Review: It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Bellinger Sisters, #1
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Brendan Taggart
Heroine: Piper Bellinger
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: July 13, 2021
Started On: November 28, 2021
Finished On: December 14, 2021

It Happened One Summer, the debut book in the Bellinger Sisters series by Tessa Bailey features two main protagonists who are the complete opposite of each other, the journey they travel towards finding their other half in one another making for an enjoyable read.

The story begins with 28 year old Piper Bellinger being dumped by her current boyfriend in the midst of a party, a nightmare for someone like Piper who lives for the likes and comments on social media profiles. Piper considers her career to be partying and being seen in the right places. Her stepfather being loaded enough for her to afford the lifestyle she leads means that Piper had never really grown up, nor had she ever felt the need to.

Her delayed reaction to the breakup however turns out to be the last straw for her stepfather, and with the need to teach her a lesson driving him, Piper is “exiled” to her father’s hometown in Westport for three months. While everyone (including herself) expects her to fail to live up the requirements of her stay in Westport, Piper has no other avenues to turn to and it is thus she and her sister Hannah find themselves in the town where their deceased father is a revered hero of sorts, the last man of the Westport crew to die while hunting the almighty king crab on the Bering Sea.

From the instance that Piper walks into the bar which her her father owns the deed to, she clashes with Brendan Taggart, a man who seems to engulf her every sense from the get go. As a seaman and captain of Della Ray, the wheel of which he had taken over from his father-in-law, Brendan is a man who is a stickler for routine, never straying from his tight schedules and the regimented lifestyle which keeps him grounded. But all of that is shaken up by none other than Piper, who for the first time in seven long years makes him want to move on from his revered status as a widower.

While Brendan is a bit grumpy and gives Piper attitude at first, all of that changes with the realization of the extensive nature of his burgeoning feelings towards Piper. The lady herself, who has never really even considered putting down roots in a place other than a vibrant city with a nightlife to beckon her, finds herself swayed by the quaint charm that is small town life, where without even realizing, she makes herself an integral part of the small community.

But then again, the past has a way of rearing its ugly head when its least wanted, and that is exactly what happens, giving the story a healthy dose of angst to make things more well rounded towards the final stretch.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Piper and Brendan, each being unique and refreshing in a way that made them easily earn their rightful place in my heart. Queen of Smut, aka Ms. Bailey definitely delivers on THAT front, leaving readers with their scorched e-readers to contend with when all is said and done. Watching Piper embrace the wholesome version of herself was an added bonus which I loved!

I am definitely looking forward to the next installment in the series which is set to hit the book stands on the first of next month. No time like the present to get your hands on this one!

Final Verdict: With It Happened One Summer, Ms. Tessa Bailey weaves a complex character-driven story full of heart and the best kind of smut, rendering this unputdownnable!

Favorite Quotes

One second he was holding the toolbox, the next it was on the ground and he was turning. Piper’s momentum brought her up against Brendan’s body, hard, and his boat captain forearm wrapped around her lower back, lifting her just enough that her toes brushed the concrete. And then he bowed her backward on that steel arm, stamping his mouth down onto hers in an epic kiss. It was like a movie poster, with the male lead curling his big, hunky body over the swooning, feminine lady and taking his fill.
What?
What was she thinking? Her brain was clearly compromised—and it was no wonder. The mouth that found hers was tender and hungry, all at once. Worshipful, but restraining an appetite like she’d never encountered. As soon as their lips connected and held, her fingers curled into the neck of his T-shirt, and that arm at the small of her back levered her upright, flattening the fronts of their bodies, and oh God, he just devoured her.

That big body swayed closer, lines of strain appearing around his mouth. “Please . . .”
“You don’t have to beg,” Piper said, bringing the champagne flute to her breasts, tipping the glass and letting the champagne trickle out over one nipple, then the next, and Brendan started to pant. “Not for something we both want. Touch me, Brendan. Taste me. Please?”
“Christ, I have to.” He traced his mouth to her left nipple, pressed his bared teeth against it, before rubbing his tongue against the stiff bud, yanking her hips forward, the move arching her back so she had to use his hair for balance, taking two big handfuls. Her mouth was in an O, watching him savor her, manhandle her body. No games. Just need.

He stared hard at her juncture, the grip on her knees flexing, a curse issuing unsteadily from his mouth. “Yeah, I have to be an idiot leaving you without my attention for two weeks.”
She panted. “Are you calling me high maintenance?”
“Are you denying it?” He tugged aside the strip of material shielding her core, which thankfully she’d waxed clean as a whistle right before leaving LA. “Fuck me. You can be as high maintenance as you want, honey. But I’m the only one who does the maintenance.” He ran his thumb down the seam of her sex. “Understood?”
Piper nodded, as if in a trance.

His lips ghosted up her inner thigh, blunt fingers hooking in the sides of her panties. “Lift up,” he rumbled, nipping at her sensitive skin with his teeth. “Want them off.”
Oh great. His voice could get even deeper? It resonated all the way up to her clit, and she fell back on her elbows, inching her hips up enough for Brendan to peel the thong down her legs. She watched this man, who grew more exciting by the moment, expecting him to drop the underwear on the floor. He wrapped the thin black material around his shaft instead, pressing his mouth and nose up against her wetness, groaning as he choked himself up and down in a tight fist.
“Holy . . .” Piper breathed, momentarily blacking out.
“See this, baby?” He rubbed his mouth side to side, parting the damp folds of her femininity, that hand jerking roughly between his thighs. “You’re still getting me off, too.”

He all but fell on her, his face landing in the crook of her neck, his fist positioning his stiffness between her thighs, right over that uber-sensitive flesh. “One day soon, Piper, I’m going to fuck you so goddamn hard.” He alternated between dragging his swollen tip through her saturated folds and stroking himself. “Going to fuck the word ‘friend’ right out of your beautiful mouth. You’ll forget how to say anything but my name. Real quick, honey.”
Her clit hummed again, unbelievably, and that buzz of connection, of more promised pleasure had to be the reason she turned her head slightly, whispering in his ear, “Promise?”
With a strangled growl of her name, he hit his peak, shooting moisture onto her belly, his hand moving in a blur, his teeth bared against the side of her throat. “Piper. Piper.”

The moment their mouths collided, Brendan knew he’d made a mistake. He should have waited to kiss her until they were home in his bed, because the uncertainty of the last eleven days reared back and punched him. It did the same to Piper—he could feel it.
She gave a broken moan and opened her sweet mouth for him, her breath coming in short pants almost immediately, just like his. He’d barely slid his tongue between her lips when she gripped his shoulders, drew herself high against his chest, and slung her legs around his waist. And Jesus, he’d already been halfway to hard, but his cock surged against his fly now, swelling like a motherfucker when she settled the warm give of her sex on top of him, the drag of friction making him curse. Making him wish they were anywhere but a hospital hallway, half an hour from his house.

Lips seeking and wet, their kiss escalated to the point of no return again. They both wrestled with the waistband of her yoga pants, shoving them down past her hips, lower until she could kick them away. And then she was back to climbing him, her lithe thighs skimming up to his waist, his hips punching forward to get his cock up against her softness, pinning her to the wall in the process.
“Noticed we didn’t have to get any panties off,” he said in between kisses, finding her incredible ass with both hands and kneading her buns almost angrily, because Jesus, this thing drove him fucking crazy. “You drive here in my truck with a bare pussy, Piper?”
She bit his bottom lip, tugged. “Slept in your bed with it, too.”

“This bed isn’t strong enough to survive what I’m going to do to you,” Brendan growled against her mouth, capturing her lips again in a kiss fraught with male sexual frustration. It let her know in no uncertain terms that she was the source and he’d be exacting revenge.
Take it. Take it.
Without breaking contact with her mouth, Brendan’s hand wedged down between them and wrestled his zipper down, the desperation of his jerky movements exciting her like nothing else, dampening the folds between her legs. “Hurry,” she begged, biting at his lips. “Hurry.”
“Goddammit, Piper, you make me so fucking hard.”

“Tell me you’re wet. Tell me to put it in.”
“I’m so wet,” she moaned, lifting her hips, running the insides of her knees up and down his heaving rib cage. “I’m ready. I need you. Rough as you can.”
That full, smooth dome pressed up against her entrance, and she braced, one hand flying to his shoulder, the other to the wooden bunk rail. And still she wasn’t prepared for the savagery of that first thrust. With a hoarse roar, his hips drove Piper up the narrow bed, his thickness invading all available space within her, and without allowing her time to acclimate, he was already pumping feverishly, rocking the bed with staccato squeaks.

“Brendan,” she gasped. Then louder, “Brendan. You’re so good. It’s so good.”
“I’ll never lie in this bed again without having to jerk off.” His hand came up to frame her jaw, applying just enough pressure while looking her square in the eye that another rush of wetness coated her sex, aiding him in his destruction of her senses. “You love knowing that, don’t you? You love making me fucking crazy.”
She bit her lip and nodded. “Sure you want to be my boyfriend?”
“Yes,” he growled, and slammed into her, holding still, deep, his pained face dropping into the crook of her neck. “And don’t call me that right now or I’m going to come.”
Oh. Jesus. That confession sent a contracting ripple through Piper’s core, and she let out a strangled sob, her hands flying to Brendan’s ass inside his loosened jeans, fingernails sinking in and yanking him, scraping pathways into his flesh. “Oh my God. N-now. Now.”

She was panting as he rose, dropped his chest down onto her back and pushed his cock inside of her still-contracting pussy. “Mine,” he gritted, the tightness of her cinching his balls up painfully, firing every ounce of his blood with possessiveness. “I’m taking what’s mine now.”
A movement ahead of them on the bed reminded Brendan of the mirrored headboard, and he almost came, caught off guard by the erotic sight of her slack jaw and tits that bounced along with every pump of his hips. His body loomed behind her, damn near twice her size, his lips peeled back from his teeth like he might very well devour her whole.

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Review: The Guarded Heart by Robyn Donald

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Nicholas Challoner
Heroine: Alannah Finderne
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 25, 1983
Started On: August 22, 2021
Finished On: September 01, 2021

The Guarded Heart by Robyn Donald is certainly a fitting title for a book that features a widowed hero who is determined that he would exact his revenge by forcing the woman responsible for the untimely death of his wife and unborn child into a marriage with him.

Only in her wildest dreams or nightmares rather, would 19 year old Alannah Finderne have ever thought that she would end up tying the knot with Nicholas Challoner, the man whose mere gaze chills her to her very core. But forced into a marriage with him because of the circumstances, Alannah nevertheless has a stark choice before her; make herself miserable by denying what Nicholas invokes in her, or surrender.

Both Alannah and Nicholas are intensely proud characters, stubborn to a fault, and as a result drives each other crazy – mostly not in a good way. But I found the story as it developed to be an interesting one nevertheless, realistic too if you ask me. How would I react if I were forced to marry a man, the demise of the love of whose life I was responsible for? Not to mention the age gap, the fact that the man loathes my very existence and marries me just so that he could have children with me, and making suffer would be an added bonus while at it? I guess I too would come out with my guns blazing, if I were not a heroine of the doormat variety.

The Guarded Heart is the first novel that I can recall, where the hero actually slaps the heroine – usually it is the other way around because the hero is being an ass; and I guess if we apply the same principles here, the heroine was also being rather cruel at that point. Makes me question as to why I accept it at face value when the heroine slaps the hero but I have a tough time reconciling with the fact when the heroine is on the receiving end. Goes to show that we all carry our prejudices that spills over every now and then.

Nicholas proves to be an interesting character, whose emotions we have to gauge through the observations that the heroine makes along the way. I would have liked it a bit better if I saw a bit more of those tightly guarded emotions from Nicholas that would have made the story more heartwarming when all was said and done.

Given that this story was first published when I was just over a year old, reading this almost 38 years later did not detract from the enjoyment factor – I am after all a masochist in my reading preferences; the more pain a story makes me go through, the better I like it.

Recommended for fans of old Harlequin romances and fans of Robyn Donald.

Final Verdict: The Guarded Heart often makes you want to just shake the main protagonists, but underneath all that stubbornness lies hearts that are brimming with love, the unfolding of which I enjoyed!

Favorite Quotes

Shivers racked her. Blindly, sensually, she ran her hands from his waist to his shoulders, felt with bitter delight the sudden tensing of his muscles and explored further, the tips of her fingers delicately stroking the muscles on his arms, the smooth heated skin across his back.
He groaned her name, his mouth hot against the turgid peak of her breast, and she sighed raggedly and began to move beneath him, undulating in a way that instinct told her would further inflame him.

His hands slid to her hips; when they paused she opened tortured eyes and saw reflected in his face the agony and need that had her in its grip. And with the first hard thrust of his body the world exploded, sensation piled on sensation so that beneath her eyelids there was a sunburst of colour and she was falling, falling into its vortex, sobbing, gasping, her body racked by an ecstasy so far beyond her hidden fantasies that she thought she might die.

Very slowly she reached out a finger and touched the jewel, then pushed it to one side as she got up from the bed. When Andrew was tucked in beneath the mosquito netting she came back, and picked the beautiful thing up. Nicholas watched her through heavy-lidded eyes, his mouth compressed and grim.
‘Put it on me,’ she said huskily, and turned her back to him, brushing her curls forward to leave the vulnerable nape of her neck bare.
His fingers barely touched her skin, but she shivered as she faced him.
‘How does it look?’ she asked.
Anger glittered in his glance and there was a pallor around his mouth that warned her she was pushing him very close to the edge. He didn’t so much as glance at the necklace; from beneath a frown his gaze was fixed on her as though he would like to hurt her.
She knew a moment’s fear before he said slowly, thickly, ‘Like you. Beautiful, making no concessions, setting its own standards.’

‘Tell me you love me,’ he demanded, moving so that he loomed over her, his lips only a fraction away from hers.
‘I love you—I love you with everything I am. Nick—please—’
‘And that you want me.’ He was merciless, his expression so ferociously controlled that for a moment she was afraid.
‘You know—’
‘Tell me!’
‘Oh, God, I want you.’ Tears glazed her eyes. She was hypnotised by her own sensuality. Twisting, writhing beneath him, she slid her hands to his hips, pulling him down to her. ‘I love you so much I could die for you,’ she groaned.

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

Review: Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Series: Writer Friends, #4
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Zachary James Zemaitis
Heroine: Adele Harris
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 27, 2008
Started On: August 20, 2021
Finished On: August 21, 2021

Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson is a second-chance themed romance set in Texas. 25 year old Adele Harris believes herself to be cursed when it comes to love, and with good reason; she has not had a good date or decent sex in years. Having been in love twice in her life, the last time being three years back, it is however her first love that she still recalls with clarity because of the intensity that it had been.

14 years since they briefly dated, Adele once again comes across Zachary James Zemaitis, the man who broke her heart all those years ago. Widowed and a single father now, Zach coaches high-school ball and is determined that he would do right when it comes to his daughter Tiffany, as his career as an NFL quarterback had meant missing out on a lot for the first ten years of her life.

When circumstances force Adele to move back to Cedar Creek for a couple of months, she is more than shocked to find out of the untimely demise of Zach’s wife, for whom Zach had walked away from Adele all those years ago. Once bitten, twice as shy, Adele is determined that she would keep Zach at arm’s distance, but then again, the lazy charm that Zach had won her over with back then, not to mention the blistering sexual heat that is between them which seems to be more pronounced than even before, is a tough mix to walk away from.

Not Another Bad Date is a story that while I enjoyed, I believe could have been better. Perhaps it is because the story did not turn out as I exactly thought it would be, with the ghost of Zach’s wife being the catalyst that kick-starts the current chain of events, that particularly did not work for me. I believe Zach and Adele would have gotten there even without the dead wife being part of the picture. While Zach has his own baggage from how he was forced to get married, the disillusionment that had caught up with him a couple of years later; all that and more makes Zach reluctant to start something that could lead to a permanent situation.

Enjoyable in its way, Not Another Bad Date is recommended for fans of Rachel Gibson and for those who love second-chance romances!

Final Verdict: When fate intervenes, resistance is futile – that is what Zachary and Adele finds out as these two find their way back to each other!

Favorite Quotes

As if she hadn’t spoken, he pushed her hair to one side. “Would you drive me insane like you used to?” He lowered his face, and his breath warmed the side of her neck. “And honey, you drove me out of my mind.” He slid one big hand around her side to her flat stomach and pulled her back against his hard chest. “I was the first man to make love to you. I haven’t forgotten that.”
“It was a long time ago.”
“You haven’t forgotten, either.” His lips brushed her heated skin, and those hot little tingles she’d worried about spread warmth all over her body.

“I need you.”
“No. You want me.”
“Same thing.”
“No. Oxygen is something you need.” Her back hit the wall next to the last bathroom stall.
“Just be still,” he said, and placed his hands on her shoulders. “And stop running from me.”
“Stop coming after me.”
He shook his head as his brown gaze stared into hers. “I’m beginning to think I need you like I need oxygen.”

“I think you’re going to like this.” She straddled his hips, positioned herself, then slowly sat. He was big and extremely hard, and she took her time, feeling every bulge and ridge through the thin latex until the head of his penis bumped her cervix.
His breath hissed from his lungs as his hands slid up her thighs and hips to her waist. “You look good up there. I like it already.”
“It gets better.” Slowly she raised herself, rocking her hips and sliding back down. She teased him with her body, clenching her muscles around him, drawing his flesh deeper, using him to build and stroke the sexual fire burning through her.
“You’ve learned a few things,” he said, his grip on her waist tightening.
She rolled and rotated her hips, feeding his need and hers, and looked into his drugged eyes as he watched her. She bent forward to kiss the side of his neck. Her breasts pressed into his chest, and she whispered into his ear, “You feel good. Hard. Huge.”
He rolled with them until she was on her back looking up into his face. His fingers curled with hers, and his mouth came down hard.

She rolled the condom down his shaft and pushed his shoulders until he sat submerged in bubbles halfway up the defined muscles of his chest. She straddled his hips, placed her palms on the sides of his face, and kissed him. The tips of her breasts brushed his warm skin, and she ran her fingers through his hair. She kissed his neck and his throat, and her hands ran all over him, touching as much of him as she could reach. It wasn’t just sex now. There was more involved than just body parts, and when she took him deep into her body, her hands returned to the sides of his face and she stared into his eyes. His labored breath brushed her cheek as she moved and rocked her hips.
“Zach,” she whispered, her voice heavy with desire and emotion. Within minutes an orgasm rushed across her skin and gripped her heart. Her vaginal walls tightened around him, and his fingers dug into her behind. As he came into her body, she kissed his mouth, filling the kiss with the new and conflicted feelings she felt in her heart.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple | AbeBooks

Review: From the Embers by Aly Martinez

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Eason Maxwell
Heroine: Bree
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 28, 2021
Started On: May 15, 2021
Finished On: May 17, 2021

From the Embers by Aly Martinez is one of my favorite reads from 2021. Discovering Ms. Martinez through her book Release has been a godsend. Stumbling across authors like Ms. Martinez is why I spend countless hours sometimes, looking through title blurbs of authors I have never read before. Books like From the Embers makes all the bad books you come across worthwhile in the long run.

The story begins at the point where the main protagonists, Bree and Eason Maxwell are married to each other’s best friends. Bree a businesswoman prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom of two when their family’s finances had given her the freedom to do so, and Eason, a songwriter whose marriage seems to be on a perilous path all because he was just not doing enough to keep his wife satisfied on all fronts.

All that changes in a heartbeat when an explosion takes the lives of both Bree’s husband and Eason’s wife, leaving them both bereft, hurting, and bewildered in the wake of the heartbreaking loss. Eason might have carried Bree to safety from the explosion, but it is Bree who finally sees him for who he is, as they are both forced to rely on each other to get through the days ahead. However, as these two navigate the circumstances of the new reality that they have been thrust into, dark secrets come to the forefront, threatening to crumble the foundations upon which the bond between Eason and Bree is forged to life.

Bree had never been Eason’s fan – she had always found Eason lacking, all owing to the fact that she had viewed Eason through the lens of her best friend’s viewpoint. All of that changes when Eason becomes her rock in the turbulent times that faces them both, the family they become as they leave the painful night behind them and starts the slow and painful process of moving on.

Both Bree and Eason are wonderful characters; every single character that you come across in the book is special. Kids often have a tendency to annoy me in books – but Ms. Martinez makes it all work, bringing the right mix of cuteness and wholesomeness to the mix. The plot was well done; at first I was a bit skeptical thinking that what comes to the forefront was just too easy – but in the end Ms. Martinez surprised me with the plot twist that brought a different edge to the story as it reached its climax.

Eason was perfect. Bree was perfect. The secondary characters were perfect. This story was nothing short of perfect. Recommended for those who want a story that would sweep them off their feet on a journey that is all consuming!

Final Verdict: Beautiful, surreal, and utterly spellbinding, From the Embers makes for an explosive read in every single sense!

Favorite Quotes

“I don’t hide anything from you.”
“Good,” she said. “Let’s keep it that way.”
My throat got thick, and as hypocritical as it was, I hoped the sweat breaking across the back of my neck and the tempo of my racing heart were both hidden. Her proximity suddenly felt suffocating, which was almost as confusing as it was intoxicating.
Together, we stood there, surrounded by white lights and unspoken emotions. There were gratitude and respect, but most of all, there was love. Maybe not the conventional or romantic variety, but it was there all the same.

“Look, I know this is going to complicate the hell out of things. But being with you is the only thing that feels right in my life. I’m gonna be real honest: I’m mad at them. I’m hurt. I’m embarrassed. And I can’t even begin to imagine the agony that’s going to follow over the next few weeks as we sort this shit out with Luna. But there are two things I know for sure: I want you, Bree, and I’m not waiting one fucking second longer to make my move.”
In one swift motion, I rolled over and tucked her beneath me. Smoothing the wisps of hair out of her face, I added, “I can’t wait any longer to kiss you from head to toe, to make you feel good and know for sure it was because of me.”

After unwrapping her like a candy and sampling the sweetness between her legs, her hands balling the sheets beside my shoulders, I nearly lost my mind.
Just before I tipped the scales out of my favor, she annihilated them altogether by rolling on top of me. “In my dreams, you said I wasn’t ready. But I’m ready, Eason. I’m so damn ready for you.”
She’d had dreams.
About me.

Every day, Eason was easygoing and laid-back, but in bed, he was a completely different animal. He was powerful and strong, almost unyielding in the way he ravaged my body with his. He was bold and sure, confident in knowing everything I needed even before I could anticipate it myself. He was demanding and gentle, but above all else, he didn’t hold back.
Eason gave. I took.
He went harder, faster. I begged for more.

“I swear to God, Bree, your fucking body was made for me.” His hips twisted as he pushed deeper. “I can’t go much lo—”
I silenced him with my mouth on his. “Shhh. Then don’t. Give it to me. Give me everything.”
Breaking the kiss, he went up onto his arm, looked down at where our bodies were crashing into each other, and then pressed his forehead against my shoulder as the most erotic moan rumbled through his chest. “Fuck.”
His heavy weight collapsed on top of me as he pumped and twitched his release. For as ugly and tainted as the world could be, the sight of Eason losing himself in an orgasm would forever be one of the purest and most beautiful things I could experience.

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepo

Review: The Land Where Sinners Atone by V.F. Mason

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Zachary King
Heroine: Phoenix Hale
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: May 14, 2020
Started On: February 14, 2021
Finished On: February 19, 2021

“Sex is phenomenal. Love though? Love is scary as fuck.” – Zachary

The Land Where Sinners Atone by V.F. Mason is another dark, anti-hero romance from the author whose books answers the need in me to read stories featuring heroes that most would not even think are worthy of redemption. But I love them more so for the fact. I am no fan of overly sweet romances – I like the darkness, that raw edge, and the tension that courses through you, until you are on tenterhooks unable to turn away from the disaster that is imminent. And for that reason alone, I would always continue to read titles from Ms. Mason, as long as she continues to deliver the variety of heroes that speaks to my heart.

The Land Where Sinners Atone tells the tale of 32 year old Zachary King, his family being one of the most influential families in the world, who seeks revenge and vengeance on 29 year old Phoenix Hale, when she is accused of killing the beloved wife of Zachary. With Zachary out in full force to make her pay, the news that the DA cuts her a deal is the last straw for him.

It is punishment enough for Phoenix that nothing in her life would ever be the same again. Her career, the husband who promised to love and cherish her for all eternity, her friends and colleagues, all of them leave her in the dust, and there is no will left in Phoenix to fight to keep them, especially when she has to fight for the survival of someone more precious than all of them put together. But the long arms of the rich who seek vengeance reaches behind the prison walls, and it is heartbreaking what happens to Phoenix to finally break her.

At 32 years old, new evidence that comes to light sets Phoenix free, setting Zachary on her path once again, this time seeking her help to find the actual perpetrator. Zachary makes no apologies for what he did to Phoenix, and his sheer audacity in asking for her help sets Phoenix on the edge, not to mention the fact that he raises her ire in ways she would rather not define.

Ms. Mason weaves a tight plot for the most part, which entwines snippets of the past which shows how Phoenix strikes an odd friendship with a boy three years her senior, and how throughout the years that friendship is conducted via letters and emails. Phoenix at one point wants more, but that had been the first time fate had intervened, forcing her to choose a different path which led her to become an ex-convict who wants the man who put her behind bars in a way she never would have thought possible.

When the truth comes to light of what they mean to each other, of the secret that Zachary hides, and of the true intent and nature of the killer, it is a harrowing couple of chapters until we reach the finish line and turn the pages to the epilogue with bated breathe, praying with everything you are, hoping with every fiber of your being, that everything turns out to be alright.

For the most part, I loved the story that Ms. Mason delivered with this number. Zachary is the kind of hero that takes your breath away from just his sheer presence alone. There is a forcefulness to him, a ruthlessness that is enshrined in his DNA that speaks of violence if ever there is a need for it, and yet at the same time, a gentle side to him that really shakes you up in the midst. Phoenix is not the only one who is flummoxed by the many facets to his character, and as the reader I was feeling it every step of the way.

I think what detracted from my enjoyment of the story somewhat was the fact that I felt the story steered off course towards the end, and I think that it could have been much better had it been otherwise. Zachary too was perhaps not ultimately dark enough for my tastes, because lets face it, Ms. Mason has delivered much darker heroes in her stories such as Psychopath’s Prey, which was my first and most unforgettable book by her.

At the same time, I absolutely adored the bits and pieces on the entwined pasts interwoven into the story up to a point, giving the tale the lighter edge it needed. But even then, I wanted that connection to have come to light differently perhaps, while at the same time I could appreciate that the story’s fast pace meant that things were just happening and that there was no right or wrong time for it to happen. The heat between Zachary and Phoenix is off the charts hot, with their first coming together hot enough to singe the reader.

I fell in love with Phoenix from the very start – she basically makes the story what it is, her character carrying the kind of strength that makes you root for her, admire her, and want the best for her. Her psychology in terms of how she fared from a young age to her chosen career path, and her sheer brilliance at it – all of that and more makes her a heroine who is worthy of all my love and then some!

As usual, stories that depict the psychology of the depraved, the ones who lose their way because of childhood trauma left unaddressed, that is a message that resonates loudly as the story emerges from darkness towards light. We might think it is best for a child who has undergone severe trauma to ignore what happened to them, but the festering wound beneath manifests in different ways in different people. Not all of them turn out to be empathetic soul. Some of them, their souls are left too tainted for them to see the light in anyone else.

Recommended for fans of dark romances featuring anti-heroes and for fans of Ms. Mason’s work.

Final Verdict: Zachary and Phoenix’s coming together is as explosive as the need for vengeance that courses through Zachary, who sets out to destroy everything Phoenix holds dear. Adrenaline rush guaranteed!

Favorite Quotes

I pull her into me, our chests pressing against each other, but before she can dart away from me, I thread my fingers in her hair and arch her head back then whisper against her mouth, “Because of this, right?” And with that, I slam my mouth on hers, connecting us in a kiss.
One single kiss.
Yet it forever shifts the balance in our relationship and opens up possibilities I thought I’d never want again.

The minute our tongues brush against each other, we moan and goose bumps break on my skin. He deepens the kiss, tilting me back until I’m angling my head to meet every glide of his tongue, the hot, passionate kiss vanishing all traces of guilt away and replacing them with a need so strong I can’t stop tightening my thighs around him. My nails scratch the back of his head as I open my lips wider to deepen the kiss even more… if it’s possible.

One minute, he holds me prisoner, and the next, I yelp when he sends me landing flat on my back across the counter, his body covering mine. Once again, his mouth lands on me, but this time the kiss is different.
Any gentleness is gone. Instead, the kiss is passionate and all-consuming, sending waves and waves of goose bumps breaking on my skin while his hard-on digs into my core, sliding up and down, giving me a brief hint of what it can do to me. Fusing our mouths, I hope he’ll end our misery and give us both what we want
so much.

Zach steps back, straightening up, takes out a condom from the back of his pants, and lowers the zipper on his jeans before tearing the foil packet open. He easily wraps his hard-on in it. My eyes widen for a second at the thick, long, angry flesh leaking precum at the tip, and then his hands are back on my hips, pulling me closer until I wrap my legs around him and his erection digs against my core. He rubs it all over my center and leans forward, licking away the tears on my cheeks, one by one, then swallows a piercing moan tearing out of my mouth when he thrusts into me, shifting me on the counter a little and stretching me so much I wonder if I’ll survive it.

My hands slide down his back, raking my nails over it, wanting to bring him pain, the same kind of agony mixed with pleasure he evokes in me while my pussy gets tighter and tighter around him, welcoming every drive of his hips until it all finally becomes too much. I arch my neck back, screaming when it finally hits me. A hot flash spreads all over my body, hammering me with pleasure over and over again, almost making me drown in it for how strong it is—it’s nothing like I’ve experienced before.
He thrusts a few more times and then groans into my ear, biting on my earlobe. He spills inside the condom and grips my ass cheeks so hard a moan slips past my lips.

“Zach, please,” I whisper. However, he is relentless and removes his fingers, replacing them with his tongue again, giving my core an open-mouthed kiss that should be forbidden for how much it makes me feel.
Digging my nails into the back of his head, I place my foot on his shoulder and close my eyes, starting to slowly roll my hips back and forth, finding the friction with him moving rhythm
ically inside me.

“Zach,” I beg and warn at the same time, wanting to finally reach the blissful oblivion without a care in the world.
“I know, darling. But you’ll come on my dick and not on my tongue. Because…” He enters me with just the tip, my pussy clenching around it. He groans above me. “Exactly that. I want the walls of your pussy to squeeze around me so much you won’t ever think this is a mistake. Because no one in this world can make you feel the way I do.” Before I can protest to that, he drives into me with one, swift move. I cry out as the headboard of the bed hits the wall and my body instantly clamps around him.

I’m hot, so hot, as his cock stretches me with each thrust, as if claiming its territory even if both of us know it’s temporary.
I palm his head, searching for his eyes, and when I find them, I connect our mouths with an incoherent murmur, and we lose ourselves in the kiss. His movements speed up, the pace pushing me to the brink, then closer and closer until finally it hits me so hard I still before throwing my head back and crying out, my core spasming all over him, sucking him inside and not wanting to let go.

Desire is a weakness wrapped in all-consuming emotion with the power to rule your every single thought. And although you know you will burst into flames if you’re not careful enough, nothing in this world can stop you when it calls your name, demanding surrender and acceptance.

“You are so beautiful. How can a man resist such a beauty?” His grip on my hips tightens, his fingers digging into my skin as his voice drops a few octaves. “Others can look, but no one is allowed to touch you. Do you understand?” The possessiveness lacing his tone and the flash of anger in his eyes snap me out of the haze he created around me, and with a gasp, I move to the side, wanting to escape him when realization of the situation settles in on me. “Especially Sebastian Hale.”
Unbelievable.
Putting my hands above his, I tug on them, trying to snatch them away from me, but they stay glued on me until I huff in frustration. “Stop this. Don’t act like—”
“Like who?” he asks, biting my neck and earning himself a groan from me. “Like a man who is obsessed with every breath you take?”
“Like you have rights to this body or me.”

Licking the nipple and coating it in my saliva, I tug on it a little, biting her harshly before instantly soothing it with more licks, all while my palm slides lower and lower until it reaches the hem of her panties. Without warning, I tear them away from her, the flimsy silk barely giving any resistance. “Zach!” she whispers through her moan, but I pay no attention to that, moving to the other breast where I repeat the action while my hand cups her dripping-for-me pussy. The heel of my palm digs into her clit while my fingers rub the walls of her pussy, spreading her juices all over them.

“What do you want, Phoenix?” he asks me again, his fingers threading in my hair and tilting my head back so I can look at him, and I know he sees a challenge in them.
I’m done telling him what I want, since he doesn’t listen anyway.
I’m going to take what I wan
t.

Holding his stare with mine, I circle his neck, bringing him closer to me until my lips touch his ear, and I whisper to him, “Make love to me, Zach.” His fingers bruise my hips when he settles between them and slams into me, making me cry out. My scream reverberates around the room, and my nails scratch his back.
His hard cock stretches my pussy that clenches around him, awakening every nerve in my body as he pushes deeper and deeper and then moves back, only to thrust into me again, rooting inside me over and over again as my body welcomes every jerk of his hips.

This man.
The man who I hate and love so much it borders on insanity, but I don’t mind as long as he shares this madness with me.
My pussy clamps over him tighter and tighter until he hikes my legs over his hip higher and starts to give me faster thrusts, one after another. I feel the hot flash travel all over me before it hits me full force, sending me flying over the edge with thousands of sensations breaking goose bumps on my skin.

Purchase Links: Amazon

Review: Look the Part by Jewel E. Ann

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Flint Hopkins
Heroine: Ellen Rodgers
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 27, 2018
Started On: December 26, 2020
Finished On: January 02, 2021

Look the Part by Jewel E. Ann is the kind of romance that reaffirms the romance reader’s belief in the genre amidst too many lackluster reads pushing different agendas that are the popular norm of the times we live in. It is the kind of story that echoes in your heart long after you are done, memories of how you felt when you were deeply engrossed in the story, the kind you cherish months and years later, the reason why it lands in your favorites folder, to be revisited somewhere down the line.

32 year old Ellen Rodgers is a music therapist who signs a new lease for an office space, and her landlord turns out to be Flint Hopkins, who is a lawyer, who requires absolute silence to get his work done. From the get go, sparks fly between the two, reluctant as Flint maybe to acknowledge the fact. He wants to cancel the lease and get back his peace of mind, not just from the music or the “noise” that comes from his tenant’s floor, but from the way Ellen has a habit of ruffling his feathers, touching him, and making him want, testing his very resolve.

Ellen is more stubborn than Flint gives her credit for, and things become “messier” when Flint’s son Harrison finds an affinity with none other than Flint’s enemy number one. In the end, every single second spent in each other’s company drives them inexorably closer to that tipping point from which there is no turning back. But it is no smooth sailing for these two when each carries enough baggage and heartache to last them a lifetime. It takes a lot from both of them to find equal footing on their journey towards happily ever after and every excruciating minute I would say, was worth it.

I loved, loved, loved my first book by Jewel E. Ann to pieces. This book had everything going for it; main protagonists who are both lovable in all the ways that matter. Flint *fans self*, is the kind of hero that makes readers swoon with effortless ease. He steps into the story and your eyes just start shooting hearts all over the page. He has the kind of confidence that turns heads, the looks to go with it, and a demeanor that may keep most at bay, but not Ellen.

I loved the broken pieces within Flint that needed healing. He needed to forgive himself more than anything else, the guilt that keeps eating him from inside out being the biggest factor that keeps him from moving on, ten years since the fateful event of his wife’s death. He is a man grieving and at the same time stuck in a moment in the past, and he has no intention of budging from where he is for anyone.

Ellen is the antithesis to what Flint is in many ways, but the sorrow that fills every crevice of her broken heart is no less significance. A failed marriage has left its mark deeply ingrained, and she cannot help but want Flint with everything she is, even when she should know better. Touching Flint is Ellen’s way of reaffirming the essential bits and pieces to her, and Flint certainly does not make it easy when every delectable inch of his is laid bare for her taking.

I also loved the secondary characters in the novel that gave the story the wholesome edge it needed from at times the darkness that loomed in the story. There is so much angst interwoven that it sometimes felt like there was a football field lodged in my throat – but I reveled in it, loved it, and craved the feelings that were coursing through me with every fiber of my existence. There was guilt and yearning. There were broken hearts and fractured souls. But amidst it all, there was love and healing that went hand in hand which made this story stand out!

Recommended for fans of unforgettable romances featuring heroes that makes your hearts beat just a tad faster and heroines who make you smile through happy tears!

Final Verdict: Look the Part by Jewel E. Ann takes the reader on an incredible journey that demands nothing less than total surrender. There is nary a word nor character that I would change in this book!

Favorite Quotes

I jerk the button and zipper to his jeans, humming against his mouth. He shoves my shirt off my shoulders and yanks my bra down, palming my breasts as my hand slides down the inside of his briefs.
A low growl vibrates his chest. When was the last time I unraveled a guy with the touch of my hand? I don’t remember and that’s just sad.

“Let’s go.” She slides out of the booth.
I toss cash onto the table and follow her out the door, feeling guilty for the lack of any conversation over the past hour. “I’m sorry for not saying much—”
She whips around and grabs the lapels to my jacket, pulling me around the corner to the alley. She kisses me. Her hands take mine, and she guides them to her waist. “Touch me,” she whispers over my mouth.
“Where?” I take a step forward until her back presses to the side of the brick building.
“Anywhere …” Her breath is labored and desperate as she licks and sucks the skin between my ear and the collar of my jacket. “Everywhere … just … touch me.”

If I lean in three inches, our lips will meet. I like his lips, and the way he’s looking at mine leads me to believe the feeling is mutual.
“Thank you for bringing him home.”
He smells like herbs, like I imagine a chef might smell. I’m hungry. I’d settle for him, but I don’t think he’s on the menu tonight. I don’t know if he’ll ever be on the menu. He’s that dessert on the dessert tray that no one ever gets to eat because it’s just a display.

“Flint …”
“Shhh …” I nip at the skin right below the perfect curve of her ass, warning her to be quiet. She smells like the forbidden and tastes like my newest addiction. My hands work her skirt up her torso and over her head. With a firm yank it releases her arms, taking her shirt with it. I discard them behind me as well.
She turns. I take a step up, putting my face level with her perky tits. Glancing up to meet her drunken gaze and parted lips, I grin, unfastening her bra and tossing it over my shoulder.
Fucking perfect.

“I may have planned on sex … but I sure as hell never planned on you.” I ease her to her feet, and she sits on the bed, unfastening my pants with way more patience than I have at the moment. My hands take over, discarding the rest of our clothes before claiming her mouth again, pressing my body against the soft, warm curves of hers.
She tastes like forgiveness and feels like freedom. And she sounds like a prayer, humming against my mouth—not a moan, an actual tune that I don’t recognize.

I hop off the counter and take the pan to the drawer under my stove top. “Ouch!” I drop the pan in the drawer with a clunk and straighten my back, my hand reaching for the back of my leg, just below my butt cheek. There’s a stinging welt.
Flint holds the end of the twisted damp towel in his hand like a whip.
“Oh my gosh! Did you seriously just whip me with a towel?” I say in a loud whisper. “There’s a welt. You marked me.”
“Your skirt is too short. When you bent over to put that pan in the drawer, I could see black lace.”
“So you whipped me?”
He stalks toward me until I’m forced to crane my neck to maintain eye contact. “No,” he whispers. “I whipped you because you’re a fucking tease.”

“Which finger or fingers of yours should I be jealous of tonight?” he says in a low, deep voice.
I hide my gasp, but it’s there. Apparently shockingly crude remarks are the theme of the night. I can play this game. Making a quick glance over my shoulder for young ears coming, I turn back and hold up my index and middle finger. “These two up front…” I add my ring finger “…this one in the back.”
And there it is … Flint Hopkins expressionless and speechless. It’s an oddly beautiful sight.

For the rest of the night we pay homage to each other—physically, emotionally, spiritually. I refuse to stop until my mouth and hands have touched him everywhere and his have possessed every inch of me. I memorize the look he gets at the exact moment he loses himself to me. His back arches. My hand splays over his taut stomach muscles; my fingers curl into his tight flesh like I’m claiming him—Every. Single. Piece.
It’s sensual.
It’s vulnerable.
It’s beautiful.
It’s mine. I want that look to be mine and only mine forever.

“Ms. Rodgers.” He takes two short steps before the door closes behind him and he pins me to the wall.
We turn into a flurry of hands ripping at clothes, deep kisses, playful bites, and soft moans.
Between labored breaths, I stab my hands through his hair as he licks and bites his way down my neck. “You didn’t bring lunch, did you?”
“Elle …” He hums in pleasure as his lips feather across the swell of my breasts. “You are lunch.” Flint drops to his knees, taking my leggings and panties down with him.
My head thumps against the wall as my eyes roll back into my head.

Alex steps toward me, giving me that look of adoration that he used to give me, as he lifts his arm up, touching my cheek with his cold, prosthetic fingers.
I stiffen as Flint’s hand wraps around Alex’s forearm, pulling it away from my face. “But just to be clear … if any man were going to put something inside of Ellen and lay claim to her … it would be me.”
Just to be clear … I just fell in love with Flint Hopkins again.

“I haven’t been with anyone but you since the day you walked into my life.” I lift her up onto the vanity.
“Flint—”
“Shhh …” I kiss her while wedging myself between her legs.
She sucks in a quick breath as I push into her. My hand finds her breast as I find a rhythm.
“Race you to the finish,” I whisper in her ear.
Elle’s lips press to my neck, pulling into a grin. I show her how much I love her. How much I’ve missed her. How much I crave every inch of her. And then I beat her to the finish, pulling her across the line just after me.

“Crying’s not necessary—oh, Elle.” He pulls me in for a hug as I blink out the first round of tears and sob at the same time.
I knew it would hit me hard when it came time to say the words.
“There’s s-so m-much I want to s-say.”
He hugs me tightly, kissing my forehead. “Then say it.”
I shake my head, fighting back more sobs. “It’s st-stupid.”
“It’s not stupid. Just say it.”
I take a few seconds to reel in the burst of emotions so I can get all the words out before falling apart again. “I love you, so don’t die in a plane crash. Don’t change your mind. Don’t sleep with another woman. Don’t think about me getting fat or getting stretch marks. Don’t ruin your relationship with Harry to be with me. But be with me. Gah! I know that sounds impossible. But …”
He kisses me. And kisses me. And kisses me until I could faint. “Heaven and Earth,” he whispers over my tear-stained face.

He slides down my leggings and panties. I suck in a breath as a shiver jolts up the entire length of my body from his fingertips ghosting along the back of my bare legs.
His touch has had this effect on me since the first time his hand touched mine. At the time I thought it was this craving for any touch after feeling starved of that kind of affection for so long. I was wrong.
It’s Flint.
It’s his touch.
It’s me.
It’s how he reacts to my touch.
It’s us.

“Flint …” I curl my fingers into his back as this builds into something stronger and erratic. Our breaths quicken.
“Elle …” His grip on my hips tightens, and he slams me onto him as his hips rock up into me. “You’re so fucking beautiful.”
Our mouths crash together again seconds before we fall apart. I love being in Flint’s world. It’s tragic. It’s complicated. It’s filled with obstacles. But …
It’s passionate.
It’s addictive.
It’s the deepest kind of love.
It’s everything.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Review: A Governess Should Never… Tempt a Prizefighter by Emily Windsor

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Governess Chronicles, #1
Publisher: Senara Press
Hero: Seth Hawkins
Heroine: Matilda Griffin
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 09, 2020
Started On: November 26, 2020
Finished On: December 04, 2020

“But had I known such a love as ours existed, I would have searched forever to find you..”

A Governess Should Never… Tempt a Prizefighter by Emily Windsor as the title indicates, brings two very unusual protagonists together; a retired pugilist and his governess, whose backgrounds are as different as night and day. When 31 year old Seth Hawkins seeks a governess for his 13 year old daughter, the last thing he expects is for a lady like Matilda Griffin to apply for the position and turn his entire life upside down.

Matilda is on the run from her guardian, until such time that she regains control of her own life. She seeks refuge in the unlikeliest of places and finds it, by convincing her employer that she is more than qualified in the tutoring that Seth requires for his daughter.

As the days pass, a friendship is forged to life between Seth and Matilda, which kindles the slow burn of desire between them. Seth may be a retired professional boxer, who used his brawn and body to make his way and get out of the poverty ridden life he would otherwise have had to endure throughout his life, but he is a man who is keenly intelligent, with a heart that yearns for love as much as Matilda’s does. Matilda may have grown up in a more affluent household in comparison, but loneliness had been her one constant companion, which she had kept at bay through the books that enriched her life.

Finding common ground between herself and Seth is surprising for Matilda, but it doesn’t stop her from seeking more, to understand the complexity of the man who holds her heart. Their deeply meaningful conversations are one of the reasons this book stands out, especially the frankness with which Seth claims her after all is said and done. He is a gentleman to his very core and the man who answers the need that flares to life in Matilda as a woman of her own right.

I enjoyed my first Emily Windsor, even though I was a bit hesitant at first to pick this up because of a number of reviews which weren’t all that positive. But then, I don’t usually rely on other reviews all that much and choose to make up my own mind about what works and what doesn’t for me, and it has served me right for the most part as it did with this one. Like most romance readers, unusual main leads intrigue me in stories, and I am delighted that I did give this a chance.

I loved the slow awakening of desire and the emotions of the more tender variety that burgeoned to life along with it. I loved how both Seth and Matilda were protective of each other, how they saw the best in one another, and how they both yearned to spend the rest of their lives with none other than the other.

Recommended for those who love beautifully spun historical romances featuring the not your usual variety of hero and heroine. You won’t be disappointed!

Final Verdict: There is just something beautiful about historical romances done right, a magic that lingers in the air when you are immersed in the story. That is what I found in A Governess Should Never… Tempt a Prizefighter.

Favorite Quotes

Miss Griffin moistened her lips, and his jaw twitched, an involuntary tremor coursing within.
“May I?” she asked.
At his nod, she took a run for the nearest shelf and brushed a finger reverently over the book spines.
Seth shuddered and watched as her lips unconsciously curved in utter delight.

All might have been fine; it may well have ended there; he would have drawn back.
But her hand clasped his shoulder and then climbed till her fingers twisted in the short hair at his nape, nails lightly scratching, yanking him close and crushing their lips together.
Ferocious need erupted, spiralling his control and grinding it to dust.
He hauled her tight, a hand to her curvaceous rump so that she half-straddled him, a scalding heat upon his thigh, and he kissed down her neck, nipped her throat, the shadows a colluding partner to his endeavour.

“Matilda, I warn you, if you strip to your chemise, I will kiss you.”
“And I shall want you to,” she whispered, knowing it to be the truth.
His jaw firmed. “And if we kiss on this occasion, Matilda, I will not cease.”
“And I shall not want you to.”
His breath hitched, rumbled. “And if I do not cease, then fair warning, I will never let you go.”
“And I shall not want you to,” she whispered once more, conscious of what she was saying, that she wished for a lifetime of adventures with this man.

“May I?” he growled, elegant diction beyond his capability.
She smiled her acquiescence and he tugged laces, then wrenched, kissed the skin above her chemise – smooth and with the scent of meadows.
The corset fell away, in harmony with his breath.
Crisp white linen hinted at curves, shadows beneath implying treasure beyond his most feral imagination.
And oh, how he had imagined. Night after anguished night.

“Seth,” she gasped.
“My beautiful, exquisite Matilda,” he whispered, and with those words – ones no one else had ever applied to her – that tightness released and the rosemary-scented room ceased to be as her eyelids closed, rapture flooding to every tip of limb, submerging her beneath warmth and light.
With a rip of cotton, a heady, muscled weight was upon her, powerful hips and thighs parting her legs further before a thrust against her core, raw and rude and resolute.

“My Matilda,” he bit out, low and agonised. And he dragged back, only to plunge anew, a guttural grunt locked in his throat.
The tightness caused a sharp inhale but the rapture of before still simmered, and as he rocked, gentle and short, that hurtling bliss returned – faster and tauter.
“More,” she gasped, aware he held back from whatever he wished to do, aware his strained arms and clenched teeth hid a sharp longing. So she caressed his back, scratched those magnificent buttocks.
His hips jerked, and a growling Seth began to pound. A broad hand claimed her thigh, hitching it aloft as she cried out, and he plunged deeper.

Purchase Links: Amazon

Review: Love Unexpected by Q.B. Tyler

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Dominic Callahan
Heroine: Stassia Rae
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: August 12, 2020
Started On: September 29, 2020
Finished On: October 10 , 2020

Love Unexpected by Q.B. Tyler is another romance featuring taboo themes, reason enough for readers like myself to pick it up. Love Unexpected brings to readers the story of 41 year old Dominic Callahan and 18 year old Stassia Rae, with Stassia having fallen in love with Dominic the very moment she had laid eyes on him. She had been just a mere ten years old then. Before long, her dreams of had been crushed by the fact that Dominic had fallen in love with her mother and within a year, they had gotten married.

Years later, Stassia still struggles with her wayward feelings for Dominic, but keeps them under wraps through sheer force of habit that she had cultivated through the years. However, things change when tragedy strikes, leaving Dominic a widower for the second time in his life and Stassia with a gaping hole in her life that would never be filled.

Somehow along the way, lines are crossed, words are spoken that can never be taken back, and before long Stassia is on seventh heaven with Dominic showering her with the kind of attention that she has always wanted. It is a precarious and dangerous road that these two embark on, especially with Stassia’s biological father turning up, trying to weasel his way into Stassia’s life.

There is a lot of sex happening between Dominic and Stassia and little else I would say, apart from the guilt factor rearing its ugly head every now and then. Dominic tries to do the right thing, but finds that he cannot walk away from Stassia ,while for her, it has always been Dominic and no one else. Stassia is not willing to give up what she has with Dominic and she is willing to fight, even if it means fighting with the man she loves, for his love.

I picked this up to read pretty excited about the premise and my past experience with Ms. Tyler’s work. However, I found that I did not feel close to what I experienced through the journey of reading Unconditional. I felt a huge disconnect from both Dominic and Stassia for various reasons. With Dominic, I never did understand his reasoning when it came to wanting Stassia. I wondered when his feelings had started to change, I kept trying to understand why when he had obviously doted on his wife, he did not spend at least some amount of time mourning the loss that was left in her wake.

When it comes to Stassia, I just found her to be too immature for Dominic. A romance and/or love between two protagonists who have a huge age gap to contend with, works well when there is a sense of maturity to both characters. I cannot fathom an adult relationship which involves anything less surviving through the hardships that life throws your way. Perhaps Stassia would mature in time but I wanted to see more substance to her character and emotional growth than the story provided.

My inability to connect with both Stassia and Dominic proved to be why I did not end up liking this as much as I thought I would. I really wanted to, but alas, that was not to be the case.

Recommended for fans of Q.B. Tyler and fans of taboo themed romances.

Final Verdict: Love Unexpected perhaps is the most apt way to describe this book; the love that strikes between two people whose feelings would be frowned upon begins just like that; unexpectedly!

Favorite Quotes

“You wore this dress on purpose. To tease me.” My nose is pressed against her skin, smelling her sweet perfume and my hands are still gripping her hips so tightly I won’t be surprised if I’m leaving bruises through her dress. Her hands have found my biceps and she’s squeezing them equally hard as she shifts back and forth between feet. “If I lift your dress up, will your panties be soaked?”
“Yes. Yes. Yes,” she whimpers, assumedly as an answer to all of my questions. “Touch me and see for yourself.”

“Have you come yet?” His pulse flickers in his neck and I can see his tongue dart out to wet his lips.
I shake my head to tell him I haven’t and without another word, he removes my fingers from inside of me. He stares at my hand for a second before they’re in his mouth, his tongue swirling around my coated fingers, and then his eyes find mine. “Put your hands on the headboard.”
“Why?”
“Because, Princess, you need leverage for when you ride my face.”

“Stop thinking so much, baby. I’m here with you. Stay with me.”
“I’m here,” I whine. I’ve been climbing towards the peak for what felt like hours and I know this will be the culmination of the night. The most powerful and most intense orgasm of them all.
“Fuck, this pussy is mine. You know that. Even if we never do it again. Even if you go on and date other men or fuck other men or marry another man. This pussy will always be mine because I laid my claim first.”
“Oh God,” I cry out. My vision blurs as tears well in my eyes and slowly cascade down my cheeks as the orgasm flares in my belly and shoots through me. “FUCK, Dominic!” I scream. I press my face into the pillow and bite down, and scream again, muffling the second sound just as Dominic succumbs to his own orgasm and lets out a guttural groan.

“I see your pulse flickering in your neck. You want this, don’t you?” This is the first time I’m really up close and personal, and he’s right, I do want it. I want to suck his dick into my mouth and down my throat. I want to show him just how far he can go and how good my gag reflex is. I nod and wet my lips before letting my mouth fall open in invitation.
Fuck. He mouths as he continues to stroke his cock from root to tip before moving up one stair to straddle my hips and hold his cock towards my mouth. I lean down angling my head and take one slow lick up his hard shaft. A hard hand grips my hair almost painfully and he jerks his dick towards my mouth.
I move my head back slightly, even though I’m desperate to sheath my lips around him. “Now who wants it?”

“I can’t wait and I’d rather come in your pussy than your mouth.” He drops his dick and yanks me hard into the water before pushing me against the wall of the pool.
I wrap my legs around him on instinct and just as his lips land on mine he enters me. Memories of last night flood through me and I already feel myself building despite the soreness in my sex. I pull at the hair at the nape of his neck, threading my fingers through his silky strands as I feel my orgasm pooling in my belly.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
With each thrust, I feel him everywhere.
Marking me.
Branding me.

She frees my cock and stands, straddling me again and sliding herself agonizingly slow down my length. I groan with every inch she takes of me and the second she’s completely full of me, with that delectable ass resting against my thighs she begins to move up and down using my shoulders as leverage.
She’s been having sex for two days and she’s a fucking goddess. Jealousy surges through me at the thought that someone else will get to see this side of her. That despite the caveman attitude I’ve had, she isn’t mine.
She’s mine in this moment.
That’s all I have.
This weekend.
This moment.

He turns his head and gives me a smirk. “Tell me what you want. We don’t have time for everything.”
“I know.” The thought that I won’t get to feel his tongue in my pussy makes me want to cry but I know I need his dick more. “Fuck me,” I pause, “with that.” I point at his crotch and he unbuttons his jeans and slides them and his briefs down as he moves his seat back. I’m climbing over the console into his lap and sliding down onto him before the seat is even done moving.
“There’s my baby. God, I’ve missed you.”

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Review: Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Fostering Love, #1
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Shane Anderson
Heroine: Katherine Evans
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: June 07, 2016
Started On: May 21, 2020
Finished On: May 21, 2020

Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn is the debut book in her Fostering Love series. While Ms. Jacquelyn is a totally new to me author, the blurb which hinted at unrequited love, a widowed hero, and a ton of angst was what sold me and I didn’t look back. I needed a story that was spectacular enough to “wean” me off the continuous high I had experienced while reading one Susan Napier book after the other throughout April and May. Unbreak My Heart turned out to be just perfect for the cause.

Unbreak My Heart brings together the two main protagonists, Shane Anderson and Katherine Evans (Kate), who are both 29 years old. While Kate and Shane had been best of friends from a certain point of their childhood on wards, the minute Shane had set eyes on Kate’s closest friend Rachel, Kate had ceased to exist for him. Ignoring the hurt in Kate’s eyes had been his modus operandi, and it had helped that being enlisted in the military, Shane was hardly ever around afterwards.

Kate’s life had pretty much revolved around that of Rachel’s and her family when Shane was not around. With Shane away for long periods of time, Kate spends most of her time helping Rachel bring up their four kids, up till the point where tragedy comes calling and changes everything. With Rachel gone, a year on, the hurt is still raw for Shane and on the eve of Rachel’s death anniversary, their vulnerability leads to sex of the most spectacular kind, which ends with Kate becoming pregnant.

Shane’s fractious relationship with Kate does not undergo a magical transformation when he receives the unwelcome news of Kate’s pregnancy. If anything, his feelings related to Kate becomes more chaotic than ever, the draw he feels towards her something which he resists at every single turn. There are moments in which Shane gives in, is tender and loving, and yet what is more devastating is what follows soon after; the constant need in Shane to blame Kate and assume the worst when it comes to her.

Through a sequence of events that was heartbreaking and heart warming at the same time, (I seriously do not know how Ms. Jacquelyn managed to do that) she delivers a tale that is nothing short of mesmerizing. I could not put the book down unless it was for the basic necessities, because it had been that long since I had come across a novel that features a hero like Shane – who at best would be deemed irredeemable by many readers. But Shane is the kind of hero that I love the best, perhaps because I am a glutton for punishment.

Needless to say, I loved Unbreak My Heart to bits and then some. I found Kate to be amazing. The love that she feels for Shane is an all encompassing and enduring one at that. There is a profound statement in the story that jumped right at me – that love can overlook many things, and I believe that to be true. When we talk about accepting people for who they are, shortcomings and all, because lets face it, none of us are perfect at the end of the day, love is in reality all about overlooking those bits and pieces and seeing the bigger picture.

Kate might be seen to be a doormat heroine by some, because she puts up with a lot of shit from Shane at first. But given the shared past between them, during which Shane and Kate had seldom spent time together from the point where he had decided to ignore her in the pursuit of Rachel, the trouble starts brewing when they are forced to endure each other’s company. Kate’s feelings had never wavered when it comes to Shane, but for Shane, discovering Kate along those lines and the way he falls so hard for her amidst all that reluctance on his part was something worth all that heartache and pain.

There were times I felt like dousing Shane with a bucket of cold water for good measure, just so that he could see reality for what it was. I also loved the strong cast of secondary characters that lent an extra richness to the developing story and made it more wholesome with their presence, which also ended up being the reason behind Shane finally being able to get his head out of his ass and really see things from a different perspective.

One would wonder how Kate was able to forgive everything when all was said and done. I guess the simple and complicated answer to that would be love, in its purest of forms. Kate is just pure in heart in a way that a lot of us may not be able to understand. No matter what she goes through, there is no malice nor hatred in her heart, which is a rare thing indeed.

When one comes to understand Shane and baggage he carries from his experience through the foster care system, it is easier to see where he is coming from. It is evident that Shane is scared shitless of the way Kate makes him feel which is evident as the story reaches its climax. One can see why it is so, because Kate is not someone who deserves love of the half-assed variety; she deserves it all.

I know that Unbreak My Heart would not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are anything like me and love irredeemable heroes paired with heroines who make them fall and fall hard, this is for you. If you want a romance that is politically correct, with rainbows and sunshine, with a unicorn or two thrown in for good measure, then it is safe to say that this is not the book for you.

Recommended for those who love emotional and angst-ridden reads that makes you feel all the feels! Unbreak My Heart does that in spades! Thank you Ms. Jacquelyn, for writing Shane’s character as he was.

Final Verdict: Unbreak My Heart delivers the reality of the pain that stems from unrequited love and the courage it takes to love in the truest and purest sense. I wouldn’t change a word in this book for the world!

Favorite Quotes

“When you cry, your lips swell up,” he whispered, making my eyes finally pop open in surprise.
He was so much closer than I’d realized that my breath caught in my throat as he stared at my lips.
Then his mouth was on mine.
“Pushing, always fucking pushing,” he mumbled against my mouth before sucking my bottom lip between his and biting down hard enough to make me whimper.
He tugged at my lip with his teeth, and I felt my body heat in response.
“What are you doing?” I asked as his eyebrows furrowed.
“Fuck if I know.”

“Harder,” he ordered, groaning as he grabbed the back of my head and pressed my mouth to his throat. “Do it hard.”
I followed his instructions, biting and sucking on his neck like it was my job, and his hands shook as one held me against him and the other slid down the side of my throat and ripped the strap of my bra and cami down my shoulder. He tasted salty, and the stubble under his chin rasped across my tongue.
“Jesus,” Shane groaned as he leaned back on his knees and gazed at my breast that had popped free. “Your nipples are pierced.”

“So bare and slick,” Shane whispered darkly, bending over my body until his chest rested against my back. “And what is this?”
His fingers found my hood piercing, and I froze as I waited to see what he’d do. I felt one finger playing softly with the piercing as my breath grew ragged, and I was so focused on that sensation that I didn’t feel him positioning behind me until he was thrusting inside.
I think I may have screamed as he came to a stop halfway inside, but my ears were ringing so loudly that I wasn’t sure. Not that I would have cared either way.

Her breathing was little off, kind of heavy and shuddery at the same time, and the feel of it on my shoulder was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Is that all you—” Kate started to ask.
My mouth was on hers before the last word was spoken, and I made an embarrassing desperate noise when her lips parted and she let me inside.
She tasted like ginger, probably from the cookies she had brought with her that morning, and for some reason it ratcheted up my desire until I was practically shaking.

“Shit,” she moaned, bending her knees so she could press down on my fingers inside her. “It’s not enough.”
“It’s enough.”
“No, I’m so close. God. It’s not—”
I bit down on her nipple then, careful of how sensitive she seemed to be, and she came, gasping and shuddering as my hand between her legs became drenched in her.
I pulled my hand from her slowly, running my fingers over everything I could reach, then lifted it and put those two fingers in my mouth.
She tasted different than I remembered. Maybe even better.

“Your body is insane, Kate,” he told me as he rolled over until he was leaning over me. “I look at you, and I don’t see the fucking ratty clothes you wear. I see the way your breasts bounce when I pull on your nipples. I see the way you clench your jaw when you come, and the way your red lips get swollen from sucking my dick.”
My mouth dropped open, and I looked at him in shock.
“You were my wife’s best friend. My dead wife. Do you get that? I look at you and I don’t see Katie who drove me nuts when we were kids, or Katie who was Rachel’s best friend. I see Kate, the woman who can take me hard then fucking begs for more. That’s not okay. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?”

“It’s okay, I’ve got you,” he breathed, lifting both of my legs until they were bent and pressing against his chest and he was hitting my G-spot again. “There you go.”
“Please,” I begged hoarsely.
“Harder?” He pulled back and thrust in desperately as he kissed me hard.
“Yes. Yes. Like that.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re sexy,” he mumbled into my mouth. “You’re almost there, Kate. Take it. Fuck!”
I detonated, and he followed closely behind me with a deep groan.

I cut her words off with my mouth as we reached the back door of Miles’s truck. Thank God the windows were tinted, and I knew that Mike and Miles would studiously avoid looking where we were standing…but it wouldn’t have mattered if they hadn’t.
She whimpered and gripped my head in her hands as I swept my tongue into her mouth, and I couldn’t resist grabbing her ass and hoisting her up until she was braced against the truck with her legs wrapped around me.
I didn’t know what I was doing. Things between us were getting so complicated. Too complicated.
But I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving without the taste of her in my mouth.

“Take it off,” he ordered gruffly, the tendons in his neck growing taught. “All the way, Kate.”
I closed my eyes as I pulled the shirt over my head and only opened them again when I heard him let out a harsh breath.
“Fuck,” he groaned, his eyes dilated until they were almost black. “Do you know what we’d be doing if I was there right now?”
I nodded mutely as I watched him watching me.
“You’re so fucking incredible, Kate. Jesus, those breasts—” I laughed a little as he whimpered, then slid the shirt back over my head, hiding my body from view.

He slid his tongue into my mouth as I began to shake, and I kissed him back until I finally couldn’t concentrate on both his mouth and his hand at the same time.
“Harder,” I ordered, clenching my teeth so hard it was a wonder I didn’t shatter them.
“Goddamn,” he groaned, sucking on my shoulder as I got closer and closer to the edge.
My hands were frantic as I tried to touch all of his torso at once, the nails of one hand digging into the forearm between us as it flexed over and over. His fingers were curled up inside me, and every time he jerked his hand up, his palm rubbed over my swollen clit.
I came hard, my mouth at his throat as I tried not to make any noise.

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Review: The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Lady Sherlock, #3
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Lord Ingram Ashburton
Heroine: Charlotte Holmes
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: October 02, 2018
Started On: April 26, 2020
Finished On: April 27, 2020

The third installment in the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas, i.e. The Hollow of Fear, begins where the second book ends, and continues several months after the fact, with Lord Ingram Ashburton being implicated in the murder of his estranged wife. For the first time since the series started, readers get to see Charlotte Holmes “emotionally” affected in a way she never has been before, even going as far as to lose her appetite for her beloved cakes and desserts.

As the story continues, readers like myself who covet Ms. Thomas’ romance novels are rewarded with just barely enough entanglements of the nature taking place between Lord Ingram and Charlotte. There is so much push and pull factor happening when it comes to Ingram and Charlotte. There is much left unsaid, much yearning, and the desire between the two at times is almost a palpable thing. For someone like Charlotte who lives inside her mind most of the time, it is rather intriguing to see Lord Ingram through her eyes, the way she views his character, their shared history, and the parts of his life that are far removed from hers.

The ending as always, “surprised” me the with who the villain turned out to be. Having watched enough movies and TV series based on the character of Sherlock Holmes, you kind of tend to think along the lines of wo would be the most unlikely villain of all.

I liked The Hollow of Fear better than the first two books, perhaps because the characters themselves are being fleshed out more through each installment and of course there is the fact that things “progress” between Lord Ingram and Charlotte in a way that had me on tenterhooks. I would always look for romance in whatever Ms. Holmes writes, and I guess I am a glutton for punishment in the way I seek out the tidbits that hints as much when it comes to Lord Ingram and Charlotte.

Though at times I wished for the story to be less intensive in terms of dialogue and included more on actual investigations, I did understand partly why the books are crafted as such. For the most part, these plots are centered around the ingenuity or cleverness and the mind games that play out based on Charlotte’s superior powers of deduction.

Recommended for fans of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and fans of Sherry Thomas.

Final Verdict: The Hollow of Fear brings important milestones to life when it comes to Charlotte and Lord Ingram. Enjoyed the twists and turns that heralded the end of this installment.

Favorite Quotes

He did not move again. Not because he might startle her—she had ever been imperturbable in these matters. But because he was startled. He had thought he knew everything there was to know about his desire. Had considered it, so long fettered and trammeled, as tame, or at least manageable.
When it had always been feral. Primal.
Her lips touched his nape, just above the rim of his collar. He spun around, cupped her face, and kissed her on the mouth, a kiss that he might never be able to stop.

He looked at her. She smoothed the back of a spoon across the jam glaze on top of the tart, returning his gaze. He stood very still—no fidgeting for him. But in the rise and fall of his chest there was agitation. Inquietude.
“Why are you nervous?”
He hesitated. “You make me nervous.”
“Why?” She was not nervous at all. “You must have done this hundreds of times—at least.”
“Not with you.”

“I have much to learn,” she said happily. “I wonder if Mrs. Watson can impart any wisdom.”
Good God. “How about I tell you exactly what I like?”
“Really?” She batted her eyelashes at him, needlessly long lashes that would have been a lethal asset had she any interest in flirting. “I’m astonished, my lord. You never tell me anything except what you don’t like.”
“In that case . . .” He placed his lips against her ear and whispered for some time.
When he pulled back, her eyes were slightly glazed. “I was rather hoping, given how starchy you are in public, that in private you might be a man of varied and somewhat depraved tastes. I must say I’m not disappointed.”

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