Review: Crazy Like a Fox by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookcrazylikeafoxas.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Peter Andrew Delacroix Jaffrey
Heroine: Margaret O’Rourke Jaffrey
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 01, 1997
Started On: March 09, 2019
Finished On: March 14, 2019

Crazy Like a Fox by Anne Stuart begins when Margaret O’Rourke Jaffrey, with her nine year old daughter Carrie in tow, finally makes her way to her deceased husband’s family in order to recoup and find her footing once again. Having had a less than stellar marriage with Carrie’s father Dexter, it was the last thing that Margaret wanted; to finally admit defeat and seek the help of the Delacroix family.

In the midst of the Delacroix family, Margaret finds the mysterious Peter Andrew Delacroix Jaffrey, the Delacroix who by all accounts is a lunatic, looking for a reason to go off the hinges at any moment’s notice. Margaret cannot explain why she is drawn to Peter, why she finds him fascinating when she rightfully shouldn’t, and at the same time has distrust for him running through her veins.

Peter has been in a jail of his family’s and his own making ever since the events surrounding the death of his former wife. A man who had everything he could have desired, Peter’s downfall had come from his marriage to a woman who had wanted more. Along with her death, the blame of which had fallen squarely on him, Peter had found himself biding his time, waiting for his cousin Wendell to prove his innocence, sort of lost in the midst of the sea upon which he had been tossed adrift. That is until Margaret walks into the family home and makes him want again.

Crazy Like a Fox sounds like a title that would deliver a humor-filled read. While the book has its witty moments (it is Anne Stuart after all with her acerbic wit), the book delves into two characters who have been lost for a long while. Margaret had made the mistake of marrying a man who had wanted the next high that gambling would bring his way, a wayward character if ever there was any, leaving both herself and Carrie destitute when he had left this world.

Peter is the character that is truly intriguing, Anne Stuart’s masterful creativity bringing forth a someone you cannot figure out at first. Peter is a character that is revealed to readers in layers, his story emerging in bits and pieces that makes the story that much more intriguing. I loved the unveiling of his character as much as I loved the connection forged between the two lost souls himself and Margaret are, and the resolution to a mystery that had been a miscarriage of justice right from the start.

Anne Stuart’s intelligent heroes & equally witty heroines always reel you into the story without fail. An innocent man doubts his own sanity while the madman responsible for it all lives among them, waiting and biding his time. The wildcard that changes it all proves to be Margaret and her daughter Carrie, infusing Peter’s life with the vitality and vigor it had been lacking since a long while back. Loved the awakening, the connection, and the happily ever after.

Definitely recommended.

Final Verdict: Anne Stuart’s books age so finely that you don’t even remember how long ago the book was written, because each word inexorably woven with the other presents readers with sheer magic.

Favorite Quotes

Taking her arm, he pulled her away from the tomb, away from an approaching group of tourists, back into one of the shadowy alleys. They were alone, sheltered from sight, separated in time and space from the crowds around them. “That’s Marie’s speciality,” he said, reaching his hands up to cup her face. “Trust her.” His mouth moved down to touch hers, softly. “Trust me.” And he kissed her again, just as lightly, his mouth teasing hers, drawing her into a response she couldn’t help but give.
He tasted of champagne and pancakes. He smelled of the night and smoke from the ceremonial flambeaux. He felt warm and solid and real, no phantom at all. Sliding her arms underneath his cloak, she made a small, whimpering sound of surrender, of a longing so deep she couldn’t begin to understand it. And her mouth opened beneath his.

“Thank you for everything,” she said, knowing she sounded stilted. “Goodbye.” She turned and opened the door.
She was unprepared for his reaction. Catching her arm, he whirled her around, enfolding them both in his voluminous cape, and this time when his mouth met hers it wasn’t gentle, or teasing, or quietly seductive. His kiss was harsh, full of demand and despair, and she wrapped herself around him and returned the kiss, lost in the same sense of desolation.
Then abruptly he released her and she sank back against the doorway of the old building, her breathing rapid, her eyes shut.
“Next time, Marguerite,” he whispered, “I want to see your red hair.”

His hands moved down to cover her breasts, and she made a tiny, almost indistinguishable sound of protest. That protest drifted into a sigh of pleasure, and she dropped her head back, her hair flowing over both of them as he caressed her breasts through the thin lacy barrier of her bra.
And then the barrier was gone. His hands were warm and rough skinned against her sensitive breasts, and his mouth was at her neck, drawing her, drawing her. She turned, opening her eyes for a moment, staring up at him with a dazed expression, and then his mouth caught hers.

Deliberately he pulled her toward him, his hands rough on her arms, not allowing her any escape.
She had no intention of escaping. She slid her arms around his waist, moving against him, and her mouth reached up for his.
He stumbled against her, pushing her up against the wall, his body covering hers, pressing against every square inch of her, and his hands cupped her face, holding her still for his devouring mouth. He kissed her lips, her eyelids, her cheeks, her nose, then returned to her mouth, slanting across her soft, giving lips and drinking deep. She gave a little cry deep in the back of throat, one of desire and acceptance. She didn’t care.

“Let go, Peter. Let me leave, drive away from here, out of your life. Please, Peter. Let me go.”
And they both knew she wasn’t talking about anything as simple as his hand on her arm.
“Marguerite,” he said, his voice low and sorrowful. “Chère. I’m not that crazy.” And he pulled her slowly, carefully, into his arms, giving her plenty of time to pull back, to fight, to resist.
“Oh, Peter,” she whispered. “I am.” And rising up on her toes, she kissed him, pressing her mouth against his, opening it slightly, touching her tongue against his lips.
His response was a muffled growl of longing as he threaded his long, beautiful fingers through her hair and kissed her back.

He yanked his clothes off, his eyes never leaving hers. He stripped off her jeans and threw them halfway across the room, and then he covered her body with his, with his long, lean, muscled beauty that was unlike anything she’d ever seen. She wanted to touch him, to treasure him, to delight in him, but his mouth was on her breasts again, suckling them deep, his hands were between her legs and she was damp and aching for more. She reached down to hold him, but he’d already moved on top of her, between her legs, hot and heavy and ready for her.
“I can’t wait,” he whispered, his voice harsh with desire and an impossible restraint. “Come to me, Marguerite.” And he sank into her, deep and hard and wonderful.

“Scream for me, Marguerite,” he whispered in her ear. “I want to hear you scream.” And he reached between their bodies and touched her, deftly, as he surged against her.
She did scream then, as he’d wanted, as she never had in her life. She felt her body dissolve, even as he surged and shuddered against her, and the flames engulfed them, destroying and devouring them, until there was nothing left but ashes.

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Review: Between the Devil and Desire by Lorraine Heath

Format: E-bookbetweenthedevilanddesire
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Scoundrels of St. James, #2
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Jack Dawkins
Heroine: Olivia Stanford
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 06, 2009
Started On: December 31, 2018
Finished On: January 02, 2019

Having finished In Bed with the Devil, the first book in the Scoundrels of St. James series by Lorraine Heath, I was intrigued enough to begin the second title, Between the Devil and Desire. This is the story of none other than Jack Dodger, the infamous best friend of Lucian (Luke), who entices readers on so many levels even as a secondary character.

Jack is a man who has long accepted the fact that he would do anything to get his next coin, to ensure that he would always remain in a place where no one else could have power over him. Jack had been five years old when he had been sold by his mother, something that his young and older self “understands”, because Jack believes that hunger could drive any human to do even the most despicable of things.

Falling in with a notorious den of thieves, Jack had quickly mastered the art of thievery, learnt that practically anything could be stolen, if proper preparations are done in advance. Even though Jack believes himself to be someone who couldn’t care less about another person, meeting Luke, the role Jack plays in Luke’s fate, and how their lives become entwined, places Jack in the role of playing the responsible “adult”.

At the age of nineteen, Jack had come into a lump sum of money through an anonymous benefactor. Jack hadn’t looked twice and asked no questions. He had turned that into his fortune by building and opening his exclusive gentleman’s club. Rich, independent, and revered and disliked in equal doses by polite society, Jack couldn’t care less about ant of it, that is until he is summoned to the reading of the Duke of Lovington’s will by the late Duke’s solicitor.

Olivia Stanford, the Duchess of Lovington, is someone who has always been about duty. Which is why she had married someone 25 years older than her, because her father had arranged the marriage, and that is what respectable women do. Even though Olivia hides a deeply passionate nature inside, she is the modicum of propriety itself, leaving many to believe that Olivia is as cold and haughty as aristocrats come.

When Olivia’s late husband appoints none other than Jack as the guardian and protector of his heir until the child reaches of age or Olivia marries another, that is when true horror dawns on Olivia, leading her to take drastic steps to “save” her son from the clutches of a man who could turn the most respectable of society into the most depraved.

Jack is lured by the promise of a final item that the late Duke dangles in front of him, its value immeasurable according to the solicitor, who remains tight-lipped about what it could be. Even though from the onset, Jack knows that Olivia seethes with anger at the mere thought of sharing anything with him, and even though Jack knows he can charm Olivia if he sets his mind to it, he cannot help himself but irritate Olivia given the chance, all because he likes igniting the slow burning fires deep inside of Olivia which she hides from the rest of the world.

While the Duke’s reasons for leaving Jack as the guardian of his son remains a mystery, and Jack certainly does not like things he cannot add up together, all of that is revealed through the various events that lead up to the culmination of this story. Even though Olivia would rather die than depend on the likes of Jack, as these two are “forced” to spend time together, both of them find in each other aspects of their characters that they are drawn towards. The explosive secrets that come to light towards the end was one of the best parts of the story.

I liked the story. I truly did. Jack was after all, nothing short of fabulous, everything I desired him to be, vulnerable from past atrocities inflicted upon him at a most tender age. His uncaring attitude as most would see it, an image he cultivates with calculated effort, makes him the person every woman would like to blame her husband’s less than savory need to visit his establishment upon.

I had bit of a harder time liking Olivia. Not that she was any less as a character in the story as it unfolded. But because there was a time or two towards the latter part of the story where she was still in doubt over Jack and his intentions. Olivia was also a trifle bit tiresome at the beginning, with her deep distrust of Jack (which was also understandable to a certain level), her inability to really commit to her feelings towards Jack – which at a certain point she finally did make up her mind and did get going.

I also felt that given all the build up of sexual tension between Jack and Olivia, the culmination of it all was just a bit anti-climactic. The way I see it, there is a deep wealth of passion hidden inside of Jack’s projected attitude. Fires banked over what he considers would make him more vulnerable by exposing own needs and weaknesses. I wanted that passion to tumble free, for it to take a hold of both himself and Olivia, who herself dreams of being possessed and dominated by someone as virile and undoubtedly decadent as Jack. Aside from the scene in the garden, which was pretty explosive, the rest of the scenes of passion seemed pretty mundane in comparison.

However, I enjoyed the overall story, the villain and his role in Jack’s life, meeting Feagan who had shaped the live of the main protagonists in the series, and the way Olivia finally accepted the true worth of the man who loves her without hesitation or condition.

Final Verdict: Jack’s smoldering passion meets the reserved and unstoked fires hidden beneath all the propriety that is Olivia. Enjoyed this succulent delight in many ways.

Favorite Quotes

“I’ve warned you not to forbid me,” he growled.
Before her next heartbeat, he’d slid his hand around her neck, holding her still, as he slashed his mouth across hers. He was not gentle or polite. He was almost savage with his desire to deliver what she’d requested. She relaxed into him, offered up no objections when his tongue urged her lips to part and slid smoothly into her mouth. Heat spiraled through her, melting her bones as though they were little more than tallow. He touched her with nothing except that one hand and his mouth, yet it seemed as though he caressed her everywhere, inside and out, shallow and deep. How could a kiss be this powerful, elicit such yearnings?

Suddenly changing the angle of his mouth, he deepened the kiss, his tongue leisurely exploring, enticing her to do the same. As he drew her nearer, held her close, she was not hampered by layers of petticoats or skirts. Quite frankly, there was little more than a few pieces of fabric separating her skin from his. His body responded with a fierceness that she needed no imagination to envision. She knew exactly what he looked like, images of him in the dressing room bombarding her, igniting a fire low in her belly.
She heard a harsh plea and feared it came from her.
Breathing heavily, he tore his mouth from hers. Only then did she realize she’d fairly wound herself around him. She immediately dropped her arms, stepped back.
“You do bewitch me,” he rasped. “Fair warning, Duchess, I fear this is the last time I can settle for only a kiss.”

They walked to the library without touching. As soon as the footman closed the door in their wake, Jack had her in his arms, holding her close, as his mouth swooped down to claim hers. She wanted to laugh from the joy of his eagerness. She’d never felt desired, and with him, it was as though he was hungry, hungry for her alone.
His mouth blazed a trail along her throat. “I was going mad sitting at that table making pleasant—and utterly boring—conversation, when all I could think about was how much I wanted to taste you instead of the chicken.”

“I’m not quite sure how to do this,” she said quietly. “I’m not sure how to go about seducing you.”
“Seducing me?” He released a bark of laughter, saw the hurt flash over her features, and closed the distance separating them in four long strides. He took her soft face between his roughened hands. “Livy, you’ve been seducing me since that first night.”
He kissed her forehead. “I find your defiance exciting.”
He kissed her temple. “I find your temper thrilling.”
He kissed her cheek. “I find your love for Henry humbling.”
He pressed his lips to the tip of her nose. “I find your laughter enchanting.”
He kissed the corner of her mouth. “Your eyes mesmerize me and your kisses have the power to bring me to my knees.”

She felt his mouth brushing over her shoulders and only then did she remember that he had a pickpocket’s fingers and light touch. He’d worked her buttons free from throat to stomach and she’d not even noticed. And now the gown was sliding off her shoulders, gliding to the floor.
She had a second to consider that she should feel a need to cover herself and then she was considering nothing at all except for the wondrous sensations of his mouth playing over her breasts: tasting, licking, suckling. All the while, he murmured that she was “beautiful. So beautiful.”

She gasped as the pleasure spiked.
He lifted his head, studying her. He glided his finger over her, eliciting another cry, her legs squeezing together as though to hold him there or perhaps to urge him on.
“I want to watch you, Livy,” he whispered roughly. “I want to see what the darkness of the garden kept from me. Let go, Livy. Let go.”

Then she felt him pushing into her, inch by delicious inch, the fullness of him stretching her further, increasing the pleasure tightening low in her belly. When she thought she could take no more, he lifted her hips slightly, shifted his weight, and buried himself completely into her, bowing her back with the exquisite sensation of feeling his weight pressing against her.
“Oh, God,” she whispered.
Threading his fingers through hers, he moved her hands so they rested on either side of her head while he rode her unmercifully, mercifully. Her body sang to his tune, pleasures rippling through her, increasing in intensity as his powerful thrusts moved not only her, but the bed.

He rode her hard, the motion of the train whispering at the back of his mind, giving him a cadence that he matched. For some reason, he thought of the people in the open railway car. He covered Livy’s mouth, absorbing her scream as her body tightened, pulsed, and throbbed around him. It was all he needed. His body bucked, the pleasure intense, almost painful. It was always more with her, more than he’d ever had, ever known.
Everything with her was different. Everything was better.

“I want to hear you,” he rasped.
And hear her, she was certain he did. Writhing beneath him, she heard her cries echo low and breathless, hardly aware they were coming from her. She held him close, dancing at the edge of intense pleasure. He knew when to stroke, when to suckle, when to pause, when to thrust with his tongue. He tempted and teased. He of the nimble fingers had a more nimble mouth. It stole her strength, her resistance.
Then she was screaming out his name and before the last of the shudders had wracked her body he was buried deep within her, his gaze holding hers as he rocked his hips against hers, his powerful thrusts causing the sensations to begin building again. She skimmed her hands down his back, cupped them around his buttocks, urging him on.

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

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ARC Review: Barbarous by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-bookBarbarous.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Outcasts, #2
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: Hugh Redvers
Heroine: Daphne Davenport
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 30, 2018
Started On: September 29, 2018
Finished On: October 02, 2018

Minerva Spencer is a Canadian author, who writes Regency Era romance. With two of her published works out, both in the series entitled The Outcasts, I came across her work when acclaimed historical romance author Elizabeth Hoyt recommended her books in one her tweets. I have loved almost everything that I have read from Hoyt and believe her to be a sensational author. So when she recommends an author whose books have spoken to HER, well, needless to say, I needed no further urging.

I did not read this series in order and read Barbarous first. In doing so, I did not feel like I had missed out on understanding the characters or felt that any of the story line was missing. So it is safe to say that this can be read as a standalone.

Barbarous begins when Hugh Redvers returns from the “dead” fifteen years after he was presumed to be so. A handsome daredevil who had stolen bits and pieces of Lady Daphne Davenport even when she had been an impressionable child when Hugh had been banished by his uncle, the older and mature version of him, scarred as he is, is a sight to behold.

Daphne’s first impression of Hugh upon his return is explained in a manner that does justice to what his character brings to the story. “Daphne knew she was gawking, but she couldn’t stop. His sun-bronzed skin and golden hair were an exotic surprise against the pallid gray of the spring sky. But it was the black eye-patch that covered his left eye and the savage scar that disappeared beneath it that were truly arresting. He lacked only a battered tricorn and cutlass between his teeth to be every maiden’s fantasy of a handsome pirate. Was he lost on his way to a masquerade ball?

Daphne’s biggest fear upon Hugh’s sudden return is that he would find out her “deception” and the fact that she had robbed him of his rightful inheritance. Daphne’s marriage to Hugh’s uncle is one that Hugh cannot wrap his head around, and he knows that he no right to be entertaining such wicked thoughts about his “aunt” – spread for him to feast upon, in all her wanton glory.

Daphne knows that she is not the type of woman that would excite a man like Hugh. But the manner in which Hugh slowly seduces her is reason enough to drive her ever slowly out of her mind. Even if she is determined to stay unmoved, there is no helping the fact that her body responds to the proximity and wicked looks that Hugh throws her way. However, for Daphne and Hugh to have their happily ever after, the need to face their past and reconcile with it is a must, before the dangers closing in from all sides could destroy what they have, even before their entwined life could begin.

Before I start gushing about this book, I just have to put this out there. I have the utmost respect for Canadian authors. The few Canadian authors, whose books I read, have wowed me in ways I cannot even comprehend. Some of them are the reason I continue to read the genre even when most tales in the genre today have grown pale in comparison to what my reader tastes are like. In Minerva Spencer, I believe I have found one more author that I will continue to watch out for, because she has a flair for bringing all the elements together that makes a romance work, which makes reading no hardship at all.

Barbarous was amazing in its prose and delivery – no two ways about it. I loved how both Daphne and Hugh’s characters were crafted. Daphne is the ultimate bookworm, a bit lost inside her head, and has a heart that is warmth itself. Her difficult past, the way she had found a sanctuary in being married to her deceased husband, and the twins that had been borne out of horrible circumstances, but whom she would give her very own life for; all this and more define Daphne. The way she responds to Hugh, that innocence of hers, her curiosity, and the way she loves and accepts Hugh wholeheartedly, for all that and more, I loved her character.

When it comes to Hugh, he is a man who strides into the story, giving it a vitality that I am hard pressed to explain. He is like a warm beating heart, pulsating with life, giving energy to the rest of the elements that makes up the story. His kindness above everything else, made me fall like a ton of bricks for him. His wicked, wicked nature when it came to the slow seduction of Daphne made me want to hoot and give out a catcall, especially when he strip teased for her. A hero doing the teasing in that manner is something I have seldom come across in romance novels, especially when it comes to the historical genre. His possessiveness was just the right touch, the balm that soothes the heart and soul of someone like Daphne who considers herself to not have anything much to offer a man like Hugh.

The cast of secondary characters definitely brings added color to the story, with every character multi-faceted in a way that lends credence to the unfolding story. Even the “villain” had his own story to share, which makes one think along the lines of how under similar circumstances, good and bad can thrive and persist, even beyond human comprehension.

If scrumptious love scenes, an interesting cast of characters, and excitement of the kind that would keep you turning the pages is what you want, Minerva Spencer is the author for you. I cannot wait for the next couple of books (which I am hoping the author is working on) to be out!

Final Verdict: In Barbarous, Minerva Spencer delivers a delectable tale of a larger than life hero who returns home to find himself scandalously in lust with his uncle’s widow. To say that sparks fly would be an understatement. Definitely recommended!

Favorite Quotes

Tendrils of her luxuriant hair had come loose as she played. Some spiraled wildly, glinting pale gold in the light, some lay damply against the exposed skin of her throat. Each time Hugh turned a page, he bent lower than necessary, breathing her in, inhaling her. She smelled clean, unper-fumed with anything but the vague scent of soap. Never had Hugh realized just how heady another human’s natural scent could be.
By the time the final notes came to a crashing conclusion, Hugh ached with the effort of holding his body in check. The cavernous music room was silent but felt crowded and small, the atmosphere heavy with a maelstrom of emotions he had no interest in examining.
Her arms trembled with the mere physicality of the past moments and a slight shudder passed through her, as if she’d just come out of a trance. She followed his hand—which rested on the piano—up to his face and blinked, surprised to find she wasn’t alone.
Hugh gazed into her heavily lidded eyes and was astounded by the violence of his need to touch her—embrace her. Instead, he took a small step back, even that much a struggle.
“You are magnificent,” he said, his voice hoarse.

His handsome features were taut and intense, but no longer angry. “Daphne—” He stopped and shook his head. Daphne stared into his emerald eye, mesmerized by the gold shards that glinted in the green, like slivers of sunlight through a forest canopy. His fingers tightened and his disconcerting gaze traveled from her eyes to her mouth and then back.
He gave a low groan of frustration. “Oh, bloody hell,” he muttered, just before his mouth crushed hers.
Daphne closed her eyes.
Finally
. The word echoed so loudly inside her head that, for a moment, she feared she’d spoken out loud.
If she had, Hugh did not appear to notice.

Daphne shuddered and grabbed onto his body to steady herself as his gentle sucking set off colorful explosions behind her eyelids. The tautly bunched muscles of his upper body were hard and hot beneath the smooth wool of his coat and her hands traveled the broad expanse of his shoulders toward his neck, lightly grazing his cravat before she pushed her fingers into his thick, surprisingly wiry curls.
He growled and inched even closer, releasing her lip and then pushing at the seam of her mouth with his tongue, as if he was trying to . . . enter her.
Daphne inhaled sharply and the room shifted beneath her feet as he took her face in both hands and tilted her, stroking into her . . . tasting her . . . licking her.

He traced the gentle curves with the tip of his tongue, teasing the thin silk barrier that molded to her lithe body. As he’d suspected—a million years ago at the wretched dinner—her nipples were less than an inch below the tissue-thin fabric of her gown.
Daphne shifted and arched as he suckled her through the silk, bringing the tip to tantalizing hardness before moving to the other, working her until the noises coming from deep in her throat were so hungry he had to see her.
He held her at arm’s length, staring into her sleepy eyes. “You are so beautiful,” he said, his hands moving to the damp, stretched fabric that barely covered her.

She lightly dragged the very tip over his lips, as if drawing his features, leaving a searing trail of heat as she kissed and licked and nipped her way up his scar, pulling his head lower and feathering the torn, tender skin with the lightest of kisses. Before Hugh knew what she was doing she’d untied the ends of the strap that held the patch over his eye.
He moved to grab it, but she flung it away and then clutched his face in both hands and pulled him lower.
“I want all of you.”
He hadn’t believed he could become any harder; he’d been wrong.

He circled his hand over her, stroking her pelvis from side to side until her hips pressed against his palm on the next sweep over her sex.
Hugh smiled at the familiar gesture of need and cupped her in his hand before dipping a finger between her swollen lips. She reacted with a convulsive thrust and he probed deeper, working her with a gentle but persistent rhythm, each stroke a little deeper, a little harder. She swelled around him and her hot wetness told him when she could take more. A second finger joined the first and her hips responded eagerly, thrusting in time to the motion of his hand.
“God, you’re so wet. So sweet and tight,” he whispered, the words causing her body to shake.
Hugh felt as though he’d barely begun when she contracted, her hips bucking hard, as if she couldn’t get him deep enough.

Holding her gaze, he withdrew almost all the way and then filled her with a single slick thrust. Her eyelids fluttered and her body tightened around his and a groan tore out of his chest.
“Touch me, Daphne. Stroke me while I stroke you.” Again he pulled all the way out and drove himself home, harder this time. Her hands began to roam his body, exploring his torso, his chest, his buttocks. He moved faster and pumped harder, driving into her with powerful, deep thrusts, holding nothing back.

She met him stroke for brutal stroke, until his body was about to fly apart. He was afraid he could no longer wait when she contracted around him.
“Yes, Daphne, yes. Come for me.” He punctuated his words with one savage thrust after another. She sank her teeth into his chest, her crisis coming fast and hard and triggering his own petite mort.
Hugh threw back his head and yelled something mindless as he drove himself home and spent deep inside her.

The sculpted muscles of his back and shoulders bunched with controlled power as his blond head moved rhythmically, his skilled tongue and fingers working their magic. Daphne gave herself up to pure pleasure and rode the crest of the wave that had been a long time coming. A wave that built and built until it crashed, taking her with it and pummeling her body over and over, until she was weak, breathless, and limp.
“Hugh,” she whispered, her hands slipping from his hair, where they’d somehow become tangled.

“I—I want . . .” Daphne had no recollection of what she’d meant to say.
He laughed wickedly. “You want . . . this?” He entered her in one slick, endless thrust, driving her in to the mattress with the force of his action.
Daphne groaned, her head falling back, her eyes closing. It was . . . too much, too intense, too—
And then he began to pound her with merciless, measured thrusts, each invasion deeper than the last.
“Your body is heaven,” he gasped, halting his savage thrusting and instead pushing slowly into her, inch by inch by inch. “Take all of me, darling.”
She wrapped her legs around him, tilted her pelvis, and tightened.
“My God, Daphne!” He shuddered violently enough to shake the four-poster bed, lifting her higher, his fingers digging into her hips while he drove into her, his body taut and slick with the strength of his need.

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

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Review: The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookthecounterfeitsecretary_susannapier.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: James Everett
Heroine: Ria Masson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October, 1986
Started On: July 29, 2018
Finished On: July 30, 2018

The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier delivers a story that makes you laugh one minute and fan yourself from the heat between the protagonists the next.

Widowed with twin boys, Ria Masson is finally in a place where she can think about a second marriage and moving forward. Her job at Everett Communications is perfect for her home situation, and her boss James Everett, while demands a lot from his employees, had made it clear the boundaries that would exist between them as employer and employee from the get go.

Even then, the thought of spending the rest of her life with Louis, the man she is dating does not seem like much of an exciting prospect. Furthermore, Ria has her sons to consider, while at the same time, she craves for excitement of the kind that only a lover who is considerate and fiery at the same time could bring.

Ria has never seen James in any other way than the boss whose temper she handles as if he were a little boy throwing a tantrum. Three years into their working relationship, everything changes on the night of her thirtieth birthday, when Louis takes her out to dinner, and a bit of dare devilment on Ria’s part brings her into close contact with none other than James himself. A stolen kiss makes Ria believe that in all probability, her safe haven of a job would be in jeopardy, only to realize later on that James does not seem to have arrived at the conclusion that it had been his secretary who had lured him the previous night like a siren to a drunken sailor.

However, once James does realize the truth, there is no holding him back from his pursuit of Ria, to fully explore what is between them. Ria proves to be a formidable adversary, keeping certain truths to herself and trying to prevent herself from giving into something that could only end in devastation in her opinion.

Life, however, has other plans in store for them, and it is a moment of near tragedy that unleashes the passion that exists between Ria and James. Even then, Ria is a woman on the retreat, believing that for her and James, there would be no future beyond that of what takes place in the bedroom.

I loved the overall story, but sometimes had a hard time with Ria because she certainly does hurt James in a way that I thought, if it had come from James, readers would have demanded that he grovel for forgiveness. Even with all the reasons on Ria’s side, I do not believe that it calls for the callous disregard she showed to James at that point. Everything does get resolved in the end, but I certainly wanted to see Ria ask for forgiveness from the man who loves her to pieces.

Recommended for fans of Susan Napier and angst-ridden Harlequin romances.

Final Verdict: The Counterfeit Secretary delivers a tale of the kind Harlequin romances are synonymous with; tons of angst, heat, & emotion.

Favorite Quotes

His mouth lifted briefly, long enough for him to mutter, ‘You kiss like an angel, no wonder Tony looked so dazed.’
Then his mouth enveloped hers again, barely giving her time to draw breath, his teeth biting sensually into her lower lip. Ria shivered, dissolving as she felt the warm fingers of his hand slide indiscreetly under the low curve of silk at her back. His middle finger brushed a tiny, whispering rotation on the sensitive skin where the cleft of her buttocks divided the smooth line of her back. It sent a shooting fire up the length of her spine to where his other hand massaged the hollow at the base of her skull.

Ria shivered with dangerous delight. She could feel her breasts swelling tightly against the lace of her bra and experienced an aching desire for his touch. As if he sensed her innermost needs, his hands shifted to grip her above the waist, his thumbs digging into the sides of her swollen breasts. But instead of fondling her, he anchored her firmly and began to move his torso, twisting it slowly from side to side so that the hard wall of muscle that was his chest rubbed teasingly back and forth, intensifying her arousal. It was as though he was massaging her entire body with his. Ria had never felt such an excruciatingly sensuous frustration, the urge to bite and kick and fight and make him take her.

‘James–‘
‘Ria–‘ He’ mocked her uncertain sigh. She was wearing her hair loose these days and he
marveled anew at how the sheer redness of it reacted so vibrantly with the passionate redness of her mouth, tempting him to lose himself in both. The freckles that were such intriguing indicators of her moods seemed to glow and he wondered with a sudden , pulsing curiosity whether they extended over the rest of her body, imagined kissing his way along the tiny, delicious, honeyed trails, wherever they might lead, imagined hearing her say James’ in that husky voice, but as a plea not a protest.

He bit her ear, his tongue teasing the lobe, questing for pleasure points. She gasped as he found one, heat streaking downwards as she, sagged against him, her breasts vibrating deliciously to the quiet groan that rumbled in his chest. ‘You like that, don’t you?’ he murmured, stringing kisses along her jawbone to her other ear which he nibbled contentedly. ‘You like me to do this to your ears, it makes you soft and weak inside, it makes you want what I want: He kissed her mouth, smothering her reply. ‘Do you know what I’d like to do right now? I’d like to take you home with me and spend the rest of the day’ making love. I want to hold you in my arms and feel your skin on mine. I want the heavenly scent of you in my nose and in my mouth, I want to hear the sounds that you make as we make love. Do you scream, Ria? Do you cry out your joy or are you all quiet sighs?’ His tongue slid along hers, hot and velvety, his hands stroking the taut arch of her back, his hips creating a gentle pressure between her thighs. ‘I want to see you, Angel Mouth. I want to watch our bodies join and break apart, I want to feel the sharp sting of your mouth on me, the silky heat of your hands. I want to ‘taste you, touch you, please you, rock you into sweet, sweet oblivion with me .. .’

Biting, kissing, sucking, stroking, he travelled over her body, peeling off her nightdress and his own pyjamas, meshing their bodies together with teasing movements of long, hair-roughened limbs. As his hands skimmed her breasts, Ria gasped frantically, aching for his intimate touch. But he circled – the taut mounds, avoiding the stiff centres until Ria was moaning with need. When he did it was like a sword plunged to the core of her womanhood. She cried out when his fingers splayed under her breasts, readying them for his mouth.’

His tongue moistly lashed her until she tore his head away and launched feverishly into
her own explorations.
No, Ria, not like that…’ He kissed her hotly, lifting her up so that her thighs fell over his, holding her hips and lowering her on to him. ‘This way, angel…’ He moaned softly as her thighs fell either side of his and he felt her trembling softness above him. ‘Come, Ria,’ he enticed thickly, ‘take what you want.’

He gloried in the explosive lack of control that arched her body. Ria threw her head back,
shuddering as James manipulated their pleasure, feeling his hands move languidly on her swollen breasts as his hips rotated beneath hers. Then the whirlwind dashed away her heady sense of power, sucking everything inwards for an instant then shattering outwards. Ria fell, sprawling across the hard, masculine body, hot salty tears of release falling from wide, wondering eyes.

‘You see,’ he murmured into her relaxed, passion washed face when it was over. There was a masculine possessiveness about him that she felt too deliciously languid to deny. ‘Whatever the reason we came together last night, this morning proves that we should give it a chance. It feels so good, Ria, to make love to you, so natural.’ He closed her mouth with a gentle finger as she opened it to protest. ‘I know it’s a difficult time for you, so I’m not going to press it. Deep down, you know you trust me, or your subconscious wouldn’t have let you give yourself to me the way you did. Trust me enough to look after you while Michel’s ill. Stay here… you and Paul and Jamie. Lean on me, use me, whatever you need, Ria just don’t shut me out. I need to be needed, too, you know.’

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Blue Sage by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookbluesage2
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Charles Tanner, Jr
Heroine: Eleanor Johnson Lundquist
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 01, 1995
Started On: June 10, 2018
Finished On: June 12, 2018

Charles Tanner, Jr. is returning to his hometown. It would be an understatement to say that he is not looking forward to the “homecoming”. If Tanner were to have his way, he would never have made the journey, but then for the man who had been the father figure he never had, he would return to his place of origin, even if it means facing the demons left behind by his father.

Tanner’s father is a legend for all the wrong reasons. Known as a vet who had gone on a killing spree murdering sixteen and wounding one before turning the gun on himself, Tanner knows that he is going to end up stirring some bad memories for a lot of families who had lost loved ones.

What Tanner doesn’t expect to happen is to come across the all too beguiling Eleanor Johnson Lundquist, the almost 31 year old widow, and the lone survivor among the victims of the massacre at the hands of Tanner’s father. Tanner catches Eleanor during one of those rare moments in which she lets her uninhibited self roam freely; something that is not too easy given her revered status in the close-knit community that is Morey’s Falls.

With the anniversary of that fateful day coming, Tanner’s arrival undoubtedly stirs someone to once again force members of the town to relive the nightmares. With everyone on the edge, it is all too easy to paint Tanner as the bad guy. But within Eleanor, there is an altogether a different kind of storm brewing. For the very first time in her 30 plus years, Eleanor feels the stirrings of lust and desire, to take and be taken, and scandalously enough, by none other than Tanner himself.

As Eleanor and Tanner spends more time together amidst Tanner’s pursuit for the truth, they discover elements and facets to each other’s characters which otherwise would have remained uncovered. Each layer as it is peeled back, exposes a side that appeals to the other more. Tanner who has a habit of leaving, the itch that possesses him to go roaming and not stay put, finds himself with an inexplicable need for the very first time in his life to stay.

Blue Sage was a pleasant surprise because of the depth of the story that Anne Stuart delivered. Harlequin titles are not often known for the depth in their stories, but mostly quick reads that gives you a much needed escape. But somehow, Anne Stuart even then, managed to deliver books that were close to perfection with her ability to present to readers characters that seem polar opposites of one another, and yet form this bond around an almost indiscernible connection that springs to life from the get-go.

I loved both Tanner and Eleanor. Tanner with his lean whipcord physique, who believes that his pursuit of the truth comes from an innate responsibility towards the only man he looks up to, when it comes from a need within himself as well, to understand the man who had sired him, and a community that had failed all of them with their inability to see an unstable character for what he was, until it was too late.

I actually did think that there would be more to Tanner’s father’s story, but it didn’t turn out that way. Nevertheless, the whole aspect of a reemerging menace from within the community, with history repeating itself was a captivating aspect of the story.

I loved Eleanor as well. That inner vulnerability, core of strength, and the fact that she does identify with the fact that she is drowning on the pedestal that Morey’s Falls has put her on, to the way she blossoms under the touch of Tanner; the sensual awakening that is slow, hard and fast at the same time, were all parts of her story that I adored.

I loved the scene in the moonlight, up in the hills, with just Tanner and Eleanor – that was as elemental as it could get, and it somehow seemed fitting when it came to both of them.

The ending definitely made me teary-eyed. Tanner’s need to walk-about which hits his restless spirit and how it all played out was apt. Recommended for fans of contemporary romances with suspense in the mix.

Final Verdict: Blue Sage is magical and uncanny in equal doses; Anne Stuart waves her magic wand and creates characters that leaps off the pages, taking you for a ride you would never forget anytime soon!

Favorite Quotes

Lock your door, Ellie,” he ordered. “And I’ll keep away from Pete’s Fireside Cafe.”
She looked up at him. The shadows were all around them, the smell of the approaching storm thick in the air, and a sudden, waiting stillness caught at her.

He was so close, and so locked away from her. His blue eyes were hooded, unreadable, and his mouth looked hard and unyielding.
It wasn’t. Before she realized what he was doing he’d pulled her into his arms, out on the back porch in plain view of anyone who cared to

look. His hand cupped the back of her neck, holding her in place as his mouth came down on hers.

He lifted his head, his mouth leaving hers, and his eyes glittered in the shadowy half-light. “You kiss like a virgin,” he said, his voice softly mocking.
She kept herself from flinching. “I wasn’t kissing you,” she pointed out with an attempt to sound matter-of-fact. All she sounded was shaky. “You were kissing me.”
“Then let me do it properly,” he whispered, and the sound played across her spine like a thousand tiny leaves. “Open your mouth.”
She could no more deny him than she could have stopped her heart from beating.

It was beguiling, the innocence and enthusiasm in her untutored mouth. He kissed her slowly, lingeringly, giving her time to get used to the contours of his mouth, the dampness and texture, before using his tongue. He loved her little start of surprise at his intrusion, the acquiescence, the growing boldness as her tongue touched his.
Her hands tightened on his waist, digging in slightly, and if his mouth hadn’t been busy he would have smiled. Instead he encouraged her, teasing

her, his mouth sliding wetly over hers, lips nibbling, touching, biting, tongues dancing against each other.

It was unseasonably warm for a late-June night. Tanner’s pack was lying on the ground, his sleeping bag unzipped and spread out on the grass. She’d let Shaitan get a little closer, just close enough to read his expression. If it wasn’t welcoming, she could leave.
His dark-blond hair was wet and slicked back away from his face. His mouth was a narrow line, thin and unsmiling, and his cold blue eyes were in shadow. Ellie could feel the dampness in her hands as they held the reins, feel the trembling in her knees. Somewhere in the distance an old owl hooted, and overhead a million stars warred with the bright moonlight to flood the field with light.

Ellie didn’t move. Fear was supposed to be a cold, hard lump in the chest. Her fear was a blaze of fire burning deep inside, much lower down. She didn’t say a word, and neither did he. He merely stood there, his strong hand stroking Shaitan’s neck. And then he moved closer, and his hand left the horse, reaching to catch her bare ankle in his long fingers.
His flesh was hot, hers was cool. He slid his hand up her calf, up to the ruffled hem of her lacy nightdress. Before she realized his intent he’d pushed the material away, exposing her bad knee. His mouth followed his hand, tracing the line of scars that stretched along her leg.

She heard a quick, shocked intake of breath, and vaguely realized it was her own. And then his hands were reaching up, encircling her waist, and he was lifting her down, down from Shaitan’s high back, her body sliding against his, her skirts bunching up around her thighs, his warm, bare shoulders damp beneath her trembling hands.
She began to shiver in anticipation of some distant, unapproachable delight, and she felt Tanner, slippery with sweat, tremble in her arms. She wanted to cry, but she didn’t know what for. For the moon, still shining down on the entwined lovers? For the stars, glittering in the sky beside their sister moon? Or cry for herself, lost and seeking, shivering and reaching and aching and longing?

Her head thrashed back and forth in mute negation of something she couldn’t begin to understand. She wanted to tell him to stop, it was useless, it was more than she could bear. He thrust all the way into her, holding her with the pressure of his hips, and his hands caught her head, holding her still.
“Not without you,” he muttered obscurely. And setting his mouth on hers, he reached down between their sweat-slick bodies and touched her.
Her body arched, convulsed around his. Her mind, her emotions shattered, like the thousand stars of the Montana night, and she was gone, lost, floating, and Tanner was with her, his strangled cry swallowed in their last, desperate kiss, his body rigid in her arms.

“Ellie,” he said hoarsely, lifting his head, trying to pull away, to regain the last tiny shreds of self-control. He couldn’t do this to her.
She put her hand up to his face. It was shaking, and there was blood on her fingertips. She pulled his head down to hers, and her mouth was waiting. And her choice was life, not death.

He tore at her clothes and she helped him, raising her hips so he could slide down her jeans and underwear and throw them across the room, lifting her head so he could pull off the bloody shirt and send it flying after her other clothes. Her own hands were just as eager, just as desperate, fumbling with the zipper on his jeans, digging into his shoulders as she pulled him over her, on top of her, into her, wrapping her legs around him and holding him tight.
No sooner had he slid into that delicious warmth when more shudders of reaction began to wash over her. He held himself still, reveling in her helpless

response, and then he thrust deep, joining her in a white-hot blaze of heat that burned the past to ashes.

Purchase Links: Amazon | iTunes

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Review: The Samurai’s Garden by Patricia Kiyono

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepository

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Review: Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-bookdukeofdesire.png
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #12
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Raphael de Chartres
Heroine: Iris Daniels
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 17, 2017
Started On: December 11, 2017
Finished On: December 16, 2017

Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt is the much awaited final installment in the Maiden Lane series, books that have consistently managed to captivate, woo, and stupendously deliver on all fronts where the romance genre is concerned. Hoyt writes with a flair that is rarely found in the genre; with heart, wit, and a sensuality that takes your breathe away. Why I fell in love with her books is owing to all that and more, and though I was sad to be saying goodbye to the series, I knew in my heart that it was time.

Duke of Desire brings to readers the story of Iris Daniels, Lady Jordan whom we encounter in the previous book in the series, alongside with Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore. Raphael is a man on a mission to hunt down the members of the Lords of Chaos, a despicable secret society whose members consisted of aristocrats who enjoyed preying on the most vulnerable – on the rape and destruction of women and children.

When Iris finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the diabolical intentions of the members of the Lords of Chaos, it is Raphael who steps into rescue her, though it does not seem like that at first from where she is standing. However, as circumstances push them together, Raphael finds himself at odds with his lifelong mission that had set him on the course of pursuing the members of the group. In Iris, he finds a a flicker of light at the end of that long and dark tunnel that glows brighter every passing minute he spends in her company, enticing him to cast the demons that hounds him aside and be free to love her as he yearns to.

Iris having being married before, wants more from marriage the second time around. Being “forced” into “wedded bliss” with Raphael hardly seems like the road to achieving that particular dream she has for her future. But bit by bit, Iris comes to the realization that with Raphael, she just might find everything her heart yearns and desires for, if only she is willing to peel back the layers that makes the complex man that Raphael is, and help him confront his painful past.

For me, Duke of Desire was a story that didn’t quite reach its potential. I felt that there was so much more that Hoyt could have done with the storyline, but missed out on, which made the story a bit lackluster in certain areas.

Raphael however, was a gem of a hero who I wanted to hold close and even cry about at times. His past is one that proved to be graphically all too real at certain points (which was necessary in my opinion), and horrifyingly so close to the truth if you look at the depravity that is human nature all too often. To have suffered what Raphael did, at such a tender age, alongside with the conflicting array of emotions he has for his abuser (which was all too understandable), I found that Raphael’s character was one I fell for without a shred of doubt.

For me, it was Iris’s character that I found lacking. While I loved her for her gentle and giving nature, there was something missing in her, a characteristic that is strongly inherent in almost all of Hoyt’s heroines. I also found the ending of the Lords of Chaos to be a bit anticlimactic after the continued theme in a couple of books towards the end of the series. However, even with all the tidbits that did not work for me, I did enjoy the story and ended it with the hope that Hoyt would continue to write amazing stories that readers like us covet so much.

Final Verdict: Hoyt bids adios to her Maiden Lane series by bringing forth one of the most broken and yet formidable heroes in the series, the Duke of Dyemore. Loved him to bits and then some.

Favorite Quotes

She took his hand in hers and ran the cloth over the veins that roped the back. His fingers were long and strong, and they dwarfed hers, the nails square and pale. She carefully washed each one and then cupped his hand in hers to wash his palm. It was an intimate act. A … caring act. One a mother might perform for a child.
Or a woman might perform for her lover.
Iris caught her breath and straightened to rinse the cloth.
When she turned back her gaze caught his.
He was watching her, his crystal eyes half-lidded, his twisted lips parted.
She felt something inside her clench.

Iris cleared her throat and rubbed in small circles on his upper chest, moving downward, toward one of those nipples. They were just little bits of flesh, weren’t they? A deeper color, certainly, than the surrounding skin, and creped, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Her breath caught as she swept over his nipple with the cloth. Did he feel that? Did it feel any different from the rest of his skin? Did he feel as she did when cloth brushed over her bare nipples?
She dared to peek from under her lowered eyelashes.
His nostrils were flared, his eyes mere slits.

She stretched on tiptoe and pressed the sketchbook to his chest, holding it there with the flat of her palm. “Tell me the truth, Raphael. Now. Tonight. No more evasions and lies. What is it you feel for me? Is it affection—or merely indifference?”
He finally moved then, snatching the sketchbook from her hand and tossing it to a chair.
He wrapped one arm around her waist and fisted her hair with the other hand, bending over her until she had to grasp those broad shoulders or fall. “Believe me, Wife, the last thing I feel for you is indifference.”
Then his mouth was on hers, devouring her, his hot tongue demanding that she part her lips and let him into her depths.

His hips began to move, thrusting gently, shoving his cock in and out of her mouth.
She glanced up and saw his head tilted back, the tendons of his neck drawn taut, and suddenly his hand was in her hair, pulling, trying to make her move away.
But she didn’t want to. She had such power now and she was drunk on his taste and scent. She sucked strongly, moving her hands up and down that gorgeous shaft, feeling as he thrust his cock against her tongue.
He groaned as if he were in pain and his hips shuddered.
And she tasted hot, bitter liquid in her mouth.
Semen. His semen.

He guided her down so that she was pressed against him, his knee right in her softness, her lips spread on him.
Her eyes widened.
“Rock,” he said, watching her.
She grasped his thigh and slowly rubbed against him, her breasts trembling.
“Do you like it?” he asked, looking quite sinister.
“Yes.” She licked her lips. “Yes, I do.”
“You look like you like it,” he murmured low.

“Have you ever pleasured yourself?” he asked.
And she opened her eyes wide in shock. She never … To discuss aloud such things!
His eyes were knowing, as if he’d seen her, lying in her virginal bed long ago, fingering herself.
“Show me,” he growled. “Show me what you do.”
She swallowed and trailed her right hand down, burrowing her middle finger into where she was hot and wet.
Oh! She couldn’t catch her breath. Doing this in front of him as he eyed her dispassionately. As he ordered her to display herself for him. She was on the point, so close, so close, her finger working faster and faster as her scent rose in the air between them.
Her mouth opened wide and her hips stuttered against him, sweet heat flowing through her, infusing her limbs, making her light-headed.
He caught her and drew her against him, pressing kisses into her mouth as he murmured, “So beautiful. So beautiful.”

He licked, flicking her nipple with his tongue on one side and his fingers on the other, and at the same time he ground down on her, shoving her chemise into her pussy, rubbing against her clitoris, until the silk was sodden with her wetness. Until she could hear the soft, slick sounds he made, his body on hers, him pleasuring her, while he would not let her move.
He wasn’t gentle. But then perhaps he didn’t know how to be gentle, and the thought made something inside her weep, even as he drove her up that peak. Maybe this was all he knew: flesh and liquid heat.
Maybe that was all she would ever have from him.
She wasn’t certain it was enough.

She arched beneath him, her hips shoving up, trying to get more of that hand, more of that gaze. He lowered his head and covered her mouth, thrusting between her lips as he slid a finger into her softness.
She trembled beneath him, moaning as he kissed her so deeply she thought she might lose her senses.
He was rubbing his thumb over her clitoris now, fast and hard, and he broke the kiss to murmur in a voice dark as hellfire, “Wet my hand. Show me your desire. Show me all that you are. Let me look at your sweet cunt, swollen and rosy for me. I want to make you weep. I want all your pleasure, Iris, all your pain, everything you are. You are the light in my black night. Come for me.”

Oh God, she wanted him to fill her.
She pressed her palm to the side of his face.
He turned his head and kissed her palm … and at the same time thrust inside her.
She gasped at the sudden invasion. At feeling his cock inside her at long last. At the stretch and the fullness and the glory.
He thrust again and was fully seated, as far inside her as it was possible to be. Her legs were stretched open to accommodate his hips, and he was pressed deeply, intimately into her.
He pushed up on his arms and held himself there as he pulled his cock nearly all the way from her body and then drove back in again.
She opened her mouth, panting, holding his crystal-gray gaze. His hips were working now, driving into her at a hard pace, filling her again and again.
She’d never …
It had never been like this before.
So intense. So intimate. So devastating.

She moaned, long and low, wanting to arch, to thrash, to scream. Instead she opened her mouth and bit his shoulder, tasting salt.
Tasting want.
Then she gasped. “Please.”
“What do you want?” he whispered in her ear, an incubus, dark and alive and in her. “Tell me. What do you need?”
“I …” Her mouth opened, wordless.
“Tell me,” his smoky voice curled around her.
“You.”
He chuckled, dark and low.
“This?” He thrust short and hard into her, the impact sending jolts of pleasure through her body. “Yes, that,” he murmured to himself as if pleased, and did it again.
And again.

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