Review: Heartless by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookheartless.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The House of Rohan, #5
Publisher: Impeccably Demure Press
Hero: Brandon George Rohan
Heroine: Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 15, 2018
Started On: May 30, 2018
Finished On: June 02, 2018

At last, Heartless, the 5th book in the House of Rohan series by Anne Stuart is out,  a book that has been long awaited by fans. The fourth book, Shameless was published in 2011, with Anne Stuart promising fans that she would get around to writing Brandon George Rohan (Brandon) and Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury (Emma)’s story. It has been four years since I discovered this delectable series by Anne Stuart and indulged to my heart’s content. Before the arrival of Heartless, I decided to do a re-read marathon of the entire series, which actually made Heartless all that more meaningful to me.

Heartless starts after a period of three years having passed since the Shameless. With Brandon living in the Scottish Highlands, recovering and recuperating from the mess his life had become after the war, Brandon is summoned home by his brother Benedick upon the birth of his and Melisande’s second child. Brandon is reluctant to make his way back to England, but it was finally time.

Taking a look at Emma’s life, it sure had changed considerably since then. Someone who had been the youngest madam in England had turned her life around to the point where she was now about replace Mr. Fenrush as the head of surgery at the Temple Hospital where she pursues her passion. Her triumphs in her professional life had not come easy, especially pursuing a career in the medicinal world as a woman at the time. But Emma has an innate talent that wins her peers over, except for Mr. Fenrush, whose anger towards her often seems more malicious than just professional jealousy on his part.

Emma and Brandon’s story is one that begins way before Heartless does. Which is perhaps why readers have been waiting with bated breathe for their story. Emma had been one of the volunteers at the hospital at the time during which Brandon had been admitted, suffering from war injuries. It is at the hospital that Emma and Brandon forge a bond, that for Emma had been something beyond her wildest dreams, especially for a woman such as herself considered as soiled in the eyes of the society. For Brandon (whose thoughts on their shared time together are revealed much later), Emma had been the lifeline which had held him together, and he had entertained unrealistic dreams of them being together, even knowing that Emma wasn’t probably the wisest choice as a life partner.

When Emma and Brandon’s worlds collide once again at the christening ceremony of Alexandra Emma Brandon Rohan, Emma is hopeful and at the same disappointed that Brandon doesn’t seem to remember her. And it is a game that Emma continues to and is willing to play, as long as it does not put her emotions in peril. However, even with the obstacle of Brandon’s pompous elder brother trying to force a bride on him standing in the way, there seems to be no obstruction strong enough to prevent Emma and Brandon from coming together, except of course for Emma herself.

Heartless was I suppose what you would call mellow, at least mellower than the rest of the books in the series. I understood the need for it. Both Emma and Brandon are broken in a way that no other characters we have come across in previous books have been, not even Brandon’s grandmother whom we encounter in Ruthless. Imagine being ripped off of your virginity in the cruelest way, being forced to sell your body by someone you had trusted, and not having a choice about any of it. Imagine going dead inside, having never sought pleasure in the act of sex, never understanding the pleasure to be had.

It is Emma’s character that requires care in this story. It is usually the male lead who almost always has issues that are seemingly insurmountable. But in the case of Emma and Brandon, it is Emma’s character that needed the TLC factor, and Brandon, having undergone what he had owing to his attempts to drown out certain aspects of the war he had witnessed in drugs and liquor, has the patience and endurance for the slow seduction required of Emma.

Emma’s avoidance of everything to do with Brandon does come with a price. It is an avoidance that is borne out of the need to protect herself, and that tactic applied to an escalating danger to her life ends up nearly costing her life. The period of separation that takes place was one that provided the emotional angst factor in spades, and Brandon never giving up on Emma was something I approved of and loved wholeheartedly. If ever there are two people who deserve to have their happily ever after, it is Emma and Brandon, and knowing that they did achieve it? Makes me smile from ear to ear.

Recommended for fans of the series. Brandon and Emma’s story was beautiful and soothing in a way that deviates from the norm that is Anne Stuart.

Final Verdict: Heartless might be a little late to the party, but it brings along a ton of angst, feel good emotions, and a whole lot of love. Emotionally heavier in comparison to the rest of the books in the series, Brandon has just the right amount of tenderness, steely determination, and sensuality to seduce Emma, for life.

Favorite Quotes

“Hullo, Charles,” Melisande said, and Emma knew her friend well enough to recognize the lack of enthusiasm in her voice. “I hope your wife and daughters are well?”
“As always. Elinor and the girls are in London, alas. Too many social commitments to allow them to escape.”
“And you were afraid our sister and her wretched husband might be in attendance,” Rohan interjected dryly. “You needn’t have worried. Miranda is once again expecting—I think she and the Scorpion are planning to repopulate the entire Lake District—so your wife’s delicate sensibilities wouldn’t have been offended.”

“You’re right,” he said slowly. “The only man who’s going to get in your bed is going to have to love you, and I’m afraid that’s a part of me that never healed.”
It felt like a blow. Why should the word “love” even be mentioned between them? “You’re stronger than I am,” she said calmly enough. “You could take what you wanted. I’m a professional, remember? I know when a man wants me.”
His smile was wry. “Oh, I want you very much. I doubt there’s a man who sees you who doesn’t want you, with the possible exception of my brother Benedick. Even a stuffy old prude like Charles wouldn’t be immune. But you’ve been hurt, you’re weak and trembling, and I don’t make a habit of taking advantage of frightened little girls.”
“I’m not. . .” she started to protest, when he bent down and brushed the softest, sweetest kiss against her mouth, gone almost before it had begun, so quickly that she could do nothing more than stare at him in astonishment.
“You are,” he said softly. “Good night, Emma.”
She stood outside her door, bemused, as he faded into the shadows. She put a hand to her lips, expecting some monumental change. They were no different—soft, slightly open. He’d kissed her, and life would never be the same.

She knew it was hogwash, just as she knew he didn’t belong in the rough wards of St. Martin’s Military Hospital. He had the voice of a gentleman, and she had yet to meet anyone who could falsify those tones. She had kissed him anyway, the soft brush of her mouth against his—harmless, innocent. Until the last night, when the kiss became something quite different.
He’d grown stronger, he’d been sitting up in bed, and she’d moved her chair closer, night by night. For some reason she continued to hold his hand—the human touch kept him tethered to this earth, she thought, never realizing it kept her tethered to him. Until the last night, or early morning, when she rose to leave him, and leaned over to give him her chaste, affectionate kiss.
Instead he’d caught her arm, tugging her off balance, and deftly managed to slip his hand behind her head to hold her in place while he deepened the kiss, pushing her mouth open with his, using his tongue.
She’d been too shocked to react, had simply let his kiss her, long and slow and hard, so thoroughly she felt. . . she felt. . .
His grip loosened, and she stumbled back from him, her hand to her mouth. “Harpy. . .” he’d said, laughter and concern in his voice, but she whirled and ran, through the crowded ward without a backward glance.

Why did you kiss me?”
He jumped. That was the very last thing he expected—he’d assumed she’d ignore the incident, skittish as she was, and he wasn’t prepared for her flat question.
He knew he hadn’t shown it though—he was an even better master of his reactions than she was. “That’s an inordinately silly question. I wanted to. There’s something about your mouth, I think. Why? You didn’t seem to mind.”
Her face had whitened, which he found extremely odd “You didn’t give me a chance to mind,” she mumbled, taking another hasty drink. He was going to have to tell Noonan about it. In the north they usually got by on gallons of hot, strong tea, but given that he allowed himself no other liquids, Emma’s drink might be a worthy addition to Noonan’s limited cooking repertoire.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “Should I have kissed you longer? Harder? Deeper?”

She rose suddenly, setting down her empty cup, and there was just the faintest bit of chocolate on the corner of her lip. “I really need to go back upstairs,” she said hurriedly. “I feel unwell. That is, if I’m to leave tomorrow I should probably rest. . .”
She’d been backing away from him, with good sense, since he’d risen as well and was moving toward her. He caught up with her just before she reached the door and casually pulled her away from it, backing her into the corner of the room away from the windows. Near a divan.
“I’ll let you go,” he said softly. “In a minute.” And he set his mouth against hers, his tongue licking out to taste that tiny bit of chocolate.
She shuddered, but it wasn’t in disgust. Her hands had come up to his shoulders, but they’d moved beneath his jacket, clutching the soft cloth that covered his shoulders, and the sound she made was one of soft, unexpected pleasure.

Words began spilling from his mouth then, when he’d been so determined to be silent. “Yes,” and “fuck” and “more” and “yes” as he moved faster, his own body beginning to shake with the power of his overwhelming lust. He couldn’t, wouldn’t say the word “love” but he could push into her, with dirty words whispered in her ear that made her tighten around him. He was fighting a losing battle with self-control, and he wanted to lose it, but she wasn’t quite ready, though he knew from her breathing, from a thousand other physical signs that she was near. “Don’t,” he said, his mind blank, “give it,” he muttered, and the battle was lost. “Now,” he groaned, feeling his seed boil up from his balls and spurt into her, and the last word he spoke, as he pulled free and collapsed beside her, was even worse.
“Harpy,” he said, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

If they’d been on that bed it wouldn’t have been he who was weeping. Emma and beds had an obvious connotation—in fact, the idea of any bed made him think of Emma. Any flat surface. Up against a wall. In a chair—he hadn’t done it in a chair for years. . .
He slammed a door on his thoughts. “Did I ever bed you in this house?”
She turned, and he couldn’t read her expression. “I assure you, until last night I had been blissfully celibate for eight years.”
He froze. “That’s not possible!”
She turned, calm and controlled, raising an eyebrow. “How so?”“You . . . that is . . . you . . .” he hadn’t been at a loss for words since he’d be a callow youth, and he simply stared at her in disbelief.
“I retired from the day to day tasks of a bordello and concentrated on the business side. Once a whore, always a whore, but in fact my hard-learned skills have not been put to the test for a very long time. I hope I proved satisfactory, my lord. I would hate to receive money for inferior performance.”

“You’re my harpy. You always say awful things. Do you want to leave?” He would let her, of course. He would let her out of his life if he had to, if she had to. He would die, but he would do it. For her.
“I want to stay,” she whispered.
The buttons on the night dress unfastened easily—the fussy thing wasn’t without merit. He could feel the tremor in her body and he knew she had to be handled carefully, not with the brute passion of the night before.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said.
She was holding very still as his hands moved lower and lower, the tiny pearl buttons releasing with just a flick of his shaking fingers. The gown parted to show her moon-silvered flesh, and he caught his breath. “I could wish you weren’t so perfect.”
“The ugliness is all on the inside,” she said.
“There’s no ugliness in you anywhere. There’s only pain.”

She heard her own scream with shock, and she quickly slammed her hands over her mouth, as a fierce, hard response rocketed through her, strange and untenable. “Don’t—” she gasped, but he was past listening, and then she was past protesting as she felt a sharp energy begin to build, to suffuse her body with something that surely was wrong. She was past fighting it, past worrying about it, and when she felt him slide two long fingers into her as he licked and sucked and bit, then she was gone, unable to stifle her response as it took over her body, leaving no room for herself there.
It was like being thrown over a cliff, sailing through dark, powerful winds and ending in a storm-tossed sea, and she could do nothing but hold onto him like the life raft he seemed to be, the only thing solid and safe in her mad, swirling world. Every muscle in her body had seemed to lock, as those waves crashed over her again and again. She couldn’t stop it, she couldn’t control it, and then she no longer wanted to, giving herself over to the wash of feelings. She hadn’t even realized he’d moved up, over her, until she managed to open groggy eyes to stare at him, at the triumph, the satisfaction on his face, things she could rail at, except for that shocking streak of tenderness in his eyes.

But when he pushed back in it was even more wonderful, and her hips rose to meet his, the walls of her sex tightening around him as her hands clutched his biceps. This was possession, but a different kind, a glorious one that she could hold in her heart. He took her, claimed her, but she took him as well, into her body, into her heart, into her soul, where he would always stay, no matter what happened. She finally let go, giving herself to him, to the rampant, building pleasure, to the joy of love that had cracked her guarded heart, as he thrust, each push a promise he couldn’t keep, but it no longer mattered. Deep and harder and harder and she wanted more, craved more.
“Yes,” she whispered fiercely. “Again. Again. More.”
The darkness that was closing around her split with lightning, and suddenly everything ceased to exist, only man and woman, elemental, eternal, as she seemed to burst apart in a shower of pure sensation. She could feel him with her, her love, her soul, joining her, flooding her, and she took everything in savage satisfaction and a guttural sob of triumph.”

Emma appeared dumbfounded, a rare occurence for his beautiful bride. “No,” she said. “That is … I didn’t say yes… I still think we should…”
Brandon took care of her protests in the most efficient way possible, and when she was too breathless to speak he glanced at Ellis. “Well, for the time being you’re my butler, and you will leave and see that no one disturbs you for the next hour.”
“Hour?” Emma said, sounding alarmed.
“Make that two.” He focused all his attention on Emma. “And take the damned dog.”
When they were finally alone, he turned back to her, and she was wiping tears from her cheeks. “Damn these things,” she muttered. “I only started crying five weeks ago and now I can’t seem to stop.”
“That’s all right, Harpy,” he murmured. “I’ll always be here to dry them. Accept it- there’s no way you can win against the assembled might of the Wicked Rohans. You’ll marry me and live happily ever after.”
“No one ever does,” she said.
“You will,” he said firmly. “I promise you.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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ARC Review: The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthelullabygirl.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Series: Angie Pallorino, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddocks
Heroine: Angela Pallorino
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: May 14, 2018
Finished On: May 20, 2018

The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White is the second book in the Angie Pallorino series, books centered around the lead female detective, aka Angela Pallorino (Angie). These are not standalone books, so if you want to immerse yourself in the ‘dark’ escape that this series provides, you will have to read the books in order. I say dark escape because Loreth’s books delve into the darker side of suspense with just enough romance going for it to suit readers like myself.

The Lullaby Girl begins two weeks or so after The Drowned Girls end, rather eventfully I must add. With Angie taking down a serial rapist turned killer (Spencer Adams) working her now life partner (of sorts), Sergeant James Maddocks, Angie’s life had considerably turned upside down since the hunt for Spencer had started. Angie, who had then being working sex crimes, had been partnered with James, the man she had tied to a motel bed and drowned herself in him on her way to oblivion – Angie’s method of escape from the voices that hound her.

Since then, Angie and Maddocks had managed to bust wide open a case that has all the elements that makes society gasp in indignation and fear. A rapist & killer who mutilated his victims, who had found easy pickings aboard a ‘pleasure vessel’ known as Amanda Rose, which had also exposed dirty politicians that had benefited from the operations.

While Angie had been placed on leave until the investigation into the culmination of the Spencer Adams angle in the case had ended, Maddocks meanwhile had continued the probe into the human trafficking of young girls and how far the tentacles of the case reaches.

Angie had in the meantime, started inquiries into her childhood, the lies which had pretty much defined her existence having come out into the open during the strenuous hours spent on the case. It is as Angie digs her heels into finding out more, that two detectives seek her out on a cold case of a DNA match with Angie’s, bringing home the possibility that Angie must have family somewhere that could possibly have been looking for her all these years.

With her position as a detective in the department at peril and placed in the social media division, Angie has no choice but to go along for the ride, if only for the ‘benefits’ being on the job would bring in the line of her own investigations. But resent the punishment, she definitely does.

So finds Angie going along with the investigations into her past, while Maddocks pursues the leads on his case, which takes on Russian organized crime amidst international human trafficking angle which brings takes the case to a whole new level. But it is when these two separate and distinct investigations collide that things take a turn which brings the whole house of cards tumbling down.

The Lullaby Girls proved to be just as engrossing a read as it’s predecessor. Angie’s character was just as thorny, perhaps more so owing to the different upheavals that her life has been subjected to along the way. Angie doesn’t see the destructive path she is on, though it is hard not to empathize with what she’s going through as well. She has had her whole world turned upside down, and to come to know that she had had a life that was vastly different from what she remembers to be her childhood, enables her to understand her affinity with crime solving and sex crimes in particular.

The inability to see the “difficult” side of her character prevents Angie from seeing the punishment she is given at the department for what it is; that it had been owing to her actions and behavior along with her strained relationships with her partners, and her lack of ability to follow orders while keeping a level head about it.

This of course makes Angie lash out, and lash out she does, which makes things pretty difficult for Maddocks. Because for Angie, there is nothing more vulnerable than letting someone into her life to a point where he would have the ability to destroy her whole world, if it ever comes to that. Angie likes control, well let’s be honest, who doesn’t. But then again, Angie’s need for control makes it almost impossible for her to see the damage she is doing to her own life, the relationships she forges with everyone around her, and her inability to connect with people long enough to forge meaningful relationships with them.

And then there is Maddocks. Whose own life has clearly not been a walk in the park. The case which forces him to return to his old haunts brings back the memories of a failed marriage, his idealistic views on what his life should have been like, his frayed relationship with his daughter, and most of all, his tendency to be attracted to the broken that needs fixing, which explains Angie and his need for her in his life.

Like I said in my review of the first book, if it were any other man but Maddocks, he would have washed his hands off of Angie and walked away a long while back. But there are reasons which makes Maddocks stay, reasons which I as the reader see for myself when I keep wading through the complexity that is Angie. There is that damaged side to her character which is hard not to empathize with, and there is that wonderful person she could be if there wasn’t so much darkness clouding her life, a person that peeks through from within the layers every once in a while that makes Maddocks’ patience worth it.

Angie coming full circle with her past and uncovering the roots of her beginnings was something to behold. I enjoyed every single minute of it, rooted for Angie with every fiber of my being, and held my breathe every single time things started heading south. But life holds little meaning, if it ain’t for the struggles which you triumph through.

Recommended for fans of thrillers and suspense novels that keeps you at the edge, because a book that doesn’t make you sweat for the characters you root for, ain’t a book worth reading.

Final Verdict: The Lullaby Girl delves deeper into the psyche of Angie and brings to the forefront the horrors of sex-trafficking, taking on the world of transnational organized crime, delivering a story as informative & unsettling as they come.

Favorite Quotes

People don’t understand the toll that job can take on a police officer or his family. They don’t know how we all have to tiptoe around the ugly side of the job, the mood swings, the depression, the drinking.

He caressed the line of her jaw with his thumb. And something fierce and angry erupted inside her—a desperation to burn down her own insecurities, to kill the pain, to blind herself to the fear of what her own memories might reveal, the realities that she might have to face about what had happened to her in childhood. She grabbed his tie and yanked him closer. Drawing his head down, she reached herself up and pressed her mouth hungrily to his. His lips were cold from outside. He hesitated a nanosecond before suddenly cupping her buttocks and jerking her hips tightly up against his pelvis. His mouth bore down on hers, forcing her lips open. He slid his tongue inside, met hers. Lust blinded Angie as she felt his erection stiffening against her belly.

His eyes, intense, held hers as he allowed her to pin his wrists above his head against the floor. Angie straddled his hips and slid the crotch of her skimpy panties aside. Widening her knees, parting her thighs, she sank down onto the hot, hard length of him. With a bliss-filled sigh she spread her thighs farther, making him go deep, deeper. And she began to rock her hips, creating friction deep inside the core of her body. Her breaths came fast, faster. She rocked harder. She became slick around his erection. Her body began to tingle. A hot, raw anger exploded, ripping through her gut, driving her wilder. She closed her eyes, put her head back, mouth open wide, panting, her skin going damp. And she rode him hard and fast and half-clothed, forcing her mind back, mentally reliving that very first night she’d spent with him at the Foxy Motel. She gasped suddenly, froze, then cried out as muscle contractions slammed through her in rolling waves, taking control of her body.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthedrownedgirls.jpeg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Angie Pallorino, #1
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddock
Heroine: Angie Pallorino
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: June 20, 2017
Started On: March 03, 2018
Finished On: April 21, 2018

Loreth Anne White’s voice in the romantic suspense genre is one that resonates with readers like myself who need that dark edge to their reads. This makes Loreth’s books heavy reads, and mind you, they can get quite heavy because they delve into the darkest and most forbidden aspects of humanity itself. But for all that and more, Loreth’s books are unbeatable, and I would never have it any other way.

If I am not mistaken, this is the very first series of books that Loreth has written, interconnected in terms of stories and characters with one another. Entitled “Angie Pallorino” after the lead female detective in the series, The Drowned Girls as the debut novel deals with crimes of the kind that would make a woman look twice over her shoulder in paranoia, lock their doors and double and triple check to see whether they are actually locked, and worry about the whereabouts of loved ones, especially if they deviate from the normal hours they keep.

Angie Pallorino works on sex crimes at the Victoria Metro Police Department. Angie comes with issues that are layered with issues, and she is one of the most complex female leads I have ever come across. Angie has a way of dealing with the darkness inside of her, the voices that won’t quit, that feeling that has always hounded her that the life she has been living wasn’t really hers. Did I mention that she was complex? Yes, Angie is the definition of the word itself.

Usher in Sergeant James Maddocks, the newest recruitment to the Department, who is actually hired for the job that that Angie herself has been eyeing for quite some time. Coupled with the fact that the guy Angie randomly hooks up with at her pickup bar the previous night, the man she had labeled as “Mr. Big Dick”, and made her react in a way that was totally unlike her when it comes to her anonymous hookups turns out to be the one and the same? Needless to say, the tension and sparks between the two were very much a part of the unfolding story.

When a Jane Doe is discovered by a tour guide, with signs of mutilation of her sex organs, with a cross carved into her forehead, the tingles running up and down Angie’s spine tells her that this was no ordinary criminal that had done the deed. That it in fact looked like the perpetrator that Angie and her now deceased partner had been after for serial rape cases that had landed on their case pile, a lead that had gone cold for two years, now surfacing once again, and in a way that does not bode well at all.

When a second dead body surfaces, also bearing similar marks on her body, thus begins the investigation to find the person behind the heinous crimes. With the newly elected mayor reportedly having promised to make the city “great again”, the department is under enormous pressure to deliver, and to deliver fast and without bumbling it up in the need to rush.

What unfolded was way more than I bargained for, even knowing that Loreth is capable of taking a story in a direction that readers usually wouldn’t see coming. There are multiple threads running through the story the entire time, and in hindsight I wondered if that could have been the reason as to why one of the most crucial aspects of the story didn’t get much time – i.e. the villain and how he came to be who he was.

The discovery of his premises, the fate of his father when he was young, and the theories that had been floating around about what had made the monster out of a child who had seemingly looked happy in his childhood pictures was one that I wanted to read about. I feel that when authors write about evil personas such as the villain, they do so after a ton of research, and its not easy to craft a character as such without investing a lot of time on them. The villain in his own right, in novels like this, becomes part of the main protagonists in the story that unfolds. But, given the direction that the story took, taking readers onto sex crimes on an international scale, I suppose the villain that brought so much horror to the minds of the readers was a little overlooked in the end.

But, that does not by any means indicate that the story was lacking. The furthest thing from that in fact. I was fascinated with the multitude of connections, the painstaking work involved in terms of investigations, the interviews, the tedious work of corroborating witness statements etc. that goes into crime solving – not just solving a crime but making the charges stick.

However, in the end, it was Angie’s actions that came to the forefront; her “rash” actions that had saved the lives of two very important people in her life, or two people who could become the most important in her life, that changed the ending.

Loreth has an ability to bring to life a scene in a way that makes you feel like you are walking right through it. Every single aspect of the scene from the chilly, foggy, and wet weather of the region in which the story takes place, to the creepy characters you encounter along the way; all that and more are more or less alive, in front of you, like a myriad of images that goes through your mind as you read along. That is one of the aspects to Loreth’s books that makes them so darn difficult to put down and makes you crave for more.

Detective James Maddocks aka Mr. Big Dick (I like the sound of that way too much), is the type of hero that makes you swoon, even without realizing it. There is a way about him that just soothes those jagged edges to you, makes you simmer down a little, sit up and take notice of a man whose tamped down sexuality makes it all the more prominent perhaps. James and his life story takes a backseat to the baggage that Angie brings to the table. Angie is the one whose past comes roaring to life, making her question every single thing that has been part of her life narrative as long as she could remember. Her volatile temperament certainly does not help, and if it were a man less patient than Maddocks, they would just walk away and wash their hands off of her.

But then there are the moments in which Angie shows that side of hers that is vulnerable, hurting, and in need of someone that understands where she comes from. This is in fact the place from which she takes on the offensive; in her mind, lashing and fighting out is way better than letting people know exactly where to prick and prod if they intend to hurt her. Plus, the crimes that she works on? They are the kind that would probably make you go home and drown your sorrows in alcohol or worse when it gets to be too much. Or in Angie’s case, her outlet comes in the form of random sexual encounters with strangers, the high she gets out of being in control of the setting, when in reality her life is spiraling out of control and there is nothing much she can do about it.

If this is your very first read from Loreth, worry not. She has a couple of standalone romantic suspense titles that are absolutely to die for. I for one, can’t wait to find out what Loreth has in store for Angie and Maddocks in the next couple of books.

Final Verdict: Involuted and engrossing, The Drowned Girls is an eye opening tale of human depravity at its most obscene perhaps, because it speaks to parts of your conscience that everyone tries to hide from. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

We all lie.
We all guard secrets—sometimes terrible ones—a side to us so dark, so shameful, that we quickly avert our own eyes from the shadow we might glimpse in the mirror.
Instead we lock our dark halves deep in the basement of our souls. And on the surface of our lives, we work industriously to shape the public story of our selves.

There is none righteous, no, not one. —Romans 3:10

Angie shut out the voice, opened her thighs wider, and sank deeper onto his dick. She rocked her hips faster, filling herself, making herself hurt. She was close, so close, and he could feel it. He bucked under her, wilder, wilder, thrusting his cock up into her. She tried to pull back, to deny him full pleasure, but suddenly she froze, her entire body going rigid, as if in rigor. Her breath caught in her chest, and she held still a moment, red lights pulsing, bass beating. And suddenly, she came, her vision blurring, a cry suffocating in her throat as her muscles contracted and released in hot, rolling waves. She collapsed onto him, her breasts against his rough chest hair. He was still hard inside her as aftershocks continued to ripple around his erection.

He called after her. “You got a name there, warrior princess?”
She paused, hand on doorknob, and the devil on her shoulder whispered, Yes, you can control this. You can stop anytime you want to . . . Besides, she was only human. She could have a life. It wasn’t as though it was forbidden to have a relationship. As long as she held the reins, all the control.
“Angie,” she said.
Silence.
“You?” she asked.
He smiled slowly, one side of his mouth curving slightly higher than the other. “I’ve got your number.” He paused. “Angie.”

Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will bear silent witness against him. —Locard’s exchange principle

. . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. —Romans 3:23

The rules twisted down into a hot vortex of total oblivion as her mouth, her hunger, her aggression met his, tongues tangling, mating, rough, taking. He fisted her hair, tilting her head farther back, as his other hand slid down her spine. He cupped her buttocks and yanked her hard against him. His shirt was completely plastered to his body, and she could feel every inch of his muscular contours under the wet fabric. She could feel the long hardness of his big, gorgeous dick straining against his zipper as he pressed against her pelvis. Heat pooled molten between her thighs. Dizziness swirled, and her knees began to buckle out from under her. She wanted him. All of him. Inside. Deep and fast and hard and rough. Out here. Right now.

Naked, Angie sat on the edge of the bed, Maddocks standing between her legs while she undid his pants, a lust building, boiling, deep inside her. She slid his pants down his hips and that gorgeous dick swelled free. She caressed him, taking him into her mouth, holding his hips as she worked him with her lips, her tongue. His hands clamped down hard on her shoulders, his fingers digging deeper and deeper into her skin as she stimulated him to the point that he groaned, fisting her hair. He stopped her suddenly, pulling her off his wet erection by moving her head back. His gaze, dark, dangerous, locked with hers, and he shoved her backward and hard onto the covers.

He moved slowly at first, achingly slowly, and a tension of another kind built inside her as she wiggled to free her hands again but couldn’t. And her eyes flared wide. She was struggling to breathe.
He gave a powerful thrust, and he was inside her, up to the hilt. She gasped, and he moved his hips harder, driving himself yet deeper. Her eyes watered as he began to fuck her, his heavy, muscled build pumping her deep into the bedding, her hands trapped high above her head.

“Please, Maddocks,” she whispered. “Please.” He swallowed, his muscles beginning to shake against his battle to suddenly control himself, sweat slicking over his skin, and suddenly he gasped, and came powerfully, uncontrollably, inside her, his fingers digging into her flesh as his body took charge, shuddering him inside her. Tears filled her eyes as Maddocks, spent, lowered himself slowly down onto her, then rolled onto his side, withdrawing from inside her.
“Angie?” he whispered, his eyes refocusing.
Tears leaked out from the corners of her eyes, onto his covers. And she still ached with desire, and she felt shame, defeat, guilt. He stroked her cheek and moved a damp tangle of hair off her face. “Did I hurt you? What is it?”
She shook her head, unable to voice it, unable to tell him what was going on, unable to understand herself. And she was filled with embarrassment.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “So sorry.”

His vision swirled as he thrust and entered her hot wetness. She sighed softly as if with relief. Maddocks moved slowly, tentatively at first, rocking into her, and she met each of his thrusts with soft, sure movements of her hips—a pace as old as time, a rhythm that matched the waves upon which his boat rocked. And inside him a blinding pressure began to build. He could feel her growing hotter, hungrier, beginning to move faster. He thrust harder, faster. She wrapped her legs around him, hooking her ankles behind him, taking him tight into her arms, as if she couldn’t get him deep enough, as if she wanted to absorb and consume him wholly.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: The Beast by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookthebeast.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #14
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Rhage
Heroine: Mary
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 05, 2016
Started On: February 27, 2018
Finished On: February 28, 2018

The Beast, 14th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) series seems a trifle bit “odd” an installment. Yet I suppose there was the need for a brief “reprieve” so to speak, to give other unfolding events the time to catch up to a point where all hell would break loose. The Beast nevertheless proved to be a fabulous read because what JR Ward does, she does in style whenever it comes to the series.

The Beast focuses on one of the old-time favorite couples in the series; Mary and Rhage, who got their story in the second book. Rhage is the Brother with the “curse” from the Scribe Virgin (the mother of the race), which had left him with a beast inside of him, which requires that he be in control of his emotions that can reach high octane levels given the right circumstances. Mary is the one person who has the ability to tame both Rhage and the Beast inside, both of whom love and adore Mary equally and just as ferociously.

By the end of the last book, the relationship between Mary and Rhage were beginning to show signs of strain, just like any long-term relationship would have its ups and downs. Rhage doesn’t even know where his discontent stems from, the hollowed pit of a feeling inside of him that he desperately craves to fill without trying to acknowledge its existence.

The opening scene of The Beast is one that could have taken the whole series in a direction that would have left a lot of broken hearts in its wake. But luckily for everyone involved, it turned out that Rhage’s act of defiance in the face of Vishous and his warning proved to work out just fine. But that moment defines a pivotal point in the lives of Mary and Rhage as a couple, because it leaves both of them at crossroads over the moments of clarity the situation had exposed them to.

In the end, everything does work out well; Rhage and Mary gets to the crust of the issue between them, and a solution presents itself which answers to the needs of all parties involved. All the while, I kept waiting for a final showdown with the Omega, who makes an appearance in the story. The eerie moments that Vishious and couple of other Brothers witnessed, was by far the most interesting moments in the story as it unfolded. By the end, I was still waiting for a scene that never emerged, which makes me wonder what sort of ingenious plot has Ward in store when it comes to a final showdown between good and bad; or in fact whether it is ever going to happen.

Another aspect of this novel that did not settle all too well with me was how Throe, second in command to Xcor of the Band of Bastards who had plotted to take down Wrath the King and assume the Throne for themselves, suddenly turns out to be the bad guy. Throe never came off as someone who was full of himself, narcissistic and egoistic enough to warrant such a radical change in his personality and the direction he chooses to take once Xcor lets it be known that his ambition to overthrow the King was no more. While the rest of Xcor’s soldiers fall in line, Throe decides that he would do what is needed, with or without them.

There was no prior indication that revealed that Throe, who had once been a member of the vampire aristocrats, actually wanted back the glamour and the glitz that would afford him the high life. His loyalty to Xcor and the Band of Bastards had been absolute, even though he had been forced to join them initially. In time, he had become one of the most formidable fighters, and of course with the kind of loyalty that warranted he be the second in command. All of a sudden, Throe is shacking up with a glymera wife who is unhappy with her spouse, and plotting ways to get rich enough to afford whatever plan he has hatched in order to assume his “rightful” place in life. Maybe I might have missed something in one of the books, but I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around it to make enough sense.

The Beast also ushers in the end of an era; where the Scribe Virgin ups and leaves. There were moments in the story where I kept wondering whether she was depressed, and then I wondered whether deities could get depressed. In the end, perhaps I was right, because it felt like Scribe Virgin was “misunderstood” by the race she had given birth to, that she had tried to direct and command to follow the old Laws and way of life which had slowly crumbled to dust while she had watched on. It is as if what had been sustenance for the Scribe Virgin had ceased to exist, which meant that she had been slowly being robbed of her strength and that indomitable will of hers. Vishous being the one to find it out was perhaps a turning point in his non-relationship with the woman, who is in fact his Mahmen.

Interesting developing plots still remain; story of Xcor and the Chosen Layla, and Assail and Marisol whose stories are still set to continue. Xcor’s story is the one that I want to read the most and hide from at the same time. Because I would not be able to bear it if there is even the slightest injustice done to his character. There was also one other point that caught my attention, held it, and made me sit up a little. The emergence of Dr. Manello’s sister in the midst of it all. I am waiting to see what interesting turn that mini-plot might take.

Final Verdict: The Beast takes readers through the changing lives of the Brotherhood and the world of the Vampires and the rapidly evolving dynamics between good and evil. It also brings to the forefront the struggles of Rhage and his beloved Mary as a couple. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

The hospital bed’s mattress shifted as she stretched out next to him, and her palm moved under the sheet, traveling oh, so very downward. Spreading his legs to give her all the access she wanted, he arched his head back and bowed his spine toward the heavens as she gripped his erection. Shouting her name, he felt the beast surge as well, the dragon riding the crest of pleasure along with him, while still staying leashed.
As if it had learned its good manners.
“My Mary…” And then he gasped. “Oh, yeah.”

“Oh, God, I need you,” Mary said as he slammed the door shut, manually turned the dead bolt, and popped her up off the floor.
As she grabbed the bottom of his muscle shirt and yanked it over his head, the thing got caught on his nose, nearly shearing his nostrils off. But like he gave a fuck? And then her shaking hands were clawing at the zipper on his leathers.
“I need you in me, hurry—I need you.”
“Oh, fuck, Mary, you have me—” The second her hand came into contact with his cock, he arched back and shouted something. Her name? Something about the Scribe Virgin? F-bomb? Again, who the fuck cared. “Let me get you—”
Next thing he knew, she was off the shelf, at his hips, and pushing him back until he slammed into the opposite side of things so hard cans of soup bounced down and rolled across the floor like they feared for their lives.
“Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaary—”
That mouth of hers sucked his erection in deep, and though the warm, wet hold and suction were out-of-this-world erotic, what was even hotter? The sense that she was so fucking desperate for him, she couldn’t wait for him to get his pants down and hers off.

Mary sat down hard on his cock and both of them cried out. Then she leaned forward, propped her hands next to his head, and began pumping her pelvis, his erection going in and out of her sex, their bodies slapping together, Rhage’s eyes latching onto her as she stared back at him with a combination of fierce determination and utter adoration.
She still had her coat on. The thing was flapping around her, and though he would have loved to see her breasts and her neck, her stomach, her sex, he was too caught up to be any kind of coordinated with his hands and his thoughts.
It was just really fucking awesome to be wanted like this. Ridden like this. Taken like this.

As she grabbed onto his back, she felt the beast surge under her nails, the tattoo rising up and creating a pattern in his skin as if it wanted to get out.
“Mary,” Rhage said into her neck. “Oh, fuck, Mary…”
At the sound of his hoarse voice, an orgasm hit her like a lightning strike, the pleasure making her call out as he punched his pelvis into her again and again while he ejaculated.
When they finally went still, she stroked his spine, petting the beast, which surged under her touch. And it was so strange. In moments like this, even though it was crazy, it seemed like the three of them were together.

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

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Review: The Shadows by J.R. Ward

Format: E-booktheshadows.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Trez, iAm
Heroine: Selena, Maichen
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: March 31, 2015
Started On: February 17, 2018
Finished On: February 27, 2018

If you must know, I couldn’t stop the reading frenzy that hit me from a certain point onwards after I picked up the Black Dagger Brotherhood series from where I left off. So following the culmination of Wrath’s story, The King, I moved onto the 13th book, The Shadows, telling the tale of the brothers iAm and Trez, who live amongst the Brothers.

Shadows are a tribe of vampires who live in seclusion, mostly keeping to themselves. Known as the s’Hisbe, they are ruled and governed by a different set of laws, their state of affairs overseen by their Queen. With a social strata that defines everyone’s place in life in the community, the s’Hisbe views acts of intimacy as sacred, outlawing even acts of self pleasure. Firmly rooted in the knowledge of astrology, s’Hisbe believes that their lives are dictated by the alignment of the stars defining their fates and futures.

As firstborn to his parents, Trez “belongs” to the Queen of s’Hisbe, as the fated mate of her daughter. Trez’s parents had sold him off for a better place in the social circles, and had never looked back. Trez had fought his way out of the imprisoned life he had been subjected to, which had been hard won, and he has no intention of going back. However, the clock continues to tick, signalling the arrival of the day of reckoning, the brief reprieve of time that s’Hisbe’s executioner s’Ex had given him having come to an end.

Trez’s way of dealing with the fate of his life that looms closer than ever is to sleep with any and every woman that comes his way. Though iAm his younger brother, his voice of reason cautions him against it, tries to intervene many a time, Trez does not believe that there would ever come a time when he would willingly give up whoring around. Then comes into his life Selena the Chosen, whose mere presence startles into life something deep inside of him, that yearns to belong and for Selena to belong to him. But alas, Selena’s time on Earth is limited, which means that for both Selena and Trez, time is essentially running out in more ways than one.

What follows is a heart wrenching story of a love that races against time, the ending when it came, one that I hoped would be otherwise. But realistically speaking, I think Ward provided a magnificent story when it came to Trez, iAm, Serena, and Trez’s betrothed, whom we encounter when iAm turns up on s’Hibe’s territory intending to what he always does. Help his brother Trez. In the process, iAm, the brother who had never wanted a woman before in his life, finds the one woman who makes him forget every possible rule by which he has lived his life up till now, as if the stars were in perfect alignment and agreement that the woman in his arms belonged solely to him.

Trez and Selena’s story was heartbreaking. There are no words that would describe the immense pain behind the loss, and the final act of saying goodbye is one that was etched into my mind days after I was done reading. The scene was that powerful. Though I was not that enamored with the Selena and Trez pairing when it initially happened, I came to love them both, perhaps owing to the fact that Ward allows readers to see different sides of their characters in this story.

Even then, to be honest, I was more taken with iAm and the story of how the woman he meets at the s’Hisbe territory changes his life drastically. I found the fact that his lifeling abstinence meant that it was all the more sexier, and more meaningful when iAm decided to give himself to someone, a study of contrasts once again when it came to Trez and himself.

The truth when it came out was not so much of a shock, and I believe most readers would have figured out the same. Nevertheless, the end of an era, ushered in with the final act that required s’Ex was one that was stunning and breathtaking at the same time. If iAm had not been in the picture, I would have wanted for s’Ex to be the “hero” of the story, but alas, that is a story for another time. Which I hope comes soon. A girl can always hope!

The story of Layla the Chosen, pregnant with Qhuinn and her children, and her association with Xcor, my second favorite hero from the series also continues and reaches a turning point, the point which perhaps signals that their story is up next.

Recommended! Ward certainly never disappoints when it comes to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Final Verdict: Delving deep into the psyche of one of the most fascinating and elusive tribes in the Vampire world, Ward takes readers on a journey they would never forget, no matter who triumphs or loses out in the end.

Favorite Quotes

“Selena, I’m serious.” He fumbled to stop her before she got to stroking. “I want to honor you—”
“You’re wasting time.”
With that she got on her knees and took over. As she was a tall female, her mouth was at the perfect height, and God save them both, she put it to use, extending her pink tongue to lick at the head of him. The velvet rasp left him shaking all over, and before he went the way of the robes and hit the fucking floor, he leaned forward and braced both hands on the nearest thing he could reach.
The bureau. Or it could have been the hood of a car. Santa’s sleigh. A refrigerator.
Warm and wet, she drew him in, the suction and all the slick wiping out the world, bringing him instantly to the brink.

Freedom.
As Selena sat on her knees in front of Trez, with his taste in her mouth and his scent all over her skin, she reveled in the sense of sexual freedom that had overtaken her. The liberation seemed entirely at odds with the death sentence that she lived under, and yet her lack of time was what spared her any awkwardness or self-conscious worry. She was flying above the constraints that had long pinned her to the ground, her training as an ehros letting her soar on the currents of sex that ran, thick as tangible ropes, between their bodies.

“I’m going to fuck you now,” he gritted out in her ear.
“Oh, God, please—”
Selena shouted loudly as he jabbed into her, stretching the inside of her nearly to the breaking point. The pain was the perfect bite—and then he started to pump. There was no slow-and-steady windup; hard, pistoning power made her see stars until she lost the strength to hold her upper body off the bed. Collapsing face-first into sheets that smelled of him, she struggled for breath and loved the suffocation as each thrust shoved her face-first into the pillows.

He was hard and hot, velvety and thick, and she slid a grip around his shaft, pumping him. The more she stroked, the crazier the kiss got, until his pelvis was jerking up against her, and his chest was thrashing, and she was breathing as hard as he was.
When he orgasmed, he barked out her name and shoved the handkerchief onto himself—and she was so turned on, so giddy with the feel of his mouth on hers and the pump, pump, pump of her palm against his sex, that she felt a welling between her own thighs, an answer to what she was doing—which was so much less than what they both really wanted.

Her own release was a surprise, but she welcomed it, absorbing the sharp grabs of pleasure, making them stronger by squeezing her thighs together and rocking. Meanwhile, she continued her stroking rhythm, squeezing at his head, working his length.
“We very carefully get rid of this.” Grasping the hem, he pulled the black wisp up over her waist … over her breasts. “Fuuuuuuuuuck.”
As he tossed the silk to the floor, he just stared at what he had revealed. “Oh, that’s what I want.”

With his palms stroking up and down her thighs, he dropped his head to one of her nipples, sucking her in, nursing at her, his dark head contrasting with her paler skin. Letting her head fall back, she gave him the access he wanted, spreading her knees even further.
The sound he made was all male animal, and the hold he sank into her hips was rough as he jerked her forward.
“Gimme,” he demanded. There was a quick zip! as he released himself, and then that growl was back. “All night. Thought about this all night.”

“Do you want my panties off?” she asked between heaving breaths.
“No, I’m going to fuck you with them on.”
And he did. He grabbed her perfect ass and hopped her off the ground and around his waist. Reaching in from behind, he stroked at her, feeling how ready she was, how hot she was, how desperate she was.
He wanted to spend all night there. Instead, he shoved the silk aside, and—

“Oh, God, Selena,” he hissed.
Slick and hot, tight and vital, the penetration rocked him and kept him standing at the same time. As he began to move, he held on to her ass and rocked her back and forth. Her hair was in his face; her scent was in his nose; she was an overwhelming tide that made him want to drown.
Faster. Harder.

iAm felt like he was suspended in time as maichen’s face was revealed inch by inch. Her lips were full and deep red, her skin smooth and slightly darker than his, her cheeks wide and high—
He stopped being able to form a thought as her eyes were uncovered.
Deeply set and with heavy lashes, they were a brilliant peridot green. But then again, she was in high emotion and that was a sign of it, something that the stares of Shadows did.
Maybe his were that way, too.

And then there was her hair. Tightly waved, it flowed from the crown of her head and covered her shoulders and beyond. It was so long that he couldn’t see where it ended.
She was, quite simply, the most extraordinary thing he had ever seen.

iAm went for her, lunging forward, grabbing onto the nape of her neck, bending her backward, holding her in his arms and putting his mouth to her flesh. He had never taken from a female this way, and he didn’t immediately strike. He was overcome by the scent of her, by the soft skin under his lips as he extended his tongue and licked up her vein.
He intended to nuzzle at her further, but as her hands took hold of his shoulders and she arched into him, he couldn’t wait any longer. He hissed and penetrated her skin.
At the bite, she cried out, but instead of pushing him away, she pulled him even closer.
Her blood was a blast in his mouth, tasting of dark wine and promising an intoxication that started to take hold the instant he swallowed.

When he swept his hand over her sex, she moaned and pulled harder on what he was providing her—and he wanted her to drain him dry. But not the other way around. Forcing himself to release her vein, he licked the puncture wounds closed and then found himself drawing his lips downward, crossing over the graceful wing of her collarbone. Heading for her breasts, he gripped the top of her robing with his fangs and ripped it apart, the fabric giving way until—

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” he gasped.
Bared to her lover’s eyes, maichen had expected to feel self-conscious or embarrassed. Only her female bathers had ever seen what iAm was looking at.
Instead?
She kicked the robing free from her hands and brought her palms up to cup her breasts. “Yours,” she heard herself say. Then she moved down and touched her exposed sex. “Yours.”
His upper lip curled back and he let out a growl that was both reverent and a little evil.

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

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Review: Salem’s Daughter by Maggie Osborne

Format: E-booksalemsdaughter.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Jean Pierre La Crosse
Heroine: Bristol Adams
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 03, 1981
Started On: January 13, 2018
Finished On: January 17, 2018

Salem’s Daughter by Maggie Osborne is one of the most complex stories that I have read from her. Not that the rest of her books aren’t complex and multi-layered, but this one stood out from the rest because Osborne delves into the Salem’s witch trials and brings that into her story with a twist that made for at times difficult reading, not because it was boring or didn’t fit into the story, but rather because it depicted humanity at our worst. That is never easy to read about, but I do believe that writing about these things, propagating this is a must in order to create the much needed awareness on identifying said behavior and taking action where needed.

Salem’s Daughter starts at a juncture which brings vividly to life the depravity behind religious zealots and how they can twist and turn everything to make everyone a sinner that needs repenting. Bristol Adams finds herself on the wrong side of the Puritans when for once she commits the “ultimate” sin of talking to a male, requiring a public whipping. Bristol beseeches her father, who has never done wrong by her before, to save her from the humiliation and the pain. But then her father is a proud man if ever there was one, and to heap rejection upon the humiliation, he decides to send her off to England to stay with an aunt for a couple of months.

Bristol does try to use her female wiles on her affianced to marry her then and there, but then he is not a man to be persuaded beyond what he wants to give Bristol, a life where they could both live comfortably. So sets Bristol on the journey that would carry her to England with bitter anger in her heart, on a ship where the lecherous intents of ship’s crew is all far too real. The only man standing between her and them is the formidable captain of the ship, Jean Pierre La Crosse, with whom she has a run in before the ship sets sail. What she saw then didn’t appeal to her much, although she does not realize that the feelings that he stirs to life in her does not happen with just anyone.

The voyage itself proves to be a harrowingly eventful one, and it is in the aftermath that Bristol and La Crosse finally give into the heady and stormy passion between them. La Crosse makes no promises about what he is or where they are going relationship wise, but Bristol has no inkling of the misery and heartache that is headed her way when they part their ways.

However, fate has other plans in store for them and it is not long before Bristol comes face to face with her “competition” when it comes to La Crosse; his fiancée. It is heartbreak upon heartbreak for Bristol watching La Crosse marry someone who would eventually destroy him. But it is not long before Bristol is caught in the crossfire and the hardest days of her life come upon her. Taken captive by a pimp with a notoriety of letting his fists show his anger, Bristol ends up losing the most precious thing in her life.

Even though that cruel fate brings her to La Crosse once again, a message from home means she is to return, only to find her whole village caught up in vilifying and turning on each other, all because of hate preaching by those concerned. Bristol does try and give her most valiant effort to make a difference, but there is no working against a tide that is fervent and resilient, and in the end, Bristol nearly gives her life to the cause until things come to their eventual conclusion.

The summary outlined does not do justice to the story that Osborne tells in this book. For one, there is Bristol, who starts out as this pompous woman-child, who naively believes that her beauty and charms would make her life easy. That she would get everything she wanted. The fact that she is full of herself is revealed during the first couple of chapters, until she starts experiencing the harsh realities that life has to offer, starting from her journey to England.

Through the course of the story, Bristol transforms into this woman worthy of the love of a strong man, a man who would shelter her from the deepest and darkest of storms and carry her safely ashore. Even if that were not to be the case, Bristol turns out to be a woman who has the strength and fortitude of a thousand men of worth. At times, she has to be strong for both La Crosse and herself, but that never steered her away from what was important.

Some might find the concept of cheating involved in the book abhorrent, or turn them away from the real story that develops. It requires someone who is a bit open-minded to understand and empathize with the difficulties life throws both La Crosse and Bristol’s way. If I were to be caught up in a relationship as such, I myself do not know how much strength of perseverance I would have. So in Bristol, Osborne has once again created one of her formidable heroines; her heroines always stand out, and for good reason.

La Crosse is a hero who is caught between his duty and what his heart wants and desires. He does try, I would say he tries harder than the average male would, to stand true to the the course that he had set out on. But one only has to read between the lines and sometimes just read the lines to understand the kind of hellish existence La Crosse’s life becomes in the end.

When all was said and done, only issue I had was with how La Crosse and Bristol spent so much time apart before the eventual ending of the story. Perhaps this was felt mostly owing to the lack of an epilogue to make readers happy. La Crosse and Bristol’s happily ever after was hard won. Readers deserved to see them happy and together, having sweated and cried through all the turbulent times their relationship brought.

Recommended for those who love romances that deliver your less than usual stories.

Final Verdict: Salem’s Daughter is an intense read, one that you might never completely recover from. Osborne weaves her magic and spins a tale that takes you through the kind of emotional wrangling that leaves its mark forever. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

La Crosse halted, standing over the bed, his naked body catching fingers of moonlight. He sucked in his breath and stared. “Mon Dieu!” His voice emerged in a hoarse whisper. His hungry eyes devoured Bristol’s lush body bathed in moonlit tints of ivory shadow. “Mon Dieu! Even bloody and soiled you are a beautiful woman!”

A choked sob tore from Bristol’s throat, and her breath came in shallow, rapid gulps. “Don’t. Don’t,” she pleaded. But his dark head brushed her chin, moving. A skilled tongue caressed her breasts, tantalizing, coaxing, calling forth a responding heat from her trembling limbs. To Bristol’s horror, she felt her nipples harden, rising pink and ripe to his lips.
A frightening weakness flowed through every muscle in her suddenly flaming body. His naked chest brushed her stomach, moist and strong and burning where he touched. Beneath his stroking fingers, her breasts tingled, and a bewildering sense of urgency began in her thighs and swelled, sweeping her breath away.

Suddenly her arms were free, and they dropped to circle his neck. Her lips opened to his with the urgency he’d created; her frantic body strained against hard flesh with the plunging need he’d drawn from every trembling nerve. Blind yearning filled the very fiber of her aching body. Bristol’s sensual nature exploded into life, wakened by his skilled touch with all the intensity of a long-dormant instinct craving expression.

“Aye,” Bristol screamed, her mindless hips rising to match his rhythm. “Oh, aye,” she groaned. Her tangled hair fell back and her eyes closed, and tortured breath rushed past her parted lips.
Her fingers tightened on La Crosses rippling shoulders, and some buried part of her mind recognized that he paced himself, moving in deep rhythmic strokes, adjusting to her own instinctive cadence. And then faster and faster and harder and more urgent. Until an expanding universe spun behind Bristol’s lids, pouring color and sensation, rocking and glowing. And then her universe narrowed and cracked into a mind-sweeping explosion.

She lifted her eyes to the slumbering form in the bed, seeing a glow of moonlight on La Crosse’s shoulder. Because of him, she now recognized that moment with Caleb in the settler’s cabin had been a mockery. There was more—so much more—than Caleb could give. But she’d lain with Caleb in love. At least for a while she’d thought it was love.
The man in the rumpled moon-washed bed represented no tender feelings—only blind desire. And yet it was he who had awakened a deep sensuality, he who had shown her the woman she could be. Bristol’s face paled, and she battled a misting of tears.

“Do you really believe any of us are brave in our secret hearts? No, little girl, it is not so!” He stroked her hand lightly.
“A man who believes himself without fear, who boasts of bravery and courage—that is a foolish man. He courts unnecessary risk and endangers others as well as himself. The truly courageous is one who admits to fear, then overcomes it.”

They slowed and stopped, and Bristol’s breath caught in her throat. His arm tightened on her waist, and he drew her trembling body against his lean, hard chest. A weakness spread through her limbs, and his burning eyes seemed to fill the night sky. Then his hungry mouth crushed her head back in a bruising, searching kiss. His tongue forced past her lips, and his throbbing erection seared against her body, urgent, demanding. And a familiar fire raced through her flesh, tingling along the nerves, burning in the secret hidden places.

His eyes traced the curve of her lips. “I think of you always,” he said softly. He didn’t move to touch her, but Bristol felt his leg against hers, sending waves of electricity through her body.
“Please, we can’t… we must forget…” Disconcerted, she looked at the scar her fingers had tenderly mapped, the lips her own had clung to, “I…”
His voice was low and intense.
“I want you every waking minute. I think of you lying sweet in your bed, and I must fight not to smash your door and take you.” His eyes flickered with passion and his face was hard as granite, but his voice remained soft. “Take you and make you call my name.”

The door was open. It swung in, and she stood framed in the doorway, her eyes wide and helpless.
Jean Pierre lay against a mound of pillows, still dressed in shirt and breeches. One candle burned near his bed, and he held a wineglass in his hand. Smoky eyes met hers.
“I’ve been hoping,” he said softly. Putting down the glass, he opened his arms. “Come to me. Come to me, my love.”
Bristol felt faint; her legs refused to move. She held to the door for support, staring at him. Instantly Jean Pierre was at her side, sweeping her into powerful arms. His lips crushed hers in a savage kiss of need and passion denied too long.

“I love you Bristol,” he said in a low voice. “You are the one shining truth in my life, the island of sanity I cling to.” A short, bitter laugh escaped his lips. “I, who have never clung to any person, to any thing.” His hand caressed her hair, the silky strands rising under his fingers. “I cling to you. I think of you when all around is black; I see the softness in your eyes, and I know there is still beauty and meaning in the midst of the chaos.”

She smelled the freshness of his hair, buried her hands in the dark curls tied at his neck. She laid her cheek against the crisp hair covering his chest, so different from the rest. And his hands moved over her satiny body with joy and astonishment, with the wonder of love. Seeing her as if for the first time, as she saw him.
Then he moved over her, slowly, unhurried, and he brushed long hair from her cheek.
“I love you,” he said. Intensity quivered in his hard face, his eyes, his voice. “I love you, little one.”

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

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Review: The Samurai’s Garden by Patricia Kiyono

Format: E-bookthesamuraisgarden.jpeg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Astraea Press
Hero: Hiromasa Tanaka
Heroine: Hanako Shimizu
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 06, 2012
Started On: October 15, 2017
Finished On: December 19, 2017

The Samurai’s Garden by Patricia Kinoyo is a book that I purchased on a whim when I came across the title on Amazon. The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise, set in Japan is one of my favorite movies of all time. Plus, Japan as a country holds a wealth of fascination for me, not the least to do with their discipline, moral code, their love for nature, and their general kindness towards humanity. To read a romance set in Japan, infused deeply with Imperial Japanese culture was something too good for me to pass up.

The Samurai’s Garden is set in the 17th century, a time during when the Samurai were stripped of their powers, leaving a lot of of men lost amidst the changes taking place. In Hokkaido, Hanako Shimizu is a widow struggling to survive the harsh realities of life without her father and her husband. Not that the latter had been of much help when it came to the practicalities of life. But for a woman without the protection of a male in the household, life was a perilous journey, especially considering the unwanted advances of men she would rather not associate with.

When a stranger with two swords hanging at his side comes to her rescue at the market and offers to work at her homestead for a place to stay and warm meals, Hanako wants to refuse. But something about the way Hiromasa Tanaka holds himself makes her trust him enough to invite him into her life.

Justice, Bravery, Benevolence, Politeness, Veracity, Honor, and Loyalty were the seven codes of the Bushido, or “Way of the Warrior”; the code by which Hiro has lived his life up till the point until the new laws had come into place. Rather than head back to Tokyo to be with his family as he should have done, Hiro had gone even further north until he had come to the island of Hokkaido where he meets Hanako, invariably changing both their lives forever.

Working together to make Hanako’s home self sufficient, Hiro proposes marriage to Hanako, an offer that she is reluctant to accept for many reasons. Hanako has always more or less being viewed as a nobody with no special skills to speak of, no family of worth to back her, which means that understanding her own worth is a monumental task for her. Hiro aims to change all that for his Little Flower, as soon as she would agree to do the honors of being his wife.

The Samurai’s Garden was so lovely in so many ways. There is Hiro of course, a man who is as gentle and kind as they come, with a core of steel running through him that makes him oh so very desirable. His dedication towards making their shared home a prosperous and happy one is evident throughout and for those reasons and more I loved him wholeheartedly. There was also the fact that Hiro wanting to allay Hanako’s fears about being done wrong by a worthless husband yet again, does something very uncommon, especially during the time period in which the story is set. That was the icing on the cake for me when it came to Hiro’s character.

Hanako, while she resists Hiro on many levels at first, starts seeing the man of worth Hiro is from day one. However, that does not make it easy for her to trust him with her heart, and the way Hiro wins her over, inch by inch, and how Hanako blooms under his care, love, and attention was so worth it.

In the midst of it all, Hiro prepares the village to face off rogue Samurai, and the final test of their relationship comes when Hiro is called back home to face unfinished business that he had left behind. What the whole story brings together, apart from the way Hideyori Kato’s story ended, a bit anticlimactically if you ask me, everything else was pretty wonderful.

I just adored how Hiro calls Hanako his Little Flower. Made me go awn every single time. The garden Hiro plants and tends to around their property, even with Hanako’s misgivings about its practicality, the flowers that bloom, the beauty, peace, and tranquility of it all which Ms. Kinoyo brings to life so effortlessly with her words was why I adored this book.

Recommended for those who would love to read a romance in a Japanese historical setting.

Final Verdict: The Samurai’s Garden is aptly named in a way that brings a smile to my heart. It reminds me of Hiro and Hanaka, and Hiro’s undying love for a woman who is his equal in every way. Beautifully written!

Favorite Quotes

Hiro stood at the edge of the clearing, swinging an ancient axe in a deadly arc at the trunk of a thick tree. A loud crack preceded the thunderous boom as it crumpled to the earth. The axe continued its work as limbs and branches were separated from the trunk.
Hanako’s mouth went dry at the sight of her handsome guest. He was stripped to the waist, his tanned and muscled arms glistening as they swung rhythmically. She couldn’t resist leaning out of the doorway to get a closer look. Mesmerized, she stared at the rippling muscles on his back. Kenji had never stirred such feelings in her. Of course, Kenji had never subjected himself to hard physical labor. He was an artist and an intellectual.

“Are you certain you are all right?” Hanako asked again.
“I’m fine,” he insisted. “I’m just hungry.”
“Yes, of course. I will prepare your meal,” she said as she scurried toward the cook stove. He noticed her hands shook as she measured the rice, poured water into the pot, and attempted to light the fire. The flame would not start for her, and as she tried again and again, she got more agitated. Finally he got up and stood behind her. He reached around her and put his hand on hers.
“You are too distressed from today’s events. I can do this.”
She dropped the flint and covered her eyes. Great sobs racked her body, and she tried to step away from him, but he gathered her in his arms and rocked her gently.
“You are safe, my little flower. I would not let anyone harm you.”

She let herself dream as his arms and body cradled her. They went through the motions, his right hand and arm directing the improvised weapon, his left hand moving her body. It was amazing how their bodies fit together, how their limbs moved in perfect synchronization. His hands switched as he moved the improvised weapon to her other hand and turned her body so her left side faced the imaginary opponent. Hanako knew the movements had been designed for fighting, but the two of them were engaged in a much different, though equally intense, reality.

He had often imagined her like this, late at night, as he tried to sleep knowing she was only a short walk away. His mind’s eye had constructed the creaminess of her skin, the smooth curve of her body, the warmth of her smile. But the vision before him surpassed all of his dreams. This woman had been created especially for him, and he alone would have the right to cherish her from now to eternity. He would not ever take this right for granted.

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepository

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