Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: Scandal In Scotland

Scandal in Scotland (Hurst Amulet #2)

by Karen Hawkins 


Despite fame and countless admirers, actress Marcail Beauchamp has never forgotten William Hurst, the audacious seafarer she once loved...and lost. Now, forced by a mysterious blackmailer who threatens her family, she must steal an ancient onyx box from the one man she's vowed never to see again.
To save his brother from a ruthless abductor, William must deliver the artifact as ransom. He's stunned when Marcail, more lovely than ever, suddenly appears on his ship. But when she drugs him and steals the box, his fury knows no bounds.
William pursues Marcail, but too late: she has already delivered the box. The estranged lovers realize they must work together -- both to regain the artifact that could mean life or death to his family and to destroy the mysterious blackmailer's power over her family. Thus begins a high-stakes quest through the reaches of Scotland, a quest that stirs up long-forgotten memories and an unquenchable passion. . .


Scandal in Scotland was another wonderfully witty and action filled novel by Karen Hawkins. Having read all of the Hurst Amulet series as well as the series that preceded it, I was looking forward to William’s story.  The overall plotline that has been continuing through this series is intriguing and leaves me wondering just what will happen to Michael and how everything will end.
Marcail and William definitely had a rocky relationship and their past affects their present and future greatly.  Marcail returns to William’s life, many years after shattering his heart and leaving him for a richer man.   He’s on his way to deliver the artifact that his brother Michael is being held hostage for.  He returns to port and is confronted with a stowaway in his stateroom.   After she escapes with the artifact, leaving him drugged and tied up on the floor of his cabin, William is determined to make her pay for the humiliation and get the artifact back in time to save his brother.
Marcail travels with the artifact to a small seaside town to hand it over to the mysterious blackmailer that has been plaguing her for the past few years.   She’s sure that she is doing the best thing for everyone by delivering the artifact to her blackmailer, in order to protect her family from her secret life as an actress.   Having forced William from her life she’s focused on her career the past years and helping her family, leaving any chance for romance and relationship by the wayside. Her heart has always belonged to William though and when he finds her and demands the return of the artifact her choices become more varied and she’s forced to make a decision.  Give in to her blackmailer and never have a chance to keep William or give William back the artifact and face the consequences of her secret coming out.
Both Marcail and William are characters that lead their lives in pursuit of a better future for themselves and their families.  William’s family is important to him so he’s willing to give up a lot to save his brother, including a second chance with the love of his life.  He’s spent the last several years since Marcail broke his heart working to amass a fortune, to prove to her and the world that he’s a successful guy worthy of Marcail’s love.  Marcail on the other hand has led a very private and secluded personal life since her breakup with William.  Though many of her peers see her as a typical actress, using her body to her advantage with wealthy men, she’s really only ever had one lover—William.  Taking on the persona of a kept woman has benefited her professionally and kept William safe from those that would use her to hurt him.
There was a lot of passion between Marcail and William, but more in this story than others, there were a lot of emotional fears they had to work through so they could have a relationship again.  Instead of having to prove anything to the world, they now have to work to prove to each other that they have changed for the better and are worthy of each other’s love. There weren't as many laughs in this story as in others in the series, this novel taking a darker turn in a lot of ways.  Once Marcail and William embrace the truth of their pasts, their present and future is open to entirely new possibilities together. 
Working to thwart a blackmailer, get the artifact to Michael in time, and to keep the outside world from tearing them apart, Marcail and William finally learn the most important lesson of their lives.  Love conquers all things.   With them working together instead of against each other events start falling into place and they’re able to accomplish all their goals.
The next book in the story will, I assume, be about their brother Robert and the pretty redheaded spy we meet in this novel.  I can’t wait to find out more about Robert and his true profession, though I have my suspicions already.  It will be interesting to see if Robert catches her in time and is able to keep her this time.  After that, we should finally learn what happens with Michael and the artifacts in Egypt.  I can’t help but ask myself one question though—will the map lead the Hurst Family to their famed amulet or not?

Rating: 3.75 stars
Rose Rating:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mini-Review: Naughty or Nice

Naughty or Nice

by Kari Lee Harmon


Being nice is safe, and being naughty is overrated, but getting McScroogy to find the joy in Christmas is beginning to sound oh so merry.
Samantha Darling, Boston advertising executive, has spent her life making a list and checking it twice, but she’s through being nice. All being nice got her was a broken heart when her fiancĂ© cheated on her last Christmas Eve, ruining her favorite holiday, and then ran off with the small town boutique owner. After one too many All Powerful Peppermintinis, Samantha decides to give naughty a try. She breaks into the shop in Redemption Massachusetts and puts her spin on the Christmas display in the front window. Only, the window doesn’t belong to Stowe’s Boutiques, it belongs to Snow’s Antiques, and Nathan Snow is none too pleased. This was his year to win the Best Christmas Window display contest against his rival, but Samantha ruined it. While he might not like Christmas, he knows winning this contest will bring in business. He makes Samantha a deal. Create a winning display by Christmas Eve, and he won’t press charges. Samantha has no choice but to agree and has learned her lesson, but finds a bonus in her punishment. The challenge of getting the scrooge to find the joy in Christmas. Except losing her heart wasn’t part of the deal.


I really loved this short holiday story.  Though I don’t technically celebrate Christmas, I just love holiday themed stories, music, and even movies, so sue me! I got this as a free read from the publisher and was thrilled to have the chance to try it because I fell in love with the summary when I read it.
Sam is witty and sweet, but when her friends get her drunk her naughty side leads her right into trouble and the arms of her fate.  Waking up mostly naked, in the wrong place, with an entire small town staring at her hung-over, Sam is appalled and unable to believe the screw-up she’s made.  But looking on the bright side, she gets to see Tall, Dark, and Sexy again.  She decides that as she serves her punishment, working to correct her mistake, she needs to find her Christmas spirit again and share It with Nathan.
Nathan has never liked the holidays, mostly because dealing with his family even for those few days, is not worth the heartache. Enchanted as much as he is angry with Sam, Nathan decides to manipulate the situation so he has a chance to get the sexy Sam into his bed, or his window display area—whatever works.  But as she works to make his window display the best in the town, Sam slowly starts to teach Nathan the true reason for the season.  Soon Nathan comes to understand that family and friends, and even love are the most important things, not only at the holidays but all through life.
The chemistry between Nathan and Sam is intense to say the least.  Combustible might be a better word.  You’ll need to save this one for a very cold night or turn the AC way up just so you don’t catch fire.   A few times I wished I could reach into the book and smack Nathan upside the head, but thankfully he finally pulls his head out of his butt and admits he loves Sam.  Sam is insecure about her own personal appeal, but Nathan makes her feel so sexy and loved that she slowly builds herself up, even if she has a bit of a relapse in the end.  These two were awesome together and totally realistic.
I’ve never read anything else by this author, but I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to more of her novels.  This was a relatively quick read, but intense and erotic.  Fun and sweet.  Sam and Nathan are perfect together and they obviously need each other to make their lives whole and complete.  The plot was hilarious from start to finish.  I think that if I ever got drunk enough to be as stupid as Sam I would hope it turned out this well for me.
Happy holidays and may it be sexy!

Rating:  3.5 stars

Rose Rating: 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Blessed Solstice and Happy Yule!

Blessed Solstice and Happy Yule! 

While many of my friends and family are prepping for and celebrating Christmas this time of year, I celebrate a little differently.  Celebrating the turning of the wheel of the year, I am getting ready for the winter Solstice, which this year will fall on Dec 21st.   Often called Yule, this holiday is very similar to Christmas in that we are celebrating the rebirth of the god to the goddess.  While there are many variations of Yule or solstices celebrations, I wanted to just wish everyone a blessed Yule and a happy holiday season, however you celebrate this time of year. 

I have provided a few great links to give you more info about Yule in case you are interested.
Just like all the holidays this time of years, the best part is getting to spend time with family and friends.  Decorating the tree, gorging on great food, and baking all the yummiest treats you can.  Chocolate, nuts, and delicious cookies abound in my home as in so many others.  In the spirit of giving I am sharing a favorite Yule time snack that my mom has always made for me.  And I can guarantee you’ll love it too.

Rocky Road Brownies


  • 1-1/4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup  Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  •  eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup Good Quality Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. Stir together chocolate chips, marshmallows and nuts; set aside. Place butter in large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until melted. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla; beat with spoon until well blended. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; stir until well blended. Spread batter in prepared pan.
  3. Bake 22 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chip mixture over top. Continue baking 5 minutes or until marshmallows have softened and puffed slightly. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Using wet knife, cut into squares. About 20 brownies.

Happy holidays and blessings from my family to yours!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review: Hunk For The Holidays

Hunk for the Holidays

by Katie Lane


Always putting business before pleasure, Cassie McPherson works hard for her family's construction business. That might explain why she doesn't have a date for the company Christmas party. But it doesn't quite explain why she's crazy enough to hire an escort for the event or - crazier still - why she's dying to unwrap him like a present . . .
With whiskey-colored eyes and a killer smile, James is one gorgeous hunk who really knows how to fill out a tuxedo. He charms everyone, including Cassie. And when the night ends, the party doesn't stop. As Cassie falls, literally, into his bed, James falls head over heels in love. Now he has to figure out a way to tell her the truth: he's not an escort. He's her family's fiercest business rival. But all he wants for Christmas is her . . .


This book was a free gift and I’m so thrilled I got the chance to try it.  Never having read anything by Katie Lane, I wasn't sure what to expect as far as her writing style, but I was pleasantly surprised in many ways.  I loved this story.  It was one of those novels that would have you laughing one minute and close to tears the next.  The ups and downs of the plot and the hurdles they had to jump in order to have a relationship were amazing.  And really I’m astounded she was able to pack so much going in into less than a week’s time.
Cassie is on her way to her family business’s Christmas party and once again she finds herself without a date.  Determined to save face she simply repeats her past scheme and calls in her trusty escort service to make her life easier.  Armed with a sexy new red dress and stilettos, she’s blown away when her escort appears.  He’s gorgeous and way better than any of her previous “dates”. 
James is astounded when he shows up for a meeting with his competitor and his dragged to a party by a drop dead gorgeous woman who turns out to be the daughter of his rival and his new “boss” for the night.   Seeing an opportunity to get to know a sexy and intriguing woman, James lets Cassie keep thinking that he’s her escort for the night.   But life is never that kind to him and as he deals with the intense sexual tension and want he feels for Cassie he has to deal with some interesting circumstances.  Overprotective brothers threatening to kick his butt, a date sinking further into her champagne, and finally the subterfuge of keeping his identity from someone he’s beginning to really like.
James and Cassie combust from the first moment they appear on the pages together.  Cassie is definitely a little bit repressed, having gone eighteen months without a man and when she’s confronted with the very sexy James, she initially resists the pull.  But really she’s already paying him an escort fee, so instead of continuing her drought why not have one night of no-strings sex with a dazzling man. But James begins to see the flaw in his plan now that he’s realized he really likes Cassie and wants a chance to have more than one night of crazy sex with her.  He is determined to keep his hands to himself until he comes clean with her, but when she jumps him in his sleep there’s only so much resisting a red-blooded horny guy can do.
There is also a wonderful romance between Amy and Rory in the story and it gave you break from the intensity of Cassie and James as they bumbl their way through their relationship.  Both of these couples seemed to have real problems expressing their feelings and coming together with any sanity involved.  It took the grand scheming of their Great-Aunt Wheeze and her little helpers to bring both couples together in the end. 
With a hilarious cast of characters, intense emotional rollercoaster rides, and a wonderfully fast paced plot Hunk for the Holidays is definitely going to be my new go-to reread during the holiday season.  I’m hopeful that we will see books for Patrick and Mattie as they were both favorite characters of mine. And I can tell you after hearing about all the sexy males to be found there it only strengthen my desire to move to CO. Yay sexy guys playing in the snow!

Rating:  4.25 stars

Rose Rating: 
*arc provided by publisher.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review: Marked

Marked (Eternal Guardians #1)

by Elisabeth Naughton 


THERON—Dark haired, duty bound and deceptively deadly. He’s the leader of the Argonauts, an elite group of guardians that defends the immortal realm from threats of the Underworld.
From the moment he walked into the club, Casey knew this guy was different. Men like that just didn’t exist in real life—silky shoulder-length hair, chest impossibly broad, and a predatory manner that just screamed dark and dangerous. He was looking for something. Her.
She was the one. She had the mark. Casey had to die so his kind could live, and it was Theron’s duty to bring her in. But even as a 200-year-old descendent of Hercules, he wasn’t strong enough to resist the pull in her fathomless eyes, to tear himself away from the heat of her body.
As war with the Underworld nears, someone will have to make the ultimate sacrifice.


I really enjoyed the first story in this new (to me at least) series about the magical world revolving around the descendants of the ancient Greek heroes—the Argonauts.    This was my first time reading anything by Elisabeth Naughton and I thoroughly enjoyed her writing and her vivid imagination.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of this series to learn more about these Heroes.
Theron, leader of the Argonauts and direct descendant of Heracles, is a very sexy guy that is stuck between a rock and a hard place.  On orders from his king he is going to marry the princess of his people, though he doesn't want to marry at all.  When he travels from their isolated world to bring the princess back he runs into a captivatingly beautiful and stubbornly disobedient woman.  After she saves him from and attack by demons and certain death, bringing him to her home to recover, he is instantly and insanely attracted to her.  When he is healed enough, he immediately flees back to his homeland, but when he arrives things only become more complicated for him.
After Casey’s run in with the gorgeous and obstinate Theron, she is stunned to find him back on her doorstep a few days later.  She too felt the insane pull toward him, but resisted his allure and when he fled her home convinced herself she’d only imagine d the strength of their attraction.  But when Theron returns he changes her entire life.  Dragging her into the middle of an epic battle between the Argonauts, a demon, and the gods, she’s sure she’ll never be able to return to her normal life again.  As they work together to find a solution to all their problems, the heat between them is undeniable.  Giving into their lust leads them deeper into the inevitable love that will shape their futures and the futures of their people.
Theron and Casey are both wonderful characters.  Theron is a very loyal and devoted warrior, who has to this point never questioned his ultimate reason for being.  He is to follow his king’s orders to the best of his ability, leading his men against the demon horde, and making sure that his people are kept safe.  Lust and love have never come between him and his duty.  But now that Casey has entered his life, he’s beginning to doubt his commitment and questions the orders that his king is giving him.   Theron’s love for Casey finally turns him into a man instead of the machine he’s been since his birth. 
Casey is a wonderful character as well. She’s alone in the world, having lost everyone else in her life, including the recent death of her aunt.  She’s always felt like an outsider and when she learns from Theron just who she really is, her feeling of separation makes perfect sense to her.  Theron is the catalyst for Casey embracing her inner strength and loving him makes her see that her wants aren't the most important, that she can serve the greater good. 
Emotions run high in several parts of Marked, leaving you feeling a bit like you've been on a roller coaster with lots of heights, dips, and turns.  The ending of the book felt just right to me.  Had the author been less talented the ending could have turned out to be a bit contrived, but the writing and plot development left you feeling like everything ended just as it should have from the beginning, even though you didn't think it could happen.   Being the first in the series there was a lot of world building and meeting side characters but the vivid details and interactions with the main characters don’t leave you feeling like they were just there to be set up for future books.  They were supporting roles that were needed for Theron and Casey’s story to be at its best.
For being a first novel in a new series, I must say this book was beyond my initial expectations.  Theron and Casey were both great characters and I definitely was thrilled that they got their HEA despite all the forces working against them.  The rich imagination and world building was thorough and great for a mythology fan like myself.  I knew right away who the characters were descended from and what aspects of their personalities came from those ancestors.  It was intriguing to me the way the Argonauts were part of this world, but still separate and how the half-breeds were sometimes just as or even more powerful that the full blooded decedents of the heroes.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the books in this series and finding out how the Princess’s deal with Hades and Persephone will play out.

Rating: 4 stars

Rose Rating: 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: the Perfect Hope

The Perfect Hope (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #3)

by Nora Roberts


Ryder is the hardest Montgomery brother to figure out—with a tough-as-nails outside and possibly nothing too soft underneath. He’s surly and unsociable, but when he straps on a tool belt, no woman can resist his sexy swagger. Except apparently Hope Beaumont, the innkeeper of his own Inn BoonsBoro…
As the former manager of a D.C. hotel, Hope is used to excitement and glamour, but that doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the joys of small-town living. She’s where she wants to be—except for in her love life. Her only interaction with the opposite sex has been sparring with the infuriating Ryder, who always seems to get under her skin. Still, no one can deny the electricity that crackles between them…a spark that ignited with a New Year’s Eve kiss.
While the Inn is running smoothly, thanks to Hope’s experience and unerring instincts, her big-city past is about to make an unwelcome—and embarrassing—appearance. Seeing Hope vulnerable stirs up Ryder’s emotions and makes him realize that while Hope may not be perfect, she just might be perfect for him…


The perfect hope was the last story in the Inn Boonsboro series.  The series has been sweet and heartwarming like all Nora Robert’s series with interesting characters and a fun plotline.  I will say it seemed a bit more lackluster than I am used to from Nora.  There were parts from other series (like the haunting similar to the Garden Series) that seemed a bit like recycling to try to make the overall story line more interesting.   Had she just focused on the remodeling of the Inn itself and the romance lines I would have more thoroughly enjoyed the series.
Focusing only on The Perfect Hope (love the pun with the name too), the story of Hope and Ryder finally coming together was fun to read.  The heat has been building from the beginning between these two and to finally see them give in to it was fascinating.  The direct approach they both take to their fling is refreshing, but of course no one can separate their feelings from their flings forever.  As their romance and their friendship grow slowly into love you get a small taste of how their personalities being so different allow them to blend together so well.
I was hoping for a bit more heat in the story as a lot of the sensuality inherent a Roberts’ novel was just glossed over in this story.  We get a lot of hints about what is happening but very seldom do we get the details we want.  Ryder is perfectly alpha and everything you could want in a man.  He’s a big strong guy, who looks after all the women in his life and works to make sure that his friends and family know how much he loves them.  Hope on the other hand is a little bit less likeable of a character for me.  She is overly self-protective and argumentative with Ryder, but the friendships she has formed with the other women in the story give her a bit more likeability.
Lizzy the ghost of course plays a major part in this story because we finally get to find out who her Billy was and why she’s hanging around the Inn still. Though this part of the series seemed like it was recycled from other series, it was still fun to see how she interacts with the living around her and how she gets hers points across.  There were some very funny scenes involving Lizzy and the guests of the Inn. And when they finally find Billy there was a moment or two to bring tears to your eyes.
Overall, this story was a decent ending to the series.   All the plot lines were wrapped up and we got a sweet relationship to bring together the last two couples in the little group.   There was plenty of romance in the story, though it was lacking a lot of the heat I like to see. Ryder and Hope together were a very likeable couple, and individually in the end both amiable characters.  I was hoping for more of a bang with the confrontations from Hope’s past, but they seem more in the story to cause tension and hurdles for Ryder and Hope than anything.   I’m hoping the upcoming series is more a return to the stories of magic, mystery, and passion that we expect from Nora, but I will definitely not stop reading.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Rose Rating: 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review: Untamed Highlander

Untamed Highlander (Dark Sword #4)

by Donna Grant 


The Dark Sword series reins in the magic, passion, and fury of Scotland’s legendary warriors—for whom love is always worth fighting for…
Druid-born and magic-blessed, Isla is one of the deadliest she-devils ever to serve the forces of darkness. As an immortal Highland warrior, it’s up to Hayden Campbell to destroy her and her kind. But for Hayden, Isla is more than a sworn enemy. She is temptation…
Taking Isla captive, Hayden hopes to avenge his kinsmen who died by Druid magic. But when he looks into Isla’s eyes, he sees the secrets of her past. When he touches her skin, he feels the passion in her soul. And soon Hayden comes to realize that this beautiful, beguiling woman is not his enemy at all—she is his destiny. And, even as the forces of darkness conspire against them, their love will conquer all…


The saga of the Scottish Warriors imbued with the very essence of the gods continues with another great installment in Untamed Highlander, the story of Hayden Campbell and Isla, the beautiful druid he rescues. 
The story picks right back up after Wicked Highlander ends with Fallon and Hayden returning to the dark mountain home of Deidre.  They are seeking any survivors that might be found after Deidre’s death, be they warrior or druid.  Instead of survivors they find mostly dead bodies of druids that attempted to escape but were defeated by the elements before they could get away from the mountain.  Hayden stumbles across a dying Isla and instantly feels an intense need to keep her safe. 
Fallon and Hayden take Isla to the castle and Sonya works hard to save Isla, though she fights the magic everyway she can.  She even begs Hayden to simply kill her, but the connection he feels to her is too strong and he refuses to let her die.  But when she awakens, and her true nature is revealed, everything changes for Hayden.  Finding out that Isla isn’t just a druid, but a drough, a dark druid who’s given her soul to the devil, enrages him and forces all the warriors and druids of the castle to rethink—do they save Isla knowing she’s a drough, or simply let her die?
For Hayden the problem is much more complicated.  Ever since a drough killed his family and allowed him to be abducted by Deidre, he swore to kill any drough that crosses his path.  But his intense connection and desire for Isla is slowly beginning to overcome his anger and disgust.  Slowly Isla proves that though she is drough, she isn’t evil.  Her choices and desires are pure.  Isla has been trapped in a nightmare for over 500 years, being the unwilling puppet of the vilest creature ever known.   Her emotions taken advantage of and her family held captive as a way to control her. 
When Hayden finally gives in to his desire and takes Isla to his bed, his inner turmoil increases tenfold, because making love to Isla doesn’t feel wrong—it’s the most intensely right feeling he’s ever experienced.  Isla has never felt anything like the passion she experiences in Hayden’s arms.  She fears she is coming to feel too much for Hayden and that it may weaken her resolve to leave the castle to protect all the new friends she has discovered.   But Hayden is determined to keep her with him, and the love he begins to feel is evident and intense for the readers to see. When an old enemy comes back to haunt them, they must work together to defeat it or face losing everything they both hold dear.
The heat between these two—even with all the anger and mistrust—gives you hope that these two people, who should be enemies, can have their HEA.   Though you feel the tension and suspicion caused by their pasts, you know that their feelings run deep and they can overcome their pasts and prejudices to really find the love within each of them.
I loved this latest installment of the series and can’t wait for the rest of the series.  Hayden and Isla’s relationship is problematic from the beginning but by the end we are reminded that sometimes the most different of individuals can come together into an explosive and fiery union, destined to last forever.  Hayden and Isla’s story was definitely one of my favorites of the series.  Ms. Grant is definitely a master at taking two characters with troubled pasts, intensely suspicious natures, and strong resistance to emotional situations and making them fall deeply in love and come to terms with the universal truth that everyone has some darkness in them, but it’s our choices that show what side of the coin we will fall on.  And she leaves you asking yourself will you embrace the dark or the light?

Rating:  4 stars

Rose Rating: