Review: Withering Hope by Layla Hagen

Format: E-Bookwitheringhope
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Tristan Bress
Heroine: Aimee Myller
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 18, 2015
Started On: June 10, 2019
Finished On: June 11, 2019

Aimee Myller is on the way to get married, traveling to her fiance’s vacation home in Brazil. It is just Aimee and the pilot Tristan Bress alone in the flight, a route that both Aimee and Tristan as Chris’s personal pilot has traversed many a time. However, things go awry and the flight crash lands, leaving both Aimee and Tristan stranded in the middle of the Amazon jungle, with no sign that help is imminent.

Tristan is better equipped to handle survival in the wilderness than Aimee is, but that does not stop her from giving it all that she has and hoping enough for the both of them even when it is futile. Tristan with his experience in the military, carries with him the psychological scars that prevents him from interacting much with Aimee at first. But being forced to spend so much time together, especially with someone like Aimee slowly works its magic on Tristan.

As the days fade into each other, the dangers surrounding the two become all too real. As friendship blossoms and turns into heated desire, it is a conflicted Aimee who decides to bid farewell to the man she had been engaged to, the person who had been her best friend all through her life. For when it comes to Tristan, it is a desire that scorches and a love that refuses to be denied.

The conversations that these two engage in, the fears they share, the myriad of words unspoken; all of that and more invokes feelings that is indescribable as you read along. It is as if they are wrapped in a cocoon that nurtures and cradles the fragility of their love in the wilderness. It is as if at any moment, danger could smash through the walls and take away what both of them holds most precious.

Towards the end, it was sheer agony to turn the pages (you are both hopeful and fearing the worst simultaneously); there was pain, sorrow, and tears. But for a love that had persevered through so much, there is nothing but hope that they would endure to live on.

When the epilogue came, I did not know whether I wanted to bawl my eyes out or smile through my tears. In short, I was a mess. For the very first time in my life as a romance reader, I did not know how I could be so happy and so devastated at the same time.

One reads about the concept of soulmates all the time, especially if you are into romance. But in Tristan and Aimee, I believe that the concept came alive for me, for the very first time. They are literally soulmates in every sense. The ending brought to mind a real life story that my father related to us one day; how two people who had been married for most part of their adult life had passed away, just a couple of hours from each other. There are people who literally die of broken hearts, and that teaches the living that true love in its purest form can exist, even amidst all the cruelties that this world has got to offer.

There is so much that goes on in this story that it is hard to put into words the harrowing journey that these two go through to come out safely on the other side. There is love that surpasses everything else in life and that is the kind that Tristan and Aimee found in each other in the dangerous wilderness of the Amazon.

Though Aimee “cheats” on her fiance, at that point, there is nothing I would have done differently, had I being in her shoes. Because it was as natural as breathing to stay alive at that point, the connection that was forged in the midst of fighting for their lives and nearly losing each other towards the end.

This is a story that should be read with a box of tissues ready. You will not be the same having gone through Aimee and Tristan’s journey towards their happily ever after. Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Layla Hagen’s impressive and evocative writing had me on the edge in more ways than one. There is a beauty to Withering Hope that stays with you long after you are done.

Favorite Quotes

The touch of his lips on mine electrifies me, shimmer after shimmer coursing through my nerve endings. His tongue takes mine in a primal claim. Icy shivers splinter my skin, and at the same time, fire awakens deep within me. I’ve never been kissed like this. Ferociously, with absolute, desperate need. I try to temper the heated emotions building inside me. I try to remember it’s wrong. But that fleeting thought is drowned by the heat igniting his lips and hands, and I surrender. Tristan deepens the kiss until I’m out of breath.

I cradle his head with my arms, forcing him to kiss me even deeper. I’m rewarded with a groan. With one swift move, he pulls me underneath him. His expansive chest pushes against my breasts, and a deep throb pulses low in my body. Desire takes a life of its own when he slams his hips against mine, and I feel his need for me—his hard length strained by the fabric of his pants. In a haze, he frees me of the straps on my shoulders and pushes my dress down to my hips, revealing my breasts. His lips dart to my neck, suckling their way to my collarbone and then to my breasts, leaving a trail of fire in their wake that burns away any ounce of control I still have.

“You’re so beautiful,” he says in a breathy voice. In the moonlight, I see his heavy-lidded eyes raking over my naked body. I’m shaking with consuming need. His eyes meet mine, and my need is mirrored in his dark gaze. He cups my backside greedily with one hand and sinks into my core with abandon.
“Aimeeeeeeeeeee,” he grits in the curve of my neck, the feral sound spearing through me.
His hands are everywhere. Grazing the skin on my thighs, cupping my breasts. His passion pushes me to the edge, until I’m brazen enough to let out without restraint the proof of my own passion.

When I can’t tolerate the ache anymore, I pull him to me, kissing him, and rocking my hips against his. He plunges inside me, filling me, ripping whimper after whimper out of me. His mouth dusts my arms, calling my name in deep, guttural sounds that unhinge me. He increases the pace of his moves, thrusting so deep my thighs wobble. Eagerness swirls up inside me as wave after wave of pleasure engulf me, my body surging forward when my release shatters me.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Format: E-Bookthebridetest
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Kiss Quotient, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Diệp Khải
Heroine: Trần Ngọc Mỹ
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 07, 2019
Started On: June 03, 2019
Finished On: June 07, 2019

The Bride Test begins ten years prior to the period in which the story is based, during a funeral. This is where readers are introduced to the hero, Diệp Khải, who is unable to show his grief from having lost his best friend. Everyone around him criticizes him for not grieving in the “right” way – making Khải believe that he is deficient in a way that is irreparable.

Trần Ngọc Mỹ is a single mother, trying to make ends meet in the poorer parts of Hồ Chí Minh, Việt Nam, where she encounters Khải’s mom at her place of work, on the hunt for a bride for her youngest son. Though Mỹ is not exactly what she had in mind when she began the search, something about Mỹ makes her believe that she could be the ideal choice for Khải.

Though Mỹ has her reservations, it is her own mother who convinces her that through this marriage of convenience, Mỹ could provide for a better future for her daughter than the poverty-ridden life that lies ahead of her. Thus convinced, Mỹ makes the journey to America to meet her future husband.

When Khải is confronted with the inevitable, though he tries hard to stay indifferent and out of Mỹ’s way, somehow he ends up getting emotionally attached to Mỹ, without realizing it. Khải being autistic is an aspect of his character that Mỹ has no knowledge of, and Mỹ has her own secret well under her sleeve; the fact that she has a daughter back home for whom she would practically lay down her very life for.

It is an endearing, at times hilarious, and a bit heartbreaking of a journey that these two embark upon to reach their own happily ever after. I believe that The Bride Test did a marvelous job of bringing Khải to life, with his oddities and the ways in which his mind works differently when it comes to what is “normal”.

While I enjoyed The Bride Test, I believe that I felt a lack of emotional connection to Mỹ that detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. I would have liked Mỹ better had she understood Khải, what autism means, and how difficult certain aspects of life could be for someone like him. Instead of trying to understand where Khải was coming from, most of the focus of the novel was on Mỹ and how she becomes empowered enough to stand on her own two feet.

I applaud the fact that Mỹ stood up for herself amidst all odds and made everything work for her. Even at the very end, Mỹ’s strength of character is what stands out in the novel, more so than the love between Mỹ and Khải. On the contrary, The Kiss Quotient worked so well because both Michael and Stella were on the same page at the same time, and there was never ever a doubt in my mind that they belonged together, right from the start. When they made an appearance in this story even, the connection between them is one you feel deep in your heart, and I wanted that for Khải with every fiber of my being.

Mỹ may not have had the sophisticated education that she had to forgo when she got pregnant out of wedlock, but every aspect of her character speaks of intelligence, emotional and otherwise. Which is why, I felt the lack so severely when it came to Mỹ’s lack of interest perhaps, in digging deeper into Khải’s psyche and trying to understand him – what makes him the way he is. Not to mold herself to suit his needs, but rather so that she could meet him on an even footing in accepting him for the way he is.

I understand that Khải’s level of education must have been a huge deterrent when it came to Mỹ and breaking down barriers. However, I wish she had shown more interest in the person who Khải is than what materialized in the story. At least Khải acknowledges to himself that he hadn’t done much to really get to know Mỹ, mostly owing to the fact that he has correlated that caring for someone means losing that someone altogether.

I wish Mỹ had wanted to explore more of Khải’s fascinating mind and the way he views the world. Had she taken that time, she would have realized that Khải was indeed different. The fact that she had been his first should have driven home the point in my opinion. Why else would a man who finds it difficult to socialize and accept physical contact go all the way? This is where I would have liked Mỹ to use her emotional intelligence to pick on the cues and understand the man Khải is, for better or worse.

I think Mỹ finding herself and charting her own course in life (which is all well and good), took away the focus from exploring the depth of feelings between Khải and Mỹ together. Mỹ made it seem as if it was of no consequence to her whether they ended up together or not, while Khải was moved to the point of obsession with her. Somehow I wanted way more for Khải than what Mỹ ended up giving him.

Recommended for fans of Helen Hoang and those who fell in love with The Kiss Quotient. Some of you might end up loving The Bride Test more. But for me, my heart belongs to Michael and Stella all the way.

Final Verdict: The Bride Test explores the everyday struggles of being autistic, making the reader think beyond the scope of the book. I loved Khải for all that he was, just the way he is.

Favorite Quotes

Those tears.
They shattered him. He brushed the saline away with his thumbs.
“I’m okay,” she whispered. “Don’t worry. I—”
He took her mouth, pressing his lips to hers as the feel of her shocked through his system. Soft. Silk. Sweet. Esme. When he realized she’d gone stiff, he started to pull back in horror. What had he been think—
She softened against him, kissing him back, and that was it. His thoughts burned away. Something else rose from the ashes, something he’d kept chained up so long it was all fierceness and animal hunger. He stroked his tongue over her lips, and when she sighed and parted her lips, savage victory swept through him. He claimed her lips, claimed her mouth, claimed the liquid heat inside that tasted of vanilla and strawberries and woman.

“Come here,” she said.
His body obeyed on its own, edging between her knees and covering her, lining them up just right. The lure of her lips was too much, and he kissed her with a touch of desperation. When he rolled his hips, his cock slid over her, and the tip lodged inside of her. Just the tip. He went flame hot everywhere, his back, the base of his skull, his scalp.
This was happening. Him and Esme. Together.
He kissed her deeper as he pushed in slowly. Each inch changed him, broke him down and put him back together again, until he finally seated himself inside her completely, and she threw her head back and moaned.
For a moment, he was too overwhelmed to move. He’d pleased her.

When he started to move his hips as he caressed her with his fingers, she couldn’t stop the sounds escaping her throat. Stroked inside and out, treasured, loved. She wrapped her arms around him, holding him in every way she could as their bodies found a rhythm.
He was here. He was hers. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Kisses everywhere, on her lips, on her throat, her shoulder. Temple to temple, heavy intimate breaths, whispers in her ear, answers.
Like this?
Like this and this and this.
Her hips rose sharply off the floor, pressing as close to him as possible, high, higher, higher. Head thrown back. Too much, too good, so good. A trembling moan. Strong convulsions, over and over and over.

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

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Review: Outfox by Sandra Brown

Format: E-Bookoutfox
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Drex Easton
Heroine: Talia Shafer
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 06, 2019
Started On: August 09, 2019
Finished On: August 13, 2019

Outfox by Sandra Brown tells the story of Drex Easton, an FBI agent who is determined to find a killer who has eluded the authorities for years. Drex’s hunt is a personal one, which makes him relentless, willing to bend the rules if they fit the purpose, all to hunt down a serial predator who has bested the system for far too long.

Drex’s hunt finally brings him to a man known as Jasper Ford, married to a Talia Shafer, which in itself is a deviation from the norm. But from the moment Drex meets Jasper, his hunting instincts go full throttle, being finally able to put a face to the man who had killed eight women or perhaps more, if the stealth under which this particular killer operates is anything to judge his kills by.

Drex’s encounter with Jasper is further complicated by the fact that his newly wedded wife, Talia Shafer, gets under his skin from the onset. So much so that his partners and loyal friends caution him against doing something that could derail an already delicately balanced operation. Things reach a climactic point when Jasper once again disappears, driving Drex to take measures into his own hands.

From the beginning, Outfox is a novel that throws the reader off course by a huge margin. One can guess as much as they want to, but apart from a few circumstances, I for one ended up being completely wrong on my hunches (when I am usually right), which made this a stellar read in my opinion.

In short, I loved Outfox and what it delivered. While I will continue to bemoan the fact that Ms. Brown only releases one novel per year now, the fact that what she does release into the market is always stupendous goes a long way towards easing those particular woes.

How Ms. Brown still manages to take my breathe away with every hero and heroine that she brings to life in her books is a factor that continues to confound me, even when I should know better. Her heroes are intriguing to a point where they are sexy without even trying.

There is vibe that her heroes give without even putting much effort into it. Ms. Brown does not have to go on describing each perfectly crafted muscle on the hero’s body to get the reader to sit up and take notice. He just has to walk into the scene and you are a goner. No matter how many books I have continued to read from Ms. Brown, I am still a sucker for her heroes and I would not have it any other way. In true Sandra Brown style, Drex threw every preconceived notion I had of him out of the window, even as the pages dwindled to reach the very last couple of paragraphs in the story.

When it comes to heroines, Ms. Brown creates women of class, seemingly out of thin air. It is in the way they carry themselves, with dignity and beauty to their character which is not just skin deep. There are many factors which makes a heroine stand out, and Ms. Brown does a perfect job of bringing together just the right ingredients to make Drex and Talia inevitable.

The suspense factor was really done well in the story. Outfox is an apt title for the story because somehow, you never quite figure out what is going to happen next. That takes mastery over storytelling that Ms. Brown has damn near perfected over years of publication. And I for one hope that she never stops crafting these gems. Jasper is a villain who was ingenious in the way he works the system, cunning in a way that makes the heart beat just a tad faster. It was not only Talia who felt uneasy during the scenes where Jasper is featured prominently. He is the sort of character who makes your skin crawl, without even trying.

Outfox is a novel recommended for those who love superbly crafted and tightly plotted thrillers. With just the right amount of romance in the mix to appease readers like myself, Ms. Brown seems to have outdone herself, yet again!

Final Verdict: Just when you think you have got everything figured out, Ms. Brown throws you for a loop until the reader is left running around in circles chasing their own tail. Ms. Brown only gets better with time and Outfox is a testament to just that.

Favorite Quotes

“Talia.” He bent his head lower and nuzzled her just below her ear. “This isn’t only doing my job.” He caught the lobe of her ear between his teeth.
She stirred and whimpered his name. He followed the soft expulsion of breath to its source, her parted lips, and covered them with his. Her mouth was hot and wet and receptive when he pressed his tongue inside.
Unlike when he’d kissed her before, this time she didn’t turn her head aside and angle away. Instead she leaned into the kiss, not just with her mouth but with her body.

When he didn’t think he could withstand any more, one hand didn’t slide off at the tip. It stayed. Fingers dripping lather made teasing rotations around the crest, over it, again, as though testing its tautness, and then something wicked was done to the slit.
Through clenched teeth, he strangled out, “When.”

He turned around and hauled her against him. He tried to pause and register all the incredible sensations that holding her wet and naked against him induced, but his brain was functioning on a more primitive tier.
He gathered up a handful of her hair and pulled her head back, tilting her face up to his. He looked into her eyes, then covered her mouth with his. It was a ravenous kiss. He couldn’t get enough of her, and she was as hungry.

He levered himself up and above her—and was shocked to see tears sliding down her temples into her hair. She reached for him, grabbing at him until their mouths were melded and he had pushed into her.
But he went only far enough to secure himself just inside. There he waited, wanting to commit to memory this moment of feeling her around him for the first time. Then he continued pressing into her until he was solidly imbedded.
She hugged him to her tightly, and it was fantastic, but he had to move or he was going to die. He buried his face in her hair. “If I get too rough, slow me, stop me. I want…I want…Oh, God…”
The mating instinct took over. In spite of his best intentions, his strokes became faster and stronger. A slight shift in his position enabled him to reach deeper, and he did. God, did he.

She opened her thighs and guided him in. He hissed swear words as she slowly sank down onto him and began rocking. He grunted with pleasure. “And I thought the first time was good.” He angled himself up in order to reach her breasts. His mouth was hot and avid, and left her nipples wet with loving.
When he lay back, he gripped her hips between his hands and coaxed her, coached her, cajoled her in the raunchiest language. Several minutes later, on short puffs of breath, he said, “Have at it. That’s what I said. But, sweetheart…God a’mighty.”

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

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Review: Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Booksecretdesiresofagentleman
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Girl Bachelors, #3
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Phillip Hawthorne
Heroine: Maria Martingale
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 06, 2009
Started On: May 16, 2019
Finished On: May 17, 2019

29 year old Maria Martingale is looking for the right place to set up her very own patisserie, when she runs smack-dab into none other than Phillip Hawthorne, the Marquess of Kayne, the man who takes her back on the memory lane from 12 years back.

Maria had been at Phillip’s mercy when he had interfered with the relationship that had blossomed between her and Phillip’s younger brother. Phillip who had always been the proper one, nary a button nor hair out of place, the man who had always taken his responsibilities seriously, a man who in Maria’s eyes would probably have ice running through his veins instead of blood.

An arrangement is struck between Maria and Phillip which puts both of them in close proximity with one another. And thus tumbles forth a story that was beautifully moving in a way that I have almost forgotten that romances could be. Because it has been that long since a book moved me as much as this one did.

Phillip’s ironclad restraint is sorely tested by Maria, who is the very opposite of what he is, bringing forth memories he had thought were no longer his to revisit and enjoy. Upon the death of his father and the debts under which his family was reeling at the time, Phillip had been forced to grow up and assume responsibility way ahead of his time. Perhaps that is the reason why he is such an excellent match for someone like Maria, who is all fire and warmth – a combination that I enjoyed so very much.

There is a poignancy to this story that stemmed from the fact that the main protagonists had a shared past. The memories of it from Phillip’s viewpoint were what moved me the most. It is usually the heroine’s emotions and musings that wreaks havoc on the reader’s emotions and provides a well spun romance with that angst factor that I love so much.

However in the Secret Desires of a Gentleman, it was the hero’s thoughts, desires, and memories that sucker-punched me with a ferocity that shook me to my core. The deep wealth of passion and desire Phillip has held in check for so long which tumbles forth, giving readers tantalizing glimpses of a man who would hold his own when it comes to a woman like Maria; beautiful, vivacious, and full of life was the best aspect of this book.

The groveling towards the end by Phillip was well done. Or I must say, the proposal. I read from a book recently that love is when you are ready to make a fool out of yourself for the one you love and don’t even realize it. That was in essence what Phillips was at the end. The epitome of gentlemanly behaviour, laying himself bare for the world to see, his love unmistakable, his desire for Maria everything she had ever wanted it to be.

I believe that this would be my favorite from the series thus far. Perhaps my favorite book from Laura Lee Gurhke herself. There is nothing more that I love than a hero that unravels so beautifully, given the right woman. Enjoyed this delightful tale in so many ways. I’ve missed books such as this, wildly evocative and emotional in depth, that one cannot help but want more.

Definitely recommended. For the emotional angst, for Phillip himself. Darling Phillip, oh how I love thee!

Final Verdict: Unraveling Phillip is a journey I would gladly go through all over again. There is just something about a buttoned up hero letting loose that speaks to this wanton heart of mine.

Favorite Quotes

Phillip tensed in his chair as she slid her fingertips beneath her braid and began to rub the nape of her neck. She was clearly unaware of his presence, and he knew that in such a situation, offering a slight cough was the appropriate thing for a gentleman to do.
He did not do it.
Instead, he remained perfectly still as she tilted her head to one side and began massaging the muscles of her shoulder and the side of her neck.
She groaned, and with that tiny sound, lust washed over him, an inexorable wave of heat and hunger that was so powerful, he could not move.

His fingers curled around the nape of her neck and his thumb pressed the underside of her jaw, lifting her face. His free arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her hard against him. She sucked in a startled breath, but she had no time to react before he bent his head and captured her lips with his.
The kiss was not tender. It was hard and hot, bruising her mouth, and yet, she felt a thrill like nothing she’d ever felt in her life before.

“What’s wrong, Phillip? Don’t you trust me?”
“I don’t—” He stopped and cleared his throat. He tilted his chin down and met her gaze in the dim light. “I don’t trust myself.”
“I do,” she whispered, and before she even realized what she was doing, she turned in his arms and pressed her lips to his.
“Then you’re a fool,” he muttered against her mouth. His hands gripped her arms as if to push her away, but then, with a groan, he pulled her hard against him.

Kneeling on the floor, he hovered above her. He was breathing hard, but he did not move.
She opened her eyes. His face above hers bore a harsh expression, almost as if he were in pain; a frown creased his forehead, drawing his dark brows together, and his glittering gaze pinned her to the seat. “Maria.”
It was a hoarse whisper. It was a question. It might have been a plea. Whatever it was, she had no time to respond before his body came over hers, the weight of his much larger frame driving the air from her lungs.

When he slid his hand inside her shirtwaist and his fingertips touched her bare skin, she jerked in sharp reaction, for just that light caress sent shards of tingling sensation through her body. When he spread his palm over her breast, shaping it through the layers of her clothing, she arched upward into his hand. “Phillip,” she moaned, “Phillip, oh, yes, oh, please, yes.”
She was pleading for more. More of what, though, she did not know. She could not even guess.
“Damn,” he swore, his lips brushing her skin, his hot breath making her shiver. “Damn, damn, damn.”

“Maria,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “For the love of God…”
He slipped his fingers inside the opening of her drawers. And then he touched her in her most intimate place, and she cried out at the sharp, piercing pleasure of it.
He began to caress her with the tip of one finger in light circles that seemed like torture. She moaned in protest of this exquisite teasing, and pressed her hips up toward his hand.
“Maria, you are so soft, the softest thing I’ve ever felt,” he murmured against her ear. “I knew you would be. I’ve always known.”

He tried one last time to warn her. “I won’t be answerable for my actions.”
“I know.”
He cupped her face, his thumbs touched her soft, soft mouth. “I’ll take your virtue.”
“That’s all right,” she whispered, her lips brushing his thumbs, sending that lust spreading throughout his body. “I won’t tell on you.”
With those words, his reason dissolved. His honor crumbled. Like a dam breaking, the hungry need for her that he’d held back for so long broke through his resolve and poured through his body like a powerful, raging flood.

Shirt and cufflinks hit the floor as she flattened her palms against his chest, and the warm touch of her hands sent his control slipping down another notch. He fought to regain it, but he couldn’t stop the groan that escaped him as she began to caress his bare skin. “Yes,” he said, his voice a harsh rasp in his throat.
“Touch me, Maria. God, yes.”
He tilted his head back, letting her explore him, savoring her curiosity even as he struggled to keep his arousal in check.

“Take off your chemise for me,” he said. “I want to watch you take it off.”
Mesmerized by the heat of his gaze and the intensity of his command, she obeyed. Reaching for the hem of her chemise, she pulled the garment up her body and over her head, then tossed it over one shoulder and shook back her hair. When she looked at him again, she sucked in a sharp breath, startled. Though his expression was grave, as always, she saw something else in his face, something she had never seen there before. Tenderness.
“Oh, God,” he whispered hoarsely. “God, Maria, you’re so lovely. Even more lovely than I imagined.”

She stared at him, appreciating that he had done this very thing to her countless times in his imagination—undressed her, kissed her, made love to her. All these years, he’d had that ribbon, and he’d thought of this, imagined this. That knowledge sent a feeling through her like nothing she’d ever felt before, a feeling beyond physical sensation, a joy so powerful it was like pain, yet so sweet that it was pleasure, and she knew Prudence had been right. She was in love with this man.

“Maria, I want to take you. I want to be inside you. Do you understand what that means?”
“Yes,” she gasped, but when she felt the tip of his shaft pushing between the feminine folds he had stroked with his tongue, she felt a wave of something different. Panic.
“Phillip?” He heard the apprehension in her questioning voice, and he paused, lifting his body above hers. “It’s time, love,” he murmured, nuzzling her throat, kissing her ear. “I’ve waited so long. I can’t wait any longer to have you.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Bookthewickedwaysofaduke.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Girl Bachelors, #2
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Rhys De Winter
Heroine: Miss Prudence Bosworth
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: December 26, 2007
Started On: May 05, 2019
Finished On: May 15, 2019

The second book in the Girl Bachelors series, The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Gurhke turned out to be a delightful read in so many ways, one that I enjoyed perhaps even more than the first book in the series.

28 year old Miss Prudence Bosworth is a girl bachelor, now working as a lead seamstress, a position which she had worked hard 11 years for. A chance meeting brings to her notice Rhys De Winter, the Duke of St. Cyres, who is in dire need of a wealthy heiress.

33 year old Rhys has a pretty good idea of what he wants – a wife who is wealthy enough to pay off the debts his family has accumulated during his absence, a wife who would pretty much let him be as he has no intention of falling in love, ever.

A romantic at heart, Prudence’s fortune comes in the most unexpected of ways. An illegitimate child, Prudence had learnt to support herself through her own hard work, all of which comes to an abrupt halt when her father’s solicitor informs her that she is now the sole beneficiary of a vast amount of wealth, the kind that one only dreams about. But this wealth does come with its own requirement that she marries within a certain period, something a tad difficult given that Prudence has no such significant person in her life.

When Rhys finds out what Prudence is worth, thus begins his scheme of ensnaring Prudence into his life, something he does rather ruthlessly and effectively. Prudence has no idea of the true intentions of the man she falls so hard and fast for, and before she knows it, Prudence is the one who takes that leap of faith and comes clean about the immensity of her wealth, never knowing that it is exactly what Rhys had banked upon. Rhys deserves an Oscar for his performance during the scene that unfolded. If I had not been privy to the information that he had before, I too would have been taken in by the “genuineness” of his performance.

Through all of this and what takes place beyond the marriage, Laura Lee Guhrke exposes to readers tidbits of what makes Rhys the way he is. A childhood that had not seen much happiness, a younger brother who had taken his own life, and a mother who had ignored what had led him to commit suicide. The way Prudence chips away at the iron clad armor around Rhys’ heart and emotions was one that I reveled in. The way that Rhys is helpless in the face of the visceral attraction that exists between the two was something that gave me all the good feels.

When all is said and done, the fact that Rhys grovels, does it so well, and redeems himself was one of the best aspects of this novel. Prudence getting “back at him” in kind was such fun to watch as it unfolded. I adored Prudence and how unconventional she was. There is this refreshing aspect to her character that I found so easy to fall in love with. Prudence might be a romantic at heart but she is definitely not a pushover. That is something I loved about her character from the onset.

Rhys and his past played a lesser prominent role in the story than I thought it actually would. But the truth of the hows and whys when it comes to an event that had scarred him badly and Rhys’s relationship with his mother was one that served its purpose in the story when all is said and done.

Enjoyed the lusciousness that is Rhys and Prudence together. Recommended!

Final Verdict: The many wicked ways in which the Duke of St. Cyrus seduces Prudence is something worth mooning over. Loved Prudence to bits and Rhys forever more!

Favorite Quotes

Prudence stood on her toes and twined her arms around his neck. Her lips parted willingly beneath his, but when he deepened the kiss and his tongue touched hers, she stirred in involuntary surprise. She started to pull back, but his hand tightened in her hair to keep her where she was, and his mouth tasted hers in a lush, openmouthed kiss that was so sensual, so blatantly carnal, she knew he must have learned it from those French cancan dancers. She feared she was equally carnal, however, for when he withdrew, she followed his move, pressing her tongue into his mouth. That seemed to ignite something inside him, for he made a rough sound against her mouth and leaned into her, using his body to maneuver her backward.

Rhys’s hand slipped beneath her skirt and petticoat, then glided up her leg, across her hip and between her thighs, his touch scorching her beneath the thin lawn material of her drawers. The tension inside her continued to build as his fingers eased inside the slit of her drawers, and when he touched the dark curls there, she felt her whole body blushing in response.
“I could stop,” he said, the tip of his finger caressing her in her most intimate place. “Is that what you want?”
She tried to speak, but a frantic, “N-N-N…” was all she could manage, for her body was on fire with shameful excitement, excitement that flared higher with each touch of his fingers.

She couldn’t imagine what could be better than what he’d done to her on the train, but then his hands spread her thighs apart and he opened his mouth over the same special place he’d touched that morning.
She cried out, her body jerking at the exquisite sensation evoked by that carnal kiss, and he stopped, lifting his head a fraction. “Do you love me?”
“Yes,” she panted, her hips writhing, arching upward. “Yes.”
He raked his tongue ever so lightly over the spot where all her pleasure seemed centered. “Say it. I want to hear you say it.”
“I love you, Rhys.” Her fingers curled in his hair. “I love you.”

Rhys turned her body lengthwise on the table, then hoisted himself up, bringing his body fully over hers and bracing his weight on his arms. “Prudence,” he said, reminding himself she was a virgin, thinking to warn her what to expect, wanting to go slow, but the feel of her, velvety hot and wet, against the tip of his penis was such an erotic sensation, he knew there was no time for gentleness or warnings. With one hard thrust, he entered her.
She cried out again, and this time he knew it was not with pleasure. Cursing himself, he kissed her, smothering the sound of her pain with his mouth, hating that he’d caused it, even as he relished the virginal tightness of her.

“Love me?” he whispered, nuzzling her throat.
“Yes,” she whispered, her fingertips caressing his face.
He lifted himself above her, kissed her, nipping her lower lip between both of his. “Say it again.” She began to laugh. “I love you.”
He laughed, too, laughed, by God, in this place, where he’d never laughed in his entire life.

“Come on top of me,” he told her, rolling onto his back, and when she complied, he pulled her skirts up to keep them out of the way and spread her legs over his hips. He then reached between their bodies and hooked one thumb in the opening of her drawers, ripping the thin lawn fabric farther apart to give himself greater access. Gently, he spread her labia with his fingers and thrust upward with his hips, entering her fully.
She sucked in a deep gasp, and he went still. “Did I hurt you?” he asked, dreading that he had.
But she shook her head from side to side so emphatically that her hair came tumbling down to tickle his face. “No. Oh, no.”
Relief flooded through him, followed at once by desperate, hungry need.

She was blushing, her skin awash with a tint of soft pink in the afternoon sunlight. Her forehead glistened with a fine patina of sweat. Her eyes were closed, her dark lashes like tiny fans against her cheeks. Her lips were parted, and between soft, panting cries, she kept touching them with her tongue. Her expression was one of such erotic concentration, with everything in her striving to reach climax, it made him smile. And when she came, in wave after wave, her hand over his, her body clenching around his penis in convulsions that went on and on and on, he felt a pleasure greater than any he had ever known before.

And afterward, when she lay in the crook of his arm, nuzzled her face against his neck and whispered, “I love you,” the warmth that washed over him thawed the icy chill in his soul as the gut-twisting heat of Parisian absinthe and the blistering summer sunshine of Italy had never been able to do.
“This is where we’ll live,” he said.
And as he kissed her lavender-scented hair and listened to the songbirds in the leafy English elms over their heads, Rhys de Winter thought that perhaps his own April had come at last. He dared to believe that he had finally come home.

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Review: The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: The Savior by J.R. Ward

Format: E-Bookthesavior.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, 17
Publisher: Gallery Books
Hero: Murhder
Heroine: Sarah Watkins
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 02, 2019
Started On: April 04, 2019
Finished On: April 09, 2019

At long last, we have come to the story of Murhder, the Brother who was expelled from the Black Dagger Brotherhood for atrocities that were only hinted at, and we as the readers were never totally privy to. The seventeenth book in the series, and I believe we have come to a point where the stories are starting to sound repetitive and cliched – God forbid someone say it though.

Muhrder’s story begins when he decides to end his twenty year self-exile of sorts (since his expulsion from the Brotherhood) and seek an audience with Wrath, the King of the vampire species. Varying degrees of emotions seep through the story when Muhrder makes his first appearance, from disdain and outright hostility on the part of the Brotherhood (very hypocritical of them if you ask me, given the many instances of unforgivable acts committed on their part) to the emotional upheaval that Xhex goes through (I couldn’t believe that she never did tell John about her association with Murhder), and finally the emotions of the vampire himself, that came across as the most genuine of it all.

The heroine Dr. Sarah Watkins comes into the picture when FBI starts to pursue an investigation into the “death” of her fiance which had happened months ago. What Sarah uncovers for herself in the process about her workplace RSK BioMed, is one that puts her life instantly in danger, and brings her into close contact with none other than Murhder.

Circumstances bring both Sarah and Murhder to the Brotherhood compound where the attraction that had simmered under extenuating circumstances upon which Murhder and Sarah had first met, comes to fruition. Contrary to what JR Ward has led readers to believe up till Murhder’s own book, there is zero crazy in him if you ask me. In fact, I found him to be sweeter, kinder, and mellower than the rest of the Brotherhood put together, and that was a bit jarring considering all the buildup to his story.

We have gone through Brothers who had their own issues to varying degrees. For instance, Zsadist (as my favorite Brother), displayed the sort of characteristics that you would expect from someone who had been kept in captivity for so long. His struggles were real. His pain was one we felt. His love for Beth when it came, we as readers understood where he came from. The fact that he struggles even now with his darker side is what makes him one of the most realistic characters in the series.

Then there is Tohr, whose story spanned a couple of books and brought him a measure of peace in his newfound Shellan in his own book. Though at times I feel like hitting Tohr on the head and then some, even his story carries with it elements that makes it believable. Even if I want undying devotion from him on the same level that he feels for his deceased Shellan, I understand where he is coming from when he faces difficult days and goes through an emotional roller-coaster every now and then.

But Murhder? There was none of it. Everything just fell into place with no thought, no drama, no consequence. The Brotherhood books usually packs a punch in the sex scenes they deliver. But this one kinda left me cold on most fronts. Perhaps one reason why Murhder’s story ended up being such a disappointment could the fact that his story is relayed to readers through just one single book instead of the story being carried through several interconnected books in the series. I would have liked to see Murhder in his element, in his zone, being the crazy bastard that he was unrightfully accused of being.

Another thing that really really irked me was Xhex. I have never truly gone gaga over her character for one reason or the other. But over time, I have softened towards her because she makes John happy and she does have her finer points as well. But the “secret” that she had carried when it comes to Murhder and what had actually rendered him unstable was unforgivable in so many ways. She let Murhder carry the burden and guilt for so long for something he probably had no control over at that point in time, given what we have witnessed of the Sympaths and what they are capable of in Lover Avenged.

The only thing that was interesting and a game-changer in my opinion, was the revelation of the new villain that comes to light at the end of the story. I hope that whichever direction that Ward decides to steer the series in, she does this particular arc justice, because it just seems redundant to keep going on and on about the Lessers when things seem to have really died down on that front. I don’t believe that there is anything more to be explored in that sense. But maybe, I could be wrong. Omega could have a ton of tricks up his sleeve that we might not know of.

While John and Xhex was once again a centric part of this story, it makes me go a little crazy with how John’s identity continues to remain a secret even though I partly do get the reason why Ward keeps evading the issue.

One more thing that I keep finding extremely cliched is how Lassiter, upon assuming the role of the Scribe Virgin, has suddenly started giving out eternal life blessings to everyone he comes across. Plus, don’t get me started on the continued tirade against humans as the “lesser” beings who are unworthy in every sense according to vampires. Pick something new to grouch about, that’s all I am asking.

I miss reading about characters such as Rehvenge who potentially have more depth to their characters that remain unexplored, while characters like John, Vishuous, and Rhage have started to bore me. I want fresh insight into the lesser explored characters in the series like Xcor and others who probably have more value to add to the books than the seemingly “favorite” characters of the author.

While I did enjoy bits and pieces of The Savior, as a whole, I don’t think I have a lot of nice things to say about the novel.

Recommended for die-hard fans of the series. Because I am pretty sure I am in the minority when it comes to having being disappointed by the last couple of novels in the series.

Final Verdict: Murhder’s story comes to readers who have anticipated what he would be like for so long. My expectations were unmet in every aspect, and I definitely wished for something different.

Favorite Quotes

When it was over, he closed his eyes and dropped his head into her neck. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You won’t.” Sarah cleared her throat. And then tilted her head to the side. “Do you want to …”
“What?”
“This,” she said as she stroked up her own throat.
As he stared at her in alarm, she said it again. “Do you want this?”
That purr came back, louder, deeper, more urgent. And the sound of it was what put her over the edge again, especially as she imagined those razor-sharp points buried in her vein. Throwing her head back, she moved against his static body, stroking herself on his arousal, riding out the pulses until he started to orgasm along with her.

All things that lived died.
The best that anyone who breathed could do was a skate-by into old age, dodging the slings and arrows of biological failings and accidents, until you could sit back with your aches and pains and mourn the loss of your relevancy, your generation, your place in the population pecking order.

Murhder picked her up and she straddled his hips, his strong arms holding her off the floor. His penetration was a firebrand, nothing slow and gentle this time, his arousal entering her on a one-stroke that went so deep, she nearly orgasmed then and there. Desperate to find a good rhythm, he shuffled them over to a wall, the hard, cool surface hitting her bare back as he braced her against it. Then he pumped into her, his body working hard, churning, dominating.
She held on for dear life.
And only wanted more.

He wanted to track what she was saying and respond appropriately. But she was wriggling around in his hold and that was causing the kind of fiction that males had a hard time focusing through: His cock was hard and ultra-sensitive, her core warm and tight, the slip and slide going right to his head and fritzing out his higher reasoning.
As much as he tried to hold himself back, he started to come, his arousal ejaculating in a series of pumps deep inside of her. He fought it as best he could, gritting his teeth and cursing, and when that got him nowhere, he attempted to pull out—but she squeezed her legs on his hips and arched against him, saying his name in frustration and pleasure.

Kneeling in front of her, he kissed his way down her abdomen, teasing her belly button with his tongue, cupping her breasts as he stared up at her.
“My Sarah …” he groaned as he circled her thigh with his hand. “Give me what I want.”
Lifting her leg, he put it over his shoulder and went in, leading with his tongue, delving into her sex, worshiping her with his mouth. Over the fall of the water, he heard her cry his name and then she fell back into the bench.

Murhder felt Sarah arch as he penetrated her core. He was too rough, he knew he was being too rough … but he couldn’t stop, and she didn’t want him to. She was talking in his ear, begging …
“Harder … do me harder.”
He pulled her leg up, and shifted the angle, going even deeper. And as he pounded into her, the sofa moved across the rug, leaving tracks in the nap. Something fell with a crash. Her hair tangled.
She orgasmed. He did. They did together.

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