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Currently Browsing: romance
Apr
6

Review: Blazing Earth by Terri Brisbin

Review: Blazing Earth by Terri Brisbin Blazing Earth Author: Terri Brisbin Reviewer: Una Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: In this third installment of the Stone Circles, the tone of the novel changes. Though I liked the journey of Tolan and Thea, there was a more somber feeling and desperation to the world.  It seems the plight of our heroes has reached a pinnacle in Blazing Earth. ***Please note that this series builds upon the previous novel.  Therefore there may be inadvertent spoilers in this review.  You have been warned.*** This is a tough review to write because I do not want to spoil the novel, but I do feel as if the progression of this novel is very different from the previous ones.  Though there is a logical conclusion that brings about a higher tension to the impending final confrontation, it was still in some ways a tough read.  Tolan and Thea must work though some emotional baggage that affects their actions and choices in this journey.  I love how they overcome it, but their story is so bittersweet.  Death and loss has always been a part of this series, but I found it much more poignant in this installment.  Maybe it is due to the outcome of events, but although Tolan and Thea do end up together (I hope that isn’t too spoilery for a romance novel) the course of their romance took me by surprise.  It makes me nervous and eager for the next novel. I continue to enjoy this world and the mythology associated with it.  The different bloodlines that are tied to the Old Ones (old gods) and how they are vessels for these past gods to protect the world from Chaela.  The manifestation of powers and the mixing of the religions are fascinating.  I also enjoy the contrast as these bloodline carriers discover and learn about these traits they have inherited.  The legend of the Warriors of Destiny is thrilling as each book adds the next players.  It is clear that we are heading into the final battle and I cannot wait to see if our heroes will triumph over evil.  I’m thinking they will, but I wonder how much heartbreak, tension and suspense I’ll have to endure before we get there.  I really do like how the stories do not always progress as I expect – especially in Blazing Earth. Tolan and Thea’s romantic journey is compelling.  Though bittersweet in moments, their connection is steel.  They are passionate...
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Mar
7

Review: Trapped by Alison Aimes

Review: Trapped by Alison Aimes Trapped Author: Alison Aimes Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’m going to put this right up front because Alison Aimes’ debut book Trapped actually came with a warning right up front.  I was puzzled by it. It doesn’t read like a trigger warning, instead, sounding more like a promotional blurb.  At the outset there is an unequal power structure between her two main characters and the sex that takes place within it.  That relationship changes over the course of the book, but if there was concern about criticism for it, don’t write it.  Don’t come up with a premise and then apologize for it. If she feels it needs a trigger warning, put it out there simply and don’t dance around it. Here’s the thing though, it would appear that Aimes set out to write an erotic romance set in space, but that’s not what she did.  She actually wrote a very good science fiction novel where, dare I say it, the sex was almost superfluous.  Not in its entirety, some would have been fine here and there to support the romantic elements, rather than use it to create them.  To me, it almost felt out place in what was otherwise a well written book with good world-building and sufficient conflict to support multiple sub-plots.  She probably could have dropped fifty-percent of the sex and expanded the epilogue.  At only 220 pages, there was lots of room for more description, more dialog, more stress, more relief and I would have happily come along for the ride. She successfully creates an alpha-male who comes off sympathetic, even scared, without losing any of his masculinity.  It was nice to have such a prominent character be so un-full of himself.  Convict 673 aka Caine completely lacked the cockiness of most alpha-males prominent in today’s romance literature.  His female counterpart, Cadet Annabella “Bella” West, is intelligent.  She makes choices for her survival, keeps her bargains, shows integrity, and doesn’t apologize for the consequences. She’s was a survivor even before she crashed into Caine’s life so her actions were consistent, even if they seemed extreme to her. I like these two characters and I like them together.  I just wish I had more of them and not just more of them in bed. One criticism was that in having her story thousands of years into the future, Aimes fell short in the cursing department.  She developed a system of travel, government,...
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Feb
2

Spotlight + Giveaway: Hot Dudes Coloring Book by D.C. Taylor

Spotlight + Giveaway: Hot Dudes Coloring Book by D.C. Taylor For all lovers of washboard abs, bad boys and… crayons—there’s a new group of hotties in town and they are ready to get graphic (artistically, that is!). Berkley Publishing presents the HOT DUDES COLORING BOOK (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; February 2, 2016; $9.99) by D.C. Taylor in conjunction with Valentine’s Day this February. Inside this steamy book you will find a swoon-worthy collection of 60 scantily-clad heartthrobs for your coloring pleasure. With sexy cops, cowboys, lumberjacks and a plethora of other fantasy beaus to choose from, every artist is sure to find their muse. Hitting stores just shy of the most amorous holiday of the year, this entertaining book prompts one to ask the question: who needs to choose one valentine when you can have them all? Giveaway: Berkley is generously donating one (1) copy of the HOT DUDES COLORING BOOK to give to one (1) lucky commenter. To enter, please leave a comment telling us which fictional character you most would like to color. Additionally, please leave an email address or twitter handle so I may contact the winner. The giveaway is open until Monday February 8, 2016 at 12:00 noon EST. Winner(s) chosen at random from all eligible entries. This contest is open to U.S. mailing addresses only, where not prohibited by law. Open to participants, 18 years or older, who are legally allowed to participate in such a contest as allowed by their local laws. All federal, state, local, and municipal laws and regulations apply. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. By participating in the contest, participants agree to be bound by the decisions of the contest sponsor. Prize will be delivered by the publisher. This blog, its reviewers, and the owner are not responsible for items lost in the mail. By entering this giveaway, participants agree to abide by these terms. My Review: When I first heard that Berkley was jumping in to the “adult” coloring book craze, I was super excited… I mean who wouldn’t want to color sexy romance cover dudes?! After receiving my review copy from the publisher, I took time to look through it and even selected a couple images to color. I used colored pencils for this one, which reminded me of one of my favorite book covers! I also colored this image with my daughter’s “skinny” crayons. I liked using crayons more than the colored pencils. While the coloring was fun, and the book is highly entertaining, it’s not what I had hoped for or expected in an “adult”...
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Dec
16

Review: Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin

Review: Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin Clockwork Samurai Author: Jeannie Lin Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I have waited for the sequel to Gunpowder Alchemy, the novel ended with so many questions.  Suffice to say, Clockwork Samurai does not disappoint, though I will say the plot thickens. At the conclusion of the previous novel I was left with a few questions.  What will happen between Chang-wei and Jin?  Will they be able to quell the rebels?  Will they be able to stop the British invasion?  Though none of these issues are resolved, each plot thread does progress.  The plight of Jin’s country is gripping – made more so by the issue of a source of opium that is deadly upon first use.  However it seems to not be of a concern of the powers that be – especially as Jin discovers that the Emperor is indulging in it. Jin has been promoted to a palace physician.  Though it seems like a noble post, one that allows her to give her mother and brother a better life, it is not without disadvantages. Though she is the physician in charge of the Emperor’s concubines, there still seems to be political minefields in this position.  Not to mention working in the palace means she could catch the Emperor’s eye, something Jin does not desire.  Due to fears that the Emperor is intrigued by Jin, she asks for a reassignment.  However, be careful what you ask for, her reassignment puts her back in a new adventure with Chang-wei – one that they may not return from.  The journey to Japan in hopes to make an alliance was a nail-biting journey.  The depiction of the county, the culture, and the introduction of new characters was enchanting.  Though it doesn’t go smoothly, it was a fascinating journey. I enjoyed the continuing romance of Chang-wei and Jin.  Though it is obvious they desire each other, something holds Chang-wei back.  Though it is not entirely clear to Jin, she can tell that they have a strong connection and desire for each other.  Yet, because of their positions and the turmoil, they seem unable to explore it.  This romance is well woven into the rest of the story and the balance continues to be well done.  I hope that they will find a way to be with each other.  It seems that they are well suited. The journey to Japan was utterly fascinating.  Though nothing seems to go as planned (or...
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Nov
9

Review: By Hook or By Crook by Eleri Stone + bonus review

Review: By Hook or By Crook by Eleri Stone + bonus review By Hook or By Crook Author: Eleri Stone Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Note: The author and Carina Press put out a free prequel novella, The Adventures of Cassius Flynn and Molly McGuire, which I recommend reading prior to By Hook or By Crook, as it shares quite a bit of the couple’s mutual history. I’ve included my review of the novella at the end of this post. Cassius Flynn and Molly McGuire have always made good partners. So out of a sense of debt and because she still cares for him, Molly agrees to help Flynn on a spy mission for the Rangers, even if it means she has to pretend to be a lady and mingle with the Scrapers. Having recently turned from his smuggling ways, Flynn is trying to create a life that is stable and one which Molly would be proud of. He thinks having her come up into the cities will give her the chance to relax and enjoy how the other half lives. After following Molly and Flynn dance around one another through a couple of the Reaper titles, I was very excited to read their romantic story. I am happy to report that By Hook or By Crook did not disappoint. Molly and Flynn’s journey is sweet, passionate, and an exciting adventure! Ms. Stone drops readers right into high adventure and action as Molly and Flynn attempt to secure a treasure left in a Reaper-infested town. Right from the start I was on edge; the tension is high and well detailed. Flynn is an interesting character who started life as a wealthy scraper, then turned his back on his corrupt stepfather, Stark, to become a smuggler on the plains. But Flynn never could just walk away from Stark, taking every opportunity to needle him and hamper his business efforts. This need for continual vengeance is what ultimately puts Flynn and Molly back in Scraper territory and in danger. Yet, Flynn loves Molly with all his heart and wants to be a better man for her. These conflicting drives and emotions are what makes Flynn the man he is, and unfortunately, sometimes blinds him to the truths around him. Equality as complex and exciting, Molly is fairly content with her scavenging lifestyle. She’s had a tough life, yet while those around her always let her down, she refuses to allow the actions of others dictate who she wants to be...
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Nov
6

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance Author: M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Warning: Potential Spoilers. I absolutely love a good suspense wrapped around a fabulous romance. M.S. Parker and Shiloh Walker have created an intriguing story with a well-crafted plot that kept me riveted to the page. Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance leads the reader down a trail, splits the path, and hops on a highway. The best kind of suspense. Carly grew up the daughter of a famous musician. I connected with her in a lot of ways—not that I have money or anything—but because she lived in a shadow, and had to put on a facade for the public. People didn’t *really* know who she was—only what she let them see. Watching her evolve from a cantankerous, saucy girl into a woman that cared deeply about things was one of the highlights of the book for me. Can’t discount Bobby though. After living through a stint in prison for killing a man—in a self-defense situation—he did his time and was paroled. Doesn’t mean it didn’t screw up his life. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have regrets. Doesn’t mean he didn’t still think he was a piece of crap, and didn’t deserve happiness. Bobby is the character I really connected with. As he grew through the book, learning to trust and learning his own value, he started to care for people. Sometimes, we don’t realize our own value. We don’t have to go through something like Bobby did—life just hands us a bad hand and we have to deal with it. And we have to deal with the aftermath. Taking a character that’s had it rough and persevered to become a beautiful person gives me hope with the students I teach, too. Watching Bobby and Carly develop as a couple was pretty spectacular, too. There’s one character, a father-figure for Carly, that we lose through the course of the story, and if you follow my reviews at all, I nearly had to put this title down. He dies from cancer, and that’s a HUGE trigger for me. We’re talking down the proverbial rabbit hole for days. I may have some fallout from that little foray, but it wasn’t a big part of the story (the cancer itself), so I’m thinking it’ll be okay. Probably. The reaction of Carly and Bobby to the death of this character was… unique. The suspense part… threats against an...
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Oct
24

Review: Heart Fire by Robin D. Owens

Review: Heart Fire by Robin D. Owens Heart Fire Author: Robin D. Owens Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Psst. I missed a Celta’s Heartmates book last year because my reading schedule was full. Well, before the next title releases, Heart Legacy, on November 3, 2015, I HAD to read Heart Fire. Because, one does not simply skip a book in a series. One of the things I love most about the Celta’s Heartmates series is that the main couple spend the bulk of the book kinda-sorta knowing they should be together, but battling their inner demons and working through stuff so they’re actually ABLE to be together in a stable, healthy, relationship. I also really like the Fams—‘familiars’ that are companions of the humanoids. They’re cats, predominantly. What’s not to like? I also geek out when couples from past books reappear. And they do. It’s probably just me, but it seemed like the beginning third of this title moved a little slow. It definitely took me awhile to get into the world of Celta again, and that’s really my only complaint about the book. Might have been the depth of description; having read the prior titles in the series, I’m familiar with a lot of what was described. HOWEVER… this negative for me is definitely a positive for Readers-at-Large. This title *could* be read individually, although the full experience of revisiting characters from the past won’t be fulfilling. Tiana is from a family that fell victim to religious persecution when she was a child. Now a priestess in a DIFFERENT religion, our leading lady stresses entirely too much over what people think of her. No. Really. She does. Tiana is dropped, by her superiors, into a timebomb—stemming from the destruction of her home, and the ensuing scandal. What’s pretty awesome about Tianna is watching her evolution as a person. We all ‘come from’ somewhere, and oftentimes that place defines at least a portion of our self-image. When we can’t reconcile events from our past, it takes a toll on our present, and definitely affects our future. Based on the details we get about Tiana, her self-image is closely tied to her perceived ranking in the social hierarchy. Watching events unfold made me reflect. Not too hard, though. Because, in general, I try not to care what others think (but we all know part of me does…), and I think as I get older, I actually care less. Antenn, adopted son of an influential family,...
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Oct
21

Review: Raging Sea by Terri Brisbin

Review: Raging Sea by Terri Brisbin Raging Sea Author: Terri Brisbin Reviewer: Una Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Even though I loved William in the first novel (and still do), I feel that Raging Sea is better than the previous novel, Rising Fire for several reasons. First, the connection and journey of Ran and Soren were stronger, more complex, and therefore a little more dramatic.  Second, the world-building is set so it was very easy to step into the world and be immersed in the plot, which was captivating.  And finally, the novel flowed really well. William is still my favorite hero in this series (and he does appear in Raging Sea).  I enjoyed the romantic and story of William and Brienne in Rising Fire.  However, Ran and Soren had a history that made their connection even stronger and more compelling.  Though the betrayal really bothered me at first, it is clear from the beginning that all may not be what it seems.  Theirs was truly an inner battle between right and wrong.  I loved how the truth was slowly revealed, though my heart wished it had come out sooner.  Their painful past, coupled with the intense attraction, was compelling, and I enjoyed how their journey was entwined with the overarching plot of keeping Chaela imprisoned.  Their awakening to their powers and the truth of their connection was different from the previous novel.  I loved how strong the connection between them was and the reason behind it.  It was great to see that both Ran and Soren were strong on their own, but even more formidable when allied. Ms. Brisbin keeps the tension of a chess match throughout the novel.  We experience the movement and the point of view of both sides as they try to gain the upper hand.  The antagonist is truly cunning and depraved.  He is truly a master manipulator, and I enjoyed watching him fall short (much to his surprise). Though the ending conflict was quick and a bit anticlimactic in a way, it fits with the overall chess match feel.  I am eager to see what happens in the next novel since the antagonist has lost the last two battles and Chaela is running out of portals to escape from.  Combine that with the losses our heroes endured and the regrouping they will need to do along with finding the next two bloodline warriors, and I can’t wait for the next book. I continue to enjoy this series, the...
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Sep
21

Review: Return to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett

Review: Return to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett Return to Dark Earth Author: Anna Hackett Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: Niklas Phoenix left the Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation after his dreams were crushed upon realizing that his mentor and others were selling the artifacts for a profit. That was the day he left to become a treasure hunter with his brothers. Now the Institute wants him back for a never attempted before expedition of ancient Earth. Nera Darc is a deadly treasure hunter who has long been the bane of the Phoenix Brother’s collection efforts. Loaner. Killer. Sneak. But Niklas believes there is more to Nera, and with each encounter, he wants her more and more. When he finds out she’s on the expedition to Earth, he decides it is time to make his move. Nera and Nik’s connection, which began back with the start of the series, was thrust into overdrive when Nik decided it was finally time to make his move. I love how aggressive he became towards Nera once Nik finally decided it was time. He used to be broody, but now he’s optimistic and happy. I love the new Nick. Putting the pair into danger – it’s the pair against the world, literally – helped bring them together in a way only imminent death can. I think my favorite aspect of their dynamic is that Nik truly sees Nera as his equal. He treats her as he would any other; even better because he respects her, listening to her and not trying to protect her unnecessarily, trusting her to take care of herself. Their romance is full of excitement, both in the bedroom and out. They are silly and tender, rough and passionate. “As Niklas walked alongside Nera the next morning, he felt sated and relaxed… but he had more than a few aches. The scratches on his back stung, he had a handful of bite marks, and his muscles were aching. None of it had anything to do with escaping from rampaging zombies. He smiled. He’d never felt better.” While I enjoyed watching Nik and Nera circle their feelings and finally connect, I had a few issues with the overall plot of the story. I understand that it’s science fiction, but when a Incan-descended tribe describes English as the “language of the ancients,” I had to raise an eyebrow. Additionally, for every trip onto the highly radiated planet, the teams had a set amount of time they could stay before...
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Sep
9

Review: Breakout by Ann Aguirre

Review: Breakout by Ann Aguirre Breakout Author: Ann Aguirre Reviewer:  Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Breakout picks up right where Havoc left off, completing the Dred Chronicles.  The series should be read in order.  New readers of the trilogy will have the luxury of reading the series without the publication gaps the rest of us have experienced.  However, Aguirre created such strong characters and vivid descriptions that I had no problems falling right back into the confines of the penal colony of Perdition and its conspiracies. In fact, it turned out to be a relatively quick read for that fact. I loved that we got some unexpected background on more than one character, Jael in particular.  That’s not the kind of thing one expects at the end of a series rather than the beginning.  Even though Jael was introduced in the Sirantha Jax series, he’s been a bit of a mystery up until now.  We get flashbacks into his origin that make him sympathetic, even vulnerable.  In the first two books, he’s been more heroic, always guarded.  Now we know it was with good reason. Like Perdition and Havoc, Breakout has parts that are not only gruesome, but gory.  Had this been a movie, one particular section would have bumped it beyond the “R” rating for violence. Breakout’s bloody battles felt more intense because they were one-on-one instead of faction-on-faction.  The reduced fighting numbers following the end of Havoc completely changed everyone’s strategy and in some cases, even their ultimate goals. Everything became personal for everyone.  Perhaps it always was. In the author’s acknowledgments, Aguirre makes this confession:  “My initial plan was to leave Dred and Jael drifting in space with a more open ending, so the reader could decide what happened—if they made it out or if they died together—but I decided that was a cop-out.  Therefore, I hope you’re as pleased with the end of their journey as I am.”  I could tell the exact moment when it would have been easy to for Aquirre to walk away from her characters and call the trilogy complete—or incomplete.  What comes after that moment is more like an extended epilogue, one for which I was very grateful.  Indeed after so many years of abuse and war and stress, the remaining few characters had earned it. We as readers had earned it too and Aquirre ties it all up with tidy, satisfying bow. *contented sigh* My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the...
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