Review: Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookloverunleashed.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #9
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Manny Manello
Heroine: Payne
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: March 01, 2011
Started On: February 23, 2017
Finished On: June 04, 2017

Lover Unleashed by JR Ward is the ninth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and brings to readers the story of Payne, born to the Scribe Virgin, and thus the twin of Vishous. The revelation that his twin is alive comes in an earlier book, one that shocked me to boot. I cannot even imagine the depth of feelings that must have coursed through Vishous himself when the fact was made known to him.

Payne is a heroine who is powerful in a way that only one born out of such a union can be. Like Vishous, Payne’s beauty is such that it has the ability to take away the breath of those who come across her. Her beauty is one that mesmerizes people for the lack of a better word. What is more stunning is the immense power that she holds in her hands, which comes to light with the divulgence of the unthinkable she had done to the man who had sired her.

It is also Lover Unleashed that brings a new band of “enemies” to the turf of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a group of fighters from the vampire race who are just as vicious in their manner when it comes to the war with the Lessers. Yet, they do not identify themselves as a Brotherhood. Xcor, the group’s leader is a vampire to contend with and then some, a bastard born to the Bloodletter himself, walking on a path to avenge the death of his father, a murder that he had never forgotten nor forgiven.

Payne’s appearance in the Brotherhood company comes through a tragic event that unfolds, leading Dr. Jane Whitcomb, the shellren of Vishous to seek the services of chief of surgery at the hospital where she had worked prior to her “death”. Manny is brought in to the Brotherhood compound on the premise of helping Payne where Jane’s medical abilities fall short. While bringing in people, especially humans who are none the wiser to the existence of the vampires as a race is a big no, Wrath, the King makes an exception owing to the extenuating circumstances and his involvement in what leads to the circumstances.

Manny’s appearance in Payne’s life brings forth a connection neither would have thought possible. For Manny, the possessiveness that streaks through him as his gaze lands on Payne in her hospital bed is one that shocks him to the core, almost as if his very DNA recognizes Payne as his and his alone. While Vishous and the rest of the Brotherhood might have other ideas where Manny is concerned, Payne is as drawn to him which brings forth complications that aren’t as black and white to resolve.

Alongside Payne and Manny’s developing story, it becomes a testing period for Vishous and Jane’s relationship as well, which was something I loved in the story. Vishous is someone who has a penchant for sex of the darker variety, an aspect of himself that he had “given up” on when he had embraced his love for all that is Jane. However, with dark memories rising up from his past, Vishous is at a loss as to how to deal with them, and the friction between him and Jane is one that was painful to read about, but a much needed one in my opinion.

Someone like Vishous, who had undergone so much, and carries such a powerful weapon on his own self, a man with such a dark past – that doesn’t just find a cure overnight because they have fallen in love. Even if love of the kind that vampires have is an all consuming one, I believe that JR Ward did immense justice to both Vishous and Jane’s characters by bringing to light this side of their relationship, and the role that Butch plays in all of it to help them.

It is often difficult to review books so well written, especially of a series of the caliber of Black Dagger Brotherhood, because so many things keep happening at the same time, which makes these books the stellar reads they are. The stories continuously keep evolving in a way that leaves readers on the edge, and I believe the same must happen to JR Ward herself when it comes to the places her immensely complex characters take her.

I loved so many things about Manny and Payne’s relationship, together with the way Vishous and Jane faced their own troubles and made things work – because their love is worth all that and more. All throughout the story, there was one thing that kept circling in my mind – the fact that Manny is over the top hot. The way Payne and Manny want each other was is out of this world hot, burning up my eyeballs and then some, and I enjoyed every single aspect of it.

The friendship and love that exists between Butch and Vishous is one that was tested as well, with Butch having to step outside of his comfort zone to help his Brother for whom he would practically lay down his own life for. There is an understanding between them that is hard to put in words, but materializes so beautifully under Ward’s craftsmanship.

When all is said and done, Lover Unleashed delivers a story that is well rounded in every way. Each book in the series continues to amaze me in a way I would never have thought possible. I know that I should not be surprised any longer when it comes to JR Ward and this series, and yet the fact that she continually does so is reason number one that I would keep coming back for more.

Wholeheartedly recommended for fans of the series and those that love well rounded tales of the paranormal romance genre that delivers scorching and such well done scenes of passion!

Final Verdict: Lover Unleashed, the ninth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is just as astounding as the rest. JR Ward is an author not to be missed for this very reason!

Favorite Quotes

Pushing into the examination room, he—
Oh . . . dear God.
Oh . . . Lord above.
The patient on the table was lying still as water and . . . she was probably the most beautiful anything he’d ever seen: Hair was jet-black and braided into a thick rope that hung free next to her head. Skin was a golden brown, as if she were of Italian descent and had recently been in the sun. Eyes . . . her eyes were like diamonds, both colorless and brilliant, with nothing but a dark rim around the iris.
“Manny?”
Jane’s voice was right behind him, but he felt as if she were miles away. In fact, the whole world was somewhere else, nothing existing except for the stare of his patient as she looked up at him from out of her immobilized head.
It finally happened, he thought as he burrowed under his shirt and took hold of his heavy cross. All his life he’d wondered why he’d never fallen in love, and now he knew: He’d been waiting for this moment, this woman, this time.
The female is mine, he thought.

“Teach me,” she said darkly, her lips parting, her hips rolling under his own. “Take me.”
Her hand moved between the two of them and found his erection, rubbing at it, making him moan.
“I am empty without you,” she said. “Fill me. Now.”
With an invitation like that, he didn’t give anything else a second thought. Fumbling around, he shoved his scrubs down his thighs and then. . .
“Oh, fuck,” he groaned as his hard cock slipped up her slick core.

With his tremendous strength, V repositioned her in the blink of an eye, pivoting her around and shoving the sheets out of the way so he could lift her hips up and over his torso. Her thighs were split over his face and—
“Vishous,” she said around his erection.
His mouth was slick and warm and right on target, fusing with her sex, latching on and sucking before his tongue snaked out and licked inside of her. Her brain didn’t so much turn off as explode, and with nothing left to think with, she was blissfully lost in what was happening and not what had gone before. She had a feeling V was the same. . . . He was all about the stroking, lapping at her and sucking on her, his hands digging into her thighs as he moaned her name against her core.

“Fuck, I need you,” he cursed.
On another quick burst of power, Vishous lifted her as if she didn’t weigh more than the sheet did, and the shift was not a surprise. He always preferred to come inside her, deep inside of her, and he spread her legs before settling her on top of his hips, his blunt head nudging into her . . . and slamming home.
The invasion was not just about sex, but him staking his claim, and she loved it. This was the way it should be.
Falling forward and bracing herself against his shoulders, she stared into his eyes as they moved together, the rhythm pounding until they came at the same time, both of them going rigid as he jerked inside of her and her sex milked him. And then V flipped her onto her back and shot down her body, going back to where he’d been, his mouth fusing on her, his palms locking on her thighs as he ate at her.
As she came hard, there was no break or pause. He surged forward, stretching up both her legs and swording in, entering her on a solid stroke and taking over.

The brush of her lips was nothing but velvet, except the anticipation of what was to come had him hyper-focusing so everything was magnified. He knew precisely where she was—
The scrape was viciously soft as she nuzzled him.
Then her hand snaked around to his nape and clamped on, holding him in place so hard, he realized she could snap his neck if she wanted.
“Oh, God,” he moaned, giving himself over completely. “Oh—fuck!”
The strike was strong and sure, two points going in deep, the sweet pain robbing him of sight and sound until all he knew was the sucking draw at his vein.
That and the massive orgasm that rolled through his balls and pumped out the head of his cock, his hips jacking up against her as his erection kicked and jerked . . . and kept going.

“Do this thing you want to me, healer,” she moaned. “Whatever it is. I know you are holding back.”
A growl came out of him and he moved so fast that the only thing that could have stopped him was her saying no. And that word was evidently not in her vocabulary.
In a flash, he was between her thighs, his hands spreading her wider, her sex laid open and weeping in the face of his male urge to dominate and mate.
He gave in. Fuck him, but he let himself go and kissed her core. And there was nothing gradual or gentle about it; he dived in with his mouth, sucking at her and tonguing her as she cried out and scratched at his forearms.

Vampire . . . he thought. Beautiful vampire.
Mine.
As that thought coalesced in his mind, he acted on autopilot, shifting his head to the side, offering his jugular to her—
He didn’t have to ask twice. In a great surge, Payne sprang up, all but launching her whole body onto him, her hand shoving into his hair and tightening on his nape. As she held him in her grip, he was utterly immobilized, hers for the taking . . . prey for her predator. And now that she had him, she moved slowly, her fangs dropping to his skin and dragging up the column of his throat, making him stiffen in anticipation of the puncturing and the sucking. . . .
“Fuck!” he barked when she bit him. “Oh . . . yeah . . .”

“I want more of you,” Payne murmured as she nuzzled him.
Well, he was still hard as stone even though he’d—
“I want you in my mouth.”
Manny’s head kicked back and he groaned as his cock twitched like it was taking a jog down there. But as much as he wanted her, he wasn’t sure she knew what she was in for. Even the thought of her lips on his—
Payne’s head went down into his lap before he could find the breath to speak, and there was no preamble; she sucked him right down, pulling him in and holding him in her wet, warm mouth.
“Fuck! Payne!”

Snaking a hand around the back of her neck, he drew her lips close to his throat. “Take me.”
The sound she made had him orgasming inside of her—it was too fucking hot for him to hold back. And as his cock spasmed, her fangs struck deep into his vein.
The sex went wild. She moved against him, her tight core fisting him up and milking him as he came again . . . and then he started to pump his hips hard. The drinking and the crazy rhythm swept them both away into a heady pounding of bodies that he knew they were each going to feel in the morning: There was nothing civilized to this; it was male and female distilled down to the most primal core.
And it was the very best of anything he had ever had.

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

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Review: Lover Mine by J.R. Ward

Format: E-booklovermine
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #8
Publisher: Signet
Hero: John Matthew
Heroine: Xhexania
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 1, 2010
Started On: November 02, 2016
Finished On: November 06, 2016

Having finished Lover Avenged, I quickly set out to read Lover Mine, the story where John Matthew and Xhexania (Xhex) finally come together. With the way Ward had left things when Lover Avenged ended, with Xhex having being taken hostage by Lash, none other than Omega’s number one and the leader of the Lesser’s, I couldn’t wait to find out what wonders Ward would bring forth, especially when it came to John’s character.

John’s beginnings is one that sets him apart from the rest of the members of the Brotherhood. Revealing more would be spoiling it for those who have never read the series. His past when it comes to light, reveals the extent of his involvement, not only in Wrath the King’s life when he was child, but also Xhex herself, when she was born as a half breed vampire with a Sympath side that she hides from the rest of the world.

John’s second chance at life had come at a cost. It had meant that his journey to becoming part of the Brotherhood had once again being a test of his steadfastness, will, and strength. Bearing many similarities to the way his life had been forged in the past; through sweat, tears, and blood. John’s sense of loneliness is one that goes deep into his past, his need to belong and be loved an integral part of him that had being tested sorely when Tohrment had disappeared on him.

John’s attraction and deep connection with Xhex is exactly the reason why John and Xhex fit so perfectly together. While one might think John is the one that brings baggage to their relationship, Xhex redefines the whole concept itself by the past hurts and scars that she has from the pain she carries in her heart. Tough on the outside, a warrior to boot, and dominant in her own right, Xhex and John should not have fit together so perfectly – but for more than one reason, they do. That is perhaps the basis of why their relationship is amazing on so many levels, because Ward has brought together two people who should not have worked, and yet they do, and beautifully so, against all odds.

I am a fan of strong heroines, but for me, there is strong, and then there is the constant need for a heroine to outdo all the males in her vicinity and prove her capabilities beyond the male in her life that grates on my nerves. How Ward managed to allay all my fears that I might not like Xhex if she came on too strong was one more reason for me to adore their relationship. Because for me, Xhex gives as good as she gets. When she does give into John and his love which has both its tender and violently possessive edge to it (all in a good way, of course), it brought forth so much emotion in me that I felt that all the pain that John and Xhex had undergone before had been totally worth it!

One of the other aspects of the story that stood out was Qhuinn and Blay’s side story- I even noted down at one point that their mini story that was developing was way more interesting than it should be – but then again, that is exactly what you get when you pick up one of the Black Dagger Brotherhood novels. You sink your teeth into a story so juicy that you are rooting for a million things that is happening in the book, even the notorious villain himself.

That brings me to Lash and why I found his character fascinating on a level that had me at one point even “rooting” for the Lessers. I put rooting here very lightly because I found Lash to be a worthy opponent in the age old fight between the Vampires and the Lessers, i.e. in reality the fight between Scribe Virgin and Omega. A well done villain in my opinion, makes the reader question why they turned out the way they did.

In my opinion, Lash never stood a chance when it came to the larger scheme of things. Firstly his genetics had basically set in stone what his future would turn out to be like. Secondly, being brought up as part of the Glymera (the elite and rich of the Vampire society) had perhaps meant that his “evil” side had been given room to nurture and grow in a way that we continually see even when it comes to the human race. It was those fleeting moments of regret that coursed through Lash that grabbed me the most, thinking to myself that perhaps, had Lash being given the chance, he might have defied his genetics and turned out to be someone worthy of saving.

One of the major disappointments for me when the story ended has to do with how Lash’s character met his ultimate demise. I would have thought that Ward would continue to give him enough “armor” to take the fight between the Lessers and the Vampires to the next level. But then again, given Omega’s character itself, I would say that perhaps Lash’s end when it came, was quite fitting in a way. But I definitely wanted to see more of him in the series because he brought an edge that wasn’t there before when all was said and done.

When I turned the last page of the novel, I kept wondering to myself, when would John’s real identity emerge, and what a game changing revelation would that be in the larger context of things – given how history ties him to a lot of significant events that had taken place and shaped the lives of the Brotherhood as they are now.

Highly recommended! This series in its entirety is one that needs to be read by everyone who is a fan of urban fantasy and paranormal romances.

Final Verdict: Beautifully put together in way that makes for compelling reading. Mesmerizing is the way Ward manages to make mincemeat out of 700 plus pages of a novel, never letting the reader off the hook until the very last page is turned.

Favorite Quotes

“Better yet,” Blay drawled, “why don’t you just kiss me–” Blay was whipped around and shoved hard against the dresser, the chest of drawers slamming against the wall with a thunder. As cologne bottles rattled and a brush hit the floor, Qhuinn forced his lips down hard on Blay’s, his fingers biting into Blay’s throat.
It didn’t matter, though. Hard and desperate was all he wanted from the guy. And Qhuinn was clearly on board, his tongue shooting out, taking . . . owning.

Typical of her, she was the one who put him to her sex. Xhex covered one of his hands with her own and got him right where they both wanted him to be.
Hot. Silky. Slick.
The orgasm at the head of his erection broke free the instant his fingers slipped through and came flush against the entry he was dying to breach: There was absolutely no holding the release back and she laughed in a throaty way as he jetted his marking on her legs.
“You like the way I feel,” she murmured.

“Come in me,” she groaned, as she pulled at his shoulders. John lifted his head and moved up her body, his arousal nudging against her inner thighs, getting closer.
She kissed him hard, grinding her mouth against his as she shoved her hand down between them and guided him where she needed him-His massive body torqued at the contact as she bit out, “Oh, God . . .” The blunt head of him parted her and he slid in nice and slow, filling her, stretching her. She arched so he could go all the way in and shifted her palms down his smooth back to the dip at the end of his spine . . . and even lower so that she could sink her nails into his ass.

His face was an erotic mask of the features she had seen so often, his lips drawn back off his long, white fangs, his brows down tight, his eyes blazing, his jaw clenched so hard that his cheeks had hollows in them. With every thrust, his pecs and his abdominals popped, the sweat on his skin gleaming in the dim light. The sight of him was the chaser to what he felt like deep in her, the sucker punch that came on the heels of the body shot, knocking her out completely.
“Take my vein,” she growled at him. “Take it– now.”

“Listen, John Matthew.” She took his chin in her hand. “You’re not turning me into one of those females who goes gaga over her lover. Not happening. I’m not hardwired for that.”
Her voice was stern and she meant every word–except the instant he rolled his hips and that huge arousal pushed into her, she purred. Purred.
The sound was utterly foreign and she’d have sucked it back down her throat if she could have. Instead, she just let out another of those decidedly non-tough-guy moans.

Her leathers were on the floor a split second later. Then with a quick hop, she jumped up and locked her thighs around his waist. Reaching down, she positioned him against her sex and squeezed her heels into his ass, making the penetration so very real. As his arousal sank deep, she took all of him, the sliding push enough to make her orgasm wildly.
Riding her release, her fangs shot out into her mouth, and John broke the kiss to tilt his head and flash his vein.
The puncture was sweet. The strength that came from him meteoric.

With a silent curse, he grabbed onto her thighs and squeezed, her muscles shifting under his hold, and he didn’t stop there. He drew his hands farther up, to the juncture where her legs met her torso, that electric crease drawing him to where they were joined.
His thumb slipped into the carnal heart of her and found the top of her sex, rubbing it in circles-In the dim light from the bathroom, he watched her arch back, her fangs cranking down on her lower lip in an effort to keep herself from crying out. He wanted to tell her to let her roar free, but he didn’t have time to pity her discretion–he came hard, his lids squeezing shut as he shuddered beneath her.

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

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Review: The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin

Format: E-bookthejadetemptress
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Pingkang Li Mysteries, #2
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Wu Kaifeng
Heroine: Sun Mingyu
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: February 18, 2014
Started On: September 26, 2016
Finished On: October 02, 2016

The Jade Temptress is the second book in The Pingkang Li Mysteries, and tells the story of Mingyu, the most celebrated courtesan at The Lotus Palace. Even though this book can be read as a standalone, to experience the wide range of emotions the unfolding story exposes the reader to, I would recommend reading the series in order.

Wu Kaifeng, known as Constable Wu is a man of serious demeanor, having never shown an interest in her, unlike men of the caliber that Mingyu usually spends her time with. But the murder of Mingyu’s long term patron General Deng Zhi brings Wu and Mingyu together in a way that deepens the awareness that had sizzled to life between them from almost the beginning. of their acquaintance, though neither had acknowledged the fact at first.

While Mingyu is beauty personified with every man who comes to The Lotus Palace enamored by her presence, Wu is the opposite of what one would call “handsome” in the classical sense. But his strong presence, his demeanor, the way he holds himself, his strong sense of seeing justice through, and the way he is helplessly ensnared by the strength of character that Mingyu hides from most; all that and more makes Wu a formidable character, one that I fell head over heels in love with from the minute I came across him in the first book.

Mingyu’s past, the way she had become the most sought after courtesan at The Lotus Palace is one that grabs the emotions of the reader. Similar is how Wu grew up, his character even then one that was different from most children. How Jeannie Lin creates such beauty in a world where murder, jealousy, and traversing the treacherous waters of Chinese imperial politics is one that continues to amaze me. I would always come back for more because similar to authors like Sherry Thomas, Jeannie Lin is one of a kind and there is no giving up on that.

I absolutely loved the story that unfolded in The Jade Temptress, more so than the first book in the series. I have a thing for strong and silent heroes, and Constable Wu personifies all that and more. Mingyu is not the average heroine material that you encounter in most romance books, but she is endearing in so many ways that I fell for her just as hard when it came right down to it.

As the story reached its ultimate conclusion, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty and utter perfection that Jeannie Lin created with the characters, the story, and the ending. I loved the way Kaifeng bought the one thing that mattered most to Mingyu, and yet, waited patiently, biding his time until Mingyu came to him on her own volition. That was profound in a way I cannot describe, because for a woman such as Mingyu, that was a gift that was priceless. I loved the tidbits that showed the struggles both of them go through to make a different life for themselves together – and that in essence clinched the deal for me.

This is one of Jeannie Lin’s best works, and comes highly recommended for fans of beautifully crafted romance novels.

Final Verdict: Magical in a way that only Jeannie Lin can pull off, The Jade Temptress is worth a sleepless night or two!

Favorite Quotes

“I’m ill-mannered,” he continued. “Unsightly. Nothing to anyone that matters.”
Her breathing quickened as he bent to her and he could see her pupils growing wide and dark. The effect was strikingly sensual. Mingyu raised her hand to his face. Her fingers trembled as she touched the hard line of his jaw.
“It’s not true,” she murmured. “You’re not really like that.”
He smiled crookedly at her. “Not ugly?”
“Not…nothing.”
Her face was tilted toward him. She regarded him from beneath her lashes, her cheeks flushed, and there was nothing he could do but kiss her.

“Are we truly supposed to forget?” he asked quietly.
There was no need to mention what he spoke of.
“I haven’t forgotten.”
“Then it did happen.”
He reached for her, but went no farther than the edge of her sleeve. He let the silk slip along his fingertips before releasing it. Mingyu followed his every movement with her eyes.

“Say something to me that isn’t about the investigation,” she implored.
She could see the thoughts flickering in his eyes as he searched for something suitable. It was endearing, if anything about Wu Kaifeng could ever be considered endearing.
“I knew ahead of time,” he began reluctantly. “That this was the day you usually go to see your sister.”
Mingyu’s grin spread so wide she had to place a hand over her mouth to hide it. Warmth bloomed in her chest, spreading out to every part of her until even her fingertips tingled.
“Farewell, Constable,” she said, still smiling.
Wu breathed deep, as if to regain himself. “Farewell, Mingyu.”

“I want you to remember this,” he said as he slid a finger deep within her. Her damp flesh closed around him and a shudder racked her body.
“I will,” she gasped.
Her eyes were black with desire, caught between pleasure and agony, as she struggled to catch her breath. He was going to make love to her as many times that night as he could manage, if only to see that look.
There was no elegance to her now as her hips rose to demand more of his touch. She was talented and treasured and sought after and she was writhing beneath him on the wooden slats of his bed.

Reaching between the crush of their bodies, he strained to find the center of her sex once more. His fingers rasped over the tiny bud as he moved inside her. All at once, Mingyu tightened around him. With a strangled cry, she pressed her face against the crook of his neck as her body shuddered, lost. He followed her, thrusting without grace or skill until sensation overwhelmed him. His very essence poured out of him and into her.
With that rush of sensation, the fog of emotion drained away and his mind cleared. He wasn’t blind. Mingyu was using him, and using him well indeed. Yet every instinct in him wanted to sink his head onto Mingyu’s shoulder, to taste the salt on her skin and to stay for as long as she let him.

He found her sash and looped the length of silk around her wrists to secure her arms overhead, but the gesture was only symbolic. Almost poetic, for someone untrained in poetry. He couldn’t tie her there, he couldn’t keep her.
Unable to reach for him, all Mingyu could do was receive and accept. As Kaifeng lowered himself between her knees, as she felt his long fingers parting her, she stopped thinking of what would come in the next days, or even in the next hours.
Sometimes the answers were simple.
Mingyu held her breath and it seemed like forever before the tip of his tongue touched her, swirling gently and sending her to heaven.

Kaifeng crushed his mouth over hers to claim everything. She wrapped her legs around him, her thighs clasping his hips while the throb of pleasure built until she was floating, surrounded by the scent of sweat and skin and by the unending rhythm of Kaifeng over her, inside her.
Suddenly he took hold of the back of her neck and his rhythm changed, his hips grinding against her to sharpen the sensation. Demanding her release. Mingyu gasped as his organ filled her the same moment his teeth bit into her neck. She cried out incoherently as her release took her. It might have been his name she cried at the height of her climax.

He was the one claiming her this time. There was no doubt of it as his hands gripped her hips, lifting her and then pulling her onto him, driving her closer to climax. Watching her the entire time.
She tried to hold on to his gaze for as long as she could, but the sensations overwhelmed her. She had to close her eyes to block out everything but the feel of him taking her.
“Give in.” His voice was rough and thick with desire as he spoke against her ear, filling her with the sound of him as well as with his flesh. “Just this once, surrender.”
And she did surrender. Her knees weakened as she shuddered uncontrollably around him. Kaifeng held her throughout, kissing her mouth, taking every last breath and gasp that came from her as his own release came upon him.

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

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Review: The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

Format: E-bookthelotuspalace
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Pingkang Li Mysteries, #1
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Bai Huang
Heroine: Yue-ying
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 27, 2013
Started On: February 07, 2016
Finished On: September 25, 2016

As is the norm with historical romances written by Jeannie Lin, the series entitled The Pingkang Li Mysteries is also set in Tang Dynasty, China in 847 AD.

The story is centered around a pleasure house known as The Lotus Palace, an elite house of courtesans in the pleasure quarter of the North Hamlet, also known as Pingkang li. Yue-ying, the heroine of the story, is a personal assistant going on four years to Mingyu, an elite courtesan at The Lotus Palace. Having been deemed not proper courtesan material Yue-ying had been relegated to the status as such.

Bai Huang on the other hand, is a well-known figure in the entertainment district. A notorious flirt, who is loose with his money, and considered to be openly courting Mingyu.

When the youngest of four beauties at The Lotus Palace gets murdered, that is when the story actually begins, with Bai Huang coming under suspicion from the investigating head constable and the magistrate of the district.

Though it took me a couple of tries to get through the first few chapters of the story which was a bit slow for my liking, I am glad that I persevered and kept going because the larger part of the story was one that I enjoyed in every way possible. I would go as far as to say that what unfolded then was classic Jeannie Lin in every way and that I had missed indulging myself in the beauty that she creates in her stories.

The Lotus Palace is a story that has a lot going for it. Multi-faceted characters, be it the lead or secondary characters, with the story being rich in detail when it comes to Chinese culture, history, and the hierarchical differences that existed between the different members of an establishment, even one such as a pleasure house as The Lotus Palace. Furthermore, the murder mystery proved to be an intriguing aspect to the story that kept me turning the pages as I got deeper into the story.

Bai Huang is one of those lighthearted heroes that has an abundance of charm to their character at first glance. But it is Yue-ying that sees through the facade that he puts up, the man beneath all the pretense and frivolities that he presents to the larger society. Even though Yue-ying promises herself that the likes of Bai Huang are not for women like her, it proves to be harder than she thinks when it comes to defying the tidal wave of desire that Bai Huang’s kisses and caresses unleash in her.

Bai Huang’s courtship of Yue-ying was a beautiful one for me. His gentle wooing and firm stand when it actually came down to it proves to be too much for even Yue-ying to walk away from. Yue-ying’s past is one that is dark, one that rightfully should have made mincemeat out of a lesser woman. But Yue-ying proves time and yet again that she is made of sterner stuff than what people usually judge her to be. As she helps Bai Huang to uncover the truth behind the murder that has shaken the entertainment district to its core, Yue-ying discovers that a future with a man like Bai Huang might be possible, if she would be willing to put herself on the line and put her trust in him.

Recommended, for fans of richly crafted historical romance novels!

Final Verdict: Beautifully told in a way that is uniquely Jeannie Lin, The Lotus Palace is a book not to be missed.

Favorite Quotes

She had never done this before, she realized a moment before she pressed her lips onto his.
His mouth was warm and yielded only a little as she moved closer. She parted her lips to test the texture of his lips and, with the smallest touch of her tongue, the taste of the kiss. She could sense the shudder that traveled through him. It made her breath catch and her stomach flutter with excitement.
This was a gift indeed, but not one that he gave to her. It was a gift that she took for herself.

She could feel his presence over her and hear the deepening of his breath. Her fingers curled reflexively over the pallet as she waited. His first touch upon her could be anywhere and her skin tingled with anticipation.
He laid the flat of his palm between her shoulder blades, pressing lightly. The weight was possessive, but reassuring. He slid it along her spine in one broad stroke.
“You can breathe, love.”
There was amusement in his tone. It was the second time he’d used such an endearment with her. It was presumptuous, but the words still made her quiver.

“This, you like,” he murmured before bending to kiss her.
She sighed against him, accepting the kiss, returning it. The soft caress of his lips quickly grew hard and urgent. Though he tried to hold his weight off her, his hips moved restlessly and she could feel how aroused he was. Yet he did nothing more than kiss her. Yue-ying circled her arms around Bai Huang’s shoulders and arched into him, losing herself in the simple pleasure of touch and warmth and closeness. And of him.

Her hand paused on his abdomen, her little finger just brushing the scar beneath his ribs, before dipping lower.
He shuddered as her hand closed around him. He had been aroused for days, living so close to her, hearing her dressing and washing from the other side of the wall. Her fingers circled him and her hand ran along his entire length, stroking him until he was so hard it bordered on pain. Her grip was knowing, teasing, merciless.

She rested her palms flat against his chest once she was fully seated onto him and the moment of stillness drove him mad. He wanted to thrust up into her, to seek more of that heat and the unbearable pressure of her surrounding him, but if he did it would be over quicker than it began.
Her weight shifted in his lap. She bent to kiss him on the chin. The gesture was sweet, almost innocent, but the change in position caused her muscles to tighten intimately around him.
“Yue-ying.” He gritted out her name.
She had begun to move over him and he was enslaved inside her. Her voice was a seductive whisper against his throat.
“Lord Bai.”

The last of his control was gone. He couldn’t think to pull out of her. He couldn’t stop the flood of his seed into her and the dark wave of pleasure came with such force that he was blinded. He held on to Yue-ying and distantly heard her cries through his own release as he continued to stroke her. Then she was shuddering against him and clinging to him, her nails digging into his shoulder.
It was beautiful. He had no other words for it.

“Last night,” he began.
She stopped him. “Lord Bai.”
“You’re blushing.”
“The day is uncustomarily warm,” she returned without pause.
“Is this love?” he asked simply. His voice was low and sensual.
“Scholars and their romantic notions,” she chided, though her heart was hammering inside her.

There were no preliminaries, no soft caresses or whispered words. Though sensation built within her, the act wasn’t as much about pleasure as it was about possession. Even when he took her breast into his mouth as her pleasure rose, it was an attempt to claim her further. His tongue rasped against her nipple until she wept and moaned. With each thrust of his hips, he was willing her climax, her surrender to him. And she did surrender, her muscles taut and straining until she thought she would break.

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Review: To Love a Man by Karen Robards

Format: E-booktoloveamankr.jpg
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Sam Eastman
Heroine: Lisa Bennet Collins
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 05, 1988
Started On: September 23, 2016
Finished On: September 24, 2016

39 year old Sam Eastman is a mercenary soldier working within the borders of Rhodesia, amidst the civil war that was taking place. A single father, Sam is determined that no job is too despicable if it were to get him the money he needed to start over.

25 year old Lisa Bennet Collins is the rich socialite heir apparent, who had pretty much had her life handed to her on silver platter. She had believed that happiness was hers for the taking, and simply followed the steps which she thought would bring her that. Getting engaged to the dreamily handsome football-playing son of a state senator had been the natural progression of that life, until it had all come crashing down, bit by bit.

A lifetime later, when Lisa turns up in Rhodesia as part of an assignment that would propel her into a career where she could write stories that actually mattered, she gets into more trouble than she bargained for, and gets rescued by none other than Sam. Their attraction to each other is instantaneous, their coming together as passionate as it gets, giving Lisa pleasure of the kind she has been denied all her life.

What happens next is what makes the story a hard pill to swallow. Misunderstandings, plus the behavior on the part of both Sam and Lisa makes it difficult to identify which character you should be rooting for. Like many readers, I felt that Sam was an asshole of the first order. Given that, I do have to mention the fact that his past, the scars he carries from a marriage that had eviscerated the man he was, his childhood; all of that contributed towards making him react the way he does. Inexcusable, but I understood where all that stemmed from.

Lisa on the other hand, is just as scarred, but in a different way compared to Sam. It is not easy for Lisa to relate to a man of Sam’s caliber, masculinity, and brashness, but in his arms Lisa does find what she has been craving for, what she had not thought possible all her life. Her scars run just as deep, and somewhere along the way, fall she does, and hard, for Sam and his touch that brands her as his right from the start.

The ending was what saved the story from being categorized as one of those reads that most women wouldn’t find pleasure in reading. I believe that the time apart gave Lisa as a character the time to grow, to learn how to stand on her own, which I see as something important if you are to love someone the way she loves Sam. The groveling was done to a fine art on the part of Sam, with him going after Lisa proving to be the saving grace, which otherwise I would have probably thrown my e-reader to the wall.

Recommended for those who can take a hero who is pretty rough around the edges, who will test your patience, and reforms to a point where you can at least think about forgiving him for all  that was said and done.

Final Verdict: In To Love a Man, Robards delivers a hero that might not be for everyone.

Favorite Quotes

He thrust into her with hard urgency, and Lisa gasped with pleasure, thinking she would die of pure bliss. His answering growl inflamed her. She rose and fell with him as he moved in, then out, then in again, in a relentless, driving rhythm. Her head was thrown back, her mouth wide open as he took her, her nails digging mindlessly into his muscled back. There was no room in her head for anything except the wonder of her own need. Then his hands closed over her buttocks, lifting them so that he could thrust more deeply inside her, and his mouth clamped over hers with a harsh groan. Lisa could stand no more. Pleasure that had been denied for years burst gloriously inside her, and she cried out against his mouth. He felt her joy and responded with one final, savage thrust, holding himself inside her, shaking. Then it was over.

“God,” she heard him mutter. The word sounded strangled. Then his hands were tugging at her shorts, his fingers shaking as he fumbled with the knotted rope that served as her belt. She lifted her hips off the ground, aiding him as he dragged her shorts and panties and shoes off together. Then his big body was upon her, his weight crushing her into the ground as his hands thrust her bra out of the way of his marauding mouth.
“Now,” she cried, moaning, her legs opening to him of their own volition. “Oh, now, Sam, please, now!”
He thrust into her urgently, his hardness impaling her soft flesh.

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

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ARC Review: Cold Malice by Toni Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended!

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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ARC Review: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-booktoowildtotame
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Romancing the Clarksons, #2
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Aaron Clarkson
Heroine: Grace Pendleton
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: September 06, 2016
Started On: August 31, 2016
Finished On: September 09, 2016

The second installment of Romancing the Clarksons by Tessa Bailey brings us the story of Aaron Clarkson, the driven and ambitious in the family, the one who wants to make a name for himself within the elite political circles. Aaron has to work doubly hard because of the bungling up he had done in the recent past, and this time around nothing was going to stand in his way. Not even the unexpectedly fierce desire he feels for Grace Pendleton, more complication than he currently has the time for.

Grace is a woman who has lived under the shadow of her father’s political career basically her entire life. Hiding in the shadows is what is required of her, and she does a good job of it, that is until Aaron draws her out of the shadows and makes her come alive for the first time in a long while. The scars she carries in her soul runs deep, however, that does not stop her from seeing Aaron for who he can be.

Aaron is a deeply conflicted character as well. There is of course the family dynamics and his complex relationship with his brother Belmont (whose story I am waiting ever so impatiently to read, which I believe is the case for most readers of this series), and there is the ambition that has brought Aaron to this point, something that he simply cannot turn away from. But Grace tests his resolve more than anyone he has ever met, and it was wonderful seeing both of them come together so explosively and tenderly when all was said and done.

I did not really expect to enjoy Aaron’s story as much as I did. In fact, I was pouting with the knowledge that most likely, fans of the series would have to wait for Belmont’s story for a long while. Aaron was in my opinion a paltry substitute for what I wanted. But I was so very wrong as Aaron proved to be a mighty fine hero on his own, giving me something to think about a time or two and of course I loved the way everything turned out in the end. Grace’s backstory was one that was painful to read, something that made me wonder how if ever, would you heal from something of that sort.

Recommended for fans of the series and those who love steamy contemporary romances. I loved the sex scenes in Too Wild to Tame. So wonderfully well done.

Final Verdict: Wonderful storytelling from start to finish. Loved Grace and Aaron!

Favorite Quotes

With a thready apology, Grace shot forward and up, locking her mouth with Aaron’s, memorizing the way his stiffness melted in one big deluge. The way he gave a rough exhale through his nose. That gruff sound that drummed from his throat, a split second before his lips opened, tongue teasing in to taste hers. Just some. The most perfect, slick greeting. The two of them hung there, mouths open, lips wet and fitted together, breath racing, kitchen clamoring behind them.

“I wanted to hold your hand in the woods, too. But this is better. Better. I’m going to…”
“Christ. Do it. Go on, Grace. Fill up my palm with the best you’ve got.” Aaron ducked his head to suck a trail up the side of Grace’s neck, unable to resist a bite beneath her earlobe. Another one. “Girls who get so wet from kissing shouldn’t leave the house without underwear, should they? No. And they definitely shouldn’t leave the house with someone like me. I don’t hold hands. I shouldn’t be allowed within ten feet of you.” He spoke the words angrily into her neck. “This is what I do. I return you home with a dirty secret.”

Aaron’s tether broke. Recapturing Grace’s mouth with an obscene amount of tongue, he backed them toward the bed, satisfaction rippling in his middle when she went down beneath him, her legs falling open in welcome. He draped his body over Grace’s slighter one, eager grunts leaving his mouth as he positioned himself over her pussy and bore down with his erection. Their groans were pain-filled, reaching every corner of the cabin, breaking off when Aaron got back to kissing that addictive mouth, yanking the oversized sweater up, up to her belly, so he could rock against her sex with only his pants and her tights as obstructions.
“Aaron.”
“You were warned,” he reminded her with a strangled shout, delivered into the space above her head. “Three times, Grace. That’s three times more than I’d give anyone else.”

Aaron reached up, fisting the back of Grace’s hair and guiding her down to his mouth, the ensuing kiss voracious, her grinding glides up and down his cock turning into something else. The head of his cock squeezed, followed by his full, aching length…and then he rammed into the back of her pussy. “No…” Aaron growled through the inescapable euphoria of being joined with Grace, nothing between them, but somehow responsibility found a way to grip him around the neck, his words forceful but slurred. “Need a condom. Can’t have y’like this.”
Didn’t matter that he was clean. This…Jesus, this was one privilege no amount of atoning for his past, present, and future could earn. No matter how fucking terrible it would feel to pull out of warm, safe…home. The home he could never live in, but would dream about for the rest of his pathetic life.

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

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