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Dec
8

Review + Giveaway: Owning Violet by Monica Murphy

Review + Giveaway: Owning Violet by Monica Murphy Owning Violet Author: Monica Murphy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary romance lately. It’s interesting that the subgenre still holds interest for me, as I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every trope out there. I had to fight for moments to read the first title in Monica Murphy’s new Fowler Sisters series, Owning Violet. Stolen moments on my lunch break, at the grocery store while waiting in line, and while waiting for Youngest to be released from wrestling practice. And then, I binged. I gorged myself on Violet and Ryder’s story for an afternoon. And I don’t regret a single minute. This is a workplace romance. And, the one thing that irritated me about Owning Violet was that Violet wanted to keep everything with Ryder on the down-low, while her entire relationship with Zachary was in-the-open. Both work at Fleur Cosmetics, and have parallel positions in the hierarchy. I’ll just leave that right there for a minute. Violet is the ‘responsible’ sister. She’s destined to run Fleur Cosmetics someday. I mean, she’s really the only one of her sisters interested in the position. I liked Violet’s chapters. The narration is first person with shifting viewpoints, and Ms. Murphy tells us who’s talking. What drew me to Violet was the fact that she changed and evolved throughout the novel. She started as a meek and quiet ‘flower’—a ‘shrinking violet,’ if you will—that wasn’t interested in rocking-the-boat. By the end, however…well, you’ll have to read to find out why I like her so much now. 🙂 Ryder. How to explain Ryder? He’s certainly an enigma, that’s for sure. Besides being damaged, and needing to learn to actually love, Ryder has about a bazillion things going against him in the grand scheme of things. Even though he holds a position pretty high-up in Fleur Cosmetics, he feels unworthy. I know that Ryder’s narration in his chapters is about HIS growth throughout the novel, but the boy did things slow and in his own time—that’s for sure. I kinda wanted to wrap him in a fleece blanket and pet his thick, wavy locks a few times as I was reading. We all know I have a thing for damaged heroes, and while Ryder had several of those qualities, he didn’t quite fit the grid. Does that make sense? And whew! He certainly has the domineering control-freak thing mastered. *snort* I’d be Violet in a heartbeat....
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Dec
4

Review + Blog Tour + Giveaway: Hell on Wheels by Z.A. Maxfield

Review + Blog Tour + Giveaway: Hell on Wheels by Z.A. Maxfield Hell On Wheels Author: Z. A. Maxfield Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Living in Bluewater Bay always suited Nash Holly just fine, for the most part. Taking on a lot of the responsibility for his family at a young age never made his path an easy one, but he gladly accepted his role with unshakeable devotion. The idea that there might be more for him wasn’t anything he allowed himself to think about, at least until a close call on a rainy night turns out to be much more than it seems. Spencer Kepler-Constantine knows all about the pitfalls of fame, but recent heartbreak has made his entire existence a misery. Unable to escape the spotlight, he’s determined to hide his pain from everyone, including himself, if he can possibly manage it. But, when an unexpectedly erotic interlude with a stranger who doesn’t play by the rules shakes Spencer up in lovely and terrifying ways, he begins to wonder if the best thing to ever happen to him isn’t right in front of him after all. Hell on Wheels is an appealingly simple, romantic tale of two men who aren’t exactly looking for anything, but end up finding it anyway. Nash and Spencer are opposites in just about every way possible. Nash is a high-octane, small-town mechanic whose commitment to his family doesn’t leave him any room for romance. Spencer is a famous celebrity on a popular TV show who is in the middle of a very public divorce and would prefer to avoid another relationship at all costs. A “no-strings” arrangement would be preferable to both men, if only they weren’t so perfect for each other. While it is neither action-packed nor suspenseful, Hell on Wheels is a sweet story about expectations and honesty, and the dangers of making assumptions, no matter how badly our hearts want something. Though their respective worlds seem to clash spectacularly, Spencer and Nash are more complimentary than either is willing to admit, except sexually—an element of their relationship they both (thankfully) embrace. Z.A. Maxfield has, once again, written two complicated, deserving characters who have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be happy, yet who can’t seem to let go of their own fears long enough to reach for it until it’s almost too late. With one exception, each of the Bluewater Bay stories is written by different authors and is meant to be read as a standalone. However, I thoroughly enjoyed...
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Dec
2

Review: Razed by Shiloh Walker

Review: Razed by Shiloh Walker Razed Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Ms. Walker has certainly brought intense sexual tension to fruition with an explosive release in Razed. This second title of her Barnes Brothers series was most eagerly anticipated… Because I completely fell in love with Zane the moment I saw him in Wrecked. Razed has the super-secret-ninja-identity trope, which is one of my favorites. I’ll just leave this here to drive you crazy. Because I can’t say more, or it’d be spoilery. So, if you’re a fan of this trope like me, pick up this book. STAT. If you read the first book, Wrecked, in this series (recommended to read the series in order) you’d remember that Keelie kissed Zach because she thought she loved him. But there wasn’t fireworks. However, that didn’t stop her feelings for him completely. Feeling awkward at Zach’s wedding, Keelie was ‘rescued’ by Zane, Zach’s older brother. The way that Keelie responded to Zane WAS full of fireworks. In the best possible way *fans self*. What was extremely interesting for me was watching Keelie interact with others. We found out early on in Razed that there was something going on with Keelie. The way that Ms. Walker built up that plot point was extremely skillful and kept me flipping pages as fast as I could muster. It also made me stay up WAY past my bedtime. Always a sign of a well-written book and engaging plot. And this part of Keelie’s storyline?!? BAM! Never saw it coming. Nev-er. Now Zane also has a huge secret lurking in HIS backstory. I was equally in awe of the handling of his admission as I was Keelie’s, but it also brought up some bullying baggage I thought I’d left behind from grade school. LOVE Zane. Did I mention that?!?! And really, who wouldn’t love a sensitive, artistic photographer that has pined after—and tried to win over—a woman for three years? I think what I love most about Zane is that he’s perfectly content to wait for Keelie to be ready for their relationship. He doesn’t really frame it as an ‘if’ either. It’s as though Zane instinctively knew that Keelie was right for him. I think that’s why I fell for Zane. To be that confident and patient with someone who was obviously skittish about becoming entrenched in a relationship was pretty special. I love the way that Zane looks at things, too. The awe...
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Nov
28

Quickie Review: The Christmas Top by Christi Snow

Quickie Review: The Christmas Top by Christi Snow The Christmas Top Author: Christi Snow Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Not surprisingly, Christi Snow has written yet another wonderfully sweet and sexy story with The Christmas Top. In this addition to the 1Night Stand series we’re introduced to Jason Wieland and Mark Cummins, two men on the edge of a new beginning that could be the answer to their wildest fantasies. Both men are trying to start over with a clean slate, although for very different reasons, and are hoping that Madame Eve can help make their Christmas wishes come true. Of course, all of the 1Night Stand stories I’ve read so far have been erotic in nature, and The Christmas Top delivers on that expectation beautifully. Mark has a very specific idea about what he wants from the arrangement, and it just so happens that Jason is the perfect man to provide it. Jason’s objective at the beginning of their date is more substantive and bittersweet, but, as the evening progresses, his desires are not only met, but end more happily than he could have hoped for. The Christmas Top is just the thing for anyone who enjoys their m/m romance with a little bit of an edge to it. Jason and Mark are interesting, warm-hearted characters, and knowing there would be a happy ending for them made their story a real pleasure to read. There aren’t any big surprises or a lot of angst here; just a nice mix of eroticism and romance that makes this an excellent indulgence for the holidays. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: All he wants for Christmas… It’s time for Mark Cummins to come out of the closet. He’s ready, but he’s never been topped. Asking Madame Eve for the one-night stand of his fantasies, he hopes she can grant his Christmas wish. He’s a less-than-merry gentleman… Jason Wieland’s life partner died in a horrific hate crime two years before and he hasn’t taken a lover since. He knows it’s time, and he reaches out to the 1Night Stand dating service to find the right man to light up his holiday. But when masculine, sexy, and extremely straight Mark shows up, he doesn’t know what to do. Is this 1Night Stand a cruel joke or has Madame Eve truly worked Christmas magic? Release Date: December 6, 2013 Publisher: Decadent Publishing Series: 1 Night Stand ISBN: #978-1613336335 Genre: LBGTQ, m/m romance, novella Format(s): e-book Book...
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Nov
24

Review: Night Shift Anthology

Review: Night Shift Anthology Night Shift Author: Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, Milla Vane Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Night Shift anthology is a wonderful collection of paranormal and fantasy novellas from some wonderful authors. “Secrets at Midnight” by Nalini Singh Psy/Changeling series #13.5 This enjoyable novella from the world of Psy-Changeling shares the romance of Bastien and Kirby. Readers familiar with the series will recognize Bastien as DarkRiver sentinel Mercy’s brother. Kirby, on the other hand, is a human who seems to have all the markers of a cat shifter. Overall, Secrets at Midnight is an enjoyable, easy-going Changeling story. I’ve missed the Changelings a lot, with the past couple of books focusing on Psy romances. Although there are a few minor spoilers to those new to the series, it’s an excellent stand alone look at Ms. Singh’s world. The idea of a potential shifter not knowing she’s one is unique and interesting. And since this is a Changeling story involving the “mating bond” romance, there is a quick “I love you.” However, it fits the flow of the tale. I appreciate how and when the mating bond snapped into place. My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot “Magic Steals” by Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels #6.5 Told from white tiger shifter Dali’s point-of-view, this wonderful novella takes place during time of Magic Rises, when Kate and Curran are oversees on a diplomatic mission. Although the story is stand alone, it will be more emotionally satisfying for those who have read the series and know both Jim and Dali from earlier books. Magic Steals is by far my favorite story in the anthology, primarily because the Kate Daniels series is my favorite series, and this novella is a shining example of what makes the series so superb. The story is filled with wit, humor, action, and romance, creating the perfect balance with an engrossing mystery. Plus, I love Jim and Dali together. So awesome! Overall, I simply LOVED this novella. Jim and Dali are so incredibly perfect together. The humor is spot on; the case is interesting. I liked learning more about the mysterious Dali. The romance is sweet, to include a passionate scene that was hot! Fans of the series will adore this novella. Those new to the series will experience a good taste of the Kate Daniels world and writing style of Ilona Andrews. A+ Personal Favorite “Lucky Charms” by Lisa Shearin SPI #0.5 Makenna...
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Nov
18

ARC Review: Black Widow by Jennifer Estep

ARC Review: Black Widow by Jennifer Estep Black Widow Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Black Widow just blew me away. Not only does it have all the usual parts that make the Elemental Assassin series one on my favorites… tough as nails Gin, witty banter, the love of family and friends. But it has so much more than any of the prior titles. MMM is unlike any villain Gin has faced before. She is one that enjoys the games and her machinations. She tears Gin apart by attacking her family and friends with red tape and legal problems, something Gin doesn’t have the means to deal with, right away at least. Gin is a “hands on” assassin, and she is made helpless by MMM. It KILLED ME to see Gin so helpless. But then MMM takes something from Gin that I wasn’t expecting – something that brought tears to my eyes and made me genuinely weep. It’s moments like these that elevated this good book to a great one. Ms. Estep has created an amazing, likable character in Gin Blanco – one that feels like a friend. I feel fortunate to see into her world, and because I feel this way, Gin’s suffering is also my own at times. The author touches on such an array of intense emotions. But the story is equality as strong. It’s not unlike previous tales, in that Gin must overcome several obstacles to triumph in the end. But I feel like it’s the first time that Gin did so feeling completely and utterly comfortable with her friends and family. They were like a well-oiled team, something that hasn’t really happened since Gin took down Mab back in Spider’s Revenge – and even then, she included her family reluctantly. This time, there was no hesitation, they are part of her and the Spider. And I adore every single one of Gin’s makeshift family. It’s grown over the course of a dozen books, but each character is important in his or her own way. I never feel like any of the characters are superfluous, and in fact, enjoy spending time with every single one of them over the course of a story. Especially this time around, when her family is there to support Gin, and not the other way around. I also enjoyed the full-circle nature of the story, and I hope that now things will start anew. And based on how the book concludes,...
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Nov
17

Review: Three Christmases by Kat & Stone Bastion

Review: Three Christmases by Kat & Stone Bastion Three Christmases Author: Kat & Stone Bastion Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Three Christmases is the final full novel in Kat & Stone Bastion’s wonderful serial series No Weddings. To say I adored this book is an understatement. Sexy and sultry, with an undercurrent of conflict, the story kept me engaged and turning page after page, looking for the emotional release Kat & Stone have built into the series. I found it. And damn, was I happy with the outcome. I knew this dynamic writing duo wouldn’t leave me hanging with this title. In following the slow-burn relationship of Cade and Hannah through these well-crafted novels, I have grown to love these characters. I found myself rooting for their relationship like a cheerleader on speed. Each turn of events tore me up. Ultimately, however, the ride the Bastions take their readers on with the story of Cade & Hannah’s relationship is realistic, heart-warming, and filled with real-world connections that shook me in a way that few titles I’ve read this year have managed. With Cade taking a job that would keep him a continent away from Hannah, I knew things would be rough. I snagged my box of tissues and settled in for the ride, trusting the Bastions to make it all better in the end. I felt every qualm Cade had about his separation from Hannah, each moment of doubt about his decision to not be by her side on a daily basis. Conversely, I was angry on Hannah’s behalf. This isn’t something expressed in the book, though, I was upset because Cade made such a life-changing decision without consulting her. They’re supposed to be partners, a team…right? I felt, however, that Hannah was right to react the way she did—I would have done the same. But what niggled at me all the way through the book was why Hannah didn’t express her true feelings about the situation. Oh, tricky one, Bastions! By the end I got it. And it made the wonderful resolution that much more powerful for me. One of the points of conflict in Three Christmases was about Hannah’s biological father. I want more info about this whole situation. I’m a detail-oriented reader, and I’m cool with the way the plot resolved, but I naturally want more backstory with more details. What I wouldn’t give to see a small scene with Hannah’s mom, and the reasons why she made the decisions she...
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Nov
14

Review: No Boundaries by SE Jakes

Review: No Boundaries by SE Jakes No Boundaries Author: SE Jakes Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’ve become a huge fan of many of Ms. Jakes’ other series, including some written under her other pen names, so I was very eager to read the first of the Phoenix, Inc. stories, as well. No Boundaries introduces us to two intriguing and volatile characters, Cole Jacobs and Marcus Lowry, both of whom have pasts that they’d rather not revisit—ever. Unfortunately, the past is never so acquiescent, and, in Cole’s case, it is sometimes deadly. Ms. Jakes never fails to write relatable, compelling characters, and I immediately liked Cole a great deal. He is young, resilient, and beautiful, but the self-assured exterior he presents to everyone around him masks a vulnerability that defies the image he tries so hard to project. He is wary and more than a little jaded, and although he knows exactly what he is, he has no concept of his own potential. Fortunately, that changes over the course of the story, and Cole eventually realizes that what he wants most is both noble and good, and that even someone “like himself” deserves to be loved. Marcus, on the other hand, needs an entirely different kind of saving. After his last, disastrous operation for the CIA, the snarly, burned-out private investigator has been limiting himself to “boring,” safe cases that aren’t fulfilling, but don’t put anyone at risk, either. Having been betrayed by his ex-boyfriend as well, he’s about as cynical as they come, and his immediate distrust of his new charge reveals more of his own issues than Cole’s. The one thing he can’t deny is that Cole makes him absolutely crazy on several levels, which just might be exactly what they both need after all. No Boundaries is a suspenseful, well-written tale of vengeance and redemption that easily kept me guessing right along with the characters. With such an adept and highly dangerous stalker in play, I couldn’t help but be nervous for all the men involved, and wanted him brought down just as badly as they did. There were quite a few close calls that worried me a great deal, combined with the stress caused by Marcus’ continual attempts at romantic self-sabotage. None of which I could possibly resist. This story moves quickly and hits hard, making the characters’ much deserved moments of intimacy all the more appreciated. The relationship between Cole and Marcus doesn’t begin gently, but rather,...
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Nov
12

Review: Romancing the Billionaire by Jessica Clare

Review: Romancing the Billionaire by Jessica Clare Romancing the Billionaire Author: Jessica Clare Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Romancing the Billionaire, the fifth title in Jessica Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series was my vacation read. I couldn’t put it down, folks. I started reading and made it through half the book before I succumbed to sleep. I actually told Mr. VampBard that I needed to finish before we could continue on with vacation activities. For real. I was super excited to finally get Johnathan’s story. I came into this series a little late (and I fully intend to pick up the books I’ve missed), but have an affinity for these guys. A soft-spot in my heart for how messed up some of them are, and how they manage to overcome adversity in order to win the love of their life. And I felt an extreme draw to Johnathan and Violet’s story. Johnathan Lyons has been the ultimate playboy. He’s gone through women revolving-door style, never letting them get to know him, or giving himself a chance to fall in love. He’s carried a torch for Violet for ten years, and hoped against hope he would have the opportunity to win her back at some point. I think the reason I liked Johnathan so much is because he reminds me of Mr. VampBard. He’s sweet and protective, yet manages to let Violet be herself. He allows her to come to him on her terms, even though they’re on a ‘mission’ set in motion by the death of Violet’s father and Johnathan’s mentor/friend. Their journey through overcoming the past, reconciling it, and moving forward made me want to be a better person. To learn to love as selflessly as Johnathan, and to forgive like Violet. I know. Shut up, VampBard. Books don’t make you feel like that. But really, when you connect with one in a powerful way, they do. Johnathan, while it seemed at times as though he let his money manipulate situations, he was, in my opinion, using his resources. And that’s always okay in my book. I did struggle with a couple instances of willy-nilly spending, thinking that Violet would have come around faster if he’d been more like the Johnathan of ten years ago. But, reality check. No one stagnates. We all continue to grow, and our experiences in life shape us. Johnathan would have been lying to himself as well as Violet if he’d been the person he was those...
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Nov
6

Review: Tainted Blood by M.L. Brennan

Review: Tainted Blood by M.L. Brennan Tainted Blood Author: M. L. Brennan Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: M.L. Brennan has done it again.  This is another well written, gripping, and emotionally charged novel.  Tainted Blood continues the story of Fort, the unlikely hero and reluctant vampire, as he strengthens his role in his family and the supernatural world. There is so much Gikany and Una want to share about Tainted Blood.  However, to do so would spoil it for readers.  It would also spoil it for those who haven’t read the previous two novels in the American Vampire series.  The novels build on each other as Fort slowly transitions into a full vampire.   Through each novel we not only learn more about vampires, but Fort’s family and the shift in power that is looming in the future.  What makes it so compelling is that Fort is so different from his mother and his siblings.  He is the youngest and was “raised” differently.  Those differences make him completely unlike the rest of his family. In Tainted Blood, Fort is tasked with discovering who murdered the bear clan’s alpha.  Though it seems as if he is just filling in duties while his brother Chivalry is otherwise engaged, there is so much more at play.  The more that Fort investigates, the more he learns not only about his own family and his transition, but also his future life, and how the other paranormal groups view his family.  As we learn more about this world, we are exposed to more of the politics of the various paranormal groups.  The ramifications for Fort are staggering.  It is really fascinating. What we love most is the continuing relationship between Fort and Suze.  From the beginnings of their unlikely team in the first novel, to their budding friendship, to the hopes of more continues in Tainted Blood.  Suze is a force of nature.  She is funny, crazy, loyal, determined and all around amazing.  We love her and the contrasts between her and Fort.  Another wonderful addition to the supporting cast is Fort’s new roommate.  It really is hilarious that Fort, the vegetarian vampire, lives with a ghoul.  The topic of communal food was really funny. If you are a fan of urban fantasy, you really need to pick up this series.  It is a must read.  This character driven series is witty, well written, and gripping.  This is one of our top series and we eagerly...
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