Review: From the Embers by Aly Martinez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepo

Review: The Bride in Blue by Miranda Lee

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Wedlocked
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Jonathon Parnell
Heroine: Sophia
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: March 25, 1996
Started On: May 02, 2021
Finished On: May 02, 2021

I have forgotten the countless number of times I have indulged in The Bride in Blue by Miranda Lee, one of my favorite Harlequin romances to revisit time and yet again. However, it is also amazing that I have never put down a review of this book for whatever reason, which I aim to rectify this time around.

The story begins with Sophia the bride wearing blue on her wedding day, to be lawfully wedded, not to the man whose child she is carrying, but to his younger brother who steps into take her beloved Godfrey’s place to do the right thing. From the start, Jonathon Parnell had rubbed Sophia the wrong way – he was just too much of everything, and being the distraught bride mourning the loss of the love of her life certainly does not make it easy for her to see him any other way.

There is a powerful connection that exists between Jonathon and Sophia. While Sophia might be naive and inexperienced not to know that, Jonathon does and that is the singular most reason why this story is so appealing on multiple fronts. There are those readers who would find Sophia annoying – and I admit, she is annoying at first, because like everyone else, she is quick to judge Jonathon without understanding the dynamics that drives his behavior.

When Sophia finally starts to see the undercurrents that exists within the family and how Jonathon is the pariah for some reason, the man who is always on the sidelines left wanting – though his cold and aloof manner would hardly tell you anything, that is when Sophia starts to realize the true worth of the man who is her husband.

The sexual desire that awakens in Sophia is a foregone conclusion when it comes to Jonathon; readers will have to experience Jonathon for his animal magnetism to understand why, not to mention the fact that he harbors a secret he is unwilling to part with when it comes to his reluctant bride.

At the cost of repeating myself and sounding gushy, I so love this story. I would say this is Miranda Lee at her very best, delivering a hero that makes you literally melt from the way he just strides into a room. Yes, Jonathon is that kind of hero. Once Sophia starts to see Jonathon in a new light, you can see the feisty side of hers emerge; the woman who gives it her all when it comes to loving and protecting Jonathon.

The angst factor was just right, and the sexual tension that permeates throughout the book heady enough, and I could not ask for more! Sophia’s fantasy when it comes Jonathon, when at last she is ready to accept him as her husband in the truest form – well, you will have to read on to find out!

Recommended for the sheer effect of Jonathon as he wreaks havoc on your senses.

Final Verdict: The Bride in Blue is the kind of book that stands the test of time, the reason why when I read for pleasure, my chosen genre would always be romance!

Favorite Quotes

‘Say “I will,”’ Jonathon hissed into her ear.
‘I…I w-will,’ Sophia stammered, to her mortification.
‘God,’ came the low mutter from beside her.
Jonathon bit out his ‘I will’ as if he were giving a guilty verdict for murder. When the celebrant pronounced them ‘as one’ in a flowery way, followed by a sickening smirk and a ‘you may kiss your bride’, Sophia darted Jonathon an anxious look.
She didn’t want him to kiss her but she couldn’t really see how they could avoid it. Everyone else knew their marriage was a sham, but the celebrant didn’t. Jonathon looked just as reluctant to oblige, but, seeing perhaps that he had no alternative, he took Sophia firmly by the shoulders, turned her his way and bent his head.
Sophia steeled herself for the cold imprint of his mouth on hers, so she was somewhat startled to find that the firm lips pressing down on hers were quite warm. Her eyelashes fluttered nervously, her mouth quivering tremulously beneath his. His mouth lifted, and for a second he stared down into her surprised face. Something glittered in that cold blue gaze.
Then he did something that really shocked her.
He kissed her again.

Jonathon’s eyes narrowed on the rapid rise and fall of her chest. ‘Are you saying you want to go to bed with me?’ he asked, his voice disbelieving.
Sophia kept her eyes steady on him, even whilst her cheeks were burning. ‘I can’t say I do, but I can’t say I don’t. I haven’t had much experience in such matters. But you must know you’re a very attractive man, Jonathon, and I’m sure, a very experienced one. What do you think?’ she rashly flung at him. ‘Could you make me want to go to bed with you?’
Those blazing but oddly cold blue eyes seemed to seer through her dress, their fire heating her skin, their ice freezing her nipples into hard little pebbles. With breathtaking and incredibly sensual slowness, his gaze travelled upwards, leaving behind a parched throat and parted panting lips. At last he reached her eyes, her large, liquid brown eyes which grew larger as they glimpsed the power within that ruthlessly sexual gaze.
Oh, yes, she realised breathlessly, he could make her want to go to bed with him. But it would be nothing like what she had experienced with Godfrey. His kisses would not be sweet or soft or romantic. There would be no meeting of souls, only a meeting of bodies. Hard, panting bodies, reaching for each other in a strictly primitive passion.

‘I shouldn’t be doing this,’ he muttered against her lips, groaning a type of despair, she thought, as the last millimetre between them was crossed.
And then she didn’t think anything. There was nothing but his mouth, hard on hers, his hands tightening on her flesh.
When his mouth lifted momentarily on a raw moan, she gasped for air, only to instantly have his lips back covering hers and his tongue, hot and wet, surging deep inside. Wild swirls filled her head, the blood pounding in her temples. She pressed her hips against his, whimpering a need she had never felt before.

Standing there as he was in the moonlight, with his shoulders squared and his fists curled, his chest still rising and falling with the physical effort of that savage swim, he presented an image rather similar, Sophia fancied, to that of a primitive man who’d just forded a flooded river. Soon, he would stride on home to his cave where his woman would be waiting with food cooking over an open fire.
But this caveman wouldn’t want to eat straight away. He’d been away, after all, for days, seeking out new hunting fields. What he suffered from was hunger of a different kind.
Sophia could see him now, eyeing his scantily clad mate with hot eyes, then coming forward to grab a clump of her hair at the back of her head, bending her body back till he could suckle on one of her bare breasts like a starving infant before dragging her back on to their rough bed of furs at the back of their cave and vanquishing his hunger, not once, but several times.

He crossed the carpet with huge strides, looking larger and larger with each step till he towered over her. She lifted rounded eyes to his narrowed ones, her tongue suddenly thick in her mouth. A flood of nerves consumed her, bringing with it a trembling deep inside.
But even as her apprehension built, so did her desire, her eyes clinging to his, her body unconsciously straining towards him.
He ripped the nightie from her body, rent it in two from top to toe and threw it aside before sweeping her shaking body up into his arms and carrying her to the bed. He held her briefly against his damp body, hot eyes raking over her naked flesh before spreading her out on the quilt then swiftly stripping himself. Sophia was stunned by the speed with which he loomed over her, a dark silent force that breathed but did not speak.

‘No, don’t stop,’ she cried a second time when he abandoned what he was doing.
He didn’t stop. He merely started replacing his mouth and hands with his body, making her gasp when she realised he was as large there as he was everywhere else. A sob caught in her throat, her eyes squeezing tightly shut against the pressure of his titanic desire seeking entry into her almost virginal body.
When he suddenly achieved the unachievable, slipping deeply inside, Sophia’s eyes flung wide. All discomfort had ceased, the only sensation one of being thoroughly and very satisfyingly filled. What Jonathon was feeling, she couldn’t tell. He didn’t look at her from where he was still kneeling between her legs, his hands under her buttocks, his concentration seemingly on that area where their flesh became one. His face was in shadow, but his stillness suggested a silent savouring of their union.

Jonathon, however, had driven her mind and body into a crazed frenzy from the first moment he’d kissed her tonight. Yet they weren’t in love with each other. It hadn’t been making love, what he’d done to her on this bed, what he was still doing to her…
His name was torn from her lips, a lost, bewildered cry which called for him to explain how she could feel like this when there was no love involved, to comfort her in her confusion, to hold her till this cataclysmic experience released her from its tenacious grip.

You’re so lovely,’ he muttered, his eyes narrowed upon her. When he ran the back of his fingers across the tips of her breasts, she gasped aloud. He groaned, and dropped his head.
‘God, Sophia, do you have any idea how much I want you?’
She simply stared at him, unable to say a word.
‘I need to have you right now,’ he went on, sweeping her up into his arms. ‘No foreplay. Nothing for you but the knowledge that I’ve never been like this with any woman before. I haven’t a hope of controlling myself as I did last night. Believe me, I guaranteed that performance by swimming in a cold pool till I was almost exhausted. It took the edge off my need. Not so this time,’ he told her as he strode back into the bedroom. ‘This time I will be appallingly quick. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to frighten you, or disappoint you. But I must do this. Don’t say no.’

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

Review: His Countess by S.M. LaViolette

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Erotic Romance
Series: Victorian Decadence, #3
Publisher: Crooked Sixpence Press
Hero: Gideon Banks
Heroine: Alys Taunton
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: June 02, 2020
Started On: April 09, 2021
Finished On: April 09, 2021

Book 3 in the Victorian Decadence series brings to readers the story of 38 year old businessman Gideon Banks, who is legendary for his depravity, whose lecherous behavior had him expelled from Oxford at one point in time. Gideon makes no apologies for who he is, but at the same time, he increasingly finds himself dissatisfied with his lot in life, that is until he becomes the Sixth Earl of Taunton and finds himself saddled with the former mistress, Alys Taunton.

26 year old Alys becomes a widow after eight years of marriage, having become disillusioned with the institution itself. She wants nothing to do with marriage, but as society would have it, she requires the protection and good will of the new Earl if she were to survive. While Gideon believes Alys to be of the stuck up lot in high society, Alys wants one thing from Gideon: for him to tutor her in the pleasures of the flesh.

What starts off as a raunchy one-time sexual escapade, with Gideon who might have been reluctant at first, brings such heady pleasure to both, which of course makes Gideon wary of what that might mean in the long run. The resultant effect ends in a marriage of convenience for which Gideon lays down one basic rule – he does not do fidelity, nor does he expect it from his wife. However, each raw encounter with his wife brings Gideon to the brink of surrender to which he resists with all his might, until one final act of power play on his part results in what Gideon has been pursuing out of sheer fear.

I found His Countess to be great in terms of readability, when most romances these days are either too preachy for their own good and/or filled with modern jargon that strives to keep certain reader-bases happy. But in reality, what it does is remove the essence of the genre that makes for such raw and gut-wrenching reads. I want my books to mean something; the drama as long as it adds value to the story and fleshes out the characters well enough for me to fall in love.

I enjoyed the journey that Gideon takes towards his happily ever after, even though like in previous books, I cannot fathom wanting to have so many sexual partners all at the same time. I can understand the lure certainly, when it comes to a someone who can give you pleasure of the kind you have only ever dreamed of. We are hard pressed to come across just one single person who does that in real life, and for the protagonists in these stories to just get it on with anyone of their choosing is still a bit jarring for me.

In my opinion, men and women experience sexual pleasure differently aside from the fact that we all identify with raw animal magnetism of those that attract us at our very core. But that does not translate into gratification of the kind that seems to come so easily to the characters of these books, no matter what. For women, our minds play a key role in reaching fulfillment, but for men it is a different ballgame altogether. Perhaps, new age adults might believe differently, but quantity does not necessarily translate to quality in the short or long term.

My ramblings about sexual pleasure aside, these decadent books by Ms. LaViolette are unlike most historical romances readers would come across. While Ms. LaViolette categorizes these books as historical erotic romance and not erotica, I would say it is a bit of both. There are few authors who dare push the conventional boundaries of romance novels, and with Ms. LaViolette, I would say she has no boundaries to begin with, giving readers highly erotically charged reads that are hard to put down.

As most readers and fans of this series, I cannot help but yearn to read Smith’s story. However, I believe it would be quite a while yet, given what Ms. LaViolette has stated in that regard on Goodreads. One can keep hoping and praying that Smith lets Ms. LaViolette write his story and give us all what we want!

Recommended for fans of the series and those who love plenty of eroticism in their novels.

Final Verdict: While Gideon Banks might not have a conventional bone in his body, his countess changes it all. Great characterization renders this a page-turner!

Favorite Quotes

“That’s what I want—something physical, animal, those things you were doing to L-Lucy and Susan.” She swallowed. “I imagined you doing them to me.”
Her words set off a commotion in his head—not to mention in his cock—that was too powerful to ignore. Gideon grabbed her arm and yanked her close, holding her clamped against him from hips to shoulders.
“You are rapidly approaching a place where I will not turn back,” he snarled into her ear. “Do you understand?”
“Yes . . . please.”

Alys made that embarrassing sound again and clamped her jaws shut. But her body’s trembling was beyond her control.
“Never hold back from me, Alys. I want to hear every whimper, yell, groan, grunt, and gasp.” His finger elicited several of those examples immediately, whatever he was doing making her dizzy and weak. “Come for me, little one,” he urged. “That’s right,” he praised as her hips jerked. “Let go and soak my hand.”
Her body responded to his crass order almost as much as his skilled touch and explosive, exquisite pleasure spread from that one little spot to every part of her.

Gideon held her gaze and pulsed gently in and out. “Do you want more, Alys?” he asked, his head almost dizzy with the effort of exercising restraint.
“Yes, Gideon,” she said in a whisper. And then she flexed her pelvis and his iron control shattered.
Gideon slammed into her, pounding her with hard, deep thrusts. “Tell me,” he rasped in between strokes. “Tell me when you’re close.”
She never answered because she was already there.
His restraint, already worn to threads, snapped and Gideon drove into her thrice more and then froze, emptying himself into her convulsing body.

“So tight. Clench for me, Alys.” Her entire body jerked as she contracted around him.
He gave a husky laugh. “I like the way your cunt obeys my commands—like an obedient pet.” His hand began to pump, slow and deep, his middle finger grazing something exquisite inside her. “I want to shove myself inside you but our fun would be over far too quickly. So let me pleasure you, first. Let’s see how many times I can make my pet come.”
It was his words as much as his actions that drove her toward the precipice with such dizzying speed. Any residual embarrassment at being so exposed slid away as he worked her with relentless, and increasing, intensity.

“You see, my love,” he’d gasped in between savage thrusts. “There is something to be said for riding astride. Now,” his jaw hardened and his nostrils flared, “Ride me to a lather.”
Alys had to admit she’d enjoyed the vantage point and being in control of their rhythm—at least to a degree. He’d not been a passive partner but had exhibited breathtaking strength as he’d thrust upward into her, every line and curve of his body hard and taut.
He’d made his pleasure obvious when he’d spent in her. “I love filling you with my seed,” he’d snarled in her ear while he pumped inside her. “I going to fuck you every chance I get, little one. I won’t be happy until you’re swollen with my child.”

“You see how excited you’ve made me?” He gave himself a pump, causing his slit to leak for her. “Tongue it, taste me,” he ordered, holding his cock by the root, the action making it look even bigger, thicker.
She trembled as she leaned closer, opening her mouth.
“Take my hips with both hands. Good. Now, show me your tongue—yes, like that, stick it out and make a point. And then poke it into my little hole.”
The tentative touch of her hot tongue ripped a groan from his chest.
“Christ! Yes,” he snarled, shoving his hands into her hair and holding her skull immobile. It took every ounce of self-control not to start fucking her mouth like the beast he was.

He opened his eyes, hungry to see her lips stretched around him. He grinned; she was sucking his fat head like it was a sweetie.
“The part below the crown is the most sensitive,” he encouraged, shuddering when she immediately began to investigate. He allowed himself only the slightest pulsing of his hips, his fingers massaging her skull. “One day,” he told her through clenched jaws. “I’m going to fuck your mouth as hard as I fuck your cunt.”
Her groan went right up his cock to his balls and he almost came.

“I’m going to check and see if you’ve been exercising for me.” He slammed into her without warning.
A mortifying animal moan slipped from her mouth; fortunately it was drown out by Gideon’s crude grunts and words.
“So. Fucking. Tight.” He punctuated each word with a brutal thrust.
He was wicked for saying such things and she was twice as wicked for loving his filthy mouth.
“You feel as delicious as you taste, my little pet.” His hips pounded savagely as he held her with fingers that would leave bruises. “I’m so looking forward to filling your body with my spend,” He said through clenched jaws. “I’ll fill all your holes, darling,” he whispered, the words so shocking Alys wasn’t quite sure she’d heard him correctly.
“But not just yet, I think. First I want you to come for me.”

“You seem almost fey, this morning, Gideon?”
He turned toward Alys, who was watching him with an affectionate look.
He grinned. “I’m looking forward to my daily riding reward.”
As he’d intended, she blushed and rolled her eyes. “You know, some people might consider riding itself a reward.”
Gideon laughed. “Not me.” He allowed all his desire for her to show on his face. “I’m going to strip you naked, tie you to a tree, and spread your legs wide, exposing your beautiful body to the morning sun. The only thing I’ll let you wear is your boots.” He grinned. “And then I’m going to kneel between those delicious thighs and make you scream.”

“What do you think Silber would say if he saw you like this?”
Pleasure rippled out from her tightly clenching sex. Alys only realized she was grunting and whimpering when he stepped closer and shoved a gloved finger between her folds.
“Did you just come, Alys?” he demanded roughly, pumping the finger inside her still-contracting sex. “I think you did.” He flicked her sensitive bud and she cried out. “I think you love the thought of being watched, put on display.” He lifted his hand, the black leather slick with her juices.

“Please, Gideon.”
“Please?” He cocked an eyebrow as he absently swatted the sensitive skin of her breasts, harder and harder. “Please what, darling?”
“Please. I want—”
He smiled like a cat that had eaten the canary. “What?” He smacked her mound and the stiff leather grazed her bud. “Do.” Smack. “You.” Smack. “Want?”
Each swat brought her closer to yet another climax.
Gideon dropped to his knees. “God, yes.” He spread her with sheathed, impersonal fingers and sucked her into his mouth.

“I can’t,” she gasped when he began to stroke her again. “Not again.”
“Just once more,” he said. “See how I’m begging? Please. Come once more for me?”
She groaned, but dropped her head, her shoulders dipping but her bottom pushing toward him, the position deliciously submissive.
“My good, obedient girl,” he murmured, stroking into her with his cock while he slowly brought her to orgasm.
When he felt the contractions coming, he fucked into her with vicious thrusts, until he could hold back no longer and drove himself deep, coming in wrenching jerks.
Mine! Mine! Mine! He crowed inside his head, glorying in his possession and marking her with each spasm of his cock until he was aching and empty.

“Open for me,” he ordered sharply, smiling when her legs instantly parted. His warm, questing fingers slipped between her thighs and grazed the seam of her sex and he shoved two fingers right up into her body. Her throbbing body.
Alys whimpered and pushed her hips to meet him.
“Do you always get this wet and swollen when you are angry?” he growled in her ear, leaning closer, his arm moving in slow, deep thrusts. He bit her ear lobe and she jumped. “Never lie to me about what arouses you, Alys. Your fantasies are mine, all mine—they all belong to me. Now, open for your husband.”
She spread wider to take him, her wanton body so greedy for the pleasure he could give that it didn’t care how mortified her mind was.
“Say it,” he demanded. “You’re mine—you belong to me.”
“I belong to you.”

Beyond the peep, it was as if they’d heard him. Or at least as if Alys had. Because they broke off kissing and grinding and the next thing he knew, Silber gently set Alys down and then led her to the seat that faced the peep—the closest one, the chair Gideon had most specifically instructed Jackson to arrange. They held hands for a moment and then Silber lowered himself into the chair, his huge body filling it.
Alys turned her back to him and the stable master placed his monstrous hands around her slender waist and lifted her over his spread thighs. Alys opened her shapely legs and reached for his rod, her eyes not moving from the peephole as she guided the fat crown toward her entrance—an opening Gideon knew to be exquisitely tight—and then took him into her body, inch by goddamned inch, her white teeth biting her lower lip and eyelids fluttering. She wore a rapturous expression as her body absorbed Silber’s ridiculous organ, until she was stuffed full, her body utterly impaled.
Gideon’s hand was nowhere near his cock when he came, splattering onto his waistcoat. His eyes flickered closed as his hips spasmed, powerful contractions wracking his body.

His hips began to buck, his control visibly slipping as he drove into her with primitive force, the muscles of his torso, back and shoulders gloriously defined as he held her arms immobile. His jaw clenched in a grimace as he pounded into her so hard Alys swore she could feel it inside her own wet, swollen body.
He thrust deep and then froze, the powerful muscles of his buttocks clenching as he jerked into her. Alys knew what it would feel like—hot jets of his spend filling her, the contractions of his shaft throbbing against her sensitive sheath.
She shoved her hand between her thighs and grunted as her finger finished what Jackson had started. As she came, biting her lip hard to suppress her cries, Jackson’s eyes opened, as if he knew. And then he did something she’d not believed possible: he smiled.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BookDepo

Review: Sweetheart by Sarah Mayberry

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Busy Bean, #1
Publisher: Heart Eyes Press LLC
Hero: Daniel Beck
Heroine: Haley Elliot
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 01, 2021
Started On: April 02, 2021
Finished On: April 02, 2021

It has been a while since I last indulged in a romance from Sarah Mayberry, one of my favorite authors when it comes to exquisitely spun contemporary romances. The Busy Bean series is a multi-author series, the debut book of which is this installment.

26 year old Haley Elliot works at the Busy Bean as a barista-waitress. With rumors abound that there is a brand new roasted coffee supplier in town that is winning over the hearts of coffee lovers, it is none other than Daniel Beck, ex-boyfriend of her sister’s that she comes across in her quest to find the source. Haley had a massive crush on Daniel back in the day, something she had been keen to keep to herself, given how maladjusted and oversensitive her sister had been even back then.

Daniel wants nothing to do with the Elliot’s, the nightmare that his relationship with Haley’s sister being reason enough for him to avoid Haley at all and any cost. However, fate has other plans in store for the both of them, as an attraction that is as fierce as it is undeniable locks them both in a “fight” where resistance is futile.

Sweetheart is the kind of romance that is low on the angst factor with two characters who are mature and realistic in their approach to anything that happens between them. While Haley has crushed on Daniel for ages, she believes for the most part that it would remain an unrequited crush at best, that is until Daniel takes her in his arms and blows that theory to smithereens.

For Daniel, even though he would like to resist the pull he feels towards Haley at every turn, and to be honest, I would not have blamed him if he had done just that, he takes the time to come to the conclusion that between Haley and him lies something that he would like to pursue, even at the cost of running into his ex who had done a number on him.

Daniel’s discovery of all that is Haley and recognizing the beautiful and vulnerable soul she is, was the best part of this story. I loved Haley for everything she was – the obedient daughter who lived in the shadow of her beautiful sister who took the center-stage of their lives. Haley, who could not for all intents and purposes, celebrate who she is, her talents, and the kindness that is inherent when all is said and done. For Daniel to see all that and become her staunchest supporter, who was willing to stand by her and fight for her; that is the single most reason that I fell in love with Sweetheart.

Recommended for those who love a romance between two mature and well developed characters, who undoubtedly would steal your heart.

Final Verdict: Sweetheart; the word’s meaning resonates in its truest form within the story that unfolds; beautiful and soul-stirring in a way that steals your heart.

Favorite Quotes

I stood outside the restrooms watching Haley Elliott rush for the door, paralyzed by the truth bomb she’d just dropped.
You could look me in the eye occasionally and, you know, treat me like a human being.
Her voice had gotten tight, and her chin had wobbled. She’d spun away, but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that she was on the verge of tears as she wove her way toward the exit.
I’d done that to her. I’d made her feel so bad, so demoralized, she’d been reduced to tears. All this time I’d thought I’d been doing a decent job trying to cover my unease around her, and apparently I’d failed. Dismally.

The logistics didn’t matter. The only thing that did was the soft press of her mouth against mine, the smooth warmth of the nape of her neck beneath my hand, the thud of pure recognition that ran through my body as she opened her mouth and I tasted her for the first time.
Because this woman felt right in my arms. She tasted like everything I had ever craved, and when I stroked her tongue with mine, she made a small, inarticulate needy sound that went straight to my cock. Her hands fisted in my shirt as I deepened the kiss, desperate for more. She made the needy sound again, and I abandoned the delicate smoothness of her nape to grab her ass and pull her closer.

“Bedroom?” he asked, his voice low and desperate, two slashes of color high on his cheekbones.
“Front room.”
He nodded, then slid his hands onto my ass and issued a curt instruction. “Up.”
I didn’t need to be asked twice, wrapping my legs around his hips as he boosted me up. The moment my face was on the same level as his, he kissed me again, and for long seconds we got lost in the wonder of it, our tongues caressing as we deepened our connection.

Beck nuzzled closer, using his nose to push inside my bra cup. I held my breath as he licked and kissed his way toward my nipple. Then he sucked me into his mouth and I was powerless to stop myself gasping with delight.
“Oh, God. Yes. Please.”
I could feel him smiling against my skin, my nipple still trapped in the wet heat of his mouth. He trilled his tongue against me and I almost levitated off the bed, hands clawing at his shoulders.
Beck lifted his head to look down at me again. “Sweetheart, you’re killing me here.”
“I’m the one who’s dying,” I panted.

He was aware of my avid interest and his mouth kicked up into a cocky, knowing smile as he stroked the condom down his shaft. He crawled onto me then, six foot two of brawny man, his legs hairy and strong against mine, and I spread my thighs wide, lifting my hips to welcome his first thrust.
“Oh God,” I whispered as he filled me, stretching me exquisitely.
“Hell, yeah,” he groaned.

“Want to do it again?” he asked, nudging his hips forward a fraction.
Which was when I realized he was hard again.
“Already?”
“I’m a little pent up. Been dreaming about you.”
I blinked up at him. “Really?”
“Yeah.”
“Dirty dreams?” I asked, more than a little thrilled to think that all the time I’d been going crazy over him he’d been going crazy over me.
“Filthy. Depraved.”

“What else?” he asked, thrusting inside me again.
“You let me be on top,” I gasped.
“Yeah?”
Before I could react, Beck rolled to the side and onto his back, his strong arms taking me with him so that I wound up straddling him, my palms planted on his chest, a shocked laugh on my lips.
“Show me how you like it, Haley,” he said, his warm hands sliding over my breasts.
I didn’t need to be asked twice.

“I should really go,” she said, but I knew her heart wasn’t in it.
“So you just came here to apologize and drop off your sketch?” I asked.
“To clear the air.”
“Liar,” I said, softening my words with a smile.
I stepped closer and reached for her shoulder. Her bare skin was soft and warm beneath my hand. She watched me with slightly open lips as I caressed the slope of her shoulder before sliding my hand around to palm her nape. She was already lifting her face for my kiss as I lowered mine. I let out an involuntary grunt of appreciation when she opened her mouth to me, lust hitting me like a sledgehammer as I tasted her again.
What was it about this woman that did it for me so bad?

I kissed him deeply, slipping a hand between our bodies to find my swollen clit. Beck broke our kiss and pulled back an inch, glancing down to confirm what I was doing. I kissed him deeply, slipping a hand between our bodies to find my swollen clit. Beck broke our kiss and pulled back an inch, glancing down to confirm what I was doing.
“Keep doing that,” he said, and I was happy to oblige as he thrust up into me, his muscles turned to granite as he kept his gaze fixed on what I was doing with my hand.
“So damned hot,” he panted. “I’m close, baby.”
“Me, too,” I assured him.
I held his gaze as the first shudder radiated through me and I saw the exact moment he tripped into his own climax. He pulled me closer, pressing his face against my neck as he came.

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

Review: Hate Me by Ashley Jade

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Black Mountain Academy
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Trenton Knox
Heroine: Aspen Falcone
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 28, 2021
Started On: March 30, 2021
Finished On: April 01, 2021

“He tastes like cinnamon and uninvited desire…wrapped in pure evil.”

Hate Me by Ashely Jade is a novel that would be hard to take in for a lot of readers because it deals with a bullish hero who comes off as the worst of the lot at the initial stages of the story, until Ms. Jade slowly reveals his backstory and allows us to peek into his most formative years and the toll of constant physical and emotional abuse from a very tender age. Growing up with a vicious psychopath has its consequences, and that is what Ms. Jade shows us through this mesmerizing story.

The main protagonists, Trenton Knox (Trent) and Aspen Falcone meet at a very young age. The first meet does not go exactly as one would envision it would, with Aspen walking away crying with a bloodied nose and Trent hating the very essence of the girl who for the very first time sees right through to him and the misery that his life was.

Through the years, there are countless encounters between the two, until fate leaves Aspen fatherless and her mother remarries none other than Trent’s father, bringing everything full circle. That is when the story actually begins, with “Stray” as Trent loves to call Aspen finally landing on his home turf.

For Aspen, whatever notions she had before of Trent starts to change slowly as for the first time, she starts to see what Trent’s life must have been like through the years. However, Trent does not make it easy to understand him as he pushes her away at every turn, even though the sizzling connection between them roars to life with a ferocity that refuses to be denied as the story progresses.

Aspen’s life is no walk in the park either once her father passes on, with a mother who only cares to keep up appearances. With little or no emotional support in her life, Aspen takes on paths that are only attractive to someone who has nowhere else to turn to. It feels at first as if Aspen switches from one path to destruction to another when the attraction between Aspen and Trent reaches its climax, but there are undercurrents at play in the story that needs to reach their conclusion before anything long lasting can come to fruition between the two.

I enjoyed Hate Me for the most part; it was captivating through the bigger chunk of the story and had me anxious to find out what would happen next. Additionally, the way Ms. Ashley spun Trent’s arc was gripping, with the layers to his character exposed as the story delved deeper into the combined lives of both Aspen and Trent. Some of the scenes of abuse or the aftermath of it were difficult to read, but nevertheless it was needed to show the depravity of monsters that live in society, taking up revered positions in the community.

The only thing that I could not wrap my head around was the ultimate conclusion of the arc of Aspen’s mother’s character – without giving way to spoilers, all I have to say is that I did not find what happened to her sitting well with me at the end. The only reason why this book did not get a higher rating was because I could not understand that particular ending.

Ms. Ashley gives us a realistic happily ever after once all is said and done, with both Aspen and Trent doing some needed healing and growing up before coming together once again.

Recommended for those who enjoy stories that brings together difficult to understand heroes and the heroines whose spunk and courage definitely makes them stand out!

Final Verdict: Trent and Aspen are two halves of one jagged soul; each beautifully broken in a way that only those who are survivors can be.

Favorite Quotes

“What is your prob—”
I don’t get to finish that sentence because his hand slides to the back of my neck and his mouth crashes against mine.
What the hell?
Everything freezes…except my heart, which feels like it’s exploding.
It’s my first kiss..
The fact Knox is the one doing it is just…weird.
I should probably stop him. I hate his guts and he doesn’t deserve to kiss me.
But I can’t…because he’s kissing me like he just swallowed poison and I’m the antidote.
At first there’s no tongue. Just greedy lips.
But then he growls, low and deep, and everything changes.
I rest my hands on his shoulders, my knees going weak as the fingers on my neck tighten and he coaxes my mouth open to feed me his tongue.
He tastes like cinnamon and uninvited desire…wrapped in pure evil.

“Do you want my jacket?” Leo offers.
I shake my head, my nipples puckering as I fight to keep my breathing in check. “No. Thank you.”
The woman turns to him again. “What is it you do for a living?”
I’m thankful for her nosiness, because Knox curls his fingers and an orgasm tears through me so fast my head spins as I clutch the chair for dear life.
That’s when I feel a sharp pull on my panties. I’m in no position to protest, so I don’t as he wrenches my thong off before tucking the silky material into his pocket.

I spread her pussy with my fingers, stretching it as far as it will go before I lower my mouth and thrust my tongue deep inside her, extending it as far as I can.
Liquid heat fills my mouth as she squirms below me.
“You know why Leo didn’t know I made you come last night?” I flick my tongue ring against her swollen clit and she moans around my cock. “Because he’s never done it before.” I suckle the sensitive bud as she gags on my dick and the sounds of me eating her fill the jeep. “He doesn’t have a clue how you look when you come.”

His lids lower, and his hand grazes my bare knee. “Why are you down here, Stray?” Ever so slowly, his calloused palm moves up my inner thigh. “What is it you really want?”
An electrifying tremble breaks free and I suck in a sharp breath when he cups me between my legs.
I hate how his touch feels like both damnation and deliverance.
Right and wrong.
Bad meets evil.
His free hand trails down his sculpted stomach until it disappears under his sweatpants.
My heart speeds up, pumping hard against my ribs when he pushes them down his hips and his weighty cock bobs out, slapping against his abdomen.
“Is this what you want?”

Rising on my knees, I slowly lower myself onto him. He’s so big, so thick, it aches as I stretch around him. My eyes flutter closed when I sink down and he fills me to the hilt, my skin tingling and my nipples puckering as I relish the sensation.
Slowly, I start to ride him. I suck in a breath when his grip on my hip tightens, and he bites his lower lip and groans.
He looks so sexy…so hungry. Like he wants this even more than I do.

I gasp when the sharp tip of the knife pierces the top of my breast. “Knox—”
In one fluid movement, he wraps an arm around my lower back and shifts us into a sitting position.
Groaning, he inclines his head and licks the blood from the small cut he made. “Every part of you tastes good.” Squeezing my tits in his big hands, he sucks a nipple into his hot, wet mouth. “So fucking good.”
I tilt my head, arching my back and closing my eyes…getting lost in the feel of his warm lips on my skin and his cock pumping deep inside me.
I hold on to him for dear life as his thrusts pick up speed.
Oh, God.

“Stop.”
But he doesn’t. Instead, he grabs the back of my neck, turning my face up to meet his before he kisses me like I’m the air he needs to breathe in order to survive.
He explores every inch of my mouth, leaving no stone unturned.
I feel the armor I’ve built around me begin to crumble like cheap plywood with every hungry stroke of his tongue.

I hiss when he spreads my ass cheeks and holds them open—exposing all of me—before I feel the head of his cock nudge my entrance. “Tell me you don’t want this.”
“I don’t want to want this,” I whisper, the last of my willpower shattering like glass.
Because everything was so much easier when I hated him.
His gruff voice cuts through the air. “That makes two of us.”
With that, he pushes forward until he’s buried deep inside me.
“Fuck.”
His thrusts are fast and brutal—punishing—yet rewarding at the same time.
I scratch at the seat, tearing the upholstery as he gives it to me exactly the way I need it.

His nose skims the length of me and he inhales deeply, his long fingers tightening around my hips. “I don’t give a fuck.”
He proves his point by licking and kissing my pussy the same ravenous way he does my mouth.
The vulgar sounds of him eating me fill the kitchen, causing my skin to tingle and my head to spin as he continues drawing incredible sensations from my body.
I place my hand on his head, keeping him right where I need him as he stabs his tongue between my legs. He makes tiny circles, causing the metal from the barbell to graze my inner muscles.
I whimper as pleasure coils my insides, and he shoves two fingers inside me before attacking my clit with his mouth.
“Oh, fuck.”

I trail my palm down his chest. “Because you wanted it to be my mouth around your dick?”
His lids grow heavy as his eyes track my every movement. “What are you doing?”
Moving my hand lower, I undo his belt buckle, release his fly, and slip my hand inside, grazing his length through his boxers. “Giving you what you want.”
He raises an eyebrow in challenge. “What makes you sure I want this?”
Tugging on the waistband of his boxers, I reach inside. He’s warm and hard for me. “It feels like you do.”

He playfully tugs my t-shirt. Or rather, his t-shirt. “Take this off.”
I fold my arms around his neck, not quite ready to put an end to his kiss. “Why?”
“Because I want to watch you shower.” Reaching down, he grabs a handful of my ass and squeezes. “I want you to pretend you’re all alone while I watch you play with yourself.” His fiery mouth slides down my neck. “But you’re not allowed to come.” He sucks the sensitive skin above my throat. “Not until my cock is inside you.”

“Knox.” She utters my name like a warning and a plea.
Standing up, I work my cock inside her pussy while I finger her tight little asshole. “How does it feel?”
“Full.” Her teeth saw along her lip as she closes her eyes. “I can feel you everywhere.”
Good.
Pumping my finger, I thrust deeper.
The walls of her pretty cunt squeeze around me, milking my dick as I give it to her harder.
But it’s not enough.

He drops me on the bed and kneels in front of me, his rough hands immediately going to the zipper on my jeans. I raise my hips as he tugs them off. My shirt, bra, and panties follow shortly after.
I reach for the hem of his shirt and bring it over his head.
I need to feel his skin on mine.
I need to feel him inside me…owning me, claiming me, fucking me.
Making everything make sense again.

His thrusts deepen as he kisses my cheeks, my chin, my lips.
Our skin sticks with sweat as we rock into each other and he presses his forehead against mine.
Oh, God.
This is so different…so intimate.
He holds my gaze as we exchange the same breath. “Aspen.”
There’s so much stark emotion contained when he says my name—hate, love, want, desire, obsession—all of it tangled into one.
Just like us.

Purchase Links: Amazon

Review: Tied by Carian Cole

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: All Torn Up, #2
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Tyler Grace
Heroine: Holly Daniels
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 24, 2017
Started On: March 19, 2021
Finished On: March 24, 2021

Holly Grace is five years old when she is kidnapped. Forced into captivity by a man who is the worst kind of predator, Holly is rescued by none other than Tyler Grace the town recluse, who kills her captor and sets her free. Holly sees Tyler as none other than her prince charming, the knight in shining armor who rode to her rescue. Even though Holly does not get to see Tyler for two years after, she waits patiently for their union – because even if Tyler knows it not, he is hers and she is his.

Assimilating back to society takes its time and Holly feels out of place with everything, even when it comes to her family. Being in captivity, solely relying on her captor for eleven long years had left its mark. Holly is determined that one way or the other, she would find Tyler, and it is her quest to find her faithful companion when she was held in captivity which leads her to yours truly, who lives in a cottage in the forest, where Holly finally feels like she has come home.

Tyler has his scars from the past, having gone through a lot of rough patches when his life had changed irrevocably that one fateful night. I found myself thoroughly enchanted by the story as Holly and Tyler found their way to each other even amidst all of what stood in their way. They are two souls fated to be together, something which readers come to know as the story reaches its climax.

I loved Holly for how brave she was through everything, in spite of everything. She goes through the worst kind of tragic experience which had robbed her of the most formative years of her life, and yet she holds onto her hope that her prince would come to rescue her. Some people may find that to be an odd notion for a young girl who is kidnapped at the age of five, but I found it to be what gave her hope that someday she would be freed from the evil clutches of the man who held onto her.

Tyler was just as endearing in many aspects. He is someone who hides himself away because he too is on the fringes of society, on the outside looking in. His regrets are multiple when it comes to his past, and he believes that he would continue to pay penance for it for the rest of his life.

What I had problems with was how the story ended; the epilogue was bittersweet in the way it cheated readers out of a more wholesome look into their shared future together. But having gone back to re-read the epilogue once again makes me think perhaps it was the most fitting epilogue for two individuals who had suffered so much pain to finally find their home in each other.

While Holly’s parents were callous for the most part when she is finally found, realistically speaking, I do believe that her parents were right in getting her the help she required. But it would have been better had they rallied around her and provided better emotional support than they did. But I also understood how Holly’s abduction had destroyed the family as well – and human emotions being what they are can often be messy and chaotic when they somehow find a medium to survive in the aftermath of a tragedy.

There was also the point where the readers do not get to see Tyler embrace his darker side while with Holly. I understood the need to take things slow when it comes to Holly, but at the same time, Holly is someone who wants her prince wholeheartedly, the good and the bad that is within him. And I would have loved to see even one scene, maybe a couple of months into their relationship as they figure things out in terms of physical intimacy and gets comfortable to a point where Tyler could have shown Holly that side of him.

I also felt that the story was a bit rushed from a certain point onward, which is perhaps why the effect that I had hoped for when I picked this up to read did not materialize fully. But even with all that, I still enjoyed Ms. Cole’s voice which stands true to delivering emotional goodness in dealing with difficult subjects such as trauma of the kind that leaves its deep abiding scars on your soul forever.

Recommended for fans of the series, fans of Ms. Cole, and fans of romances of the beauty and the beast theme.

Final Verdict: Holly and Tyler are two halves of one soul, tied together by the invisible thread of fate which propels them towards each other in defiance of everything that may stand in their way!

Favorite Quotes

“Your heart is like a little hummingbird.” He breathes. “It was beating like this the day I found you…” He kisses the valley at the center of my chest, his tongue slowly sending a warm shiver up my spine. “I could feel it against my chest. And it made me want to hold on to you forever.”
I reach up to run my hands across his back, my mind growing fuzzy, drunk on his words and his touch.
“I’ve always wanted you to.” My whispered words invite his mouth to mine, and he kisses me softly at first, then unapologetically rough and deep, pulling me further into a woozy haze.

His mouth comes down on mine again as his hand gently moves over my breast, pushing the fabric aside. His rough palm grazes over my nipple, and a small sound of surprise escapes me at the sensation jolting through my body from that tiny touch.
“I fuckin’ love that sound…” he growls, and he roughly yanks the fabric up to expose my breasts, his mouth and tongue dragging over skin that’s never been touched. Surprise and fear are chased away as he sucks a nipple into his mouth, his tongue flicking over the hard tip, and my entire body responds, craving more of this, more of him, more of everything that feels so incredibly good.

“Can I ask you something?” she asks.
“Of course.”
“If I asked you to, would you stop doing the fighting?”
That’s the last thing I expected her to ask me. “Maybe. Why?”
“Because I love your face. And I don’t want it getting hurt anymore.”
You skeeve me out.
Her words rock me, right into my soul. Right now, she doesn’t know how much her words mean to me, but I know she’s the only person I’ll ever meet that has the true capacity to understand. We’re kinda made of the same ripped-up cloth.

“Holly…” My voices catches in my throat.
“I want to.” Her gray eyes lock onto mine as she pulls my shorts down, and I’m powerless under her sweet, sultry gaze and the sudden warmth of her mouth descending on my rock-hard cock.
All the way down.
My eyes literally roll back in my head as she expertly deep throats me, her lips touching my balls as she takes the full length of my shaft.
Oh, fuck. Nothing has ever felt so fucking amazing.

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

Review: Torn by Carian Cole

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: All Torn Up, #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Toren Grace
Heroine: Kenzi Allyster Valentine
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: November 12, 2018
Started On: March 17, 2021
Finished On: March 19, 2021

My love, Walk in the rain with me. Kiss me in the misty fog. Let me hold you all night under the hush of the wind. I’m waiting for you. Throwing pennies…making wishes. I’m wishing only for you. Always for you. Come back to me. I’ll fight for you. I’ll fight for us. Wish for me, too…and I’ll make it come true.” ~ Toren Grace

Having experienced the beauty of the written word from Carian Cole, I decided to take the plunge and read some of the books from her backlist which appealed to me. Of course it certainly helped that a pivotal character from this series ended up being featured in Don’t Kiss the Bride, which helped propel me in this direction.

Featuring the May-December trope once again, Ms. Cole pushes things a bit further in Torn by putting in an additional layer which makes the romance between the main protagonists further taboo – the hero being the best friend of the heroine’s father around whom the heroine grows up. With a 15 year age gap between 37 year old Toren Grace (Tor) and 17 year old Kenzi Allyster Valentine when the story begins, Toren is just 16 years old when Kenzi is born.

From the moment Kenzi enters the lives of Tor and his best friends (parents of Kenzi), a monumental bond is formed between Kenzi and Tor. Taking the reader back and forth through the formative years of Kenzi’s life to present day when the romance between Tor and Kenzi buds to life, Ms. Cole certainly does a swell job in terms of building Tor’s character as he materialized in the story.

Tor is rough around the edges, ruggedly handsome, and tired of all the meaningless relationships that has ruled his life up till that point. He had played second fiddle to the woman who holds his affections for far too long. Wanting to settle down and live a simple life is what Tor dreams of, however elusive that dream maybe for him. The one constant in his life throughout has been Kenzi, and at the cusp of womanhood, Kenzi scares him with the at times stray thoughts of illicit nature that enters his subconscious where she is concerned.

Tor is a major part of Kenzi’s life as she grows up. Having parents who became famous musicians a year after she was born had meant that Kenzi too had spent her toddler years on the road on tour with them. When tragedy strikes and Tor is called back home, Kenzi too is left with Tor for the most part when her parents go about their lives, wanting to give Kenzi a more wholesome and grounded experience while growing up. And when tragedy strikes the lives of Kenzi’s parents, it is Tor who picks up the pieces and becomes the grounding force in her life, while her father puts his sole focus on dealing with the aftermath.

When things start changing between Tor and Kenzi, it is mostly to do with Kenzi pushing Tor beyond his limits. Tor resists at first, and puts up walls to keep her at bay. After all, no man in his right mind would say yes to what Kenzi wants, no matter how much Tor too may want the same thing. The conversations between Tor and Kenzi brings to light just how beautiful their bond is. Tor is Kenzi’s confidante, the person she feels safest with.

Resistance by Tor however is futile as Kenzi chips away at the walls and embraces the man who has loved her in every single way throughout her life, showing him that the kind of life that Tor has always wanted for himself could be a reality with her. Tor is love in its purest of forms, there are no two ways about it. He is a contrasting mix of gentle and rough which is so appealing. His love for Kenzi shines through in every single sentence of this book that deals with the couple and I have no words to describe just how perfect it all was.

Kenzi obviously being young does not care overly much about what people may think. But Tor of course does. Kenzi is the one who pushes Tor to give in, promising that they would weather whatever storm that may come, together. This is where my problems with this story began; at first I loved Kenzi for promising Tor that she would be by his side, no matter what. In the end, her words rang hollow as she leaves for an extended period of time given the situation that unfolds as Kenzi’s father finally finds out about Tor and her relationship.

That is where my confusion as to how to rate this book too arose. On the one hand, I loved everything to do with Tor, the relationship between Kenzi and him from years back which had developed into love of the kind that is fulfilling in every single aspect. While I understood why Kenzi takes the advice given by her closest friend to put distance between herself, Tor and her father for things to cool down, the extent of the time she stays away made me feel sad for Tor on many levels.

While I appreciated the fact that she does find firmer footing of her own path in life during the time spent apart, I still felt that Tor was cheated out on some level; how would we readers have reacted had Tor promised the same and ran with his tail between his legs quoting the same reason, and then tries to see whether he could move on or rather tests the waters to see whether what he had with Kenzi was in fact real? I think we would not have been very happy with Tor either, if that were to be the case.

I also felt that at times Kenzi was just a hidden shadow in the story for the most part. While her love for Tor was a tangible thing, I felt that her parents were just too focused on each other and furthering their career as musicians to care overly much for Kenzi; they left the parenting to Tor for the most part. If Kenzi had been more fleshed out in other ways perhaps, I guess her character would have been more wholesome.

Recommended for fans of Ms. Cole and fans of taboo romances featuring a significant age gap between the main protagonists. Ms. Cole definitely does the subject matter justice when she delivers her stories.

Final Verdict: Tor is the definition of love in its purest form, a beautiful manifestation of what most women want their significant other to be. Sign me up for the next Tor please!

Favorite Quotes

“You’re bleeding.” My voice cracks as I choke back new tears and dab at his hand with the sleeve of my sweatshirt.
His hand closes over mine, on top of the big furry dog’s back, and his gaze drifts from our joined hands, up to my face. For the first time I don’t recognize the deep, dark eyes staring back into mine, but I fall right into them willingly as our lips meet. My eyes flutter closed as I tumble further into him, but he quickly jerks away, and we simultaneously suck in a startled breath, staring at each other with wide-eyed shock.
Dropping my hand, he grabs the back of my neck, yanking my mouth back to his hungrily, and I clutch his arm to keep from falling backward onto my ass. His lips are warm and demanding, his tongue pushing past my teeth, coaxing my mouth open. My heartbeats turn into soaring butterflies. Nothing has ever felt like this.

Holding her gaze, I yank off my worn T-shirt and toss it to the floor, watching how her eyes take in my bare chest and then drift hungrily to my abs. I want her to run. I want her to stay.
“Well, here I am. Show me.”
I know every single one of Kenzi’s expressions for every feeling she has ever felt. But I’ve never seen this look of sheer smoldering desire on her face before. Her eyes stay on mine as she steps towards me with zero hesitation, zero doubt. She completely owns her determination to do exactly what I asked – show me.
The space between us disappears quickly, and she backs me up against the adjacent wall, her hands coming up to hold my face as she goes up on her toes to kiss my lips.
“You,” she says softly. “You are what I’ve always wanted. And yes – way before I even knew what that meant. But I know what it means now.”
She lowers her head and kisses my bare chest, right above the tattoo of her words, her lips soft, wet, and warm.
“I want all of you,” she continues as her lips move across my flesh. “Your love, your body. Your past, your present, your future. Everything.”

“Make me stop, Kenz. Please…” I beg, knowing I’ll never let her go if she doesn’t stop this. She’s got me too far gone to turn back and her new level of sensual confidence is throwing up way too many green lights.
“No,” she says simply, wrapping her arms around me, kissing me just as hungrily as I’m kissing her.
“Push me away.”
“Never,” she whispers, pulling me even closer.
“What’s gotten into you today?” I demand, moving my lips down to suck her neck.
“I don’t know…” she breathes, tilting her head back, letting me suck the delicate flesh of her throat. “Being so close to you all day…touching you…I don’t want to stop.”

Reaching up, she pulls the hair tie out of the back of my hair and smiles when my hair falls down into her face.
“You like that?” I ask softly, stroking her cheek with the back of my hand.
“I’ve dreamed about you on top of me like this, with your hair in my face.”
I suck in a quick breath. “You never told me you dreamt about me.”
Her hands skim up my chest, over my shoulders, and clasp behind my neck as she stares up at me. “I was afraid it would make you pull further away from me.”
“I don’t think I can pull away anymore. It’s a battle I just can’t win.”

Her body is engulfed by mine as I climb back on top of her, and I can feel her trembling beneath me now, either from fear or excitement or probably a mashup of both. My mouth is hard and demanding on hers as I move my body over her, the feeling of flesh on flesh making my cock like a rock between us, pressing against her, seeking her heat. Reaching down between us, I slide my hand between her thighs to gently stroke her pink lips and she’s so fucking wet already that it obliterates any ideas of patience and gentleness I may have had. I want in, and I want it now.

“Are you still on the pill?” I ask against her lips, my fingers expertly strumming over her clit.
She nods and moves her hands down to my ass, trying to pull me between her legs. “Yes…” she says breathlessly. “For you.”
“Good,” I growl, moving between her thighs. She doesn’t waver at all when I grab my cock and rub the head up and down between her wet lips and over her clit, coaxing her into that crazy place of wanting nothing but sweet release. Of wanting nothing but me.

Time stands still as we rock against each other, our bodies slippery with sweat, her lips pressed against my chest, kissing that spot over my heart that’s forever marked with her words.
And now, her kiss. Her touch. Her love.
After today, I can never deny the truth again. She completely owns me.

Spreading my folds with his fingers, he gently pushes me down until I’m flush against him with his cock wedged between my lips.
“Keep your legs spread and slide yourself back and forth over me,” he coaxes, grabbing my hips and moving me so my sex glides from the base of him all the way up to the head, and then back again. And he’s right, even though he’s not inside me, rubbing along his hard length feels incredible.
Leaning back against the pillows, his gaze drifts up my body, not stopping until he reaches my eyes.
“That feels so good…” he groans softly, cupping my breasts in his hands again. “Don’t stop, just let yourself go and get off on me. I want to watch you come.”

Grabbing the back of my neck, he gently pulls my head down and kisses my lips. “You’re perfect, Kenzi. Every single inch of you, inside and out. You’re turning me on like fuckin’ crazy.” He kisses me again, always knowing exactly what I need to hear and feel, and I continue to ride along his shaft, arching my back to press my clit against him.
“There ya go,” he whispers, his fingers grazing over my nipple, sending more sparks throughout my body and down into my core. “Feel how hard I am for you? For months I’ve been hiding that from you but now I want you to feel every inch of what you do to me.”

He growls against my lips when I let the tip of his cock press against my wet entrance and I get my first taste of real sensual power. He wants me. Maybe even needs me.
Angling my hips just the right way, I lower myself down onto him and he inhales sharply, pulling me down hard on him, his cock plunging deep. A small cry sounds in my throat but again, the sensation of pain and want is intoxicating for me, intensifying when he whispers my name and shudders, losing himself in me completely just as I am with him.

I wait at the front door for him with a pounding heart, holding myself back from running to him just in case a neighbor might see me. His long jean-clad legs carry him up the walkway quickly and he shuts the door behind him, his eyes locking onto mine with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on him as he immediately reaches for me, cupping his hand on the side of my throat and bending down to cover my mouth with his, slow and deep. Possessive. I wind my arms around his neck and hang on to him as my legs turn to jelly, threatening to let me melt into a puddle at his feet.
This is the best hello of my life.

“Do you want me?” His teeth graze the back of my neck as his finger slowly pushes into me, a small moan escapes my lips.
“Always.”
“Tell me.” His lips curve against my neck in response and he pushes his palm up against my sex, his middle finger pressing perfectly against my sweet spot. “I want to hear your sweet voice say something dirty.”
Without hesitating, I say exactly what I’m thinking. “I want to feel every inch of your cock rammed in me right now.”

“Tor…” Orgasmic delirium has me liquifying under his touch, as if my bones are melting. Dropping the showerhead, he spins me around and grabs my ass, lifting me up and pushing me back against the tile, his stiff cock finding home again as I wrap my legs around his waist. He kisses me with wild hunger, pumping into me while the dangling showerhead spins around, spraying water everywhere. He moans against my mouth and stills, buried deep inside me, his kisses halting to slow, deep, and soft, and I feel him surge and pulse as he comes. I move my pelvis in slow circles against him, milking and caressing him with my tightening walls. Exhaling deeply, he stares into my eyes and loosens his grip on me.
“Damn…I love you,” he says, his voice filled with raw emotion.
“I love you back,” I say breathlessly, raining kisses over his face and smoothing his wet hair back.

Rolling over onto my back, I pull her on top of me and she’s already a step ahead of me, knowing exactly what I want and need. Her body moves tantalizingly slow on top of me, like she’s savoring every inch, every breath, every touch. She takes my cock into her with a long, smooth descent, then lifts herself up even slower ’til she reaches my tip before lowering down onto me again, repeating this over and over. There’s no rush, no crazy bouncing up and down, no slamming of bodies. Her body dances effortlessly with mine, like we were made to be one since the beginning of time. There’s no rush to reach an end because there is no end. Her eyes fall closed, her pouty lips parting with the ecstasy of my body filling hers as she makes love to me like we have forever.
And she made me believe that we did have forever.

He sucks in a breath and watches with dark lust-filled eyes as I slowly slide myself down the wall until I’m kneeling in front of him, holding his gaze as I slowly unzip his jeans and pull them down along with his boxers. His hard cock thrusts out, and I eagerly wrap my lips around the head and slide my mouth down his shaft, filling my mouth and throat with him. He leans one arm on the wall above me and his other hand cups the back of my neck, his thumb slowly rubbing over my cheek as I move my lips up and down the hot length of him.
“I love when you suck me.” The deep, breathiness of his voice sends tingles up and down my spine as he thrusts his salty crown against the back of my throat.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BookDepo

Review: Don’t Kiss the Bride by Carian Cole

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Jude Lucketti
Heroine: Skylar
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: January 31, 2021
Started On: March 15, 2021
Finished On: March 17, 2021

Carian Cole is a new to me author that I found through my Kindle Unlimited recommendations. Being the huge fan of May-December romance tropes that I am, Don’t Kiss the Bride seemed to be right up my alley, with a marriage of convenience theme in the mix.

18 year old Skylar who is going through her last year of high school, is someone who has it tougher than most in life. Skylar makes ends meet by working after school and suffers from an eating disorder brought on by neglect. Her father having left Skylar and her mother to their own devices, she is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to even taking care of her own health, both physical and mental.

As luck would have it, Skylar’s run in with 34 year old Jude “Lucky” Lucketti brings her the fortune of a lifetime. Jude, a sexy, broody construction worker, from the first time he meets Skylar, there is something about her that tugs at his heartstrings and makes him want to protect her. When Jude becomes privy to the extent of Skylar’s plight at home, he offers the seemingly perfect solution: to enter into a marriage on paper only, so that Skylar would be under his care which would get her the help that she needs. They would just be roommates or rather housemates, nothing more, nothing less.

Jude himself comes from a broken family, his father having left their home when he was seventeen. Jude blames himself for the black hole into which he had sunk at that point, running around with the wrong sort of crowd and losing his way. He blames himself for how his sister went missing and it is perhaps one of the reasons why he is so driven to help Skylar by moving her into a better environment where she could recover in peace.

What Jude does not factor into the equation is how he is drawn to Skylar on a level that would be frowned upon by many and shunned by society at large. The fact that Skylar seems to be drawn to him just as much only makes him more determined to stay firm and true to his original plans when they initially said their I do’s. But fate has a way of bringing two halves of one soul together and there is no fighting the tide when the need is as ferocious as the waves that break ashore during the violence of a summer’s storm.

I loved this story for so many reasons. Carian Cole’s writing is beautiful and draws the reader in like an old friend whom you have come to call on after years. Within the pages you find the comfort of the words spoken by that friend, which both ravages and soothes your inner being.

I loved Jude in all his glory. He is charming, sexy, broody, and kindness itself when it comes right down to it. Haunted by his sister’s memories, Jude is someone who is torn between being the platonic husband on paper only to being Skylar’s husband in its truest form. The struggle is only too real when the desire between them pushes all his buttons. Once they give in, there is no stopping where it takes them in their relationship, as fragile as the bond maybe when they start out. When Jude’s past comes calling, it is then and only then the reader is exposed to the darker elements of Jude’s soul which I absolutely loved!

I loved Skylar; who wouldn’t? She is a survivor amidst everything else. She is strong, beautiful on the inside and out, and an old soul at that. She finds affinity with Jude on many levels, desires to be his above everything else, and is willing to understand that the lifeline he offers is the only way she can get herself onto the road of recovery. When Skylar embraced the darkness within Jude, that was when I knew that they would be able to weather any storm that may come their way.

I admired the fact that Ms. Cole did not make light of the recovery of the mental health aspects explored in the story. Skylar’s mother was beyond help – her husband had tried and so had Skylar. There is a point at which those around you can no longer offer you the help you need; when you refuse to acknowledge the need for that help. That is a message that we all need to understand as the world increasingly battles with rising numbers of mental health patients.

Getting over mental health issues is a tough and lonesome journey for the one that suffers from it – no matter how much those who love you may surround you, there would always be aspects of it that you would have to suffer through on your own. Which is why I found Ms. Cole’s take on Skylar’s journey to recovery something I could relate to – there was no magic pill nor therapy session which was the hallelujah moment – but rather it was a process as it should rightfully be. There were triggers which made it difficult for Skylar to push past her fears and those were the moments Jude’s understanding mattered the most, and I loved Jude for being sensitive a soul enough to know when those moments presented themselves.

Society would judge the relationship between Skylar and Jude to be an uneven one; after all, Jude is the one who has the financial independence that allows him to look after Skylar. He is also the mature adult in society’s modern definition, and it was with sensitivity that Ms. Cole handled those aspects of the novel as the story progressed. I found the relationship between Skylar and Jude evening out as Skylar came to her own self when she started to make progress in her recovery. The fact that she is as fiercely protective of him as he is of her made my heart full in ways I cannot express.

During one of Skylar’s inner monologues regarding Jude, she thinks along the following lines, “I’m captivated by the hard and soft sides of him—rough in just the right moments, but so incredibly gentle in the perfect moments, too. Jude may not talk much, but his touch speaks a thousand words.” I was right there with Skylar and found myself nodding along with her sentiments of who Jude is. I don’t think I can sum up his character better even if I tried.

Highly recommended for fans of Carian Cole, those who love age gap romances, marriages of convenience, and heroes whose contrasting sides makes you melt on the inside.

Final Verdict: Don’t Kiss the Bride carries such a surprising mix of sweet tenderness with darkness of the kind that speaks to your heart!

Favorite Quotes

I put my hands on his chest and slide them up to his shoulders. As he bends toward me, I close my eyes and lift one of my feet up into that flirty flamingo pose we see in movies.
Our lips touch softly, until he tilts his mouth over mine, capturing my lips with his. A barely audible gasp escapes me and he inhales it with a slow, sensual suck of breath. His hand squeezes my cheek, and then he pulls away, slowly dragging his thumb across my jawline before he turns to Carol and walks off to speak to her.

Neither one of us makes an effort to move. We stay there, quietly breathing together. Our entwined fingers slowly dance against each other. Hers long, soft and thin. Mine thick and calloused.
Resistance crumbles, and I turn toward her face, just inches from mine.
I don’t know who kissed who. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was her.
Doesn’t matter, because my mouth is on hers when it shouldn’t be. But fuck, her lips are soft and sweet, and I can’t resist one more taste of her.

“Is that what you want?” His lips touch my nose, then wait, hovering just a breath away.
I nod as we breathe against each other. “Yes.”
My answer is a subtle invitation. If he chooses to accept it, then any touching or kissing from this point forward won’t be an oops or an accident.
It’ll be a conscious choice. A decision we made together right here on my bed.
Fisting my hair, he gently pulls my head back, angling my neck up toward him. My eyes fall closed as he presses his lips to my throat and holds them there, warm and soft, before lightly sucking. My breath catches when he slowly drags his mouth up to briefly touch mine—whisper soft and gentle—before lifting up and bringing his lips back down to the base of my throat. Open-mouthed, teeth grazing.

When I reach for his pants, he nudges my hand away.
“No,” he whispers with his mouth against my ear and his fingers buried inside me. “Tonight, I just want to fuckin’ devour you.”
In a blink, he disappears under the blanket and quickly lowers my sweatpants. His mouth joins his hand between my thighs. His tongue laps at my throbbing clit, his lips cover me, so warm and wet.
I turn into a quivering, wet, orgasmic, lovesick mess.
Closing my eyes, I let go of everything, cling to him, and let myself get lost in us.

“Kiss me,” she whispers, pulling on the chain of my necklace.
I can’t resist anymore.
Grabbing her waist with my free hand, I pull her hard against my body and crush my lips down on hers. Her gasp of surprise fuels the fire she’s already stoked with her inviting touches and perfect words. I move my hand over the curve of her ass and down to the back of her bare thigh, lifting her until she hops up and wraps her legs around my waist.
Kissing wildly, I kick the bedroom door shut with my foot, then push her back up against it. Breathless, she snakes her arms around my neck.

Effortlessly, he lifts me up and lays me down on top of his puffy charcoal comforter. I lie back and watch him as he removes my shoes, then stands between my legs as he unzips my shorts and tugs them down, along with my panties.
“I think I just want to stand here and look at you all night,” he says, inching his hand languidly up my thigh like he’s got all the time in the world. His eyes sweep over me and he gives his head a little shake. “You’re so fucking beautiful.”
I peek at him through my lashes. “I could say the same about you.”

“Touch me,” he says, his voice hoarse with desire.
I stroke him slowly, gripping him in my palm and caressing the hot, damp tip. His head bows down, his hair falls over his face, his eyes close. My heart swells with adoration and lust for him. Leaning forward, I put my lips against his flat stomach. His ab muscles flutter deliciously as I rain a slow trail of kisses from hip to hip. I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning, getting an amazing gift in the form of sexy tats and an incredible body all wrapped up with a big red bow of sweetness on top. He groans and grabs my shoulders, pulling me up to meet his lips, kissing me with such hunger I can’t breathe
.

“I want you,” I whisper with my lips against his ear.
“You’ve got me,” he whispers back.
The tear of the foil packet permeates the silence of the dim room, and a few seconds later his hands are on my outer thighs, his fingers digging roughly into my flesh. He pulls me closer and thrusts into me balls deep, stretching me to take his full length. I let out a gasp that’s half-pain and half-pleasure. I don’t even care that it hurts a little, because watching him lose himself inside me is like watching art come to life. The way his tattoos, shiny with sweat, flex with his muscles. The way his long hair flies around his head with every thrust. The rivulets of sweat dripping down the center of his chest. The bite of his teeth into his lower lip as he drives into me.
Pure. Hotness.

“Don’t mess with me, Skylar. You’re not gonna like it if I put my hands on you like this.”
I reach up and touch his cheek, running my finger over the dark stubble. He stares at me through half-closed, dark eyes.
“Try me,” I whisper.
Without wavering, I hold his gaze. Whatever he needs right now—I’ll do it. I’ll be it. He’s been my rock since the day we met—never wanting or expecting a thing in return. He’s not drowning his feelings in the bottom of a bottle on my watch.
Suddenly, his hand flies up and grabs the back of my neck, pulling me hard to meet his lips. He kisses me ferociously, his tongue carrying the bite of whiskey. He palms my breast, twisting, pinching, and tugging my nipple between his fingers until I cry out.

“I don’t want you looking at me.” The anguish and self-hatred in his voice and in his eyes rip my heart in two.
Turning on my side, I reach for him, wanting to kiss all the hurt away. “Lucky—”
“Do it or get the fuck out.”
With a quiet nod, I flip back over onto my stomach, and he grabs my hips, pulling me up onto all fours and yanking me back to meet him at the edge of the bed. His hands grip my waist and he drives into me hard, fast, and unforgiving. Moaning his name, I clutch the comforter in my hands, head down, as he slams into me, his balls slapping against my wet pussy with each pounding descent. I’ve never had sex from behind, and it’s painfully primal but so intensely erotic. I don’t know if I should be ashamed or proud of myself for enjoying the raw, animalistic sensuality of it.
And him.

When I arch my back, pushing to meet his thrusts, my walls clench around him again and again as wave after wave of orgasm rolls through me. As I’m reeling from the last of the lingering shudders, I cry out when he suddenly pulls his cock out and pushes me flat down, covering my entire body with his. The length of his stiff shaft wedges between my ass cheeks and spurts hot cum onto my lower back. He bows his head down into my neck and kisses my shoulder blade, biting my flesh and panting heavily, whispering words like wet and tight and so fuckin’ perfect. A shiver of ecstasy cascades down my spine. He stays there for a long time, with his sweaty chest pressed against my back, and I revel in being entirely enveloped by him, trapped in his powerful embrace.

My head falls back against his shoulder and I turn to kiss his neck, nipping at him with my teeth. Water splashes as his hand dives between my thighs like a shark. Two thick fingers zero in on my G-spot, curving upward with precision and rubbing rhythmically. Whimpering, I grip the sides of the tub to steady myself as I rock back and forth, thrusting up into his hand, then back against the ridge of his cock.
He grasps the side of my face and turns me to him. Our lips clash, breathless and needy. He crosses his legs over mine, pinning me down. My body is buzzing, my hips rolling up and down, back and forth. The tip of his thick cock pushes between my ass cheeks, nudging my pulsing entry.

He untangles his legs from mine, grabs me beneath my knees, and bends each of my legs up over the edge of the tub, spreading me wide over him. I grasp the slippery sides of the porcelain as he lifts me by my hips, positions me over his cock, then lowers me down onto him.
“Holy shit,” I gasp as he spears my pussy hard and deep.
Cupping my ass with one hand, he guides me up and down his shaft while his other hand reaches between my thighs, circling and lightly slapping my clit.
I feel his lips on my wet back, kissing a trail up my spine to the curve of my neck. His breath is ragged, matching mine, as we move faster and harder, splashing hot water around us in waves as my body plunges deliciously down onto his.

Grabbing her throat, I pull her up to me and kiss her deep, delving my tongue into her mouth until I own her every breath. She pants against my mouth with her small hands splayed across my hips.
I pull out almost completely, and she gasps in frustration. Resting the tip of my cock against her entry, I cup her face in my hands and kiss her lips softly, then pull away, hovering just millimeters from her mouth. Slowly, I push into her just a fraction. Her wet lips envelope me, deliciously tight and hot.
“Give it to me,” she begs.
“Look at me,” I whisper. She opens her eyes and stares into mine, and I watch her eyelids flutter half-closed when I feed my cock into her inch by inch. She looks so fucking beautiful and sensual, it takes all my self-control not to cum instantly.

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepo

ARC Review: Beneath the Devil’s Bridge by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake
Hero: NA
Heroine: NA
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: June 01, 2021
Started On: March 13, 2021
Finished On: March 15, 2021

Beneath the Devil’s Bridge by Loreth Anne White is another spellbinding novel from the master storyteller who has the uncanny ability to push just the right set of buttons to keep the pages turning. I continue to be in awe of everything that Ms. White publishes, and it is a foregone conclusion at this point that she will continue to take readers where their comfort zones are pushed in the years to come.

The year is 1997, when 14 year old Leena Rai is found brutally beaten to death with indications of rough intercourse having happened prior to the murder. Investigators in the small town of British Columbia where the story takes place, are hard pressed to solve the case quickly. The investigation speedily concludes with the confession from Clayton Jay Pelley, the school’s guidance counselor.

When Clayton breaks his silence 25 years after he is incarcerated in a podcast series focusing on true crime, retired detective Rachel Walczak who was lead on the case is haunted and taunted by the fact that in their haste to bring a conclusion to the investigation, they may have overlooked many aspects of the case that did not particularly make sense even at the time. But in a small and tight knit community such as theirs, it is a challenge to overlook the ties that bind them, and see each individual as they truly are – where monsters may breed without one acknowledging the fact.

From beginning to end, this story is profound in the way it is told, taking readers between the year of the murder and how it had impacted the lives of all that were affected, to present time when the deep lingering effects of what had taken place still continue to fester in the wounds unhealed.

In the murder victim, we find the typical outcast in a high school setting where teenagers can be brutal in the way they form groups and bully those that do not fit in. A daughter of Indian immigrants, Leena had never had it easy, with a strict father and a mother who had followed wherever her husband led her. Patriarchal households in South Asian settings can be extremely difficult for daughters, especially when you move to a country that upholds more modern values and norms clashing with the traditional ones. Leena is the daughter that is torn between wanting freedom and popularity, between wanting to feel needed and acceptance, and ultimately the one who finds consolation and comfort in a place that she rightfully should not have.

In the alleged perpetrator, Ms. White has forged to life one of the most thought provoking characters she has written of late. A man who society would find it easy to blame and cast aside, whose own demons haunt and taunt him to a point where he was willing to give up everything to control his baser urges. It is difficult to remain detached from his character as Ms. White explores the psychology involved and takes readers on a journey where most may not be willing to be pushed. But I for one reveled in it and admire Ms. White for writing his character as it was told; raw and unadulterated in a way that refuses to give you any reprieve from who he is.

The most shocking elements of the story of course, lies in the “mundane” details of the lives of those in the community as the tale undfolds, traversing through the course of individual and collective lives that had been changed by the events that had unfolded that fateful night two and a half decades back. Rachel, in her bid to find the truth at long last, finds that often, a high price must be paid in the pursuit of it, secrets that many would go to extreme lengths to keep buried for eternity.

I also found myself astounded by and questioned how someone with such a violent streak within them managed to hide in plain sight for so long – after all, the character’s actions at certain points in life must have pointed to that villainous and extremely unhinged aspects within. I guess we would never know. But then again, that is what is so gripping about Ms. White’s work – you can never accuse her of taking on tried tropes and leaving you with the feeling that you have been cheated out on.

I continue to be amazed by how well Ms. White writes, how unique each of her books are, how powerful her characters and villains alike are, how difficult it to cast one character in the role of purely being a hero and the other a villain, and how unforgettable her stories are. Ms. White truly humbles me by pointing out time and yet again that life does not happen in black and white, but in the shades of grey within.

I marvel at the fact that she dares broach sensitive topics and does them justice, her innate ability to dig deep into the psyche of her characters from multiple perspectives. It is truly remarkable the diversity behind her books and I at times do not think that I am even worthy of reviewing such splendor that lies within the pages.

Definitely recommended for readers of all variety of fiction – if you like thrillers with in-depth characterization, Ms. White is a must read!

Final Verdict: Beneath the Devil’s Bridge is magnificent in the way it unfolds, crisp writing & page-turning suspense lending clarity to the shades of grey that rules our lives.

Favorite Quotes

We spend most of our lives afraid of our own Shadow. He told me that. He said a Shadow lives deep inside every one of us. So deep we don’t even know it’s there. Sometimes, with a quick sideways glance, we catch a glimpse of it. But it frightens us, and we quickly look away. This is what fuels the Shadow—our inability to look. Our inability to examine this thing that is in fact our raw selves. This is what gives the Shadow its power. It makes us lie. About what we want, about who we are. It fires our passions, our darkest desires. – Leena Rai

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BookDepo

Review: A Figure of Love by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-Book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Academy of Love, #2
Publisher: Crooked Sixpence Press
Hero: Gareth Lockheart
Heroine: Serena Lombard
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: March 03, 2020
Started On: February 20, 2021
Finished On: March 13, 2021

The Academy of Love series by Minerva Spencer tells the stories of seven Regency Era teachers who while in pursuit of ork, find themselves immersed in lessons in love of the kind to last a lifetime. A Figure of Love is the second installment in the series, bringing to readers the tale of widower Serena Lombard and 35 year old Gareth Lockheart, a self-made aristocrat in England.

Gareth is a man of few words and controlled emotions. Having grown up at an orphanage and having been at the receiving end of the worst that humanity has to offer, Gareth has the emotional scars to prove it. One of the richest men in England, Gareth knows that taking his businesses to the next level requires that something elusive which would need him to make his entrance into the genteel world of society’s accepted breed of aristocrats.

Designing his country house to standards befitting that of the world he plans to inhabits is how Serena comes into his life. A French emigrant who is the widow of the youngest son of a Duke and Duchess, Serena is someone who defies the conventions and has been working towards making a name for herself as a respected sculptor and landscape gardener.

Neither of them are what they expect each other to be, and for Serena, Gareth is the man who unlocks her passions and makes her want a significant other after years of living through excruciating loneliness. In her heart, Serena is the woman who thaws the heart of the enigmatic man that is Gareth, but in reality, she knows that the secrets that she hides would never let it be so.

I loved this story on so many levels, Gareth being the first and foremost reason. He is the kind of hero that speaks to you in every single way that matters without him having to utter a single word. Ms. Spencer has done a remarkable job in bringing him to life, his sheer presence enough to make you feel as if he is your whole world. His fascination with numbers, his faithful nature even if it may seem unwarranted at that point, all that and more tells you the kind of man he is deep inside.

His passions lie dormant, not because he does not feel them, but because he reserves them for those whom he feels it to be worthy of. In Serena, he finds the woman who shakes him up in a way no other woman has, and he knows that it is futile to deny his burgeoning feelings of desire and need for her, which is when Ms. Spencer with her remarkable flair ushers in the kind of love scenes that leaves the reader in a state of stunned anticipation for more.

Serena was a swell heroine, just the right touch of everything that is needed for Gareth. With a young son in tow, it is the secrets that she carries which puts her and those she cares about in danger. And it is her need to protect Gareth from that ugly reality which lands her in an untenable situation which drives the story to its climax and beyond.

In my opinion, Gareth was the star of this story – there is something about a strong and silent hero that just speaks to me on a level that is indescribable. I loved Serena too, she loves Gareth and all that he is just as fiercely as he does her, and is protective of him in a way that no one has ever been all through his life. I also loved the character of her son – his character meshes well with that of Gareth, which made for enjoyable reading.

Recommended for fans of Ms. Spencer, fans of the series, and fans of Regency Era romances! Romance, suspense, and toe-curling sex – this one has got it all!

Final Verdict: Featuring exquisitely crafted scenes of scrumptious passion that is trademark Ms. Spencer, A Figure in Love is a notable addition to this beautifully crafted series!

Favorite Quotes

He walked her slowly toward the wall, rubbing the stiff length of his erection against her as he pushed, until her shoulders hit the wall, but he kept coming.
Stroke.
Stroke.
Stroke.
His stiff length drew an answering pulse from her sex and she imagined his strong, insistent body entering hers, plunging into her with all the strength she knew he possessed. She could feel the struggle of will and desire that raged inside him. The slightest sign from her and he would take her right here, against the wall.

Serena had never been so cold in her life, but when his eyes swept over her, she burst into flames. And when he lowered his mouth to hers, she forgot all about the cold and slid her arms around his taut waist, this time resting both palms on his bottom. He made a muffled sound of approval and pushed closer, the soft leather of his breeches cool and smooth against her belly.
He kissed as if he wanted to devour her, his lips demanding, his tongue invading, his teeth grazing and nipping as long, powerful fingers massaged their way down her neck, until they rested on her shoulders.

Serena cried out when he flicked a cold, hard nipple with the hot tip of his tongue, and then was gone. She pushed herself against him. More.
He took her in his mouth and suckled her until warmth radiated out from her breast.
“So beautiful,” he whispered into the hollow between her breasts, and then moved to her other nipple and tormented her until she had to bite her lip to keep from screaming.

“Unbutton me.”
A rush of pleasure shot through her at the sound of his command, spoken in such hushed passion. She pushed a hand between their bodies, tracing the hard length of him thrusting against the soft leather.
He groaned and tightened his hold, his fingers sinking into her soft flesh. She stroked him again and again and again, until his powerful body vibrated with need, and then, with a few deft flicks, she opened the flap of his breeches and released him.

They gasped as he sheathed himself fully, the echoes of her climax contracting around his thick shaft. His body jerked and arched, the muscles of his stomach, chest, and shoulders so defined they looked as if they’d been carved from the finest alabaster.
Serena leaned forward until her breasts grazed his chest, her hands fisting the blanket on each side of his shoulders as she tilted to take him even deeper. Barely an inch separated their faces and this close to him she saw the fine, icy gray shards that made up his irises. She tightened her inner muscles and his eyes widened, his hands like butterflies on her waist.

“Are you angry with me?”
The question stopped him like a stone wall. Before he could think of an answer, she touched him, her hand on his chest as light as a soft breeze.
Gareth’s control snapped and he crushed her mouth with a ferocity that left the metallic taste of blood flooding his mouth. His blood, her blood, both, he didn’t know or care. Her fingers plunged into his hair and she yanked him down, meeting his violently ravaging tongue with her own.

“I want to bury myself deep inside you.” He ground his length against her, making her gasp while he whispered in her ear, “But I think you know that, don’t you?” He stepped away, until their bodies were no longer touching and raised his hands, palm out, barely grazing the erect tips of her breasts, caressing them with light, circular motions.
She jerked and bucked against him, her back arching, the impressive muscles of her arms like the taut strings of a bow as she clutched the wooden door frame above her head and strained toward him.

“You can release the door frame now.”
Triumph and amusement echoed in his words but she didn’t care. She’d do whatever he asked of her to feel that way again.
“Touch me.”
She fell on his mouth like a starving person, consuming him as he’d just done her, tasting herself on his tongue. He lifted her higher while they kissed, until she felt his hot, insistent crown nudging against her sex.
He leaned away from her, just far enough that she could see between their bodies. His stomach, lean, ridged, and sweaty, hers flushed, soft, and trembling.
He lifted her higher, until she could see his erection. “Guide me inside you.”

He turned his head and gently bit the side of her breast.
She laughed. “Are you going to eat me?”
His hot mouth roamed her body above the thin gauze of her gown, nipping and sucking her until the fabric was damp.
“When we return to Rushton I am going to tie your arms and legs to the four posts of my bed—tightly, so you cannot move or squirm away. And when you are bound and spread for me, I will take my pleasure. And I will lick and suck and bite every part of you.”
The words and the raw, confident desire with which he spoke them sent a crippling w
ave of lust straight to her core.

He scooped her up in his arms and strode into the adjacent room. She watched him slit-eyed through a haze of pure contentment, laughing when he tossed her onto the bed and positioned himself at the edge. His face was hard and his eyes burning into her as he ripped open the fall on his breeches and freed himself. Serena was already inching toward him when he slid his hands beneath her thighs, jerked her toward him and lifted her hips off the bed, entering her with a savage thrust.

He lifted her skirt and petticoats to her hips, his cock pulsing at the unbearably erotic sight of her serviceable stockings and the plain garters that held them just above her knees, nothing but smooth, naked thigh above them until . . . His mouth flooded with moisture at the sight of her curls.
She lifted her eyebrows high. “Novice?” Her thumb swirled his hard, slick head and she grazed him lightly with her nails.
Gareth jolted under the intoxicating combination of pleasure and pain. “Dammit, Serena!”
“Language, Gareth.”
He pushed away her hand and positioned himself at the hot, wet entrance to her body, bringing her down hard. They both gasped and then froze, reveling in their joining.

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