Sunday, April 23, 2017

ARC Review: Sit...Stay...Beg (The Dogfather #1)

Sit...Stay...Beg (The Dogfather #1)

by Roxanne St. Claire 

Blurb:
Garrett Kilcannon, a former dot com super-success who now devotes his life to rescuing dogs and finding them homes, prefers to keep his secrets buried as deep as a dog hides his bone. So when he learns his father has invited a journalist to Waterford Farm to write and produce an in-depth profile on him, he doesn’t care that she’s a childhood friend or drop dead gorgeous. He has zero tolerance for the media…until he sees a different side when she gets through the walls of a rescue dog who’s refused to eat during her short stay at Waterford. Unwillingly charmed and undeniably attracted, Garrett agrees to the interview that could break down a few of his emotional walls, too.
Garrett might not want to share the story of his colorful former life, but Jessie Curtis has the skills to peel back the layers of this sexy, complicated, caring man. In the process, she not only discovers his secrets, she finds herself falling for a man who touches her heart in a way she never thought possible. Her entire career is riding on this one explosive interview, but can she bear to repay Garrett’s trust by selling his secrets? Or can a woman who gave up on happiness a long time ago learn to believe that all it takes to rescue a lost heart is the love of a good man?
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 4.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
Review:
 One of my favorite authors has combined her wit and charm in writing truly endearing romances with one of my favorite current issues—the tragedy of animals being deserted and left to die in shelters. As with some of the best series currently on the shelves, The Dogfather series begins with a tragedy, the loss of the family matriarch much too young, but the good that seems to come from that loss will be the basis for the entire series and the changes coming to the lives of her family. Roxanne St. Claire is one of those authors that can break your heart and have you in tears one moment and then the next all is right with the world because the lessons learned by her characters are realistic and lessons that each of us sometimes need to learn the hard way. As with every first in a series, there is a lot of world building and prep for the future stories, but interwoven with that is the story of a  girl that is going to learn the true value she can have in the world and a man that has been hiding for too long from a secret that should never have been his responsibility to carry. And of course, not to be discounted, Roxanne introduces some fun and lovable characters of the four-legged variety, Characters that some would discount, but a true animal lover would understand are just as important to the story as the two-legged characters, front and center in this story being the lovable and depressed Lola, who will grab your heart from the minute you meet her and not let go even when you turn the last page. If you are looking for a truly charming, loving and fascinating romance, Sit…Stay…Beg will be the perfect book to settle in with a mug of hot cocoa (or cold glass of sweet tea, if you’re in the South like I am) and a furry love of two. I cannot wait to learn more about the enigmatic and vastly different Kilcaannon family members as each of Daniel Kilcannon’s children fall into his web and find their hearts stolen.
The lovers in this story both have serious histories and hangups to deal with as they are reunited after over a decade apart. While their joint history is pretty tame and innocent, they have each had serious hurts and  damage done to them in the past.  Garrett has turned his life around, Returning to his childhood home after the death of his mother and giving up a lucrative job as the head of his own company, but honestly it was an easy decision.  Garrett has become disillusioned with the opposite sex, not offering his trust fully, and certainly not willing to truly open himself up for any further hurt. There is no denying he has a heart of gold, because the animals he has devoted his life to trust him implicitely, but his hurts have made him suspicious, grumpy and pretty much a bear to deal with most of the time.  When Jessie lands back in his life there is an instant attraction, but her job is pretty insurmountable for a man that is trying to hide his secrets from the world.  When he did finally open up and let Jessie have a place in his heart, he shows us the true depths of his loving heart and proves that animals really are the best judges of character. I hated to see how easily he returned to the mistrust that defined his life at the first hint of trouble, but thankfully his family is able to talk sense into him and he comes to understand that truly loving someone means trusting them with everything including your heart, secrets, and future. In the end Garrett proves he is just the kind of man all us single women are looking to find and make ours. (Any thoughts on where I can find my own Garrett, Rocki?) :) 
Jessica has led an interesting life, but for all the challenges she has faced and overcome, she never really forgot the life that ended early when she was shipped away from the home of her youth.  For Jessie returning to her hometown, begging for the help of a family that once served as the highlight of her life and the fantasy life she wanted, mean facing the differences in her reality and those fantasies.  When she sees Garrett again there is no denying she is still attracted to him, though he is certainly not the same carefree young man she shared a single intimate moment with, but she is desperate for his help and willing to give up a bit of her pride in order to get the help she needs. I liked Jessie, her sweeteness, charm and ability to bring the peace out in those around her is not a trait to be discounted.  Just by being herself, Jessie has Garrett falling under her spell and soon the fear and sadness that has weighed him down for years is lifted.  Her willingness to give up her happiness in order to protect those she loves, even at the expense of her only dream, shows the strength of her character and provides an excellent role model for us all.  I loved getting to see Jessis kicking butts and taking names when those she loves are hurting, even though he thinks she has lost any chance of ever having that love again.  In the end these two characters were perfect for one another.
The Dogfather series has definitely kicked off with a bang and I am thrilled to have had the chance to enjoy this story before it was shared with the world.  Daniel Kilcannon  is the type of family patriarch that can sometimes scare those of us from families that aren’t as tight knit and in each other’s business as this big loving Irish family, but in the end his skill and love shows as he brings his children back into the fold and makes sure they all understand just how loved they truly are.  Garrett has some darkness in him, from his past mistakes, and offering his trust—or his love—is not something he does lightly, but once a woman has earned his love she will do just about anything to keep it.  Garrett is just the kind of man I would see falling for the sweet, witty, and lonely Jessie despite his closed mind and heart in the beginning.  Jessie certainly has her work cut out for her, professionally and personally, once she decides she wants something personal with Garrett very much.  Jessie has to overcome her own issues with feeling unloved in order to offer her heart, but once she does there is no stopping the tears when she is hurting.  The passion between Garrett and Jessie was the kind of slow simmer you don’t really imagine will ever become a conflagration, until you realize the fire has become uncontrollable and undeniable. I love sharing the heartbreak, love and passion that Jessica and Garrett found together and I am looking forward to watching them build their lives, including the loveable Lola, in future stories in this series.  As always I am amazed with Rocki’s ability to bring together two people that you don’t think work out on paper, but in the end their love is an experience that you are thrilled you were able to share.  I cannot wait to find out which sibling finds love next and to get to learn more about this fabulous, loving, and large Irish family and the fantastic animal sanctuary that they call home.

*eARC provided by author for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

ARC Review: Hard-Hearted Highlander (Highland Grooms #3)

Hard-Hearted Highlander (Highland Grooms #3)

by Julia London

Blurb:
A indomitable governess...a brooding Highlander...a forbidden affair...
An ill-fated elopement cost English-born governess Bernadette Kent her reputation, her fickle lover and any chance of a future match. She has nothing left to fear—not even the bitter, dangerously handsome Scot due to marry her young charge. Naive wallflower Avaline is terrified to wed Rabbie Mackenzie, but if he sends her home, she will be ruined. Bernadette's solution: convince Rabbie to get Avaline to cry off while ignoring her own traitorous attraction to him.
A forced engagement to an Englishwoman is a hard pill for any Scot to swallow. It's even worse when the fiancée in question is a delicate, foolish young miss unlike her spirited, quick-witted governess. Sparring with Bernadette brings passion and light back to Rabbie's life after the failed Jacobite uprising. His clan's future depends upon his match to another, but how can any Highlander forsake a love that stirs his heart and soul?
Themes: Historical, Scotland
Rating: 4 stars
Heat Rating: 
Review:
The scandalous Scots are back in a big way.  Julia London is one of my favorite historical authors and there is very little of her writing I have read that I didn’t fully enjoy every second of.  This third novel in the Highland Grooms series reintroduced us to the second son of the couple from the first story, Rabbie Mackenzie, and he is a sad man in need of a little bit of a wildcat to bring him back to life.  London’s skill with bringing tragic characters to life is undeniable and  her characters are always interesting and the interactions between them are usually hot enough to burn the pages of the story to ash.  If you have missed the two previous novels in this series you might miss a bit of the details and the greatness that is this family, but in the end each is a stand alone novel and the characters and bits of backstory we read is enough to keep each story awesome in its own right.  I am wondering if this will end the series, and seriously hoping not, because I am looking forward to seeing Rabbie’s Sister, Cat, find her own hunk to make her fall in love, but if it is in fact the end, the series definitely went out on a high note. 
Rabbie has been moping around his family home for a few years now, every since the failed Jacobite rebellion cost him his future and the life of the woman he loved.  While he knows he has a duty to his family that cannot be escaped, he is reticent to give in to his parents’ desire to wed a young English girl that is forever quaking in her slippers at just the sight of him.  When his young bride arrives, with her expected entourage, he is deeply surprised and appalled to meet her lady's maid, an outspoken, mouthy, and sinfully lovely young woman that hits all his hot buttons even as he thinks he hates her on first sight. Bernadette has come along with her young charge, given no choice but to serve as a lady’s maid who years before would have been one of her peers.  A scandalous past has left her as damaged goods in the eyes of society, but she is wiling to work with what she has.  As they are forced to spend more time together both Rabbie and Bernadette discover a deep and abiding truth, sometimes hate at first sight is really just love in disguise.  But with so many obstacles in their way, Rabbie and Bernadette have to decide what they are truly willing to risk in order to get their happily ever afters.
Rabbie  is the kind of character that is so annoying in the beginning you cannot imagine you will come to like or even love him, and really if we readers can’t love him how on earth could Bernadette come to love him? Well luckily for us, Rabbie finds a way to relate to Bernadette and is able to pull himself back from the precipice he has been dancing on in order to have a future.  He fights hard for what he wants once he really sees she is worth any fight and that the love they share makes him a better man.  I wanted to punch him a few times when he tried to “do the right thing” and continue with the plans to marry Avaline, but thankfully he pulled his head out of the bottle (and his butt) in time to see the wonderfully perfect woman that was right in front of him.  Sexy, stubborn, arrogant, and ultimately sweet, Rabbie is the perfect example of a  Scot of his time, and I loved getting to experience his heartbreak, growth, and rebirth in the love he had for Bernadette.  Bernadette conversely, I loved from the very first moment she graced the page of this novel.  She obviously has an independent streak, bravery, and a deep ability to give her heart and soul to those she loves. While she has made a few decisions in the past that she doesn’t necessarily regret, but that have led her in an unexpected direction in life, she lives with the consequences even though they are not all that great.  I enjoyed seeing her stand up for her friend, as well as herself and Rabbie, once she is unable to hide her love for Rabbie anymore.
So in the end this scandalous Highland Groom was able to defeat the forces keeping him and his sweet English Rose apart and find a way to make her his wife.  While Rabbie definitely started out Hard-hearted he found his way to peace and was able to open his heart not only to Bernadette, but her love and acceptance allowed him to open his heart to his family again and find a measure of happiness in his crazy family.  Rabbie was a tortured hero, with a sordid and tragic past and a stubbornness to moving on that made him the ultimate challenge for the heroine Bernadette.  Once Bernadette decided he was worth the risk—and all the trouble—she found a way to love him and force him to admit his love for her as well.  The passion between these two began as antagonism and slowly developed from there to interest and a fiery passion that touched those around them and proved that love can come from the most unexpected of directions and certainly be a case of opposites attracting. I enjoyed getting to see Rabbie and Bernadette butt heads, fight with one another, and finally discover their mutual attraction was a special gift they could not neglect to take advantage of.  I am hoping that Julia isn’t through with this amazing group of Highlanders just yet, but Hard-hearted Highlander  is a wonderful read in its own right and I am looking forward to reading more.   Packed with tears, drama, intrigue, and passion, Rabbie and Bernadette take us on an adventure over the Scottish moors, through the political dangers that effected so many lives during this era, and ultimately showed us that though these Scots are sometimes bigger than life, their very humanity is rooted in the most important traditions of any culture—family, community, and faith.  Great job, Julia, a true work of art. 
*ARC provided by author for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: HOT Addiction (Hostile Operations Team #10)

HOT Addiction (Hostile Operations Team #10)

by Lynn Raye Harris 

Blurb:

Tell Dex I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let it go this far. I’ve thought for a while that marrying him wasn’t right, that I’m not the woman for him—I should have been brave enough to say so. He deserves more.
When Dex “Double Dee” Davidson was abandoned at the altar by the woman he loved, he threw himself into his military career, training hard enough to get accepted into the elite Black Ops unit known as HOT. The love he felt for Annabelle Quinn burned to ash in the face of her betrayal—so when she crashes back into his life and begs him to save her, he has no problem laughing in her face.
Blackmailed into jilting Dex and forced into an abusive marriage, Annabelle never thought she’d escape the hell of the last five years. But her husband died a month ago and she’s finally free. Except she isn’t. Someone claims that Eric stole a fortune—and they want it back. If she doesn’t return it within twenty-four hours, she’ll be dead—and so will her young daughter. With time running out, Annabelle has no one to turn to. No one except Dex.
When Dex learns that Annabelle’s husband committed treason against the US by selling a top secret military project to the Russians, he has no choice but to get involved. He’ll protect Annabelle and her child, and he’ll find out who’s threatening her. But he won’t fall for her intoxicating sensuality ever again. And if he discovers the secret she’s been hiding from him? It’ll be game over for good…
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 4.25 stars
Heat Rating:  
Review:

 k so for any true romance reader the “second-chance at love” trope is one that you have encountered and it is usually a situation where it’s a love or hate of the story.  The skill of the author is the single most important factor in the quality of these types of stories… and luckily for us Lynn is a kick-ass author with the skill to pull just about anything off.  I have long been a fan of this series and for each new couple that we get to watch fall in love, I fall more in love with Lynn’s writing and her immense ability to bring people together in a way that keeps them exciting and makes you wish you could experience a love like her characters find.  This is one of those stories that has as many heartbreaking moments as it does heartwarming ones, but in the end good conquers evil and the HOT team rises above all challenges and beats all obstacles. If you haven’t read the other stories in this series, you might miss out on a bit of the undertones of Dex’s story but once you learn more about him, I promise you will love him as much as loyal fans do. This series keeps getting better, and though I know the original group is now all paired off, except Mendez, the HOT SEALs spinoff series is already underway so I am thrilled to be seeing more of these characters.  I understand that Mendez will be getting his story soon and we had a hell of a cliffhanger at the end of this story that will lead to an awesome beginning for his book. If you enjoy a well-written suspenseful military romance, you cannot go wrong with anything Ms. Harris writes, but her HOT team lives up to their name is every way imaginable and seeing them fall in love is beyond a wonderful experience.
Dex “Double Dee” Davidson has devoted the last 5 years of his life to his military career and making himself impenetrable to the women he has entertained in his life.  He no longer offers his heart to anyone, never wanting his heart to be shattered like it was when he was left at the altar by the love of his life. When he returns to his childhood home to assist with a family crisis, he never imagined he’d get pulled back in by that sweet girl that broke him, but when Annabelle storms back into his life there’s no denying he still has feelings for her.  Belle is desperate; with her bastard of a husband dead and the responsibilities of being a single mother and business owner falling squarely on her shoulders, she does not know how to handle the death threat or ultimatums that have just come in to her life. When she seeks out the help of the only man she ever loved, she knows it will be an uphill battle to overcome her mistakes and regain his trust, but she never imagined the love and chemistry between them would still be so explosive. With both their lives, the life of her young daughter and friends, and the fates of the HOT team in their hands, Dex and Belle must find a way to trust each other enough to get out alive, or risk losing everything.
I really liked Dex even though he was a little hard of Belle, but I can see where his hurt and bruised pride could keep him from giving her a second chance right away.  But luckily for Belle (and us readers), Dex is incapable of turning his back on someone in trouble.  I have wondered for a long time what broke his heart and made him so jaded towards love and women, and now that we know I can see where he would be callous and try to incase his heart in ice.  He is obviously a sexy, strong, and brave guy, being a member of the HOT Alpha squad, but seeing him interacting with his team as well as Bella allowed us to see different sides of him, while at the same time allowing Belle to come to know the Dex of now, not just the young man she loved and left.  When Dex is forced to come to terms with a secret Belle has been unintentionally holding from him, we get to see an even sweeter side of Dex and I can already tell that he will be one of the softest HOT guys where his family is concerned.  Belle has lived in hell for the last five years, not only broken hearted about losing Dex, but having to deal with a blackmailing, evil husband, and trying to raise her daughter without any of that darkness blending into her little girl’s life.  I was afraid I was going to dislike Belle, mainly because I couldn’t imagine liking anyone that broke Dex in such a way, but when I got to learn more about Belle I realized she was really a brave woman now, even if she was a scared young woman when she made a mistake that tore her life apart five years ago.   Belle is strong, even when she sometimes forgets it, but when her daughter is in danger, she steps up and there is no way she will allow her daughter to be taken from her.  It was nice to see her grow up and make better choices, thankfully choices that bring Dex back into her life for good.
HOT Addiction adheres to the name, it will addict you to the series if you haven’t already been roped in. The HOT operators are the kind of men that any woman wants to have at her back in a crisis and beside her in her life during times of peace.  Dex is a sexy, alpha, tortured hero with the skills to kick butt and the heart to be willing to forgive just about anything.  Annabelle is a woman with a lot of regrets, but in the end, she knows she must live with her choices and try to move on.  The two of them were obviously meant to be and when they come back together the heat and energy between them is instantly combustible.  The sizzling passion and intense emotion that is evident in their sensual moments shows readers that even the most neglected love never truly dies for two people meant to be, like these two are.  It was thrilling to finally see Dex find his HEA and being able to see him return to his lost love and show her the forgiveness she so readily needed, reminds us all that there are still men out there that are truly good at their core.  I am dying to see what comes next for these totally alpha operators and I cannot wait to find out if or when Mendez will get his very own HEA.  Keep the masterpiece’s coming Lynn and I can guarantee my big southern mouth will continue to spread the word about this fabulous series.

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Short Hiatus

Sorry guys, 

There will be a short Hiatus from reviews due to a death in the family.  I look forward to coming back and reviewing for you soon. 

Sincerely, 
Michelle the Romance Witch