Sunday, September 29, 2013

ARC Review: Assassin's Touch

Assassin's Touch (Iron Portal #1)

by  

Blurb:

Two worlds. Two enemies.
 Haunted by loss, Cascadian assassin Rickert D’Angelus is on a mission of vengeance. Determined to stop the Pacifican army from finding a portal to his world, he leads a group of warriors into New Seattle with one goal—to kill all Pacifican soldiers.
Neyla Trihorn had the perfect life until a deadly accident revealed her latent para-abilities. Now, the former fashion designer is the Pacifican army’s hottest commodity in their fight against the invaders.
When Rickert discovers a beautiful, unconscious soldier on a cold mountain ledge near the portal, he realizes she’s a Protection-Talent and cannot be killed. To prevent the army from using her skills again, he takes her as his prisoner instead.
One fated touch…
But when he pulls her into his arms, a sexy and compelling vision appears, awakening something inside him. Something he can’t ignore.
Torn between duty and passion, Rickert must decide if the vision is a Talent trick designed to foil the enemy or the answer to his deepest desires...

Review:

 Well I’m just not really sure where to start with this story.   The first story in the Iron Portal series certainly had its high points and a few low points, but overall was a great beginning to an all new series set in a strange alternate reality with some interesting twists and turns.  Laurie London also writes one of my favorite vampire series, the Sweetblood series, so when I saw her branching out I was very excited, though certainly a bit skeptical about this new world.  With vivid world building, heart-wrenching betrayals, frequent action and a love story between two deeply connected individuals Assassin’s Touch was one of those stories that will touch your heart and pull you into the characters' lives from start to finish. Can’t wait to find out more about these two worlds and the individuals that make it unique while keeping familiar enough to remind you that all humans are the same at the core, with the free will to choose what they will be—good or evil.
Our story revolves around the warring factions of two worlds separated only by a magical portal.  Neyla is a woman that has been conscripted into the army, forced to use her protection-talent to aid the Pacifican army in its battles against the Cascadian soldiers that venture into their world.  The Cascadians caused an accident that brought her para-abilities to the notice of the army (or so she’s led to believe) and she was forced out of her life and into a life she doesn’t want to lead and onto a team where no one really respects her or wants her around.  When she is injured on assignment and found by a Cascadian military leader, her life changes forever.  Rickert has never felt a connection to another woman like he feels for the little soldier he discovers near death on the enemy’s side of the portal, but he’s determined to put her to good use.  Dragging her across the portal and into his world he begins to learn more and more about Neyla, while sharing information with her that turns her world upside down and challenges all her beliefs.  But when the enemy travels to Cascadia to retrieve Neyla and enact some very frightening evil plans, Neyla and Rickert must put aside their differences and work together if they are to ever have a chance to be together and conquer the real evil in their worlds.
From the second Rickert touches Neyla the passion he feels for her complicates his life and challenges all his long held beliefs.  Rickert is a tortured hero for sure; an alpha military leader on a quest of vengeance, he never imagined that a mere slip of a woman could come between him and his agenda in this war.  His passions run high only where Neyla is concerned and the protectiveness he feels toward her is even more confusing to him than the desire.  But when he learns the true nature of this compassionate, sweet and naïve woman, he cannot help but fall in love.  Neyla is different; she lived the majority of her life following her dreams and keeping herself away from danger, until a freak accident makes it impossible for her to be what she once was.  Adapting to her changed life, or trying to anyway, Neyla tries to make the best of her situation.  Being the brunt of most of her comrades’ jokes and the scapegoat for their anger puts her in some awkward positions.  She only really comes alive when she travels to Rickert’s world and finds herself surrounded by the laughter and beauty that has long been removed from her life.   Though she resists the changes to her life initially, when she begins to trust Rickert and he opens her eyes to the truth about their worlds and the war, she finds her place in the world and makes her stand, saving the day in the end.
This was a great new series that I am really looking forward to seeing more soon.  Rickert and Neyla were a great combination of strength and vulnerabilities, coming together in a blazing passion and inevitable destiny that was both heartwarming and exciting to experience.  The world building was full of vivid descriptions, imagery, and mythology, which I enjoyed immensely and will look forward to delving into more deeply.  Can’t wait to find out more about Asher in the next book, Rogue’s Passion and hope I don’t have too long of a wait for it! Another great series, Laurie, and I’m glad you took the time to take on us this journey to another world of your imagination.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Rose Rating:  

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

ARC Mini-Review: Red Hot Dragon

Red Hot Dragon (Dragon Heat #2)

by Lolita Lopez

Blurb:

Griffin Cadogan is shocked to see Avani Monroe, sworn enemy of his dragon family, walk into his gym. With his mating phase soon approaching, Griffin is curious as to why she has to come enemy territory knowing the risks. Not only does she surprise Griffin and his cousin, Mad, by coming to enemy territory, but what she wants is borderline insane-Griffin must help her have a baby.
After her mother's line was annihilated by the Knights, Avani accepted her duty to ensure the continuation of their unique dragon breed. She's searched the dragon registries and Griffin is the most likely candidate for her crazy plan. Working up the courage to approach a man who considers her an enemy wasn't easy but she manages to calmly lay out her carefully orchestrated plan.
But Griffin isn't about to agree to her harsh terms. If she wants him to father her child, he intends to play an active role in his offspring's life, not simply walk away as she requires. Shocked by her instant attraction to him, she agrees to his terms. Once together, they realize their connection is about more than creating a child, but that happiness is short-lived when Mad suddenly disappears. Knowing the dragon slayers are behind it, Griffin must risk it all to save the ones he loves.

Review:

The second book in the Dragon Heat series was a good read, but I was a bit disappointed.  Reading the blurb for this story I had a great expectation for a wonderful story, but I wasn’t as thrilled with the way the romance unfolded and how the couple came together.  While there were some interesting action moments and certainly plenty of sexy scenes between Griffin and Avani, I found the emotion of the romance to be a bit lackingor perhaps superficial is the best way to describe it.  I will continue this series because the premise is engaging and the stories are well written, but I continue to hope for something a bit longer, allowing for the deeper emotions to develop.
The story revolves around Avani's life-changing decision to continue her species by seeking out a genetic match to father a child with her.  She has no desire for a mate or partner and presents the entire situation to Griffin as a business arrangement.  Though he initially resists the idea, his own desire for family leads him to accept her proposal with a few caveats—he will not give up rights to their baby.  With some of the issues unresolved, they sequester themselves in Avani's underground lair and let the mating heat they are both experiencing led where it may.  Only as they spend more time together, both of them begin to question their determination to remain apart and decide to give their relationship a chance beyond slaking their lust and accomplishing their goal.
When Avani and Griffin come together it is definitely erotic and heated.  The passion between them is nothing to dismiss and they certainly go at each other with a lusty determination.  There are certainly moments that I needed a cold drink just to allow me to keep reading, but I didn’t feel much of an emotional connection between them, until suddenly there it was.  There didn’t seem to be much of a development of their love; they just went from an intense attraction to each other to being in love and deciding to mate for life. I would have liked a bit more time for love to grow or at least allowing us to experience that growth as there was a large time gap in the story, but overall they were sexy enough for me to accept the sudden changes.
In the end, this story was a short, hot read to fill a cool fall evening.  With all the action of dragon battles, sexiness of two dragons in heat, and the happy ending I look for, Red Hot Dragon was a well written and heated erotic novella.   Griffin and Avani were interesting characters with depth and intelligence, perfectly matched and able to come together in love once they stopped letting old fears hold them back. Though the emotional connection was a bit abrupt for my preference, I can see that the couple was meant to be and the love was certainly there in the end.  Overall I can say this was a good read and well worth getting lost in for a few hours.   It was also interesting to get to see some of the characters I loved in the previous story in the series and learn more about them.  I am looking forward to finding out what will come next in the Dragon Heat Series. 

Rating: 3 stars

Rose Rating:  

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 



Monday, September 23, 2013

ARC Review: Darkness Rises

Darkness Rises (Immortal Guardians #4)

by 

Blurb:

Krysta is used to getting the drop on vampires. Her "special abilities" aren't much, but the plan is simpleshe plays helpless pretty young thing to lure them in. Then her shoto swords come out and it's bye-bye, bloodsucker. Until one night she finds herself with an unexpected ally. He's a vampire, all right, but different. Mysterious. Handsome. And more interested in saving her skin than draining it.
Étienne has been an Immortal Guardian for two hundred yearslong enough to know that Krysta is special. He can't stop thinking about her long legs, even more than her short swords. Then he discovers the vamps she's exterminating have friends in high places, and the Guardians are in danger, too. He'll have to accept Krysta's help to save them. The stakes for a mortal are high. But the cost to his heart might be higher . . .

Review:
Wow this book was beyond all expectations!  I have been looking forward to this novel almost since I finished the last one, mainly because the heroes were brothers, French and hot as hell—how can you beat that?! Dianne did not in any way let me down.  With a dazzling warrior woman meeting her match in a sweet, but sexy French immortal, Darkness Rises has twists, turns, and traps at the turn of every page and you never know what to expect next. The Immortal Guardians are a great group and their stories always do them a great justice and I cannot wait to find out who Dianne’s next victim—oops I mean hero will be.  If you haven’t read the others in the series you may not enjoy the series as much as others who are immersed in these people’s lives, but by no means will you be lost or feel lacking if you just read this novel. 
Étienne’s life changes for him from the first word of this novel.   When he’s out hunting he is stunned to find another hunter on his turf, but not any type of hunter he would have ever expected. Krysta is a mortal, but damn if she doesn’t hold her own as she battles her way through the group of vampires she’s lured in.  Until another group comes onto the scene and he cannot leave her to die.  By rescuing her he puts into motion something he never would have imagined.  Both Krysta and Étienne are immediately attracted to each other but both are wary of trusting the other.  As their unlikely attraction leads them into an interesting partnership, their desires become more complicated and they have to face the fact that some things are inevitable.  When Krysta is pulled entirely into Étienne’s world their friendship quickly develops into a deeper need and when Krysta makes a life changing decision, they are forced to ask themselves if they are willing to let go of all their expectations and fine happiness together? And can they handle all the changes in their lives when an old enemy resurfaces and puts the lives of all the Immortals and their Seconds in danger?
Krysta is one of my favorite female characters in a long time.  She is strong willed and physically able to kick some serious vampire ass. She has been fighting and killing vampires using her special gift for years, ever since she was attacked by a group of vampires and faced with a great loss.  Her gift has served her well, making it easier than most humans for her to fight the vampires, and her strong will has made her unwilling to give up her mission, even as she is having greater difficulty and finds herself injured more than she once was. Finding out that her mission objective has been skewed from the very beginning rocks her solid foundations, but she rolls with the punches and isn't so stubborn that she denies the truths that are presented to her. Krysta is perfectly matched by Étienne.  He is sexy of course, but his best feature is his understanding and compassionate nature.   Once he learns the truth about Krysta and her goals, he is determined to keep her safe and ensure that she doesn’t have to give up her mission, but doesn’t endanger herself and those around her. He has always seemed to me to be a serious kind of guy, loyal to his family (both immediate and extended) and serious about his work, so it is nice to see Krysta lighten his heart and bring a bright spark of joy to his life.
Sometimes I find myself wishing that the H/H would slow down their overly speedy relationships, giving it more of a realistic feel;  Krysta and Étienne fulfilled my wish.  Though their attraction was obvious from their first meeting, they wait until the trust has built between them and they can come together in more than just immediate lust.  By waiting we get to see them develop a deeper and more emotional bond, before things get physical.  However, when they do jump into that side of their relationship there is certainly no lack of fireworks.  They are inventive, passionate and joyous in their time together, showing us the lighter side of the lives of the immortal warriors that are protecting our world from insane vampires. Seeing Krysta and Étienne fall in love as they face the dangers of battles, deceptions and betrayals, was amazing.  I certainly don’t know that I would have been able to put aside all the craziness around me to find true love.
While I have loved all the previous books in this series, for many reasons Darkness Rises struck a special cord in my heart.  Maybe it was the immensely entertaining Krysta with the irreverent sarcasm and deep loyalty to her loved ones or perhaps it was Étienne and how he embraces the changes that Krysta brings to his life with such dignity.  Whatever it was, I can guarantee I’ll be reading this one again and again for years to come.  Étienne and Krysta are a perfect match, with strong senses of duty, deep emotional ties to their families, and the determination to not let something as special as their unexpected love pass them by.  The return of an old enemy certainly throws the team for a loop, and their battles are well written, action packed, and a testament to the author's in-depth understanding of battles and battle tactics.   I was surprised and thrilled with the little plot turns right up until the very last page and am dying to find out what’s going to happen next in this series.  I have greatly enjoyed this series from the beginning, with each individual novel bringing more unexpected greatness to the overall plot arc and introducing great new characters for me to fall in love with.  If you haven’t read any stories in this series I recommend you go out and buy one of the books(or all of them) right now and immerse yourself in the world of the Immortal Guardians with me.  Looking forward to what’s next and HOPING the next book will bring Lisette together with her perfect match too.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Rose Rating:  

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Blessed Mabon and Happy Autumn Equinox to all!


For many of you this day will pass without any too much celebration, but for many Pagans and individuals that have a seasonal based religion today is a very important day.  Marking the midpoint between summer and winter the Autumnal Equinox is the time when night and day are equal again and signifies the change from summer to winter.  It also signifies the aging and end that is approaching on earth which will be final in winter, and will eventually circle back in a rebirth.  
I look at this time of year as the time to wrap up loose ends and think about all the changes that have come the past year.  This year that will be very important for me and it has been  a rough time for me lately and I look forward to putting the past eleven months behind me so that when the new year begins, on Samhain (Oct 31st), I can be ready to embrace what the new year will hold for me.


Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) is the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year's crops. The Druids call this celebration, Mea'n Fo'mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.  


So I wish you all a happy final harvest and if you want more info about Mabon please check out some of the links below and learn more.  Knowledge is power after all.

http://wicca.com/celtic/akasha/mabon.htm
http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/mabontheautumnequinox/a/AllAboutMabon.htm
http://www.twopagans.com/holiday/Mabon.html
http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/the_wheel_of_the_year/mabon_-_autumn_equinox.asp
http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usxx&c=holidays&sc=mabon&id=1990

To share my blessings with you I am going to share a few of my favorite Mabon recipes! Give some a try and I hope you enjoy.

Apple Walnut Coffee Cake


2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup butter, softened
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 egg
¾ cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 apples, cored, peeled and chopped

Combine flour, brown sugar, and butter with a fork until crumbly; stir in nuts.   Divide mixture in half.  Press one half into the bottom of a buttered 9 ½” springform baking pan to form crust; set aside.  Add baking soda, cinnamon and salt to remaining crumb mixture; mix well.  Make a well in the center; set aside.  Beat egg with sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth; add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in apples; spread batter evenly over crust. 

Bake at 375* for one hour and 20 minutes or until cake tests done; cool in pan on a wire rack.  Makes 12 servings. 

Autumn Tossed Salad


1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
1 bunch romaine, torn
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup unsalted cashews
1 medium apple, chopped
1 medium pear, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries

In a blender, combine the lemon juice, sugar, onion, mustard and salt. While processing, gradually add oil in a steady stream. Stir in poppy seeds. Transfer to a small pitcher or bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until chilled.

In a large salad bowl, combine the romaine, cheese, cashews, apple, pear and cranberries. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Makes 10 servings.

Autumn Beef Stew

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds stewing beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
3 cups beef broth
2 carrots
2 medium potatoes
1/2 cup baby lima beans
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 jar (12 ounces) small white onions, drained, or about 1 dozen frozen, thawed
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cold water

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, brown the beef in the vegetable oil; add onion and celery and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes longer. Add beef broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add the carrots, potatoes, lima beans, and apple juice; simmer for about 30 to 40 minute longer, or until vegetables are tender. Add drained onions and corn; continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes.
In a small bowl or cup, combine flour with cold water until smooth. Add the mixture to the simmering broth, a little at a time, until stew is thickened. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Serve with hot buttered biscuits or cornmeal.
Serves 4 to 6.



Blessed Be,
Michelle

The Romance Witch

Saturday, September 21, 2013

ARC Review: Christmas He Loved Her

Christmas He Loved Her (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #2)

by Juliana Stone

Blurb:

All he wants this Christmas is her.
In the small town of Crystal Lake, Christmas is a time for sledding, hot chocolate, and cozying up to the fire with those you love. For Jake Edwards, it’s also time to come home and face his past. He thought there would never be anything harder than losing his brother. Turns out there is: falling in love with his brother’s widow, Raine.
Ever since they were little, Jesse was the Edwards brother who was always there for her, and Jake was the one who knew just how to push her buttons. Raine can’t imagine a life without them, which is why it was doubly decimating when Jake left town after his brother’s sudden death. Now he’s back and she doesn’t know whether to be mad or thrilled. Maybe both. Maybe it will be the perfect chance for both of them to finally find happiness again.

Review:

The Bad Boys of Crystal Lake are at it again.  This trilogy started as a lark for me, I only picked it up because I have been a fan of Ms. Stone’s paranormal romances for a while now.  And I can say for sure that I haven't been disappointed yet. The first novel in this trilogy revolved around one of the four Bad Boys and began during the funeral of another.  This beginning is the set up for all the angst and sadness that eventually leads the remaining three bad boys to their mates and their hard earned HEAs.  Christmas He Loved Her was one of the saddest stories I’ve read recently and watching Jake and Raine work through all of their problems to be able to finally embrace the love that has haunted them for ages was a very blissful experience for me.  Full of vivid and rich descriptions and with a snow-covered enchanted setting, this tale of love was only enhanced by the holidays that lead Jake and Raine to overcome the obstacles in their fight to find love and contentment.
Our story begins almost eighteen months after book one.  Jake has been running from his life since his brother’s funeral and has finally returned home for the holidays.  But he is faced with the sad truth that he hasn’t gotten over any of his issues and he’s still deeply in love with Raine, his brother’s widow.  Raine has changed; she is no longer the woman that he remembers, having lost a lot of her vitality and fallen into a deep depression that nothing and no one seems to be able to drag her from.  The changes in Raine are extremely disturbing to Jake and though he is determined to try to help her, he is also determined to keep his distance from her for both their sakes.  Raine is dealing with her losses as best she can, when suddenly Jake returns and blows her small world apart.  When they are thrown together repeatedly for family functions it becomes clear that something still burns between them and that tackling their unfinished business is the only way they will ever find closure.  But will facing the past tear them apart or offer them that bright future they both once reached for?
Jake and Raine are both obviously deeply conflicted characters with deep secrets, shattered hearts, and fear driven anxieties.  Coming to terms with those fears and rebuilding their hearts is difficult for them both.  Jake has been living with the secrets surrounding his brother’s death for almost two years and returning home with that hanging over his head is even more terrifying to him than seeing the woman he loves deteriorating as she wallows in the loss of her husband.  Hiding all the symptoms of his own depression makes it easy to spot in Raine, but dealing with it is something that neither of them have been able to do.  Jake’s guilt and regrets lead him to make some very bad decisions, but at his heart he is a great guy and one that just needed to accept his destiny instead of fighting it to find his true happiness.  Raine has certainly had her knocks in life, but I was a little disappointed that she seemed to have just given up on life.  I wish she had been able to find some way to overcome her depression, at least enough that she didn’t seem quite so weak because she seems to be anything but a meek woman.  When she finally decides to make a change in her life and go after what she wants, her true will wins out and her inner strength allows her to grab onto the happiness that has eluded her for so long.
These two are one of those unique couples that grace the pages of a romance novel—one with a deep and conflicted past to face before they can move forward. Their passion has been building for decades and when they finally give in to their desires we are blown away with their heat, emotion and eagerness. Jake is extremely sexy and that sexiness lures Raine in like bait to a bear, and like a baited bear she attacks him with a fervor that had no equal.  The emotions are just as off the charts as the physical interactions and seeing the two of them delve into this new side of their relationship will definitely leave you hot and bothered.  One of my favorite quotes in the story says it all. “She was on fire.  Her body, long dormant, now raged with hormones and pheromones and whatever the hell else kind of mones were out there.”
Christmas He Loved Her was a thrilling read with all the angst and sadness you’d expect from two people that have lost a piece of themselves, but in the end they are able to overcome that loss and teach us all that just because you feel like the world has stopped doesn’t mean we can stop hoping or living for the future.  Jake and Raine have been beaten down by life and broken by circumstances, but they won’t be defeated and when they finally dig themselves out of the hole they’ve fallen into, we get to see the strong-willed and loving characters that we always knew they really were. We are reminded of the magic of the holidays as they bring Raine back to life and force her to make Jake see her and accept the love between them.  As their love deepens and they finally decide to stop running from each other, we can see Jake and Raine come to terms with the fact that though life has thrown them for a loop, together they can find their happiness and share the love in their hearts with each other and their family.    If you haven’t read book one in the series you might miss a bit of the undercurrents and hints that are in this book, but you will catch on everything quickly. (Though I suggest you read Summer He Came Home of coursebecause it is awesome.) I’m looking forward to delving deeper into Lily and Mac and their personal stories and their story, The Day He Kissed Herwill certainly be excellent and explosive when these two clash.  Cannot wait for April to see more of these two.  Another great novel Juliana, though of course I am not surprised!

Rating: 4 stars

Rose Rating:  

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

ARC Review: A SEAL Wolf Christmas

A SEAL Wolf Christmas (Heart of the Wolf #12)

by Terry Spear

Blurb:

Navy SEAL Bjornolf Jorgenson and undercover operative Anna Johnson have a rocky beginning at their first meeting all to do with pantyhose and tying her to a bed after some heavy-duty sparring, and him declaring she has mighty fine killer knees. Christmas is coming but thoughts of sugar plum fairies and kissing under the mistletoe isn’t something these two gray werewolves have in mind when they're tasked to be the newlyweds preparing for Christmas while investigating a SEAL’s murder at a Christmas Tree farm.
Neither care about Christmas, sharing gifts, and all the traditions that go along with the season since neither enjoyed the holiday while growing up. But as they battle each other as to what makes for the perfect newly married couple’s first Christmas, they learn that a little Christmas cheer can become so much more, especially if they can take down a SEAL’s killer before they become his next target.

Review:

The heart of the wolf continues on! Several years ago I lucked into book one in this series at a bookstore on a special sale for a penny and it’s was one of the best pennies I ever spent. Twelve books later and this series is still one of my favorites.  Through developments, friendships and pack changes we find ourselves on the Oregon Coast with the newest pack of wolves making their home with their Alpha, Hunter, who just so happens to also be a Merc and a former SEAL.  We’ve seen his team in action before and this new story lets us learn more about the only female member of his team, Anna, and the sexy former SEAL known as the Ghost who has been working with them. A SEAL Wolf Christmas was a unique take on family dynamics, both human and wolf and how one small decision can interlace to make ripples for years in so many lives.
Bjornolf has once again followed Hunter’s team, specifically Anna really, into the Amazonian jungle to watch their sixes and offer a bit of extra protection.  The team has been called in on an extraction of a CEO and his family who were kidnapped on a vacation. But nothing is every as simple as it seems, and the truth of their mission soon comes to light.  Upon returning home Hunter asks Anna and Bjornolf to do him a favor. One of Hunter’s pack members has come across what he believes are two dead wolves at the local tree farm where he has been working.  Posing as newlyweds, Anna and Bjornolf soon find more questions than answers and the secrets keep piling up.  On top of those issues, they are dealing with the hormonal wolf pup, Nathan, who is providing their cover at the tree farm, who is chasing after two different girls and trying to find his way.  Anna has her own personal issues with the holiday season and having all the holiday cheer circling around her is just making her depressed.  But what is a newlywed to do when his woman is disheartened about the holiday? Bjornolf is determined to do whatever it takes, even if it means embracing the Christmas spirit himself.
Bjornolf and Anna both certainly have their problems with the holidays, as well as the attraction between them which neither of them are willing to look into too deeply.  Bjornolf is your typical alpha male, made even more arrogant by his inner wolf and elite military training.  Though he has desired Anna since he first met her he is used to being a lone wolf.  He’s been away from pack and team life for so long he’s hesitant about taking Anna as a mate, knowing that she comes with the strings that will bring him back into the fold.  Anna has her own fears about Bjornolf and the passion that hits her hard whenever he’s around. Her past experiences with male wolves color her thoughts of having a future with him, but when they can resist no longer she throws herself into the relationship with wild abandon.  Anna is definitely my type of woman…er she-wolf.  She is strong and deadly, the type of woman that embraces the danger around her in order to protect herself and her family (Wolf and SEAL families alike).  As she deals with the instant family that comes with her new mission, she tries to maintain her equilibrium as they all celebrate Christmas together for the first time in decades.  
Anna and Bjornolf are an interesting team and their love story is full of action, suspense, twists and laughs that accompany the drama around a teenage wolf and the dangerous secrets he has stumbled into.  The mysterious deaths that Anna and Bjornolf investigate lead to a twist that you never see coming and uncover secrets that have been buried for a decade. Watching them work together to find out the truth and to handle the troubles that come with being members of a pack, show them and the reader the importance of being able to depend of others. The holiday spirit permeates that the story is infectious and makes me wish for my tree and all the hot chocolate I can drink. When Anna finally shares the horrific truth of her past, Bjornolf is able to prove just how great of a mate he can be and that a SEAL Wolf is the kind of male we should all hold out for.  The side romance that we got to enjoy was a pleasant addition as well and reminds us that age has nothing to do with maturity or love.  Drama, danger and desire lead Bjornolf and Anna on a merry chase as they come to terms with their holiday hang-ups and the love that can develop between a she-wolf and her SEAL.   A perfect holiday tale and one that will be a repeat performance on my holiday reads list.  Thanks for another great addition to my shelves, Terry.  The Heat of the Wolf lives on in the love story between Anna and Bjornolf and I can’t wait for more.

Rating: 4 stars

Rose Rating: 

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 



Saturday, September 14, 2013

ARC Review: Always on My Mind

Always On My Mind (Lucky Harbor #8)

by Jill Shalvis

Blurb:

THERE'S NOTHING LIKE THE REAL THING
After dropping out of pastry school and messing up her big break on a reality cooking show, Leah Sullivan needs to accomplish something in her life. But when she returns home to Lucky Harbor, she finds herself distracted by her best friend, Jack Harper. In an effort to cheer up Jack's ailing mother, Dee, Leah tells a little fib - that she and Jack are more than just friends. Soon pretending to be hot-and-heavy with this hunky firefighter feels too real to handle ...
No-strings attachments suit Jack just fine - perfect for keeping the risk of heartbreak away. But as Jack and Leah break every one of their "just friends" rules, he longs to turn their pretend relationship into something permanent. Do best friends know too much about each other to risk falling in love? Or will Jack and Leah discover something new about each other in a little town called Lucky Harbor?

Review:

Ever since I happened upon this series in the library over a year ago I have been hooked on the wonderful world of Lucky Harbor and lifelike characters that call the city home.  The continuing antics of Lucky Harbor have become a bit more complicated of late, as former residents return to town and newcomers find their homes with these crazy townies.  Shalvis keeps you laughing through the entire story, as well as making you fall in love with the characters and become emotionally invested in seeing them reach their HEA. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, I guarantee you are missing out.
Our return to Lucky Harbor has us following the lives of a sexy fireman and the pastry chef that captured his heart when he was a boy and never really gave it back. Leah has returned to her home town, broken and reverting to her safety net of running away from her troubles, to help keep her grandma’s bakery running while she recovers from surgery.  But being back brings with it all the fears, hang-ups, and vulnerabilities that she ran from years ago.  Not to mention it brings her back into the sphere of the only man she ever let into her heart—the man she ran from after a youthful night of idiocy.  When she makes another monumentally dumb mistake, dragging Jack into a fictional relationship, the magnetic pull between them and the unresolved feelings lead to some pretty explosive arguing—and even more fiery lovemaking. But the passion and love between them begins to overwhelm them both and soon they are both returning to their usual escapes.  Leah tries to run from her emotions and Jack works to push her away.
Jack and Leah are complicated and so is their past.  They once shared the deepest connection two people can have, but when Leah ran from the chance of having a relationship with Jack, he gave up on ever having a real relationship with a woman.  Jack feels his past and his lifestyle have made him a bad bet for marriage and family.  Though he’s a wonderful manstrong, sexy, Alpha and as close to a hero as humanly possiblehe certainly has his flaws.  Though he has legitimate concerns, he is letting the past color his perceptions of his present and future, while accusing Leah of doing the exact same thing.   Leah spent her childhood with a tyrant who spent every moment of her life demeaning her and dragging her down.  Jack was the only one she could turn to, the one that helped her cope with her father’s degradation, but when her attempt to seduce him forces their relationship into a different direction, she can’t handle the fears of inadequacy and runs from him. And she has never really stops running. Her father’s voice has always been in the back of her mind, keeping her from accepting the good things in life and sabotaging herself at every turn. Thankfully she finally pulls up her big girl panties and decides that there is something worth fighting that inner voice for—Jack and the chance to be with him forever.
From the beginning of our story both Jack and Leah are intensely attracted to one another, but they are both vehemently denying (to themselves and others) that they feel anything. When they are finally forced to deal with one another, the heat between them become volatile, and even though the intensity seems to both surprise and disturb them, neither of them can accept just what that intensity might mean. Finally coming together in a single moment of irresistible sexual need they amaze themselves and each other with the emotion that accompanies the hot “no-strings attached” sex they both promised.  Sadly their own reservations and fears keep driving them to deny their love, even as they burn up with sexual tension radiating from them.  In the end that emotional connection and the understanding of each other’s neuroses are the only things that allow them to overcome the obstacles they’ve placed between them so they can be together.
All-in-all the return to Lucky harbor was another success.  Getting to know more about Jack and Leah and watching as they finally admit their attraction and fall in love proved one of the most enjoyable stories I’ve seen unfold in a while.  Though they each certainly had their issues to work through and outside influences pushed and pulled at their relationship, seeing them find happiness together gives me hope for a brighter world full of love. I should probably take a moment away from the relationship aspect to mention there was a dangerous undercurrent with this story as an arsonist wreaked havoc on LH and its inhabitants, which had a surprising conclusion in and of itself.  But the most important part of this book for me was the romance, so back to that. :) When they are finally faced with the choice of going all in or folding on their chance at a future together, both Leah and Jack finally step up and admit their love and that being together to face their issues and the problems the world throws their way will always be better than going it alone.  Their love definitely conquers all.  Great work, Jill, and I can’t wait to see what antics you get up to with the story between Ben and Aubrey, since you’ve given us a teasing glimpse of their future.  I so wish I could travel to Lucky Harbor because this little town seems to have an overabundance of hot, alpha males that I could grab for myself. Keep up the great writing and you’ll always have a fan in me.

Rating: 4.25 stars

Rose Rating:  

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 



ARC Mini-Review: Dragon Rising

Dragon Rising (The Hidden 0.6)

by Jaime Rush 

Blurb:

Clues left by her missing father lead Lyra to a gorgeous, mysterious Caido, a descendent of fallen angels. When she discovers that his brother is also missing, she's determined not to let the exasperating man shut her out.
The last thing Archer needs is an emotional Dragon at his side, especially one whose heat reaches beyond the icy walls he, and all Caidos, must erect for good reason. Working together? Smart. Falling in love? Foolish…and inescapable.

Review:

Dragon Rising is the second short introductory novella setting up the new series by Jaime Rush.  The first novella introduced us to this strange world that coexists along with ours, primarily in south Florida and the island off its coast where these magical entities makes their homes. As always Rush builds her characters and introduces us to the magic of her world a bit at a time.  We met the heroine in the previous story where her brother rediscovers his love during a quest to find their missing fathers. Unusually, Lyra’s story takes place simultaneously as her brother's and the ending for Dragon Rising wraps up the short story arc that the novellas shared.
Lyra is working to find her missing father and suspects there might have been more to his disappearance than everyone suspects.  Suspicion of his having an affair with another man’s mate and them running away together has made Lyra paranoid about finding out the truth before it’s too late. In an effort to solve the mystery, she enlists the help of a mysterious Caido named Archer, whose brother is also missing. The minute they are together both of them are faced with the intense attraction that unexpectedly flairs between them, but that attraction causes danger around every corner. Archer has issues on top of issues especially with his desire for Lyra, a desire he cannot act on.  When their investigation drags them into danger and both their lives are at risk the passion between them leads to a love that neither of them can deny and a destiny that they were meant to share.
Though a very short story, Dragon Rising is a good introductory novella to the new series.  The continued story arc of the two novellas that are prequels to what I think will be a great series leave me with an intense desire to get this story really started.  It’s masterfully written and full of twists and turns. Lyra and Archer’s story is passionate and though the hurdles they face are big ones, knowing that they are both strong enough to work together and overcome them leaves you with no doubt that they will have a long and happy life together.  I would have loved for Lyra and Archer to have a full length story, but all-in-all it is a great story.  I’m really looking forward to what’s next in the Hidden series and can’t wait to learn more about this magical world.

For info about the first novella in this story arc see my blog at: Dragon Mine

Rating: 3.25 stars

Rose Rating:  

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 



Friday, September 13, 2013

ARC Mini-Review: Hot Mess

Hot Mess (Hostile Operations Team #1.5)

by 

Blurb:

English professor Dr. Georgeanne Hayes has a problem. Her star pupil, an Army sergeant who works in a Top Secret government program, is missing—and someone tried to push her in front of a train last night.
Sam “Knight Rider” McKnight is used to looking out for Georgie. When they were kids, she was just his best friend’s baby sister. But Georgie’s not a baby anymore and Sam is getting some very male—and very dirty—thoughts about the girl he knows he can never have.
When someone threatens Georgie’s life again, Sam will do anything necessary to keep her safe. Even if it means spending the next few days locked up in a remote house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with her.
Sam might be used to denying himself what he wants, but he’s about to find out that being cooped up with Georgie will push him to the limit. And maybe beyond.

Review:

The newest installment of the HOT series, Hot Mess, is a fun short story to tide us over until the next full length novel. Being a relatively new reader of this author, I have been taking the series one story at a time, but I am really enjoying everything I’ve read so far.  Based in the shadowy world of dark military operations, HOT is full of sexy alpha men who live dangerous and adrenaline packed lives.  Getting to see each of them meet their match in a strong and passionate woman will be wonderful, and this short story where we meet one of the relatively new members of HOT was no exception. Another great story by Ms. Harris to be sure, though I definitely wish it had been longer!
Georgeanne finds herself in intense and dangerous circumstances and she’s completely out of her depth.  Her friendship and worries over a friend have turned the eyes of the wrong people her way.  But when her girlhood love, Sam, returns to her life, it throws her for even more of a loop. Determined to uncover the men after Georgie, Sam enlists the aid of the other members of HOT and they discover the danger to Georgie is even more complicated.  When their forced seclusion brings all the passion and desire they’ve been resisting to unbearable levels, there is no option for them but to explore the heat that is flaring between them.  Georgie has always held a special place in Sam’s heart and though he has resisted her all these years, he’s never forgotten the feel or taste of her and having her—fully—leaves him with no chance of keeping himself away from her. When the danger is over and their lives return to their separate worlds, can they both accept the inherent danger and fears that come along with Sam’s job as a HOT operative, or will they forgo their chance for an HEA?
Sam was one of those sexy alpha males that I find myself wanting to reach into the book and shake.   Yes, Georgie is his best friends little sister.  Yes, there is an age difference.  But damn man, when a woman tells you she wants you, loves you, and needs you, just trust her to know her own heart and mind! Eesh.  Only when he can finally overcome his hang-ups and admit that they are good together, can they begin to build a relationship.  Georgie is definitely a woman I can relate to.  She is strong and knows when she has met her match, and she’s known for years that Sam is the man she wants.  Though life forced her to move on many years before, seeing Sam again reminds her that the love and desire she’s always had for him never faded.   When she decides that she is no longer going to settle for him pushing her away and denying their attraction things heat up pretty fast.
Overall this was a very good story.  There was heat between the H/H from start to finish, action, mystery, and glimpses of future heroes for this series.  The underlying plot to the story was interesting, though it ended rather suddenly and was a bit anticlimactic for my tastes.  Maybe had it been a couple of chapters longer, that part of the story could have been more fleshed out.  The love story between Sam and Georgeanne was memorable, with his sweet, sexy, alpha nature butting against her stubborn and determined spine of steel at every turn. I cannot wait for what’s next for these HOT guys and to get to see where this new author will take me.  Congratulations Ms. Harris you have earned yourself a new dedicated fan. Just keep the wonderful stories coming down the line.
Rating: 3.5 stars

Rose Rating:  

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review: Styxx

Styxx (Dark-Hunter #23) 

by Sherrilyn Kenyon




Blurb:

Just when you thought doomsday was over...
Centuries ago Acheron saved the human race by imprisoning an ancient evil bent on absolute destruction. Now that evil has been unleashed and it is out for revenge.
As the twin to Acheron, Styxx hasn’t always been on his brother’s side. They’ve spent more centuries going at each other’s throats than protecting their backs. Now Styxx has a chance to prove his loyalty to his brother, but only if he’s willing to trade his life and future for Acheron’s.
The Atlantean goddess of Wrath and Misery, Bethany was born to right wrongs. But it was never a task she relished. Until now. She owes Acheron a debt that she vows to repay, no matter what it takes. He will join their fellow gods in hell and nothing is going to stop her.
But things are never what they seem, and Acheron is no longer the last of his line. Styxx and Acheron must put aside their past and learn to trust each other or more will suffer.
Yet it’s hard to risk your own life for someone who once tried to take yours, even when it's your own twin, and when loyalties are skewed and no one can be trusted, not even yourself, how do you find a way back from the darkness that wants to consume the entire world? One that wants to start by devouring your very soul?

Review:

There truly are three sides to every story..and in this case the truth is sadder than fiction.  We have believed for the last five years that we knew the truth of all the horrors that Acheron endured at the hands of his family during his life as a human in ancient Atlantis.  But now we know that we never knew the half of it.  Ms. Kenyon has opened my eyes and reminded me why I try so hard in my life not jump to conclusions about anyone I meet and the lives I see them living.   Breaking my heart and bringing me to tears repeatedly, as I learned the truth, Styxx is the truth that we never knew we were missing in this series. Now that the truth is out we can all be reminded that just because we think we understand a character’s motivations, until we read their personal stories even the most detailed of stories can remain one-sided.  Thanks for blowing my mind Ms. Kenyon! 
Styxx’s story begins when he and Acheron are little boys, living in ancient Greece.  The young prince of the Didymosian throne, everyone sees Styxx as the pampered spoiled son of the king, even his family, but the truth is much darker and dangerous.  As Styxx grows, dealing with his jealous shrew of a sister, the loss of the other half of himself, and the hate and suspicions of both his parents, he is suprisingly able to retain his humility and the truly gentle nature of his soul.  I won’t give away too many of the details about the sorrows and horrors of the short human life that Styxx led, but I will say that if you have read Acheron’s story it doesn’t even begin to show the terrors that these two boys really lived.  But amazingly, through all the disgusting things that were done to Styxx, he was able to find a woman to love and maintain the ability to share his true self with her despite it all.  But sadly that was just the beginning of the sadness he had to face.
Bethany, Styxx’s love, is not exactly who she leads him to believe, but when she falls in love with Styxx, despite all the lies she’s always believed about him she is willing to give it all up for him.  Teaching him to trust his heart and learning from him the power of a man with a pure heart, Bethany joins with Styxx against his enemies.   When they are separated, for over 11,000 years, it’s impossible not to feel destroyed for them.  But only with the help of the twin he long ago lost faith in, can Styxx bring back his Bethany and find the light of her love to counter the darkness of his past. 
Styxx is one of those characters that we have been taught to hate from the beginning of the series.  We first met him in the third book of the series when he tried to kill Acheron and from then on we only ever see him through the eyes of his enemies.  But from the minute this story begins, we see a whole new side of Styxx.  Seeing the dark and disastrous past that shaped Styxx into the man he was, and learning the real reason for his actions made me feel almost worse for him than I did for Ach when we learned about his own sordid past. Deeply rooted fears and issues that I couldn’t even begin to come to terms with or understand, have earned Styxx my respect and love.  Don’t think I ever met a better written character and I can honestly say that  if I ever met a man with Styxx’s heart and ability to forgive, in the flesh, I would do everything in my power to claim him for myself.
Bethany is a pretty cool chick too.  Being a goddess with her very own intriguing back story and issues, Bethany comes into Styxx’s life during one of his darkest years.  Posing as a young human girl, she is just enjoying her solitude when Styxx arrives in her life and changes the course of their futures forever.  Their friendship quickly blossoms into a deep and abiding love, passion and companionship running side by side as they individually come to terms with their responsibilities and their dreams.  But when Bethany finally decides to commit to Styxx there is nothing that can keep them apart or destroy their love, not death and not 11,000 years apart.
I can honestly say I began this story as a major skeptic; usually I don’t like when a well established villain is made the hero of his own romance, but only Ms. Kenyon could so fabulously pull off something like this. The atrocities that Styxx endured as a child and a young man are so disgusting and disturbing that there were times I found myself having to put the book down and hug my family just to ground myself in my own reality.  Though the details were terrifying, the telling of this story is above reproach and beautifully written to tug your heartstrings and make you count your blessings that you never had to live their lives.  Styxx is the best novel I’ve read in ages and seeing the heart of a man that could so easily have become a psychopath, remain true and pure—to find love—shows us that even the most damaged and shattered of men can become whole again.  While the story of why Styxx and Acheron became enemies, and the eventual reconciliation of their relationship, was definitely a BIG portion of this story, it is patently obvious this was a story of love.  A love for the ages, one that bridges all gaps, and brings two wounded souls back together to share the ultimate love.  Seeing Beth and Styxx get their HEA is the most important lesson Kenyon could share with us. Styxx is easily the best story of the year and so far for me the best book of this decade.  I never thought Acheron could be topped, but Kenyon has done it.  Now I can only wonder…what more can she do to shatter our beliefs in this series and where can we possibly go from here?

Favorite Quote: 

"If you want, akri-Styxx, the Simi can love you, too.  'Cause hearts are amazing things.  they get lots bigger to make room for new people to be alongside the old people you love... The Simi gots lots of room to love you too... if you want."  -Simi to Styxx page 739

Rating: 5 stars

Rose Rating:  



Friday, September 6, 2013

Review: Return of the Warrior

Return of the Warrior (Brotherhood/MacAllister #7)

by Kinley MacGregor


 Blurb:

Fearless men, their allegiance is to each other, to the oppressed, and to the secret society known as the Brotherhood of the Sword -- and they must never surrender to the passionate yearnings of their noble hearts.
Fiercely devoted to her people and her land, Queen Adara refuses to let a power-mad usurper steal her crown. But the only way to protect what is hers is to seek out the man she married in childhood.
A proud, tormented warrior, Christian of Acre owes allegiance only to the mysterious Brotherhood -- and has no wish to be king over anyone but himself. Now a bold and beautiful stranger has appeared in his rooms, tempting him with an irresistible seduction and demanding he accompany her back to their kingdoms ... or, at the very least, provide her with an heir to her throne. Though he cannot abandon the brave regal lady to her enemies, Christian dares not give in to his traitorous body's desires. Yet how can he deny the passion that is rightfully his and the ecstasy that awaits him in Adara's kiss?

Review:

Kinley MacGregor, aka Sherrilyn Kenyon, is definitely one of my three favorite authors.  That being said I only recently discovered the greatness of this series.    The Brotherhood series has been a pleasant surprise and a great experience to immerse myself in the world of these great men and their secret society of crusaders.   The men of this society have been through hell and have banded together to make their lives bearable, but the denial of their basic nature, their need  for women to complete their lives, leads to some interesting life affirming changes being forced on them by those women.
Christian has made himself a promise to trust no one except the fellow members of his society, the men who went through hell with him and came out changed on the other side.  He has made a choice to never return to his childhood home, to never accept the crown that has been saved for him through all these years.   He is beyond surprised when he is confronted with a very beautiful and very naked woman in his room one night.   She says she’s his wife, but he knows he’s never married anyone and is ready to kick her out without hearing another word from her.  But then they are attacked and he has no choice but to get them both to safety. 
Adara is a strong and fierce queen, one who has devoted her life to trying to make the lives of her people more bearable, but as a woman she has only one desire.  She wants her love, her husband, to come back to her and give her the family she wants.  Everyone has tried to convince her that he is dead, but she knows in her heart that he is still alive, and she is determined to bring him back to both her personally and to the crown he is destined to wear and lead their people.  But the man she meets isn’t the fair and sweet boy she remembers from her wedding, instead and he is a dark and changed man, and though she sees glimpses of her love in him, dealing with those changes is difficult for her. 
Betrayals and truths are uncovered as they work together to keep themselves safe and to find their way home.  As they are thrown into such tight quarters during their travels, they begin to relearn each other and the passion that flairs is sexy as hell.   Adara’s sensuality is irresistible to Christian and she is determined to use everything at her disposable to make sure that she gets what she wants: Christian to come back to her and stay with her for the rest of their lives.  Christian begins to see that they are meant to be, and though they have been torn apart by others and their manipulations, they can overcome and defeat the naysayers and find their love together. 
Return of the Warrior was a great addition to this series.  Though the series is connected don’t feel you need to read the entire series to enjoy the story, as they are definitely written to stand alone and there is more than enough information and background to bring you up to date. Christian and Adara’s story is wonderful and sensual as well as being exciting and full of conspiracies that were made to pull them apart, but instead in the end bring them together.  I loved this book and can’t wait to read the series finale.  I’ve waited for that one from the beginning and will finally be able to find out who is made to be Lochlan’s Mate. 
Rating:   3.75 stars
Rose Rating: