Review: The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Bookthehighlander.PNG
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Victorian Rebels, #3
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Hero: Lt. Col. William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie
Heroine: Philomena St. Vincent
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: August 02, 2016
Started On: August 17, 2019
Finished On: August 20, 2019

The Highlander, the 3rd book in the Victorian Rebels series turned out to be my first sampling of Kerrigan Byrne’s stories. Discovering a new author that speaks to you on so many levels is rare and so very treasured, and I intend to go through the back-list of her books in its entirety to sample each and every one of her published works over time.

The hero, 40 year old William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie (Liam), comes from a place of violence. The fact that his childhood had been a difficult one would be an understatement. With an abusive father who had cared naught for the physical and emotional well-being of his children, legal and otherwise, Liam had been the big brother who had taken most of the physical brunt to protect his younger siblings. But that had not been enough to prevent them from witnessing the horrors of a childhood better left in the darker fringes of one’s memories.

The main story begins 20 years later, with the opening chapter focusing on the heroine, Lady Philomena St. Vincent (Mena), Viscountess Benchley, who has been institutionalized by none other than her husband and his family. Mena who grew up with a father who thought the world of his daughter and brought her up to be an intellectual, kind and generous soul, the horrors of her marriage that are revealed in stages to the reader is something that is as old as time itself.

The mental asylum, which was a norm in the past for husbands to commit their wives to just to get rid of them, is the mother load of horrors. Tortured in ways that really leaves a mark on the reader, some may find those particular scenes to be too disturbing for them to continue with the story. However, that particular aspect of the book does not set the tone for the rest of the book as the author brings to readers the stunning and vivid portrayal of a love that was so worth delving into.

When Mena is rescued and her well meaning and newfound friends sends her away to Scotland to evade the clutches of her husband, it is to the keep of Liam she is sent, where the very first moment she lays eyes on the strong, deeply masculine, and beautiful man that he is, something long forgotten stirs to life inside of her. Liam too is shaken by the very physical and visceral reaction he has towards Mena from the onset, but even though both of them might think to avoid each other hoping that the yearning for the other is a fluke on their part, things of course do not work out that way.

Liam’s haunted eyes that bespeaks of horrors and regrets of his life draws Mena to him like a moth to flame. Mena’s gentle strength and wit that had remained unbroken by the violence she had experienced in her adult life speaks to Liam on a level that he cannot comprehend. However, old enemies stirring in the darkness, tempting and beseeching to turn on Liam might prove to be the undoing of what blossoms to life between him and Mena, if her husband’s search for her does not bear fruit first.

I enjoyed my very first novel by the Kerrigan Byrne. Mena was glorious. Beautiful, kind, and soft, with just the right touch of authority to her which made her appealing on so many levels. I rooted for her with every fiber of my being, wanted the best for her because she deserved nothing less.

Liam’s soul is a broken one, even though he does not let it on. Betrayed and widowed, there is a wealth of unspoken pain in his heart. His inability to get through to his own children is a source of continued frustration for him, that is until Mena comes into his life and shows him what that entails. Drawn to each other by the kind of tangible connection that leaves the reader breathless, Byrne does a marvelous job of crafting both characters and bringing them to life.

The sexual tension that is interwoven into the very fabric of the story was just as enticing, and Byrne definitely delivers without leaving the reader hanging. Absolutely loved this gem of a novel and would recommend it for readers who love historical romances with characters that speaks to you. These are two very broken characters who meet and find their way to a happily ever after. Don’t let the barbarity depicted in the first couple of chapters deter you from reading. I believe we have to take the bad with the good to achieve a balanced nuance in order to deliver a story worth sinking into.

The epilogue was super cute and healing in so many ways. Perhaps, Byrne may write a novella depicting two secondary characters who definitely deserve their story to be told somewhere down the line. A reader could always hope!

Final Verdict: There is a rawness to Byrne’s story that speaks to me. A ruthlessness to her heroes that does things to this wanton heart of mine. The Highlander is marvelous in every sense.

Favorite Quotes

Then she saw him.
Her mouth became dry as the desert, and a tremor that had nothing to do with the cold rippled through her.
Though he wore a soiled kilt and loose linen shirt beneath his drenched cloak, he sat astride a black Shire steed with the bearing of a king. Dark waves of hair hung long and heavy with moisture down his back, and menace rolled off the mountains of his shoulders in palpable waves.
Whoever he was, he was their undeniable leader. She saw it in the way they looked to him, in the deference they used when speaking. If not by birth, then by physical laws of nature, surely. As the largest, the strongest, and the most fearsome of them all, he towered above the brawny men as he scowled through the window at her.

“Och, lass.” Liam beat her to it. “These roses are a jealous flower.” Cupping her hand with his, he pressed a thumb into her palm to secure it before plucking the thorn out quickly, to cause her the least amount of distress.
A tiny drop of blood welled from her fingertip.
Liam had no other handkerchief to offer her, and didn’t want to use the one on the ground, so he did the only other thing he could think of, and slid her finger into his mouth. Closing his lips around the insignificant wound, he watched her reaction with rare pleasure.
She froze, her eyes growing round as two glowing moons.
His body’s reaction was just as astonishing, and just as instantaneous.

Liam sprang toward her, grasping her wrists and pulling her back down to him. He sank his fingers into her luxurious hair, loosening the intricate coiffure there, and pinned her head between his two strong palms as he took her wicked mouth with his own.
It was in the joining of their lips that Liam found what he’d come to the chapel seeking. He kissed Mena with a reverence he’d never felt in the entirety of his life. Driven by a hunger that welled from the darkest, most heretical depths of his soul, he knew he’d finally found something worthy of his worship.

He swallowed her shocked gasp and plundered her with his tongue as though she were a lifelong conquest. Digging his fingers into her ribs to keep from taking what she did not offer him, he deepened the kiss, using his tongue to convey what he could not find the words to say.
She wasn’t the only one who was afraid. Liam was terrified.
Of losing her.
Of loving her.
And at this moment, he was in mortal danger of both.

“Kiss me, Mena,” he moaned against her mouth, his hot, sweet breath fanning over the moisture on her lips. “Touch me. Teach me to keep the demon at bay.”
She could only see the whites of his eyes in the dim light, circling the obsidian of his pupil and iris in such a way that truly seemed demonic.
With trembling fingers, she reached up to softly test the shape of his masculine jaw. Bristle scraped against her fingertips as they explored the raw, hard features that she’d always wanted to study, but didn’t even allow herself to look at for too long, lest she be lost.

Then his hand was there, clever fingers slipping into the wet cleft and touching a place no one had ever before paid attention to. He somehow ignited frenzy into her blood with infuriatingly slow strokes. A curious heat unfolded in her core and quickly caught into a blaze of sensation.
Mena writhed helplessly against him, riding his strong thigh as more heat created more friction, which in turn built the flames even higher. What sort of pagan magic was this? How could hands so rough and raw create such smooth, silken sensations against her most tender skin?

“I can’t,” she cried, feeling her knees melt.
His lips left her with a wet, wicked sound. “Ye will,” he breathed against her most intimate flesh.
“I’m going to fall,” she warned weakly, her hips undulating toward his mouth with mortifying wantonness.
“Fall apart in my arms, lass,” he soothed, his hands caressing around to fill his palms with the flesh of her backside, making a cradle of her hips. “I’ll not let ye go.”

“Can ye take more of me?” he panted.
Mena’s eyes flew open. How could there possibly be more? He withdrew yet again, gazing down at her with dilated eyes as he surged forward. He touched a place inside her she’d not known existed, and Mena tossed her head from one side to the other, letting out a high cry of ecstasy.
“Yes,” he whispered fervently. “I knew ye would take all of me, Mena.” He drove forward again. And again.

When another climax blinded her with pure bliss, she locked her legs around his pistoning hips, pulling him impossibly deeper. Shivering pleasure assaulted her in wave after unrelenting wave.
He roared her name to the sky as her pulsing body gripped and stroked at the swelling length of him. Hot spurts of his release spilled inside her. His great body locked with spasms as he crushed her to him and joined her in that place where right and wrong no longer mattered.

Then they said nothing at all when he pulled her above him and split her legs over his lean, sinuous hips. They’d communicated only in gasps and sighs as she’d ridden him with sensual rolls of her body. He’d palmed her breasts in his warm hands and said wicked things in his people’s native tongue while she pleasured herself upon his sleek and magnificent body. Then, when he could stand it no more, he’d dug his strong fingers into the flesh of her hips and driven upward until he’d bowed with such shocking pleasure, Mena had thought his back would break.

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Review: The Maid’s Spanish Secret by Dani Collins

Format: E-Bookthemaidsspanishsecret
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Rico Montero
Heroine: Poppy Harris
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 16, 2019
Started On: August 13, 2019
Finished On: August 14, 2019

Hankering to read a category romance, because it has been ages, I decided to opt for The Maid’s Spanish Secret by a new to me author, Dani Collins. The story begins as the hero, Spanish aristocrat, Rico Montero comes to find that he has a daughter with none other than Poppy Harris, the woman with whom he had had a one time passionate encounter, which he still remembers at odd moments.

The knowledge of the existence of his daughter snaps Rico out of the funk he is in, given the death of his wife under most unfavorable circumstances. Rico turns up on Poppy’s doorstep, the home which she shares with her grandmother and throws her for a loop, big time. Rico is the last man she would have expected to see, given all the hopes and dreams that she had spun out of that unforgettable encounter having being smashed to smithereens under the weight of the knowledge that Rico had chosen to marry another.

Rico’s demands that he be part of his daughter’s life is what propels Poppy to give in. Not to mention, the reckless abandonment that Poppy had felt in his arms then comes blazing to life the minute he re-enters her life, stoking the flames of her very dormant desires up till that point. Each passionate encounter with Rico leaves her wanting more, begging for more, but for Poppy, without Rico’s heart to claim as hers, it would never ever be enough, the concept of love being something Rico struggles with.

I greatly enjoyed this harlequin romance, and felt so grateful for the escape it provided me with. It is hard to find authors whose books in these category romances that I can enjoy without feeling like something is missing as is the case with most Harlequin titles of today. This titles makes me hopeful and pushes me into thinking that I should sample more authors like Dani Collins, if what she brings to her stories is replicated in some form or the other across the vast expanse of the Harlequin romance titles.

I loved Poppy, no questions asked. She is so refreshing as a heroine because she lacks the artifice that is usually part and parcel of many heroines who are featured in romances like these, especially of this particular trope where the heroine has a secret baby. Poppy’s uniqueness lies in her ability to let her feelings be known. She communicates with her significant other, even when it leaves her vulnerable, emotional and otherwise.

We as readers, have sort of come to accept that the lack of communication between the main protagonists is the reason behind the heavy angst in romances. Perhaps rightfully so as well. While love is one of the most potent of emotions that a human being can experience, it is also one that renders us immensely vulnerable. Our pride often does not let us follow our hearts for fear of it being trampled upon. But Dani Collins has done the unthinkable and created angst where I would have originally thought would render a romance to be a tad boring.

Rico was wonderful too. I enjoyed immersing myself in his sensually charged self, and delving deep into his character which sheds so much light on why he tends to shy away from the deeper emotions. Bound by duty, having always lived his life by strict rules, Poppy had been the one time he had thrown caution to the wind and indulged. The fact that he has a hard time getting a read on his own emotions, knowing what they mean; that struggle was very real for Rico and I enjoyed watching him get to that point where he felt comfortable in the acceptance of his feelings for Poppy.

All in all, this was a delightful read in so many ways because Rafe and Poppy gets under your skin and into your heart before you know it. Thank you so much dear Dani, for giving me a new author to be hopeful about when it comes to short, emotionally and sensually charged reads that leaves you with a happy glow, inside and out.

Recommended, for fans of Harlequin romances and those looking for a short read that packs an emotional punch.

Final Verdict: The Maid’s Spanish Secret has all the right ingredients which makes for a superb read. Dani Collins certainly knows how to deliver sensuality, romance, and the emotions that makes you fall hard!

Favorite Quotes

“Do you?” He refused to give her what she wanted until she answered.
Her skin grew too tight for the anticipation that swelled within her. Beneath the layers of her thick jacket, her breasts grew heavy. Her thighs ceased to feel the cold through the denim of her jeans.
“Yes,” she admitting on a throb of longing.
He made a noise of satisfaction and stepped so his feet were outside her own. His hot mouth sealed across her lips.
A sob of delight broke in her throat as his hard lips raked across hers, making real all the erotic fantasies she’d replayed in the long nights since leaving Spain. Her arms went up around his neck and he swept her closer still. So close she could hardly breathe.

She tried to open his shirt, but, like the first time, had none of his skill. His buttons were small and tight. Impossible. He brought his hand up and brushed hers away then swept his hand in a sharp yank that tore off buttons and ripped holes.
She gasped. “You didn’t have to do that!”
“I did,” he assured her, catching her hand and bringing it to his hot chest. “I’ve waited a long time for your touch.”

His legs were pinning hers, though, keeping her beneath him in a sensual vice where she couldn’t escape the pleasure he was bestowing on her. She finally clasped the sides of his head and dragged his mouth up to hers again. She pushed her tongue between his lips, flagrant and uninhibited.
Take me, she begged with her kiss.

“Poppy.” His voice reverberated from somewhere in his chest, ringing inside hers. “Open your eyes.”
She didn’t want him to read how anguished she was. How her soul was right there, seeking his as her body yearned for the impalement of his flesh. It was too much.
“Let me see you.”
She opened her eyes and time slowed.
“Take me into you,” he commanded, biting at her chin, using his powerful thighs to spread hers apart.

Did you ever touch yourself and imagine it was me?” He dropped one hand and drew his fingertip through her swollen folds, looking down again as he languidly caressed her. “Did you want to feel my hand here?”
She was immediately disoriented, glad for the hard wall at her back as she rose into his touch and draped her arm across his shoulders, seeking balance.
“Tell me,” he commanded between kisses. “Tell me or I’ll stop.”
“Yes,” she gasped.

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Review: Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Bookguiltypleasures
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Guilty, #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Hero: Anthony Courtland
Heroine: Daphne Wade
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 27, 2004
Started On: June 26, 2019
Finished On: July 06, 2019

Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Gurhke is testament enough as to why I adore her books. In the debut book to her Guilty series, Ms. Gurhke certainly does not disappoint readers with her take on a plain Jane heroine with a hero who is a self-assured duke, oblivious to the upheavals that is forthcoming, all to reach that sweet and soul satisfying destination called the happily ever after.

24 year old Daphne Wade has been in the employment of Anthony Courtland, Duke of Tremore for five months and counting. The 29 year old Duke had been Daphne’s saviour even had he not realized it at that point in time when he had taken her under his employment. Left bereft in the wake of the death of her father, Daphne had nowhere to go but turn up on the Duke’s doorstep, hoping against hope that Anthony would not mind hiring her services as an artifact restorer instead of her father.

Daphne’s secret vice since then, has become observing Anthony in every setting she could find him, engrossed in the work that is more than just a hobby for the Duke. Little does Anthony know that the timid and unassuming woman under his employment as he sees her, has fallen for him, and fallen hard.

Things change abruptly on the night that Daphne overhears how Anthony views her as a woman, something that hurts her significantly enough to make her give a month’s notice to quit and leave. Anthony has absolutely no idea as to why Daphne does something that is so out of character for her. However, Anthony is determined that he would persuade Daphne to stay with him and see it through to the end of the one year project, just as much as Daphne is determined to leave when the time is up.

So begins a clash of wills and a time during which Anthony begins to discover a woman who makes his head spin with desire and his heart do the unwanted. Anthony is a man deeply scarred from his childhood, not in the usual fashion, but something that readers would have to discover for themselves to understand where he is coming from.

There is such heady desire in the sense of discovery that unfolds between Daphne and Anthony, and to see Daphne emerge from her shell through Anthony’s eyes was one of the best aspects of the story. When a hero realizes that he had been underestimating the heroine all the while, and finds that he is head over heels in lust at the very sight of her; there is nothing more enjoyable to a romance reader than that. I absolutely reveled in the feels of the story, of that whole journey of especially Anthony coming to terms with how he feels about Daphne.

There is a sweet ache in the agony of wanting someone and pushing them away at the same time. Because humans by design are programmed for self preservation, and we at times tend to do that at any cost, sometimes at the cost of losing our chance at happiness with someone who is deserving of us. Anthony’s tale is as such, he could have easily taken the easy way out, but then the heart wants what it wants, even if Anthony takes a while to accept that truth.

The ending to this story was such a beautiful one. I believe that was what did it for me in this novel. The beguiling courtship of Daphne by Anthony towards the end, and how everything just came together was devastating to the heart, all in a good way.

Definitely recommended for all romantics out there, especially the ones who root for the heroines who are usually overlooked; beauty even though it lies in the eye of the beholder, sometimes takes a while to get there.

Final Verdict: Laura Lee Guhrke is an author who knows how to deliver a romance that packs a punch; a hero who makes you swoon, a heroine that makes your heart ache, and a love that is all encompassing.

Favorite Quotes

“It is so hot in summer that the air shimmers over the horizon in waves, so hot it’s hard to breathe. The heat makes your skin feel stretched so tight over your bones that it hurts.” She closed her eyes and rubbed her wet cheeks with the tips of her fingers as if in remembrance of the hot desert sun. “And all you feel is your own sweat turning the dust on your face to caked mud. Your mouth is dry, and you keep licking your lips over and over, but it doesn’t help. They are so chapped and dry.”
Anthony lowered his gaze to her mouth, watching as she ran the tips of her fingers back and forth over her moist, parted lips. Though they may have been chapped in the desert, there was nothing but softness to them now. Lust hit him with such unexpected force that he could not move.

The skin of her cheek felt warm and satiny beneath his fingers. How? he wondered. How did a woman who had lived in deserts all her life have skin as soft and fine as this? He touched his fingers to her lips as she had done. How could her lips be so velvety as this?
She was looking at him, her eyes wide with shock, but in their depths, there was also something else, something that reflected what he was feeling. Yes, desire was in her eyes and in the rapid wisp of her breath against his fingers. It was in the way she stood so still, tense and poised like a deer about to flee. If he slid his hand down, he would feel her heart pounding as hard as his own.

His hand touched her cheek, he brought his mouth closer to hers, and she felt a queer, weightless sensation in her stomach as if she had just dived off a cliff. His lips pressed to hers.
Pleasure unfolded inside her like a butterfly opening its wings to fly. Never in her imagination had she experienced anything so piercing and sweet as this.

He tore his lips from hers and trailed kisses along her jaw as his hand shaped and caressed her breast. Her soft curves burned him wherever her body was pressed against his. Her hips moved, arching against his weight, and shudders of pleasure fissured through his body.
All he wanted was to pull her down onto this hard, dusty floor and feel her hips move like that beneath him, feel those long legs wrap around his body. He wanted her to say his name, over and over while he made love to her.

“I tried to stay away,” he said, pressing quick kisses to her lips, her cheek, her forehead, her chin. “Because if I came back to say good-bye, I would not be able to stop myself from doing this. Daphne, you have been like a shadow beside me for six long weeks, and everywhere I went, I could see you. I am not made of stone. I am just a man, and God help me, I cannot stop wanting you. Do not torture me anymore.” His tongue ran across the crease of her lips. “Kiss me back.”
Her lips parted beneath his, and she closed her eyes, groaning into his mouth. So long. He had been away so long, and she had forgotten how it felt to have his mouth on hers.

“Say my name,” he breathed against her skin. “Say it, Daphne. Say it.”
He touched her with his thumb, and that tiny movement unlocked something inside her, released all the repressions and restraints she had imposed on herself ever since she had first met him. With the force of a river breaking through a dam, pure, indescribable pleasure rushed through her, and she could no longer stop herself from giving him what he wanted. “Anthony,” she cried, “oh, please, oh, yes, yes.”

“Daphne,” he said, sliding his hands behind her shoulders, pulling her to a sitting position. She slid to the edge of the table, and the feel of her, moist and inviting against the tip of his penis drove away any thought but the need to possess her. With one hard thrust, he entered her.
She cried out, and he knew he had hurt her. He stilled, but she wrapped her arms around his neck and tightened her legs around his hips, pulling him deeper into her, and he lost any semblance of sanity.

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Review: The Accidental Girlfriend by Emma Hart

Format: E-Booktheaccidentalgirlfriend
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Mason Jackson
Heroine: Lauren Green
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 25, 2019
Started On: June 25, 2019
Finished On: June 26, 2019

The Accidental Girlfriend by Emma Hart is my very first novel by the author. I was looking for something lighthearted after the emotionally devastating and yet wholesome book I had read just prior to this, and I believe I found exactly what I was looking for in this book.

The main protagonists, Lauren Green and Mason Jackson, meet under unusual circumstances. Maybe not so unusual when you consider the age of social media where everything is posted online for everyone to see. Lauren, who is in a dating funk, makes the mistake of putting an online ad offering her services as a fake date, believing that no one would be that desperate. Turns out she was wrong. Which is how she ends up as Mason’s fake girlfriend for his ten-year high school reunion.

While both strive to be “objective” about their “union”, there is no hiding that attraction between the two. As Mason and Lauren are “forced” to spend time together, both find qualities in the other that might just make for a long lasting relationship, if only they are willing to give it a chance.

The Accidental Girlfriend is a novel that was enjoyable without much huss or fuss. There was a lot of snark in the novel, sometimes leading me to believe that there was too much of it. This is a very grown up take on love and the feelings that blossom alongside with it. There was zero angst and drama to it; just two consenting adults who were not looking for anything serious, finding their soulmates along the way. I felt that the heroine had too much snark to her, so much so that sometimes it was difficult to figure out where she was coming from, which detracted a lot from my enjoyment factor.

I believe that that is in essence what led to the lack of emotional depth to the characters, especially the heroine. She was just too busy throwing around sarcastic quips and making fantastic comebacks for every and any conversation she had to contribute to, which made it a trifle bit exhausting for me. I wanted to see her, the real Lauren, the one who quits taking on sarcasm as a defence mechanism and shows her vulnerabilities, especially to the one person who accepted her as she was.

Mason on the other hand, seemed fairly well put together. He was not embittered by the six years he had “wasted” on his previous girlfriend, the cheating aspect to which he just seemed indifferent to at best. Which was a trifle bit odd as well. However, Mason was kind, sexy, and patient, and perhaps what Lauren needed because Mason for some reason, sees the softness inside of her, something which I failed to because it was difficult to understand her on a deeper level.

Overall, I would say this was an okay read, a bit of flat-liner when you need one.

Final Verdict: If you like snark and lots of it, The Accidental Girlfriend is for you. Emma Hart has a lot where that came from to deliver when it comes to Mason and Lauren.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-Bookfixherup.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Hot & Bothered, #1
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Travis Ford
Heroine: Georgette Castle
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: June 11, 2019
Started On: June 12, 2019
Finished On: June 19, 2019

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey is the first installment in her Hot and Hammered series. I had been on tenterhooks ever since I knew of its impending release towards the mid of this year. The cover and the blurb seemed to hint at a slight deviation from what Ms. Bailey normally writes – this sounded like chic lit, with of course a healthy dose of smexiness thrown into the mix. Because one cannot read a Tessa Bailey novel without encountering some panty-melting scenes that scorches through the pages of your book and/or e-reader.

Georgette Castle (Georgie) as she is known, is the youngest child of the family, having always felt undermined in many ways. The love of her life, Travis Ford, turns out to be none other than her brother’s best friend, and the town’s baseball phenomenon. Travis had gone onto live the high life that comes from being a hotshot baseball player, until he is forced into early retirement at 28 years, from an injury that no one had seen coming.

Giving up is basically what Travis does and no one seems to get through to the despondency that surrounds him and the way he tries to drown out everything that he wants to avoid, which includes facing his past, present, and future, all at the same time. Finally, it is Georgie who intervenes, basically forcing him to toughen up, let go, and move on.

In the process, the famous playboy that Travis had been up till the abrupt termination of his career, finds himself in one of the most complex situations of his life; falling in love with his best friend’s virgin sister. The slide into lust and then love is a journey that Travis had been unprepared for, even if that ship had sailed for Georgie a long time ago.

As with what happens in most first books in a series, this too was used to outline the rest of the characters that would probably end up getting stories of their own somewhere along the way. One of the characters, Rosie, who is already married to her high school sweetheart, is the type of couple that Tessa loves to write about; intense, living in a world of their own kind that she has already done a fair deal of already if you ask me.

I guess one of the biggest problems I had with the story were my heightened expectations being unmet. I thought the book would have a slow build-up (to drive us readers crazy of course), with a healthy dose of smut thrown into the mix. The smut of course did materialize; after all, this is a Tessa Bailey who is renowned for her flair in delivery of dirty talk and scenes that live up to that talk. But the minute Travis started going all “baby girl” on Goergie, I cringed – I guess I have never quite got the hang of enjoying that particular form of endearment, in bed or out of it, especially when it seems to come out of nowhere.

The rest of my problems with the story stemmed from the fact that the plot sounded so cliched – it felt like a novel that had bits and pieces from every other story I have read and enjoyed from the author. Like the grand grovelling scene that is thrown into every book; perhaps in a bid to up the angst factor. You don’t need a grand grovelling scene in every book – some books deserve them more than others. We readers would be happy with an epilogue with the right touch, if the story does not really deserve one.

The secondary character Rosie whom I mentioned earlier, reminded me of books like Too Beautiful to Break, the main protagonists of which basically made readers salivate with the need to read their story. I have a feeling I might skip the second installment in the series set to come out in January of next year, which turns out to be their story. Sometimes I feel like none of these books live up to my lofty expectations anymore, but I certainly wish they would!

I could not fully understand Georgie’s brother Stephen and his wife either. They just seemed strange and Stephen’s need to go above and beyond and play doormat to his wife was kind of unnerving if you ask me. I also felt like the issues Georgie had been having with her family were just resolved too easily. There just seemed to be more to it than what actually materialized.

The only thing I enjoyed? With the exception of Travis using an irksome form of endearment, the sex scenes were pretty good. But neither Travis nor Georgie inspired much emotion from me otherwise.

Recommended for fans of Tessa Bailey.

Final Verdict: Fix Her Up is a novel that needs a lot of fixing. The story fell short of my expectations, leaving me with a hollow feeling.

Favorite Quotes

“We wouldn’t actually be . . . you know.” She shifted. “Doing it. Obviously.”
Travis scoffed. “You’d be the first to want to date Travis Ford without the perks.”
Her eyelids fell to half-mast. “It didn’t sound like you were offering them.”
He moved into her personal space, his voice emerging harsh. “I’m not.”
“Fine,” she said, so low he almost didn’t hear. “I wouldn’t know how to take full advantage of them anyway.”
Virgin. Alarm bells went off, but he stayed right where he was, listening to their rapid breaths. Reminding himself she was his best friend’s little sister didn’t help when she was this near, close enough to touch. To taste. He could no more move away from the approach of Georgie’s lips than he could take on a thousand-man army. If he didn’t kiss her, someone else would claim that first kiss. No. No, he didn’t want that. Fuck. That.
Their mouths met.
Parted for two surprised beats.
And melded back together.

Travis broke the kiss, his harsh pants leaving condensation on her mouth. “Let’s slow down some, baby girl. We didn’t, uh . . . fuck.” He sunk his teeth into his bottom lip and eyed her mouth, shaking his head. “I think there’s supposed to be more buildup to what we just did.”
“You think?” Sweet Lord, his body heat was like being wrapped in warmed cashmere in front of a roaring fire. “You’re supposed to be the expert.”
He puffed a humorless laugh. “Not on kissing.”

When his flesh slapped down between her cheeks, Georgie’s mouth fell open, her hands twisting in the comforter. Hot air puffed from his mouth into the cradle of her neck, followed by a long groan as his hips began to roll. The movements started off as seeking, testing drives, but they didn’t stay that way for long. Soon enough, Travis’s hands sank into the bedclothes right alongside hers, his erection tunneling up and back through the split of her backside in rough grinds. Every drive of his hips was accompanied by a guttural sound that became Georgie’s reason for living on the spot. She opened her thighs wide as she could and offered herself up like a sacrifice.
And Travis accepted it. Unapologetically.

“Pool house or garage, Georgie?”
There was no question as to why Travis was seeking a private location, and it made her blood burn hotter. Although, since she was upside down, a lot of that hot blood raced to her head and made her dizzy. So be it. She’d just voiced her opinion at a family gathering and now Travis wanted to kiss her. If that wasn’t cause for a head rush, she didn’t know what was. “I, um—pool house, I guess?”
They crossed the threshold of the tiny changing hut a few seconds later. The door smacked shut behind them and they were enclosed in darkness. And move over, Mark and Reese, because she’d never been so poised to combust in her life.

“Fuck, Georgie,” he growled. “Open your thighs for more. You’re getting more.”
Georgie’s back arched, her right knee extended out from the couch, giving him extra room to bear down, to angle his hips, and they descended into what felt like madness. Georgie whined and lifted her hips to meet his drives, her inner walls beginning a slow, tight milking of his cock. Travis almost couldn’t even look at her, worried the unchained sexuality breaking free beneath him might ruin everything, might make him come before her. In the end, though, keeping his eyes off her, keeping his skin off her, proved impossible. He was coming. Soon. Now. It was happening.

Their mouths met and gorged, Georgie’s hands slapping down on his ass to yank him deeper, urge him faster, and he didn’t have to think, didn’t have any option but to dip his head. Drop his panting mouth over her bouncing tits. Suction his mouth around her right nipple with a groan as come blazed a path up his throbbing dick, filling Georgie up as he continued to pump like a fiend.
“Shit. Too soon. No, no . . . baby—”
Her body went still, before quaking violently underneath him in climax—thank God—her pussy squeezing so tight, he shouted his victory into the crook of her neck, yanking her legs up and fucking into the storm for everything he was worth.

“Up,” Travis shouted, jerking Georgie to her feet. He ripped the shirt over her head, desperate hands shoving the sports bra up to her neck. Their panting mouths met and molded as he fell onto the bench, ripping a condom from his sagging pocket and rolling it down his arousal. He grabbed Georgie’s bottom and urged her onto his lap, shooting forward to take one of her nipples into his mouth. “Fuck me. Ride me.” His right hand came down and delivered a mean slap to her backside. “Do it now.”

“I don’t know if I can . . .” She broke off in a whimper when Travis began kneading her bottom, coaxing her into a slick, erotic rhythm, her sex riding up and down his length. God, it felt so good, the give and take of soaked flesh, their shallow breaths mingling with the pelting rain, his chest hair abrading her nipples. But her mind wouldn’t turn off the way it did when Travis was on top. She wanted him to hold the reins. “I don’t think I can . . . like this.”
“The hell you can’t.” Travis sat up straight, yanking her hips closer. He took her face in his hands, breathing heavy against her mouth. “You might be on top, but I’m still in charge, aren’t I?” He kissed her long and hard while those words sunk in. “If I wanted to flip you onto your back on this bench and break you off, I wouldn’t ask permission.”

Georgie pressed her naked breasts to Travis’s heaving chest, letting her mouth linger a breath away from his. Lapping at him once. “I want to make you come so hard.”
“Motherfuck.” Travis’s grip returned to her backside, supporting it as he lunged to his feet—and he proceeded to bounce her like a puppet with no strings on his rigid arousal. Sweat slid down one side of his face, their lower bodies slapping together while the rain hammered home on top of the dugout. “You make me so fucking crazy. I can’t take it. My God.”

Without warning, her hips were jerked high onto Travis’s thighs, his erection huge where it prodded the split of her backside. “Look at what it did.” He yanked Georgie’s hips higher in his lap, swiping her earlobe with a flick of his tongue. “Look at what you did. You’re not the least bit sorry about it, either, are you? If you are, it’s not stopping you from pressing back on that dick you tortured. Rubbing on it like a hungry little cat.”
“Sorry,” Georgie breathed, ceasing the movements she hadn’t even been aware of. The apology was only halfway out of her mouth when Travis wrapped her hair in a skilled fist, easing her head back. All the way back until their eyes locked. “I didn’t say to stop.”

“You know why I haven’t put my dick inside you from behind yet?”
She let out a shaking breath against the leather, her heart hammering. “Why?”
Travis rammed himself home and Georgie’s scream filled the limousine. “Because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to control myself once I got you on hands and knees. With your ass smacking off my belly, I worried I’d cross that line into disrespectful—and some part of me still thought of you as my friend’s little sister.” He made a choked sound, falling on top of her, thrusting with a groan. “Not anymore. You’re all mine now. I’ll take you how I want.”

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ARC Review: Scandalous by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-Bookscandalous.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Outcasts, #3
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: Martín Etienne Bouchard
Heroine: Sarah Fisher
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 24, 2019
Started On: September 16, 2019
Finished On: September 26, 2019

Scandalous by Minerva Spencer is the much anticipated and awaited third installment in The Outcasts series. The hero, Martín Etienne Bouchard is a character that has intrigued readers of the series for a long while. Martín is exotic in a way that is hard to put into words (Spencer has no such difficulties), but there is an impact his character makes on you from the very first moment you lay your eyes on him.

It is during one of Martín’s missions that he comes across the strait-laced Sarah Fisher, who has been brought up in a religious household, who had basically found her calling in helping the less fortunate. Sarah has never known anyone like Martín and she does not particularly understand why it is difficult for her to keep her wits about the man.

24 years old and with relatively zero experience when it comes to pleasures of the flesh, that does not stop Sarah’s inquisitive mind from wanting to explore more when it comes to Martín and the way he makes her feel. However, that is not entirely possible given that Martín would like nothing better than keeping her as far away from him as possible.

Martín tries hard, and I mean really hard, to fight the spell that Sarah seems to have cast on him, to no avail. Giving in however does come at a price, at the cost of his past which makes a comeback, putting all that he holds in danger, and perhaps in the process make all his nightmares come true.

When I finished turning the last page of the story, I could understand some of the reviews that I had skimmed through, before this book landed in my hands via Netgalley. Martín is a character that has fascinated most readers like myself, who have gone through the last two books in the series. Yet, in his own book, Martín materializes to be half the man he has been projected to be, the man I have pictured in my mind for so long, especially when you connect the dots together.

I did enjoy the bits and pieces in the novel where Sarah was driving Martín mad with want and jealousy. There is a special kind of anticipation that runs through you when an author gets the tension factor just right and for the most part, Scandalous delivered that in spades. I also understood why Martín felt that the likes of Sarah weren’t for the likes of him, a man who has a sullied past, a past that shames him, even though it has in a large way shaped him to be the man he is.

My disappointment in the story stemmed from the fact that Martín and Sarah spends so much more time apart than they did together throughout the story. The second book in the series, Barbarous was so wonderful in this regard, and perhaps my favorite installment in the series altogether. Now that, proved to be a breathtaking read, and to catch glimpses of the couple in this story was just as good.

But the moment that a couple from a previous book does more to a reader than the actual protagonists of the story is where things start to head south in my opinion. For a man like Martín, who is a hedonist in many senses, to read a book where he fell in love with a woman with whom he had very little contact in the physical sense, someone whom he tried to keep at a willful distance all throughout was a bit jarring.

That was out of character. Perhaps that was what Ms. Spencer was going for and if that is what she intended, she has achieved what she set out to do. But for me, I like a character who keeps true to his nature, someone who does not start doing the opposite of the very thing that is in his nature to do from the moment the heroine/hero enters their life.

Though Sarah was crafted in a way that should have made her a favorite, she just did not elicit the kind of love and warmth in my heart for her she deserved, because I quite could not relate to her on anything. While she seemed lovely and driven by noble causes, I just could not seem to muster up the enthusiasm that was required to fall for her. Perhaps once again this circles back to Martín, I always saw him as someone bolder than what he was in this novel and envisioned him ending up with someone who is his equal, in every sense of the way. I failed to see Sarah as that in the long term.

Even though Scandalous (which turned out to be not so much) did not live up to my expectations (perhaps this is where everything went downhill), I am still excited about Gabriel’s story. I hope Gabriel materializes to have the fire, humour, and warmth of his mother, and dominance that comes from his father’s lineage, without the cruelty in the mix.

Final Verdict: While Scandalous delivered on many fronts, what I had hoped for Martín did not materialize from within. I wanted more for him. Much more.

Favorite Quotes

“Do you even know what bargain you made?”
“I am not ignorant in such matters. I know what I have agreed to.” Her voice was low and breathy and made him throb.
He chuckled at her bravado. “Oh, I doubt that, mademoiselle.” He tongued the tender flesh between her neck and collarbone before stopping over the pulse that pounded at the base of her throat. She was so fine-grained and smooth; he had a burning need to consume her.

The rough pad of his thumb rested against the satin seam of her mouth, and her lids flickered open, her eyes wide and confused. He pressed and her lips parted. Her chest rose and fell in ragged jerks, and her eyes became almost black. Martín held his breath as he waited, wondering what she would do.
The first touch of her tongue was so light he barely felt it, but the slight graze of her teeth as she took him into the incredible softness of her mouth made him gasp. Her eyes never left his, and the sight of her fragile pink lips stretched around him made him so hard it hurt.

A hand grazed the bare skin of her thighs, and Sarah startled. The voice that had been muffled by desire rose again to the surface. He’d managed to insinuate himself beneath her skirts without her even noticing.
“Captain—”
“Martín,” he murmured, taking her lower lip in his mouth and gently sucking it before running a path of kisses across her cheek, stopping at her ear. “Say it,” he ordered softly.
The name fit him perfectly—exotic and beautiful.

He cupped her sex over the fine fabric, the touch of his hand shocking yet somehow right. Sarah dropped her forehead on his shoulder, a sob of pleasure breaking from her.
“Shh, ma belle, I will give you what you need.” He gently stroked a single finger into her.
Sarah bucked violently and bit his shoulder to keep from crying out.
“You are drenched.” His voice was hoarse, as if he were having trouble speaking.
Sarah felt the same, incapable of saying anything, incapable of thinking anything, incapable of doing anything other than shuddering each time he stroked.

“And this?” He pointed to something else on the page.
His hair was made up of hundreds of shades of gold, each strand so thick she could see the hairs individually.
He turned when she didn’t answer, and Sarah found herself staring into eyes the color of old gold. She would later tell herself that she leaned closer to get a better look at those eyes and he misunderstood the action.
His arms snaked around her, and he bent her body into an almost painful arch with the force of his embrace. He captured her mouth, parted her lips, and stroked into her in one fluid motion. She sucked his tongue deeper and he moaned before tightening his grip on her body until she gasped.

“Sarah.”
She looked up at the sound of her name.
“Take me in your hand.”
She wrapped her palm around him, and they both gasped.
“Bloody hell.” He slumped back against the wardrobe door with a thump. One of his hands closed around hers, making her fingers into a tight fist, far tighter than she would have believed pleasant. He guided her, demonstrating how to pleasure him. A low growl broke from him when he released her and she continued her stroking, her eyes riveted to the sight of so much masculine arousal in her hand.

Sarah wanted to run from the cabin at his words, but his eyes held her in place. She let her thumb drift over one nipple, and it hardened instantly. She gasped at the unexpected sensation of pleasure.
He muttered something and closed the distance between them in a blur. His hot, soft mouth covered the stiff peak, his hands replacing hers. He commenced stroking her far more skillfully than she had with her awkward fumbling, using his tongue and fingers to tease, his teeth to nip, his lips to suck, until she was floating somewhere outside her body.

“I can’t stop now, Sarah,” he gritted, his hands digging into the flesh of her hips. She pushed herself against him, thrilling at the effect she had on his body.
The raw power of his climax was unlike anything she could have imagined. He held her hips in an unbreakable grip, shouting her name before abruptly leaving her body and spending himself in hot ribbons across her belly.

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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.

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