Kim’s Review of Everywhere and Every Way (Billionaire Builders #1) by Jennifer Probst

eaewjpIf you’ve read this blog for anything longer than a few minutes, you probably have found out that I’m a big fan of anything and everything related to Jane Austen. Secondary to this, you may have also discovered that I have a certain type of fantasy-husband: the billionaire. I realize that putting that filter on the general population would narrow the field about 99.9%, but hey, a girl can dream. Anyway, I’ve come across some great series that have billionaires at their centers, notably the Billionaire Boys Club books by Jessica Clare and the Love in the Balance series by Jessica Lemmon. This time around I figured I would try to dip my toe into the Billionaire Builders series via its first installment, Everywhere and Every Way by Jennifer Probst. Previously I had the pleasure of reading the Marriage to a Billionaire series by Probst, and it was a ton of fun. I figured if this new series was anything like the other great billionaire-centric books I’ve enjoyed so much, than I would be in good hands with this latest acquisition.

The plot, courtesy of Goodreads:

Ever the responsible eldest brother, Caleb Pierce started working for his father’s luxury contracting business at a young age, dreaming of one day sitting in the boss’s chair. But his father’s will throws a wrench in his plans by stipulating that Caleb share control of the family business with his two estranged brothers.

Things only get more complicated when demanding high-end home designer Morgan hires Caleb to build her a customized dream house that matches her specifications to a T—or she’ll use her powerful connections to poison the Pierce brothers’ reputation. Not one to ignore a challenge, Caleb vows to get the job done—if only he can stop getting distracted by his new client’s perfect…amenities.

But there’s more to icy Morgan than meets the eye. And Caleb’s not the only one who knows how to use a stud-finder. In fact, Morgan is pretty sure she’s found hers—and he looks quite enticing in a hard hat. As sparks fly between Morgan and Caleb despite his best intentions not to mix business and pleasure, will she finally warm up and help him lay the foundation for everlasting love?

One of the first things that caught my attention with Probst’s work is that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. That is not to say that the characters aren’t full of their own depth and strength (more on that later), but there is a ton of sharp dialogue and a healthy obsession with the Property Brothers show on HGTV that made me crack up. I thought it was great that Morgan was obsessed with the show, only to find that she now worked with three good looking brothers in her new job that all remind her of the Property Brothers themselves. It’s this tongue-in-cheek humor that kept me reading and engaged with the story. It made the later, more serious topics easier to handle and held my interest in a good way.

Speaking of the character development, Probst does a great job of bringing Morgan and Caleb to life, making them deal with complex issues, such as illness and family infighting, all the while maintaining a healthy attraction for each other. The quality dialogue and good chemistry that they exude makes their story a joy to read and time definitely stood still for me while I read this book. It was a great intro to this series and you can bet that I’ll be picking up Any Time and Any Place (the second in the series) quite soon!

Fast moving, humorous, and filled with depth, Everywhere and Every Way is one book you’re going to want to make sure you read this summer. Equal parts fun and sexy make this a great beach read!

4 out of 5 Stars

Special thanks to Ms. Probst for my review copy!

Everywhere and Every Way by Jennifer Probst
Simon and Schuster (2016)
Paperback: 448 pages
ISBN: 9781501124259

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Kim’s Review of Desire After Dark (The McCarthys of Gansett Island #15) by Marie Force

dadmfSeveral years ago I was scavenging on the Barnes & Noble website for a new nook book to read. I stumbled upon Maid for Love by Marie Force and was transported to a tiny New England island called Gansett Island, which was modeled after Block Island.  I read Maid for Love in a night, downloaded the next books available in the series (6), and proceeded to read them all over the next two days. Since Maid for Love I’ve downloaded each new book on its release day and completely devoured it. Yesterday, Force released the 15th book in the series (!!!) Desire after Dark.  All I can say is, what a wonderful return to Gansett Island! Every new book in the series feels like a homecoming. Each book and each love story given to us is another glimpse into the lives of our Gansett family, because that’s what this group of characters has become, family. We’ve been with them as they’ve found love, started families, dealt with miscarriages, abusive parents, new career paths, divorces, and grief. Just when you think you’ve experienced everything possible with them, Force surprises us and gives us something new to love.

Plot from Goodreads:

Tobias “Slim” Jackson has the perfect life as a pilot on Gansett Island in the summer and in Florida in the winter. He’s happiest when he’s in the air, or at least that was the case before last summer when he met Erin Barton, Gansett Island’s newest lighthouse keeper. Now he can’t seem to find his usual enthusiasm for flying, winter in the sunny South or anything that doesn’t include her.

Erin has been stuck on pause since she lost her twin brother. She’ll tell you herself that her life has been a hot mess since Toby died. After dropping out of law school, she’s flitted from one pointless job to another, existing rather than truly living. Then she comes to Gansett Island to take over as the new lighthouse keeper and meets Slim, who happens to share her beloved brother’s first name. That small coincidence is enough to convince Erin that she needs to spend more time with the dashing pilot—except for the fact that he’s spending the winter more than a thousand miles from her.

Now Slim’s come home to Gansett for the holidays and to hopefully pick up where he left off with Erin. He’s got twelve days before he’s due back in Florida to finish out the remainder of his winter obligations. A lot can happen in twelve days, but will it be enough to convince Erin that it’s time to start truly living again? Read Slim and Erin’s story and catch up with the rest of the Gansett Island cast in Desire After Dark!

If you’re new to the Gansett Island series, I highly recommend starting with Maid for Love and working your way through the series and ending with this fantastic latest installment. I know that 15 books may seem daunting, but trust me, it’s worth the wait. Each book acts as an additional chapter to the overall story of the island and its inhabitants, and you get the opportunity to revisit couples from previous books as time passes. Force does a wonderful job immersing the reader in the story, and before you know it the books fly by. This new work is no exception.

Erin and Slim’s story is yet another wonderful chapter to the Gansett series. When I first learned about Jenny (the heroine of Meant for Love) and Erin’s past and the substantial amount of grief that existed in their lives I wanted so badly for them to find their happy-ever-afters. They are such beautifully strong women, and the men who love them treat them like the queens they are. They are showered with so much love and desire that they can’t help but fight against it for fear from their past losses. Thankfully Slim and Alex fight through their grief and prove to them how wonderful love can be.

Not only was Erin and Slim’s story a pure joy to read, I was SO excited to get more of Owen & Laura, Grace & Evan, and David & Daisy. Force is a master at giving you JUST enough of the other couples and rotating the focus of each new book so as to never feel like you’re missing out on anything important in their lives. Sweet, romantic, and fun, this is the perfect read to get you in the mood for summer!

4 out of 5 Stars

Special thanks to Ms. Force for my review copy!

Desire After Dark by Marie Force
HTJB, Inc (2016)
eBook: 280 pages
ISBN: 2940157747572

12 Days of Giveaways – Day 7: For the Romance Lover

It’s Day 7 of our 12 days of giveaways and we’re giving away romance books! I’ve read so many great romances this year that it’s hard to pick just a few to recommend! Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino, When A Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare, The Billionaire Takes a Bride by Jessica Clare, Enslaved by Virginia Henley, Abigail Roux’s Cut and Run series, as well as Jessica Lemmon’s entire backlist are my top choices from 2015. They either had me laughing, sobbing, or falling head over heels in love. (And we all know how much I love love.) With that being said I hope that you too can love love by winning one of the three romance packages below!

Romance Package 1:

aswctsA Silver Wolf Christmas by Terry Spear – C.J. Silver is eager to help the new she-wolves in town renovate the old hotel in time for the holidays, especially if it means spending time under the mistletoe with the alluring Laurel MacTire.

The bustle in the long abandoned hotel attracts the attention of human ghosthunters out to prove the place haunted, but the bigger problem is keeping them from discovering the werewolves in Silver Town. CJ and Laurel have to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Working together is a surprisingly hot holiday treat for two attractive and clever wolf shifters.

(Giveaway is a mass market paperback ARC)

dwnrDark Witch by Nora Roberts – With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.

Ireland.

County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.

Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.

When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horseman, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.

Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive…

(Giveaway is a paperback)

Romance Package 2:

fnwtdejFour Nights with the Duke by Eloisa James – As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him—so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia’s audacious proposal, but there’s one thing he won’t give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil’s bargain…he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart—and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can’t afford to lose.

(Giveaway is a mass market paperback)

twvccThe Wedding Vow by Cara Connelly – Sexy billionaire Adam LeCroix has a mission: hunt down the sultry spitfire he blames for his troubles, demand her help, and exact revenge while he’s at it. Maddie St. Clair will help him . . . or else.

Former prosecutor Maddie damn near nailed Adam for stealing, but the lucky bastard walked. Now, five years later, he’s back, arrogant as ever, giving her an ultimatum—work for him to collect the insurance money, or she’ll never work again.

Maddie’s all about right and wrong. Adam’s shades of gray. So when he uncovers the hot body under her hard-ass veneer and she finds he’s a thief with a heart, can the law-and-order lawyer and the fast-and-loose felon put their prickly past behind them?

(Giveaway is a mass market paperback)

viwnrVision in White by Nora Robert – With bridal magazine covers to her credit, Mackensie “Mac” Elliot is most at home behind the camera—ready to capture the happy moments she never experienced while growing up. Her father replaced his first family with a second, and now her mother, moving on to yet another man, begs Mac for attention and money. Mac’s foundation is jostled again moments before an important planning meeting when she bumps into the bride-to-be’s brother…an encounter that has them both seeing stars.

Carter Maguire is definitely not her type: he’s stable, and he’s safe. He’s even an English teacher at their high school alma mater. There’s something about him that makes Mac think a casual fling is just what she needs to take her mind off dealing with bridezillas and screening her mother’s phone calls. But a casual fling can turn into something more when you least expect it. And with the help of her three best friends—and business partners—Mac must learn how to make her own happy memories…

(Giveaway is a mass market paperback)

Romance Package 3:

wsimllgWith Seduction in Mind by Laura Lee Guhrke – London Society is harsh for a young woman with no family connections who has to work for a living. But when Daisy Merrick is sacked from yet another job, the feisty and outspoken miss comes up with a plan that could give her a future beyond her wildest dreams. There’s only one problem. Her success depends on a man, the most infuriating, impossible, immovable man she’s ever met.

Sebastian Grant, Earl of Avermore, is England’s most infamous author. Known for his notorious reputation, he is more interested in play than work, and has no intention of cooperating when Daisy shows up on his doorstep with a mad plan. The provoking, fire-haired beauty stirs his senses beyond belief, and Sebastian knows he has only one way to stop her. Seduction.

(Giveaway is a mass market paperback)

tglomdabThe Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst – A modern-day Gatsby tale of forbidden love, family secrets and the true price of wealth.

The story begins with a dinner party invitation. When young journalist Thomas Cleary is sent to dig up quotes for the obituary of a legendary film producer, the man’s eccentric daughter offers him entree into the exclusive upper echelons of Hollywood society. A small-town boy with working-class roots, Thomas is a stranger in this opulent world of private jets and sprawling mansions.

Then he meets Matilda Duplaine.

Matilda is a beautiful and mysterious young woman who has never left the lush Bel-Air estate where she was raised. Thomas is immediately entranced by the enigmatic girl and the two begin a secret love affair. But what starts as an enchanted romance soon unravels a web of secrets and lies that could destroy their lives and the lives of everyone around them forever.

Filled with unforgettable characters and charm, The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine is a sparkling love letter to Los Angeles and a captivating journey beyond the golden gates of its most glamorous estates. Timeless, romantic and utterly absorbing, it is a mesmerizing and poignant exploration of life’s unexpected riches.

(Giveaway is a paperback ARC)

Giveaway Instructions – (Special thanks to Sourcebooks and MIRA for our ARC giveaway copies!)

Three lucky winners will have the opportunity to win ONE of the three packages listed above! For your chance to win simply leave a comment below about your favorite romance trope.  Comments will be accepted through midnight on Thursday, December 31, 2015.  The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday, January 1, 2016.  Open to US residents only. Good luck!

Kim and Kelly’s Review Of Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers Edited by Shawna Kenney

blskSeveral months ago I received a pitch for a book that featured “a unique collection of toe-curling tales that satisfy the need for well-written erotica with substance.” That hooked me. So I emailed reading BFF Kelly and got her involved in the review too. We both read a lot of romance/erotica books that wind up being trite, lackluster, and frankly seem written for shock value. The idea that a group of writers got together to write erotica that would appeal to our minds as well as our bodies? Yes please!

From Goodreads:

Forget poorly written prose and clichéd love scenes: Book Lovers answers the call for sexy literature with substance. This collection of toe-curling tales written by and for word-worshipers offers well-crafted fiction and creative nonfiction that connects literature to libido. From a Vonnegut-inspired tryst to an imaginary ménage à trois with Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, the book encompasses a veritable buffet of literary fantasies.

Whether they’re conjuring Junot Díaz between the sheets or dreaming of a modern-day enactment of Wuthering Heights—this time refusing Edgar in favor of lusty, bodice-ripping nights with Heathcliff—the stories in Book Lovers are designed for readers’ brains and bodies.

Kelly: Honestly, it should have been a warning sign that the book was being pitched as “intelligent” erotica. Any time you have to tell people that you’re smart, well… It’s either evident or it isn’t.

s1s2

Anyway, we were intrigued by the promise of erotica heavy on the literary references and did not give sufficient side-eye to a blurb that begins with a clichéd attack on the genre.

Kim: Since this is a book of short stories, Kelly and I figured we’d discuss a few separately.

First up was my favorite (and possibly Kelly’s too) A to Z by Kristina Wright.

Kelly: It’s the first story in the collection, and it’s definitely the best of the bunch.

Kim: Quick synopsis: two women, Amy and Zoe, meet in a library. Every two weeks Zoe gives Amy a new book to read. The authors’ names take her through the entire alphabet (A is for  Austen, B is for Bronte, etc.)

Kelly: All lady authors, too. It’s actually a really neat trip down the alley of women’s literature.

Kim: By the time they hit “N” Amy is craving more from Zoe than just her literary recommendations.

Kelly: Because “N” is for “Nin.”

Kim: I loved this story not only for its women’s literature suggestions, but for the fact that the women get turned on by literature. It’s completely cliché to say, but reading is so sexy. Hearing (or being part of) conversations about books is so hot. It doesn’t matter the genre, the author, the story – just hearing someone’s passion for a book is stimulating and sensual.

Kelly: Yes, that part of this story was just lovely. Mainly, though, I loved the story because it worked so well as a short story. It gave me enough information about the characters for me to care about them, but was mysterious enough that I was perfectly content to leave them be after 12 pages. The story also does a great job of balancing fantasy (meeting a sexy stranger in the library and bonding over a yearlong course in women’s literature) and reality (the end). And, although this story was a little bit strange (all short stories are, right?), it was perhaps the least strange of the bunch.

Kim: Strange was definitely the overarching theme of this collection. The closing story of the collection, The Wolf by Amy Halloran, takes the cake for “strangest thing I’ve ever read.”

Kelly: Yeah, that one is special. Kim was texting me while she read the stories (she got to it before I did), and when she hit that one… Well, let’s just say those were some fancy texts. I’ll let her tell you about it.

Kim: I could not formulate words to even express how odd the story was. Think of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Basically in this version, Red has to write the beginning and middle of multiple stories for the Wolf, who has eaten her grandmother (literally.) They then finish the stories together. He waits for her in grandma’s nightgown, all fur and paws. What she has written will determine how he pleases her. As she gets to Granny’s house and begins telling her story, Wolf begins transforming from beast to man. Once he’s transformed she has to feed him her mother’s soup….also known as “the cure.”

Kelly: I’m pretty sure that’s a euphemism.

Kim: Once the cure is given and he can touch her, they begin their sexual coupling. All the while feeling guilty because grandma is in his stomach. After the Wolf comes, Grandma explodes out of him and the Wolf leaves Granny’s house. WHUT?

Kelly: I’m going to start using the term “sexual coupling” on the regular. That’s my favorite, ever. Especially because the wolf is wearing grandma’s nightgown.

Kim: I’m glad you enjoyed that term. 😉

I’d like to say that strange stories don’t always bother me. I’m ok when authors take risks and it pays off. But this story….well there isn’t a payoff. What is the point of it? Maybe in a full length novel these characters and their relationship could be explored more, but for a short story…there is just no point.

Kelly: Oh, god. No. Please no full-length novels exploring the sexuality of Little Red and the Wolf (and Grandma).

Kim: Oh I’m not asking for one by any means. Just trying to figure out HOW this story could have ever worked.

Kelly: OK, OK. I had a little panic, there. *breathing*

Kim: I think the whole Grandma in Wolf’s belly while he has sex with Red was the strangest part. The fact that it’s actively discussed is what’s SO weird. Here, some excerpts about Granny:

“We have been here before, at the corner of want and tell. I write as if I’ll change things while Grandma sits in his belly, dissolving, grinding inside him, an achy, ouchy thing.”

“In his belly she kind of smiles. She does not hate our intersections. Though brittle, she has loved. I think she likes to be near us.”

“Inside him, Granny is swimming laps in soup. She likes this, too.”

Kelly: So effing strange… but, then, I found many of the stories in the collection very strange. And the ones that weren’t (with the exception of the first story, which I really did like and  Inked, which was also rather good) they were straight up forgettable. That’s not to say that I didn’t like some of the strange stories…  The Thrillhammer Orgasmatron (for reals) was interesting and funny in addition to being incredibly strange.

Kim: I’ll give the book credit for all the literary love. There were stories that were inspired by Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Ulysses by James Joyce, and The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe. Stories that revolved around love for authors Junot Diaz, Anais Nin, e.e. cummings, Henry Miller, and Oscar Wilde to name a few. There was definitely a variety of inspiration to say the least. If this book inspires other readers to read new authors (alive or dead) then I have to pat it on the back.

Kelly: But keep in mind that it’s fucking strange.

Kim: SUPER strange.

Kim’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Kelly’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers Edited by Shawna Kenney
Avalon Publishing Group (2014)
Paperback: 240 pages
ISBN: 9781580055291

Special thanks to Seal Press for our review copies!

Kim’s Review of Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

ujtwLast year I read Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson and absolutely loved her modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It was completely charming  and filled with flirtatious dialogue that hooked me from the beginning. When Wilson announced that she was working on a contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet I was nervous and excited! I mean Romeo and Juliet is completely romantic but also totally depressing. I couldn’t wait to see if Wilson could win me over again, so as soon as Unmasking Juliet became available, I started reading.

Plot from Goodreads:

Ever since she was a little girl learning to make decadent truffles in her family’s chocolate shop, Juliet Arabella has been aware of the bitter feud between the Arabellas and the Mezzanottes. With their rival chocolate boutiques on the same street in Napa Valley, these families never mix. Until one night, when Juliet anonymously attends the annual masquerade ball. In a moonlit vineyard, she finds herself falling for a gorgeous stranger, a man who reminds her what passion is like outside of the kitchen. But her bliss is short-lived when she discovers her masked prince is actually Leo Mezzanotte, newly returned from Paris and the heir to her archenemy’s confection dynasty.

With her mind in a whirl, Juliet leaves for Italy to represent the Arabellas in a prestigious chocolate competition. The prize money will help her family’s struggling business, and Juliet figures it’s a perfect opportunity to forget Leo…only to find him already there and gunning for victory. As they compete head-to-head, Leo and Juliet’s fervent attraction boils over. But Juliet’s not sure whether to trust her adversary, or give up on the sweetest love she’s ever tasted…

Unmasking Juliet is, in a word, delightful! Wilson writes such pleasant romances that you can’t help but be warmed by them. I think a crisp fall day, curled on your couch with a soft, cozy blanket is the best way to enjoy her novels. Her ability to creatively turn classic novels into contemporary pieces is astounding. I was wondering how she was going to have two warring families hate each other on the scale that the Capulets and Montagues did, and if she could effectively include a balcony scene! I’m happy to say that Unmasking Juliet is a resounding success.

If any of you out there have read Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series (see reading bff Kelly and my review of book one here) and have enjoyed it, you’ll already know that there is something incredibly sexy about a man who knows what he’s doing with chocolate. And a chocolatier that puts his heart into his product to show his love for a woman….that’s even sexier. Leo is oozing with sex appeal. I loved how Wilson was able to give Leo some of Romeo’s actual lines from Romeo and Juliet and not make them sound cheesy and outdated. Her mixing of the prose was flawless and beautifully crafted.

Next up in Wilson’s re-imagined classics series is a new take on My Fair Lady, entitled Unschooling the Professor, due out in December. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be purchasing that book the day it comes out.

Romantic, alluring, beautiful, and creative, Unmasking Juliet is a story that will make you believe in the power of true love.

5 out of 5 Stars

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson
Harlequin (2014)
Paperback: 368 pages
ISBN: 9780373778751

Special thanks to Harlequin for my review copy via Netgalley!

Playing Catch Up…

As you know from Sunday’s post my blogging has not been up to par recently. In an attempt to catch up on all the reviews I need to write I’ve penned several “catch up” reviews below. Hopefully some of the books spark your interest and make you want to read further!

ucmUnbound by Cara McKenna

Plot from Goodreads:

She set out to find herself, and discovered the darker side of desire.

Merry’s lost a lot recently—first her mother, then close to a hundred pounds. Feeling adrift, she strikes out in search of perspective. A three-week hike through the Scottish Highlands was supposed to challenge her new body and refocus her priorities, but when disaster strikes, she’s forced to seek refuge in the remote home of a brooding, handsome stranger…

Rob exiled himself to the Highlands years ago, desperate to escape his own self-destruction. Haunted by regrets, he avoids human contact at all costs…but when Merry turns up injured, he can’t very well run her off. And as he nurses her back to health, Rob can’t resist his guest’s sweet demeanor—or her flirtatious advances. The igniting passion between them rouses a secret appetite Rob has long struggled to keep hidden. But Merry craves nothing more than to help Rob surrender to his desires, and the journey draws the lovers into an entirely different kind of wilderness.

Reading BFF Kelly recently told me she had a new author I needed to start reading: Cara McKenna. When we discussed what book I should read first she immediately recommended Unbound. I’m really glad she did because it’s about two really odd but really fascinating characters.

Merry is a woman undergoing huge physical, emotional, and mental changes.  Her physical changes have led to her being a bit more adventurous and aggressive sexually, while also giving her new confidence in herself as a woman and as a person. This new-found confidence (and the unfortunate loss of her mother) forces her to reevaluate the track her life seems to be on – her job, the friends she’s surrounded herself with, and the man she’s been giving her attention to.

Rob, on the other hand, has been struggling to keep the person he is all tucked away inside. Due to his checkered past, he decides to leave society, his friends, and his job to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, no modern conveniences, and most importantly – no people. There in that cabin he hides what he believes is his most shameful secret – his masochist fetish.

Final Thoughts: If you’re ok with reading about sexual relationships that are Dominant/submissive and include bondage, then definitely check this one out. McKenna’s story about two people rediscovering themselves sexually and personally is really well done. I truly enjoyed Merry and Rob’s quirks and watching them get their shit together.

4 out of 5 Stars

Unbound by Cara McKenna
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook: 268 pages
ISBN: 9781101621998

tahdgThe American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Plot from Goodreads:

Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

This book frustrated the hell out of me. Nothing about any of the main characters endeared me to them at all. Cora is totally naive and aloof, Ivo has a bi-polar personality, Bertha has no mind of her own, and the whole story takes WAY too long to come to a resolution. When I finished the book I scratched my head and wondered what the point of it all was. The last chapter gave me a small amount of insight into Ivo’s head, but at that point it was too little too late. Every time he affected Cora in a negative manner there was never a resolution. For example, he leaves her for most of her pregnancy to go to India, returns to England many months later but doesn’t tell Cora, which angers her. Nothing is ever said between Cora and Ivo about this or about him not showing up until the birth of their child. Their relationship is so dysfunctional because of the lack of communication, and by the end of the novel that problem still isn’t really resolved.

Final Thoughts: The character development is so poor that you can’t appreciate any of the “world” that’s built (when I say “world” I mean the setting: the estates, the art, the fashions, etc.) It’s a shame because Goodwin’s writing had promise. The story she created had a great premise, it was just poorly executed.

2 out of 5 Stars

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin’s Press (2011)
eBook: 480 pages
ISBN: 9781429987080

bemBelieve (True Believers #3) by Erin McCarthy

Plot from Goodreads:

Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a naïve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…

Having previously read the first two books in McCarthy’s True Believers series (True and SweetI jumped at the chance to continue by reading book three, Believe.

To be honest I wasn’t a fan of how fast things moved between Robin and Phoenix. Robin has basically become a new person after her major screw up – and as such I wanted her to find herself and become independent before jumping into a super serious relationship with Phoenix. Phoenix is also changing. He’s adapting to a new life and new surroundings. The two of them are going through so many personal changes that their relationship with each other makes sense, I just wish they had more time to get comfortable in their own skin. It makes me wonder what they would be like if their relationship suddenly failed. Would they be able to continue making the healthy decisions they had started making in their new lives? Or would they both fall back to their old habits?

What I did think was great was the evolution of Robin, and the focus on drinking till you black out/binge drinking. It’s a serious issue for many college aged kids, and one I think McCarthy is smart for bringing attention to.

Final Thoughts: I’m glad I’ve stuck with the series this long. I’m excited to see how it’ll all come together in book four, Shatter, due out this fall!

3 out of 5 Stars

Believe by Erin McCarthy
Penguin (2014)
eBook: 232 pages
ISBN: 9780698148710

Special thanks to Penguin Group for my review copy via Netgalley!

mtrMisbehaving by Tiffany Reisz

Plot from Goodreads:

Wanted: Adventurous, open-minded man willing to try anything…

As a popular sex blogger, Beatriz gets paid to have orgasms. So being on deadline the week of her sister’s wedding isn’t as rough as it sounds. There’s just one hitch: Bea’s assignment is to write a review of a sex position manual, but she doesn’t have a plus one to play with.

The good news: Ben, the one who got away back in college, is also attending stag–and he’s as temptingly gorgeous as ever.

The bad news: Ben turned down Bea’s offer of graduation night sex five years ago.

The best news: He’s not planning on making the same mistake twice. 

I really enjoyed Reisz’s Original Sinners series and was excited to read something else that strayed from that world. Not that anything is wrong with the Original Sinners world, I was just eager for some new characters from her. I was definitely not disappointed. (Note: Misbehaving is a contemporary erotic retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.)

Bea is this badass sex education blogger who is completely confident in herself, except when it comes to Ben. He’s been the one guy to turn her down. The one guy she really wanted to give her heart to. And Ben knows that turning her down all those years ago was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. When the two are thrown together again at a wedding they realize they have the perfect opportunity to try again.

Misbehaving is a smart erotic novella about two individuals who are interesting, smart, kinky, and unafraid to explore their sexual appetites with each other. It is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Reisz – a story that explores human emotion with witty banter, hot (at times awkward) boundary-pushing sex, and extremely likable characters.

Final Thoughts: READ IT.

4 out of 5 Stars

Misbehaving by Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin (2014)
eBook: 108 pages
ISBN: 9781460326404

Special thanks to Harlequin for my review copy via Netgalley!!

rnacRusty Nailed (Cocktail #2) by Alice Clayton

Plot from Goodreads:

In this sequel to Wallbanger, the second book in the Cocktail series, fan favorites Caroline and Simon negotiate the rollercoaster of their new relationship while house-sitting in San Francisco.

Playing house was never so much fun—or so confusing. With her boss on her honeymoon, Caroline’s working crazy long hours to keep the interior design company running—especially since she’s also the lead designer for the renovation of a gorgeous old hotel on Sausalito. So with her hotshot photographer boyfriend gallivanting all over the world for his job, she and Simon are heavy-duty into “absence makes the heart grow fonder” mode. Neither has any complaints about the great reunion sex, though! Then Simon decides he’s tired of so much travelling, and he’s suddenly home more. A lot more. And wanting Caroline home more, too. Though their friends’ romantic lives provide plenty of welcome distraction, eventually Caroline and Simon have to sort their relationship out. Neither wants “out of sight, out of mind,” but can they create their own happy mid-ground cliché?

Rusty Nailed is the second in Alice Clayton’s Cocktail series, and is a direct follow-up to Wallbanger. When I read Wallbanger a year or so ago I remember laughing out loud SO hard. Clayton has this writing voice that you can’t help but get sucked in by. Rusty Nailed tackles the challenges involved with a relationship becoming more serious and more permanent. As such, the writing grows a bit more serious and reflective, but still includes the signature humor. Rusty Nailed chronicles this relationship growth excellently. I love all the characters and the situations into which Clayton throws them. I think she excellently illustrated the stress that comes with moving in and settling down with your partner.

Final Thoughts: Clayton introduces us to who will be the heroine of book three in the Cocktail series, Screwdrivered. It’s safe to say that I’ll be reading it, and that you should be reading Wallbanger and Rusty Nailed in preparation.

4 out of 5 Stars

Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton
Gallery Books (2014)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781476766669

Kim’s Guest Review of Passionate Persuasion by Rosemary Clement-Moore

pprcmIf you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s Persuasion but prefer your romances to take place in this century, let me tell you about Rosemary Clement-Moore’s novella Passionate Persuasion.

Alex realizes he messed up hugely years ago when he broke up with his college girlfriend Kiara. When life throws the two of them back together years later he knows he has to somehow win her back. Will he be able to repair the damage he did to Kiara’s heart and claim her for his own?

For a direct link to my review, click here.

Kim and Kelly’s Dueling Review of Laugh (Burnside #2) by Mary Ann Rivers

lmarIt’s not a surprise that Kelly and I are back, together again, reviewing another Mary Ann Rivers novel. We are both in love with Mary Ann’s characters, stories, and the way there are ALL the feels in her books (you can also read my review of her first novella, The Story Guy, and our review of Heating Up the Holidays.) Kelly and I jumped for joy when Mary Ann announced her Burnside series. We loved the first book in the series, Live, so much that we wrote our review as a love letter to Mary Ann about it. The second book in the series, Laugh, blew us away (as expected). Thus, we are here to fan girl all over it and its main character, Sam.

From Goodreads:

Dr. Sam Burnside is convinced that volunteering at an urban green-space farm in Lakefield, Ohio, is a waste of time—especially with his new health clinic about to open. He only goes to mollify his partner, suspecting she wants him to lighten up. Then Sam catches sight of Nina Paz, a woman who gives off more heat than a scorcher in July. Her easy smile and flirty, sizzling wit has him forgetting his infamous need for control.

Widowed when her husband was killed in Afghanistan, Nina has learned that life exists to take chances. As the daughter of migrant workers turned organic farmers, she’s built an exciting and successful business by valuing new opportunities and working hard to take care of her own. But when Sam pushes for a relationship that goes beyond their hotter-than-fire escapades, Nina ignores her own hard-won wisdom. She isn’t ready for a man who needs saving—even if her heart compels her to take the greatest risk of all: love.

Kim: I need to start off by saying that this book was a balm for my soul. Sam Burnside is in MANY ways an extreme version of myself. We’ve both been diagnosed with ADD and have had it be debilitating for us in some way, shape, or form. We’re both highly obsessed with needing the people around us be happy. This results in us trying to fix all their problems or protect them from hardship. While you may be saying, “Hey! That’s a pretty generous thing to do,” it’s my unfortunate duty to tell you that it often results in animosity from the people we love, much to our chagrin. They perceive us as interfering with their lives. Lives that they need no help with.

I can tell you firsthand it’s really difficult growing up like this. Knowing you’re struggling with concentration issues, hyperactivity (for some ADD people), and a constant sense of letting everyone around you down all the time. It certainly doesn’t help when people tell you that you don’t work hard enough, tell you everything you do is wrong, or tell you that you’re just too _____. A lifetime of feeling this way begins to make you feel less and less adequate of a person until you find people who realize you are filled with an fathomless amount of love.

Kelly: I really wish we’d known each other when we were younger. I would have been OK with a fathomless amount of love. 🙂  [Here’s my own personal rant: I will never understand why people choose to go through life thinking the worst (or, at least, not thinking the best) of the people around them. I don’t understand why it took people so long to figure out that you, Kim, are amazing. And, shifting to the fictional, I don’t understand why Sam’s own family was so perfectly blinded to his sterling qualities. I cannot fathom why anyone would tell him to be anything other than what he is.]

Kim: First, you’re the best. Second, I totally agree with your above statement. Sam is NOT a bad guy. He’s a doctor who wants to open up a clinic in his hometown to help people who are struggling. He wants to help out Nina’s farm and create a lasting partnership for his community. He wants to take care of his sister Sarah, badly injured from her racing accident. He wants to help his sister Des, who is all the way overseas, traveling and falling deeply in love for the first time. His list goes on and on. All he does is care about the people around him, to the detriment of his own self sometimes. His house is an absolute disaster zone, one that reflects how his mind is always jumping to his next task.

Kelly: Laugh is definitely Sam’s book. Sam, through a lifetime of being told what he is, being told that he’s too much this or that and (very much) not enough this or that, is not able to see himself clearly. He believes what he’s been told, and that’s heartbreaking. But let’s think for a second about ourselves: Sam’s not the only one who believes these things that are not true. He’s not the only one who can’t fathom that failure is not (or does not have to be) the motif of his story. We all suffer, to one degree or another, from the terrible messages that surround us, those sent to us by our (if we’re lucky, well-meaning) parents, friends, siblings and those sent by our society and culture. We all see a funhouse-mirror version of ourselves and need to learn how to see the shapes that are really there, learn to love ourselves — our real selves — before we can truly love anyone else. Laugh shows us what that process looks like, and it does it in such a beautiful way. I wish that Nina’s journey towards seeing herself more clearly were given a little more page time, but… I find so much value in Sam’s journey (and Nina’s involvement in it) that I don’t actually care as much about it as my brain tells me I should.

Kim: I agree. As much as I would have liked to see more of Nina’s journey of self-discovery, Sam’s was just perfection. I cared about Nina a lot, especially as she started telling the people around Sam to lighten up on him. Realize that his love for them was endless. Self-less. Pure.

Kelly: Nina’s journey felt very private to me, even though she has more friends and — on the outside, at least — appears that she’s got her shit together. I mean, Sam’s chaos is super obvious. His apartment is a wreck; he’s going through a crisis dealing with the responsibilities associated with opening the clinic; he’s taking extra shifts at the hospital to avoid thinking about it all; he’s not talking to two of his siblings (well, more accurately, they’re not talking to him) and is sending desperate emails to Des; he’s choosing to spend time learning about urban farming to avoid thinking about all the balls in the air that could (and will) come crashing down at any moment. He’s a hot mess. But Nina, who has built a business from the ground up, who has cultivated the earth and the people around her, is just as messed up. She’s an uprooted plant struggling to grow. She’s the other side of Sam’s coin. Where Sam is root bound by his past, Nina is surgically cut off from hers. Where Sam is certain of his ability to love, Nina is certain that she sacrificed her ability to love.

Nina resonated with me… and I know I said before that the story feels like Sam’s story and I almost wish that Nina’s journey had been a little more front and center, but I wonder if Mary Ann Rivers was just giving Nina the space and freedom (and privacy) to live out her grief and learn how to make room for love. Maybe that’s the most generous thing Mary Ann could have done for Nina (and for all of us reading the story) is give us the privacy and respect to let grief fill us up and then let it all flow out. Does that make any damn sense?

Kim:I think you’re absolutely right. Maybe it’s just me, but when I am overwhelmed with grief it all comes out as a huge scream (i.e. pounding on pillows and my bed.) I need to let it all out physically in a cathartic way. I can’t even imagine what Nina would need to do to get all the grief out that she’s felt all those years due to her husband, her dreams, her family, etc. The glimpses of her grief that we’re given are heartbreaking. And as Kelly said above, her inability to see how she can love. How she already does love, but just doesn’t see its value or weight.

I know that those of you reading this review must think this book is such a downer. But it’s really not. It’s beautiful in its honesty. In its realness. It doesn’t even matter if you see yourself as Sam or Nina – there is someone in your life that is like them. Reading this book will have you seeing them in a new light. Maybe realizing you need to be overly compassionate for someone who still grieves, and trying to understand someone like Sam (or me!) that wants the best for you and sometimes may not go about expressing that in the best way. We all have quirks within our personalities that make us puzzles to the people around us. It’s the people like Nina and Sam (and Kelly & I) that work to figure out those puzzles, knowing that once you do the love you’ll receive is boundless.

Kelly: Yes! There are a handful of books that felt very important to me for one reason or another. (I have felt that way about every single piece of writing — novels, novellas, short stories, blog posts, and tweets — I’ve read by Mary Ann, by the way.) I felt that way about Snowfall and The Story Guy and — in a huge way — about Ruthie Knox’s Making it Last. (And Laura Florand’s Snow Kissed, if we’re making a more comprehensive list.) And Laugh is another. It’s an important book. It’s important to me because it says something true that resonates with me, that lifts me up, that reassures me, and that teaches me. It’s important to all of us (if I can make such a pronouncement) because its message is universal. We need more love. We need more acceptance. We need to love and accept ourselves, and we need to love and accept each other. We need to give each other the space to grieve, and we need to step in occasionally to help cultivate the best parts of our loved ones.

Kim: So in closing, as always we’d like to write Mary Ann a letter.

Dear Mary Ann,

THANK YOU for Sam. And for Laugh. And for writing a story that gives voice to people like Sam and Nina. For showing that a disability doesn’t have to be debilitating. Its effects can be disastrous, but they can also have amazing outcomes. The ability to love unconditionally. To care more about others than yourself.

Thank you for showing the world that being “too ____” isn’t always a bad thing. For giving a voice to those of us who are sometimes so burdened with the amount of stress we put on ourselves that we have no voice. For showing that giving “too much” love is never a bad thing. But most importantly for giving me a character that I related to more than any other character I’ve ever read in my entire life. That act alone has shown me I’m not alone in my feelings. For just that, I’ll thank you for a lifetime.

Love,

Kim

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann,

Thank you for Nina, for her background, her grief, her hangups, and her strengths. Thank you for her friends (and for writing a book that passes the Bechdel Test. Seriously… thank you so much for that.). Thank you for showing her full life (alongside Sam’s full life) and for writing her so generously that I was free to accept her generously (and to accept myself generously as well). Thank you for loving Nina and for allowing Nina to love Sam, to see him clearly, and to fight for him. And also to fight for herself.

Love,

Kelly

Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers
Random House – Loveswept (2014)
eBook: 288 pages
ISBN: 9780804178228

Special thanks to Loveswept for our review copies via Netgalley!

Kim’s Guest Dueling Review of Once Upon A Billionaire (The Billionaire Boys Club #4) by Jessica Clare

ouabjcI hope you love the dueling reviews that my reading bestie Kelly (from Reading With Analysis) and I write, because we have a brand new one for you. It’s on the fourth book in Jessica Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series, Once Upon A Billionaire.  (Here are my/our reviews of books one, two, and three.)

Once Upon A Billionaire follows Griffin, a member of the royal family of a small European country, and Maylee, the deeply southern secretary of book two’s hero Hunter.

For a direct link to our review, click here.

Kim’s Review of A Match Made in Texas by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Carol Cox

ammitSeveral months ago I read a book entitled Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer, the second book in her Archer Brothers series. (The first book was entitled Short-Straw Bride). I chatted back and forth via email with Witemeyer about how much I loved the Archer Brothers and that I hoped she had ideas for future stories about them. Imagine my glee when she responded that a short story about one of the brothers would be appearing in the anthology A Match Made in Texas. 

From Goodreads:

In the small town of Dry Gulch, Texas, a good-hearted busybody just can’t keep herself from surreptitiously trying to match up women in dire straits with men of good character she hopes can help them. How is she to know she’s also giving each couple a little nudge toward love?

A Cowboy Unmatched
Neill isn’t sure who hired him to repair Clara’s roof–he only knows Clara desperately needs his help. Can he convince this stubborn widow to let down her guard and take another chance on love?

An Unforeseen Match
Hoping to earn an honest wage on his way to the land rush, Clayton ends up on Grace’s doorstep, lured by a classified ad. He may have signed on for more than he expected though–and he may have found the one woman who can keep him from moving on.

No Match for Love
Andrew can’t fathom how refined Lucy ended up as the caretaker to his dotty aunt, and somehow her arrival has prompted even more bizarre occurrences around the ranch. When they join forces to unearth the truth, will the attraction between Andrew and Lucy develop into more?

Meeting Her Match
When the tables are turned and a tender-hearted meddler becomes the beneficiary of a matchmaking scheme, her world is turned upside down. As her entire life changes, will she finally be able to tell the banker’s son how much she cares for him?

I initially read this anthology JUST for Karen Witemeyer’s short story. In the end I was pleasantly introduced to three authors I’ve since added to my to-read list.

My favorite kind of anthology is one where all the stories are connected somehow. It creates the feeling that you’re reading a larger story, rather than several disconnected short stories. In the case of A Match Made in Texas, each author wrote about a character living in Dry Gulch, Texas. One of the four characters is a matchmaker who attempts to bring joy, happiness, and love to several of the women living in Dry Gulch. One woman is a pregnant widow who is being threatened by her former father-in-law over who will be raising her child. Another is a newly blind woman, struggling to face her new future. The final woman whom the matchmaker helps is a woman who is tricked into being the caretaker of an older woman many believe is going crazy in her old age. And our matchmaker? She longs for a man who is too shy to make a move.

The writing across the four authors is flawless; the stories flow effortlessly together while remaining individualized just enough to allow each author her moment in the spotlight. While I was initially drawn to this anthology to read Karen Witemeyer’s story A Cowboy Unmatched, I have to say it was Regina Jennings’ An Unforeseen Match that wound up being my favorite. A curmudgeonly hero and blind (!!!!!) heroine? Love it. If you’ve read any of my reviews of Tessa Dare’s books, you’ll know that flawed heroines are my absolute favorite because they are the types of women who don’t usually get a voice. How many romances are written around the flawless beauty? The smart successful woman who uses her hot body to get any man she wants? Where are the overweight women? The women that struggle to make ends meet? The women who most men would look past? Regina Jennings gets a huge high-five from me for writing Grace’s story, AND for writing a hero who was man enough to choose to love a blind woman. That cannot be an easy road for a sighted person to walk down.

The last two stories in the anthology, No Match for Love & Meeting Her Match, were a bit off the wall plot wise and definitely could have used a bit more story. Their plots could have worked (I think) if they were full length novels rather than novellas. In all, even though half of the stories were amazing and half were mediocre, I’d still recommend reading the entire book.

Fun characters, awesome authors, and intense loves make A Match Made in Texas an anthology you won’t want to miss.

4 out of 5 Stars

A Match Made in Texas by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Carol Cox
Bethany House (2014)
Paperback: 384 pages
ISBN: 9780764211768

Special thanks to Bethany House for my review copy via Netgalley!