ARC Review: The Night Blossoms by Leylah Attar

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Untitled Series, #2
Publisher: Sentra PressSelf-Published
Hero: Rafael Roza
Heroine: Vee Roza
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 28, 2022
Started On: July 14, 2022
Finished On: August 03, 2022

The Night Blossoms by Leylah Attar is a novel that is closely tied to The Paper Swan that was published in 2015. While The Paper Swan was dark, gritty, and breathtaking, The Night Blossoms, like its main male lead is a different ball game altogether, which was spellbinding in a totally different way.

When Vee Roza’s husband Rafael goes missing after a heated argument between the two, never does Vee think that this would in fact be the pivotal event which brings the secrets that she hides to the forefront, test her to her very limits of endurance, and in the end show to the readers the strength of her character.

I went in expecting the kind of immersive experience that was The Paper Swan. Don’t get me wrong; this book was engrossing in the way Ms. Attar unfolded the layers to her characters and revealed all that was simmering underneath. While I would have loved for more darkness in the story, I did enjoy the tumultuous journey that was the Rozas’ before and even after they said their I do’s.

With The Night Blossoms, Ms. Attar shows to readers what resilience really means when it comes to relationships, especially after marriage. Vee and Rafael do not find each other under the most heartwarming circumstances; they both lead equally tough lives, especially during their most formative years. One would think that they would catch a break, but turns out, life wants to test their love to a point where most of us would just probably give up and walk away.

I loved Rafael – his character was one that shone through in many ways. Ms. Attar explores a fascinating trait in Rafael, something which I do not want to particularly reveal in my review. Understanding what it means to live with that sort of “gift” perhaps, is something beyond my capacity as I cannot imagine the impact something like that would have on one’s physical and mental well-being.

Rafael’s smartness is what got me – when he started talking about concepts of physics, I wanted to be sitting in his class, soaking all of it in. We would all be so lucky to have educators who are as enthusiastic as Rafael is when it comes to imparting knowledge that is akin to a gift given for life.

Vee’s character was a tougher nut to crack for various reasons, and I think Ms. Attar wanted it that way. Even when the story is told from Vee’s point of view, there is always a part of herself that she keeps in the shadows, as if penetrating her secrets would threaten her very existence. Her fears and insecurities were all too real and I felt them, which attests to the brilliance that is behind Ms. Attar’s writing.

Recommended for readers who love romantic suspense. You will have to read The Paper Swan first to have an appreciation for the characters, and if you like myself love dark romances, The Paper Swan is definitely a treat!

Final Verdict: The Night Blossoms is tale that captivates the reader on multiple fronts, of love of the kind that prevails and grows in strength through the worst life has to offer.

Favorite Quotes

“Yvette? Did you hear what I s—”
Her kiss was breathless. Clasping her fingers behind his neck, she drew him close. The air expelled from Rafael’s lungs. He angled his mouth to taste her. His lips trailed to her throat, to the pulse under her skin. A wild surge of pleasure gripped him when her hand slipped under his waistband and untucked his shirt.

“Don’t fall in love. Not with me.”
“Why not? You’re smart and strong and determined. You can do anything you set your mind to.” He stroked her hair. “Why do you hate yourself so?”
Slipping out of reach, she gathered the blanket to her chest and sat. “You will too, when I tell you the truth.”
“Fine. Let’s have it.” He grinned.
Bit by bit, she revealed the details.
Bit by bit, Rafael’s world careened out of orbit.
Everything shifted. Everything changed.
By the time Yvette was done, nothing was the same again.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

ARC Review: A Governess Should Never… Deny a Duke by Emily Windsor

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Governess Chronicles, #2
Publisher: Sentra Press
Hero: Rhys Cadogan
Heroine: Isabelle Violette de Beaujeu
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 07, 2022
Started On: July 05, 2022
Finished On: July 14, 2022

A Governess Should Never… Deny a Duke is the second installment in The Governess Chronicles by Emily Windsor. Even though this is part of a series, the story is perfectly readable as a standalone.

27 year old Isabelle Violette de Beaujeu is a governess with almost a decade of experience under her belt, having earned an impeccable reputation for herself. Her newest charge is the 15 year old niece of the Duke of Aberdare. Even though 34 year old Rhys Cadogan has a reputation for being mean, moody, and mysterious, it does not deter Isabelle from seeking the position, one more milestone towards making headway in her retirement funds.

From the get go, the Duke’s sheer masculinity takes Isabelle’s breathe away, or so it would have she tells herself, if she weren’t made of sterner stuff. Likewise, Rhys is drawn towards the spirit and fire that is evident when Isabelle loses that rigid control she exerts on herself.

However, a governess has no space to dream about frivolous things like love and desire, especially when it involves the likes of a Duke, who for all intents and purposes is on the hunt for a bride. What neither Rhys nor Isabelle realize is that when it comes right down to it, they are both two halves of one soul, drawn towards a shared future, irrespective of the circumstances that brought them together.

From one breathless encounter to heated stolen kisses, Isabelle comes to the realization of the kindness that is inherent in the Duke, the passion that he hides behind the at times aloof facade of his, and the dreams that he harbors for the kind of love that Isabelle herself yearns for but never hopes to find.

I loved this installment in the series and enjoyed both Rhys and Isabelle. Rhys is the kind of hero that is the right mix of tenderness and masculinity that sweeps you off your feet. His keen intelligence and his kindness draws the reader towards him like a moth to flame, and it is not just Isabelle that falls hopelessly in love with him.

Isabelle is the kind of heroine readers root for in every sense. With a past that still haunts her, Isabelle is someone who has lived true to her values and principles and made a name for herself in her profession. Even when the Duke tempts her so, Isabelle tries to tell herself that it is not for the likes of her, but alas, love does have a strange way of seeking one out when you are least looking for it.

The style of writing that Ms. Windsor brings to the genre is evocative, the portrayal of the yearning of both characters in this novel the kind that makes for an immersive reading experience, and the witty nature of the inner monologues and the dialogues which keeps the pages turning. The secondary characters added vibrancy to the story as it unfolded, many of whom I would definitely love to read more about.

Recommended for fans of Ms. Windsor and fans of beautifully spun historical romances!

Final Verdict: Delightful, sensual, and poignant; Ms. Windsor’s writing is powerful in the way it moves the reader!

Favorite Quotes

I wait. I tremble. I yearn,
Yet to me she cometh not.
I lust. I languish. I burn!
Yet to me she cometh not.

His lips brushed.
Back and forth. Beguiling and mellow and supple and sinful.
The angel admonished one last time, prattling on about all those years of flawless reputation, but instead of dissuading Isabelle from this path of desire, it compelled her to be reckless. Yes, she had been all that was placid and perfect for so long, but she was tired. Tired of suppressing her accent, her upbringing, her nature, her temper, her very self.
So, she returned the duke’s kiss.

Abruptly, she was swung around, her spine meeting the panelled wall, and she was unsure why until he pressed his muscled frame as though he required more pressure, could not get close enough to her…
Now the assault came not from just his ravishing lips, or from his hands which grasped her face, securing her for his kiss, but his hips which recklessly thrust.
She knew he was heavily aroused, had read many a novel for knowledge, but even the most prurient tale failed to convey the sheer elation that surged.
Real, indulgent and utterly wicked.

“Beg pardon,” he muttered, hands tidying her bodice and attempting to push curls into their plait – a fruitless endeavour yet she welcomed it, savoured the sensation of being fussed over for once, till he claimed her wrist and kissed the pounding pulse. “Thank you. Thank you for… My mood was sombre tonight and you fetched light into it with your empathy and touch…Miss Beaujeu.”
She nodded. Knew tonight was at an end for Isabelle.
The clock chimed midnight.
“Good night, Your Grace.”
“Good night, Miss Beaujeu.”
He kissed her hand once more and she twisted away on legs that appeared to be filled with English custard.

“Ça alors!”
He shivered. “You know when you speak in French, it causes the most uncontrollable urges within me.”
“Does it?” She brought her lips to his ear. “Je te désire, Monsieur le duc.”
With a grunt, he strode for the bed. “If you keep testing my limits, Miss Beaujeu, you will find yourself nude and splayed before you can take another breath.”
She laughed as he lowered her to the coverlet, followed her, his perfect mate as she arched beneath him.

His entire weight sank upon her, powerful and possessive, and her legs parted of their accord to accommodate.
Now the kiss grew reckless and tempestuous, both their bodies arching into one another.
With a growl, he reared, twisted off the bed and wrenched at the fall of his breeches, shoving them down. By the flame of the candle, Isabelle glimpsed muscled planes and masculine beauty and an arousal that should’ve scared her but that instead spurred her pulse to race.
He sank upon her again, but now with bare, heated skin, his body tight with sinew, blunt with need.

She leaned up as best she could, gasping as it forced him deeper. “Mon amour. Mon coeur…”
“Cariad, don’t–”
“Je t’aime pour l’éternité.”
With that, any pretence they were civilised creatures vanished as Rhys roared and abruptly arched, his hand grasping her hip as he bucked.
Isabelle sought to retain a grip unto sanity but it was a futile endeavour as his mouth devoured her breast, her throat, and his body demanded she yield also to this madness of desire.

“Love waits, still and swithe,
Love lingers, dusk and bright.
Love waits, it waits for thee,
For thee to fill my night.

So come to me, my soul,
Aside the pounding sea.
Come love and make me whole,
And ‘I’ shall become ‘We’.”

Purchase Links: Amazon

Review: A Daughter’s Dilemma by Miranda Lee

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Powers-Slater Studio, #1
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Vaughan Slater
Heroine: Carolyn McKensie
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 21, 1997
Started On: December 21, 2021
Finished On: December 30, 2021021

A Daughter’s Dilemma by Miranda Lee was my last read for the year 2021. It is February 2022, and it is only now I am able to get my last review for the year in place. I am a firm believer of the philosophy better late than never. Perhaps more applicable here than elsewhere in my life because I have a habit of always running behind on my review schedule.

My book list for 2021 veered in the direction of picking up older Harlequin romances to read because, at the cost of repeating myself, modern watered down versions of the heroes that I come across in books these days just makes me itch, and not in a good way at all. I feel bereft of the emotions that would otherwise run gamut through me when authors just get it all right, with a hero who is brusque, taciturn, and all those qualities that we hate to love and love to hate.

Miranda Lee in this way, is an author whose books teeter on 50-50 line; I either love them or am meh about them. Luckily, this one too passed muster, and I had an enjoyable time with the journey that was 34 year old Vaughan Slater and 24 year old Carolyn McKensie take to their happily ever after.

The story begins with Carolyn sending off her newly wedded mother on her honeymoon cruise, with a promise to her stepfather that she would do what was needed to ensure that their new home was ready to move into upon their return. However, Carolyn gets the shock of her life when she finds out that the architect hired by her stepfather is none other than Vaughan, who basically destroyed her mother all those years ago.

Carolyn’s mother raises her as a single parent, with her father having died even before she was born. All of that had caught up with her mother when Carolyn was fourteen years old, and since then, Carolyn had acted more as a mother than vice versa. Carolyn being fiercely protective of her mother is not ready to forgive and forget what Vaughan is responsible for; having seduced and discarded a woman who was much older than him.

Carolyn’s helpless reaction to the magnetism that Vaughan exudes is however the nail on the coffin so to speak, and even though she is determined not to give in, it proves too much of a challenge to turn away from the heat, especially with Vaughan feeling the same way. Consequently, the attraction between them gives way to passion of the kind that innocent Carolyn had never known, and before she knows it, her heart too is on the line.

But there looms dark clouds on the horizon, casting gloomy shadows on her newfound happiness that is all too fragile, especially when Carolyn has a hard time reconciling with the version of the events that Vaughan stands by and won’t let her shy away from. With Carolyn torn between the man who makes her senses reel and her heart soar, and her mother for whom she would practically do anything for, it is up to Carolyn to gather her courage and face the music, whatever tune it may be playing when all is said and done.

While I found Carolyn a bit tiresome at certain points, overall, I understood where she was coming from. I too would probably have been a bundle of nerves if I were in her place, believing that I have to choose between the love of my life and my own mother who sacrificed her youth to bring me up. That is a tough place to be in.

I loved Vaughan, for being as determined to make Carolyn stand up for what she wants, for giving her that needed push to step out of her comfort zone, without which she would probably have made the wrong choice and ended up being miserable, bitter, and lonely for the rest of her life.

Recommended for fans of Miranda Lee and fans of Harlequin romances.

Final Verdict: A Daughter’s Dilemma delves into what it is like to be caught between a rock and a hard place; it takes courage of the kind not many of us can muster to make that leap of faith.

Favorite Quotes

For a few seconds longer he stared down at her. ‘Let’s see if I can’t help you make up your mind…’ And his mouth slowly descended.
How long later did it lift again? A minute? Two?
Carolyn had no idea, for instantly those soft sensual lips claimed hers she was catapulted into a world so erotic and exciting that all coherent thought rocketed to a distant planet. She clung to him, her lips parting soundlessly beneath the increasing pressure of his, letting his tongue slide forward into her mouth, letting him arouse her with it to a pitch she would never have believed possible from a kiss. The blood began swimming in her head and wave upon wave of heat flooded up through her body. When her knees threatened to buckle from under her, she slid her arms up tightly around his neck, her small hard breasts pressed flat against his wet chest.

Carolyn bit her bottom lip against the tumultuous pleasure he immediately evoked, her knuckles whitening around the railing as she felt him gradually work his way back down her body. Surely he didn’t mean to…to…
When he passed her navel, every internal muscle she owned contracted and held tightly. Her lips parted, as though ready for protest. But no protest came from her lips when he finally reached his destination. No protest at all. Only a shuddering sigh of sheer ecstasy. ‘Oh, yes,’ she moaned. ‘Yes…’

For a split second Carolyn felt a thrilling moment of peaking, of being suspended. And then she was spun into a wild avalanche of sensation that shattered her completely, the experience impossible to fully capture in words or even memory. Its sharpness caught at her breath, then forced sounds from her lips, soft sensual cries somewhere between sighs and moans. Her head tipped back, her lips panting apart, her back bending like a bow from the bed as she felt her flesh convulsing around Vaughan’s, felt her woman’s pull on his body, urging him to a mutual release.
When it came Carolyn was stunned, thinking the pleasure she’d just experienced was impossible to surpass. But nothing could eclipse the emotional and physical satisfaction of holding Vaughan and feeling him climax deep within her.

‘Tell me you love me too,’ he urged. ‘I want to hear you say it.’
Her heart leapt, but instinct warned her not to admit to such a thing. ‘No,’ she panted. ‘No…’
He muttered something and resumed his slow, steady rhythm, taking her inexorably towards the moment when will-power would cease to exist, when there was nothing but her body and his, teetering on the brink of ecstasy.
At this most crucial moment, Vaughan stopped once again, bringing a cry of sharp need from her gasping lungs. Her nails dug deeply in his back and her body urged him desperately to continue.
‘Tell me you love me, dammit,’ he demanded, holding her still beneath him in an iron grip.
She whipped her head from side to side till he captured her mouth with his own, grinding her head back into the soft pillow with a savage kiss.
‘Say it!’ he gasped when his mouth finally burst from hers. ‘Dear God, just say it this once!’
She was moved, more by the desperate note in his voice than his violent kiss, or the sexual edge on which she was hanging.
‘I love you,’ she cried huskily. ‘I’ve loved you all along.’

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

Review: A Date with Destiny by Miranda Lee

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Michael Angellini
Heroine: Salome Twynan
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 25, 1994
Started On: December 13, 2021
Finished On: December 17, 2021

A Date with Destiny by Miranda Lee is a category romance that was first published in 1994. The story begins when 24 year old Salome Twynan discovers that her ex-husband had once again added another item to her divorce settlement; a penthouse unit at McMahon’s Point. Salome had married young, at the age of nineteen to a 49 year old man, who had warned her that people would talk, judge, and slander her reputation upon their marriage. Salome had gone into the marriage with her eyes wide open, let her husband mold her into what he wanted, and when the divorce had come out of nowhere, Salome is devastated, and having tried and failed to see her ex-husband to get answers to the questions she has being futile slides her further into a depressive state.

When Salome turns up at the penthouse, she discovers that her neighbor is none other than Michael Angellini (Mike), one of Sydney’s most eligible bachelors, the wealthy owner of an exclusive Italian restaurant that Ralph had taken Salome to on many occasions during the course of their marriage. From the onset of their introduction, Salome and Mike had rubbed each other the wrong way, and the hostility had often meant Mike ignoring her or giving her scathing glances while Salome tried her utmost to be more flirty and appreciative of her husband in his presence.

Needless to say, the knowledge that Mike is going to be right next door is not information that settles well with Salome, especially when she discovers that underneath all her hostility lies recognition of Mike’s vitality as a man and the need he rouses in her. Salome has her hangups about casual sex which drives her up the wall when it comes to admitting to the fact that she indeed finds Mike desirable to the point of distraction.

I found the love that unfolded between Mike and Salome to be an entertaining, sweet, and sexy journey with a bit of angst tossed into the mix. It is apparent from Mike’s behavior that he finds Salome just as desirable, and would like nothing better than for Salome to give in for them to reach the height of their mutual pleasure in each other. But Salome is a stubborn as well as a reluctant heroine (but not to the point where it becomes annoying), and Mike has his work cut out for him in trying to make her see that for him, there is no other.

Recommended for those who love books by Miranda Lee.

Final Verdict: Intense heat and good characterizations renders A Date with Destiny to be a wonderful read!

Favorite Quotes

‘You don’t want me to stop, do you?’ he said hoarsely.
‘No,’ she admitted, her voice shaking. ‘No…’
His raw groan stunned her. Clearly, he wanted her almost as much as she wanted him. Maybe he had always wanted her. No, no, a dim memory refuted. That’s not so. He said that wasn’t so.
His next kiss obliterated any further thought, and this time his mouth contained nothing but uncontrollable passion, a taking rather than a tempting. Salome met him halfway, their tongues joining together in a violently sensuous mating that could only be eclipsed in one way.

She could hear his breathing, as heavy and ragged as her own, hear his dark mutterings as he began working on the buttons of her jacket and blouse, then the tie at her neck. Cool air suddenly caressed bare breasts, a rash of goose-bumps temporarily sobering her. For a split second the appalling truth of what she was allowing came home to Salome but, before she could react, Mike’s mouth moved across her breasts and closed over one single, straining nipple.
A moan was torn from deep in her throat, the fingers of both her hands curling over to dig into her palms. ‘Oh, God!’ she whimpered. She jammed her fists down beside her on the case, but this only served to give her a lever with which to arch her back further upwards, pushing her flesh deeper and deeper into his mouth. Her head swam with dizzying pleasure, the blood in her veins surging hotly through her body.

‘What is it?’ Mike said sharply.
She expelled the breath she had been holding in a trembling gasp. ‘Nothing…nothing…’
‘Tell me,’ he urged, and drew her to him in a breathtakingly close embrace, his lips pressed feverishly to her forehead. ‘What is it that frightens you so about me? Why didn’t you want to let me finish making love to you earlier on? Why?‘
She shook her head frantically from side to side. ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ she whispered hoarsely. ‘I can’t! It’s all too confusing.’
‘What’s confusing?’ he insisted, little knowing that the hot, stroking hands on her hair, her neck, her back, were the most confusing of all, because they kept bringing wave after wave of sensation that was slowly obliterating her capacity to reason. Surely she wouldn’t feel like this in any other man’s arms, would she? It didn’t seem possible. Yet…if it was only Michael Angellini who could do this to her, then what was it exactly she felt for him? Sexual infatuation? Obsession? Lust?
Salome refused to embrace the word ‘love’. Even if her feelings for Ralph had finally begun to die, her bruised, battered heart wasn’t ready, or capable, of loving another man yet, and certainly not a man who had nothing but contempt for her. Perhaps she was acting this way out of some sort of crazed revenge against the hurt perpetrated by her husband. Perhaps this was a rebound thing. She didn’t know any more.
‘Everything’s confusing,’ she groaned. ‘Me… this…you…’

She moaned her frustration and frantically pushed him away, ‘No, no!’ she cried.
He staggered back off the end of the bed, getting to his feet and staring down at her with eyes both wild and incredulous. ‘You must be mad! There’s no stopping now. No changing your mind. Look at me!’ And, with a single savage yank, he stripped off his pyjama-trousers, striking her speechless with the stark evidence of his desire.
Salome had never looked quite so blatantly at an aroused man before, certainly not one as well-endowed as Mike. Colour burnt in her cheeks, her heart thudding beneath her breasts. ‘I haven’t changed my mind,’ she burst forth, then hesitated, finding it hard to find the words. ‘I was wanting you. You!’ she cried. ‘Not…anything less…’

Finally he gasped away from her mouth and pressed hot lips to the smooth skin of her shoulder, the pulsating vein at the base of her throat, his hands running up and down the sides of her body. Her own hands were caressing the muscles in his back, but dug sharply inwards when he grabbed her hips, lifting them from the bed and thrusting even more deeply into her. Quite instinctively, her inner muscles squeezed tightly around his throbbing hardness, gripping and releasing him in a relentless rhythm. Any moment now…
There was a split second when she seemed to balance on a sharp edge, when her breathing stopped, and every muscle in her body strained to an aching stop. She heard him gasp for breath, felt his hands tightening around her. Then, with one final surge, he set them both free, and their mutual cries of release echoed in the night.

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

Review: Degrees of Control by Eve Dangerfield

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Beyond Bondage Series, #1
Publisher: BookBaby
Hero: James Hunter
Heroine: Charlotte Bell
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: November 30, 2015
Started On: August 10, 2021
Finished On: November 25, 2021

Degrees of Control by Eve Dangerfield is a novel first published in 2015. The story begins with Charlotte Bell attending her friend Sophia’s “low-key” engagement party, where her friends are trying to hook her up with a man who would understand needs of a closeted submissive such as Charlotte and deliver her from the bad breakup that has left a mark on her.

Charlotte is sort of biding her time until she has saved enough to return to Australia where she is from. The decision to follow her ex-boyfriend to America had turned out to be one that was foolhardy in hindsight, with Dale having subjected her to unwarranted jealousy which had only escalated over time for no good reason.

When James Hunter walks into the party, every single cell inside of Charlotte goes on red alert. Even with all her friends warning her that James is the kind of man-whore that she should steer clear from, the need that he rouses in her is all too great to be ignored.

Even though Charlotte knows that James and herself are as ill-matched as can be, the fact that neither of them are looking for anything long-term works at first. James makes reality of every sexual fantasy that she has harbored and makes the submissive in her crave the dominant in him all the more. But when emotions come to the forefront, it is a challenging road that is ahead for both, with Charlotte trying to understand the complexity behind the man that James is, so that they might at least have a shot of making things more longer term.

I loved Degrees of Control and thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics between Charlotte and James. Ms. Dangerfield is a master at delivering scorching hot scenes of passion, while at the same leaving us with tantalizing bits thought provoking elements that makes her books the stellar reads they are.

I fell in love with Charlotte and James from the onset – what is there not to love about a heroine who is kind, gorgeous, and smart, and a hero who is an alpha-hole of the best kind, who I knew would break my heart and patch it all up before all was said and done?

Recommended for those who love psychological depth with their smut! This one certainly delivers!

Final Verdict: With the perfect balance of panty-melting variety of kink and emotional depth with heart, Degrees of Control is a character-driven page-turner!

Favorite Quotes

His thumb brushed over her clit and the whole world tipped sideways, a surge of energy burst at her center and her hips bucked against his stroking fingers. “James!”
Another dark chuckle. “Oh honey, you’re gonna feel so good around my cock.”
Charlie came then, she couldn’t help it, and as she came, she screamed.

“I love that look on your face,” he said. “All nervous but so fuckin’ eager, like you’re gonna cream your panties the second I lay a hand on you.”
He strode toward her and Charlie felt herself shrink beneath his much larger presence. James’ smirk grew wider. He pushed a strand of hair from her eyes, letting his hand linger on her neck. At his touch, she did indeed feel an answering clench in her cunt, sparks flickering deep within her belly. She pressed her thighs together, taking pleasure in the ache.
It was worth coming for this, just to know this kind of doomsday lust exists.

“Now the skirt.”
Charlie didn’t think she’d ever felt this exposed. Her hands lurched up to her hair, stroking it nervously before she reached for the fastener at the back of her pencil skirt. His hazel eyes bore into hers as he rubbed a palm across the front of his jeans, stroking the bulge that lay below. Charlie let Holly’s skirt pool around her ankles. Her panties were cheap but new. She hadn’t wanted to wear anything for him that she’d ever worn for Dale. James stared at the ornate love heart woven into her pink bikini briefs and she saw something wild flicker in his eyes.
“Turn around,” he snarled.
She did what she was told, her feet swaying slightly in the pumps.
“Bend over.”

“You wanna come, Charlotte?”
He ran his thumb over her swollen clit and Charlie almost choked on her tongue. “Yes.”
“Go on then, girl, come on me.”
That was all she needed. She rubbed her pussy on him, slick and insistent until warm, blessed orgasm surged over her like a tidal wave. She whimpered, welcoming the oblivion, and James seized her hips and sank her down on his length.
“James, fuck!”
She writhed against his shaft, sunk so deep his pubic hair brushed against her engorged clit. As her inner muscles strained to accommodate him, her orgasm plateaued, igniting the tangled webs of nerves deep inside herself so that she shuddered and moaned. James smirked like a blond Satan. “Feel good, sweetheart? Good as you hoped?”
“Y-you tricked me, I wasn’t ready—”
He leaned closer, the position a million times more intense with his cock buried inside her. “Darlin’, you’ve been ready since you showed up in those fuck-me heels. Now be a good girl and get on your hands and knees.”

James’ hazel eyes closed, his hands clasped her hips. “Oh that’s so good, honey, ride me. Ride my dick.”
James’ head was thrown back and the line of his jaw was sharp as a blade. He was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, she realized. Powerful and wild as the stallion on his ribs. James groaned, a strangled desperate sound. “Jesus, Charlotte, your pussy’s so goddamn tight, I’m gonna come.”
He seized a handful of her hair, driving himself against her. The brutality of his thrusts made her scrape her nails down his chest.
“Fuckin’ hell, I’m there. I’m fuckin’ there.” James went rigid, his hands biting into her hips, and he cursed long and loud as his cock pulsed inside her.

“Say something,” she whispered. “Please, say something.”
James lowered his mouth to her ear. “Scream my name, slut, scream it while you come on daddy’s dick.”
With a gush of slick warmth, her pussy convulsed around him. Her bound hands banged against the floor as she screamed his name so loudly, his ears rang. He slowed his pace, giving her a chance to recover.

Charlotte smiled and kissed his neck, his collarbone, any part of him she could get her mouth on. Gentle kisses that somehow got his motor running again. His balls tightened, the pressure built in his cock, but still he couldn’t get over the edge. James swore softly, plunging deeper and faster into her cunt. Charlotte’s eyes found his. She had a freckle inside her right iris, James realized, like an island floating in a sea of blue.
“It’s all right, James.” She sounded so quiet, so sure. “It feels so good, I promise. Come inside me. Come inside me. Let me feel you.”
She pressed her lips to his mouth and everything inside him clenched. At long, long last his climax tore through him like a tornado and all the tension in his body drained out of his balls.

Without breaking their eye contact she drew him back into her mouth. This time his shaft was slick and her lips slid down with ease.
“Enough.”
Charlie pulled back until only her lips were pressed against the head of his cock, like a bizarrely chaste first-date kiss.
“God, darlin’, that mouth of yours…”
She drove down again, as deep as she could get without choking, gripping the base with one hand and stroking his tight sac with the other.
“Fucking hell.”

He ploughed into her with short, sharp thrusts, satisfying himself with her flesh. The warmth between their bodies was oppressive and her orgasm seemed to swell in the pressure, blowing out like an overheated balloon.
“Oh God, James, James, James.”
“You’re gonna cream, aren’t you, bitch?”
Charlie had never been so sure of anything. He could pull out and leave her empty and she’d still come.
James chuckled. “Even when I use you like a blow-up doll, you get off. Know why that is, Charlotte?” He whispered the words in her ear like it was a childhood secret, like a prayer. “Because you’re my whore.”
Charlie screamed so loud the sound ate up the world. James pumped, once, twice, three times, then went rigid behind her, swearing like a sailor. They shuddered like animals, riding out their climaxes until they were both completely drained.

“Hey there,” he said, smirking like the arrogant prick he was.
Didn’t he know he was ruining her with that lazy, insolent smile, with his tight abs and broad chest and his stupid square-jawed face? Who would she want to date after this? Who would ever want to be compared to him? He opened his mouth, possibly to offer another pointless greeting, and Charlie threw herself on him. She kissed him in punishment for making her wait this long, for destroying her chances of being content with some middling nice guy. She kissed the arrogant look right off his face.
Soon she forgot everything except the feel of his lips against hers. His hands drew her forward and she eagerly clambered into his lap. They consumed each other, rocking slightly in his office chair until she hoped that by “lunch” James meant “a covet fuck against my desk.”

“If I was you, I’d be coming right now, instead of bored.” His blasé attitude was somewhat undermined by the small wet stain seeping through the front of his briefs.
Charlie pulled his underwear halfway down his hard thighs. “We’ll see how boring I am, Mr. Hunter.”
She examined him, stroking lightly over his blood-swollen cock, and when his dick pulsed in her hands, she bent forward to trace every last pulsing vein with her tongue. Slowly.
“I know what you want, girl, and it’s not happening,” James warned.
“What’s not happening?”
“I ain’t gonna beg. You can tease me as much as you want and I’m just gonna lie here, silent as the grave.”

“Baby, I’m gonna go off. Come up here and sit on my face.”
“Beg.”
“Please,” James said with what appeared to be the utmost sincerity. “Please, honey, I need to make you come. Put that pussy down on my face. I’ll stay tied up, I just have to get you off. Please.”
Charlie hesitated. “I’ll taste like lube from the condom…”
“I don’t give a fuck. I’ll do anything, Charlotte, just…please?”
She couldn’t battle her submissive urges any longer, she scrambled up the bed and positioned her legs on either side of his head.
“Fuck yeah.” James arched his neck and eagerly drew his tongue through her cunt. The noise he made, like a starving man tasting chocolate, turned her skin white-hot. “That’s it, girl, don’t move a fucking muscle. Lemme take care of you.”

“James!”
She threw her head back so far her body was an arch, rutting her hips against his talented mouth. He sucked her harder, urging every last vibration out of her climax. When she finally pulled away, there was no trace of arrogance on James’ face, no cocky sense of achievement. “Get on me. Get on my dick right now.”
She climbed down his bound body and drew him inside her tingling, tortured flesh. He was close, she could feel it. She clamped herself around him and the aftershocks from her first climax throbbed to life.
“Use me, Charlotte.” James’ voice was harsh. “Ride my fucking cock.”

He’d opened his door on Tuesday night to find Charlotte in a trench coat. She removed it to reveal an outfit that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a pole dancer; black stockings, a tiny, ruffled skirt and a sheer, black corset. The sight of her sweet face contrasted by such slutty underwear completely blindsided him. Before he knew what was happening, Charlotte was on her knees, unbuckling his belt and giving him the slowest, hottest blowjob he could ever remember getting. She’d sucked him lightly, running her tongue down his shaft and over his sac so slow he could feel the come surging up his shaft. In the final throes, she’d wet a fingertip and sunk it in his ass. He’d come so hard sparks had popped behind his eyes.

She walked toward her bedroom with legs that felt like jelly. Rummaging through her lingerie she selected ruffled cream panties and a sheer babydoll negligee that cupped her breasts and flowed down to her hips like the world’s most inappropriate dress. Figuring she’d go all out, she applied lipstick and mascara and slipped on her black Mary Jane shoes. She inspected herself quickly in the mirror.
Nothing like a troll doll. Good.
When she emerged into the kitchen, James’ mouth flattened into a straight line. He beckoned her closer, eyes cataloguing every detail. As much as Charlie wanted his mouth to fall open, she’d learned that the more potent James’ reaction to her body was, the more it looked like anger. When he’d opened the door to find her in stripper clothes, he looked like he wanted to punch a hole in the wall.

“James, can you hold me down?”
“Anything you want. Anything.”
He seized her delicate wrists and pulled them over her head, pinning them with one hand. Charlotte’s inner muscles clamped around him, as though she was determined to draw the come up from his balls.
“Oh Lord. Tell me you’re close, sweetheart?”
Her eyes were wild. Desperate. “I’m so close, please keep going. I need you.”
I need you.
The words went straight to his dick, filling him with a strange spiraling warmth.

She pushed him onto his back and he let her, kissing her breasts as they went over. He felt her wet heat kiss the top of his dick and moaned.
“I swear, we don’t have to do this, baby.” He searched her eyes for reservation. There was none. Pushing aside any last doubts, James flexed his hips and slid himself inside her hot, bare cunt.
Oh my fucking God.
He wanted to die. He wanted to live and die in Charlotte’s pussy. She was warmer and tighter than anything he’d ever imagined, her wetness enveloping him in ways that felt both physical and not.

“Stay. Finish with me like this.”
She moved against him in short sweet strokes, her hair tumbling around her shoulders. The words he couldn’t say before tumbled out. “You’re so fucking beautiful, Charlotte. I love this, I love your body.”
Her response was to reach down and kiss him, pressing her entire body along his chest and bathing him in her scent. He sank back into the floor, dissolving into pure sensation. What they were doing was a million miles from fucking. It was that whiskey-warm feeling he’d gotten from taking her under the covers in her bedroom amplified to a thousand-fold. Every pressure point from his jaw to his toes was tingling.

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Review: Rocky Road by Anne Stuart

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Matthew Connelly
Heroine: Jeannie MacPherson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 1985
Started On: November 14, 2021
Finished On: November 20, 2021

Rocky Road by Anne Stuart is a novel that was first published in 1985 from Harlequin. Republished recently on major e-book platforms, from the queen of romance who can seldom do wrong, comes the story of 40 year old Matthew Connelly, head of the detective squad of the Chicago police force and 33 year old Jeannie MacPherson, who is running from her own demons of a totally different variety.

When Jeannie tries the neighborly tactic of trying to welcome Matthew to Muscatoon Island where she has been residing in for the past two years, Jeannie is met with resistance of the kind that speaks of a man wanting to be left alone. Posing as a painter, but recovering from both physical and emotional wounds from the last case that Matthew was working on, he is determined that he would keep to himself through his recovery, even if Jeannie tempts him otherwise.

How these two tangle is quite invigorating at times, but ultimately, the story turned out to be a frustrating one for me. I always felt as if Jeannie was the one who was doing all the chasing and wooing when it comes to Matthew. Matthew is one of the most reluctant heroes I have come across of late and he made me grit my teeth from frustration because of his obstinate nature and with his emotions under control at every turn.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a controlled hero – to a point. A controlled hero is no fun unless the heroine has the effect of unraveling him and smashing through that iron clad will. But Matthew seems to be made of sterner stuff than most, and while I am all for heroines who choose to assert themselves and go after what they want, I found her ploys to get noticed by Matthew, while hilarious, to be a tad desperate at times.

Perhaps I would have been more appeased, had she cut her losses and removed herself from the situation that she found herself in and let Matthew come to her, when all was said and done. If he felt so deeply about her, that is something he could do as well in my opinion. Even the last scene does not really give the reader any sense of happiness if you ask me, because even towards the very end, the push and pull factor is controlled by none other than Matthew. In my opinion, Jeannie just settled for what Matthew was willing throw her way, because she was lost from the minute he limped into her life.

I would also have loved to learn more about Matthew’s past – the last case he worked on seemed to have done a number on him in every sense. I always felt as if Ms. Stuart had a purpose behind including tantalizing bits and pieces of the case, which perhaps could have been part of the larger plot, giving the story an edgier ending.

Recommended for fans of Anne Stuart who are looking to read her older books as refurbished titles.

Final Verdict: Rocky is the road that Jeannie travels when it comes to winning the affections of Matthew; there is no stone that she would leave unturned to win over her beloved!

Favorite Quotes

He moved then, swiftly, gracefully, so fast that she couldn’t avoid him. “You forgot to kiss me good-bye,” he said, and pulled her into his arms, his mouth coming down on hers before she had a chance to duck.
One of his strong hands held the nape of her neck in a viselike grip, the other arm slid around her waist and pulled her up against him as he kissed her, a long, slow, erotic insult of a kiss. She’d opened her mouth to protest and he’d taken possession of it, with a deliberate, sexual kiss that brought her blood racing to her loins and flames of fury racing to her brain.

For a moment she forgot everything, forgot her doubts, her better judgment, her sense of self-preservation, and she twined her arms around his neck to kiss him back.
She was lost in the wonder of his mouth. In the dimness of the rocking cabin there was only the scent of his skin, the feel of his mouth, and the warm, wet, seeking pleasure of the mouth on hers. She wanted to get closer, closer to him; she wanted to climb inside his skin and kiss him from the inside out; she wanted to rip off her clothes and climb on top of him, to blot out the storm and her fears and her doubts and her loneliness that she never admitted existed. She wanted nothing but Matthew Connelly, and the demanding mouth on hers, the strong hands that were threading underneath her sweater to slide up her hot skin told her that he wanted her, too.

“Should I let you go?” His words came out on the breath of a sigh, and he was warm and strong and so very near.
“Yes,” she whispered, and raised her mouth to his, no longer able to fight it.
He wrapped her in his arms, pulling her into the haven of his body, and she went gladly, mindlessly, sinking against him with a sigh of pure delight. There was no question that this was dangerous and very wrong, no question that she was a fool. And no question that it no longer mattered. She kissed him, reaching up to him, and it was long and slow and deep, and finished the last shreds of common sense left to her. His tongue was hot and rough and wet in her mouth, bold and demanding, allowing her no pretensions. She couldn’t be kissed like that, return a kiss like that, and still pretend they weren’t headed directly for bed.

He was with her, the force of his thrusts pounding her into the bed, and the ancient springs creaked in protest, a protest they both ignored as she reached for him, with her arms, her hips, her heart and soul, dissolving against him in a damp tangle of arms and limbs and love.

“You aren’t going to get warm standing there glaring at me,” he observed.
Jeannie counted to ten mentally, then managed a smile as chilly as her icy flesh. “What do you suggest I do about it?” she demanded.
“You could come over here and get warm.”
She stared at him in amazement. “You think you could warm me Up?”
“Oh, I think between the two of us we could manage quite a conflagration,” he said, and the rough silk of his voice began to melt the ice around her heart. “Come here, Jeannie.”
Pride and common sense would have kept her rooted to her spot in the sand, but pride and common sense were at the bottom of the ocean.

She clung to him like a piece of rockweed clinging to a rocky shore, wrapping her arms and her body around him like tendril of kelp. Slowly the heat began to penetrate through her wet clothes, her salty skin, into her very bones, and then she was shivering with something other than cold, and he was shivering, too.
“I feel as if I’m kissing a mermaid,” he whispered against her ear.
She laughed against the solid warmth of his chest, a rusty, shaken sound. “You have been. Actually, I’m a siren, here to drown unsuspecting sailors.”

“But what if you can?” she said in a desperate whisper. “What if you can simply put it all behind you, forget about it?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do all summer, and so far I haven’t had much success.”
“But what if you could?” she persisted.
He looked down at her, lying against the pillows, her russet-colored hair black in the moonlight. “Then I’ll find you,” he said softly.
“And I’m expected to settle for that? A vague possibility?” Her voice wasn’t angry, only resigned and very, very sad.
“It’s all I can offer.”

She arched against him, the warmth in her turning into a fire. Her hands reached up to cradle his face, and she kissed him, long and deep, telling him without words how much she’d missed him, how much she loved him, how much she hated herself for hurting him. He answered her, his tongue a strong, driving force within the receptive warmth of her mouth, telling her he would never leave her again.
Slowly, carefully she let her hands slide down his arms, past his ribs, down the hard flatness of his stomach to touch him, hold him. His answering groan was reward enough, as he pressed himself into her willing hands, and she gentled and stroked him. His response was to delve deeper into her mysteries, the warm dampness of her telling him how much she needed him.

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Review: The Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Alex Rossini
Heroine: Sara Dalton
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: December 06, 1996
Started On: October 09, 2021
Finished On: October 16, 2021

The Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham, originally published in 1996 is a story that delivered on the angst, heat, and love of the kind that is all consuming. The story begins with 23 year old Sara Dalton, having been anonymously tipped off to the fact, walks in on her fiance Brian and cousin Antonia in bed together.

Devastated beyond words, solace comes in the form of her boss, 34 year old Alex Rossini who miraculously makes an appearance at the right moment to help her pick up the pieces. One thing leads to another and before Sara knows it, she has lost her virginity to Alex in the most passionate encounter of her life.

What Alex wants out of her is more than a one night stand, and he pursues her relentlessly until Sara gives in. While Sara has many misgivings when it comes to a marriage of convenience, the need to escape from the stifling impact of Brian and Antonia’s presence that looms in front of her and is inescapable is one added incentive that pushes her to say yes.

Needless to say, Alex and Sara’s marriage turns out to be as tumultuous as it is passionate. I had such fun watching these two navigate their way to their happily ever after. Alex, who for all intents and purposes accelerated the process by which Sara tumbled into his arms, and battled with jealousy and possessiveness of the kind that drives him crazy was one of the highlights of the story as it developed.

It was quite entertaining to see Sara slowly wake up to the fact that she hit jackpot when it comes to Alex and the way he loves her – though at times Alex makes it really hard for anyone to reconcile with the fact. Sara has her work cut out for her in convincing her husband that the love she feels is all for him and no one else.

There was a lot of angst in this story. I could understand and empathize with both Alex and Sara and their inability at first to communicate freely with each other, especially when it comes to their feelings. Alex who did not have the most loving of childhoods, has a tough time talking about his emotions, and Sara who grew up with her aunt and uncle who gave her a home upon the untimely demise of her own mother, leaving her feeling like that she was always an intruder in their home.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Alex gave as good as he got at times, making Sara see the error of her ways, while at the same time, Sara certainly knows how to keep Alex on his toes, leading him to do things so out of character that one can only determine that it is the love bug that has bitten him so.

Recommended for those who love a story that is driven by a hero who is possessive and would go out of his way to ensure the heroine is only his for the taking!

Final Verdict: For the hilarity, the undeniable passion, and love that is of the soul-binding variety; The Trophy Husband is a story that stands the test of time!

Favorite Quotes

He wound his forefinger into a silky strand of her hair and slowly lowered his dark head, almost as if he expected her to shout, No! at the last possible moment, but Sara was wholly entranced. Bella… beautiful, she was savouring dreamily.
And then she found out what his mouth felt like on hers and she froze when his tongue probed between her parted lips. She had never liked that… but his sensual mouth became more insistent, more demanding and she trembled, pulses suddenly racing, heart accelerating madly, and she discovered that she had no resistance, no urge to pull back from that intoxicating pleasure.

She heard a voice moaning, didn’t recognise it as her own, her fingers tightly gripping the hot, sleek smoothness of his shoulders as her back arched. Pleasure she had never dreamt of was shooting through her in agonising waves and there was hardly a pause between one peak and the next. She twisted beneath him, couldn’t stay still, wanting, needing, her thighs trembling, tightening on the ache building inside her.
He said something caressing in Italian, and the last thought that she would afterwards recall was that Italian was definitely the language of love in that incredibly rich, deep voice of his, and then he skimmed a hand through the damp curls at the base of her taut stomach and the world became a delirious, multicoloured shower of lights behind her lowered eyelids as he discovered the moist heat at the very heart of her.

‘Alex…’ she gasped tautly, her entire quivering body reaching up to his in helpless need, reacting with liquidhoney-enticement to the tantalising, hot, hard probe of his flesh against hers.
The surge of pain caught her on the crest of tortured anticipation. She gasped in shock, eyes flying wide to meet similar shock in his startled gaze. ‘Cristo cara…’ he said in hoarse disbelief, but the momentary frown etched between his ebony brows was swiftly wiped away and the dark eyes glittered more golden than ever.
And then he moved again lithely, powerfully deepening his penetration, and a truly stunning wave of breathtaking sensation swept her back into that wild oblivion where only the demands of her own hungry body held sway.

Alex reached for her clenched fingers where they rested on the seat. Momentarily she attempted to draw back from the contact and then, for a reason she could not begin to comprehend, her fingers stayed where they were, curled within his larger hand. She trembled; she didn’t know what was happening to her. She had a sudden, terrifying urge to throw herself on Alex and sob her heart out. In all her life she had never felt more confused. He drew her relentlessly closer.
‘Alex…no…’ she whispered pleadingly.
But Alex didn’t listen. He twined lean fingers into her fall of hair, tugging her round to face him. Her eyes burned as she met his shimmering gold enquiry and every tiny muscle tensed. Her pulsebeat thumped at the foot of her throat, a terrible excitement rising inside her no matter how hard she fought to suppress it.

Alex lowered his dark head and took her mouth with hungry urgency. Fire in the hold, she thought wildly, madly, feeling the instantaneous charge of her own helpless response. She wanted to grip him, hold him, mesh with every hard, muscular angle of his lean, virile length. The scent of him, the touch of him inflamed her senses with a drowning passion that was utterly self-absorbed. Tiny little sounds escaped her throat. Hot, electrifying pleasure engulfed her with every thrust of his tongue.
Her fingers slid with shameless hunger beneath his silk shirt, skimming luxuriantly over skin as smooth as velvet, feeling the taut contraction of his sleek muscles as he jerked and groaned beneath her exploration. He swept her up and pulled her down on top of him, expert hands gliding up the quivering stretch of her thighs, hitching up her confining skirt and then bringing her down again, sealing her into raw contact with the hard, throbbing length straining against his zip.

He lowered his head and let the tip of his tongue graze a rose-pink bud, skimming a hand up over the tautness of her quivering ribcage, discovering the thunder of her racing heartbeat as her whole body leapt in response to that tiny caress.
‘Alex…’ she gasped.
‘Feeling like this is special, bella mia,’ he muttered raggedly. ‘Dio… you are so beautiful.’

Now…’ Alex groaned when she was on the brink of an intolerable excitement.
Her gaze collided blindly with his and then he pulled her up to receive him and drove into her hard and fast and her head fell back and she cried out with the hot, torturous pleasure of that penetration, her body yielding to the forceful possession of his. He moved again with sinuous eroticism and the pleasure increased to such unbearable limits that she lost herself entirely. With every tormenting stroke he took her higher and her nails raked down his smooth back as her spine arched and the sunburst heat in her loins suddenly expanded, every muscle clenching in response as she went flying over the edge into a release that convulsed her in violent waves.

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Review: Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Series: Writer Friends, #4
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Zachary James Zemaitis
Heroine: Adele Harris
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 27, 2008
Started On: August 20, 2021
Finished On: August 21, 2021

Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson is a second-chance themed romance set in Texas. 25 year old Adele Harris believes herself to be cursed when it comes to love, and with good reason; she has not had a good date or decent sex in years. Having been in love twice in her life, the last time being three years back, it is however her first love that she still recalls with clarity because of the intensity that it had been.

14 years since they briefly dated, Adele once again comes across Zachary James Zemaitis, the man who broke her heart all those years ago. Widowed and a single father now, Zach coaches high-school ball and is determined that he would do right when it comes to his daughter Tiffany, as his career as an NFL quarterback had meant missing out on a lot for the first ten years of her life.

When circumstances force Adele to move back to Cedar Creek for a couple of months, she is more than shocked to find out of the untimely demise of Zach’s wife, for whom Zach had walked away from Adele all those years ago. Once bitten, twice as shy, Adele is determined that she would keep Zach at arm’s distance, but then again, the lazy charm that Zach had won her over with back then, not to mention the blistering sexual heat that is between them which seems to be more pronounced than even before, is a tough mix to walk away from.

Not Another Bad Date is a story that while I enjoyed, I believe could have been better. Perhaps it is because the story did not turn out as I exactly thought it would be, with the ghost of Zach’s wife being the catalyst that kick-starts the current chain of events, that particularly did not work for me. I believe Zach and Adele would have gotten there even without the dead wife being part of the picture. While Zach has his own baggage from how he was forced to get married, the disillusionment that had caught up with him a couple of years later; all that and more makes Zach reluctant to start something that could lead to a permanent situation.

Enjoyable in its way, Not Another Bad Date is recommended for fans of Rachel Gibson and for those who love second-chance romances!

Final Verdict: When fate intervenes, resistance is futile – that is what Zachary and Adele finds out as these two find their way back to each other!

Favorite Quotes

As if she hadn’t spoken, he pushed her hair to one side. “Would you drive me insane like you used to?” He lowered his face, and his breath warmed the side of her neck. “And honey, you drove me out of my mind.” He slid one big hand around her side to her flat stomach and pulled her back against his hard chest. “I was the first man to make love to you. I haven’t forgotten that.”
“It was a long time ago.”
“You haven’t forgotten, either.” His lips brushed her heated skin, and those hot little tingles she’d worried about spread warmth all over her body.

“I need you.”
“No. You want me.”
“Same thing.”
“No. Oxygen is something you need.” Her back hit the wall next to the last bathroom stall.
“Just be still,” he said, and placed his hands on her shoulders. “And stop running from me.”
“Stop coming after me.”
He shook his head as his brown gaze stared into hers. “I’m beginning to think I need you like I need oxygen.”

“I think you’re going to like this.” She straddled his hips, positioned herself, then slowly sat. He was big and extremely hard, and she took her time, feeling every bulge and ridge through the thin latex until the head of his penis bumped her cervix.
His breath hissed from his lungs as his hands slid up her thighs and hips to her waist. “You look good up there. I like it already.”
“It gets better.” Slowly she raised herself, rocking her hips and sliding back down. She teased him with her body, clenching her muscles around him, drawing his flesh deeper, using him to build and stroke the sexual fire burning through her.
“You’ve learned a few things,” he said, his grip on her waist tightening.
She rolled and rotated her hips, feeding his need and hers, and looked into his drugged eyes as he watched her. She bent forward to kiss the side of his neck. Her breasts pressed into his chest, and she whispered into his ear, “You feel good. Hard. Huge.”
He rolled with them until she was on her back looking up into his face. His fingers curled with hers, and his mouth came down hard.

She rolled the condom down his shaft and pushed his shoulders until he sat submerged in bubbles halfway up the defined muscles of his chest. She straddled his hips, placed her palms on the sides of his face, and kissed him. The tips of her breasts brushed his warm skin, and she ran her fingers through his hair. She kissed his neck and his throat, and her hands ran all over him, touching as much of him as she could reach. It wasn’t just sex now. There was more involved than just body parts, and when she took him deep into her body, her hands returned to the sides of his face and she stared into his eyes. His labored breath brushed her cheek as she moved and rocked her hips.
“Zach,” she whispered, her voice heavy with desire and emotion. Within minutes an orgasm rushed across her skin and gripped her heart. Her vaginal walls tightened around him, and his fingers dug into her behind. As he came into her body, she kissed his mouth, filling the kiss with the new and conflicted feelings she felt in her heart.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple | AbeBooks

Review: Wed By Proxy by Alice Coldbreath

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Brides of Karadok, #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Guy Randall
Heroine: Mathilde Martindale
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 07, 2019
Started On: July 24, 2021
Finished On: July 26, 2021

Book 1 in the Brides of Karadok series by Alice Coldbreath turned out to be a great read in many ways. Taking on the theme of a marriage forced upon the main protagonists, Wed By Proxy brings to the forefront a heroine who is daring and innocent at the same time, and a hero who is cynical and world weary in a way that is all too understandable.

24 year old Mathilde Martindale is a heroine who is twice widowed and now married to a third husband, all by proxy, having never experienced marriage in its lived reality. Tired of being kept away like an unwanted pest, Mathilde decides to take matters into her own hands, and with the held of her three friends, she puts on the guise of a boy and travels to her husband’s home, determined to be more than a wife in name only.

When 31 year old Guy Randall is confronted with the woman who claims to be his lawfully wedded wife, at first Guy is not impressed, nor does he want to believe a word that comes out of her mouth. After all, Guy had been forced to sign the papers of his betrothal to the woman who stands before him, and as far as the rumours go, his wife does not want anything to do with him.

But Guy’s resistance is no match for Mathilde, who for all her innocence when it comes to the marriage bed, is aided by a book entitled The Seduction of a Virtuous Knight, and Guy does not know what hits him when she tries to practice the seduction wiles as laid out in the book.

The happiness that Guy finds with Mathilde however is a short-lived one however, unless he is willing to trust his bride and lay his heart on the line – the hardest thing he has ever had to do. But if Mathilde has showed him anything, it is that courage can overcome one’s deepest fears and lay open life’s endless possibilities at your feet.

I enjoyed Wed By Proxy, which has all the classic elements that is synonymous with stories from Ms. Coldbreath. The heroine who has led a sheltered life up to the point, who nevertheless amazes you with her spunk and ingenuity. The hero who is the perfect package; cynical, world weary, and a tad dangerous – but falls like a ton of bricks for the woman who lays siege to his heart.

I enjoyed how Guy put up a token of resistance to ward his wife off, but alas, her charms proved to be too much for Guy, and succumb he does, in the most beautiful fashion. The touch of angst towards the latter half of the story increased my appreciation. After all, a love story without angst in the mix is just never right!

Recommended for those who adore historical romances filled with mirth, warmth, and love!

Final Verdict: Wed by Proxy is the kind of story you read on a cold night, cozied up in bed. It is the kind of story that heats you up from the inside and leaves you warm in the afterglow!

Favorite Quotes

“Guy,” she whispered. “Please.”
“Anything,” he found himself answering shakily.
“Please don’t stop.”
He swore filthily, and she didn’t even murmur a reproof. Just stared at his lips in unspoken invitation.
“I don’t know how long I can do this,” he confessed, his voice raw. Already without conscious thought, his hands were sliding down around her sweet little rounded backside. He wasn’t good at sweet.

“Just a while longer,” she pleaded, and unable to resist, he crushed his lips to hers. Already, gentle is going out of the window, he thought with a regretful pang. She moaned against his mouth, but didn’t part her lips. Gods, he wished she would. He had thought only moments ago he would pass out from the sweetness of her lips alone, but now he wanted a taste of that mouth. Like the filthy beast he was, he drew his tongue along the seam of her lips and felt her gasp right the way through his body. Her open-mouthed surprise was too good an opportunity to miss. His tongue sought out hers, and when he found it, the kiss exploded. Gods, this was all that mattered.
This was his. He reveled in the sensation, his body reeling at the pleasure that flooded him.

Seizing her hips, he dragged her across his lap, to where such movements would maximize his pleasure. She stilled a moment, and drew back her head, her eyes very wide. They regarded each other, panting hard.
“Is that—?” she ventured. Words seemed to fail her.
He cleared his throat. “Should we stop?”
Her answer was a swift cry, “No!”
“Mathilde—” But she forestalled his words by grabbing one of his hands between hers and lifting it with great daring to her bosom. He sat very still as she placed his large paw over the rapid rise and fall of her breasts. Now he lost the ability of speech, as he closed his hard, callused hand upon the soft swell of flesh there. “My gods,” he whispered.

“Guy?”
This hadn’t happened in The Seduction of a Virtuous Knight, so she wasn’t prepared for any of this. Maybe she should have read on further? She glanced down and found her exposed breasts heaving, her dress hanging around her waist in tatters. Oh my gods! In trepidation, she sought to meet Guy’s gaze, but he was sat back in his chair, devouring her splayed figure with his eyes, his expression ablaze.
“I’m going to consume you, utterly,” he rumbled with intent.

Torment. That was what he had called her touch, and she understood now, as her back arched, and her fingers twisted in his dark hair, pulling and clasping, but never deterring him from his purpose. But it seemed her own torment was not to be withstood. It built and built and suddenly she went hurtling right over the edge with a startled yell. The next thing she knew, she was being dragged off the table, back into Guy’s lap. More specifically, onto his — what had he called it? His cock.

One of her arms was tight around his neck. Her fingers tangled in the hair at his nape. She was whimpering into his mouth, and the world just did not exist for him outside of the hot, wet slide of their kiss. The soft swell of her cleavage gently rubbing against his chest was not enough. He managed to insert one hand between them, and grabbed Mathilde’s already plunging neckline, dragging it down until he could feel those pink little nipples against his chest. Mathilde gasped, but even his lust-addled mind could tell it was with pleasure and not shock.
“Yes, Guy,” she moaned, dragging her hard nipples through his chest hair. This was what she had wanted? Nice was not a strong enough word for it.

“If you go…” she started direly.
“Yes?” he said setting the candle down with a thud and sitting down on the bed. “Let’s hear it,” he said. As if unable to stop himself, he grabbed her upper arms, yanking her forward so she was practically in his lap. “If I go? What will you do?”
“Don’t bother looking for me on your return, that’s all,” said Mathilde. “For I won’t be here.”
“You’d leave me? You’d dare to…” he broke off his words as she nodded at him mutinously. He stared at her a moment. “Would you indeed?“ he said grimly, and suddenly his mouth was on hers in a punishing kiss, that gave no quarter.
Mathilde drew back her hand to push him away, but at that instance, he slid one hand into her hair and groaned roughly against her mouth. She melted. Gods, she had missed this so much. The physical connection with him.

“This won’t be gentle,” he growled in her ear. “I’m too far gone for that consideration right now.”
“I don’t care,” Mathilde answered recklessly. His hands were at his crotch, unfastening the ties there, shoving down his breeches. Mathilde sobbed with relief when he slid between her thighs. She clasped him to her.
“Yes, Guy!” she urged him on.
He swore again, and if she wasn’t so ready for him already, the way he shoved inside her would have been brutal. As it was, they both immediately stilled. “Mathilde?”
“All’s well,” she panted, grasping his shoulders. “Hurry!”
“Gods,” he whispered, and started moving. She could feel him struggle to loosen his hold on her hip and shoulder, to pull his powerful strokes, but he was too far gone.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Kobo

Review: When Life Happened by Jewel E. Ann

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Levi Joseph Paige
Heroine: Parker Joy Cruse
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: June 03, 2017
Started On: July 17, 2021
Finished On: July 23, 2021

When Life Happened by Jewel E. Ann, published in 2017, is going to be tough book to review. Not because the book was bad, but because it was exceptionally good and held me spellbound from start to finish. This is going to be a book tough to read if you are the judgmental sort, but if you believe in the fragility of human emotions, if you believe that we are all bound to make mistakes or even find love through those mistakes, then this book is for you.

26 year old Parker Joy Cruse needs independence from her family, even if it means moving a short distance from her parents place – freedom meant freedom. But Parker’s new neighbours turn out to be more than she bargained for, especially when she starts developing feelings for the very married husband of the household.

Parker is the person who basically chairs the “I Hate Cheaters” club, having been on the receiving end of the heartache and pain that she nurses in her heart. Her fractured relationship with her identical twin sister is testament enough to this fact. Parker who sees the world in black and white suddenly finds herself confronting the shades of grey in the midst, having to contend with her burgeoning feelings towards the one man she should not want.

But then tragedy strikes, leaving not just Parker wounded in the wake. However, life happens, and in comes 33 year old Levi Joseph Paige who dominates Parker’s world once again. Unable to grieve openly and publicly over the loss, and when Levi offers her the chance to break free from the circus that is her hometown and well-meaning parents, Parker decides to take Levi up on his offer and travel to Arizona with him.

Thus begins the journey on which Parker comes to terms with the love that she found and lost in such a brief moment in time, and once again confronts the feelings that comes to life with the merest touch from Levi. In Levi, Parker finds the love that she has been waiting for, for the past 26 years of her life. However, Levi is a complex man who harbours his own scars, the blame he shoulders over what took place in the past keeping him in an emotional cage of life’s making. At the same time, Parker’s secret is one that could destroy the fragility of the relationship between them, unless both of them are willing to look beyond and have the courage to face the consequences, bitterness, and the beauty that life is in its glorious complexity.

Needless to say, I loved this story to pieces. Jewel E. Ann is an author who knows how to draw out the intricate emotions of readers; you can love or hate what she makes you feel – I choose love because I read for the pleasure that stories bring, especially how they engage all my emotions and leaves me wanting more. When Life Happened is that kind of book, and I would not have it any other way.

The title of this book aptly describes what the story would deliver – but don’t be fooled into thinking you would be able to predict what would happen. I for one have never come across an author who dared to do what she did with this story, and boy, did she deliver it well. I was sucker-punched and left to gasp in the wake of the immensity of the feelings that were coursing through me. I was expecting a miracle to happen at any moment, but then again, that is not what life is about, is it?

I kept asking the what-if questions, even towards the latter end of the book, but I guess that is also in reality what life is like. Some people prefer to live in the what-ifs, and let life pass them by, while those that prefer to be grounded in reality move on and make peace with their lot in life.

When Levi stepped into the pages, I was once again shaken up by just how quickly he laid claim to my heart. Parker who lost her self worth at one point in time, finds not one, but two men in a short span of time, both who recognizes the value of Parker and wants to lay down the entire world at her feet.

The angst and heartbreak towards the end broke my heart, but I believe it was pretty much needed to bring the collective emotions of Parker and Levi full-circle. They both needed to accept, heal, and move on individually to be able to love each other and sustain their love through life’s curve-balls that would come in time.

Recommended for those who want to read a romance that would sweep you off your feet and engage all your emotions. This one delivers in spades!

Final Verdict: When Life Happened teaches us of life’s unpredictability, about the shades of grey in the midst, and about the endless possibilities that is life! Loved this in a way that is indescribable!

Favorite Quotes

“Out of control hormones are no excuse.” She rinsed the plates and set them beside the sink.
“Desire is very powerful.”
Parker reached for the handle to the fridge. “I don’t buy it.”
Before she could make sense of what was happening, Gus whipped her around and pinned her to the refrigerator door with his body, chest to chest. He pressed his hands flat to the door on either side of her head as she flattened hers to it just below her hips.
She tried to speak as his eyes stripped every ounce of her confidence. His warm breath touched her lips as he licked his, hovering an inch above hers. When her mouth opened to protest or scream, nothing came out.
“Parker,” he whispered in a deep, throaty voice.

“You’re what?” His hand moved up her shirt, stopping at the edge of her bra as his knee moved a fraction.
So. Fucking. Wrong.
“Confused,” she whispered.
“And?” His fingers caressed her abdomen.
Her muscles clenched. “Gus …”
She looked up at him and blinked, sending tears running down her cheeks.
He pressed his knee into her until her hips involuntarily bucked against it. She grimaced and more tears filled her eyes as her body betrayed her again.
“Tell. Me.” He gritted his teeth and stroked her again with his leg, and again her pelvis rocked into it.
As she squeezed her eyes shut, her hands gripped his shirt, warring between the need to push him away and something else too terrifying to admit.

“But, Parker?”
As she turned toward his voice, he grabbed her arm, yanked her into the garage, and pinned her against the wall.
“If you’re going to tell Sabrina about our kiss, it sure as fuck isn’t going to be the lame, drunken kiss at the bar.”
“Wha—”
He silenced her by smashing his mouth into hers, delivering a kiss that obliterated every thought in her head. When his tongue probed into her mouth, sliding against hers, she tried to push him away. He cradled her face to deepen the kiss even more and when he moaned, she did the unthinkable—the unforgivable: she laced her fingers through his hair and kissed him back.
Gray. A terrible color. The murky water where sinners thrived. Parker Cruse was a hypocrite. A cheater. And in need of another change of underwear.

“Parker …” He kissed her hard again. She released her breasts and threaded her hands through his hair. His hands began to unfasten his navy cargo shorts, exposing the hard bulge barely contained by his briefs.
“N-no …” She broke their kiss. “Not sex.”
Gus’s hands gripped the counter on either side of her as his forehead rested against hers. “Jesus, Parker … o-okay.” His ragged breaths washed over her face. He nodded against her. “No sex.”
“No sex.” Her voice quivered as her hands clawed at his back.

Her arms and legs pulled him closer as her heels dug into his backside—every move greedy and mindless. Gus released the back of her head and slipped his hand under her bottom so he could thrust harder against her, each vying for more friction.
“I’m going to … stop …” She dropped her head to his shoulder and her teeth dug into his firm flesh.
He growled as she bit harder, returning the favor as he sucked the sensitive skin along her neck, rocking their bodies together over and over.

Parker saw Levi, but she felt Gus. Pieces of him lingered everywhere. She could close her eyes and taste him on her lips, smell the hint of leather and spice cologne in the crook of his neck, feel every muscle of his back beneath her fingertips, and hear his “I love you” echoing over and over.
He was the wind. The moon sketching shadows. The shiver along her skin at night when she shut off the lights and whispered his name. He promised her everything and left her with nothing. How could nothing—a deep, hollow hole—feel like something so tangible, like her pain had its own pulse.

He jabbed her entrance with the head of his cock.
“Jesus…” she gasped “ …Christ …”
He pressed his hand to her back, pushing her forward until her hands rested on his legs.
“Flub up?” He chuckled. “I’m not that drunk. Hold on, this could be a rough ride.”
He lifted her up a couple inches and jerked her back down onto him.
“Fuck!” Her chin dropped to her chest and the second his right hand slid between her legs, she saw the stars.

Levi toed off his sneakers while he removed his shirt dropping it to the ground next to her bra. Parker’s breath caught when he feathered his fingers down her arms.
“How do you do that?” she whispered.
“Do what?” He clasped her hands slowly bringing them above her head and then back behind his.
“Make me feel like you’re the first man to ever touch me?” She fisted his hair and arched her back as he ghosted his hands back down, under her arms, around to her belly, teasing them just below the waist of her panties before inching up to her breasts. She moaned when he cupped them, and then she pushed them even more into his hands.
“Because…” he dipped his head and pressed his lips to her shoulder “…my touch is the only one that will ever matter.”

Levi crawled between her spread legs, kissing his way up her body. She played with his hair again like her fingers couldn’t get enough as he tasted his way up her abdomen. Her lips parted, eyes locked on his. He hooked his arm under her knee as his mouth covered her breast. Watching her eyes the whole time, he pushed inside of her.
She sucked in a sharp breath, eyes heavy but still focused on him, as her hands curled into his hair.
Pulling back slowly, he plunged into her harder.
“Levi …”
The bed jerked beneath them.
He kissed his way along her neck up to her mouth. “I think it’s pretty clear,” he whispered.

“How I feel about you, it hurts in here.”
The slightest flinch flashed across his face. Then he pressed his lips to her hand. “I’m going to take the pain away … you’ll see.”
He plunged into her the rest of the way.
“Levi …”
“How does it feel?” He kissed her neck.
“Levi …”
Gripping her hips, he set the pace.
“Like a drug,” she whispered just before her mouth crashed to his, catching the ultimate wave of addiction.

“Tell me, Mister World Traveler, what is your greatest memory, the one you’ll never forget?”
He squatted down in front of her, resting his hands on her legs. “That’s easy. Overcast sky. Barren field. Blue pick-up truck. Pizza. Twelve-pack of beer. And the woman who owns my world.”
“Liar,” she whispered as her heart nearly exploded.
He laid a sound kiss on her lips then grinned. “No Lie Levi.” Standing, he walked to the door. “I love you. Don’t you ever fucking forget it.”

“Don’t tease me again, Levi.” Parker blinked open her eyes. The games were over. She saw nothing but love in his eyes. “Make love to me, Levi, but do it like—”
“Like you’re the last woman I’ll ever want for the rest of my life.”
Parker couldn’t breathe from the impact of his words. She was going to say “like we usually do,” but he had to step in and remind her one last time that after twenty-six years, her heart had found its rightful owner.

As soon as her dress fell below her breasts, he gripped them, kneading them until she arched her back, breaking their kiss. “Levi …”
She released him from his briefs and stroked him. He hissed in a breath, leaving one hand on her breast. His other hand grabbed the crotch to her panties and pulled it to the side as she guided his erection to that very spot.
“Stop.” He pulled back a fraction. His hand on her breast moved to the back of her neck, and he rested his forehead on hers. “I love you back,” he whispered through ragged breaths. “I love you back so fucking much I’m certain it’s the only thing I have ever done in my life that’s one hundred percent selfless. But this isn’t us. I don’t want to have pissed-off-at-the-world sex with you.”
“Levi …” She panted, holding tight to his cock. “I kinda need this to happen.”
He nodded, still leaning into her forehead with his. “Agreed.” He laughed a little. “But it’s I-love-you sex. I-need-you sex. My-whole-fucking-world-revolves-around-you sex.”

“Levi …” she whispered breathlessly as her heart pounded in anticipation.
“Shhh …” He eased off her panties, ghosting his lips along the back of her legs and over the curve of her ass.
“Fuck!” Her muscles clenched. “Did you just bite my ass again?”
He chuckled while his tongue glided over the spot. As he stood, he lifted her right leg and plunged into her. Bending over her back, he whispered in her ear, “My whole … fucking … world.”

Purchase Links: Amazon