Monday, March 25, 2013

ARC Review: The Summer He Came Home

The Summer He Came Home (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #1)

by Juliana Stone


Sometimes the best place to find love is right back where you started…
Falling asleep in a different bed every night has made it easy for Cain Black to forget his past. It’s been ten years since he packed his guitar and left Crystal Lake to chase his dreams. Now tragedy has forced him home again. And though Cain relishes the freedom of the road, one stolen moment with Maggie O’Rourke makes him wonder if he’s missing out on something bigger than fame.
For Maggie—single mother and newly settled in Crystal Lake—love is a luxury she just can’t afford. Sure, she appreciates the tall, dark and handsome looks of prodigal son Cain Black. But how long can she expect the notorious hellion to stay?
The last thing either of them wants is something complicated. But sometimes love has its own plans.


What a great read! I have been a fan of Juliana Stone’s stories for a few years now, but have only just broken into her contemporary novels.  Her PNR books are great and I was definitely not disappointed with her newest foray into contemporary works. This is the beginning to a great new series and as such is chock full of back-story, world building and introductions. Summer He Came Home was a wonderful addition to my bookshelves and I am thrilled to find another new series by Ms. Stone to enjoy.
Cain Black is returning home, after being gone for the last ten years, for the funeral of one of his childhood best friends.  Returning home is terrifying and leads Cain to look at the emptiness in his life during his recent years.  Though his professional life has shined and his only getting better, his private life has fallen apart and he’s ready to make some changes.  He runs into Maggie O'Rourke and is instantly attracted and though many have warned him off, he can’t resist the sexy redhead and her endearingly sweet little boy.  But Maggie is resistant still, leaving him looking for sneakier ways to try to be in her life. 
Maggie knows that Cain is trouble the minute she meets him, but the more and more he begins to invade her life she knows that he might be worth the heartache.  She gives into the desire between them and decides that she deserves to grab all the happiness she can, even if she’s sure it won’t last.  As their bond deepens and her son Michael begins to depend more and more on Cain, Cain forces Maggie to face her past and works to crumble the walls she’s build around her heart.  But when the evil of her past finds her again, Cain and Maggie battle for their lives and love so they can have a future together.
Cain and Maggie were a great couple.  Cain is a very sexy man, and who can resist a gorgeous rock star after all.  He has his own darkness to deal with, but facing his issues for Maggie seems worth it.  He is a sweet and strong man, with obvious love for his friends and family, excepting his deadbeat dad of course. We see how his past has affected his present and get to watch him grow into a mature, loving relationship, even showing that he is determined to be a good man and good father figure for Michael.  It was so sweet watching him and Michael interacting, truly giving a real glimpse into the kind of man he truly is.  He can go from being a sexy hard drinking rock star one minute, to a passionate lover the next and then to a sweet teddy bear being wrapped around Michael’s fingers. I can’t wait for the next books just to see how Michael and Cain have continued to bond.
Maggie is one of those characters that you have to reserve judgement on until almost the end of the book.  At first you can’t understand why she is so resistant to Cain’s advances, because the info about her past is given only in small hints the further into the book you go. But as her relationship with Cain develops and we get more of those glimpses into her past, you come to appreciate how strong she is and see why she was hesitant to begin anything with Cain.  Thankfully she comes to her sense and embraces the feelings Cain brings out in her.  She is a strong woman, determined to protect her child at all costs and tries to keep her heart closed, even as Cain begins to crack her outer shell.  And when her past catches up, she shows just how strong she really is, not letting the past ruin her chances for a bright and loving future with Cain.
Summer He Came Home was a great story, full of angst, sensuality, and the everyday worries that can come between lovers.  Even though Cain is a rising Rock Star, all we see is the deeply passionate homeboy, returning to his roots and finding his music and heart again.   The heat between Cain and Maggie is evident in each moment they are together and of course once they are able to get past their hang-ups and be together, the tidal wave of passion is tsunami strength and will leave you gasping for breath.  There were just enough interesting side stories to get you salivating for the next two stories in the trilogy.  There was pain, drama, sadness, along with the sensuality, sweetness and fun in just the right proportion to keep you guessing just what the next disaster might be.  It was great to see Maggie and Cain overcome their issues and find their happiness, making the three of them with Michael a true family.  Cain’s story was a great intro the Bad Boys of Crystal Lake and I can’t wait for the other Bad Boys to get their HEAs. Keep the great stories coming Ms. Stone, and I can guarantee you’ll never have to worry about keeping your fans happy.

Rating:  4 stars

Rose Rating: 

*eARC provided by publisher for the purpose of an honest review.  Publication Date  4/2/13.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

ARC Review: Hunter


by Jacquelyn Frank, Jax (Pseudonym)


This can’t be happening to her. A random break down…an isolated mountain road, a seemingly chance meeting with a hotter-than-hot stranger. Tatyana is a modern gal who can handle any crisis, but before she knows what’s hit her, she’s sensing a hideous threat, not to her but to this man who draws her like a moth to flame. Hunter.
“I know things…I saw it.”
When the attack comes, she is his protection from a diabolical enemy, even as he initiates her into a startling world of magic, sorcery and sensuality. For in a moment of terrifying danger a spark has been struck, and neither can escape the erotic fire to come…


Wow! For anyone who has ever read anything written by Jacquelyn Frank, you won’t be disappointed with this story written under her pseudonym, Jax.  Never having read any of her stories under this pseudonym I was afraid it would be vastly different from her normal writing but I can honestly say I was happily surprised. Hunter is a great story, full of rich characters, imaginative takes on magic, and the age old struggle between good and evil—both internal and external.  Being a witch myself I found Frank’s take on the witches in this story extremely interesting and very much a respectful portrayal of the Craft.
Tatyana has finally decided she’s had enough of her brother dodging her for the past months and she is going to make the trip to his new home and force him to see her.  Heading into the snowy Catskill Mountains she is amazed when her car suddenly betrays her and leaves her stranded and cold on the road.  But refusing to give in to the bad luck that’s weighed her down all week, she heads on foot the rest of the way to the mansion, never knowing that she is heading into the future of her life and the changes fate has set into motion to lead her to her true destiny.  
Hunter has finally returned home, facing his family after ten long years of running from them and the mistakes of his past.  He has heeded the call of his High Priest and best friend to return to the Coven and resume his rightful place as Sentinel.  And he arrives just in time. When Tatyana stumbles into his life—literally—he is more than simply attracted to the fascinating sister of one of the Coven’s newest members.  He instantly feels a deep connection with her.  But only when faced with an attack by warlocks does the true path of their now shared destiny reveal itself, throwing Tatyana and Hunter into an intense battle for their lives and their future happiness.
Tatyana was one of my favorite heroines in a Frank novel, reminding me a bit of Bella in her Nightwalkers series.  She was sassy and in your face, which I guess one might expect from such a strong willed woman, but she pulls it off so well and maintains her sweetness and innate goodness even when faced with death and destruction all around her.  She faces her new life head on and is determined that she will be a well respected addition to the Willow Coven.  Even when Hunter hurts her and tries to deny the deep feelings developing between them, she maintains her calm resolve, determined to make Hunter see how food they can be together.  Her cleverness was another draw for me; as her presence in the Coven brings her closer to her new family, she adds her quirky sense of humor and her out-of-the-box thinking to their plans to defeat the evil that has been stalking them for years.  And I have to tell you, I don’t think I could have written anything funnier than how she reacts to finding out that the interesting new people she’s just met are really witches with supernatural powers fighting evil warlocks out to kill them.
Hunter is a great character in his own right of course, though sometimes his nobility and sense of honor (though sometimes misplaced) gets him into trouble with Tatyana.  He is strong minded as well as being sexy as hell and seriously who doesn’t want to meet a man who would kill to keep you safe. It was interesting to find out about his past and see how it shaped him into the mature and magical man meant to be Tatyana’s mate.  It is highly possible that if I ever meet a man like him in person I will be keeping him handcuffed to my bed forever. He is the quintessential alpha male with a soft teddy-bear inside just waiting for the right woman to bring out his softer side.  Though the softness is thoroughly disguised behind the immense sexual heat that burns through him every time Tatyana is even within his eye line.  Though I was a bit frustrated with his continued denial of the sensual draw between them and his frustrating insistence that he not give in to their driving needs.  I mean really who wants a guy that hot to deny his sexual need? :)
This was a great story but there were a few issues for me, though small.  Firstly, as you read this book you’ll find yourself wishing that it wasn't the first one written in the series.  You have to play a lot of catch-up and are left salivating for the chance to read about the months before this story: Dimitre meeting Annali, the attacks on the Coven, and Ryce’s struggle with his decision to call Hunter back.  If that story was written I really think it needs publishing, NOW! Secondly, I will say that some of the darker moments when we are in the POV of the warlocks are just a little too dark, even for me.  I know there are some perverted and sick minds out there, but I was kinda squicked out by the sex scenes particularly.  But keeping an open mind I guess it was important for us to see how twisted Braen was in every aspect of his life, including his relationships with his lover.
Those two issues aside, I really enjoyed every second of this book.  It was hot and steamy in all the right ways, and there was a great plot as well, making it a great combo of Erotica and PNR.  Tatyana and Hunter were so obviously meant for each other, but it was great to see them work through their problems as a couple along with all their epic battles, reminding us that even Witches are just humans with all their foibles and dramas. The twists and turns the plot takes were intriguing and well written without being too predictable. I haven’t yet read a story by Jacquelyn Frank that I haven’t thoroughly loved, but this was a surprisingly wonderful addition to her bookshelf and I hope that there are more coming in this series—maybe even a little prequel with Annali and Dimitre’s story…wink wink nudge nudge. If you are looking for something fun and a little bit different, I recommend this story to fill your need.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Rose Rating: 
*eARC provided by publisher for the purpose of an honest review. Publication Date: April 30, 2012. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Wolf With Benefits

Wolf with Benefits (Pride #8)

by Shelly Laurenston


Shelly Laurenston, New York Times bestselling author and a star in the paranormal romance genre, comes the eighth book is the successful Pride series, that blends outrageous humor and sexy shapeshifters to create irresistible heroes that readers fall in love with.
Ricky Lee has no plans of getting serious about anyone, but he will protect Toni Jean-Louis Parker. Not just because he’s been hired to do so, but because it’s the right thing to do. And if that means traveling around the country with one complicated She-jackal, dealing with chocolate-eating wild dogs, instigating trouble between his brothers, and having the most amazing sex he’s ever had…well, who said his job didn’t have perks?
Toni doesn’t know how she keeps getting herself into these situations. But even she has to admit there’s something about Ricky Lee Reed that she finds kind of interesting…and downright sexy. Now they just have to survive long enough to figure out if what they have is worth fighting for…


A Laugh a minute! Wolf with Benefits is another hit in a great series by an author with the oddest sense of humor, leaning even into the scary and psychotic a bite, but damn I love it! For those who have never read one of Laurenston’s stories (or her alter ego G.A. Aiken) you might find yourself a little concerned for the sanity of not only the characters but the author. As a faithful follower of this author in both her guises I can tell you that the hilarity never ceases, even when the love sneaks up on the lovers or death and destruction reign.
I have long loved the Reed boys and Ricky as the laid-back middle boy is a wonderful character and his sense of the ridiculous is a perfect match for Miss Toni and her eccentricities. Of course the whole Smith Pack holds a special place in my heart as they also hail from Tennessee! But personal biases aside I love how Ricky can go from lounging to lethal in a NY minute when someone he cares about is threatened, then turn right around after destroying the danger and he his sweet goofy self.  The personalities of the shifters in this world vary across the spectrum, but the lethal nature of their animal sides keeps the reader guessing just how one of them will react to a perceived slight.  Ricky Lee is just a sweet good-old-wolf (‘coughs’) who loves his momma and when Toni unexpectedly snags his entire focus, not much will keep him from grabbing hold and keeping her.  Even if she just can’t figure out why the hell he’s hanging around! :)
Toni, a new character to the series, is a new personal favorite of mine.  She’s spent her whole life as wrangler to her ten prodigy siblings and really doesn’t have a life outside of that.  When she’s given the chance to change that, she doesn’t exactly grab it with both hands, but more is forced to hang on as those around her grab it for her. She’s always felt average, but as she slowly comes out of her self-imposed cocoon, Ricky is there to keep her sane and show her just how special she really is.  Even if she’s not interested in anything long term with the hillbilly wolf, what girl can resist taking a bite out of him, especially when they are alone together in a foreign country with nothing to keep them busy except jumping each other’s bones! I loved Toni’s spunk and her ability to cut through all the bullshit around her and just get things done. 
There were many great twists and turns in this story, with a lot of time for the reader to guess what was really going on in the background.  A large problem with Toni’s new job: a minor issue with a large group of Russian Bears leads to some interesting times for both Ricky Lee and Toni.  Toni’s family however are the main issues that Toni is forced to deal with as she slowly begins to see that she CAN have a life of her own that doesn’t revolve around her siblings.
With a lot of script time for some of my favorite couples from previous books, Wolf with Benefits is like a reunion for faithful readers. Blayne and Bo, of course are still the cutest, most psychotic, and terrifyingly perfect couple. We even get to glimpse some of the characters from other series, like the Magnus Pack.  My favorite of course continues to be the sarcastic and majorly terrifying Dee-Ann smith of course and even with Rick reining her in (slightly) she is still terrifying the masses.  We also got to meet a few new characters that I’m hoping to see more of in the near future… mainly Livy and Vic, maybe a book about them together would satisfy Ms. Laurenston’s love of the dramatic and flare for the ridiculous.
Laurenston’s trademark dark humor kept me laughing through most of the book and let me tell you I got plenty of funny looks for just randomly bursting into deep belly laughs for some of the scenes.   The relationship aspect of this book was a little lacking compared to other books in the series, but you could definitely see Rick and Toni beginning to become a team and friends… with benefits of course. (Yes, I know the pun is terrible but I couldn’t resist!) Once they see what a great team they are and wrap up all the obstacles in their crazy lives, Toni and Ricky Lee have definitely proved they have what it takes to be a great couple. I personally cannot wait for the next installment and will be waiting on tenterhooks.  For those who are looking for something on the lighter side of romance or with a light sense of humor, this is not the series for you, sorry.  But if you find the lethal beauty of a mama wolf protecting her pups or the scary wit common to soldiers more your style, start from the beginning and enjoy being immersed in the imagination of the dark and somewhat twisted, but gloriously awesome Ms. Shelly Laurenston.
Rating: 4 stars
Rose Rating: 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: Once Tempted

Once Tempted (Silver Creek #1)

by Laura Moore


Sweeping passions, family drama, and searing scandal play out at the magnificent Silver Creek Ranch as the heirs to a powerful dynasty seize their legacy of love.

Oldest son Ward Knowles feels the sprawling California ranch in his blood. And now that the family business has expanded to include a popular resort, he’s working harder than ever. Silver Creek is his legacy and his life, which is fine for the ruggedly sexy ladies’ man and committed bachelor. Love and trust don’t come easily for Ward since he lost his heart to a gold digger—until he meets a shy, unpretentious beauty whose sweet grace is about to turn his jaded heart into a hungry one.

Tess Casari has found sanctuary at Silver Creek, working as an assistant to Ward’s mother, Adele. Grateful for her busy new life running the ranch’s spa and resort, Tess can escape the heartbreak, humiliation, and secret shame of her failed marriage. The last thing she needs is temptation—especially from a man who reminds her so much of the husband who shattered her faith in love. 

But passion and destiny are about to change the rules for two people who have stopped believing in the healing power of love.


What a great new series to begin.  I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting to be blown away with this story, but I tried to go in with an open mind.   I have never read anything else written by Ms. Moore, but I can unequivocally say I will be keeping my eyes open for more.  This was a great read and I am thrilled to say I will be adding a new author to my favorites list.   Ward and Tess’s story was full of excitement, drama, and the everyday angst that is often overlooked by other authors.  If you haven’t tried her writing yet I recommend you go out and grab this story ASAP to enjoy. 

The story begins with the bit of background that leads our heroine, Tess, to change her life.  Many would have treated it simply as a prologue, but I agree that the importance of the section made it important to include as the beginning of the story itself. Tess is deeply wounded by her failed marriage and the sudden death of her husband.  Deciding it’s time to make a serious change in her life, she pulls up stakes and moves her life all the way across the country, leaving NY for the first time, to settle in the small town of Acacia, CA.  Hoping her life will be changed for the better, Tess finds work at a family owned working guest ranch.  She’s never worked or lived anywhere like this, but she (and her new boss) goes out on a limb and Tess takes the job as the owner’s new assistant.   

But even on her first day of her new life, she runs into a dangerously gorgeous and sexy man, Ward Knowles, who just happens to be her new boss’s son and one of the owners of the ranch.  She’s determined to keep herself away from Ward, knowing that his devastating charm will put her new life and her heart in jeopardy.  But when they are thrown together working on a big event for the ranch, both Ward and Tess see the futility of resisting their attraction.   Who would turn down “No-strings-attached” sex after all?   Who could have ever guessed that these two jaded and broken hearts could so easily and deeply connect in so short a time?  

Tess is a great character, once she decides to take back control of her life.  She is spunky, sassy, and full of charm, leaving the reader wishing that had someone like her as a friend.  As she takes on her new role at the ranch, her savvy and street smarts help her to find her place and succeed in attaining her dream job.  But only when she spars with Ward do we get to see just how wonderful a character she really is.  Ward is a world-weary and cynical but extremely sexy cowboy, but he is immediately attracted to the fiery and gorgeous Tess.  He is a sweet good-old boy who definitely knows how to treat women, but Tess is definitely not the kind of girl he is used to.  After their first night together, it immediately becomes obvious to him that his feelings for Tess run deeper than either of them would like.  The problem is making Tess own up to her feelings before their pasts tear them apart. 

Sadly the past is never something one can run from and you can’t pick when it catches up with you.  Neither Ward nor Tess handle it very well when their insecurities jump up and leave them both reeling and pulling away from one another.  I cried through several chapters and was rooting for them to finally get their shit together so they could see that the love they had was worth fighting for.  Thankfully they both come to realize that their love is strong enough, true enough, to build their lives together and work past those uncertainties. 

I loved this book on so many levels.  Being a country girl myself, I LOVED the descriptions of the ranch and the animals that called it home.  I’ve never been to northern CA, but this book made me feel like I was right on the land, enjoying the warm breezes, and petting the cute animals, before riding off into the sunset on one of their beautiful horses. It isn’t often that I run across such rich imagery that never gets tedious to read.  Wade and Tess’s love story was one that pulled on my heartstrings and made me root for them every time something came between them.  You could see the explosive passion between them from the start and knew that when they came together you would see fireworks for miles. The side characters were also great to read about and I’m hoping some of them will get their own stories soon too.  All around this was a great beginning to the Silver Creek series and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series when it comes out. I recommend this to any lover of well-written, deeply sensual, and extremely witty romance stories. 

Rating: 4.25 stars

Rose Rating: 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Haunted Moon

Haunted Moon (Otherworld #13)

by Yasmine Galenorn

We’re the D’Artigo sisters: savvy half-human, half-Fae ex-operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. My sister Delilah is a two-faced werecat and a Death Maiden. My sister Menolly is a vampire married to a werepuma. And me? I’m Camille, a wicked-good witch with three sexy husbands. I’m a priestess of the Moon Mother, and I’m training under the Queen of Darkness. Unfortunately, playing in the dark means that sometimes you stumble over secrets better left buried…
There’s a new Fae sorcerer in town—Bran, the son of Raven Mother and the Black Unicorn—and I’m the unwilling liaison between him and our new Earthside OIA. With cemeteries being ransacked and spirits being harvested by a sinister, otherworldly force, Aeval sends us to rescue the missing wife of a prominent member of the Fae nobility. Our search leads us to the mysterious Aleksais Psychic Network and, ultimately, to face the Lord of Ghosts where Morio and I must undergo a ritual that will plunge us directly into the world of the dead.


For any of those who have followed this series from the beginning, Haunted Moon was a great addition to the series for sure.  For those that haven’t been following the series it would be a good read too, but you probably won’t be as deeply affected by some of the scenes as others.  Camille’s newest installment is a great addition to both her personal story and the overall Otherworld series.  Galenorn never ceases to amaze me with her plotting and her techniques.   Though I would say that portions of the series are romantic, classifying these stories as romance would be a mistake, really they are just paranormal suspense with a bit of sex and love thrown in for fun.  Not that it makes them bad reads for romance lovers, but you should keep it in mind when reading the series or even if you are only looking for romance as the main reason for the book.
Camille is finally coming in to her powers as a Dark Moon witch, her training with both Morio and the Earthside Queens finally giving her an outlet for her magic.  Her husbands are driving her crazy as usual, but it’s great to finally see her developing a deeper relationship and spending more alone time with Morio.  Previous installments of Camille’s life have focused on the relationships with Trillian and Smoky, but Morio is just as important to her and it’s nice to see him get his time to shine and their own special bond deepen. 
The drama of the Ghosts and creepy spirit harvesting happening around them is fun to read too.  The story once again takes intriguing turns as the sisters deal with the dark forces after them and working against them to challenge the rule of the Fae.   The Lord of Ghosts and the storyline surrounding his defeat was interesting and I loved seeing the girls thwart his forces at every turn.  The magic in this story was very deep as well, with Camille and Morio undergoing the Great Rite to become a matched Priest and Priestess.  Seeing them come together in a magical mating along with their loving bond was awesome, giving Morio and Camille their own special bond, not shared with her other husbands. 
Overall this series had become the tiniest bit tedious, but Haunted Moon has brought back the excitement for me and now I can’t wait for Delilah’s next story soon.  Camille and her men are of course sexy as hell to read about, and pleasantly there were more love scenes in this story than usually can be found in this series.  It was also fun to see the other couples and their growing and changing relationships, especially Chase and his new little family.  If you haven’t read the series, you definitely need to start at the beginning and read the whole thing so you can be immersed in this fabulous world with the rest of us.  Hurry, don’t wait! Just grab the whole series and spend a weekend becoming a follower. Keep it coming Yasmine!

Rating:   4.75 stars

Rose Rating: