Review: The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Format: E-bookthesilentwife.jpeg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Penguin Books
Hero: Todd Gilbert
Heroine: Jodi Brett
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: June 25, 2013
Started On: December 12, 2016
Finished On: December 15, 2016

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison is one of those novels that has a deep impact on you in the way the story unfolds, and yet, when all is said and done it fails to deliver on many fronts. I picked this up on a whim, a friend of mine finished reading the book before I even began, and my interest got piqued by the bits and pieces that were shared about the book as the read progressed.

When I picked this up to read, I quite didn’t know what to expect, except for the fact that my interest was roused to a point where I just had to read it. The Silent Wife brings forth three main characters, Jodi Brett a psychotherapist, Todd Gilbert her partner of over 25 years, and Natasha Kovac, the woman who brings the house of cards tumbling down.

Jodi is well versed in the art of failed relationships, or perhaps relationships on the verge of failing. Patients who seek her help are in a major way looking for answers that surrounds broken relationships, or in certain cases, people happier with what is far from the accepted norm. There is the gay lawyer who feels remorse over hurting his wife and kid, who in fact wants to be “cured” of his gayness, and at the other end of the spectrum, the cheating suburban housewife who believes that her husband has no room to complain, and that the cheating actually add value to the marriage.

What struck me the most from the onset was how Jodi had this need for a life that was under her control in many ways. Even though she is a psychotherapist who should in fact know better, her mind is a  constructed  fortress within which she lives, the facade of perfection which in reality is what she holds onto more than anything else.

While Todd had always wanted kids, Jodi had refused over the years, and that too had driven a rift between the two which Jodi doesn’t clearly see for what it is. Todd’s actions are hardly commendable either. Having grown comfortable in the way Jodi sees to all his needs and makes a home for him, his dalliances had never been tested until Natasha becomes his newest conquest.

Natasha is a line crossed in more ways than one. And when the inevitable happens, Todd is willing to give up the life he had had with Jodi for more than 20 years in order to try his hand at a life he thinks he wants above everything else. In the end it is Jodi’s actions that keeps the story twisting and turning in directions that leaves the reader wanting to know more, her past one that was never properly shed light on, but left behind hints of abuse that could have explained in a major way where she was coming from.

In the end, after all the edge of the seat variety moments, towards the latter half of the book, the story got bogged down in so much unnecessary detail that I kept skim reading to reach the bits and pieces that I wanted to read. The end when it came, delivered what something that totally ruined an otherwise what could have been a great read.

Final Verdict: Bogged down in unnecessary detail, and yet The Silent’s Wife’s saving grace lies in the fact that it is somehow unputdownable.

Favorite Quotes

People live their lives, express themselves, and pursue fulfillment in their own ways and in their own time. They are going to make mistakes, exercise poor judgment and bad timing, take wrong turns, develop hurtful habits, and go off on tangents. If she learned anything in school she learned this, courtesy of Albert Ellis, father of the cognitive-behavioral paradigm shift in psychotherapy. Other people are not here to fulfill our needs or meet our expectations, nor will they always treat us well. Failure to accept this will generate feelings of anger and resentment. Peace of mind comes with taking people as they are and emphasizing the positive.

Love after all is indivisible. Loving one more doesn’t mean loving another less. Faith is not a construct but something you carry inside you.

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

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Review: Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-bookdukeofpleasure.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #11
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Hugh Fitzroy
Heroine: Alf
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November 29, 2016
Started On: December 06, 2016
Finished On: December 12, 2016

Elizabeth Hoyt is an author who writes with a flair that grabs the reader from the start, her heroes and heroines having that edge to their characters that makes a world of difference when it comes to the world of romance, especially today. When I “discovered” Hoyt’s books, I devoured them in a frenzy that left me stunned, because it had been so long since an author has had that effect on me.

Duke of Pleasure, which is the 11th book in the Maiden Lane series came out almost towards the end of 2016. It was a book that I had been waiting for quite eagerly, just like the legions of fans of the Maiden Lane series out there. While Duke of Pleasure didn’t quite live up to all the expectations that I had for the novel, it however, in classic Hoyt style, delivered a read that made me sigh and swoon in all the right places.

With a Maiden Lane novel, you get not just a romance that is beautifully crafted, but an adventure that goes along with it, which is one reason why these novels are so damn good. Duke of Kyle, aka Hugh Fitzroy is a man tasked with a very important case, not just by anyone, but the King himself; bringing down the Lord of Chaos, a group consisting of the very upper echelons of society participating in most vile and despicable acts for revelry of their own. A mission easier said than accomplished, all things considered.

Following a lead deep into the recesses of the filth of the city is where Kyle encounters none other than the Ghost of St. Giles “himself”, someone who fights and defends the weakest members of society, the ones that law enforcement officials seldom bother protecting. From the moment Kyle witnesses the grace with which the Ghost fights, his interest is one that is piqued in earnest, more so given the fact that he sees the Ghost of St. Giles as the woman she is under the mask and costume she wears.

Moonlighting at night as the Ghost of St. Giles, Alf resumes the role of the boy that she has been as far as she can remember. Having grown up on the streets with no one to look after her, Alf is as tough and resilient as they come, amassing a wealth of secrets along the way in the tasks that she carries out for those who seek out her help. Having rescued Kyle once, Alf is drawn to him in a way that is foreign to her, something that she has never let herself open up enough to experience before.

Finding out that Alf and the Ghost of St. Giles are the one and the same not only stuns Kyle, but makes him realize just how much he has been deluding himself when it comes to the slumbering beast inside of him. Having succumbed to passion’s wily nature before and paid for it, Kyle is a man who is the classic example of “once bitten, twice shy”. Feeling the tendrils of desire that rocks the iron bars of the cage within which he had locked that side of himself does not settle very well with Kyle.

Alf on the other hand, innocent in terms of the guileless nature behind her desire for a man who takes her breathe away, is just two steps short of falling head over heels in love with a man who is far above her station in every single way. But the heart has a way of wanting what is wants, consequences be damned, and that is how Alf finds herself taken in by the powerful embrace of the Duke who wants her, and at the same time seems to wage an inner battle with himself every single time he succumbs. The quest to root out the evil of the Lord of Chaos also comes with a price, one that both Kyle and Alf might have to pay in terms of the lives of the ones they both hold near and dear to their hearts.

While I found myself enamored by the characters of both Kyle and Alf, I felt that there could have been more to their coming together than what was delivered in the story. I just felt a lack that I cannot quite put my finger on. Maybe it stemmed from the fact that the hero from Duke of Sin, the 10th book in the series was ruthless in a way that spoke to me on so many levels, and I was perhaps hoping for the same or more from Kyle. Either way, even with the tiny bits and pieces of misgivings that I had, I nevertheless enjoyed the journey which Hoyt delivered amazingly well.

I just loved the inside cover of this book so much so that I decided to include it in my review. Let the drooling and sighing begin!

dukeofpleasure2

Recommended for fans of the series & historical romances that deliver reads worth sinking your teeth into.

Final Verdict: The Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt is decadent in a way few historical romances ever are. Duke of Pleasure delivers everything that a reader could want when they sit down with one of Hoyt’s books.

Favorite Quotes

A tall man in a ragged brown coat and a filthy red neckcloth stepped forward. Hugh half-expected him to make some sort of a speech, he looked that full of himself. Instead he drew a knife the size of a man’s forearm, grinned, and licked the blade.
Oh, for—
Hugh didn’t wait for whatever other disgusting preliminaries Knife Licker might feel were appropriate to the occasion. He stepped forward and smashed the bottle of very fine Viennese wine over the man’s head.
Then they were on him.
He slashed and felt the jolt to his arm as he hit flesh.
Swung and raked the sword across another’s face.
Staggered as two men slammed into him.
Another hit him hard in the jaw.
And then someone clubbed him behind the knees.
He fell to his knees on the icy ground, growling like a bleeding, baited bear.
Raised an arm to defend his head…
And…
Someone dropped from the sky right in front of him.
Facing his attackers.
Darting, wheeling, spinning.
Defending him so gracefully.
With two swords.

He slid on cobblestones as he ran to the lane. Someone yelled from behind him. And then he was in another narrow passage. There was an abrupt right-angle turn, and he took it, ignoring the yowl of a cat as he raced by, and then he burst into a courtyard.
The Ghost was there.
On the ground, her half cape a black whirl as she danced with her swords, their prey cornered. Something caught his attention about her movements—something not quite right—but as he watched, she knocked aside the man’s knife and placed her long sword against his throat and the thought died.
She smiled.
And he was amazed that anyone thought her a man.

Hugh watched her sheathe her swords. He touched his finger to her chin, feeling soft skin, and tipped up her face. He couldn’t tell the color of her eyes in the dark and behind the ugly half mask, but he saw the glint of moonlight in their depths.
“Who are you?” he whispered, that strange wildness still in his veins.
She didn’t answer.
So he did what he’d wanted to do since he’d first seen her tonight, there on the rooftops of St Giles: he bent and covered her mouth with his. Her lips were soft, so soft, and she tasted of wine and honey. He angled his head, drawing her slim body closer, sliding his tongue along her bottom lip until she opened her mouth beneath his.

She leaned a little closer and pressed her mouth to those pretty, pretty lips and inhaled his breath.
For a moment he was still beneath her, and then he moved, his hands rising slowly to grasp her arms.
She drew a little back, watching him.
His eyes opened, black and drowsy, staring into hers. He seemed entirely unsurprised to find her in his library, kissing him.
She smiled and for the first time that night felt herself settle. She placed her hands on his shoulders and straddled his lap. Knelt on the chair and bent her head to his again, opening her mouth over his, her palms on either side of his face.
The book tumbled to the floor.
She skimmed over his upper lip, feeling the odd prickle of his stubble. Caught his lower lip between her teeth.
An ember fell on the hearth.
Something sparked, and he took charge of the embrace. He opened his mouth beneath hers, angling his head, kissing her slowly, lazily, lushly, as if he had all the time in the world.

At that moment Alf opened her eyes, and he inhaled silently.
Her eyes were sleepy and a little dazed. Her cheeks flushed from sleep and, no doubt, the warmth of his sons, snuggled so close to her. She looked at him and seemed to become aware almost at once, her brown gaze sharpening. There was the mocking amusement he’d seen from the lad, Alf, the biting wit.
But now it was in feminine form.
She stared at him, and her soft pink lips—God, he’d been a blind fool to ever have thought that the mouth of a boy—smiled. Full and warm. Like sunshine. Like joy and hope.
The smile of a woman. Lethal as a spear to the chest.
Dangerous. Seductive.

He held her fast with his gaze and demanded, “You’re not what, Alf?”
Her pointed chin jerked up and she glared at him. “I’m not female. Not anymore. It’s been too long. I’ve been a boy too long.”
“My cock would beg to differ.”
Her mouth dropped open. “Wha—?”
He grabbed her wrist and dragged her over the bed, and thrust her hand crudely against the sheet covering his crotch. “Do you feel me? I’m hard for you.” He ground his cock up into her captive palm. “And I assure you I’m not at all interested in boys or men. Only women.”
Only you, a treacherous part of his mind whispered, but he ignored it. He was doing this for a mission, just that. It had nothing to do with the two of them. With the desire to see her bloom into the woman he wanted deep in his conflicted soul.
She stared down at her hand over his cock and her fingers flexed once.
He bit back a groan, and the thing within him, the thing locked away, rattled its chains.

She looked up at him, this powerful man. “What do you want from me, guv?”
“I don’t know,” he muttered, sounding angry—whether at her or himself, she couldn’t guess—and his hands pulled her against his hard body.
He bent and took her mouth, sliding his tongue against her lips until she parted them. Until she let him in with a relieved sigh. She’d missed this. Missed him. She’d wondered if he’d decided he was done with her.
Apparently not.
His fingers brushed over her bare neck, ticklish and sweet, even as he thrust his tongue inside her mouth again and again.
“Alf?” The call came from outside the room.
For a second more he continued to ravage her mouth as if he couldn’t tear himself away from her, and then Kyle lifted his head. His lips were reddened, his eyes dark.
Carefully he tucked a lock of her hair back inside her cap. “I don’t know what the hell I want from you.”

“I’ve hardly seen you,” he said moodily.
“I thought that was what you wanted,” she replied, her small expressive face closed. “You kissed me and then said you didn’t know what to do with me. You avoided me.”
“That hardly matters.” He flung up a hand irritably. “I didn’t know where you were.”
She lifted her chin. “I didn’t know I was supposed to be telling you everywhere I go, guv. You never mentioned.”
“Didn’t I?” he growled, taking that chin in hand.
He glanced at the windows. The boys were chasing the puppy down the graveled path. He bent and took her mouth, hard and fast and not nearly enough.
Not nearly enough.
When he raised his head again it was to breathe words across her parted lips. Words he didn’t stop to think about. Words that came straight from that part of himself he’d thought he’d locked away deep inside: “I’ll say it now, then. You tell me where you are and what you’re doing until such time as I’m done with you, do you understand?”
“Oh, I think I understand, guv,” she whispered, and though her words were a concession, her tone was not.

With her hand she squeezed the part of his cock that didn’t fit in her mouth and then began stroking up and down.
“They’re gone,” he muttered, his breath hitching, his hips rolling in little pushes he couldn’t seem to stop.
Oh, he wanted her. He wanted her.
She looked up at him and sucked harder.
It was dark, but she could just make out the glitter of his eyes. He was watching her. Down on her knees, with his cock in her mouth, sucking him.
His nostrils flared and that beautiful upper lip curled.
She rubbed the tip of her tongue underneath the head of his penis and he gasped. Slid his hand down her face in a caress.
Touched the corner of her wet, stretched lips with his thumb.
And came, flooding her mouth with his bitter seed.

He pressed into her, wide and thick. Hot, so hot.
There was a pinch.
But she kept her eyes on him, staring. His lush mouth was almost grim, and his forehead shone with sweat. He’d propped himself up on his elbows above her.
He thrust again, more of him entering her—stretching her—and she saw him clench his teeth.
She wrapped her legs around his hips and stroked the back of his leg with one foot.
He jerked and his hips met hers, his entire length buried inside her. She was stuffed full of him.
He inhaled through his nose and his nostrils flared.
She raised her head and whispered in his ear, “Are you going to fuck me now, guv?”
“Little devil,” he breathed.

“Ride me,” he rasped.
She blinked, not fully comprehending, but he was spreading her legs farther apart, taking away his knee and lowering her to his cock.
Oh, if she’d thought it large before, that was nothing to how proud he was now. A dark, angry red, heavy and full, thickest at the middle, and the foreskin stretched taut about the ridge of the head. She wanted to stare. To look her fill and perhaps feel it with hands and tongue.
He had other ideas.
He took hold of himself as she watched and rubbed his prick against her wet quim. “Sit.”
She could feel him at her entrance—there—big and waiting. She leaned a little forward, placing her hands on his shoulders and meeting his eyes.
Staring into his eyes as she tilted down and felt him breach her.
His nostrils were flared, his gaze implacable. “More.”

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

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ARC Review: Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

Format: E-bookseeingred
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: John Trapper
Heroine: Kerra Bailey
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: August 15, 2017
Started On: July 02, 2017
Finished On: July 25, 2017

“Two minutes after you knocked on the door of my office, I was fantasizing your mouth taking me.”

Seeing Red, the latest novel by Sandra Brown was amazing in so many ways. From start to finish, Seeing Red delivered a story of the kind that is rare in the genre today. Ms. Brown has always been an author that pushed the boundaries of “convention” that many authors safely stick to when writing their books. So it is not surprising that when a new novel from Ms. Brown hits the stand, I am always eager to get my hands on it.

Seeing Red tells the story of John Trapper, ex ATF agent, whose mundane existence of a life starts to unravel the minute television journalist Kerra Bailey comes seeking him for an interview to do with his father. Trapper had been just 11 years old when his father, Major Franklin Trapper had become a hero in the eyes of the country owing to his daring rescue of victims of a hotel bombing that had shocked the nation. Trapper’s life had changed drastically, so had Kerra’s, and it is only when their lives entwine at this point that everything starts to unravel.

Seeing Red starts off with an introductory chapter that blows one’s mind, and it does not let up from that point onwards. Taking the reader to the days since before the event and then beyond, Seeing Red delivers a story that goes deep into understanding the lengths to which a cult-like society would go to in order to protect an age old secret. From one harrowing experience to another, Ms. Brown does an amazing job of weaving the multiple threads of the story together to deliver a story that was mind blowing in all the good ways.

Trapper, oh dear Trapper; he is the kind of hero that Ms. Brown has perfected along the years of writing romance novels. I have always been a fan of her hard-edged heroes who do not conform to the standards of behavior as is expected by majority of readers of the genre nowadays. This is exactly one reason why I adore Ms. Brown’s books. Because they never fail to deliver a hero that is delicious, sexy as they come, and can talk dirty like the best of them that makes you quiver on the inside.

Trapper has his own vulnerabilities and scars that he hides. However the ingenuity in the buildup of his character lies in the fact that he hasn’t grown bitter throughout what life had dealt him with. Taking second stage in his father’s life from a tender age had definitely left its mark, so had how his career had turned out, all because Trapper had not given up on pursuing what he had felt was right.

When his path crosses that with Kerra’s, for the first time in a long while, he starts to give a damn, which of course makes him irritable and then some. However, Kerra’s unrelenting nature and her way of standing up for herself means that for Trapper walking away was no longer an option. Nor was standing on the sidelines and watching Kerra get hurt in the aftermath of the can of worms that she had opened up with her interview.

The sexual tension between Kerra and Trapper was off the charts, and Ms. Brown delivered on that exceptionally well. On the suspense side, with all the twists and turns that came, the ending and the revelations were explosive enough to make me go “oh my god” every couple of pages. Yes, it was that good!

Definitely and absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Seeing Red is Sandra Brown at her exceptional best. A good Sandra Brown goes a long way towards curing all reading woes.

Favorite Quotes

“I’m not him. I’m not noble, not a gentleman, not a hero, understand?”
“That wasn’t so hard to deduce.”
She thought the putdown would anger him, but he retaliated by gently placing his palm against her cold cheek. He brushed his thumb across her beauty mark.
“I noticed this right off, and the whole time you were sitting there in my shabby office, wearing your city get-up, acting all sassy and know-it-all, you want to know what was going on in my mind?” He ceased the stroking motion of his thumb, stopping it right on the small mole. His mouth lowered to within a hair’s-breadth of hers and he whispered, “Figure it out.”

“Why do you ask? Do you know him?”
“By reputation only. Everything I’ve read about him says he’s secretive. Keeps his business private. Shuns media attention.”
“All true. I had to finagle him.”
His eyes narrowed to slits. “That sounds like really dirty foreplay.”
She laughed, but stopped laughing when he slid his hand under her hair at the nape of her neck and turned them until her back was to the door. Leaning in, his lips skimmed her beauty mark on their way to her ear, where he whispered, “I’d like for you to finagle me.”
She didn’t speak a word, didn’t move, didn’t do anything except give herself over to his body heat and largeness and maleness and sexiness, the blend of which seeped into her like a potent restorative.

He moved his hand up from her nape to cup the back of her head and held it in place while their mouths opened to each other. During the deep and greedy kiss he worked his free hand under her top and into the elastic waistband of the baggy pants. He lightly ground the heel of his hand against her hipbone while his fingers curved around the slope below her waist. He drew her hips forward. She gladly went along with his subtle invitation, and their parts fit together perfectly on the first attempted connection.
He groaned, “Christ, Kerra. Please tell me I’m gonna get to fuck you.”

“You never asked what I was thinking.”
“When?”
“In my office while you were sitting across the desk from me looking all prissy and disapproving. Did you ever figure out what was going through my mind?”
Sounding prissy and disapproving, she said, “I didn’t want to know.”
He grinned. “I was thinking about your beauty mark.”
“That’s it?”
“Disappointed?”
“Surprised. I thought it would be something crude.”
“No. I was focused on your beauty mark, thinking it looked like a speck of dark chocolate and wondering if it would melt against my tongue.” He dabbed his tongue against it now, then a second time. “Hmm. Still there. Guess I’ll just have to keep testing it.”

“I might’ve been thinking about more than just your beauty mark,” he whispered. He shifted closer, covering half of her, and used his nose to nudge aside the collar of the tracksuit jacket so he could nibble her neck, then lowered his head and nuzzled her breast, rubbing his open mouth against the hard tip, taking love bites of it through her t-shirt, pushing at it with his tongue.
“You’d blush to know all the places my wandering mind has taken me. I’ve touched you, tasted you…” He wedged his hand down between them and cupped her sex. “…everywhere.”

“I want to take you like that,” he whispered as he dragged his open mouth down her neck to her collarbone, then lowered his head and rubbed his face against her breasts.
“I haven’t forgotten how you feel inside. I want to be there. In you deep.” His voice was rough and low, his lips aggressive against her raised nipple under her t-shirt. “It may never happen, but the mere thought of any other man being on you, in you…I’d want to kill him.”

Taking her face between his hands, he fused his mouth to hers, pressing his tongue deep, thrilling to the way she hummed her pleasure. He might have gone on forever just kissing her if not for a greater hunger that he must gratify or die.
He worked her top up over her breasts. Her bra was lacy and sheer and only half there to start with. The cups were easily lowered. He took a moment to cradle a breast in each hand. “I freakin’ love that,” he murmured.
“What?”
That they get so hard so fast.
The words were in his mind, but he didn’t say them aloud because by the time he thought them through he was already taking one nipple into his mouth and toying with the other, deriving pleasure from the pleasure he was giving her.

He dipped his head and sucked her nipples in turn, causing her to whimper.
Even during this love play, he didn’t stop pumping into her. He probably had been this hard before, probably as strained and blood-infused and lust-mad and unable to command the instinctual mating movement of his hips.
But if so, he didn’t recall it, because this was the only time that mattered. He wanted this time to be an exorcism and possession at once. Doom and salvation. He wanted it to be both carnal and sacred.
He wanted this to be the fuck Kerra would remember for the rest of her life.

His voice low, Trapper said, “It felt good, Kerra.”
“It did,” she whispered back.
It was simple, but, in its way, profound. He wasn’t one to make romantic declarations, and if she said anything now, it would be more than he would want to hear.
She was perilously close to letting this evolve into something that would leave her heartbroken. She was perilously close to becoming like Marianne. But she wouldn’t take back having made love to him. Not for the world.

He took her hands and stretched her arms above her head. Fitting her palms into his, he linked their fingers and began to stroke her inside. As before, he wanted her to remember this, because it would be engraved on his memory: the feel of her around him, the way she hugged his hips with her thighs, the sexy undulation of her belly against his, the sight of his chest hair dusting the hard tips of her breasts.
The kiss.
He kissed her, and, of all the other mind-blowing sensations, it was that of her mouth so greedily taking his tongue that caused his control to burst. When it did, she arched up and ground against his straining pelvis and brought on another soul-rending orgasm.

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

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ARC Review: Cold Malice by Toni Anderson

Format: E-bookcoldmalice.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice, #8
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Steve McKenzie
Heroine: Theresa Jane Hines
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 12, 2017
Started On: September 07, 2017
Finished On: September 13, 2017

The Cold Justice series is well into its 8th book, with Toni Anderson hitting the mark with each single installment in the series. That is what I call well researched books that keeps the pages turning and the readers coming back for more. And I have definitely been coming back for more.

Cold Malice, just like every other book in this series, takes on a prominent issue in current society. The rise of white supremacist movements in countries like the United States, putting into peril years of painstaking work into building more inclusive societies. Toni’s insight and the way she handles sensitive issues of this nature continues to amaze me in every single one of her books and Cold Malice was no exception.

Theresa Jane (Tess) is the one surviving daughter of the infamous Hines family, notorious for its extremist right wing philosophies that had turned deadly. With her younger brother Cole, Tess had found refuge in the kind woman that had adopted them, and had grown up trying to run from a past that seems to be catching up with her in a way that leaves her cold on the inside.

When Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steve McKenzie (Mac) comes back into Tess’s life, it is as if a ghost from her past has come calling, a ghost that she had clearly thought and believed to be dead in the events that had taken place that fateful night when the lives of the Hines family had met its ultimate deadly conclusion. A string of hate crimes is what brings Mac to the scene, an FBI agent who had slowly risen through the ranks to prove himself capable and beyond the trashy background from which he had emerged. For Mac, his career comes first and foremost, and if Tess still reminds him of that little girl he had failed to protect all those years ago, he would just have to deal with it.

With Mac in charge of the investigating team, it is one harrowing experience after another that pits Tess and Mac together, each having to rely on the other to get through. Trust comes hard for both of them, especially Tess who has always had to isolate herself from the rest of the world lest the truth of her background emerge and harm her prospects for a life of normalcy that she strives so hard for. For Mac, even though he is 99% certain that Tess has not one prejudiced bone in her body, it is that 1% that makes it hard for him to trust her on a level that he should, given the way he reacts to her at every molecular level of his being.

A killer with an agenda that targets the awakening of the slumbering beast, Mac finds himself running a race against time in trying to put everything together. In the midst of it all lies the searing passion that he shares with a woman he may never have forgotten, a woman who stirs his very soul and makes him think of a future other than that of one filled with ambition to further his career.

I loved Cold Malice, just like I have loved reading every other book Toni has written. Toni’s books come bearing interesting tidbits of information about what law enforcement itself is like at its heart, how painstaking it is to go through tons of evidence, especially in light of the world of information exchange that we inhabit today. Furthermore, the concept of “ghost skins” that I came across in this book was one that fascinated me. Extremist movements such as the white supremacists, going through the ranks of government service, embedding themselves deep within the system, until the time comes for them to rise and act on their twisted agendas. It is a concept that makes shivers run up and down my spine, the kind of meticulous and painstaking planning and patience that it would take for a group of people filled with so much hatred for anything that they do not agree with.

The tidbit on child marriages still being allowed in most parts of the US, more so than most people think also gave me a pause. We are all quick to judge when the lesser developed countries have archaic laws that allows these marriages to take place, that violates a girl in so many ways that it does not even bear thinking. Yet, the country that sits at the position of the leader of the free world itself has festering within, the kind of policies and laws that should have been done away with a long time ago, to protect the rights of every child. Perhaps it is a significant fact that even though the US ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995, it failed to implement the terms of CRC at home, owing to contentious politics within.

I loved both Mac and Tess. As a hero, Mac is a specimen worth salivating over. There is a vulnerability to him that he hides, and he hides it well. A failed marriage that has left its mark, a childhood that drives him to be the person he is. Labeled a sex god by Tess, he is very well worthy of the term as he takes the straitlaced Tess and teaches her how fun, and oh so good sex with the right person can be. Tess is a mass of contradictions unto herself. Yearning for the kind of closeness and love that she believes are possible only in Disney fairy tales, she never thinks for a moment that the man from her past that she had fallen in love as a child would be the person who would change it all. I felt every single scar on Tess’s soul deep within. It is amazing how Toni can craft characters that are deep and multifaceted as Tess. I loved her

Cold Malice is a novel done well, delivering a story that would stay with the reader for a long while. The subject matter alone is reason enough.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: There is no running from a past hellbent on playing catch up. Toni delivers an unputdownable read in Cold Malice!

Favorite Quotes

Instead of backing away, he lifted her up until both her legs wrapped around his waist and he positioned himself against her entrance. Then he held both her hands against the door and stared deep into her eyes as he pushed slowly inside. Her head went back as she cried out and her back arched.
She went blind as pleasure rushed through her.
He dropped her hands and grabbed her ass. She gripped his shoulders as he eased farther inside. Sweat beaded on his brow and ran down his temple. She tasted it on her tongue.

After a few seconds, she deliberately clenched her muscles around him again and he growled his approval. He started moving then, pumping in and out of her in long, deep strokes.
Dear Lord. It felt like Heaven. She whimpered at the pleasure that was flooding her senses. Every muscle in her body was trembling with need to race to that sharp edge of completion, but she wanted it to last, too. She wanted to go slow. And fast. And everywhere in-between. Mac changed his stance and she felt him inside her, touching a place that made her insane with want.
“Oh, God.” Her nails raked his shoulders as her body clenched around him. She wanted to be the girl from her fantasies, the one who asked for and got what she wanted. “More.”
“Is this what you wanted?” He drove into her over and over, holding onto her and thrusting deep at the same time.
“Yes.” She gasped. “This is what I want. You inside me. It’s perfect. You’re perfect.”

When her eyes closed he took over, gripping her hips, grinding her against him, gathering a handful of her hair in his fist and rearing up, trying to get even deeper inside. And he was the one in charge, in control, right up to the moment she put a twist into the way she rode him and he was gone. She cried out as his world turned black.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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ARC Review: In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookinthebarrenground.png
Read with: Adobe Reader for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran
Heroine: Tana Larsson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 16, 2016
Started On: August 03, 2016
Finished On: August 06, 2016

In the Barren ground of the soul
nothing can grow.
For here is bitter and cold where
the sun hangs low.
Where a midnight caribou mutilation
awakens a howl of emptiness with ice
where once there was heart.
And it comes with hunger
for blood in its mouth.
For, in the Barrens of the soul
monsters take toll . . .

Loreth Anne White is an author whose name belongs right up there with the masters of the romantic suspense genre. Label her books as romantic suspense or thrillers, either way, you get a story that is worth your time and money in gold, and In the Barren Ground, her latest procedural romantic suspense novel fits right in.

Set in The Barrens, a vast wilderness in northern Canada bordering the Arctic Circle, the terrain is as unforgiving and harsh as they come. When winter rolls in, few are the numbers of people around, and predators come out to stalk whatever food they can scrounge up from the vast areas of hostile territory.

Constable Tana Larsson takes up a post in the remote fly-in community of Twin Rivers because of mistakes of her past, to escape the memories that haunts her more than she would like it to. Though the isolation of the town makes her question her decision at times, Tana knows deep inside that she needs a place as such to lick her wounds in private, to let herself heal and in the process learn to fit in and accept her new role as a mother to be.

When Tana gets called in to cover a wolf mauling that had cost the lives of two students, the evidence at hand suggests something more sinister at work, a force that looks as if it has been in operation for over a span of years, none of it jiving with what the people of Twin Rivers has believed up till now. Though the folks of the town are less than helpful in their hints that Tana is stirring up bad spirits by going deeper into a case that had already cost the sanity of a law enforcement personnel before her, Tana is determined to piece together the clues that points towards a meticulous and horrific serial killer at work.

With the help of a local bush pilot known as Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran, who elicits the sort of reactions from her that are not at all welcome, Tana enters into a dangerous game with a killer who has pretty much perfected the art of killing and getting away with it. The ritualistic nature of the kill, the patterns of it suggesting a sort of violence that is deep rooted in issues of the kind for which help of any sort might never ever be enough.

Before this, I had the misfortune of reading a procedural romantic suspense novel a year or so earlier, which nearly put me to sleep and made me want to bang my head against the wall. The narration of all the procedural aspect made the book intensely dry and made me want to weep from the effort it took for me to finish the book. So my apprehension when it came to reading this was a given, since In the Barren Ground is also characterized as a procedural romantic suspense novel. My worries were totally unnecessary, as I found myself totally captivated by the story that unfolded, a trait that has always held true when it comes to every single book I have had the fortune of reading when it comes to Loreth’s work. Loreth sports a mind of the kind that delivers dark and edgy, the kind that I absolutely, wholeheartedly revel in.

In the Barren Ground, while procedural, it made me appreciate all the more, the intensive and at times tedious work that officers of the law enforcement have to put in in order to get a case right, and to do it right as well. The evidence gathering, collating, picking up the clues and patterns; all of it and more requires a mind that is keen as well as intelligent, and a heart that believes in justice and doing it right and not taking short cuts, because you never know which piece of evidence would end up becoming the pivotal piece in a case.

I loved Tana‘s character. There is strength and resilience in her, the sort that knows when she needs help and when she can do it alone. I think this is basically the first thriller of the kind that I have read, in which the lead character did not go in half cocked, thinking she could save the day just by turning up. No. She used her God given intelligence which made her see that to face off a killer of the kind who takes pride in the planning, the lure and the hunt should not be taken lightly, because if Tana were to piece it all together, the whole world of the killer comes tumbling down. I loved that about this story and that was definitely one of the highlights.

Crash’s character was an absolute delight. Crash is a man who throws all your assessments of his character sideways, his character as appealing on the inside as on the outside. What drew me to his character was how he could read people, how he understood where they were coming from, the career which he had worked in before honing skills in him that turned out to be pretty useful when all was said and done. Crash has his own agenda which he seeks, his own demons to fight, his own past that is filled with regrets of the kind that could break a guy. But Crash perseveres, and knows which battles to fight and which ones to give up, which made me love him all that more!

The killer in this novel, well, that is the masterpiece when it comes right down to it. Loreth’s imagination takes the reader to places where some might not even want to go. Those who have delicate sensibilities might not like where her stories take them. But for me, Loreth’s stories are the high that I seek whenever I pick up a thriller of the kind. The fact that the identity of the killer totally surprised me, something that has been happening too rarely lately for my sake, was one of the winning aspects of this story! Be prepared for a killer that has multiple facets to the character, a testament of the mastery that Loreth holds over the genre.

The setting itself is one that lends credence to the whole story. Definitely not the kind of place you would want to end up with a killer who enjoys the hunt and is relentless. Loreth’s writing is so evocative, and I always keep repeating this point in my reviews; it just feels as if you are one with the story. As if you are standing at the edge of The Barrens, the cold seeping through, right into your very bones, the chill you feel when you encounter the malicious intents of a killer for whom all reason had been lost, and the subtle, yet strong connection that forges to life between two unlikely protagonists; all that and more, and you feel every single aspect of the story to the deepest recesses of your soul.

This is a story that sends chills running up and down your spine, taking you to the edge of your seat and back. Be prepared to lose sleep and to read through the night. Brace yourself to become engrossed and engaged in a read that would have you turning on every light in your house, because that is how edgy and real the story that unfolds is. Definitely and absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Taunts and haunts you! An irrefutable page turner!

Favorite Quotes

It was 3:48 p.m.
Nearly ten minutes away from pickup time. Only five more days before she was due back at school.  With her friends. Her mom. But as Selena  slid  into  oblivion,  she  realized  she  would  not  make  her  twenty second birthday. Perhaps, she thought in an absurd final moment of consciousness, this basin in which she lay beneath the cliff face was one of those  “dreaming  places” where  she should  never have stopped  to rest, or to empty what she had from those bags . . .

Tana banged on O’Halloran’s door, praying she’d find him in a better  state  than  Jankoski.  The  door  opened  almost  immediately,  startling her.  Warm light spilled out into the night. His dark-blond hair stood on end. He wore a tight, long-sleeve tee.  Tattoos poked out from the base of his sleeves. His jeans slung low  on his hips. He grinned, and it put dimples into his rugged, weather-browned cheeks, amusement into his light-green eyes. He reminded her of a scarred and cocky junkyard dog. An edginess crackled through her. Because he intimidated her. Just a little.

“You know why they call this place Headless Man?”
“I’m sure you’re about to tell me.”
“Two prospectors were found a few miles southeast from here, in the twenties, sitting  with their backs leaned up against  a cliff face, just like  we’re doing.  Fully dressed.  Boots on,  packs and  picks and  guns at their sides. Only trouble—no heads. Just gone. Just the two torsos propped  there like they were having a good old chat. Still had  diamonds in their bags.”
She turned to him. “They ever find the heads?”
“Nope.”
“How’d the heads been removed?”
“Ripped. Clean off. Bodies all intact, just those heads torn off their stumps.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BAM | BookDepo

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ARC Review: Sting by Sandra Brown

Format: E-booksting
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Shaw Kinnard
Heroine: Jordan Elaine Bennett
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 16, 2016
Started On: July 12, 2016
Finished On: July 14, 2016

I have been so excitedly looking forward to the next big thriller by Sandra Brown, an author who has continued to rock my world with most of her published works, with very few misses in between. Sting is exceptionally plotted in this regard as well, with enough twists and turns to make for a riveting read.

Shaw Kinnard is a hired mercenary who is recruited to kill Jordan Elaine Bennett (Jordie), sister to and only living relative of Joshua Raymond Bennett, a much-sought-after criminal who escapes from Witness Protection, putting Jordie’s life in danger, because of those elements that wants to get to Joshua through Jordie. When the sanctioned hit goes horribly wrong, Shaw takes Jordie hostage, determined to make a deal with who hired him. After all, Shaw has been in the game far too long to be taken for a fool.

From the moment Jordie lays eyes on Shaw, she knows he is more trouble than worth thinking about. But then, the choice is taken from her hands when she becomes captive to the very man she responds to in a way that leaves herself questioning her sanity, which brings forth a pretty interesting dynamic between Shaw and Jordie.

The craftiness of the plot lay behind the ending of the story, a twist that I never foresaw coming! While I could guess to the truth behind Shaw’s character from the start, having read a hero with similar background in a prior novel of Ms. Brown’s, the ending pretty much blindsided me with how brilliant it was!

While I had a wee bit of a problem in connecting with either Shaw or Jordie on an emotional level, I felt that Sandra did more than justice to the story by giving readers an ending that they would mull over for the time to come.

Recommended for fans of thrillers and romantic suspense!

Final Verdict: Delivers a plot of great ingenuity & attests to why Ms. Brown is a renowned master of the game!

Favorite Quotes

“I’m telling you everything I know. Please believe me. Believe—”
“Hush, Jordie.”
The command was softly spoken but imperious. He brought his mouth down on hers ungently and without restraint. The back of her head was encompassed by his hand and held in place with inescapable strength. His other hand settled on her neck.
While his thumb stroked the sensitive underside of her chin, his stern lips pressured hers to separate, and when they did, the sleek glide of his tongue against hers caused an overspill of heat throughout her. Angling his head the other way, he made an even deeper foray into her mouth.
But then he groaned with frustration and raised his head. “I had to do that. Just once.”

“Stop it. I mean it, Shaw. I don’t want this.”
“No, you don’t want to want it. Big difference.”
Then he angled her head and kissed her the way he’d imagined, the way his drugged mind had fantasized it, the way he’d craved to from the first time he got a good look at her face.
He didn’t care how many ethics codes he was violating, or how many federal agents were in the next room, or—God forgive him—if Billy Panella himself was on the other side of this door, unless she put words into action and stopped him, he was going to get carnal with her mouth. He was going to mate with it for as long as she and time allowed.

She let go of the duffel bag. It dropped softly onto the toe of his boot. He pushed it aside, inched closer to Jordie and leaned into her, making adjustments in alignment that fit them together like puzzle pieces and caused her breath to catch. He hated the damn bulletproof vest that shielded her breasts from the pressure of his chest.
Her hand came up between them. She ran her thumb across the scar on his chin, then scraped it lightly with her teeth. He took a love bite of her wet, plump lower lip. Then they were kissing again, frantically. Maybe it was the mad recklessness of this whole thing that made it so goddamn good.

Lifting his face away from hers, he whispered roughly, “I’m going to have you, Jordie.”
Her eyes were still angry, but now also lambent with arousal as she stared into his.
“You know it as well as I do, don’t you?”

“All I’ve thought about,” he said, breathing the words against her neck, “being like this…inside you.”
Her response was to clench.
“Ah, dammit, Jordie, don’t. I don’t want to rush it.”
“Neither do I.”
“But I can’t help moving.”
“Neither can I.” She arched her hips up and rocked against him.
He groaned, planted his hands above her shoulders, and levered himself up. Then, as he’d promised her, he told her straight out: “I’m gonna fuck you now.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BAM | BookDepo | eBookMall | iTunes

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Review: Low Pressure by Sandra Brown

Format: E-booklowpressure
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Denton Carter
Heroine: Bellamy Lyston Price
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 18, 2013
Started On: December 24, 2015
Finished On: December 26, 2015

I have been putting off reading some of the standalone romantic suspense titles by Sandra Brown that had been published of late because some readers have attested to the fact that some of the titles were pure suspense with very little romance in them. Though I love a thriller every now and then, I need my dose of romance in novels to satisfy the closeted romantic deep inside of me. Which is why Low Pressure proved to be such a delicious surprise because the romance between Bellamy Lyston Price and Denton Carter burned hot and bright and as a reader I couldn’t have asked for more.

Bellamy comes from old money, one that had afforded her a cushiony lifestyle though she is not one to rely on that to get by. It is publication of Bellamy’s novel Low Pressure, a fictionalized version of a true story that involves not just Bellamy’s family, but that of many a person who would rather not see the truth of that particular incident come to light that kick starts the story. When Bellamy starts receiving threatening messages, she returns to her hometown where she runs into none other than Denton Carter, the man who had starred in her adolescent dreams, her sister Susan’s boyfriend when she had been murdered and left in the cold in such a brutalized fashion.

Denton is a man who lives with no commitments to his name. Drowning his demons in the bottle and cheap women, sometimes both, Denton chooses to live as he does because nothing apart from flying gives him joy in life. That is until Bellamy and her book Low Pressure stirs up the ugly memories once again, bringing the chip on Denton’s shoulder to the forefront where Bellamy and her family are concerned. However, when both Bellamy and Denton come under fire from an unknown assailant who seems hellbent on revenge, it makes Denton take a second look at Bellamy and her book, which means he gets enticed into looking deeper into the incidents that had unfolded on that fateful day. The deeper Bellamy and Denton dig, the more confusion it throws on the events that had taken place, until it all comes to head in one breathtaking conclusion that brought a twist that at first I never saw coming.

Sandra Brown is a legendary figure in the writing circles because she creates stories that makes you sink your teeth into them and enjoy every morsel of it and in the end leaves you begging for more. Her heroes and heroines are characters you root for – never perfect, but flawed and human. Her heroes are especially drool worthy; I kid you not. Sandra Brown creates heroes of the variety that you can’t help but sigh and moon over and Denton was no exception to this rule. They are earthy, sexy, dominant and very alpha and they deliver that sizzle factor to the novel from start to the very end. Denton’s playful nature in particular, got to me. Most of the time, Sandra’s heroes tend to be on the more serious side and Denton was a refreshing change in that regard.

Low Pressure’s mystery was one that was well done. I loved the twists and turns it took to take me to its ultimate conclusion, leaving me in awe once again to the sheer talent that are authors like Sandra Brown. This story in fact reminded me a little of a novel I read, loved and reviewed recently, Into the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White. There were certain similarities to the concept of the plot though the two stories couldn’t be any more different in the way they were delivered. Needless to say, I loved both these stories and cannot recommend both enough!

A truly masterful storyteller is one that can lull you into thinking that you know where the story is going to be headed. But then bam! Low Pressure made me sympathize and empathize with the “villain” when all was said and done because I could understand where the character was coming from. It is human tendency to paint the dead in a more favorable light than people would view the person when they were alive. That plays a role in Low Pressure as well, with Sandra Brown dealing tactfully and honestly in stripping away the misconception.

Highly recommended for fans of romantic suspense!

Final Verdict: Low Pressure is a book that would cause you many a sleepless night. You will never see it coming!

Favorite Quotes

As a virginal preteen, and as a woman who’d taken lovers, she had daydreamed about kissing Denton Carter. While writing her book, specifically the sex scenes between him and Susan, it hadn’t been her sister he was kissing, caressing, and taking with adolescent fervor. It had been her. The fantasies had left her aroused, but irritated with herself. Surely her imagination embellished how good lovemaking with him would be.
But now she realized that her daydreams had actually been tepid. His kiss was delicious and darkly erotic. It delivered. It promised more. And the substance of what it promised made her wet, feverish, and needy.

“This visit with Steven could be awkward. It won’t help if you’re pouting over what happened, or didn’t happen, last night. There. It’s out. Let’s not make it an unsightly wart that’s there but no one acknowledges.”
“Don’t sweat it, A.k.a. I asked, you—”
“Funny. I don’t recall you asking.”
“Maybe not in so many words, but, just FYI, in a crotch-grinding embrace, when a man’s got his tongue in your mouth and his hand on your ass, it’s a pretty safe bet on what he has in mind. I asked, you said no.”

“You could fly corporate jets.”
He waited for a moment, then, acting on impulse, reached across the distance separating them. He slipped his hand beneath her shirt and curled his fingers inside the waistband of her jeans. Pulling her out of the chair and toward him, he said, “Buy one. I’ll fly you.”
Positioning her between his thighs, he pushed up the hem of her shirt, undid the button on her jeans, and spread open the two ends of the waistband with his thumbs.
“Dent . . .”
“We related on your level, Bellamy. It’s time we came down to mine.”
Then he pressed his open mouth against that wedge of pale, smooth skin.

Then his eyes turned dark. Because she had touched him. At first just a few tentative brushes with her fingers, to indulge her curiosity about the various textures, but, encouraged by his unsteady breathing and that smokiness in his eyes, she took him in her hand. Guided by his gruff whispers, and instinct, she pumped him until he grew incredibly tight. Hot breaths struck her hair as he bent his head over hers and groaned her name.
A drop of moisture leaked from the tip. She took it on her thumb, sucked it off, and pressed her thumb against the center of her lower lip, which he’d told her was sexy. Raspily, he said, “Disappointed, my ass,” then covered her mouth in a fierce kiss that left her mindless.

He sank into her a little deeper and her throat arched up. “That feels amazing.”
“To me, too.”
“But you haven’t . . .”
“Not yet.”
“Why?”
“Because you were drifting in euphoria. And I want you to remember this. With perfect clarity.”
She touched his rough cheek. “I could never forget this.”
“Me either.”
“Only because you had to work so hard for it.”
“Nope. Because you’re so damn beautiful.”

A second later, he was sheathed completely, his fingers were entangled in her hair, and his breathing was loud and ragged against her neck. Sliding his hands under her ass, he tilted her up and pushed into her as deep as he could possibly go.
“Jesus, Bellamy.” He hoped that with that guttural moan he’d made her understand just how tight and hot and incredible she felt.
Because when he began to move, he was quickly lost.

He watched the lips of her sex close around it, then looked into her eyes as he began to stroke her with a circular motion that caused her body to quicken and involuntarily thrust against his thumb. Tilting her face toward the ceiling, she closed her eyes and lost herself to the sensations.
Without inhibition, she gave over to her impulses, moved as her body was dictating, and allowed herself to be governed strictly by her senses. She heard Dent’s hiss of pleasure, felt the fervent, wet tug of his mouth on her nipple, the flicking of his tongue in concert with his thumb’s caresses.
She arched her back and cried out his name.

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

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