Score Sheet Review: Hearts In Darkness by Laura Kaye

Format: E-bookheartsindarkness
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Short Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Hero: Caden Grayson
Heroine: Makenna James
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 20, 2011
Started On: January 16, 2012
Finished On: January 16, 2012

CATEGORY SCORE GRADE
The hero 100 A
The heroine 100 A
Story line 90 A
Emotional Intensity 90 A
Story’s ability to suck me in 100 A
Heat & Sensuality  100 A
Conflicts within the story 90 A
Writing Style 90 A
Quotable Factor 70 B
The ending 85 A
Overall Grade 91.5 A

Score Sheet Summary

Meet 28 year old Caden Grayson; pierced, tattooed, scarred and big and brawny with a buzz cut to complete the look. Intimidating right? But on the inside Caden is a total sweetie, considerate and quite vulnerable due to the horrific accident that had taken place when he was in his teens. A loner who doesn’t like socializing much, Caden had me putty in his hands right from the very beginning.

Quite by chance, 25 year old Makenna James whose bright, cheery and heartwarming nature shines through from the very beginning enters Caden’s life when they are stuck together in an elevator for hours. 

I loved this little gem of a read; the sweet, yet vulnerable and hot as sin tattooed hero just what I needed after my intense reading spree of the Fifty Shades series. Caden makes for quite a surprising hero who on the outside looks all tough and totally bad-ass but when you get to know him, he is such a “cuddly” sort of hero.

It was how without knowing much about each other, the way that Makenna and Caden forms a bond in the darkness, each drawn towards the other in a way that they have never felt before that got to me so much. Their attraction is scorching hot and I was in awe because Laura Kaye does such a remarkable job out of making their intense physical attraction towards each other believable and an emotionally satisfying one as well.

The one thing that irked me a bit was the rehashing of the scenes from the opposite character’s point of view when the same scene had already been played out from the other character’s perspective.

But nevertheless, I loved this red hot novella and would recommend it to anyone who loves a contemporary romance with that deeply satisfying emotional and physical connection between the hero and heroine right from the start. And of course, those ladies who love a tattooed hero; Caden is certainly different and yummylicious!

Favorite Quotes

Caden let out his own moan when her lips pressed against the skin in front of his ear. She exhaled roughly. The rush of her breath over his skin brought goose bumps to his neck.
He trailed soft kisses across her cheek until he found her lips.
And then he couldn’t go slow anymore.
And neither could she.

He crowded right up into her space, pressed his body against hers—trapping her against the glass of the door behind her, plunged his hands into her hair until he was cupping the nape of her neck, and devoured her lips with his.

His demanding tongue tasted so damn good, and his piercing bit deliciously against her lip from the aggressive way he pursued her over and over. His hands tugged and massaged at her hair and neck. He just surrounded her. The difference in their height made Caden lean down over her. The way he forced her head back commanded her to open up to him. With the metal handle of the door pressing into her back, she felt completely enveloped in him, in his ardor, his scent. The world dropped away. There was just Caden.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&NobleWild Rose Press

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Requested ARC Review: Bad Kitty by Cari Quinn

Format: E-bookbadkitty
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Erotic Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Hero: Patrick Nolan
Heroine: Nikki Carson
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 7, 2011
Started On: September 24, 2011
Finished On: September 24, 2011

The Hero: Patrick Nolan, older than his twin Easton Nolan by six minutes works in the construction business. A man who works with his hands, Patrick has his eyes on the sexy new assistant of his brother.

The Heroine: Nikki Carson works as an assistant to Easton Nolan at Nolan Real Estate. Though partying hard had been the life she had led before, Nikki becomes more goal-oriented and wants to make her life mean something after she gets the job of being Easton’s assistant.

Storyline: Nikki has a serious crush on the hot as sin twin brother of her boss. Though she knows it ain’t wise to muddy up her work life by making overtures to the boss’s sexy older brother, Nikki can’t help but say yes to the wicked proposition that Patrick puts forth on the night of Halloween at the annual Halloween party. Patrick goes on thinking that Nikki has no clue as to whether it is Patrick that she was actually with that night and a repeat performance is certainly in order if Patrick wants to come out with the truth.

First Meet: There is no indication of how or when Nikki and Patrick first meet. But I am assuming it happened during one of those times Patrick had turned up at his brother’s office for something or the other which had sealed both their fates from that moment on.

Time Period: Bad Kitty has a contemporary setting and is told from both Nikki and Patrick’s point of views.

Awareness between Nikki and Patrick: With a Cari Quinn book, you are always guaranteed a scorching hot read with enough sexual chemistry between the hero and heroine to set even your surroundings on fire. Both Nikki and Patrick are super aware of one another, both looking forward to the night of Halloween once again when they would be able to indulge in their fantasies involving one another to their heart’s content.

The turning point: Though Patrick thinks that Nikki doesn’t know the true identity of the lover with whom she had such a clandestine encounter against the basement wall, Nikki has been biding her time, wondering why Patrick continues to act like nothing earth shattering happened between them.
When Patrick finally manages to blurt the truth out, it was a moment of hilarity and tenderness both that turns things around for Patrick and Nikki.

How the relationship grows: There is not much time for the growth of Nikki and Patrick’s relationship as Bad Kitty is such a short novella. However, the book ends with the conclusion that the future shines bright for both Nikki and Patrick and it might not be a moment too soon before we hear wedding bells?

Likes: That fact that Cari Quinn is the author is always enough to entice me to open the glossy covers that grace her books and delve into the stories of the sexy and raunchy fun underneath. But mind you, her stories aren’t just about having a good time in bed, the shower or the outdoors – you name it, and Cari Quinn has the talent to deliver it. But time and yet again, Cari proves to her readers how much she values the emotional aspect of erotica and delivers characters that are both likeable, endearing and sexy – all at the same time.
For me Patrick’s character was the lure that charmed me enough to succumb to his enticing good looks and of course the heart of gold underneath all that.
Patrick makes for a very yummy hero, who has more than a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to winning over the woman of his heart.

Dislikes: I found myself a bit disappointed with the lack of details of both Nikki and Patrick that would have made this novella much better all around. Though the sex was off-the-charts and trademark Cari hot, I would have loved to know just a bit more about both Patrick and Nikki. And maybe toss in a bit on Easton and Nikki’s best friend Julie as well. *winks*

Recommended for: Fans of Cari Quinn and fans of red-hot short erotic novels!

Momentous Scenes: Nikki and Patrick’s first sexual encounter. Plenty of ice ladies, that’s all I’m willing to divulge at this point.

Favorite Quotes

Patrick was the living embodiment of naughty. He sweat for a living—he worked on houses while his slick, polished brother sold them—and his swagger served as a convincing argument that he knew how to make a woman sweat when the lights were off, too.

She braced one palm on the wall and used the other to bring him inside her more forcefully, tearing away the last bit of civility between them. Her body yielded under his pummeling strokes. Stretching around him, drawing him in that much farther. She couldn’t get close enough.

Purchase Links: Wild Rose Press

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Review: Lessons for Teacher by Emma Jay

Format: E-booklessonsforteacher
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Sensuality: 4

Hero: Brady Lane
Heroine: Jamie Winston
Date of Publication: June 21, 2010
Started On: September 4, 2011
Finished On: September 4, 2011

Lessons for Teacher by Emma Jay is a very well done erotic contemporary romance of the make-you-squirm-in-your-chair variety. As it happened with the two other books by Emma Jay that I have read to-date, it was the cover and of course the blurb later on that made me add it to my wishlist. And after reading Wild Wild Widow a couple of hours back, my next-read-selecting-gene kept pointing its finger towards this little goodie, and here I am 4 hours later, writing a review for a fabulously entertaining piece of work.

25 year old Jamie Winston works as a teaching assistant in a journalism class whilst making her way towards earning her degree. Having being married once to a man who had found her lacking in bed and out of it and had left not a minute sooner after he had run out on her usefulness in furthering his career, Jamie is wary of the whole commitment business with the opposite sex. When her surprising attraction towards her student Brady Lane keeps on burgeoning rather than diminishing, Jamie decides to take matters into her own hands so to speak and find out whether Brady would be interested in getting down and dirty with her.

Jamie’s character is a blend of innocence combined with a thirst to quench her body’s obvious desire for the handsome and larger than life Brady who makes her dare enough to take a step out of her comfort zone. It is her inner vulnerability coupled with her playful nature that comes out to play with Brady that makes her a compelling heroine.

27 year old Brady is determined that he fulfill his dream of becoming a journalist, a war-zone correspondent at that and is biding his time until his internship comes through. What begins as a diversion and of course a way to slake his lust for his teacher morphs into something much deeper and complex as the forbidden variety encounters between Jamie and Brady spin out of control and leaves them both begging for much more afterwards.

Brady is a guy who certainly lives up to his image of being big and brawny with the good looks to match his physique. He might catch the roving female eyes on campus but Brady’s eyes are locked only on Jamie as he spins one fantasy after the other of him taking their relationship to a whole new level, pleasure being the one constant in all of them. It is his intensity in the bedroom and out of it that just made me want to sigh at each and every encounter, and of course his possessiveness when it comes to Jamie that just made me one happy reader all around.

I always love it when an author’s voice changes with the genre, giving what the reader wants with the switch that comes. And in this instance, I loved seeing a playful side to Emma’s writing that just made this story that much more fun to read!

Binding together the dynamics of a student-teacher relationship, erotic love scenes of the heart thumping variety and a romance that gives you a warm glow all over, Lessons for Teacher is a novel that comes highly recommended from the sunny side of life.

Momentous Scenes

  • The truth or dare game that takes place between Jamie and Brady. Sign me up for the next one please!
  • Each of the sensual scenes in the story. Very well done and leaves the reader begging for more! And in need of a cold shower or two at that. 

Favorite Quotes

“You want a drink?” he (Brady) offered.
“My friend’s getting one.” She gestured toward Susan, who approached.
“Your date?”
“My-no! No, I’m not—” God, did he think she was a lesbian? Boy, talk about seduction fail.

She sipped from her bottle. “Okay. Truth or dare.”
“Dare.”
Okay, she hadn’t expected that. She’d been prepared to ask some lame question that she probably already knew the answer to. Now she had to think of a dare.
The driving pulse of music gave her an idea.
“Dance with me,” she blurted.
He lifted his eyebrows. “That’s your dare?”
“Not challenging enough?”
He shook his head. “Not nearly.”
“You haven’t seen me dance.”

And he was big, so big. Even in her wedge heels, her nose only reached the middle of his chest as he edged closer. His shoulders blocked the light as his breath washed warm over her skin. Her pulse leapt like a rabbit at her throat as he lowered his mouth to brush over her parted lips, once, twice, before settling over them. Oh, God. His lips were firm, and molded to hers, learning the shape of her mouth. His tongue teased the entrance of her mouth, then he delved deeper.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble

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Review: Where There’s Smoke by M. J. Fredrick

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Series: Standalone
Hero: Seth Escamilla
Heroine: Lauren Stokes
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 11, 2008
Started On: August 4, 2011
Finished On: August 5, 2011

Where There’s Smoke is MJ Fredrick’s first published title and is of the friends-to-lovers trope that I adore. Combining together the complications that arise when two people who have always been friends find themselves in unchartered territory together with the added complications of two families who have been friends and much more through the years finds betrayal of the worst kind lurking right amongst them, Where There’s Smoke is a contemporary romance that delivers a lot of emotional angst which I absolutely reveled in.

26 year old Lauren Stokes is an only child whose parents have never been overly demonstrative with each other or with their daughter. Lauren had always got her fix of coddling from her best friend Seth Escamilla’s mother with the two families going a long way back with both their fathers being best friends and working at the same fire house.

Seth who is a fireman himself works under Lauren’s father and has always followed his own father’s footsteps all his life. The one secret that he knows about his father puts a severe strain on their relationship and it definitely does a number on his confidence about his ability to remain faithful to one woman for a long period of time.

When Seth starts noticing the little details about his best friend Lauren like how wonderful her hair smells and how much of a bliss it would be to have her long legs wrapped around him in a lover’s embrace, Seth knows that he should keep his distance and forget that he ever thinks of getting hot and heavy with the last person in the world he would want to hurt.

Lauren doesn’t know exactly when her feelings for Seth started to change but she has been living with the fact that a drop-dead gorgeous specimen of a man like Seth would never settle for a woman like her and has resigned herself to being his friend for the rest of her life until Seth’s  changing feelings towards her puts things in a whole new perspective.

Suddenly, it is all Lauren and Seth can do to keep their hands off each other and when they stop trying to resist the pull that is between them, boy do the sparks fly then. Seth brings such a wicked quality to the sensual journey that they both take together and there were times when I wanted to call up the fire department because of the high level of steam these two generate in the bedroom. And that dancing scene at the wedding reception; I swear my insides were still sizzling even two hours afterwards!

But of course, things hardly remain the same when sex enters the equation of a life-long friendship and it is these changes that are hard for Seth to take in as he starts to doubt his ability to be good enough for someone like Lauren. The easy camaraderie that has always existed between them starts to wan as Seth pulls away from their relationship, wanting to spare Lauren the hurt of his betrayal when he ends up doing just the opposite.

Filled with family drama that tends to put more strain on their “relationship”, it is a tough road that both Lauren and Seth takes towards their happily ever after, especially for Seth who does a lot of soul searching to finally accept who he is in reality.

Where There’s Smoke is a novel that brings home the fact that no matter how old you might be, the skirmishes between your parents can always inevitably hurt you, no matter how much they might try to spare you the pain. It also brings to light just how painful a betrayal it would be to find out that the person who has shared your life for so long is not the person you really thought they were and it just hurt a place deep inside of me to read about it.

Where There’s Smoke is not just simply a romance novel that tells of how one day Seth and Lauren finds themselves undeniably in lust with one another and things proceed from lust to love in zero seconds flat. Rather than that, MJ Fredrick puts forth the complexities involved in the change of dynamics from a life-long friendship to something much more and how eventually these two work things out.

The only reason that this one doesn’t get a five-star rating is because I would have definitely loved a bit more grovelling on Seth’s part before Lauren had given in to his declaration of love in the end. And would have dearly loved an epilogue to show how life fares for those left behind in the wake of all the drama that unfolded in the story which would have made this a more satisfying read all around.

Favorite Quotes

Lauren opened the door. No high-heeled boots today. She looked fresh out of bed, rumpled, messy in a sweatshirt and plaid flannel pants, fluffy slippers. His Lauren.
And instead of being relieved, he stepped inside, cupped her face in both his hands, and kissed her.
Oh, man. She was minty and soft, and her lips parted in surprise under his. He had enough wits to give her a couple of seconds before he tilted her head and took the kiss deeper. She made a sound that might have been protest, and he started to pull back, but then she wound her arms around his neck and brushed her tongue over his lower lip. He accepted the invitation.

Her voice had dropped, soft and low, and curled through his blood, which traveled south in response. He took a step closer, trailing his fingers up the collar of the jacket to her throat. Her lips parted in surprise, in unquestioning invitation, his own tingled in anticipation.

He opened his eyes to see her rise over him, drag her teeth over her bottom lip. He’d never seen anything so sexy. He gripped her hips and lifted his own, thrusting into her body once, twice, three times before shattering, completely losing himself, his mind and soul fragmenting, his body melting into the mattress.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble

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Review: Don’t Look Back by M.J. Fredrick

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Hero: Captain Gerard Delaney
Heroine: Dr. Olivia Olney
Sensuality: 3.5
Publication Date: August 12, 2010
Started On: July 13, 2011
Finished On: July 14, 2011

Don’t Look Back by M.J. Fredrick is going to be a hard book for me to review, not because I didn’t love the story that unfolded but rather because of just how much the story drew me in and wrapped its words around me, making me savor every emotion that it wrenched from me that I want to do this book the justice that  it deserves. Before I begin my review however, there are two things that I would like to thank the very wonderful M.J. Fredrick for. Number one being for the blog post that she published which drew my attention to this gem, and the second for being generous enough to give me a copy of this book which I appreciate from the bottom of my heart.

Don’t Look Back kicks off seven years prior to the start of the actual story when Dr. Olivia Olney is rescued by a team led by Captain Gerard Delaney from Special Forces who specializes in hostage recovery. Broken, battered, raped and barely alive, Olivia finds the strength to persevere and come out fighting by never letting go of the image of the tough blue-eyed soldier who arrived to her rescue when she had right about given up hope.

Seven years later, Olivia is a changed woman, the scars of the ordeal that she underwent which she carries with her every day. However, that doesn’t stop her from helping out the less fortunate souls who struggle to survive the depths of hell that is war riddled Africa, even if it means going back to the one place that brings back the nightmares of how she was captured and tortured at the hands of violent and vicious men.

When her best friend Jill gets taken as a hostage by the man who imprisoned Olivia and introduced her to the depths of hell, there is no stone that Olivia would leave unturned in her quest to rescue the one woman who stood by her through every single step of her recovery. When Olivia finds out that the soldier who has haunted her dreams since the night of her rescue is very much alive and living in exile in Spain, she doesn’t hesitate to pull out all the stops, even kicking Delaney where it hurts to get him to lead their rescue operation.

Delaney is a man who has been stripped bare of everything, a man with nothing left to lose who remains in hiding, fearing for the life of his son and his ex-wife whom he has left behind. Three years of merely existing comes to an end when the sexy and vibrant Olivia sashays into his life, opening up the wounds that have been quietly festering all this while. Olivia forces Delaney to confront his fear of failure and his reluctance to go back to a country that has already taken too much from him and left him high and dry.

Making their way to Amadan, a jungle-choked country with very poor roads begins their journey towards endless violence and danger which seems to lurke amidst every step they take. But the biggest threat comes not from the danger to each of their lives but rather that to their hearts when desire races like a raging inferno through both of them until there is no choice left but to surrender.

Combining sizzling sexual tension, toe-curling passion, heart pounding adventure and vicious war lords whose agendas change as swiftly as that of the colors of a chameleon, M.J. Fredrick earns herself 5 solid stars for penning such a fantastic romantic suspense that ALL fans of the genre must read. Bringing together two souls who have already seen the worst life can offer, but still has the courage to stand tall, both Delaney and Olivia are heartwarming and endearing characters that I fell in love with right from the very beginning.

In my opinion, the fact that M.J. Fredrick portrays the story in gritty and realistic terms to the very last detail made this earn a spot from my favorite reads for this year. Raw and honest in the gut wrenching emotions that it brings forth, heartbreaking in the details of the rape and torture that is part of every day life for women in the region, Don’t Look Back is a novel that has got it all. If a well-balanced romantic suspense with a bit of dark edge to it is what you want, don’t hesitate to pick this one up and let yourself be taken away on an intense adventure that would have you biting your nails before halfway through!

Favorite Quotes

To compensate, she took a deep breath and found herself with a noseful of Del-scent. Something about the sharp smell of him, lying beneath what might be Old Spice, made her want to bury her face in his throat and breathe him in.

Words escaped him. All his energy was in controlling his desire. He had no business looking at her, no business wanting to run his fingers through her hair, to bring her body against his and warm her with his kisses. He was the last thing she needed in her life.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard

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Review: Loving Luke by Jenny Andersen

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Hero: Luke Stone
Heroine: Hannah Bluefield
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 17, 2009
Started On: March 23, 2011
Finished On: March 25, 2011

Romances featuring ex-convict heroes are one of my favorite types to read. I got this title off a discussion thread on Amazon and the promising blurb had me acquiring this book into my to-be-read pile. Eons later I suppose, I finally took the plunge and read Loving Luke, and while there were things that could have made this book a better read all around, I still enjoyed reading about Luke’s journey to happily ever after with Hannah.

The story kicks off with Hannah Bluefield going to visit Luke Stone at Deep Mountain Prison to offer the man she has loved all her life who is up for parole a job at her ranch. Hannah dreads finding a miserable and hopeless Luke and instead finds a bleak and hard version of the Luke who had taken over the reins of his family ranch to skyrocket it from thriving to mega successful in a few years. Sentenced to prison for the murder of his wife Chrissy, Luke had been one of the most successful horse trainers in the country before his arrest.

Luke grabs the lifeline that his childhood friend Hannah throws at him though marriage to any woman or giving up his heart once again to be trampled all over is not on his agenda. Luke is determined to remain celibate throughout their marriage, until he can prove his innocence and walk out of Stone Crossing for good, forever. Hannah dreams of finally achieving her dreams of having Luke in her arms and her life for good when Luke doesn’t even remember what took place between them 12 years back, the night she had given up her virginity to the only man she has ever loved.

Life is far from idyllic when the one man who pursued the avenue of Luke doing time for murder is now the new mayor of Stone Crossing and is determined to send Luke back to where he rightfully belongs. However in Hannah he finds a worthy opponent, who would do anything to keep the man who is her only from going back to prison, even if it means that he would walk out on her once his name is cleared.

A fresh murder in Stone Crossing, similar in M.O. to Chrissy’s have the local police hounding on Hannah’s doorstep making Luke fear that his freedom is going to be a short lived one. Though Luke starts depending on Hannah and considers her his lifeline, Luke has trouble letting go of his past, how he was duped before into loving a woman more than his last breath and continues to reject all his emotions where Hannah is concerned until the very last minute when the turn of events towards the end makes him realize that what he has yearned for since his prison cell door slammed on him 10 years back is right in front of him.

I liked the premise of the story well enough and Luke is a yummy hero to dream about. The horse training business that serves as the backdrop was an interesting one and proves to be something that both Hannah and Luke have an immense talent for. I liked Hannah well enough and considered her mother-tiger-protecting-the-cub routine when it comes Luke an endearing one. Though she wears her heart on the sleeve and would love nothing more than for Luke to return her feelings, that doesn’t stop her from trying to ease Luke’s pain and make him see that if he wants, they could have a wonderful life together. And I reveled in the simmering tension between Hannah and Luke which was of the toe-curling variety and lent the story the spice it so rightfully deserves.

However, even with all those things that I liked, there were a certain things that didn’t work for me in the story. I wanted glimpses of Hannah and Luke’s past which Hannah seems to think about a lot. I wanted to know how she fell in love with him, and I wanted Luke’s fascination with Hannah which had started when he was 20 years old to come to the spotlight as well. These issues were just skimmed over, the momentous night in which Hannah gave herself up to Luke all but forgotten and his proposal to Chrissy the very next day just mentioned. The emotions both Hannah and Luke had felt would have made this story a much better read with insights into their shared past lending the story what it needs to make this a 5-star read.  But nevertheless, Loving Luke is a good read, recommended for fans of western romances in a contemporary setting.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo | Wild Rose Press

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