Review: Heart of Stone by Diana Palmer

Format: E-Bookheartofstone
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Long, Tall Texans, #35
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Boone Sinclair
Heroine: Keely Welsh
Sensuality: 1
Date of Publication: September 01, 2007
Started On: February 10, 2020
Finished On: February 14, 2020

Diana Palmer is an author I read often when I first discovered the treasure that Harlequin romances presented when I initially stumbled upon them.

I was fascinated by the cruelty of heroes that she tended to create so effortlessly, the ton of angst in her stories, and the grovelling that the hero often had to do to finally win the affections of the heroine.

Since I have been seeing a lot of Diana Palmer on my Amazon recommendations page recently, I decided to give one of her titles a go, and hopefully recreate the magic that I had once basked under when it came to Diana Palmer. Alas, my expectations were never met, and I even wondered how I managed to finish the story as disappointing as it was.

19 year old Keely Welsh has been in love with 30 year old Boone Sinclair since she had been thirteen years old. Coveting him from afar, Keely is best friends with Boone’s sister and younger brother. Even though Keely knows in her heart that Boone would never be interested in someone like her (he goes out of his way to ignore everything that is about her), she remains single, on the fringes, in an unrequited love affair of her own making.

A turn of events brings Keely to a point where she enters into a pretend relationship with Boone’s younger brother, which sets the ball rolling where Boone is concerned. Keely’s life is shaped by a mother who couldn’t care less about their situation, and a father who is of the less than savory type. A mother who tends to sleep around has left its mark on Keely in more ways than one. It is not hard to understand why Keely stays the way she is.

When all of it comes to a heady conclusion, of course Keely and Boone do end up together, but I quite don’t get how they ended up so. There was very little romance and sexual tension between the two, and there were too many characters coming and going in the midst, that you are left clueless as to who is who if you haven’t been following this “series” in order.

Boone and Keely also spends so much time apart from each other in the story, that I don’t quite know how they found their ideal footing to embark on a relationship of any kind. There was very little exploration of the characters together for the reader to draw them to either of them.

I remember Diana Palmer’s books to be dramatic, angst-ridden, with often possessive and cruel heroes in the mix and delicate heroines with a backbone, which was sadly not the case with this one.

Recommended for die-hard fans of Diana Palmer novels.

Final Verdict: Heart of Stone fell short of every expectation that I had, delivering a lackluster read with too many aspects that didn’t work for me.

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

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Review: Sweet Vixen by Susan Napier

Format: E-Booksweetvixen-sn
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Hero: Max Wilde
Heroine: Sarah Carter
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October, 1985
Started On: January 27, 2020
Finished On: February 03, 2020

Sweet Vixen by Susan Napier is a book I read in my attempt to hunt down books by an author whose penchant for writing great romances with sizzling sexual tension caught my attention in 2013.

Don’t you just love it when you discover an author who has got this entire back-list of books just waiting for you? That is how I felt when I initially discovered her, and having read most of her books that have received good ratings as compared to the rest, I am at a loss as to how I am going to recapture that magic that is created by the words of a single author that no one else can seem to replicate.

Sweet Vixen is the story of widowed Sarah Carter, who works as an editorial assistance to a monthly fashion magazine Rags & Riches in New Zealand. When Max Wilde is “forced” by his father to travel to New Zealand and assess the magazine financially and otherwise, thus begins the battle of wills between Max and Sarah which made for good reading!

Sarah having being married to someone who had tried to undermine her every attempt at independence, does not feel the need for a man, much less someone as brazen as Max Wilde. However, Max goads her into accepting things about herself which she otherwise would not have, and at the same time, Max finds himself on uncharted territory with a woman who entices him to do more and be more than he has ever been.

Through a plot to engineer misunderstanding mastered by none other than Sarah, and both Max and Sarah’s stubbornness bringing a hefty dose of the angst factor which I loved, Sweet Vixen proved to be delightful in many ways. The only thing that lacked for me was the delivery on the superb sexual tension in the novel – which was lackluster to what Susan Napier as an author has delivered and can deliver in her books time and yet again.

Recommended for fans of Susan Napier and those who love Harlequin romances!

Final Verdict: Sweet Vixen delivers low key sexual tension coupled with angst of the kind that keeps the pages turning!

Favorite Quotes

She leaned lightly against him and he let go of her shoulders to move his hands delicately over the fabric at her back. His skin against hers was smooth and warm, the fresh tang of chlorine mingling with his male body smell. He nuzzled the corner of her mouth and discovered the tender spot where her lip had split against her teeth, touching it with his tongue and gently sucking away the pearly drop of blood.
Open your mouth, darling,’ he whispered seductively, ‘ Let me taste you properly.’

Her eyes fell from his mouth to his chest, where the dark hair curled damp, now matted with sand and a few thin Strands of grass. As she watched, the tenor of his breathing changed, became slower, the rise and fall of his chest acquiring a deep, hypnotic rhythm. There was a peculiar attraction in knowing that he was waiting on her, that he had placed the situation firmly in her hands. That she was in control.
Tentatively, she touched him, she couldn’t help it, resting a hand just above his heart, feeling the strong, rapid beat. It was like feeling the beat of her own heart.
‘Sarah?’ the word was low, husky, almost strained, and she looked up. The expression on his face made her tremble inside.

The smooth olive skin gleamed bronze in the lamplight, silvered with dampness and rippling as he moved to kneel beside her. He plunged his hands into the broad swathes of her hair and lifted them, letting the strands run through his fingers like water to splash over her body.
‘How could I ever have thought you anything but what you are—lovely, desirable . . .’ His voice roughened into harshness and his hands clenched her waist. ‘My God, I want you—’

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-Bookloveherorloseher
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Hot & Hammered, #2
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Dominic Vega
Heroine: Rosie Vega
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 14, 2020
Started On: January 24, 2020
Finished On: January 27, 2020

Tessa Bailey is an author who definitely knows what she is doing when it comes to writing romances. She has written a lot of books since the publication of her first romance somewhere in 2013, and most of what I have read from her, I have loved.

When she first started out, she wrote heroes of the kind that can overwhelm your senses; to test this theory, I recently re-read Staking His Claim and felt just the same – wasn’t a fluke of my imagination by any means. Some of her books in recent times however, I have felt disconnected from the characters and felt that she wasn’t bringing in her true self to the novels. I know that writing romances can be quite problematic in the current times we live in – if we are to stay true to the notions of modern society, romance tends to lose its allure, and if we don’t, well, there are many readers who like myself live for books as such.

Even though the books that fall into the latter category are far and few in between, I still haven’t given up on Tessa Bailey because she is an author who can drive her game up a notch or two if she wanted to. Plus, her books do fill in that need for good sexual tension and delivery which is sorely lacking in some novels. So I will tide myself over up till she once again takes up a hero who is broody, reluctant, and sexy as they come – the Tessa Bailey signature when she first started writing.

Love Her or Lose Her is the second book in the Hot & Hammered series, a romantic comedy series by the author. Telling the story of Rosie and Dominic Vega, married couple and high school sweethearts, the story revolves around a marriage falling apart at the seams, resulting from Dominic having checked out of the relationship emotionally a long time back.

Working as a Cosmetics Consultant, Rosie is sick and tired of having to come home to a house seeped in deep silences of words left unspoken, of a relationship that exists on the physical realm alone. Though Dominic might not talk to her about any of the things that goes inside of his mind, the way he could still make Rosie falter in her steps from deep want for the physical release that he could give her is something that Rosie does not want any longer. So she walks out on their marriage, giving Dominic that jarring jolt to wake up and smell the emotional black hole that their marriage had become.

If attending extreme couple counseling sessions is going to bring Rosie back to him, Dominic is willing to try that, even though he might cringe at the very thought of exposing himself emotionally to that level. However, as Rosie and Dominic go through the uncharted waters of counseling and delve deeper into their relationship, each discovers part of the reasons why their actions may have been perceived differently by the other, giving them a fighting chance at making a last bid attempt atsalvaging their marriage.

There was so much going in this story, that I reveled in most of it. The sexual heat between Dominic and Rosie for instance; there is no one else who can do dirty talk and delivery on sizzling sexual tension better than Tessa Bailey, and it shows. Even with a couple who have been married for a long while, she still manages to bring that sizzle factor which sets your senses humming and some, and delivered just right on all the tension when Dominic unleashes who he is; when Rosie is all ready for it, of course.

However, I had a couple of issues with the story that I would like to highlight, which is mainly centered around Rosie’s character. A marriage or any relationship for that matter takes two people; both are responsible for the connection fostered and maintaining it, and we are all human and definitely not infallible. As result, we all tend to make mistakes and let things slide, especially when a relationship dives deep into the years and you have adjusted to one another. Taking each other for granted, the lengthy silences, the i-can’t-be-bothered-enough-to-try-or-care attitude; all of that starts to happen as a result.

Dominic checked out of the relationship, especially on the emotional front, upon his return from war. What I didn’t understand was why Rosie had not tried harder to get him to talk. From everything that happened in the story, it is evident that Dominic basically lives for Rosie. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for her, and I believe had she given any indication earlier on, he would have done something about it, especially when he understood the seriousness of the matter.

Dominic does not do anything out of spite or anger, not even once, throughout the story and the history of their relationship. Which is why I found it especially hard that there was no mention of how Rosie tried to get him to connect with her on an emotional level, when the change had happened upon his return from war.

It is pretty common knowledge that PTSD is an issue faced by soldiers once they have been deployed for duty; I wonder if Rosie had ever heard of it and even tried to get him to see a therapist because he had changed. Because there is no mention of it, I am assuming Rosie lived under a rock for the most of her life.

Second thing was how it was mostly about Rosie; it was ALL about Rosie’s needs and wants that Dominic had not been able to fulfill. Dominic, the silent caretaker type of character that he is, meanwhile is killing himself over how he has been failing Rosie ever since his return from deployment. Dominic’s thoughts centers around what he had learnt from his childhood, as to what a man’s duty is to his wife, even if they weren’t a particularly loving couple. He believes his duty to his wife is to provide for her, and provide well.

That it had hit him hard when he had measured himself against everyone who had been deployed with him, and their plans of grandeur when they returned home; it was understandable why Dominic had retreated into his mind and decided that he would provide for Rosie, or die trying. In his mind, he was only worthy of Rosie to the extent that he can fulfill her dreams and needs – perhaps one reason why he couldn’t bring himself to talk about dreams they had both held dear at one point in time.

For Dominic, there was no question that Rosie always came first. But when it came to Rosie, I didn’t quite get that vibe from her. But I did love the fact that the story touched deeply on the concept that even if you don’t need another person to pull you up, make you stronger, and get you to achieve your dreams, the unflinching support given by those whom you love, it matters in the short and long run. It gives you that confidence that you can take on the world, and also the comfort that if things headed south tomorrow, that you would have someone who would be there to help you pick up the pieces and comfort you in a way no one else can. That was a concept that Tessa Bailey explored in this story that I adored.

I just wish that there was more exploration of Dominic’s character; I would have loved to see Dominic’s parents – and Rosie’s realizations on where he was coming from. That would have added a more believable tangent to the story in terms of building Rosie’s understanding of Dominic’s deep convictions when it comes to a marriage.

I just found that the relationship was more skewed towards Rosie than it was a balanced one between her and Dominic. Nevertheless, Rosie coming through at the last minute made up for some of it, and that is why I enjoyed the story in the end.

Recommended for those who love Tessa Bailey, fans of the Hot & Hammered series, and those who love a story focusing on a long-term marriage, delving into its ups and downs.

Final Verdict: In Love Her or Lose Her, Tessa Bailey plunges into what makes or breaks a long-term relationship, analyzing what it is like, and the tremendous effort it takes to achieve that balance between love, support, and dependency.

Favorite Quotes

“We took it as far as we could without going all the way.” Her eyelashes fluttered. “And we finally decided just the tip didn’t count, didn’t we?”
Dominic lunged forward off the chair, dropping to his knees, carrying Rosie with him. No sooner had her back landed on the floor of their kitchen did Dominic nudge his wife’s panties to one side and sink the head of his erection inside her pussy. Not driving it the entire damn way made him crazed, but the tight pressure of her entrance around his tip was incredible. Perfect.

“Go get the key before I find a dark corner of this club, hike up that dress, and do something illegal.” His right hand dropped from her backside, his fingertips brushing the back of her bare thigh. “After seeing how those hips move, you better believe I’d risk getting arrested to be nine inches deep next time you dance.”

Her hips wouldn’t stay still, and a low, carnal twist started in the lowest part of her belly and wrapped around her limbs like tentacles. She threw her head back over the edge of the table and felt herself soaring over the city, unstoppable and strong—and when Dominic’s lips closed around her clit and applied just the right amount of suction, the buildings splintered in front of her eyes, light fragmenting in every direction. Of their own accord, her thighs wrapped around his head and she screamed.

“Tell me you’ll come home tonight. To our home.” He caught her chin in his hands, tilting her face up and waiting for her dazed eyes to focus on him. To see him. “Give me that, Rosie. Say you’ll come home and I’ll fuck you harder than I ever have in our lives. Your screams will still be echoing in this kitchen when you open for business.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Blindsided by Amy Daws

Format: E-Bookblindsided
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Maclay Logan
Heroine: Freya Cook
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November 21, 2019
Started On: January 19, 2020
Finished On: January 24, 2020

Blindsided by Amy Daws is a novel that is aptly titled in my opinion. My first read by the author, the story is one that totally sucker-punched me with the tide of emotions that was unrelenting from start to finish.

Blindsided came upon my radar in my forage to find a good friends-to-lovers romance, my favorite trope in the romance genre. Even though I usually steer clear of sports themed romances, I am so very glad that I gave this a go because this book had me sighing in all the right places and crying happy and ugly tears as the story took turn after turn, delivering a happily ever after that is worthy of any reader’s time.

29 year old Freya Cook and 34 year old MacLay Logan have been friends for over a year, and even though Freya does crush on Mac, who is one of the hottest men she has ever laid eyes on, she is determined to keep things on a friendly basis until things take a surprising turn in their friendship.

When Freya and Mac embarks on a different tangent of their “friendship”, neither of them is prepared for the changes it brings to their perceptions of each other. While Mac is determined that no woman would get in the way his ambitions when it comes to football, Freya has no expectations beyond what Mac is ready to offer. However, the heart wants what it wants, and it is not long before more complex emotions surge to the surface, complicating what was supposed to be time-bound.

With Mac compelled to turn his life upside down for family which officially ends things between the two, thus starts the angst-ridden journey towards finding new grounds and revelations that is painstaking for the both Mac and Freya. There is not a single thing that I would change in the story, because Amy Daws has created sheer perfection at the turn of every page!

Blindsided is a book that had everything going for it, which helped wipe every single lackluster read that I had been grappling with up till that point in time. I don’t know whether I have become more “snobbish” in my reading tastes, or whether I have outgrown romance as a genre (sincerely hope that is not the case), but it has become extremely difficult to find a story that sweeps me off my feet and gives me a story worth salivating over.

Mac, sweet darling Mac, was out of this world endearing and sexy as they come. There is an emotional depth to his character which many may not identify with at first, but his actions speak louder than words, and I fell head over heels in love with him from the very start. The way he calls Freya “Cookie” reminded me of someone significant, and perhaps that is one reason why his character appealed to me on a different level.

Freya was beautiful – no two ways about it. There is an underlying strength to her character that made her so relatable. Even at the face of immense heartache, she had the kind of dignity that most of us can only wish for under such trying circumstances. But the lesson to take away from her character is profound; one must love their own self first to be able to love anyone else or let anyone else love you for what you are worth.

Don’t get me wrong – this story wasn’t darkness and angst all around. There was so much hilarity interwoven in the story, while at the same time the magic of turning friends to lovers was fully explored. Loved the heat and passion and the feelings of more complex nature that both Mac and Freya have to confront as things progressed.

This is definitely NOT your typical sports romance. As I mentioned earlier, I am someone who usually steers clear of anything labeled as a sports romance, and perhaps labeling this as such could be a turn off for readers like myself. Blindsided is a novel that is so so much more – while football is a part of the story, it does not detract from the joy of the romance that unfolds, nor the emotions of more complex variety that is explored.

If someone were to ask me why I loved this book so much, it would have to be the complex layers to Freya and Mac, alongside with the epilogue which made the book for truly what it was. I cried when Mac had to face the reality of his feelings and his messed up priorities. I rooted for Freya when she stood firm when it comes to her self-worth. At the same time, I couldn’t help but cheer on for both of them to find their way towards each other once again.

Recommended for those who love the sheer abandon with which the romance genre can play with your emotions; if you love a good friends-to-lovers, consider this a treat!

Final Verdict: If ever there is a friends-to-lovers romance that needs to be read, this would be it. With emotional depth that brings the story alive, the realistic portrayal of human emotions is what makes Blindsided stand out in all its glory!

Favorite Quotes

“It’s perfect,” I whisper, cupping his cheek and looking into his eyes. “I know I don’t have anything to compare it to, but this feels perfect.”
The corner of his mouth tilts up with the tiniest smirk, and suddenly, he begins driving into me faster, maintaining our eye contact the entire time. His face loses all humour, and he bores into me with such force, I feel trapped. It’s intense—looking at someone as they do something so primitive, so animalistic. So feral. It’s an exposing moment that lays you bare, and before I know it, I feel that build inside my body again.

I pull her to the very edge of the counter and without warning, impale myself inside her soft, wet heat.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuuuuck.
She’s still tight. Still way too fucking tight. I pull back and look at her face, worried that I hurt her. Her eyes are glazed over as she watches where our bodies are connected.

I drop back onto my elbows and watch the show, enjoying the sight of my love bites peppered all over her breasts. “Touch yourself, my treasure.”
Freya’s closed eyes open, and she looks at me with an adorable frown.
I chin nod to her pelvis. “Touch your clit there while you ride me. Give me a show.”
She huffs out an aroused sort of laugh but does as I say. She makes a proper show of it as well. Her hand skates slowly from her hair, over her breast, swirling around her navel and making me positively growl with anticipation.

Mac stares boldly into my eyes as he moves slowly inside me, careful, appreciative, and searching. Searching for the last part of our souls that still belong to ourselves. I gaze back at him with the same sense of wonder coursing through my entire body.
This is love. This is us. This is happiness.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen

Format: E-Bookthekissthief
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Wolfe Keaton
Heroine: Francesca Rossi
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 06, 2019
Started On: January 08, 2020
Finished On: January 24, 2020

The Kiss Thief is my very first novel by L.J. Shen, the story being one that has popped up on various recommendation lists for ruthless heroes. I am a die-hard fan of anti-heroes, the ruthless and ones disliked by most readers, and loved by the few. Hunting those books down in the world of romance today has become a challenge and yet I persevere. The Kiss Thief was one of the rewards that came my way, thanks to aforementioned perseverance.

When 19 year old Francesca Rossi, the only child of Arthur Rossi, head of The Outfit (organised crime if you will), makes her official introduction to Chicagoan society, the only thing on her mind is to get Angelo, the perfect husband in the eyes of her parents, to kiss her as if he means it, kiss her as the woman he was going to make his wife and enjoy doing it.

That is also the night that 30 year old Wolfe Keaton, a US Senator, makes his presence known to Francesca, and steals the kiss that was meant for Angelo, and in the process upends her entire world. Forced into marrying Wolfe, Francesca at first has no intention of cooperating with a man whose high handed manner irks her to no end, not to mention the derailment of plans to fulfill her dreams of being married to the man she had grown up with and had given her heart to over the years.

However, the force that is Wolfe Keaton is one to be reckoned with, and before Francesca knows it, she enters a world where she learns firsthand what it means to fall in love and lose your heart to someone as ruthless as her husband.

There are scenes in this book that is definitely not for the faint-hearted, which is one reason why I loved the story and the turns it took to bring to us a happily ever after worth rooting for. My dislike for books that fill every nook and cranny of romance genre today lies in the fact that there is nothing worthy of fantasizing about the “ruthless and dangerous hero” that turns putty at the heroine’s hand from the minute they meet.

All the build-up that the author does in painting the hero as someone who has committed unthinkable acts in his life who suddenly, with the least amount of resistance, loses every essence of his character that makes him vitally himself is just tiring. How does that even translate into realistic human behavior? I can understand a character who subtly changes over the years, maybe months into a relationship, but the first time he lays eyes on the heroine, he just does a 180 degree turn on his character? That is foolhardy and as unrealistic as they come in my opinion.

The Kiss Thief certainly did not do that. L.J. Shen has crafted a hero worthy of salivating over and then some in Wolfe Keaton, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about him. From his ruthlessness that serves him well in every single manner, to his inner core of strength and vulnerability when it comes to his wife as he learns to love all over again were facets of the story that fascinated me. I loved the fact that Wolfe was able to give his wife the one thing that was denied from her as she grew up and how in his embrace she found the freedom to be herself and let go.

Francesca was lovely in many ways; she was certainly brought up to fulfill a certain role, but she is a quick learner if ever there was one and able to adapt to situations and the punches as they rolled. I loved her for quick wit, her ability to keep up with Wolfe, and the way she brought him to his very knees towards the end.

Recommended for those who love a hero who is ruthless and loves just as ferociously.

Final Verdict: With a couple of surprising twists and turns, The Kiss Thief delivered a highly combustible read from the get-go!

Favorite Quotes

I grabbed the edges of his suit, pulling him closer. I’d imagined our kiss countless times before, but I’d never expected it to feel like this. Like home. Like oxygen. Like forever. His full lips fluttered over mine, sending hot air into my mouth, and he explored, and nipped, and bit my lower lip before claiming my mouth with his, slanting his head sideways and dipping down for a ferocious caress. He opened his mouth, his tongue peeking out and swiping mine. I returned the favor. He drew me close, devouring me slowly and passionately, pressing his hand to the small of my back and groaning into my mouth like I was water in the desert. I moaned into his lips and licked every corner of his mouth with zero expertise, feeling embarrassed, aroused, and more importantly, free.

Slowly, and despite my better judgment, I crawled into my future husband’s lap. I knew that by doing that, I was raising a white flag. Surrendering to him. Seeking his protection, both from my father and from my own internal turmoil. I flew directly into my cage, asking him to lock me inside. Because the beautiful lie was far more desirable than the awful truth. The cage was warm and safe. No harm could find me. I wrapped my arms around his neck, burying my head in his steel chest and holding my breath to prevent the next sob.
He stiffened, his body rigid with our sudden proximity.
I thought about what Ms. Sterling said about killing him with kindness. Defeating him with love.
Break. Crack. Feel me. Accept me.

Wolfe Keaton was a kiss thief, but it wasn’t only a kiss that he stole. He stole my heart, too. Ripped it from my chest and put it in his pocket. I did what he promised me I would do, and willingly—I spread my legs and begged him, once again, this time meaning every word. “Because you were right. You said I’d come to your bed willingly—and I am. So, take me.”
He kissed me dirty, biting down on my tender lower lip, that was still sore from the accident. “Still not the entire truth, but this’ll do.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: Credence by Penelope Douglas

Format: E-Bookcredence
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Kaleb Ver der Berg
Heroine: Tiernan de Haas
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: January 13, 2020
Started On: January 14, 2020
Finished On: January 19, 2020

Credence by Penelope Douglas was one of the most awaited stories for me by the time 2019 hurtled towards its inevitable end. Released on January 13th, Credence was welcomed with such hope and excitement in my heart, because Penelope is an author who knows how to write a damn good story.

Credence begins at the point where the heroine Tiernan de Haas faces the shocking and untimely death of her parents. Loneliness has always been part of Tiernan’s life, growing up with two people who had loved each other to the point that Tiernan had always been an afterthought. Their death leaves its mark on her, as had life up till that point, until her step-uncle Jake Ver der Berg invites her to live with them.

Deep in the mountains of Colorado lives the Ver der Berg’s, their lives being very much different from what had been the norm for Tiernan. Jake and his two sons Noah and Kaleb take Tiernan under their wing, and from the onset there is a weird dynamics between the three that proved to be a major conflict for me in the way the story unfolded.

I am someone who enjoys authors that push the boundaries and explores taboo tropes in their books. Penelope is an author who does this so brilliantly in most of her books, and that is one reason that I was so excited when I read the blurb of Credence prior to its release. She is also one helluva writer, which is probably the one reason why I stuck it out when so many things just felt wrong for me with Credence.

A lot of readers who felt positively about Credence have been raving about how out of the norm this book is, how it surprises you, and how you should read it without any preconceived notions to guide you. I didn’t have any of those notions when I started reading, because I am someone who usually make up my own mind about books that I read rather than letting the “popular” view dictate mine.

I agree with one thing when it comes to the popular view of Credence; the story was definitely surprising in more ways than one, and definitely not in a good way for me for the most part. I think in Credence, I have found a major turnoff for me when it comes to romance, one that had remained undiscovered up till this point; when the heroine is too loose with her affections when it comes to a father and his biological sons.

It is her step-uncle who is the first in line, and while neither of them professes to anything long-term, the ease with which Tiernan was able to turn herself on and off for the three of them was just jarring for me. Each unto their own of course, but for me, I think I just felt like the Ver der Berg themselves had so many issues to just turn up the testosterone levels on a girl who was barely shy of eighteen, who had not had much love in her life from those who should have loved, sheltered, and protected her.

The psychology of Tiernan was something that bothered me; because it is evident that she has many unresolved issues from the way her parents had neglected her throughout  her life. She had always had whatever riches that money could buy, had had every comfort and luxury the rich can provide, but she never did experience unconditional love, the reason why I felt uncomfortable by the whole vibe of Tiernan being taken advantage of by the three of them. Plus, the way the three of them kept reiterating over and over how she was theirs from that point on was kind of creepy too!

I think one of the biggest reasons why I disliked how Tiernan behaved (apart from my conservative beliefs I suppose), is that her sleeping around added no value to the story. There was no tangible emotional connection to any of the characters that would have made me go crazy over the story, there was no development to her character apart from her losing her virginity and hitting jackpot with three men who could get her off just like that. I couldn’t find anything special that differentiated the guy she ended up with, which was also another bummer in the story. Maybe that is how it is in the modern world. I wouldn’t know.

The way she just fell in love, suddenly, just like that, with the least developed character in the story made zero sense. I am at least thankful for the fact that Jake had enough sense for all of them to step back when he did. I would have preferred had she gotten together with him in reality. Because they actually have conversations with each other that don’t always lead to sex and innuendos being exchanged, and he was mature enough to understand where Tiernan was coming from. Had Jake not stepped back at the point he did, I would probably have turned off my Kindle and banged my head on a wall for the bad porno I was subjecting myself to.

I did enjoy the first half of the book, or should I say the first third of the book where Penelope introduced Tiernan and delivered a gut wrenching beginning to the story. My excitement mounted at that point and plummeted to a quick and painful death thereon after. I just wish that there had been more character development, less getting it off without emotional connections, and more fleshing out of the character who ended up being the “hero” of the story.

That brings me to my other big peeve in the story. The “hero” who not so much as made an emotional connection with Tiernan, much less the readers, ended up being one of the most pivotal characters towards the end. Had there being a back story of how he turned out that way, how his emotions had developed when it came to Tiernan, and what had made him change to a point where he could communicate his feelings with her was an aspect that was deeply missed from the story.

Recommended for those who love anything and everything by Penelope Douglas.

Final Verdict: Credence is one of those books loved & gushed over by many and disappointed the few like myself. I wished for a story that would sweep me off my feet and instead feel bereft of the tangible emotions I wanted to feel from the story.

Favorite Quotes

“Do you feel this?” he growls over my lips as he pushes me into the sink. The thick, hard ridge of his cock nudges my ass, and I groan. “This is what you’re doing to me, Tiernan. It’s not right. Instead of pile-driving the hot tits and ass I came home with, I’m sitting down here, trying to talk myself out of going into your room and giving the teenage piece of ass living in my house a really long kiss goodnight.”
My clit throbs, and I shift on my feet, feeling the slickness between my legs.
“And do I take off my panties for that?” I breathe out.

His taste fills my body, and I slide my hand up, taking the back of his neck and holding him to me. I’m so hungry. So hungry, and I can’t breathe. My blood races under my skin, and it feels so good, but God, I need more.
I need more.
I start to move my mouth and kiss him back, slipping my tongue past his lips little by little, moaning and tasting him until I don’t think I’ll ever get enough.

The nerves under my skin fire, and I feel her heat wrap me up as I push her thighs up higher and drive into her. “Tiernan…”
I kiss her deep, licking her sweat, reveling in the heat inside the cab, and tasting my life all those years ago when I would’ve died happy doing this to someone for the rest of my life.
I look down at Tiernan, her body taking everything I’m giving, and I swear I want to swallow her whole. I’d forgotten what this felt like.
To actually want to make someone happy.

“What do you want?” I ask.
He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.
And then he lowers his voice, barely a whisper. “I want you to like this.”
I do.
But before I have a chance to respond, he drops me to my feet, twists me around, and pins me to the wall. I gasp as he spreads my legs and thrusts inside of me again, pushing my body up on my tiptoes as he holds my thigh wide with one hand. With the other, he reaches around and slips his hand inside my panties.
“I want you happy, Tiernan,” he says low and husky in my ear. “I want my sons happy.”
He fucks me up against the wall, thrusting faster and faster as I turn my head to meet his lips.
“And I want you to know that no matter where you go,” he tells me between kisses, “you’ll always be ours. We’re your home.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase

Format: E-Bookmrimpossible
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Carsington Brothers, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Rupert Carsington
Heroine: Daphne Pembroke
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 01, 2005
Started On: December 27, 2019
Finished On: January 09, 2020

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase is the second book in her Carsington Brothers series. Set in Egypt in 1821, Mr. Impossible tells the story of 29 year old widowed Daphne Pembroke, whose brilliance in deciphering hieroglyphs outshines that of many in the field. When her brother gets kidnapped and the only person she is forced to depend on is the very vexing Rupert Carsington, she is at her wits end to say the least.

Rupert finds himself in Egypt when he is sort of “exiled” to Egypt by his father, as a means for Rupert to mend his ways. With his penchant for getting into trouble easily, Daphne finds herself increasingly agitated with Rupert when all he does is annoy her in ways that leaves her hot and bothered.

Hunting through the pyramids, riding out a sandstorm together, evading killers hot on their trails, it is the adventure of a lifetime for Daphne where she is forced to rethink all that she had judged Rupert to be when they had first met. Daphne finds her annoyance replaced by fascination which in turn makes her fall, and fall hard for a man whom she believes would probably have no use for a woman like herself. Daphne’s awakening in Rupert’s arms, and the equal fascination with which Rupert views the effect she has on him was a delight!

While I enjoyed the story, I cannot say that I was enamored by the tale to the point where I fell in love with all of it. It would not be stretching it to say that I was all sorts of excited when I began reading Mr. Impossible, because my only read from Loretta Chase had been amazing; i.e. Lord of Scoundrels.

For one, I was kind of put off by how Daphne came off at first; haughty and mighty proud of her intelligence. The way she saw Rupert as an idiot and made no pretense of how she felt about that that irked me. I love humbleness in a heroine and that was a bad starting point for me when it came to Daphne.

I know that a lot of how Daphne projected herself as came from the fact that she had had a disappointing marriage which had basically eviscerated her hopes of finding a partner who would see her as an intellectual equal amongst other things.

Furthermore, her husband had bungled up and made a mess of dealing with the sensual creature that she is. But that dislike which developed at that starting point, prevented me from being too drawn towards her in the end.

Rupert was wonderful in many ways, but then again, I cannot say I was enamored with his character to the point where I fell in love with him. He was sexy, highly intelligent, and man enough to accept the woman that is Daphne in every single way. That to me was reason enough to root for the man, even though secretly I hold the belief that he could have done better.

Recommended for fans of Loretta Chase.

Final Verdict: Mr. Impossible has plenty of adventure and sizzle that made the novel an enjoyable escape!

Favorite Quotes

He tilted his head a little to one side, studying her “Ah, well, so much for slow sieges,” he said. He leant in, and she was too slow to duck or draw back, and so his mouth fell upon hers, and the bottom dropped out of the world.
She lifted her hand—to push him away as she must. As she ought. But his mouth moved boldly over hers, firm and sure, and she clung instead, her fingers curling round his upper arm. It was as hard as the stone figure blocking her retreat, yet warm and alive, its heat electric. Her fingers tingled, and the current shot under the skin. Every particle of her being reacted, as though galvanized.

Deep-buried longings clawed their way out of hiding. They tangled about her heart and coiled and twisted in her belly. She couldn’t name them. This wanted a new language, or no language at all. Meaning narrowed to the taste of-his mouth and his skin and to the scent of him, dark and dangerous and so familiar that she ached, as though it were a cherished memory or a reawakened grief.

A long moment passed.
Then she pushed his hands away, twisted sharply about, and raised herself up to glare at him.
He grinned at her. She gazed at him for a time, green eyes fierce. Finally, she opened her mouth, and he thought, Here comes the tongue-lashing.
She let out a huff of vexation…
… and her soft mouth came down on his.
She tasted like gunpowder.
Rupert grasped her waist and held on. It was like being shot from a cannon or thrown from a precipice. She had only to bring her mouth to his, and the world flew apart, and he rocketed to places he didn’t recognize.

A storm swirled into his mind, and he couldn’t remember anymore what ought to be done. Mindlessly he tore at his own trousers. The fabric fell away, and his rod sprang free. He caught her under the thigh, lifting her leg up. She wrapped her leg about his waist, and he thrust into her. She cried out, “Oh. Oh, my God.”
He would have echoed her, but he was long past words.

He pushed her skirts up further and loosened the waist of his full trousers. She trembled when the garments slid away, leaving them skin to skin. She wrapped her arms about his shoulders and pressed her mouth against his neck to keep from crying out when his hands moved up her thighs. She drank in his scent, hot and male and his alone. At the first intimate touch she screamed silently. If she could have done, she’d have cried out her pleasure, her torment, and impossible, contradictory demands. More. No. Stop. Don’t stop. There. No, there. Oh, don’t. Oh, yes, please.
Laughter bubbled inside her along with a sorrow all but unbearable.
Madness.
Wonderful madness.

They scarcely moved at all. Awareness became all the more intense. He was aware each time her muscles tensed about him and eased, and of the very slight motion of her hip that sent waves of pleasure coursing through him. He was aware of her hands, gliding over him, and making long trails of sparks over his skin.
He opened his eyes and looked at her, and they smiled at each other in silent, wicked amusement, the devil in him recognizing the devil in her. And so they lay, watching each other, making secret love, while from outside came the familiar sounds of footsteps on the deck, voices calling out as they prepared to land.

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

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ARC Review: That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy

Format: E-Bookthatcanbearranged
Read with: Desktop
Length: Novel
Genre: Graphic Novels
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Hero: Gehad
Heroine: Huda Fahmy
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: March 10, 2020
Started On: December 27, 2019
Finished On: December 27, 2019

Huda Fahmy is a Muslim living in the United States, sharing her real life experiences in the form of comic strips published on Instagram. I started following her somewhere around last year; I mean who wouldn’t love the at times acerbic humor and wit that flows so smoothly through her meaningful comics that most Muslims can relate to?

When I found out that Huda was releasing her new book, That Can Be Arranged sometime this year, I have been counting down the days. That is until during one of my once in a blue moon forays into Netgalley served me with the best of surprises; this title was up for grabs for an ARC review. Quickly downloading it and reading through it in one setting, I was fascinated by the story of how Huda found her soulmate for life in Gehad her husband.

Islam is a pivotal part of Huda’s comics, and the way she so brilliantly imparts Islamic knowledge and wisdom without sounding preachy is something I have come to appreciate immensely in her work. As a romance lover, I loved Huda and Gehad’s story. As a Muslim, I loved it even more. Why? Because Huda’s real life journey towards finding her soulmate gives hope in a way not many stories can; that valuing your own self and loving yourself is a first step towards finding someone who would love all of you, imperfections and all of that. That is not a lesson that many learn before they make huge mistakes, which I believe for the most part Huda managed to skirt around.

Easier said than done, right? Huda too felt the same when she first started out on her journey, trying to fit certain molds that society can often project on your subconscious. The well-meaning family, both immediate and otherwise can often dampen the spirits of the most enthusiastic, especially when they have a tendency to kick you where it hurts when it comes to affairs of the heart.

Luckily, Huda is spared most of the heartbreak because she is strong in many ways from the onset, her mother and father being supportive of what she wanted for herself rather than trying to marry her off to the first thing that crosses over from the realm of eligible men. Her continued efforts towards learning more about her religion which actually brings her finally to Gehad and identifies in him her soulmate was beautiful in a way that is indescribable.

There is a certain allure in the way Huda combines traditions with that touch of modern flair which I identified with on a deep level. While I know that living as a Muslim, especially in a country like the US at a time when Islamophobia is on the rise and is rampant must be difficult, I did identify somethings that I wouldn’t mind having over here, a “100%” Islamic country as well. One of them being Muslim scholars who are more approachable and understanding of the unique challenges faced by Muslims of the world today. That in essence is a huge gap in most Muslim societies, the inability of scholars to get to the heart of the issues and reach out to the disillusioned among us. It is so easy to give into despair in a world that is so skewed in favor of the few, it is so easy to get lost in the fray.

In short, I loved it all. Recommended for anyone who appreciates humor and wit, combined with the belief that God indeed works in the most mysterious of ways.

Final Verdict: A unique portrayal of navigating the marriage market in a Muslim society, giving insight into the traditions and societal expectations on women, and a journey of self discovery and spirituality towards finding the one!

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Requested Review: Wallflower by Krista Gold

Format: E-Bookwallflower
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Erotic Thriller
Series: The Gardener, #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Emilio
Heroine: Tessa Calliope George
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 06, 2018
Started On: December 27, 2019
Finished On: December 27, 2019

Wallflower by Krista Gold is an erotic thriller that had me guessing until towards the very end. Given how much I love a good mystery, and combining eroticism of the kind that set my senses abuzz, Wallflower was one of the best reads for me in 2019.

Wallflower begins when 22 year old Tessa Calliope George is left reeling in the wake of the death of her mother, trying to piece her life back together. Tessa’s mother had found her fame late in life, and living off of it somehow is at odds with what Tessa wants in life, what she wants, something that she herself cannot grasp in its entirety.

Then enters Emilio into her life, devastatingly handsome and able to woo her into submission from day one. The deep and intense need that he invokes in Tessa is one that refuses to be denied and Tessa plunges headlong into what is the most erotic experience of her pretty much virginal life up till then.

When Tessa receives a job offer which allows her to delve into her mother’s life, she starts to piece together a side of her mother that she had not being privy to, bringing forth the story of a woman who had been lonely and looking for her other half, and had found it too, before she had met her untimely death.

As Tessa digs more extensively into her mother’s past, the revelations that emerge makes the reader take a step back, reevaluate, and reassess everything they have read before. The way your head reels trying to connect the dots together was one of the best bits about reading this book and why I enjoyed Wallflower so much.

Having read this full length novel in one day is telling, because I rarely have the patience or the time now to read an entire book in 24 hours time. But that was what happened with Wallflower because it was that intense and that much of a page-turner.

I would like to thank Krista Gold for requesting a review of this book, without which I may never have otherwise come across the title. It is hidden gems like Wallflower that makes it worthwhile to dig through stories from authors who you have never come across before.

This psychological erotic thriller has so many twists and turns and an ending that is impossible to discern which is pretty much why the story has amazed me on so my fronts. There is raw talent seeping through the words and it is almost as if you are watching a real life story unfold right in front of you.

From the emotional tumult of a newly founding relationship, to the sexy and carnal scenes of passion, followed through by the intriguing mystery woven together so intricately that everything fits seamlessly, I enjoyed every single aspect of the book!

Recommended for anyone who loves a good thriller with erotic scenes of passion that smolders.

Final Verdict: Wallflower is a novel that digs deep into the emotional ties that bind complemented with the erotic flair with which Krista Gold delivers so splendidly.

Favorite Quotes

Before I even know what I’m doing, my hand is moving with a singular purpose, down to my swimsuit bottoms, and then under the silky scrap of fabric, and – there. I close my eyes as I find the sweetly throbbing nub.
Emilio’s face is as clear as a bell in my mind’s eye, and I focus on it as my hand begins to move.
The feeling is intense. I am throbbing, and my fingers find the throb and work it, slowly at first, then with increasing urgency, until they are moving and teasing in rapid circles, and I am thrusting my sex hard against my cupped palm.
Emilio, I think. Oh god. Emilio. The sweet ache in my belly swells and expands until I feel I might burst.

He takes a step towards me and I can’t help it – I let out a gasp. Emilio stops, and catches his lip between his teeth, and I feel a flare of desire low in my belly. He groans softly, and the flare travels lower, down into my sex where it settles, pulsing like a second heartbeat.
I can’t look away from Emilio’s face.
“Tessa”, he says, and his voice is a low growl, and his green eyes are dark. My name in his mouth is the most erotic thing I have ever heard. I am rooted to the spot on my trembling legs, I couldn’t move if I wanted to.

I stare into his eyes, completely in his thrall. I can’t concentrate on anything other than this moment, this look…and then he whispers very softly, “I’m going to kiss you here”, and the pad of his other thumb parts my skirt like a curtain, pushes up and into my panties.
Holy shit. The shock is electric, and I cry out. I am all sensation, I am pure pleasure, and every bit of my attention is there, on that thumb, which is moving in slow, slow circles. There is a deep heat in the pit of my belly, and that sweet pulse is beating faster now, a hummingbird-heart.
“God, Tessa”, he breathes, still looking into my eyes. “You’re so wet.”

“Oh God”, I pant. “Emilio”. It’s all I can manage. My breath is coming faster and faster, and I know what he’s going to do. I can’t bear the suspense, and he knows it. He’s making me wait, and I want to scream in frustration, but then oh god, oh sweet Jesus, his mouth is there, and I jump, electrified, as he touches his tongue to my throbbing sex.
My body is white fire, my every nerve is lit and crackling. I don’t know how much longer I can hold on. I don’t want this to end, but I can’t hold off my climax, I don’t know how.

I feel his hardness nudging at my thigh, and I breathe into his ear, “Now, Emilio. Please”, I beg. I arch up into him, and he complies – I gasp as he nudges at my entrance, and then, with a sigh of pleasure, he slides into me. There’s a brief moment of resistance, a sweet stab of pain, and then he is fully inside me, thick and solid and hot, and nothing has ever felt more right.
Slowly, slowly, he slides out of me, almost all the way, and I moan – but then he thrusts into me again, the whole hard length of him, so I feel the shock of his penetration, so deep, so full. I can’t contain myself, and an involuntary Aah! escapes my lips.
“God, Tessa”, he says, and his voice is shaky.

Before I even know what I’m doing, my hand is reaching out to touch him, coming to rest on his thigh. Neither of us are breathing, and the air is suddenly thick with tension and anticipation.
Emilio makes a sound low in his throat, and that’s all it takes; suddenly, I am wet.
Before I can respond, Emilio has moved toward me, lightning quick, and his hands are in my hair, and he is crushing his mouth on mine, and I can’t even remember how to draw a breath, and it’s erotic, oh my god, it’s so unbelievably erotic. I never knew my body could be made to feel this way – like an electric storm, like it was made solely for pleasure. I never knew I could burn like this, or want someone so badly, so much.

God, I want him. I need him inside me. I need him now.
Instinctively, I’m releasing my seatbelt, reaching for Emilio’s buckle, wrestling with his zip. It’s not even a conscious thought, but pure animal instinct: I need this more than I need the air in my lungs.
We are both breathing hard, and I can feel that sweet pressure building inside me.
And then he springs free of the zipper, and I’m staring at his magnificent cock, which is already hard, already waiting. For me, I think with wonder, and then I’m lowering my head, and taking him into my mouth.

“God, Tessa”. Emilio’s voice is tight suddenly. “The things I want to do to you.”
Without warning, he runs a finger the length of my cleft, and I buck in ecstasy at his touch, crying out. Those little shivers of pleasure are back, crawling along every nerve ending, lighting me up.
I can’t form a coherent thought; the sensations in my body are too intense. All I can do is moan softly, squirm under him, wet with want and with need.

He leans in so that his lips are hovering right by my ear, and I can feel the warmth of his breath on my neck.
“I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you all night”, he murmurs, and his voice makes every hair on my body rise. “Do you know how fuckable you look in that dress, Tessa George?”
He leans closer so that his lips are actually touching my ear. “The answer is very,” he says, and a shiver races along every nerve in my body. “Very. Fuckable. Indeed.”

I am powerless to stop my climax building. I am panting against the wall, my legs trembling uncontrollably. “Now, Emilio”, “I beg him. “Fuck me. Please, fuck me now.”
Emilio’s eyes flash darkly, and then in one swift move, he lifts me so that I am pinned against the wall my legs wrapped around his waist. “Now”, I tell him again, and he pulls at my skirts. I lean back a little to give him access, and then I can feel his throbbing cock nudging at my entrance. I cry out – a sharp, animal cry of want and need, and then he is smothering my cries with his mouth as he impales me deliciously in one long movement. He stills for a second, long enough for me to savour how he feels inside me: thick, and full, twitching with desire.

“Now”, I pant, unable to manage anything else. “Quickly. Now.”
Emilio reads my urgency. In one smooth move, he lifts himself up on his elbows, and then he slides into me, filling me, stretching me. God, he fits perfectly. He lies still for a moment, and I let myself feel everything – the hardness of his hips, the pulsing of my bitten nipple, the urgent humming of my sex.
And then he is moving, knowing instinctively that I need it hard and fast, and god, does he deliver. He pounds into me, and everything is forgotten but the sensations of my body, my physical ecstasy.

“What do you want, Tessa? Tell me what you want.” His breath on my neck, that slow golden spiralling in my body. God, I want him. God, I need him.

Emilio’s breath is ragged. Slowly, slowly, I use my right hand to part myself, slip one finger into my wet darkness. Watching him watch me, feeling the first silvery tingles as I move my fingers, I feel more powerful than I have ever felt before. I understand now why Emilio likes to tease the way he does. The power, the heady feeling – it’s incredible.
A smile plays over my lips as I watch naked desire travel over his face. He stops stroking his cock, and I see that the tip is swollen and glistening.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Return to Christmas by Anne Stuart

Format: E-Bookreturntochristmas_2
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Impeccably Demure Press
Hero: John Larsen
Heroine: Madison Simcoe
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 13, 2019
Started On: December 24, 2019
Finished On: December 26, 2019

Return to Christmas by Anne Stuart released in 2019 had me jumping up and down in excitement at the very idea of the new release. Because Anne Stuart is THAT author for me. Return to Christmas tells the story of 27 year old Madison Simcoe and 29 year old John Larsen, in delivering upon the theme of Christmas miracles and love that stands the test of time itself.

It is the year 2020, and Madison who is feeling a bit desolate, a whole lot of disillusioned and a bit lonely decides to cheer herself up by going to the Macy’s Department Store to engage in a little bit of retail therapy. When she gets to Macy’s Madison gets more than what she bargained for when she finds herself transported to the year 1947, and having to rely on the maddening man she encounters, who sets her senses humming.

John would like nothing better than to ignore Madison’s sudden appearance into his life and the way she gets under his skin. An ex-military man, John is hounded by his own demons that are hard to shake off, and it is his ingenuity as a designer that allows him the freedom and leeway to mostly come and go as he pleases within the store.

With Madison in the picture, John finds himself inexorably drawn to her, even when he tells himself that a woman who keeps concocting far-fetched stories about how she came to be is not worth all the trouble. Interestingly enough, the more Madison tries to leave, the harder it is, as whatever it is that had transported her back in time wasn’t done messing with her fate.

Return to Christmas was not exactly what I envisioned for the story to be, but nevertheless I enjoyed most of it and not so much the rest. It is my theory that anything written by Anne Stuart is 100 times better than the any other book that you may alternatively get your hands on, and this one too proved that in spades.

I liked John and Maddie well enough, but I cannot say that I was enamored by them, nor connected with either of them at a deeper level. Madison spent a lot of her time inside her own thoughts which prevented me from understanding where she was coming from at a deeper level. Yes, she was feeling lonesome and feeling an ache she couldn’t define, but beyond that, it was hard to get a read on her character.

John is mellower than Anne Stuart’s usual hero material, which is fine. One doesn’t need to be ruthless to come off as commanding, sexy, and all of those things that makes you hum with pleasure as you read along. I felt that John was a bit under developed as a character. Why? Because I wanted to know more about his past, his likes and dislikes, what made him tick (apart from Madison of course), and I wanted to read about his stint in the military and the damage it had done to him on the inside. That would have made me relate to him more than I did.

I also found it a tad weird that two adults just lived inside a department store throughout the novel. I quite don’t know how I feel about that. The one thing that I did love though, was the epilogue. That was the ultimate ending if you ask me, classic Anne Stuart, leaving the reader sniffling with happy tears.

Final Verdict: Return to Christmas is a novel that delivers on the premise of Christmas miracles and hope in a world that has little of that to offer, and how love knows not the bounds of time and reason.

Favorite Quotes

She stirred again, and her breathing changed. She was coming awake, and she was probably going to be ticked off and embarrassed by where she was, and he steeled himself. Her eyes blinked open, still wet with tears, and she tilted her head back, looking up at him out of those sensational eyes, her mouth still tremulous, and he did what any red-blooded American male would do.
He kissed her.

“So let me tell you what we’re going to do,” he whispered in her ear. “I’m going to undress you. Sweetheart,” he added deliberately, punctuating the word with a bump of his hips against her, and arousal spiked through her—she was back in that restless, anxious longing and uncontrolled, confused need. “And I’m going to dump our clothes on the floor and walk all over them if I want. I’m going to touch you, taste you, anywhere I damned please. You can be on top, but you’re going to be beneath me, in front of me, standing, sitting, any position we can think of. I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do, but you’re going to want to do everything.” His voice was soft, his words terrifyingly erotic, and she closed her eyes, lost in it, lost in him. “Yes?”
It was a question she couldn’t answer, swept away by the crazy sensations racketing through her body. Danger, Will Robinson! She wanted to run, she wanted…she wanted…
“Yes,” she said.

“Condom,” she gasped, wanting to grab his hips and pull him in, to fill this terrible emptiness inside her. He hesitated, just for a moment, and then pushed in, so big, so hard that she almost felt choked, drowning in sensation.
He rested for a moment, inside her, around her, and her skin felt like it would burst into flames. “I don’t have one,” he whispered in her ear. “I didn’t want to be tempted. Didn’t work.”

“Don’t,” she gasped, as stray shudders raced through her body, and his frame reacted to each and every one.
His muscles suddenly bunched beneath her hands, his entire body rigid. “Don’t what? Don’t do this without protection?” He no longer sounded coolly amused—at least she’d pushed him past that point, and he started to pull out, the walls of her sex clinging to him, trying to hold him. “Or don’t do it at all?”
“Don’t stop.”
He thrust back into her, and she gasped as sensations racketed around her body, again, and again, and again, each push reaching deeper, filling her, drowning her in nothing but sex, sweet and sinful, again and again, building to another climax.

She didn’t know who was the more shocked when she licked at the solid column of flesh rising from his body, and then she didn’t think at all, letting her mind dissolve as she leaned down and took him into her mouth, sucking him in deep, and it was wonderful, the feel of him surging into her, pulsing as she drew him in deeper. This was hers—she owned him, she owned this, and she wanted more, she wanted to wrap her tongue around him until he exploded inside her, and she wanted to swallow. She wanted to take everything, but he was too big, her mouth too small, and she almost choked in frustration, his hoarse reaction, his hands in her hair, helping guide her, were almost too much as she tried to take more, all of him.

When he lifted her, turned her, she moved easily, up to her knees as he pushed into her from the back, and the sensation was astonishing as he pushed against something that made her entire body shake, and she still needed more, she needed him to drive away her last fears, she needed him to take her so completely that he held nothing back, wiping them both clean.
“Harder,” she whispered. “Please. Harder.”
The last of his control disappeared, and he slammed into her, so hard that she almost fell forward, but she held on, taking him with powerful, almost feline pleasure, just as she wanted, harder, faster, turning into a cloud of sensation and nothing more, pushing, pumping, almost brutal, and when she came he erupted inside her.

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