla,” he grits out. It sounds exactly like he hates me.
“So you like me?” I squeak.
My naïve question seems to have angered him more. His face is red, the vein on his neck bulging out. It’s scary.
“God, you make me so fucking mad.” He shakes his head. “Do you think this is a joke? Huh? Do you think we’re in high school? Do you think I’m going to kiss you and make out with you and take you to the movies or something? Is that what you think, Layla?”
“N-No.”
“Then what do you think is going on here?”
“I don’t…I don’t know.”

“You don’t get it, do you? I’m not a nice man, Layla,” he warns.
“I don’t believe that.” I fist his shirt tightly. “You’re just lonely, like me. Lonely and brokenhearted.” I let go of his shirt and caress his heated, chiseled jaw and cheeks. “You can touch me, Thomas. I won’t regret it, I promise.”
He shudders under my touch, as if coming apart. This is the most vulnerable I’ve seen him. But then he steels himself, goes rigid. I’m afraid he’ll push me back and send me away, but he hauls my body flush with his.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” He breathes over my lips.
“When you regret this—and I know you will—just remember that you asked for it.”

He walks closer to me; putting his hand on my cheek, he tips my face up and makes me stare at his gaze. I see desire lurking there and my heart skips a beat.
He wants me. So fucking much.
As if to prove it, he leans down and resumes kissing me. This time it’s even hungrier and more urgent, if that’s possible. I lean into his clothed body, my skin brushing over the warm fabric. It makes me wet and horny and so powerless that I’m exposed and he’s not. It makes me feel like a slut. His slut. Horny and shameless.

I arch under him, making his cock throb between us, and he clenches his teeth. He grabs a chunk of my hair in his fists and stares down at me. There’s anger and satisfaction in his eyes. “You can’t stay still, can you? You can’t stop tempting me for one fucking second.”
“No, I can’t,” I admit. “I don’t know how.”
“You’re always hungry, Layla. Always starving.” He rocks into me, drags his weighty arousal against my stomach, and blows a breath into the nape of my neck. “Why’s that? Huh? Why are you such a cock-hungry girl?”
I moan at his dirty words. God, he’s such a poet, speaking filthy poetry to me.

“Do you like that?” he asks.
I swallow and moan, “Yes.”
“I’ve thought about you like this,” he says in the thinnest of whispers. “Under me, naked and desperate. You moan when I touch you like this but I tell you to be quiet. I tell you to keep it in because I want to hear something else.” He presses his thumb and I bob under the pressure. His erection jostles, reminding me that I’m stuffed full of him.
“Do you know what I want to hear, Layla?” The pressure on my clit increases and I can’t keep the moan inside.
“Thomas… Oh God.”
“Shh. Tell me, do you know?” When I shake my head, he clarifies, “The poem you wrote for me.”

My desire ups with every slide and I forget about the pain. I wrap my legs around his waist and bring him closer. Thomas speeds up his thrusts until he’s slamming into me, grunting like a man possessed.
“Oh God. Oh God. Oh God,” I chant as his hips smash into mine, as his balls slap against my ass. I am sobbing with every jab.
Thomas has gone speechless as he stares down at me, at my rebounding breasts. He is feeding off my moans, my pleasure, my restlessness like a demon. My desperation spurs him on as I meet him stroke for stroke.

Thomas drops his head on my shoulder, his thrusts erratic. It’s a mad race to his own climax, the jerky movements, the rotation of his hips—and then it all stops. Orgasming, he throws his head back, exposing his neck.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful than this, than him. I’ve never heard anything more melodic than his animalistic grunts.

Thomas brings his hand over to my cheek and tries to wipe the salty water away, but I’m filled to the brim with emotions. God, I hurt so much right now. For Thomas. For myself.
“So you see,” he whispers over my lips, ghosting the wet, soft flesh over my plump, salty ones. “You can fall out of love if you’re in love with someone like me.”
As he hauls me even closer and fuses his lips with mine, I can only think of one thing. If I ever fell in love with Thomas Abrams, I’d never fall out of it.

“Caleb wouldn’t do that, would he?” He adjusts the waistband of the useless material so that it cuts into the soft flesh just above my knees. “He’d stop if you asked him to, but who am I, Layla? What’s my name?”
“Thomas,” I answer, quivering as he circles his hot hands along the back of my thighs. My frozen insides begin to melt under his touch. The cold has no meaning, no power over me.
“Yeah.” He rumbles, as if pleased. My breaths shake with the pleasure in his voice. “I won’t stop even if you beg me to. I’ll make you strip in the cold, put you on your knees on the ground and fuck you till I fill you up.”

“You’re so fucking wet.” He bites the juncture of my neck and shoulders, then soothes the sting with his tongue. “Ask to suck my cock.” Another whisper followed by another bite on the neck and a lick of his tongue. He is running his finger up and down my pussy before sliding under the fabric to play with my wet hole, but he never makes contact with my tight bud. He doesn’t give me relief.
“Come on, Layla. Beg me.” The need in his voice supersedes the need in me, and I’ll do anything for him. I’ll forget about my own pleasure and suck his cock, just so I can feel him pulsing on my tongue.

“This is what happens, Layla.” His speech is both slurred and cutting at the same time. “This is what happens when you do something I specifically told you not to. This is what happens when you strut in here in your short skirt and purple fucking coat and give me those big, violet eyes.”
He is panting, keeping up the punishing pace that feels anything but punishing. It feels…intimate, out of control, desperate, and I love it. Every inch of my body loves it. My thighs shake as he predicted they would. My breasts dangle heavy and full, and my tattoo burns bright on my stomach.
“You make me do this.” He rolls his hips, making my eyes water with the pressure. “You make me abuse your mouth.”

“Remember when I told you I’ll set you on fire and won’t even look back?” He strokes my sweaty hair and whispers in my ear, “That’s how I’ll do it, while fucking your ass. I’ll pour the gasoline, light the match, and watch you burn, Layla—and trust me, you’re going to love it. I’m going to ruin you for every other man out there and you’re going to love every second of it.”
God. God. I think I’m dead. I’m in heaven and hell. In another stratosphere. I’m everywhere. He has shattered me with his dark promises, broken me, and I don’t think I’ll ever be pieced back together. “Not today though.” He moves away, one hand on the nape of my neck, keeping me down.
“No. Today I’m going to show you something else. Today I’m going to show you how I burn.”

“Rub your clit. I want you to get yourself off.”
All thoughts evaporate at his commanding voice and I do as he says. I flick my clit and play with my puffy nipples.
“This is what I think about,” he bites. “It doesn’t even matter if you’re around. This. Bursting every door down so I can get to your pussy. All I can think about is fucking you, Layla. All the time. Every time. You’re in my fucking blood, and I’ll tear apart anyone who dares to fucking touch you.”
That’s when I come. My body strains, goes rigid as I come at his confession—a confession that seems to be torn out of his very soul.

I tip up my chin and open my legs, ready for him. Thomas clenches his jaw and in one stroke, jams his cock inside me. I nearly come off the desk, my nails skating along the hard wood. Gasping, I go back down and grab the edge to brace myself, because in the next second, I’m in danger of flying off and crashing to the ground.
His slams are punishing. Brutal. Borderline violent. My teeth chatter with every stroke. My breasts heave and rebound. His grip on my thighs is going to leave marks, I know it, but most of all, it’s the obvious pain of his hip bone hitting the desk that jars me. He is punishing himself as much as he’s punishing me.

He frames my face with his hands so I have nowhere to look but him. “Do you hear those sounds, Layla?” he whispers thickly. “That’s me talking to your pussy.” Then he changes angles, holds himself inside me, rotating his hips, bucking up and down, hitting me in just the right spot. In turn, I hear the sloppy gurgling of my core, a slightly different tone than the previous sounds, wetter and angrier.
“And that’s your pussy telling me she likes it, saying she loves to feel me inside her.” He stops grinding at that and starts ramming with a savage force that doesn’t let either of us breathe. Sweat drips from his forehead, plopping onto mine. “That’s all the talking we need to do. That’s all the fucking talking we ever need to do.”

“Why aren’t you in New York?”
“Because I have to tell you something.”
“Wh-What?”
“You’re beautiful, you know that?” he says, instead of answering my question. Somehow his voice shivers too, a rumbly sort of vibration that I feel in my tattoo. He lets go of the door frame and crowds me, forcing me to take a step back.
He brings his other hand to cup my cheek. His fingers tremble over my skin and I put my hand over them to give them stability. “Thomas, please, tell me what’s going on.”
His Adam’s apple jumps up and down. “No, that’s…that’s not right. You’re not beautiful. I think you’re the most exquisite thing I’ve ever seen.” He licks his lips, his eyes flitting back and forth. “No, not a…not a thing. You’re more than that, Layla. You’re…the poem I can never write. Yeah, you’re the piece of poetry I can never hope to finish, no matter how hard I try.”

He keeps sliding his cock in, and I swear I hear the muscles stretching, peeling away from each other. Oh God. Tears form as I breathe through my nose, trembling with pain.
This was a bad idea. Bad. Bad. Bad.
“Shh…” Thomas caresses my spine with his other arm, trying to soothe my skittish body. “It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. I’ll take care of you.”
“Is it…all in?” I whimper.
“No, baby, not yet.” He whooshes out a long breath. His strong thighs vibrate against the back of mine, telling the tale of his control and exertion.
That slip of his tongue, that casually thrown in endearment makes me open my eyes and look at him. Every hollow and crevice of his body stands taut and highlighted. He appears to be made of stone. My fire-breather. My stone god.

He falls over me as his cock pushes out hot cum. I sigh under his delicious weight and we lie in the puddle of our orgasms. His shuddering chest bumps with my back, his arm thrown over my shoulder. I smell his skin, nuzzle my face in the coarse hair of his forearm. His sighs scatter the hair on my neck.
For the first time in a long time, I feel sleepy on my bed. I don’t need the hard surface of the bathtub. My eyes are on the verge of falling shut when I hear him whisper, almost distractedly, “You bring them back…my words.”

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Format: E-Bookthekissquotient
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Kiss Quotient, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Michael Phan
Heroine: Stella Lane
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: June 05, 2018
Started On: May 25, 2019
Finished On: June 03, 2019

Thirty year old Stella Lane has a tough time identifying with what is normal for most people; stuff like dating, small talk, sex, husbands and boyfriends, to the point where her mother even suggests using Tinder. On the other hand, Stella has a brilliant mind, a sharp focus that is perfectly in line with her fascination for data; how bits of information comes together and fits together creating patterns where none existed before.

Two years younger than Stella, Michael Phan is of mixed Vietnamese and Swedish heritage and an escort with three years of service under his belt and counting. The excitement he used to have for the job has started to wane – however there is a darker need that drives him to do what he does, the need for revenge upon his father.

Stella facing the daunting task of perfecting her skills at having sex does what any rationally thinking individual would do. At least that is what Stella decides to do; she procures the services of Michael hoping that he would be able to show her the ropes and even teach her how to seduce someone and not feel like throwing up at the same time. But far from what she expects, Michael with his fascinating tattoo and alluring body scent throws Stella off course with the ferocity of need and other emotions that he invokes in her.

Michael, contrary to his own self-made rules on being an escort, agrees to give Stella three sessions whereby which he accepts to teach Stella all that she wants to know. But it is under the condition that no emotional entanglements cloud whatever it is that they are doing, Michael believing that he himself is far too jaded for the kind of emotional attachment he has warned Stella about. But then again, the best laid plans always have a way of being derailed all too well.

So begins the sessions leading to the entanglements that Michael was looking to avoid, and what Stella herself never saw coming. There is an ease with which these two mesh, even though at first Michael is clueless as to why Stella is the way she is; upfront and sometimes seeming to be cruel in the way she gives her honest opinion on things.

The way Michael seduces Stella, one scorching kiss at a time was enough to make me melt. There is a ferocity to Michael’s gentleness that works well with Stella (and me!), which is one reason why it was so easy to fall in love with their story.

Reading The Kiss Quotient, it does not feel like you are reading a debut novel from the author, but it is as if you have been reading Hoang’s novels all your life. There is a familiarity with the way she eases you in, shows you how challenging it is for someone like Stella regarding stuff we tend to take for granted, and the lust and love that blossoms between two people who for all intents and purposes in all likelihood are never destined to meet.

Michael’s family is one that you fall in love with, especially Quan, Michael’s cousin and sparring partner. His role is prominent in making Michael truly understand where Stella is coming from. Stella being an only child faces the sort of pressure that comes from having parents who are well established, with the kind of mindset that believes they know what is best for their child, under all circumstances.

I loved Stella for having the clarity of mind to know what she wanted. That is one of the many reasons why I fell in love with her from the start. Michael has his hangups to deal with, but none of that made him any less appealing. In fact, it made me fall in love that much harder with him. Whatever hurdles that both Stella and Michael had to go through to reach their happily ever after was worth it because Hoang is amazing in the way she weaves complex human emotions together to give the reader all the feels required to fall in love, forever more.

I was sighing by the time I read the last couple of chapters in the book, my throat clogged up with all the emotion that was seeping through the story. Michael was everything, and I mean everything (literally and figuratively), that a woman could ask for in a man. Stella was just as adorable, just as essential in the way she fearlessly falls for Michael, is yin to Michael’s yang, in every single way that matters.

Wholeheartedly recommended. This is one book you should not miss out on if you are a true romance reader!

Final Verdict: The wondrous nature of Hoang’s writing can only be felt by immersing yourself in Michael and Stella’s story. Beautifully crafted, be it emotions or the scorching sex scenes in the book. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

Wet heat stroked over her bottom lip. His tongue. She knew it was his tongue, but closed-mouth kisses made her forget. Another stroke, and shivery sensations cascaded outward. More kisses. In between aching presses of his lips, his tongue caressed her, making her skin tingle.
Soon he was seducing her mouth, stroking her bottom lip, the top lip, teasing the crease. Maybe she parted her lips. Maybe she wanted him to go further. But he didn’t. The closed-mouth kisses she’d liked so much in the beginning were no longer enough. She tried to capture his tongue, to take it into herself, but he evaded her. He brushed at her lips with maddening strokes, dipped inside for the merest second, withdrew, and she kneaded his shoulders in frustration.

He unlooped the bag from his shoulders and let it fall to the ground before he stepped toward her, not stopping until her back was pressed against the open door. He flattened a hand on the door next to her face and leaned down. His gaze dropped from her eyes to her lips. “I’m going to kiss you now.”
“Okay.” He’d shaken her brain into malfunctioning, and apparently that was all she could say now.
He touched his lips to hers, and pleasure jolted to her heart, down her arms, down her legs. Tilting his head, he kissed her deeper. Once. Twice. Again. Until she sighed and leaned into him, tangled her fingers in his cool hair. He claimed her mouth with his tongue in a way that was new and familiar at once. She kissed him back with everything in her, trying to tell him all the things she wasn’t articulate enough to say.

“Let me hold you.”
She inched as close as she could get without actually touching him.
He suppressed a smile. “It might help if you sat on my lap.”
Biting her lip, she crawled onto him and straddled his hips. Fuck, so close. That part of her, opened wide. He went hard in an instant but forced himself to take things slowly. This was about Stella. He expected her to sit stiff as a board until he thought up some kind of sorcery to make her relax, but she immediately settled in close and rested her cheek against his shoulder. When his arms encircled her, she released a ragged sigh and went boneless.

He smoothed his hands up and down her back until her muscles relaxed beneath his palms. That was when he gave in and kissed the underside of one breast. She curled her fingers, and her nails pricked his skin.
Pulling back, he asked, “Are you okay, Stella?”
She cleared her throat twice. “Tell me what you’re planning. Please.”
“I’m going to suck on your pretty nipples and lick them with my tongue.” Her grip tightened on his shoulders.
“That was a bit more graphic than I was expecting.”
“How would you have said it?” He ran his mouth from the underside of her breast up to the place where pale skin gave way to dark areola.
“I don’t know what—”
He covered her nipple with his mouth and sucked hard.
“Michael.”

“I still like mine best.” She put a spoonful of mint chocolate chip in her mouth. The complex combination of vanilla and mint exploded on her palate. Bits of chocolate crunched between her teeth. Perfection.
“Let me try it.”
She held her bowl out toward him, but he didn’t put his spoon in it. He trailed his fingers over her jaw as he tipped her head back and sealed his lips over hers. His tongue speared into her mouth, and the salt of him mixed with the flavor of the ice cream. She didn’t know if she was mortified, shocked, aroused, or all three. With a lingering lick on her bottom lip, he pulled away and grinned, his dark eyes intense and hazy.

Somehow, she found her hands tangled in his short hair. Her body was coiling tighter, grasping at his fingers, so wet now she could hear the slippery sounds every time he drove back into her.
“I’ll stop, Stella. Clearly . . .” His tongue rubbed over her fast and hard, and she clenched helplessly around his fingers. “Clearly, you hate this.”
“Michael.” That breathy, needy voice was hers. She didn’t care. She rubbed her hungry flesh against his tongue, nearly sobbing when he took her back into his mouth.
He sucked with perfect pressure, and she came apart with strong, wrenching convulsions.

“Michael?”
His face was drawn as if in pain. “I’ve been wanting this too long. It’s too good. You feel . . .” He exhaled. “If I move, I’m going to lose it.”
She couldn’t stop herself from smiling. She wasn’t alone in this. “Move.” She arched her back and rocked against him. The motion pushed him in even deeper, filled her.
A raw groan escaped his throat. “Stella, I’m serious. Give me a moment to cool down. This is our first time. I want fireworks for you.”

She brought their lips together and kissed him like he was oxygen and she was short on air. He ran his hands down her back to her hips, cupped her sweet ass, pulled her into his hardness. She struggled to get closer, threaded her fingers through his hair as she poured herself into the kiss.
So soft, every part of her. But covered by clothes. Michael loved clothes, but they locked Stella away. He’d never felt the urge to tear at buttons like he did now. Breaking the kiss, he captured a hand and loosened the cuff around her elegant wrist.
“Clothes off,” he growled.

He eased his hands down the swan line of her spine and hooked his thumbs in the elastic of her panties, pushed the material down her thighs. They were soaked clear through, and the scent of her arousal pushed him to the edge of his control. He almost spilled into her palm. She might be pleasuring him as part of her sex ed, but she was loving it, too. You couldn’t fake this kind of evidence.
After settling her back onto the bed, he tore her panties off, balled them up, and brought them to his nose to inhale her scent. “I’m keeping these.”

“Stella, do you have any idea how hot your—”
“Michael,” she whined, bending her legs restlessly. “Don’t say it.”
He paused. Her words said no, but her body . . . Her chest heaved on ragged breaths, and she was clenched tight around his fingers.
“I think you like it when I talk dirty to you,” he whispered.

He lowered himself over her and kissed her mouth, her jaw, her neck. Hard flesh prodded at her sex. As he slid into her, their eyes accidentally met and locked. Panic spiked. Too raw, too exposed. She tried to look away until she realized the vulnerability she saw was his. Dark eyes gazed deep, seeing her seeing him.
Their bodies picked up an elemental tempo. Hips surged and retreated, claimed, gave. He searched between their bodies until he could touch her right where she needed it. She burned and wound tighter and tighter. Moans tumbled from her lips as she arched into him. Through it all, their gazes held. He saw it all, heard it all. She would have been embarrassed if it weren’t for his smile, the tender way he brushed the hair from her face before his free hand tangled with hers.

The world stopped. All was silence but for their hearts trying to synchronize their crashing.
-He didn’t know how to describe the way he felt seeing her in his clothes, knowing she’d kept his shirt and had been wearing it to sleep all this time, but it was really good. He’d been feeling like this a lot lately—basically, anytime Stella smiled, demanded a kiss, or crossed the room to be near him, but also when they weren’t together. He’d spent the entire past week in a euphoric high, grinning for no other reason than he was thinking of her. No doubt about it. Michael was stupid in love. He knew this was temporary, knew it wasn’t real, knew it couldn’t possibly end well, but he’d done what no escort should do anyway. He’d fallen for his client.

“Why? Did he do it wrong? Was he a bad kisser?”
“It felt wrong.”
“Why?”
“Because he wasn’t you.” The soft look in her eyes killed him. He would do anything for that look. Anything.
He angled her head back with a hand against her jaw, trying to be gentle despite the violence raging in his veins. “Going to kiss you.” He had to. If he didn’t, he would go crazy.
“Don’t. He’s in my mouth. I can still taste him. I can’t get him out.”
He released a fierce growl. “I need this, Stella.”

When she began to lower her panties, he shook his head. He looped one of her legs around his hip as he lifted and pressed her against the tile wall.
She made an impatient sound. “Don’t tease me, Michael. I need you.”
He pulled the crotch of her panties to the side and thrust hard and fast, burying himself inside her. Her breath broke, and she moaned his name. So fucking hot. He stroked his tongue over every inch of her mouth, claiming it as he angled his hips to hit her clit. The tight grip of her body, her sweet mouth, her legs around him, her breaths on his neck—perfection.

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

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Review: The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Crazy Like a Fox by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookcrazylikeafoxas.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Peter Andrew Delacroix Jaffrey
Heroine: Margaret O’Rourke Jaffrey
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 01, 1997
Started On: March 09, 2019
Finished On: March 14, 2019

Crazy Like a Fox by Anne Stuart begins when Margaret O’Rourke Jaffrey, with her nine year old daughter Carrie in tow, finally makes her way to her deceased husband’s family in order to recoup and find her footing once again. Having had a less than stellar marriage with Carrie’s father Dexter, it was the last thing that Margaret wanted; to finally admit defeat and seek the help of the Delacroix family.

In the midst of the Delacroix family, Margaret finds the mysterious Peter Andrew Delacroix Jaffrey, the Delacroix who by all accounts is a lunatic, looking for a reason to go off the hinges at any moment’s notice. Margaret cannot explain why she is drawn to Peter, why she finds him fascinating when she rightfully shouldn’t, and at the same time has distrust for him running through her veins.

Peter has been in a jail of his family’s and his own making ever since the events surrounding the death of his former wife. A man who had everything he could have desired, Peter’s downfall had come from his marriage to a woman who had wanted more. Along with her death, the blame of which had fallen squarely on him, Peter had found himself biding his time, waiting for his cousin Wendell to prove his innocence, sort of lost in the midst of the sea upon which he had been tossed adrift. That is until Margaret walks into the family home and makes him want again.

Crazy Like a Fox sounds like a title that would deliver a humor-filled read. While the book has its witty moments (it is Anne Stuart after all with her acerbic wit), the book delves into two characters who have been lost for a long while. Margaret had made the mistake of marrying a man who had wanted the next high that gambling would bring his way, a wayward character if ever there was any, leaving both herself and Carrie destitute when he had left this world.

Peter is the character that is truly intriguing, Anne Stuart’s masterful creativity bringing forth a someone you cannot figure out at first. Peter is a character that is revealed to readers in layers, his story emerging in bits and pieces that makes the story that much more intriguing. I loved the unveiling of his character as much as I loved the connection forged between the two lost souls himself and Margaret are, and the resolution to a mystery that had been a miscarriage of justice right from the start.

Anne Stuart’s intelligent heroes & equally witty heroines always reel you into the story without fail. An innocent man doubts his own sanity while the madman responsible for it all lives among them, waiting and biding his time. The wildcard that changes it all proves to be Margaret and her daughter Carrie, infusing Peter’s life with the vitality and vigor it had been lacking since a long while back. Loved the awakening, the connection, and the happily ever after.

Definitely recommended.

Final Verdict: Anne Stuart’s books age so finely that you don’t even remember how long ago the book was written, because each word inexorably woven with the other presents readers with sheer magic.

Favorite Quotes

Taking her arm, he pulled her away from the tomb, away from an approaching group of tourists, back into one of the shadowy alleys. They were alone, sheltered from sight, separated in time and space from the crowds around them. “That’s Marie’s speciality,” he said, reaching his hands up to cup her face. “Trust her.” His mouth moved down to touch hers, softly. “Trust me.” And he kissed her again, just as lightly, his mouth teasing hers, drawing her into a response she couldn’t help but give.
He tasted of champagne and pancakes. He smelled of the night and smoke from the ceremonial flambeaux. He felt warm and solid and real, no phantom at all. Sliding her arms underneath his cloak, she made a small, whimpering sound of surrender, of a longing so deep she couldn’t begin to understand it. And her mouth opened beneath his.

“Thank you for everything,” she said, knowing she sounded stilted. “Goodbye.” She turned and opened the door.
She was unprepared for his reaction. Catching her arm, he whirled her around, enfolding them both in his voluminous cape, and this time when his mouth met hers it wasn’t gentle, or teasing, or quietly seductive. His kiss was harsh, full of demand and despair, and she wrapped herself around him and returned the kiss, lost in the same sense of desolation.
Then abruptly he released her and she sank back against the doorway of the old building, her breathing rapid, her eyes shut.
“Next time, Marguerite,” he whispered, “I want to see your red hair.”

His hands moved down to cover her breasts, and she made a tiny, almost indistinguishable sound of protest. That protest drifted into a sigh of pleasure, and she dropped her head back, her hair flowing over both of them as he caressed her breasts through the thin lacy barrier of her bra.
And then the barrier was gone. His hands were warm and rough skinned against her sensitive breasts, and his mouth was at her neck, drawing her, drawing her. She turned, opening her eyes for a moment, staring up at him with a dazed expression, and then his mouth caught hers.

Deliberately he pulled her toward him, his hands rough on her arms, not allowing her any escape.
She had no intention of escaping. She slid her arms around his waist, moving against him, and her mouth reached up for his.
He stumbled against her, pushing her up against the wall, his body covering hers, pressing against every square inch of her, and his hands cupped her face, holding her still for his devouring mouth. He kissed her lips, her eyelids, her cheeks, her nose, then returned to her mouth, slanting across her soft, giving lips and drinking deep. She gave a little cry deep in the back of throat, one of desire and acceptance. She didn’t care.

“Let go, Peter. Let me leave, drive away from here, out of your life. Please, Peter. Let me go.”
And they both knew she wasn’t talking about anything as simple as his hand on her arm.
“Marguerite,” he said, his voice low and sorrowful. “Chère. I’m not that crazy.” And he pulled her slowly, carefully, into his arms, giving her plenty of time to pull back, to fight, to resist.
“Oh, Peter,” she whispered. “I am.” And rising up on her toes, she kissed him, pressing her mouth against his, opening it slightly, touching her tongue against his lips.
His response was a muffled growl of longing as he threaded his long, beautiful fingers through her hair and kissed her back.

He yanked his clothes off, his eyes never leaving hers. He stripped off her jeans and threw them halfway across the room, and then he covered her body with his, with his long, lean, muscled beauty that was unlike anything she’d ever seen. She wanted to touch him, to treasure him, to delight in him, but his mouth was on her breasts again, suckling them deep, his hands were between her legs and she was damp and aching for more. She reached down to hold him, but he’d already moved on top of her, between her legs, hot and heavy and ready for her.
“I can’t wait,” he whispered, his voice harsh with desire and an impossible restraint. “Come to me, Marguerite.” And he sank into her, deep and hard and wonderful.

“Scream for me, Marguerite,” he whispered in her ear. “I want to hear you scream.” And he reached between their bodies and touched her, deftly, as he surged against her.
She did scream then, as he’d wanted, as she never had in her life. She felt her body dissolve, even as he surged and shuddered against her, and the flames engulfed them, destroying and devouring them, until there was nothing left but ashes.

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Review: Between the Devil and Desire by Lorraine Heath

Format: E-bookbetweenthedevilanddesire
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Scoundrels of St. James, #2
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Jack Dawkins
Heroine: Olivia Stanford
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 06, 2009
Started On: December 31, 2018
Finished On: January 02, 2019

Having finished In Bed with the Devil, the first book in the Scoundrels of St. James series by Lorraine Heath, I was intrigued enough to begin the second title, Between the Devil and Desire. This is the story of none other than Jack Dodger, the infamous best friend of Lucian (Luke), who entices readers on so many levels even as a secondary character.

Jack is a man who has long accepted the fact that he would do anything to get his next coin, to ensure that he would always remain in a place where no one else could have power over him. Jack had been five years old when he had been sold by his mother, something that his young and older self “understands”, because Jack believes that hunger could drive any human to do even the most despicable of things.

Falling in with a notorious den of thieves, Jack had quickly mastered the art of thievery, learnt that practically anything could be stolen, if proper preparations are done in advance. Even though Jack believes himself to be someone who couldn’t care less about another person, meeting Luke, the role Jack plays in Luke’s fate, and how their lives become entwined, places Jack in the role of playing the responsible “adult”.

At the age of nineteen, Jack had come into a lump sum of money through an anonymous benefactor. Jack hadn’t looked twice and asked no questions. He had turned that into his fortune by building and opening his exclusive gentleman’s club. Rich, independent, and revered and disliked in equal doses by polite society, Jack couldn’t care less about ant of it, that is until he is summoned to the reading of the Duke of Lovington’s will by the late Duke’s solicitor.

Olivia Stanford, the Duchess of Lovington, is someone who has always been about duty. Which is why she had married someone 25 years older than her, because her father had arranged the marriage, and that is what respectable women do. Even though Olivia hides a deeply passionate nature inside, she is the modicum of propriety itself, leaving many to believe that Olivia is as cold and haughty as aristocrats come.

When Olivia’s late husband appoints none other than Jack as the guardian and protector of his heir until the child reaches of age or Olivia marries another, that is when true horror dawns on Olivia, leading her to take drastic steps to “save” her son from the clutches of a man who could turn the most respectable of society into the most depraved.

Jack is lured by the promise of a final item that the late Duke dangles in front of him, its value immeasurable according to the solicitor, who remains tight-lipped about what it could be. Even though from the onset, Jack knows that Olivia seethes with anger at the mere thought of sharing anything with him, and even though Jack knows he can charm Olivia if he sets his mind to it, he cannot help himself but irritate Olivia given the chance, all because he likes igniting the slow burning fires deep inside of Olivia which she hides from the rest of the world.

While the Duke’s reasons for leaving Jack as the guardian of his son remains a mystery, and Jack certainly does not like things he cannot add up together, all of that is revealed through the various events that lead up to the culmination of this story. Even though Olivia would rather die than depend on the likes of Jack, as these two are “forced” to spend time together, both of them find in each other aspects of their characters that they are drawn towards. The explosive secrets that come to light towards the end was one of the best parts of the story.

I liked the story. I truly did. Jack was after all, nothing short of fabulous, everything I desired him to be, vulnerable from past atrocities inflicted upon him at a most tender age. His uncaring attitude as most would see it, an image he cultivates with calculated effort, makes him the person every woman would like to blame her husband’s less than savory need to visit his establishment upon.

I had bit of a harder time liking Olivia. Not that she was any less as a character in the story as it unfolded. But because there was a time or two towards the latter part of the story where she was still in doubt over Jack and his intentions. Olivia was also a trifle bit tiresome at the beginning, with her deep distrust of Jack (which was also understandable to a certain level), her inability to really commit to her feelings towards Jack – which at a certain point she finally did make up her mind and did get going.

I also felt that given all the build up of sexual tension between Jack and Olivia, the culmination of it all was just a bit anti-climactic. The way I see it, there is a deep wealth of passion hidden inside of Jack’s projected attitude. Fires banked over what he considers would make him more vulnerable by exposing own needs and weaknesses. I wanted that passion to tumble free, for it to take a hold of both himself and Olivia, who herself dreams of being possessed and dominated by someone as virile and undoubtedly decadent as Jack. Aside from the scene in the garden, which was pretty explosive, the rest of the scenes of passion seemed pretty mundane in comparison.

However, I enjoyed the overall story, the villain and his role in Jack’s life, meeting Feagan who had shaped the live of the main protagonists in the series, and the way Olivia finally accepted the true worth of the man who loves her without hesitation or condition.

Final Verdict: Jack’s smoldering passion meets the reserved and unstoked fires hidden beneath all the propriety that is Olivia. Enjoyed this succulent delight in many ways.

Favorite Quotes

“I’ve warned you not to forbid me,” he growled.
Before her next heartbeat, he’d slid his hand around her neck, holding her still, as he slashed his mouth across hers. He was not gentle or polite. He was almost savage with his desire to deliver what she’d requested. She relaxed into him, offered up no objections when his tongue urged her lips to part and slid smoothly into her mouth. Heat spiraled through her, melting her bones as though they were little more than tallow. He touched her with nothing except that one hand and his mouth, yet it seemed as though he caressed her everywhere, inside and out, shallow and deep. How could a kiss be this powerful, elicit such yearnings?

Suddenly changing the angle of his mouth, he deepened the kiss, his tongue leisurely exploring, enticing her to do the same. As he drew her nearer, held her close, she was not hampered by layers of petticoats or skirts. Quite frankly, there was little more than a few pieces of fabric separating her skin from his. His body responded with a fierceness that she needed no imagination to envision. She knew exactly what he looked like, images of him in the dressing room bombarding her, igniting a fire low in her belly.
She heard a harsh plea and feared it came from her.
Breathing heavily, he tore his mouth from hers. Only then did she realize she’d fairly wound herself around him. She immediately dropped her arms, stepped back.
“You do bewitch me,” he rasped. “Fair warning, Duchess, I fear this is the last time I can settle for only a kiss.”

They walked to the library without touching. As soon as the footman closed the door in their wake, Jack had her in his arms, holding her close, as his mouth swooped down to claim hers. She wanted to laugh from the joy of his eagerness. She’d never felt desired, and with him, it was as though he was hungry, hungry for her alone.
His mouth blazed a trail along her throat. “I was going mad sitting at that table making pleasant—and utterly boring—conversation, when all I could think about was how much I wanted to taste you instead of the chicken.”

“I’m not quite sure how to do this,” she said quietly. “I’m not sure how to go about seducing you.”
“Seducing me?” He released a bark of laughter, saw the hurt flash over her features, and closed the distance separating them in four long strides. He took her soft face between his roughened hands. “Livy, you’ve been seducing me since that first night.”
He kissed her forehead. “I find your defiance exciting.”
He kissed her temple. “I find your temper thrilling.”
He kissed her cheek. “I find your love for Henry humbling.”
He pressed his lips to the tip of her nose. “I find your laughter enchanting.”
He kissed the corner of her mouth. “Your eyes mesmerize me and your kisses have the power to bring me to my knees.”

She felt his mouth brushing over her shoulders and only then did she remember that he had a pickpocket’s fingers and light touch. He’d worked her buttons free from throat to stomach and she’d not even noticed. And now the gown was sliding off her shoulders, gliding to the floor.
She had a second to consider that she should feel a need to cover herself and then she was considering nothing at all except for the wondrous sensations of his mouth playing over her breasts: tasting, licking, suckling. All the while, he murmured that she was “beautiful. So beautiful.”

She gasped as the pleasure spiked.
He lifted his head, studying her. He glided his finger over her, eliciting another cry, her legs squeezing together as though to hold him there or perhaps to urge him on.
“I want to watch you, Livy,” he whispered roughly. “I want to see what the darkness of the garden kept from me. Let go, Livy. Let go.”

Then she felt him pushing into her, inch by delicious inch, the fullness of him stretching her further, increasing the pleasure tightening low in her belly. When she thought she could take no more, he lifted her hips slightly, shifted his weight, and buried himself completely into her, bowing her back with the exquisite sensation of feeling his weight pressing against her.
“Oh, God,” she whispered.
Threading his fingers through hers, he moved her hands so they rested on either side of her head while he rode her unmercifully, mercifully. Her body sang to his tune, pleasures rippling through her, increasing in intensity as his powerful thrusts moved not only her, but the bed.

He rode her hard, the motion of the train whispering at the back of his mind, giving him a cadence that he matched. For some reason, he thought of the people in the open railway car. He covered Livy’s mouth, absorbing her scream as her body tightened, pulsed, and throbbed around him. It was all he needed. His body bucked, the pleasure intense, almost painful. It was always more with her, more than he’d ever had, ever known.
Everything with her was different. Everything was better.

“I want to hear you,” he rasped.
And hear her, she was certain he did. Writhing beneath him, she heard her cries echo low and breathless, hardly aware they were coming from her. She held him close, dancing at the edge of intense pleasure. He knew when to stroke, when to suckle, when to pause, when to thrust with his tongue. He tempted and teased. He of the nimble fingers had a more nimble mouth. It stole her strength, her resistance.
Then she was screaming out his name and before the last of the shudders had wracked her body he was buried deep within her, his gaze holding hers as he rocked his hips against hers, his powerful thrusts causing the sensations to begin building again. She skimmed her hands down his back, cupped them around his buttocks, urging him on.

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