Review: A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong by Cecilia Grant

Format: E-bookachristmasgoneperfectlywrong.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Blackshear Family, #0.5
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Andrew James Blackshear
Heroine: Lucy Anne Sharp
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: December 04, 2014
Started On: December 20, 2017
Finished On: January 03, 2018

A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, a novella set in the Blackshear Family series by Cecilia Grant is my very first venture into sampling books by the author. A historical romance that I stumbled upon quite by chance on Twitter, I liked the sound of the tale and decided to get myself a copy.

25 year old Andrew James Blackshear comes across the all-too-delectable-for-his-state-of-mind 21 year old Lucy Anne Sharp deep in the wilds of Norfolk. Andrew in in pursuit of purchasing a hawking bird for his sister who is engaged to be married soon.

Andrew’s plan had been a simple one, one that had not factored in meeting the most desirable woman he has ever come across in his entire life. With just one glance, Lucy has a way of inviting him to shed off the layers of propriety and rigid rules that he had adhered to, setting an example for the younger ones in his family. With their mother having died when all the siblings had been quite young, a lot of responsibilities had fallen upon Andrew’s shoulders, ones he had taken to heart, which inadvertently had meant that he had always played by the rules. Rigid control should be his middle name, but then again, some temptations are too great even for a man like Andrew.

Lucy having grown up in a less than conventional household with a father who had remained single all throughout her childhood into adulthood had meant that the usual rules of decorum had not applied much to her life. Coming across Andrew feels as if fate had tossed her way the kind of man who could fulfill every single desire of her wilful heart, and yet Andrew seems determined every step of the way that he would do the honorable thing, leaving her untouched for a husband of her choosing – a husband who would be more well suited for her than him or vice versa.

Fate throws them together under circumstances during which their desire grows, the heat between them burns stronger, with their hearts and minds entwined in that short span of time over shared cups of tea and conversations that had made Andrew delve deep into his conscience to air thoughts he never even thought he held. When all good intentions of Andrew falls sideways, that was the most delicious aspects of the book.

I enjoyed this novella for what it brought. There was humor of the kind I could really get. For instance, Andrew’s thoughts on matters of research, Really. If there was a more futile, unproductive, dog-chasing-its-own-tail occupation for a man’s mind than the study of how we know what we know, it was beyond him to name, was one that had me in splits. Plus, there was this undercurrent of delicious sexual tension that buzzes slowly along your veins, lulling you into this warm corner where you block out the rest of the world.

I loved both Andrew and Lucy and believe wholeheartedly that they are each other’s match in every way. Lucy is the woman who loosens up Andrew, something much needed if you ask me. Andrew needs to let his hair down and live a little, and he needs a woman strong enough to take his passion in its entirety and I believe that Lucy with her independent mind, her enjoyment of the less than conventional life would be able to do all that and more for Andrew.

As much as I enjoyed the novella, I felt that the story dragged on in places where it need not have been. That was perhaps the only factor  that distracted me from reading this in one sitting.

I definitely loved the prose, the characters, and the humor. Recommended for fans of historical romances that gives slow burn reads.

Final Verdict: Lighthearted & fun in a way that draws you in. Andrew’s character is the game changer.

Favorite Quotes

She turned, a lash of wind snatching her hood from her grasp and throwing it back to expose her, and the question of what a decent man would do went spinning off like another wet leaf in the storm. Shock sparked at the nape of his neck, followed by a faint, irrational prickling of shame, and an impulse to avert his eyes.

He had a strong, expressive mouth, fit for barking out commands or whispering improprieties to a lady as he brushed by her in a dance. He had eyes dark as the mahogany inlay on the tea-chest, and hair like polished cherry-wood, and arms and legs and shoulders made to take up space. Men who looked like Mr. Blackshear generally strode through life helping themselves to what they wanted, or so she’d always assumed.

For all that came afterward, she would have to blame that dimple. The dimple and perhaps his mulled-wine voice. And his stature. And his painstaking propriety, and his admirable affection for his sister, and the sweet fizzing awareness that raced through her blood when his eyes followed her hand from her skirts to her hair.

He was dreadfully handsome when he spoke of honor. So righteous and terrible and vigorous he nearly gave off sparks. A more persuadable lady might be pledging to run off and join an order of nuns now, or whatever it was that zealously proper ladies did, just to win his approval.

Somewhere around the time she uttered the word barn, the kitchen’s traffic rearranged itself to give him a view of her. She stood at the room’s other end, taking cups down from a shelf and handing them to the comparatively diminutive Mrs. Porter. She was smiling already round her stream of good-cheered narration, but when she caught his eye she somehow shaped the smile into a greeting just for him. And for a moment he had the oddest sensation of homecoming.

His chest rose and fell with his breath. His eyes roved all over her face. A swallow rippled down his throat. And of a sudden she could not look anywhere but at his mouth, strong and expressive and made for whispering improprieties.
His hand came away from the window—she saw it from the corner of her eye—and up to touch the side of her head. That was all. His gloved fingers made one pass over her bound-up hair, and the hand fell away.

You wouldn’t think the weight and shape of her hand could still have such an effect on him, after the brash liberties his body had taken with hers. But he could think of little; perceive little; know little beyond the rise of each knuckle into his palm; the occasional fidgeting of her fingers on his sleeve; the bunched leather at her wrist, beneath his fingertips.

Her mouth was every bit the wonder he’d imagined, shaping itself against his with infinite variation. Feather-light teasing kisses across his lower lip; those were very fine. A bolder kiss that took that lower lip in between hers; that was even better. By and by he dared a single short stroke with his tongue; her lips parted on a breath of surprise and stayed parted in sweet invitation.
He let go her face to settle his hands on her waist, and he put his back against the wall and pulled her in close enough that her bosom brushed his chest, and Lord help him, he wanted to do this forever.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Format: E-bookeleanorandpark
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Young Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Hero: Park
Heroine: Eleanor
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 26, 2013
Started On: September 07, 2016
Finished On: September 08, 2016

Rainbow Rowell is an author who is completely in a league of her own in the way she makes her characters and stories come alive with so much emotion that it practically hurts you – but in a good way. Eleanor and Park is no exception to this rule, and though the ending was a bit hasty for my tastes after the grueling bouts of angst that Rowell puts readers through, this is a story that has stayed with me long after I was done with it.

Eleanor is the new girl, who with a style that does not fit in with the rest, makes Park want to get away from it all. But even then, with all his misgivings about her, he does slide over in the bus and gives Eleanor the seat next to him to sit. Thus Eleanor and Park finds themselves going through the motions of friendship which grows into something tender, stronger and wilder by the turn of each page, all right before your eyes. Their love unfurls in a setting that is as simple and ordinary as they come. At the back of a school bus that ferries them back and forth day in and day out.

While Park has a relatively good life, Eleanor’s is one that is filled with horrors of the kind we would all rather not even think about. The fact that her mother does try to protect her does not mean much in the face of what is as inevitable as night turning to day, and one cannot help but be appalled, scared and wanting to grab Eleanor right out of the pages and provide her with a safe haven.

Like most readers I believe, I loved the bits where Park started to communicate with Eleanor in subtle ways at first, which developed into something that was so wonderful that it made my heart ache. I could not put this down from the minute I started reading, and I would not have had it any other way. Eleanor and Park is a story that is meant to be read in one sitting, a story that is meant to be devoured, if nothing else, just to feel the thousand and one emotions that courses right through you from start to finish.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: A love that leaves you aching and wanting; Eleanor & Park is a novel not to be missed!

Favorite Quotes

“I read it again twice last night. You can take it tonight.”
“Yeah? Thanks.”
He was still holding the end of her scarf, rubbing the silk idly between his thumb and fingers. She watched his hand.
If he were to look up at her now, he’d know exactly how stupid she was. She could feel her face go soft and gummy. If Park were to look up at her now, he’d know everything.
He didn’t look up. He wound the scarf around his fingers until her hand was hanging in the space between them.
Then he slid the silk and his fingers into her open palm.
And Eleanor disintegrated.

“I don’t like you, Park,” she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. “I…”—her voice nearly disappeared—“think I live for you.”
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. “Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I’m so out of control, I can’t help myself. I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours, and what if you decide that you don’t want me? How could you want me like I want you?”

There’s only one of him, she thought, and he’s right here.
He knows I’ll like a song before I’ve heard it. He laughs before I even get to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes me want to let him open doors for me.
There’s only one of him.

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

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Review: Man With a Past by Kay Stockham

Format: E-bookmanwithapast
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Joe Brody
Heroine: Ashley Cade
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 24, 2010
Started On: April 2, 2015
Finished On: April 5, 2015

Man with a Past by Kay Stockham is one of those stories that I stumbled across in my quest to find something featuring a widowed hero or heroine. I was utterly convinced to give this a go based on the rave reviews her books seem to receive, noted in particular for her delivery of emotional reads.

Man with a Past deals with ex-convict Joe Brody who returns back to his hometown after spending 10 years in prison for murder. Joe knows that no one would welcome him with open arms but he needs to find a way to stay, at least for his father’s sake.

Ashley Cade is swimming in waters out of her depth, having just moved to the neighborhood. Growing up in group homes has left its mark on her, and the one thing that drives her to strive to make it amidst feeling like the outsider who would never fit in is the dream that she and her husband had shared of bringing up their children in a homey neighborhood which would give them the experiences that they had both never had.

When Joe turns up at her home, Ashley, the one who follows every self-help guide that was ever written has a hard time letting go of her control issues and saying yes to the help that he would provide. The fact that no one else wants to work that hard for such a small pay is one of the reasons she says yes and within no time Joe proves to her that he is more than capable of delivering on his promises where work is concerned.

What troubles both Joe and Ashley from the onset is the attraction that slowly unfurls in both of them, each yearning for the other in a fashion that refuses to be denied. Joe believes deep in his heart that no one would want to be tainted by a man with a past as his and Ashley though she knows that its time for her to move on from the memory of her beloved, has a hard time trusting her instincts when it comes to going all in.

Kay Stockham writes a mean romance, delivering on characters that reach out to you, putting in the angst and emotional factor that makes the story that much more worth delving into. Joe is the character that clutches at your heart right from the very moment he steps into the story. The wealth of pain that he hides in his heart is one that swallows you a whole and you can’t help but feel for him all the way through.

Joe is one of those heroes that all kinds of romance readers would fall in love with without fail. He is sweet, kind and yet a tortured soul that you’d want to soothe no matter what. The fact that he had made something out of himself during the time in prison when he could have let it rot his mind and soul shows strength in his character that is rarely found. That Joe could find it in his heart to be patient when everything and everyone practically worked towards running him out of town was one of the best selling points when it came to his character. And of course, his rough and tough physique that hides the sweet and generous man that he is serves to be the icing on the cake.

Ashley proved to be a strong heroine, who has a hard time coming out of her comfort zone, her mode of survival when she had been growing up. It takes a different kind of strength to shake free the emotional ties that bind and strive to be better, to push yourself out there because you want your child to have the kind of childhood that you’d never experienced. I loved Ashely from her sassy nature to the kind hearted soul that she tries hard to hide, which nevertheless makes itself known time and yet again.

Kay Stockham touches on a lot of sensitive and important issues in this short novel. Deaths of babies associated with vaccination is one of the reasons why some parents tend to forgo vaccinating their children altogether, owing to the fact that certain children can prove to be allergic to certain vaccinations, especially given the circumstances of their birth. I found it quite informative, the concept that Kay explored in this story, an area that I have never yet delved into even with all the reading that I do.

The issues associated with small towns is also one that touched the core issue of someone from outside trying to fit in. Not to mention the tough time that even a wrongly convicted person, having served his “time” has in trying to fit back into society. There’s a lesson to be learnt from each of these issues that Kay has touched and I love an author who can make me think beyond the storyline and well into the issues that are highlighted in the story. All in all, I can honestly say that Kay Stockham is an author I would continue to seek and read because she has the sort of talent that draws the reader in.

Recommended for those that love sweetly emotional reads.

Final Verdict: Emotional, tender & sweet!

Favorite Quotes

Ashley’s laughter ended with a gasp. She pulled away to look him in the eyes, but didn’t put any more distance between them. He stared into the honey-bronze depths of her gaze and waited for her reaction. Waited for her to shove him away and stammer something about how she shouldn’t have hugged him.
Instead her mouth parted and an instant later Ashley raised herself on those sexy, red-painted toes. That was all the encouragement he needed. He pressed his mouth to hers, swept his tongue inside. She tasted hot and sweet, musky.

“What if I want you to?” she whispered. “What if I want you to kiss me?”
Joe turned just enough to glare at her over the shoulder she touched. In her bare feet she nearly met him eye to eye–nearly, but not quite. And although Mac had been taller, Joe was broader, more strongly built. Honed and hardened.
By prison.
“You deserve nice things like that car your date drove. Things I can’t give you.” He swore softly. “Ashley, I can’t give you anything right now because I have nothing to give.”

Still, he did as she asked and she got an eyeful of taut backside and corded muscles. She smoothed her hands up his arms, trailed her fingers to his shoulders, in to his neck and down his spine. She rose to her tiptoes and pressed another kiss to his skin, this one to the tattoo of Josie’s name.
“Ashley.” His voice broke, husky, filled with too much emotion and needing an outlet. Joe turned so fast she gasped, and even though she stood mere inches from the bed, he swept her into his arms to lower her to the surface. Then Joe’s mouth covered hers, his tongue delved deep and she immediately discovered a difference between this kiss and the ones they’d shared before she’d found out the truth.
Joe’s hesitation was gone. Her acceptance of him, of his past, had unleashed something inside him, a fierceness, a tenderness.

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

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ARC Review: Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey

Format: E-bookherholidayman
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Carina Press
Hero: Will Broughton
Heroine: Christina Forrester
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 3, 2014
Started On: October 29, 2014
Finished On: October 29, 2014

Will Broughton returns to his hometown, this time for good, after a couple of years away from home. The thought that his mother would be all alone during the coming holidays and even though Will knows she would put up a good front to not let anyone know how alone she was feeling is what makes Will’s decision for him. After the tragic death of his wife and unborn child, Will had found it hard to put up with the sympathy and pity of the people he’d known all his life and he’d taken off.

Christina Forrester has basically lost everything that she has known in her life. Coming from a wealthy family and marrying into even a wealthier one, Christina had never had to worry about where her next meal would come from. That is until financial ruin and scandal leaves Christina the sole caretaker of her son, juggling a job to make ends meet. The minute she meets her kindly neighbor’s son Will, Christina knows that the essence of what makes her a woman had not died along with the ashes to which her entire life as she had known it had burned to crisp right in front of her. Will makes her want thing she would rather not, and ignoring the mounting feelings hardly seem to work when the answering light of desire burns in Will’s eyes.

Will doesn’t want to do serious. Will believes that his heart wouldn’t be able to take being torn apart a second time. But even then, Will does find it hard to stay away from Christina and her adorable son. Feelings Will had thought had died along with his wife comes back in full force and it isn’t long before Will is battling his inner needs with more cold showers than he can count. The holiday spirit explored in the story lends a helping hand along the way to make both Will and Christina take a second chance at love and happily ever after.

I liked Her Holiday Man and the story it had to offer though it didn’t make my heart race and pulse pound. This was a slow moving romance, sometimes brought to mind novels of Betty Neels that I used to read a long time back. Will is the type of hero readers would swoon over. He is gentle, giving and handsome. Christina turned out to be a beautiful woman, inside and out. One would expect someone like Christina to be spoilt due to affluent life she had led but turns out Christina had just gone through the motions of her life and had never known that life could be more rewarding when you are surrounded by people who genuinely care about you.

Recommended for fans of Shannon Stacey and those who love feel good holiday romances.

Final Verdict: Slow and sweet!

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Score Sheet Review: Finally Satisfied by Tori Scott

Format: E-bookfinallysatisfied
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Satisfaction, Book 3
Publisher:Self-Published
Hero: Mitchell Turner
Heroine: Angel Kensington
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 16, 2012
Started On: January 17, 2012
Finished On: January 17, 2012

CATEGORY SCORE GRADE
The hero 100 A
The heroine 100 A
Story line 100 A
Emotional Intensity 100 A
Story’s ability to suck me in 100 A
Heat & Sensuality  100 A
Conflicts within the story 100 A
Writing Style 95 A
Quotable Factor 50 C
The Ending 95 A
Overall Grade 94 

Score Sheet Summary

The 3rd and final book in the Satisfaction series in my opinion is by far, the best book in the series. All 3 of the books are novellas, so length-wise they might not mean much, but with this book, Tori Scott has certainly managed to deliver everything that makes a story memorable.

Angel Kensington is the elder sister of Cara, the heroine from the 1st book in the series. Angel is a woman who has undergone one of the most heart wrenching ordeals a woman may have to go through when she had to give up her baby for adoption. Ever since then, Angel has learnt to keep people at bay, to hide behind her passion that is photography all the while fighting panic attacks that has become almost part of her daily life.

Mitchell Turner is the one man who has the ability to make her feel, maybe a bit too much which is one reason she doesn’t desire to be in his company. And there is no helping the fact when Mitch turns out to be one of the best men in Cara’s wedding, a celebration Angel cannot miss out on, no matter how much she would like otherwise. One panic attack too many and Angel finds herself finally taking the plunge and seeing a psychologist who can help her turn her life around for the better.

For me, both Mitch and Angel were fantastic characters. They felt real and their emotions almost tangible throughout the story. Sweet and poignant as the ending was, I felt a bit cheated out on the way the epilogue seemed to be cut off a bit abruptly. Would have certainly made my day if the epilogue had been just a teeny tiny bit longer!

If you are going to straightaway jump into this book without having read the previous 2 titles, I would advice you not to because all 3 books are tied to one another. To get the full impact of ALL the characters in this series, I recommend the series be read in order.

Definitely recommended!

Favorite Quotes

When she looked up and smiled at him–a genuine, wide-open smile–it took his breath away. It lit up her face and those beautiful tawny eyes and made her more than just beautiful. Stunning. He’d never thought about the meaning of that word when it came to looks before, but at this moment he’d define it as feeling like he’d been hit with a two by four. Paralyzed but still breathing. Knocked on his ass, but still standing.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Smashwords

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Review: Wanted by Her Lost Love by Maya Banks

Format: Paperbackwantedbyherlostlove
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Pregnancy & Passion, Book 2
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Ryan Beardsley
Heroine: Kelly Christian
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 1, 2011
Started On: November 8, 2011
Finished On: November 9, 2011

My first paperback read after AGES turned out to be a great one. Wanted by Her Lost Love by Maya Banks is a great romance to lose yourself in if you have got about 2 hours to spare. In the midst of the intense and lengthy reads that I have been indulging in, not to mention the stress of the last couple of days, Wanted by Her Lost Love delivered exactly what I wanted right from the very minute I turned the first page.

Ryan Beardsley is looking for Kelly Christian, his ex-fiance, whom he believes betrayed him in the worst possible way ever. But something about the way she left, and the fact that she had never cashed in the check that he threw her way upon their bitter break-up tugs at Ryan until he hires a private investigator to find her.

When Ryan does find Kelly, she is 7 months pregnant and working at a restaurant in Houston, looking almost done in with the stress and heavy work load. Though Ryan cannot be sure of the fact whether the child could be his, that doesn’t stop him from bulldozing his way into Kelly’s life and swooping in to take care of her.

When Kelly sights Ryan sitting in the cafe she works at, she seethes with anger and reels from the fresh sting of betrayal she feels at the sight of him. What his family and Ryan himself had subjected her to, she would never forgive and forget but what she doesn’t contemplate on is just how far Ryan is willing to go to prove to her just how much she means to him. But Kelly wonders all along; would the truth about what happened that fateful day drive them apart once again or would it cement the love between them for all eternity?

Maya Banks provides the reader with a story heavy on angst, with likeable characters and of course the baddies who just make your skin crawl with the vileness of their thoughts and deeds. I rooted for Kelly right from the very start, going as far as to actively cheer her on when she laid it out to Ryan. I wanted Ryan to really go through Hell for not believing in Kelly when she had needed his trust and love the most and I was not disappointed.

Ryan certainly redeems himself well and through before the story is done, those sweet little gifts that he leaves for Kelly that just tugged at my heartstrings as it must have for Kelly. And the way he takes care of Kelly, always putting her needs first, that was the ultimate winning point with Ryan’s character.

Let me not forget Cameron Hollingsworth who has got that reclusive brooding thing down to a fine art, whose story I am most definitely going to be on the lookout for.

With likeable characters and a story that plunges you into a sweet and satisfying romance, Wanted by Her Lost Love comes highly recommended from the sunny side of life! 

Requested Review: Lean On Me by Tori Scott

Format: E-bookleanonme
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Self-Published
Series: Standalone
Hero: Hunter Thurman
Heroine: Sandy Morrow
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 24, 2011
Started On:  August 16, 2011
Finished On: August 17, 2011

Lean on Me by Tori Scott explores a much more tender side of romance from an author who managed to grab my interest after reading her hot little novella Satisfaction Guaranteed. Released on the 24th of July, Lean on Me is a novel that delves into family life, the healing power of love and brings home the fact how communication is a vital aspect of any relationship.

Sandy Morrow is a single mother living alone with her four year old daughter Melanie who is a constant whirlwind of non stop activity. A childcare director by profession, Sandy had lost her husband in a car accident during a freak ice storm two years back and more than anything Sandy mourns for not what she has lost but what her marriage had never been able to give. Independent to a fault, Sandy doesn’t want anything in the world to take that away from her, and shies away from relationships and the opposite sex until the Thurmans move in next door making her sit up and take notice for the first time in two long years. 

Hunter Thurman is a military man who had served his country for a long time as a Special Ops soldier that had taken him away from home for long periods of time. His marriage to Liz hadn’t turned out to be what he had envisioned and finally Hunter returns home for good when Liz dies leaving behind an angry and surly teenage Jason behind. Hunter focuses all his time and attention on finding out why his son resents him so much, an uphill battle all the way when the only form of communication between them seems to be screaming matches.

Everything comes to head when Jason’s car hits Melanie’s tricycle giving Jason the wake up call he sorely needs to get his act together. The accident brings together these two families and the constant intimacy brings to light the fact that the attraction that simmers between Hunter and Sandy is one that cannot be ignored. Its not an easy journey for these two towards happily ever after as both Sandy and Hunter bring to the relationship scars from their previous marriages together with the welfare of both their children to the equation. However with a lot of love, understanding, compassion and a whole lot of conversation with a few sensual scenes tossed in between, Tori Scott managed to deliver a happily ever after that I wholeheartedly approved of in the end.

I found Hunter Thurman and his gentle manner beneath which lies a man who can make a woman tremble in all the right ways to be one of the things that drew me into the story. His previous marriage had turned out to be a stifling one that makes him wary of a repeat experience. But when he finds himself enamored with Sandy and her daughter, the way he brings alive good old fashioned courting together with the stolen kisses made my toes curl inward, and made me sigh in pleasure as his wooing works its magic over a woman who has had her fair share of disappointments when it comes to men.

I loved Jason’s character and how he grew in the story. At the beginning he is a surly, rude and obnoxious teenager with a belligerent attitude beneath which lies a wealth of pain and resentment towards his father for never being there when things had gotten quite bad at home. But with time and the healing touch and understanding from Sandy and a lot of patience on Hunter’s part, Jason turns out to be a wonderful and unforgettable character that I fell for as the story progressed. 

One cannot read this story without falling in love with the cute little Melanie. Her conversations with Jason made me smile at just how simple everything in life seems to be when you are that young, trying to make sense of all the chaos that reins in this world. Endearing is the term I would use to describe Melanie and she is a character that I wouldn’t be forgetting any time soon.

The way that both Sandy and Hunter eventually find love and acceptance in each other was a journey that I very much enjoyed though there were moments that Sandy tended to rub me raw with her constant need to assert her independent nature which she is reluctant to let go of, understandable given her past. But in the end I loved how everything turned out and how Tori Scott managed to squeeze in a cute little epilogue giving me the closure I needed to let this one go. But mind you, I wouldn’t complain if she were to write stories for Sandy’s brother Ryan and Sandy’s best friend Brandy who has a painful past of her own and who knows, maybe even Jason and Melanie? Ah! A girl can always hope! 

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Smashwords

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Review: Completely Smitten by Susan Mallery

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Hometown Heartbreakers, Book 8
Publisher: Silhouette
Hero: Kevin Harmon
Heroine: Haley Foster
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 1, 2003
Started On: March 12, 2011
Finished On: March 13, 2011

My first experience with Susan Mallery certainly turned out to be a delightful one. Completely Smitten has been sitting in my to-be-read pile for ages since I got the title off as a recommendation from one of the discussion threads on Amazon. Coupled with the fact that I was craving for a short and light read that would captivate me from the beginning till end together with the high ratings my friends on Goodreads seem to have given for this title sealed the deal for me and I enjoyed every minute of Haley and Kevin’s journey towards happily-ever-after.

31 year old U.S. Marshal Kevin Harmon is stuck in the middle of Kansas after spending the better part of the day hauling a convicted felon across state lines to a nearby prison. Kevin had grown up never knowing his biological father but nevertheless had grown up in a well rounded family environment with his fraternal twin Nash and their mother and stepfather Howard. Kevin’s tendency to land in the wrong kind of trouble one time too many had in the end landed him in military school which is where Kevin had learned to turn his life around and become a law enforcement professional. The last thing he is looking for when he sits down at a bar in the middle of nowhere looking for nothing more than a beer, food and a bed all in that order is the blond, blue-eyed woman who walks in, who looks completely out of place in the bar with a less than ideal crowd.

25 year old Haley Foster from Western Ohio is the only child of a widowed Baptist Minister. The death of her mother had meant that Haley had 50 or more women looking out for her whilst she was growing up. The expectations of the congregation had been what had mapped out Haley’s life, having always forgone her dreams and wants to go along with what her father and her fiance had wanted for her all her life. The final straw sees Haley driving out on her own to experience life and the wild side of it, when she meets the broodingly handsome Kevin Harmon who rescues her from the imminent trouble she stirs up when she walks into the bar.

From the moment Kevin rescues her from the 3 thugs surrounding her, he starts mumbling to himself “Why me?”. Temptation he has never thought he would feel start edging in as he spends time with Haley and though Kevin tries his damnedest to mind his own business and keep away from the tempting Haley, before the night is through Kevin finds himself helping a very drunk Haley who is hell bent on making a pass at him to her room.

A string of events that follow lands these together on a road trip which would take Kevin back home and Haley on her way to Hawaii, somewhere she has always wanted to visit all her life. Along the way, Kevin and Haley both find in each other what they have both been missing in their lives, as friendship tinged with red-hot desire that edge them towards falling in love for the first time in both their lives.

Completely Smitten is the kind of story that would make you fall head over heels in love with both the hero and heroine. The gruff and tough hero doesn’t stand a chance around our sunny and optimistic heroine who has every intention of experiencing the wild side of life. Even though Kevin tries to resist Haley and the way she so effortlessly charms him into falling for her, Kevin tries so hard to do the “right” thing by Haley and keep his hands off her. I loved how the feelings between Haley and Kevin developed, though their relationship is one tinged with sexual zing right from the very first moment itself.

I liked the premise of the small town girl taking care of the big and experienced U.S. Marshal who doesn’t know what hits him when Haley sashays into his otherwise bleak life and lights it up with her infectious smile and her tendency to embrace each and everything in life with open arms. The way Kevin takes care of Haley’s desires, and makes her feel sexy and wanted and loved at the same time are one of the best moments in the story.

Though I would have loved it if Kevin would have come after Haley even though he lets her go because he loves her and wants what is best for her, I still loved this sweet story that I very much enjoyed. I certainly would be on the lookout for other such swell reads by the author in the future.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo | Harlequin

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Review: The Last Goodbye by Sarah Mayberry

Format: E-bookthelastgoodbye
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Going Back, #30
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Tyler Adamson
Heroine: Ally Bishop
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: February 8, 2011
Started On: February 4, 2011
Finished On: February 5, 2011

Sarah Mayberry delivers on all accounts once again with this Harlequin Super Romance letting faithful readers of her delightful stories know that she definitely is an author that should remain on your auto-buy list when it comes to a good dose of contemporary romance, which just happens to be my favorite genre of romance. I have been keeping a close eye on the release date of this book since Harlequin always tends to release its books much earlier than the designated release date and it was just by chance that I happened to stumble upon this book, ready for download on the Harlequin website yesterday. Needless to say, 7 pages in, I was hooked line and sinker and nearly snarled in frustration every time something or the other took me away from the magic that Sarah Mayberry has woven with this beautiful story.

37 year old Tyler Adamson, owner of the largely successful T. A. Furniture Designs is a man haunted and tortured by the unpleasant memories of his childhood at the hands of his emotionally and physically abusive father Robert Adamson (Bob). Tyler and his elder brother Jon had never had a happy moment to reflect back upon and Tyler had followed in Jon’s footsteps and left home when he had barely turned 17 years old. It had only been a sense of guilt and obligation that had made Tyler visit his home in Woodend, a small Victorian town when his mother was alive. The day she had died, Tyler had said goodbye to his father as well and never looked back, until Ally walks into his life, all rightful indignation forcing Tyler to face the demons of his past.

33 year old Ally Bishop is a nomad at heart. Commitment phobic to the extreme, Ally is the unwanted child of an artist who had always been free spirited and flitted from one place to the other. Ally’s mother had discovered the fact that she was pregnant with Ally when it had been too late to do anything about the unwanted pregnancy. Ally had grown up, never having known her father with a mother who had been really too selfish to stop and think about the needs of a child and it had been up to Ally to mold herself even as a child into her mother’s lifestyle which has left its own sort of emotional scars on Ally. The author of the Dear Gertude column in the Melbourne Herald, Ally is a house sitter who occupies one home after the other, looking after other people’s homes for them which gives her free accommodation all over the country which suites her needs pretty well. Haunted by the thought that she is just like her mother, Ally shies away from relationships that makes her feel too much and which requires a commitment from her part until silver-eyed Tyler Adamson changes how she views the world once and for all.

It is when Ally house sits for her friend Wendy that she comes across Bob and rescues him when he collapses from stomach pain to be rushed into surgery for doctors to discover that Bob has cancer and that its a stage where they can do nothing more for him than keep him comfortable till his time comes. It is the fact that Bob is to face his death all alone that propels Ally to seek out Tyler, never really comprehending the can of worms that she was about to open with her good intentions.

It is a Tyler who is torn between doing what is right and seething with anger and unresolved issues that reluctantly goes to visit his father to say his goodbyes and give him a piece of his mind for what he and Jon went through at his hands. But what happens is the farthest thing from Tyler’s mind when he finds himself the caretaker of his father, who wants to go home to die. The only good thing Tyler finds amidst all the pain, grief and anger is the presence of Ally and her warm brown eyes that soothes his tortured soul unlike any other and her touch that starts a trail of fire deep within and comforts him at the same time.

This story encompasses complex relationships combined with the red hot passion that flares between two people who are as tortured and emotionally scarred as they come. The relationship if it can be called that between Tyler and his father played with all my emotions, making me want to rage at his father for the hell that he put his children through and at the same time made me watery eyed to think of what the cancer would be doing to his body, making him just a scared little man who must have had many a regret when he let out his last breath. It also made me want to be the fierce protector of Tyler and Jon, who makes an appearance very late in the book and just begs for his story to be told because I have a feeling he would make a great, drool worthy hero for a romance.

I loved a lot of things about this story. The way it reeled me in from page 1 and refused to let go the hold it had on all my emotions was what I loved best about this story. It makes you root for every single person in the story, makes you want  to get to know them, and even makes you shed a reluctant tear or two for the abusive father towards the end. It brings home a lot of hard truths, to do good unto others during the short life that you live because you never know how much time you really have left to walk this Earth.

I loved both Tyler and Ally and deem them just perfect for each other. Ally the nomad who craves stability and a home of her own without even knowing about it and Tyler the man who is ready to provide all of this for her and is understanding to the max without crowding her, who finds his own home & ultimate happiness in Ally’s welcoming arms just made this story a wonderful one all around.

If you want a contemporary romance  that grabs you right from the very start, a romance that delivers on all fronts and makes you cry towards the end, this one’s for you!

Favorite Quotes

She tasted like chocolate, hot and dark and mysterious. Her tongue slid along his, tentatively at first, then with more confidence. He angled his body toward her, leaning closer, wanting more. She gave an encouraging little moan, her hands sliding to his shoulders.
Heat fired in his belly as he felt the weight of her breasts against his chest and inhaled her scent. Vanilla and cloves, sweet and exotic. Their tongues slid and teased, her hunger matching his.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo | Harlequin

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Review: The Outsider by Penelope Williamson

Format: Paperbacktheoutsider
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Warner Vision
Hero: Johnny Cain
Heroine: Rachel Yoder
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1, 1997
Started On: November 24, 2010
Finished On: November 30, 2010

I came across The Outsider by Penelope Williamson as usual on a discussion forum on Amazon. The lone hero of the gun-slinging variety and the atypical setting of this romance won me over within seconds of reading the book synopsis. Since this book is not available anywhere in e-format *insert incoherent muttering and cursing at publisher here*, I found myself paying up US$ 22.95 *oh the horror!* for this book without any hesitation. It was only when I received this book that I found out that The Outsider had in fact being made into a movie in 2002 starring the hauntingly beautiful Naomi Watts and sinfully handsome Tim Daly. So this review is a first for me such that it comes right after I read and fell head over heels in love with the story and watched the movie right afterwards so this would end up being a sort of a mixed review between the book and the movie.

The first thing that caught my eye, even with the turn of the very first page was the quote at the very beginning, achingly beautiful in the way it was told that I knew that I would end up with a booklet of quotes from the story to include in my review. And I wasn’t far off the mark when I thought that but I have restrained myself to including those scenes that I really had no choice but to share with those who read my reviews because I have this need within myself to share the beauty that  this story is.

34 years old Rachel Yoder belongs to the Plain People of the straight and narrow path, who puts all their affairs in the hands of God and believe that He would take care of all their needs as long as they submit their will to Him. Its the way of the Plain People to support and aide their neighbors, for women to submit to their husbands, to turn away from violence and mayhem and to shun anyone who leaves their faith once they have submitted to it. Beautiful with mahogany hair and solemn gray eyes, Rachel is left widowed with her 9 year old son Benjo who suffers from stuttering (but oh he is so cute!!) when Benjamin Yoder, her husband of 17 years is brutally hanged by the outsiders hired by Fergus Hunter who owns the Circle H ranch and wants to drive away the Plain People with his cattle and beef rearing business going under mostly due to the bad decision making on his part. The outsiders are those who do not belong to the Plain People and follow their way of life and are deemed to be wicked and bring in with them a lifetime of debauchery and sins and consorting with the likes of them frowned upon. And when one cold Sunday morning during the last ragged days of a Montana winter, a tall outsider walks in on Rachel’s property and collapses right before her eyes bleeding all over from a gunshot wound, Rachel with all the goodness in her heart takes him into her home and nurses him back to health.

The outsider, Johnny Cain, with his black-brown hair, high sculptured cheekbones, long narrow nose and wide-spaced eyes with thick long lashes, and armed to the teeth with different types of guns, stirs up a kaleidoscope of feelings in Rachel. In a man that the Plain People see nothing but the very devil lurking inside of him, Rachel sees the beauty in his face, the haunted look in his otherwise cold blue eyes, the yearning that crosses his face for things better left unspoken as the desire to possess and be possessed rages like a wildfire through Rachel. She sees the scars and calluses on his hands, the shackle marks on his ankles with the whip beating marks on his back that hints of the price that Johnny has paid with his skin and blood that stirs the protective instincts inside of her and makes her think of just how much of his soul Johnny has lost in the process.

Regardless of the fact that plain only marry plain, Rachel yearns for her gunslinger Johnny with a fierceness deep within herself that doesn’t surprise her as she is the one who is witness to the complex man that Johnny actually is. With view points of other multifaceted characters thrown into the mix such as Noah Weaver, the man who wants to claim Rachel as his own, Moses Weaver son of Noah who is conflicted in his need to experience life on the wilder side, who at times think that the Plain way of life is not for him and the complex nature of the relationship described between Quentin Hunter, the half-breed son of Fergus Hunter and his wife Alisa Hunter makes this a book that is hard to put down. Though I resented the time spent on descriptions of their lives which meant time away from the heady magic that is Johnny and Rachel, I know that as a novel their character development lent a richer feel to the story in the end.

The movie of course as anyone who reads romances would know, would always fall short of our expectations. Maybe because this time I wasn’t expecting too much out of the movie knowing that a movie would NEVER be able to invoke the myriad of emotions that the story does, I loved the differences as well as the similarities with the book as I watched Tim Daly work his magic on Naomi Watts and her cute, cute son Benjo. The ending was different from the book and I have to say I loved both endings as they give the much needed happily ever after for Johnny Cain, a more tortured soul one would never find.

 

Likes:

  1. Johnny Cain. Now ain’t that obvious? *grin* It has been quite sometime since I have read a novel that doesn’t include the hero’s point of view on stuff at some point in the story. The relationship that unfolds between Johnny and Rachel is told mostly from Rachel’s point of view and those who observe the not so subtle connection between them that bursts forth against all odds. I almost wept when I read of his childhood at the hands of humans who are better off being labeled as animals with their savagery that had turned Johnny into the killing machine that he is.
  2. Rachel Yoder. Her  upbringing and way of life certainly makes her one of the most unique heroines that I have read about. From her beautiful nature inside and out to the music that she hears in her surroundings, I loved her gentle yet fierce nature when it comes to those whom she loves. I adored her for being wise and insightful enough to see beyond the facade of ruthlessness that is as much part of Johnny Cain as are the guns that he handles like an extension of his arm. And Rachel sealed the deal in acquiring one more fan when she gave up everything because the love she feels for the outsider causes her no shame and it is a love that is much more fierce than any sense of belonging she feels to the Plain People and their way of life, no matter how much the separation from the latter hurts her.
  3. Benjamin Yoder. As I said before though he is not alive even when the story begins, his character seen through Rachel’s eyes made me fall for him right from the very beginning which is a rare happenstance for me when it comes to a romance novel. I loved Benjamin because he had known what a precious gem that Rachel is and had loved, protected and cherished her in kind.
  4. I was totally captivated by the subtle and not so subtle indications to the attraction between Johnny and Rachel. The yearning that they have for the other which neither could deny especially made sweeter by the fact that Johnny’s desire is shown through his involuntary reactions to Rachel made this a world of sensual delights to sink into though if you are looking for any detailed lovemaking scenes in this one, you aren’t going to find it here.

His gaze riveted to her every move as she spread open Ben’s warranted Perfection razor and stropped the blade, moving it back and forth over the smooth leather. She tested its sharpness with the pad of her thumb, deliberately giving herself a little nick. She pulled a face and sucked on the wound. He swallowed hard.

Lucas (the town doctor) set his bag on an upturned nail keg, found the witch hazel cream, and rubbed it into Cain’s blistered palm. As he gripped the man’s wrist, he could feel that the pulse was fast, too fast.
Lucas looked up to find that Cain’s eyes were riveted on Rachel.
*swoons*

Dislikes:

As I mentioned before, though the stories of other characters that enriched the novel in terms of character development, I resented being away from the subtle world of magic that surrounds Johnny and Rachel. I wouldn’t have minded if it had just been them in the story, with just enough about the side characters to move the story along. But then again, I enjoyed The Outsider as it is, but nevertheless I did wish at times that I could just skim through some of the other side stories that picked up along the way.

Favorite Quotes

As she (Rachel) bent down to lower the wick in the lamp. her loose hair brushed over his chest and face. Se felt a tug on her hair and saw that he had tangled his fingers in a thick hank of it. In his eyes was a look of surprised bewilderment, but then his heavy eyelids closed as if against his will. He slid into sleep again, but not before letting go of her hair and wrapping his hand once more around the grip of his gun.

Her hair had been falling into her face all night, when it wasn’t been twisted into knots by the wind. She scolded herself for not pinning it up and covering it properly with a prayer cap. It had been prideful of her – and wicked, because she had done it for him.
“Rachel,”
Her name, coming at her out of the night and in such a tone of urgency, startled her so that the sheep hook went clattering to the ground.
He had come up close behind her, and as she whirled, her flying braid wrapped around his throat. He reached up, his long fingers tangling in the thick loose plait. His fingers tightened their grip, pulling her closer. His head dipped, and his lips parted slightly as if he would kiss her.
It was as if she had roped him, roped him with her hair.

She (Rachel) settled the sleeping lamb into the empty cracker box. “Those aren’t the sort of feelings I’m very good at inspiring, making him (Benjo) feel like a man.”
His unsettling eyes stared at her across the small space that separated them. His voice, when he spoke, was clotted and rough. “You’re good at it.”
And then time slowed and slowed and … stopped, as his hand came up. His fingers caressed her neck as they followed the length of her thick, loosely woven braid, down over her shoulder, down where the feathery, wispy ends of it curled around her breast. He was loosening and unraveling her hair.
His mouth was hard, so hard. But his fingers combing through her hair were gentle. She felt a strange seizing, deep in her heart – as if it, like the whole rest of the world, had ceased beating.

They stood close together but not too close, and they spoke not in whispers but plain, so anyone could hear. But Rachel’s eyes shone like morning dew. And her mouth smiled quick and sweet. And her whole body seemed to be leaning, straining to span the distance between them, as if all of her was saying to the outsider, Touch me, touch me, touch me.

Somehow they stopped walking and were facing each other. The wind fluttered her cap string. He took one in each hand and pulled them down until they were stretched taut, with his fingers barely brushing her breasts, and yet she felt his touch all the way to her toes.
He surprised her by starting to sing, a lilting song about a girl named Annie Laurie, filling in with la-di-das when he forgot the words, and at some time he had let go of her cap strings to take her hand, and he was now fitting his palm to hers, entwining their fingers, while his other hand had lifted her arm by the wrist and was draping it over his shoulder, and he was sliding his arm around her waist.
And they were dancing.

Recommended for: All fans of romance novels! This is one not to be missed.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | AbeBooks

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