Review: Bad Princess by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookbadprincess.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novella
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Finian Bellamy
Heroine: Brinley Cantrella
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 27, 2017
Started On: June 20, 2018
Finished On: June 22, 2018

Bad Princess by Julianna Keyes is a novella that I enjoyed immensely. One reason being that it was different and lighthearted for the most part, while giving readers two characters that you could root and fall for. Julianna Keyes is an author who is immensely talented in the way she invokes so much emotion with every book she has written to-date. I know what I am talking about because except for her latest book in the Burnham College series, I have read everything that she has written and published in the genre.

Bad Princess as the title alludes to, is the story of the younger princess of the Kingdom of Estau, born three years after the birth of the most precious and beloved daughter of the Kingdom, Princess Elle Vida. Princess Elle had been the perfect princess; nothing in her life had been out of sync, never had she misbehaved. She had always done what had been expected of her, that is until she had abdicated the throne and eloped with a commoner when her marriage had already been arranged with a Prince from the neighboring Kingdom of Lenora.

Meanwhile, Princess Brinley Cantrella, with her penchant for mischief and “misbehavior”, is considered lacking the proper decorum that is required of a princess. Knowing that she would never be able to live up to the image of perfection that is her sister, Brinley perhaps had gone out of her way to live her life exactly as she had wanted. Causing scandals is her nature, and getting the opportunity to go to university, away from the prying eyes and ears of the Kingdom had been a godsend for her, that is until duty once again calls her back home.

With Elle having eloped and left the duty of marriage to Prince Finian Bellamy hanging in the balance, it is Brinley who eventually has to step in to fill the role, especially being caught in her most clandestine position yet, with none other than Prince Finian, her sister’s ex-fiance’. For Brinley, this marriage of convenience would be the ultimate punishment; getting married to the man she has loved since she was five years old, but knowing he would never love her in return.

So starts a marriage that is borne out of duty on both parts, or so Brinley believes, until her husband proves her otherwise, in each delicious and wanton encounter in bed and out of it, that leaves Brinley begging for more. However, Brinley’s legendary past is something that is determined to keep up, until she is forced to face her inner demons and accept her own self as being capable and able to course her own chart in traversing through life as an equal partner to her wedded husband.

I believe Julianna did a marvelous job of bringing the touch of modern to a fairy tale romance, the kind of romance we all fall in love with during our childhoods and carry them with us, even till today. I loved every single aspect of this book from the very unusual Princess Brinley who had her work cut out for her when it came to standing her ground and being true to her own self.

I absolutely adored Finnian. He is the kind of Prince I wouldn’t mind being shackled with. In all honesty, Finn and Brinley were made for each other. I fell in love with Finn because he sees right through Brinley, and accepts and loves her for all that she is. Her exploratory nature, her need for messing things up a little, and the way she always gives herself wholeheartedly to each and every adventure that life throws their way are reasons to love her all the more.

I cannot help but be curious to read about Elle’s story, the perfect sister and princess who “lost” her way to the “wicked” lumberjack who had led her “astray”. I hope Julianna intends to write her story one day.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: In Bad Princess, Julianna Keyes delivers a fairytale romance with a twist of modern and leaves the reader wanting more!

Favorite Quotes

She clutched his shoulder and raised onto her toes, kissing him again, breath hitching when he pressed a finger inside. He touched her sweetly at first, then with more confidence, more purpose. A second finger joined in, the heel of his hand glancing her clit, and Brinley couldn’t help but grind against him, even though she wanted this to last much, much longer. He was so good, so—
The library doors banged open and Brinley froze.
Everything froze.
Finn.
His fingers.
The air.
The planet turning on its axis.
The only things that moved were the tourist cameras, clicking frantically as they caught the bad princess in her most compromising position yet.

Finn made the first move.
He put down the tablet and leaned in, closing the scant inches between them, and paused with his mouth a hairsbreadth away. When Brinley didn’t move he closed the remaining space and touched his lips softly to hers.
She tried not to whimper foolishly.
Tried foolishly not to want this.
Want him.
Her husband.
He tilted his head slightly and hers moved as well, improving the fit. They fit together so well. Unfairly well. So temptingly, appallingly well. He nudged her bottom lip and she opened for him, felt his tongue on hers, every bit as skilled as it had been the first time. His hand slipped into her hair and cupped the back of her head, and Brinley let out the whimper she wanted to hide, let him slide a hand over her hip and draw her in so she straddled his lap.

His head fell forward like his neck had grown too weary to hold it up, and she heard him pull in a shaky, steadying breath. She lifted a hand to stroke his back, feeling the ridges of his spine beneath her fingers, the sweat that beaded on his skin. He was waiting for something, composure perhaps, or even more permission, and Brinley opened her legs wider and pressed her heels into the cushion to spur him on.
He started to move, deep, languorous thrusts that reignited nerve endings she would have sworn had been extinguished, and slowly their hips found a compatible rhythm, the slap of their skin growing louder as the intensity increased, as the thrusts lengthened and deepened, as Finn fucked her.
It was that idea, that word, that had Brinley coming undone a second time, something that had never happened before, never even been close to happening. Now it felt like it was totally out of her control, her body responding to stimuli it had been trying for years to tell her it needed.

Brinley writhed in her seat, acutely aware of the weight of his fingers inside her, the reward that waited if she could just behave long enough. Her tutors had tried to teach her the virtues of patience so many times, then given up when their own patience expired.
“I need to come,” she said, her voice hitching. “Please move your hand again. Please touch me.”
He held her gaze, then slowly lowered his head so his mouth covered her nipple, lips fastening around the sensitive skin and sucking hard. Brinley’s back arched and her legs fell apart, and all pretense of not moving fell by the wayside. She felt herself sliding down the smooth leather until her back was on the seat and her husband loomed over her, his fingers thrusting hard inside, finding just the right spot to have her fumbling for her satin clutch, biting into the shiny fabric as she came.

She groaned loud and long into the pillow as he slipped two fingers inside her pussy, her inner muscles clinging to him greedily, thrilling to the rough handling. “Lose the pillow,” he grunted, reaching up to pull it away from her face.
“I can’t,” she replied, fumbling to take it back, barely able to breathe. “Someone will hear.”
“Let them hear. They will stop this talk of divorce.” He punctuated each sentence with a rough lick across her too-sensitive skin, and Brinley trembled all over.
“They will start a new conversation, of an even more embarrassing nature.”
“What’s embarrassing about having your pussy eaten?” Finn asked mildly.

“Fuck,” he growled above her. “Brinley.”
She sucked him harder, hollowing her cheeks, rubbing her tongue on the underside of his cock and tasting the wetness at his tip.
He jerked away and caught her under the arm, pulling her to her feet. “Bend over,” he ordered roughly.
She did as instructed, bracing her elbows on the bed, ass in the air, exposed and anticipating. There was the sharp rip of the condom package and a pause as Finn rolled it on, then he was gripping her hips and working himself into her welcoming body, grinding himself against her as though erasing any doubts between them. Brinley dropped her head to the soft blankets and gave herself over to sensations she could not control. She moaned and writhed as Finn fucked her, his hips driving in so deeply from this angle, so completely. He shattered her and she came apart in his hands, her body conceding, obeying when she never obeyed. And above her he groaned, a long, heartfelt sound as he came, showing her all the things he could not say.

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ARC Review: My Roommate’s Girl by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookmyroommatesgirl
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Aidan Shannon Shaw
Heroine: Aster
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 12, 2017
Started On: May 04, 2018
Finished On: May 08, 2018

I have been a fan of Julianna Keyes ever since I discovered her from one of those chance reads I took on Netgalley. Julianna has a way of writing that delivers stories that maintain a realistic edge, and at the same fulfill the yearnings of the romance reader for the angst-ridden and sexy reads that make our day. Plus, Julianna always has a unique tangent to her writing, with twists to existing tropes that makes her books so worth your while.

My Roommate’s Girl toting a gorgeous cover, is written in the first person, told from both Aidan Shannon Shaw, the hero’s, and Aster, the heroine’s point of views. Aidan meets Aster through Jerry, his roommate, whose girlfriend turns out to be none other than Aster. From the moment Aidan lays eyes on Aster, he wants to have her for himself, he needs to have her. But there is of course that little pesky problem of the boyfriend who stands in his way. So sets Aidan on the course that would deliver Aster into his arms, as conniving and manipulative as it sounds.

What unfolds next was not by any means predictable. One would think it would be, given where the story was headed, but the way Julianna peeled back the layers to both Aidan and Aster was truly masterful.

Aidan’s character is easier to figure out in a way; the troublesome background, the way it had been easier for him to fall in with a bad crowd and lose his way. Until a judge had seen through his belligerence and decided to give him the chance to clean up, or else. But like a tweet I came across just today, “the devil works hard but peer pressure works harder”, and that is exactly the case with Aidan as well.

Now Aster, she is the true gem of the story. Her character managed to surprise me at every single turn, and that is no mean feat for someone who reads through so many romance novels and can often predict character behavior from a mile away. But damn, Aster certainly managed to shake my preconceived notions and then some. I felt proud of her for identifying with what had happened, and even fighting back just as dirty to get even. But then again, Aster did not take into account how seductive it is to be stripped bare of all the fronts she has put up, and to be seen exactly for who she is; not the image of perfection that she presents to the rest of the world, but a woman with faults and flaws of her own, someone who learnt from her past and aims to never go down that path again.

Like every single hero I have read from Julianna, Aidan is sexy personified. From his dirty blond hair and that raw physique of his, to the way he wants Aster with every fiber of his being; all that and more made him pretty alluring. Even though the only way Aidan knows to get what he wants is to fight dirty, with Aster, he finds that his conscience doesn’t allow him to be half the douche bag he could really be. For him, Aster is the woman that makes it all matter; she makes him want to stand steadfast on the path of the straight and narrow.

I loved Aster just as much. The fact that she had been able to leave a difficult past behind and clean up her act, that spoke volumes when it comes to the strength of her character and the kind of person she is. And she proves to be just that, honest and kind where it matters. I loved the ending, the way it all came together and how everything worked out. There is nothing better than a happily ever after for a couple you root for from the very beginning, even when that beginning might be the furthest thing from perfect.

Recommended for fans of romances that deliver unusual twists and turns that makes the book that much more worth it.

Final Verdict: My Roommate’s Girl delivers a succulent tale that is trademark Julianna Keyes, with characters that are relatable, and a happily ever after that I rooted for from the very beginning!

Favorite Quotes

I kiss her.
I don’t even think about it, I’m just acting on instinct. The hand on her hip slips around to the outside of her arm, up to her shoulder, her neck, fingers curling into her nape. She doesn’t move, doesn’t look away from my mouth, and the soft flutter of her lashes is the last thing I see before my lips touch hers.
She makes a tiny sound when our mouths meet, and I feel a tremor roll through her, like a frisson of energy arcing from her body into mine. I fumble behind me to stick the spoonful of melting ice cream back into the carton, only fifty percent sure I manage the task, a hundred percent sure I don’t care.
I cup her face with both hands, feel her silky hair teasing my fingers, the softness of her mouth, her breasts pressed against my chest. The tip of her tongue touches my bottom lip at the same moment her hand comes up to stroke my cheek, and I leap away like I’ve been electrocuted.

“Aidan,” she moans again.
“What…do…you…need?” I grunt out. Sensation is rocketing up and down my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, things I’ve never felt before and don’t know what to do with.
When I first saw Aster, first thought of fucking her, I didn’t think it would be like this. I thought she’d be prim and proper, maybe ride me like a dainty cowgirl. I thought I’d dirty her up, scandalize her a bit.
Now I don’t think I could scandalize Aster if I tried. She fucks like it’s the most natural thing in the world, like my hands pulling her hair is the thing she likes most. Like my mouth on her nipples and my cock plowing into her is something she lives for. I want to earn those responses. I want to hear them. I want to taste them.

When I first arrived at Holsom, I was terrified. It was new and strange and even among thousands of students, I felt hopelessly alone. Meeting Jerry helped, but I never truly relaxed. Never felt like I belonged. I thought I might, one day, but even after a year of dating I knew that deep down, he never really knew me because I never really let him.
Aidan knows me. I only let him know me because I thought I’d never see him again, but here we are, out in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t feel alone at all. I feel like he sees me and he’s totally okay with what he sees. Scars and all.

At long last I’m seated, his cock buried inside, taking a moment to adjust to the aching fullness. I grind my forehead into his shoulder, feeling him, feeling everything, and he lets me take my time, no pressure, no hurry.
I shift so my lips find his neck, his racing pulse betraying his laidback demeanor. I flex my thighs and lift up slightly, then slide back down, finding an easy, unhurried rhythm that makes everything inside me go soft and molten.

Aidan drops his hands from my hair and I see him digging his fingers into the sand at his sides, trying to hold on. Trying to wait for me.
That’s what sends me over. The sight of this man, weak but still so strong. Hard, solid, tough, sweet. A study in contradictions.
I come with a soft cry, stifling the sound in the curve of his neck, tasting his sweat on my tongue. My body spasms in long, slow waves for what feels like an eternity, and when the orgasm ebbs away Aidan jerks beneath me, hips pushing into mine as he anchors me with his hands on my waist, holding me in place while he takes what he needs.
My limbs feel like jelly, like there’s no earthly way I can stand, no possible way I’ll be able to hike back. I lift my head and absorb the quiet forest, the pristine lake, the boundless sky. This is the farthest from civilization I’ve ever been, but out here, with just me and Aidan, I’ve never felt closer to home.

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

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ARC Review: The Good Fight by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookthegoodfight
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Time Served, #3
Publisher: Carina Press
Hero: Oscar Hall
Heroine: Dr. Susan Dufresne Jones
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 25, 2016
Started On: May 22, 2016
Finished On: July 22, 2016

Book 3 in the Time Served series was a novel experience for me. This was my first time reading a book told in the first person totally from the hero’s point of view.

34 year old Oscar Hall is the one who managed to get away from the shit hole that is pretty much Camden where he grew up. Years later, having had the success he had sought back then, Oscar returns, wanting to give back something to the community that is pretty much wasting away.

Oscar meets the formidable Dr. Susan Dufresne Jones by chance at the hospital where she works. The interest on Oscar’s part is immediate, perhaps because Susan gives off the “nothing amuses me” vibe rather effortlessly. However, things don’t work out as smoothly as Oscar envisions it for him and Susan. Though off to a rocky start, Susan and Oscar work things out by taking one day at a time, while at the same time Oscar sees to his dreams of building something that could give back to the people of Camden.

Miscommunication, the fact that both Oscar and Susan try to keep a lot of things bottled up, and most of all mistakes that both Susan and Oscar makes in the course of their relationship tests the strength of the bond that forges between them. A bond that is often seen to be rather fragile, but stands firm in many a storm it weathers through.

The Good Fight is not a story that just looks into the romance and the relationship that grows to life between Oscar and Susan. Rather, it focuses on Oscar’s relationships with various other secondary characters, the ups and downs that he goes through while trying to build his dream into a reality that is sustainable and long-lasting, and his own shortcomings when it comes to trusting his ability to hold onto and be worthy of someone like Susan.

I loved the whole mess that was Oscar’s life as it was portrayed through his inner thoughts. It was messy. It was real. That was what I connected with most and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I loved the friendship that was between Oscar and 24 year old Jade Romero, who puts up a false sense of bravado for the rest of the world to see. I would love to see whether Jade gets her own story, preferably with Wyatt, the man who does not get along at all with Jade, someone who is able to charm any man out of his pants and then some.

While I loved the novelty of the experience of reading a book solely told from the male lead’s perspective, I felt that when it came to a character such as Susan, without knowing how she saw things through that logical and direct to the point sort of brain of hers, proved to be the reason why I failed to connect with her on an emotional level. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ending that took place a year after the story takes place, which gave me all warm fuzzies on the inside and showed to me that the bond between Oscar and Susan was one that was very real.

Susan I believe, was the character that got shortchanged because her story is the one that sits on the backburner, simmering and calling for attention where little if at all was given. I wanted to see Susan emerge out of that cold and logical shell of hers long enough to realize that there was more to life than being in a constant state of competition with ones own self to achieve more, to be better. That there was a daughter who required her love, understanding, empathy and kindness so that she might grow up and embody the same characteristics that Susan could teach her.

While there were bits and pieces of Susan’s interactions and difficulties when it came to dealing with her 11 year old daughter, whom we met in the 2nd book of the series In Her Defense, I would have loved to see that take centrestage in the story, be it even for a little while so that readers would have been able to see a warmer side to Susan, a character who comes off cold at first and began to thaw towards the end of the book.

I would have thought that given that this novel was totally told from a male perspective, that there would be more sex scenes involved of the kind that would make for a panty melting read. But, contrary to that notion, I found that the sex scenes were more toned down than the previous two books in the series. Not that the ones that were included were any less hot or potent. But perhaps owing to the fact that I had some difficulties in connecting with Susan on an emotional level, I found myself a bit removed from what was happening in the bedroom until towards the latter part of the story where Susan broke out with a gut wrenching confession of the difficult times she had had with trying to make her previous marriage work, a marriage that had already been doomed to failure.

It is a testament to Julianna’s talent that even with all the issues I had that I managed to enjoy the story that unfolded. Perhaps it was because through Oscar’s life, the reader gets to experience a wide range of diverse characters, and get to see something fresh develop and burgeon to life right in front of your eyes. The whole concept of cultivating produce inside the confines of a building is an idea that is being explored quite fervently across the world, and to read about it and feel as if you were a part of the experience, that was one of the best aspects of this story.

Recommended for fans of stories that feature characters who are real enough to make mistakes and wise enough to own up and learn from them. Makes for great reading!

Final Verdict: Gritty, honest, hard hitting and real!

Favorite Quotes

“Oh, Jesus, Oz, please,” she begs some time later. “I can’t—I need—just do something.”
“I’m doing something,” I tell her.
She whimpers and writhes, her body laid out like an offering, and I ease off and position myself on top of her, elbows on either side of her head. For the first time since I penetrated her I drag out my cock so just the tip is left inside, and dip my head so my lips brush against her ear. “Squeeze,” I order.
She squeezes the head of my cock with her pussy and I shudder violently, unprepared for how amazing it feels.

Her lips and tongue feel like they’re everywhere, tracing the shell of my ear, the pulse points over my throat, my collarbone. When she frees one hand to reach between us to undo the button at the top of my pants, I seize the opportunity to slip my own hand down the back of her shorts, sliding my fingers as low as I can until I find the damp heat between her thighs. I moan at the contact, then moan again when her fingers wrap around my cock, stroking like the pro she is. Pump, twist, fast, slow. It feels good, but it feels like a fucking textbook, too. Like she read the chapter, took notes and aced the test. I want messy and flawed. I want real. I want the scratched-out lines and the red ink and all the steps that come before you figure out what gets you off fastest.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BAM | Kobo | eBookMall | ARe | iTunes

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Review: Just Once by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookjustonce
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Hero: Shane Maddox
Heroine: Katharine Burke
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 29, 2013
Started On: May 20, 2016
Finished On: May 22, 2016

It had been a while since an author has taken command of all my senses when I read a story, which is why I found myself going on a reading binge on everything and anything that I could find by Julianna Keyes. At the cost of repeating myself, that is because her books opened up a whole new world of possibilities in a genre which I sometimes fear has grown stagnant with too many books with too little quality to measure them by.

Just Once by Julianna Keyes has to be my “least” favorite from the bunch of books I have read from Julianna up till now. But even then, it is a book that delivered on most fronts, which is why I loved it even with its shortcomings.

Written in the first person from the heroine Katharine Burke’s point of view, Just Once tells the story of how Kate finds herself feeling amiss, becoming disillusioned with her life, even though as a travel writer, Kate has done things and being to places most people can only dream of. Perhaps it was Kate’s desire to get back to her roots that finds her traveling to the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado, where she had spent three summers as a teenager, a place she had never forgotten even though it had been ten years since.

As the new kitchen/cabin manager, Kate hopes that backbreaking physical labor plus the serenity that comes with being surrounded by nature would rewire her brain and remove that desolate feeling that had been hounding her of late. Kate’s encounter with Shane Maddox, the ruggedly handsome and stubborn ranch foreman becomes her biggest challenge in working on the ranch, not to mention the wild and hedonistic desire that he invokes in her being a bit problematic as well. However, when Kate realizes that Shane also shares the same desire as her, at least when it comes to the bedroom, an agreed upon one night stand turns into two and before they know it, both Kate and Shane are embroiled in a passionate affair that neither saw coming.

While both Shane and Kate didn’t reel me in as the protagonists of other novels I have read from Julianna, I still loved the premise and the whole setup of the story. There’s a lot of hard labor that goes into every aspect of keeping an establishment such as a ranch guesthouse up and running. Just Once lets the reader get a bit of insight into what life is like on the other side of the equation, the one which we seldom give any thought to when we are enjoying a vacation or a timeout from the daily grind of life.

Two characters whose unfinished story that caught my eye would be that of Brandon and Hailey. I keep wondering whether Julianna would ever write down their story because there seems to be a wealth of angst to be explored in their union, if ever there is to be one.

Just like the rest of the novels by Julianna that I have read and loved, Just Once also comes bearing enough angst, spiced up sex and with a hero who cannot get enough, just like the heroine. Which is the utmost of reasons why I will always keep coming back for more where Julianna is concerned. 

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Julianna pens down yet another sinful tale of love that strikes when you least expect it.

Favorite Quotes

“But I promise to make you come,” he whispers. “And come and come and come. Until you can’t take any more.”
“Shane…”
“And then I’ll make you come again.”
Oh God.
“And when you can’t walk tomorrow, it won’t be because of your leg.”

I slide up the bed and he releases one hand so I can brace myself against the wall. I give him everything, thighs wide, meeting and accepting each brutal thrust. Sweat gathers on his brow, and his mouth mashes against mine, teeth clashing, tongues mating, until finally—finally—the pressure that’s been building for weeks finds the outlet it’s been looking for. Everything in me converges in that one place, clamping down tightly and refusing to release until Shane lets go too, until he goes rigid above me, eyes locked on mine, and we both give in. I moan into his mouth as I come, and he swallows my cry and answers with a strangled sound of his own, hips pulsing against mine, dragging every last ounce of pleasure from our exhausted bodies.

I lower a trembling hand between my legs, trying to touch myself, to finish what Shane has started, but he whispers soothing words in my ear and takes my hand away, returning it to the mattress. “I’ve got you,” he says, breath tickling my neck.
“I can’t take any more,” I moan. “What are you doing to me?”
He pounds into me harder and harder, stroking over that spot again and again until everything in me converges in one place, then finally dips his fingers between my legs, rubbing roughly and grunting, “Come,” in my ear.
I’ve been called stubborn most of my life, but not now. My body’s not listening to me anyway. It’s found a new master, and his name is Shane. I come. I come harder than I’ve ever come in my life.

My head drops back. “Oh God.”
“He can’t help you now.” Shane turns his attention to my other nipple, biting down harder than expected and making me jerk in his arms. “Remember,” he warns, not removing his mouth. “Only say no if you mean it.”
“You make me forget,” I whisper.
Shane looks up and pulls me forward to straddle his waist, raising his lips to mine. “Me too.”
Finally—finally—he kisses me.

He thrusts impossibly hard, answering the request, shouting his release as he comes inside me. I feel a sudden wet heat between my legs and clutch him tightly, unable or unwilling to let go. When he shudders one last time, we’re both breathing hard. I can feel his heart beating against my chest, the echoing thud of mine, his sweat-damp hair on my temple.
Eventually he eases out, and as my body struggles to release him, I realize he was wrong that day on the hike when he told me I wasn’t used to fucking. The truth is, I wasn’t used to making love.

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

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Review: Going the Distance by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookgoingthedistance
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Hero: Jarek Andrew McLean
Heroine: Olivia Clarke
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: January 27, 2015
Started On: May 19, 2016
Finished On: May 20, 2016

Julianna Keyes has wormed her way into my heart as an author who can deliver on all fronts, especially with the sort of characters that I love and can relate to. There are no magic solutions to problems that exists between the characters in her stories. Which is perhaps why I find it all so very realistic and convincing. Real life seldom sends your way the variety of men who one tends to encounter in most modern romances. Some of the heroes I encounter makes me want to take out a bodice ripper just so that I can read about a hero who might be an asshole, but still maintain some of those characteristics that are inherently male and yet so difficult to come across in stories of today. Which is why Julianna has become an author who is that much more precious to me. Because writers who stay true to where their characters take them are so hard to find now.

Going the Distance is a novel mostly set in the rural Chinese town of Lazhou and is told in the third person. Olivia Clark moves to the small rural town where she is practically a stranger as a kindergarten teacher. Olivia, while she craves the anonymity her position in a foreign land offers where few of the locals if ever can speak a word of English, the loneliness that she feels is a bone deep one. However, it was a step crucial to maintain her sanity from the recent past that had hurt her in a way she never thought possible. Her sole contact with people she can at least have a full conversation with comes from the crew of the Brant Construction site, which is how her path crosses that of Jarek Andrew McLean’s.

Jarek is a man who prefers to keep to himself. His previous occupation as an interrogator makes him more so, his childhood mired in violence that had left its mark on him making him taciturn at best. However, no matter how hard Jarek might try to stay away from Olivia, it turns out to be a lost cause as he becomes intrigued by the woman who does not seem to play by the rules that Jarek wants her to. Competing with the memory of an ex fiancé with whom Olivia had been with for more than half of her life is something that Jarek does not want to do, but finds himself dealing with the kind of emotions that he has never had problems with before.

As Jarek and Olivia enter into an affair which they both loosely agree would be done when their time in China comes to an end, both finds in the other the kind of healing that they didn’t believe they needed, but was exactly what their parched souls had been craving for. None of it comes easy, as it rightly should not. Real life is not made up of rainbows and unicorns and happily ever afters as we would like to think. It is messy, difficult and at times tiring, making you want to give up on the things that makes your life hellish. That is exactly what Going the Distance brings to readers, the ups and downs, the highs and lows and the beauty that emerges from all that chaos.

Julianna has a way of delivering just the right touch of angst that makes me such a diehard fan of her novels. This was such a beautiful story in the way it was told. There is no magic formula that stops the hero from becoming better, from conquering the shackles of his past that still binds him to it, nor is there one for the heroine to get over the loneliness, heartache and feeling of having being betrayed by those who should never have done so in the first place. 

On the surface, both Jarek and Olivia might seem to be your average hero and heroine. He is taciturn and rude at times making you want to shake him up, sexy and commanding in a way that is subtle yet vivid. I’m finding that Julianna is a mastermind in creating heroes with just the right touch and I find Jarek to be no exception. While Olivia is beautiful and smart, there is a loneliness deep within her that she tries to hide from, the best she can. Meeting Jarek and feeling the spark of want for the first time in a year has her taking a chance on a man who panics the moment she kisses him. Yes, she takes the chance and does so. But Jarek has so many demons hounding him, he breaks out in sheer panic every single time he believes that he and Olivia are becoming close. One night stands are how he likes his women, informal transactions at best to scratch an itch from which he can walk away the moment he chooses to.

Jarek and Olivia’s “non-relationship” relationship is one that is filled with a lot of potholes which is the reason why it was such a swell read. I love angst of the kind delivered right and I believe that there are too few books these days that hits the right combination when it comes to it. I loved the fact that Jarek was the asshole of the year at first and gave Olivia such a hard time. And yet at the same time how he couldn’t help but be concerned about hurting her and trying to think up of ways to make amends. From the onset, he is smitten, yet unable to accept the truth. Which was realistic because he has never been in a position to offer anything more to a woman and never had he been tempted to, until Olivia.

The whole setup in China, living in a remote area of China not to say the least, where you don’t know of anyone, where people mostly just treat you to a polite hello and nothing more was driven home in the story. I visited China just once, and had the fortune of visiting some places mentioned in the story. While China got into my blood in a way I never would have thought possible and would love to revisit one day, I think it would take a lot of courage on the part of anyone to make such a bold decision and move to practically the middle of nowhere and start afresh. While I would have loved to see Olivia continue her tenure in the school where she eventually won the hearts and minds of the adorable kids she was teaching, I understood her decision to leave them behind even had it been a difficult one. 

My message to Julianna is to never stop writing her characters as they are. Never give into the ‘accepted’ mold of the hero and heroine that is turning this beautiful genre into a mushy fest which sometimes I have a hard time not gagging over. But authors like Julianna makes me hopeful that there still exists a couple of authors out there who do the genre justice. 

Absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Going the Distance is yet another masterpiece in the way it’s so well thought out and crafted. Jarek and Olivia’s story is definitely one that is worth giving up a corner of your heart for.

Favorite Quotes

“You’re so hard,” she murmured in his ear. “So big. I want to feel you come in my hand, Jarek.”
“Fuck.” He ran his free hand over his eyes, as though he could block her out.
To be honest, Olivia was surprised to hear herself say the words. She’d never talked dirty with Chris; never really wanted to. But something told her Jarek wanted to hear it, wanted the okay to sully her hand with his release, to know he hadn’t talked her into doing something she didn’t want to do.
She kissed the shell of his ear, bit on the lobe. “What are you waiting for?” She squeezed her hand tighter than she thought he’d like and he came, back arching, teeth gritted, a pained sound dragged from his throat.

He gripped her hips, pulled out and shoved back in, too hard. Her breath hitched and she winced, and he kissed the corner of her mouth. “I’m sorry.”
“Do it again.”
So he did. She held onto the desk and later onto his shoulders, and he held her hips and pounded into her with all the zealousness of a man possessed, and none of the finesse she’d probably gotten from her ex. He could feel her and smell her and hear her, and in no time at all she fit him.

“What’s your favorite movie?”
“Alien.”
“Ugh.” Then, “Jarek.” Not a sigh. An order.
“I’m going to fuck you, Olivia.”
“Good.”
“Hard.”
“Good.”
“Harder than before. As hard as I want to.”

He kicked her knees apart and held her in place as he fitted his cock to her glistening folds, then rammed inside, deep and hard, making her cry out.
He didn’t ease up. He didn’t take it easy. He fucked her, like he hadn’t really done before. He gave her everything, rough and hard, like he’d been wanting to and worried she couldn’t handle. She groaned and moaned and clawed the mattress, writhing like she was trying to get away and get closer, but he didn’t let her go anywhere. He held her down with one hand and gripped her hip hard with the other, knowing he’d leave marks on her tan skin and not giving a fuck.

She straddled him as he freed his cock and rolled on a condom, then dragged her down where he needed her most. Her eyes sank shut and she bit her bottom lip, taking him deep. He watched her face, stroking her neck and her back, eyes settling on their joining bodies. He heard her breath hitch and looked up to see her flushed cheeks as she watched him watch them. She smiled and he kissed her, thinking that he’d been doing a lot of kissing this past month. Maybe more than he’d ever done in his whole life, all combined.

He curled over her, moving his hands to squeeze her slim shoulders as he pounded inside, pouring out his release with a groan, burying his forehead in her neck. When their breathing slowed, she lifted a hand to stroke his hair, soothing him, as though she somehow knew he needed it. Letting him know without words that he could trust her, too.

“I was hoping your first time sleeping over would alleviate your fear of spending the night when you realized nothing terrible would happen.”
His laugh was pained, muffled by her skin. “It’s the opposite of terrible, Liv. You feel so fucking good. All over. You’re the best thing I’ve ever felt.”
She ran her fingers through his curls, letting them tangle. “You’re sappy in the morning. Is that why you avoid staying over?”
“Guilty.” He rocked against her, his pubic bone hitting her clit and sending her over the edge. He followed, lips fastened to her neck, hard enough that she knew she’d have her first hickey in years.

She squirmed and complained and he ignored her, pressing into the soles of her feet with his mean, awful fingers, dragging them up her calves, finding muscles she didn’t know she had. “Please,” she gasped when she was about to combust. “Stop. But don’t stop. Please.”
Her eyes flew open when he sat beside her, back resting against the padded headboard. He dragged her onto his lap so she straddled his muscled thighs, and she waited, quaking, as he rolled on a condom. She suspected he was suffering as much as she was, but it wasn’t confirmed until he held her hips and guided his cock inside her that he cursed furiously and pressed his head back as though in agony.

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Review: In Her Defense by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-booktimeserved
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Time Served, #2
Publisher: Carina Press
Hero: Elijah Grant
Heroine: Caitlin Dufresne
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: September 7, 2015
Started On: May 17, 2016
Finished On: May 19, 2016

One cannot read the first book in the Time Served series and not be intrigued by the “villain” in the novel, aka Caitlin Dufresne, especially when Julianna decided to write Caitlin’s book as the second installment in the series. In Her Defense is an appropriate title for the book, showing Caitlin from various different perspectives, bringing to the readers a side of her we would never have seen or even being bothered to look for otherwise.

Caitlin is riding the high from the recent big win of the famous Fowler case and is focused on reaching the top, where her focus has always been since a very young age. While people see her as the lawyer that would screw over everyone else to get to the top, or even sleep her way to the top, Caitlin is in fact more than that. While her affair with one of the partners of the firm and a married one at that, has left colleagues with a less than stellar impression of her, not to mention the fact that Caitlin’s ambitions does not make her a team player, helps foster and maintain the less than favorable view of her around the firm.

However, Caitlin’s rapid ascent to the top is mired by one fatal mistake – too much work, too little rest and the high of too many Red Bulls consumed, and Caitlin finds herself forced to take leave from work, the very last thing that she wants or needs. Or so she thinks. Which is how Caitlin’s path crosses with that of Elijah Grant, the head of IT at the firm.

Though the first encounter between Caitlin and Eli leaves a lot to be desired, starting from the second coincidental meeting between them, Eli shows Caitlin that when it comes to that particular type of men she usually goes for, with Eli being the antithesis of all those requirements; even then, Eli manages to get her blood humming, her senses singing, with just a well worded command issued from his mouth.

Thus Eli and Caitlin find themselves embarking on an affair that scorches through the sheets, the stairways, the walls and any position they can find. Even though Caitlin’s prior relationships have all being about the physical aspects of more than the emotional, with Eli she finds that he is way too intuitive and in tune with her feelings to be brushed off that easily. However, for both of them to have anything meaningful and long-term between them, both Eli and Caitlin will have to let go of the shackles of their past and own up to what they are to each other, even if it means leaving themselves open and vulnerable to each other in a way they never have before.

Though told only from Caitlin’s perspective in the first person, the one thing that resonated deep within me as I read along was just how hard and fast I fell in love Eli. Before I was even halfway through the story, I realized and accepted the truth that Eli was one hell of a hero and that I would be hard pressed to find anyone else who would live up to the impression he had made on me. The fact that Julianna crafted Eli in a way that she didn’t have to continually talk about his looks, how sexy he was; basically how understated it all was, and yet every time he took the reins in the affair that was ongoing, I was ready to lie down and surrender myself to him spoke volumes. I swear that every time he said “now!” in an authoritative way, I just about lost it. And I thought Dean Barclay was the only man who could wow me in that sense. Dean was intense in a lot of ways, you can’t read his book and not be enslaved. Eli is a whole different sort of intense – you will just have to read it to find it because it is at times a bit hard to describe just how into his character I was from the minute he turned up in the story. 

If ever there is a master at storytelling, it is an author who can make hatred or intense dislike turn into love. Caitlin is a character who invokes a lot of intense feelings of the negative kind in book 1 of the series. All that however changes, the minute you pick this up to read. Trust me on that. At first I was also a bit hesitant to read Caitlin’s story because I guess I truly didn’t understand or believe in the wealth of magic that Julianna holds in her fingertips when it comes to romance writing.

What drew me in when it came to to Caitlin’s character was how Julianna laid out the details of her life; where she comes from, her familial background; all of it putting together the picture of a highly ambitious woman who is not afraid to work hard and play it dirty to get to the very top. Because that’s where she has always told herself that she would be, at the top, even though it might be the loneliest place to be, but nevertheless the top it is for her.

The forced vacation could not have come at a more opportune time however, even though Caitlin might believe otherwise at first. Work had been her life and life had been all about work and nothing else when she had been forced to do so. And in being forced into taking one, she finds it in her to slow down, learn to work as a team member, even if it kills her to do so. Because that’s what Caitlin does. She works at something until she is good at it, until she is the best. 

The changes that Eli brings to her life are quite significant. But that does not mean that she loses the drive that makes her essentially who she is. She is not afraid to follow her dreams, and hold her head up high in doing so, even when her heart is broken into pieces. I was glad that Julianna didn’t try to shove Caitlin’s character down the acceptable feminist mold where one sees everything as a challenge, where life is a constant battlefield where the heroine refuses to change, remains so stubborn because that is what the mold dictates.Some authors try so hard to project this image of the ultimate free spirit who itches at the very thought of settling down, who breaks out into hives at even the mere whisper of a long term relationship. Women like that for me are quite trying and tiring at times. Which is why I am so very glad that Caitlin turned out to be different. Yes, she is independent, feisty, able to hold her own and charter her own course towards the unknown. But she is also vulnerable, able to feel deeply and falls like a ton of bricks for the man who finally sees her. The real her. Even though they both make mistakes, they do come out as the winning team at the end. The angst was no less heavy in this book than the previous one in the series. But it was just as good, and the ending, just as warmth inducing. 

The sex was off the charts hot. There was a Skype session in the story that would never have me look at the camera on a laptop the same way, ever again. Eli’s confidence and playful nature in bed and out of it makes him such a turn on. I soaked up and reveled in every single aspect of Eli there was to indulge in. Goes to show that heroes don’t have to have a degree in dirty talking and call every heroine they come across every term of endearment there is and constantly use phrases like “pussy” or “cunt” in order to be sexy, sound sexy and do it dirty!

The only downside to the story would have to be the fact that the story is told entirely from Caitlin’s point of view. I would have loved to see Eli’s view of things, even be it towards the end. Nevertheless, Julianna has done a stellar job in creating both Caitlin and Eli and giving readers a story they would not forget for a long while.

Final Verdict: Julianna continues to woo, wow and amaze me with her sexy and feel good romances. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

“Want to know what I thought about you?”
“You told me already, remember? Coldhearted bitch? She-devil? And I’m sure you saw my picture on the website.”
A smirk. “I saw your picture on the cover of Chicago’s Finest.”
I seldom blush, but I do now. I’d had copies delivered to everyone on staff. “Whatever.”
“And when I saw you ripping into Todd I thought, Holy shit. She’s the hottest, meanest woman I’ve ever seen.”
I snicker, torn between feeling chastised and flattered. “Well,” I offer, “at least I didn’t fuck your friend.”

I can’t look away from the intensity of his stare. I’m not a wallflower; I’ve been with plenty of men. Nowhere near the hundreds my reputation suggests, but plenty. And Eli’s nothing like the practiced, smooth men I’ve been with. The slightly older, more experienced, more predictable men. He’s not wearing a three-piece suit with a car and driver waiting out front; this isn’t a five-star restaurant with a thousand-dollar bottle of wine resting on the table. This is a man in khakis, in the corner booth of some ancient pub, sitting at a table littered with shot glasses and a melting banana split. I know better than to ask questions I don’t know the answer to, but even though I have no idea what Eli will say or do tonight, tomorrow, or next week, all I know is that right here, right now, I want him. And I like it.

I give a startled, slightly pained cry at the pressure, and Eli lowers his mouth to mine, providing a distraction as he slowly stretches me, stroking somewhere deep inside that makes my stomach muscles flutter. And then I forget all about the fingers and the ache as something builds and builds, though every time I get close to coming he stops what he’s doing and does something else. The darkness and the weight of him is like a cocoon, and everything is swirled into one big, pulsing ball of need. He traces the seam of my mouth with his tongue and bites my bottom lip until I open, then he pushes inside and kisses me, wet and dark and dirty, like few have ever dared.

“Best fuck of my life, Caitlin Dufresne,” he says, reaching down to open the back door.
The streetlights here are brighter, and the muted glow from nearby buildings illuminates everything. I study his face for hidden meaning, but though the words might be crude, there’s nothing but sincerity in his gaze. “Me, too,” I tell him.
“That so?”
I slide into the backseat and look up at him, pressing my index finger to my lips, the universal sign for “Don’t tell anyone.”

“What do you need?” he asks, trailing his tongue along my jaw.
“I need you to fuck me. Don’t hold back.”
“Why?”
“Wha—Why?”
“Yeah. Why?”
“I just do.”
He grunts and pushes up over me so he’s sitting back on his knees for leverage, my legs spread over his. He leans in and presses his hands to the mattress on either side of my waist and watches my face carefully as he shoves in deep and hard.
“Yes,” I breathe, as everything inside spasms around him. “Just like that.”

He stops laughing. “Caitlin. I appreciate having my dick sucked. I appreciate seeing your head in my lap. I appreciate feeling your hair in my fingers and your hands on my balls and hearing the little slurping sounds you make when you swallow me. I appreciated the fuck out of that blow job.”
Well. A little thrill skitters through me. Apparently Eli has no problem talking dirty at work.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“The problem is I don’t like things to be one-sided. I like symmetry. If I come, I want you to come.”

“Are you jerking yourself off?” I ask softly. I cross and recross my legs, but it does nothing to relieve the throbbing pressure between my thighs.
“No,” Eli replies. “That’s your job.” His voice is suddenly controlled, and it amps up my arousal a thousand notches. “Are you wearing a skirt?”
I finger the hem, the fabric soft and smooth. “Yes.”
“Good. Take off your panties and meet me in the stairwell in five minutes.”
My breath catches. “Eli, I can’t—”
His rough laugh stops me. “Caitlin. You can and you will.”
Then he hangs up.”

“You told someone—”
He fixes his pants, and comes forward to smooth a strand of wayward hair behind my ear. “I told him to stop anyone from getting within ten feet of the door,” he says.
“Did he ask why?”
“Of course he did.”
“What did you tell him?”
He presses a kiss to my temple. “I told him I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says softly. “Just that I didn’t want to stop.”

“Think you can come?” he asks, uttering the words right against my clit.
“Yes!”
“Aw. Good. Let me feel it.”
“I’m close.”
“Let me hear it.”
“Eli…”
“Let me taste it.”
And then I lose it.

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

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ARC Review: Undecided by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookundecided
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Crosbie Lucas
Heroine: Nora Kincaid
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 04, 2016
Started On: March 25, 2016
Finished On: April 01, 2016

Nora Kincaid gets the wake up call she needs to get her act together, when shit hits the fan on her adventurous and party-going lifestyle that she had adapted to during her first year at college. Trying to make the change that would prevent her scholarship being taken away or worse, Nora decides to remove herself from temptations path and make changes in her life which includes moving to a new apartment that advertises seeking a roommate with the same qualities that she is interested in. She turns up only to find that the tenant seeking a roommate to is none other than her one-time drunken closet hookup and campus stud Kellan McVey.

While Nora definitely has second thoughts about saying yes, especially given her dislike towards Kellan’s best friend Crosbie Lucas, uber-jock and renowned campus party boy, the decision is made and she moves in. Things get interesting when Nora gets to spend more time with Crosbie and begins to see a side of him that he seldom shows to the rest of the world, a side that has her falling for him in a big way.

While the title of the book might make one think that this book delves into the love triangle sort of story, it does not. Crosbie and Nora are the couple that begins their journey on uncharted waters for both of them. Nora who has never had the opportunity to call someone her own, finds that in Crosbie, a guy who is sensitive, kind and sexy all in one. Which spells a lot of trouble especially given the secret that she harbors in her heart, forever scared that it might come out and ruin the very thing that has become precious to her along the way.

I loved Crosbie for a lot of reasons. He is considerate, a bit shy with a touch of cocky as well. Crosbie does not understand his worth, is unable to see what he can be and what he is to other people. In that sense, he is just like Nora, the girl who believes that she cannot do it all. That it is either the road to Hell or Heaven when it comes to her and that there is no in between.

The best thing about Crosbie’s character for me was his sense of humor. It was such a turn on and very endearing in a guy like him. The fact that Nora and Crosbie could have fun with each other even during the most sensual moments in the story is a reason why this book was such a hit with me.

Having only sampled Julianna’s book Time Served before, I had no inkling of what to expect from Undecided except the fact that this too would deliver a steamy book to indulge in. Because Undecided was so different from Time Served in a lot of ways, this book being a bit less of everything, however I think it worked for the story that Julianna was aiming for in Undecided. There are times when you need the angst-ridden stories to take you to the very peak of your emotions and then there are those times that you require something a bit mellow in contrast to tide you over. Undecided was that for me.

Final Verdict: Sweet & sexy, with just the right touch of angst. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

“I have wanted to touch these for a long time.”
I laugh, surprised. “What?” I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked: he’s a guy, these are boobs. It’s like peanut butter and jelly.
He reaches around and I feel his fingers slide under the bra’s lace band, undoing the hooks. “That first day,” he whispers against my hair, “when you showed up with that tight little sweater with the buttons on the front? I think about that a lot.”

He keeps his eyes open, locked on mine, as he unbuttons his own jeans and frees his erection. It’s too dark for me to fully appreciate it, but I see his arm move and know he’s stroking himself. He’d done this last time, too, and I never even got to touch.
“Let me,” I whisper against his lips. My hand replaces his we both groan. He’s thick and hot and hard, everything I want and need.

“Nora,” he murmurs, cupping my face and kissing me. Our chests press together and even through my shirt I can feel the heat of his skin, the rapid thud of his heart. He kisses me deeply, wetly, like it means something, and though I wanted to fuck him, my body has other ideas. Instead I shift and slide slowly, the movement slick with friction and heady arousal, reaching places I didn’t even know existed.

“I wish we had more time,” he mutters, tongue trailing over my neck, teeth nipping lightly. “And a door with a lock he didn’t have the keys to.”
“I know. I know.” I can’t think much beyond the hand he’s sliding under my panties, coasting over the skin of my ass and lower, down between my legs, finding the wetness that waits.
“Oh fuck.”
I echo the sentiment when one of his thick fingers pushes inside. It feels like only seconds before I’m clinging to his neck, my short nails digging into the muscles of his back as I switch between begging for more and swearing I can’t wait any longer.

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