Review: Until You by Judith McNaught

Format: E-bookuntilyou
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Westmoreland Saga, #3
Publisher: Pocket Books
Hero: Stephen David Elliott Westmoreland
Heroine: Sheridan Bromleigh
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 1, 1995
Started On: January 29, 2016
Finished On: January 31, 2016

Until You by Judith McNaught is one of my favorite books by an author who would always remain as one of those that are unforgettable for me as a romance reader. For myself, authors like Judith McNaught remains as my go to authors when most books of today fails to satisfy me and hit all those spots that need to be petted and stroked when I pick up a romance to read.

Until You is the 3rd book in the Westmoreland saga and tells the story of Stephen David Elliott Westmoreland, Earl of Langford, Baron of Ellingwood, Fifth Viscount Hargrove, Viscount Ashbourne. Well, that was a handful if ever there was one. Stephen is the younger brother of Clayton Westmoreland, the much revered hero of Whitney, My Love, the book that saw Judith McNaught rise to stardom. All the books in the series are 5-star reads for me. However, for some reason, Stephen has always occupied a special spot in my heart, perhaps owing to the fact that he is a hero overlooked by many fans of the author.

Stephen finds himself in a fit of bad luck when an accident makes him responsible for informing the deceased’s fiancée that her intended had met an untimely demise. Unknown to him, Sheridan Bromleigh, the woman who was entrusted by the bride-to-be’s father to safely transport her from America into the hands of her betrothed finds herself in a bit of a fix with the bride having eloped with another man. Sick with fear that she would be imprisoned or worse, not knowing what had happened to the groom in question, Sheridan meets an accident that nearly ends her life, leaving her in the hands and of Stephen himself.

Stephen believes that the woman who has somehow invaded his very thoughts and desires is the fiancée of a dead man, whose death he holds himself responsible for. It doesn’t help matters when Sheridan wakes up with no memories whatsoever of how she got there and what had happened before. Stephen’s reluctant attraction to Sheridan is clouded by the fact that Sheridan is led to believe that Stephen is her intended husband. The fact that she cannot recall any memories of a man as Stephen makes her panicky, but the moments of tenderness that catches Stephen unawares as he unknowingly starts courting the woman he would take as his wife makes her believe in the connection that exists between them.

Truth comes to light at one of those hold your breaths moments and the sheer betrayal that Stephen feels and his ruthless reaction towards it is perhaps the reason why I love Until You so much. It is the way he reacts that gives the book the angst factor, that makes my throat close up, no matter how many times I read this story. Characters from other stories make their appearances, giving a helping hand in a romance that is fraught with tension. Stephen proves to be a hard nut to crack, but then again if he were that easy, I believe I wouldn’t have loved him half as much.

A classic for me, if ever there was one. Recommended!

Final Verdict: Does not disappoint. Ever!

Favorite Quotes

His warm breath in her ear sent shivers up Sheridan’s spine, and she turned her face away from the cause, which brought her lips into instant contact with his. Stephen had intended to kiss her as Burleton might have done, but when her soft lips parted on a shaky breath, his intentions slipped from his mind.
Sheridan knew the moment his arm tightened on her waist and his lips began to move insistently against hers that she couldn’t have been expecting this… not the stormy rush of sensation that made her gasp and cling tighter to him, nor the compulsion to yield her mouth to his searching tongue, nor the frantic beating of her heart when his fingers shoved into the hair at her nape, holding her mouth tighter to his while her body seemed to want to meet and forge into his.

Stephen said abruptly, “Since we’ve ruled out rouge and curtsying, what are you interested in?”
You, Sherry thought. I am interested in you. I am interested in why you seem uneasy right now. I am interested in why there are times when you smile at me as if you see only me and I am all that matters. I am interested in why there are times when I sense that you don’t want to see me at all, even when I’m in front of you. I am interested in anything that matters to you because I want so much to matter to you. I am interested in history. Your history. My history. “History! I like history,” she provided brightly after a pause.

Her smooth brow furrowed in bewilderment. “I can’t quite remember what sort of injury it was, however.”
“A head injury,” Sherry provided helpfully.
“Yes, that was it.” Her bright blue gaze darted to Sherry’s head for a moment. “It looks as if it has healed.”
Dr. Whitticomb intervened. “The injury has healed,” he reminded her. “But there is still a troublesome aftereffect. Miss Lancaster has not yet recovered her memory.”
Miss Charity’s face fell. “My poor child. Do you know who you are?”
“Yes.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Who am I?”

Stephen felt her hand slide up his chest, felt her press closer to him, and he claimed his victory, plundering her mouth with his, teasing and tormenting her, and she responded instinctively. The fires within her that had fueled her tempestuous rebellion earlier, now burned hot and bright with passion, and Stephen found himself in the midst of a kiss that was wildly erotic—and rapidly getting out of control. His hand was sliding over her breast, cupping it, and she was straining toward him in sweet abandon, offering her mouth to him. He told himself to stop and kissed her deeper instead, making her moan softly, and when she kissed him back, tentatively touching her tongue to his lips, it was the gasp of his own breath that he heard.

Every nerve in his body was screaming for release and still he held himself back, driving deeply into her, while the muscles in his arms strained with the rest of his body, refusing to deprive her of the same pleasure she was going to give him any second now. She was whimpering, eyes closed tightly, desperate for something she didn’t understand, afraid to have it. Afraid not to. Sobbing with desire, needing reassurance. He gave it to her in a hoarse whisper. “… Any second now…”
She went up in flames before he finished the sentence, her body clenching his, and Stephen heard himself groan with the extravagant splendor she was somehow making him feel. And then he gave himself over to it, driving toward it… and then past it, climaxing, his body jerking as he poured himself into her.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BookDepo

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Review: Once and Always by Judith McNaught

Format: E-bookonceandalways
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Sequels, #1
Publisher: Pocket Books
Hero: Jason Fielding
Heroine: Victoria Elizabeth Seaton
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January, 1987
Started On: January 26, 2016
Finished On: January 26, 2016

Judith McNaught is one of the most revered authors in the romance genre, and with good reason. Her books have turned many a romantic soul into romance readers, giving them all something to dream, sigh and moon over. I have read all the published works by Judith McNaught to-date and loved almost each and every single one of them. I have revisited the books that I consider my favorites many a time. Most of those re-reads took place before I established my blog in 2009. So here goes, a review for Once and Always, a tale that for me, stands the irrevocable test of time itself.

Jason Fielding, the Marquess of Wakefield is a man who hides a wealth of pain beneath the formidable exterior of his. Life has taught him time and yet again that love and happiness is not meant for the likes of himself. His failure of a marriage and the consequences left behind in the wake of the disaster that particular venture had proven to be makes Jason a man wary at best of getting entangled with the opposite sex in a way that would lead to anything permanent. Most of all, Jason considers his heart closed off forever. His less than stellar childhood had also taught him that valuable lesson. That is until Victoria Elizabeth Seaton makes her way into his life and changes it forever.

18 year old Victoria is forced to leave the home that she has known all her life that is in America and sail to England where her maternal relatives await her and her sister’s arrival. From the moment Victoria and Jason meet, sparks fly. Victoria being the kind of person who is concerned about the welfare of those around her clashes at every turn with someone like Jason who has closed himself off from caring about what goes on in other people’s lives. Moments of hilarity and mirth fill this novel, at least during the beginning of the “courtship” stage where Jason hardly knows what to do with Victoria and Victoria in turn wants nothing more to do with the likes of him.

Moments of truce disappear into thin air more often than not, especially with Jason’s plans to wed her off so that the Duke of Atherton would stop trying to push him to take her as his wife. Victoria is equally determined to stay unwed, until her beau from America returns for her. But alas, as fate would have it, with more than a little helping hand given by the Duke, Victoria finds herself wedded to an exasperatingly beautiful man, who makes her senses go alive with the merest of touches. Each kiss and caress exchanged convinces Victoria of the fact that when it comes to her and Jason, falling in love is a foregone conclusion. But their future and happiness depends on how soon Victoria can make Jason see that when it comes to her, he would always get nothing but the purest of love.

Once and Always is a wonderful novel to immerse yourself in, if you like romances that deliver a ton of angst that can make you tie yourself up in knots, even when you know that the inevitable conclusion would be a happy one. Jason is a hero whose commanding presence alone makes a woman go gaga over him. Taming someone like Jason is a task for someone who is as strong as Victoria, someone who wouldn’t back down in the face of all the rejections and walls that Jason puts up, all because he can’t bring himself to be that vulnerable towards someone, ever again. But tame him Victoria does, and the result of course is a man whom you would indeed fall head over heels in love with.

This is exactly why Judith McNaught is an author that remains unrivaled in her contribution to the world of romance. Tempestuous, angst ridden and filled with so much love and passion that you would feel like dying if you didn’t read it to its ultimate and very satisfying conclusion, Once and Always managed to keep me spellbound, and God knows how many times I have already re-read this particular book already.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Jason and Victoria’s love is bold and vivacious; it is all encompassing. Not to be missed!

Favorite Quotes

“Have I made another social blunder—like failing to knock?” he inquired in a low, amused voice, his lips offensively close to her cheek as she took her seat. “Is it not the custom in America for a gentleman to seat a lady?”
Victoria jerked her head away. “Are you seating me, or trying to eat my ear?”
His lips twitched. “I may do that,” he replied, “if the new cook provides us with a poor meal.”

Charles pushed her out the door under the guise of escorting her to her carriage, and Victoria halted and swung around on the stairway. Like a beautiful, outraged goddess she stood trembling with wrath, staring down at Jason. “Am I to understand,” she enunciated furiously, “that the engagement you said was ‘off’ was our engagement?”
Jason’s only answer was a tightening of his jaw, but his silence was a tacit admission, and she glared at him with blue sparks shooting from her eyes, heedless of the servants who were staring at her in paralyzed horror. “How dare you!” she hissed. “How dare you let anyone think I would consider marrying you. I wouldn’t marry you if you were—”
“I don’t recall asking you to marry me,” Jason interrupted sarcastically. “However, it’s reassuring to know that if I ever took leave of my senses and did ask you, you’d have the consideration to turn me down.”

Victoria saw something primitive and terrifying flare in his eyes as his hands tightened on her arms. She jerked back, a scream rising in her throat, but his lips covered hers, stifling her voice with a demanding insistence that stunned her into immobility. Like an alarmed rabbit captured in a painless trap, she struggled until she felt his hands stroke soothingly up and down her spine and shoulders, while his lips moved on hers with inflaming expertise.

“William Rogers,” Charles shot back in a challenging voice, “and he’s tall, conservative, mature, intelligent, and handsome. He’s also heir to one of the finest estates in England. I think he would do very well for Victoria.”
“No.”
“No?” Charles burst out. “Why not?”
“I don’t like the way Rogers sits a horse.”
“You don’t like—” Charles bit out in angry disbelief; then he glanced at Jason’s implacable face and sighed. “Very well. The last name on my list is Lord Terrance. He sits a horse extremely well, in addition to being an excellent chap. He is also tall, handsome, intelligent, and wealthy. Now,” he finished triumphantly, “what fault can you find with him?”
Jason’s jaw tightened ominously. “I don’t like, him.”
“You aren’t going to marry him!” Charles shot back, his voice rising.
Jason lurched forward in his chair and slammed his hand on his desk. “I said I don’t like him,” he said through clenched teeth. “And that’s the end of it.”

But in the mounting turmoil of their kiss and unaware of the hardening pressure against her stomach, Victoria let her fingers slide into the soft hair at his nape while her body automatically fitted itself to his—and suddenly everything changed. Jason’s arms closed around her with stunning force, his mouth opening on hers with fierce hunger. He parted her lips, teasing her with his tongue until he coaxed her to touch her own tongue to his lips, and when she did, he gasped, pulling her even closer, his body taut with fiery need.
When he finally lifted his head, he stared down at her with an odd expression of bemused self-mockery on his ruggedly chiseled features. “I should have given you diamonds and sapphires the other night, instead of pearls,” he commented. “But don’t kiss me like this again until after we’re married.”

“You have a very peculiar idea of what being a wife means,” he mocked savagely. “Now, get out of here.”
“Damn you!” Victoria blazed. “I don’t know how to be a wife, can’t you see that? I know how to cook and sew and look after a husband, but you don’t need me for that, because you have other people to take care of you. And I’ll tell you something else, Lord Fielding,” she continued, working herself into a fine rage, “I may not be a very good wife, but you’re an impossible husband! When I offer to play chess with you, you get angry. When I try to seduce you, you get nasty—”
She saw Jason’s head jerk up, but she was so angry she didn’t pay any heed to the stunned expression on his face. “And when I bring you a gift, you go off to London to see your mistress!”
“Tory,” he said achingly, “come here.”

Beneath her she could feel the pulsing of his rigid shaft, the fiery touch of his heated skin, the violent hammering of his heart against her breasts. But instead of taking her, as she expected, he gazed at her with desire raging in his eyes and humbly said the words he had tried to force her to say last night. “I want you,” he whispered. As if he didn’t think he had humbled himself enough, he added, “Please, darling.”
Feeling as if her heart would break with the love bursting in it, Victoria answered him with a melting kiss. It was answer enough.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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Review: A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Pocket Books
Series: Westmoreland Dynasty, Book 1
Hero: Royce Westmoreland
Heroine: Jennifer Merrick
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 1989
Started On: August 8, 2011
Finished On: August 10, 2011

Judith McNaught’s historical romances are timeless. Timeless I say because no matter how many times one re-reads her stories, it never gets old and there is always something new about the story that captures your attention and holds it until you have turned the very last page. I think this is my 3rd or 4th time re-reading A Kingdom of Dreams and yet again Royce Westmoreland didn’t fail to invoke numerous sighing sessions as I read along and made me want a fierce warrior like him who loves just as passionately when at last he finally does fall for the woman who claims his heart, body and soul.

29 year old Royce Westmoreland aka The Black Wolf is Scotland’s most hated, and most feared enemy. Military life is all Royce has ever known and Royce’s latest command received from the King Henry himself has him gearing up to face the Merrick’s clan of Scotland, the name itself making vengeance boil deep inside of him.

17 year old Jennifer Merrick is the daughter of Lord Merrick, the head of the Merrick clan. From a tender age, impulsiveness and recklessness combined with a desperate yearning to make her father love her, as he loved his stepsons, were responsible for a lot of grievances in her life. Though as the eldest daughter the leadership of her clan should rightfully pass onto her, Lord Merrick thinks naught of women and their capabilities beyond that of rearing children – a fact that hurts Jennifer more deeply than she ever lets on.

When Jennifer and Brenna are captured by the Black Wolf’s army, Jennifer’s sole focus lies in identifying ways through which she and Brenna can make her escape. Royce doesn’t expect that two women could create so much trouble in his camp and in his life when the fiesty Jennifer and her meek sister are brought along which Royce is hoping would end the battle they are all gearing for without bloodshed.

Jennifer valiantly tries and manages to escape captivity only to be caught yet again and though Jennifer knows that true to Merrick’s nature, the only thing she should feel for Royce with his unusual silver eyes is contempt and loathing at best, she is no match for the yearnings that stir into life in the arms of Royce, her enemy. Neither Jennifer nor Royce is prepared for the desire that each feels for the other and for the headiness of a passion so fierce to obliterate everything else from their minds.

Royce convinces himself that lust is the only thing that he feels for a woman who infuriates him and humbles him at the same time. And when his need to possess Jennifer makes him claim her virginity, even then Royce is more than happy to label it away as a mere case of lust for his beautiful and defiant captive.

Jennifer’s heart bleeds for the fact that in Royce’s embrace she feels no shame even though she knows that consorting with the enemy would only earn more hatred from her clansmen. When once again Jennifer escapes Royce’s clutches making him the laughingstock of both England and Scotland, Royce is livid with rage and that is the only thing that drives him to accept orders by his king to tie himself to Jennifer in holy matrimony.

Thus begins a battle of wills that dies a slow death as the passion that exists between Royce and Jennifer burns hotter than ever, cementing a connection between two souls who are so meant for each other. But love and a happily ever after is not an easy one for either of them to achieve as treachery and deceit from Jennifer’s family nearly drives them apart for good until Jennifer comes to realize that her destiny lies entwined with that of Royce and that there is no turning back from the love of a man who makes her feel treasured and safe at the same time.

A Kingdom of Dreams is a romance that provokes the reader into indulging in a dream or two of her own as Royce completely sweeps you off your feet and shows you the reason why romance heroes are worth swooning over. Royce is a fierce man, a battle hardened warrior who has seen so much death and destruction throughout his career that he longs for normalcy and a life that he can call his own. His tenderness when it comes to Jennifer and the way he feels stirrings of righteous indignation on Jennifer’s behalf upon hearing how she has been treated by her own clansmen and family made me fall that much harder in love with him. A true romantic would not be able to read this without falling for Royce, a fact that I am reassured of as I manage to fall for him over and over again every single time I read this book.

Jennifer is a heroine who is worthy of someone like Royce. Loyal, loving, kind and generous, Jennifer’s soul yearns for the day that all of whom she loves would love her back, a day that she would be accepted for who she is, impulsiveness and all. Though at times it feels as if Jennifer is being a trifle bit too hard on Royce, she makes up for it so beautifully towards the end that I fell for the sheer charm she brings into the story.

Filled with a lively and riveting bunch of side characters of which Aunt Elinor definitely deserves a mention, A Kingdom of Dreams is a must read if you are a true fan of romance.

Favorite Quotes

Royce flung her arm aside, and Jenny stayed where she stood, paralyzed with remorse and anguish as she gazed at the beautiful animal she’d inadvertently killed. As if in a dream, she watched England’s fiercest warrior kneel on one knee beside his dead horse, slowly stroking the animal’s glossy black coat, and speaking words she could not quite hear in a voice that was raw.

Her head lifted, and Royce froze in surprise and reluctant admiration for the amazing sight he beheld. Standing there like a wild enraged gypsy, her hair tumbling all about her like golden flames and her huge blue eyes alive with hatred and unshed tears, she slowly raised her hand… a hand which was holding a dagger which she’d obviously managed to snatch from his boot as he spanked her.
And in that unlikely moment, as she held his dagger poised high, ready to strike, Royce Westmoreland thought she was the most magnificent creature he’d ever beheld; a wild, beautiful, enraged angel of retribution, her chest rising and falling with fury as she courageously confronted an enemy who towered over her. He’d hurt her and humiliated her, Royce realized, but he hadn’t broken that indomitable spirit of hers.

His wry tone made Jenny burst out laughing, and Royce found himself captivated by the infectious joy, the beauty, of it. He’d never heard the music of her laughter before, nor seen it glowing in her magnificent eyes. Seated on a pile of lush furs, laughing up at him, Jennifer Merrick was unforgettable. He realized it as clearly as he realized that if he walked over and sat down beside her, there was every chance he was going to find her irresistible as well.

As he spoke, his hand curved round her head, pressing inexorably downward, inch by slow inch, until his warm breath was mingling with hers, and then his gaze lifted, locking with hers. Insistent, knowing gray eyes captured frightened, beguiling blue ones, imprisoning them as he brought her lips down against his. A jolt slammed through Jenny’s entire nervous system, her eyes closed, and his lips began to move on hers, thoroughly and possessively exploring each tender curve and trembling contour.

Perched upon that log, Royce thought she looked incredibly desirable—a charming wood nymph with long curly hair, clad in a boy’s tunic and hose. A wood nymph? Next she would have him composing sonnets to her beauty—and wouldn’t that delight her sire, not to mention enliven the gossip at court in two countries! “Was that question too difficult for you?” he said, his voice sharp with self-annoyance. “Shall I try to frame an easier one?”

Jennifer’s eyes lit with fondness. “Brenna will always find something good to say about me, no matter how shocking my mistakes or outrageous my conduct. She said I ‘sparkled like the sun and moon and stars.’ ” A bubble of laughter escaped Jenny and she regarded Royce with eyes aglow with merriment. “Which of course I did—sparkle, I mean.”
His voice harsh with feelings he could neither understand nor contain, Royce looked at her and said tightly, “Some women need no jewels to make them sparkle. You are one of them.”

Failing to catch sight of the giant, Tom quickly turned his gaze back for a longer study of the entire, famous man, and this time he took in the entire picture before him—a picture that made his mouth drop open in shock and disbelief: The Black Wolf, the most fierce warrior in all England—in the world—was sitting atop his mighty warhorse, with a girl cradled in his arms—holding her as tenderly as a babe!

Lifting his head, Royce stared down into her slumberous blue eyes, and Jenny saw the look of pure satisfaction mingled with puzzlement on his face—”Why is it when you yield, I feel like the one who has been conquered?”

 “Why is it,” Royce murmured, gazing into her intoxicating eyes, “that every time you surrender willingly, like this, you make me feel like a king who has conquered. Yet when I conquer you against your will, you make me feel like a defeated beggar?”

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Book Depository

[xrr rating=5/5]

Caliber Seal: OUTSTANDING READ!

Review: Double Standards by Judith McNaught

Format: Paperback
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Harlequin Temptation, #16
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: J. Nicholas Sinclair
Heroine: Lauren Danner
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication:  June 1984
Started On: August 12, 2010
Finished On: August 12, 2010

I think this is the 3rd or 4th time that I have re-read this book and this is one story that doesn’t get old. There is none like Judith McNaught who can create cynical, tortured heroes who fall that much harder for the right woman. And this book is no exception to the rule with the drop dead gorgeous Nick Sinclair, president of Global Industries which owned Sinco, Sinclair Electronic Components in which Lauren worked for.

Lauren who is half Italian and half Irish, who grew up in Fenster, Missouri with her father who was a small town teacher and her stepmother and two step siblings ends up in an interview with Philip Whitworth to secure a job for herself, an interview which her father had arranged. Though Lauren had misgivings about the Whitworth family since her childhood memories of the one visit to the Whitworths didn’t include anything memorably good, Lauren agrees to the interview because she is desperately in need of a job that would help ease the financial burdens on her family.

When Lauren is propositioned by Philip to spy on the Sinclair Industries based on the suspicions that someone was leaking bid figures from the Whitworth company to the Sinclairs, Lauren doesn’t feel so good about saying yes to the deal. But when all she has to do is let Philip know if one of the four names of the executives who are involved in the bid preparation process is ever mentioned at the Sinclairs seems not so bad to someone as desperate as Lauren is for a good job.

However, at the last minute Lauren has her doubts and deliberately fails the interview session she has to undergo to secure the position at Sinco. But however, a chance encounter with Nick who provokes all Lauren’s senses has Lauren wanting to work where she could be close to Nick. Not knowing that Nick is the owner of Sinco and Global Industries, Lauren agrees to go away for a weekend with Nick to the Hamptons, a weekend during which Lauren offers Nick her heart and her body.

However Lauren’s rosy dreams of forever ever after come crashing down in the cold hard reality once the weekend is over and Nick pushes her away. Thinking and believing that Nick wouldn’t dismiss her so easily, Lauren waits around two weeks for the call from Nick that never comes. And it is when she starts her secretarial position at Sinco that she finds out that Nick is not the man she thought him to be.

Feeling betrayed beyond belief, Lauren is a force to be reckoned with when Nick realizes that he still wants Lauren in his bed. The sparks that fly when these two butt their heads is something worth savoring. Lauren gives as good as she gets and the tension that soars between these two makes for a splendid read.

With the secret that Lauren harbors, the fragile trust that Nick places in her comes crashing down once the truth is out, the truth that Lauren had been in cahoots with the Whitworths, a betrayal that sends Nick reeling.

As usual, the one thing that irked me was the fact that Nick humiliated Lauren so much towards the end, but when he comes back looking for her and begging her forgiveness, Nick doesn’t need to do much grovelling, just because he had a bitch of a mother. Although the way Nick suffered when he was young tug at my heartstrings every time, I couldn’t help but yearn for a bit more grovelling on Nick’s side to win back the affection of the woman who would do anything for him.

Great read which I finished in a couple of hours. This is one contemporary by Judith McNaught that I would always highly recommend.

Purchase Links: Amazon

[xrr rating=4/5]

Caliber Seal: GREAT READ!