Monday, December 10, 2018

Review - - Shades of Wicked



Shades of Wicked
By Jeaniene Frost
A Night Rebel novel
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Reviewed by Nancy



Shades of Wicked features a character who has been a reader favorite for years in a supporting role. As friend to Cat and Bones, and loyal offspring of Mencheres, Ian has been a charming rogue, sometimes generous, sometimes selfish, but always there when it counts.  Now he steps to the fore in the first book of the new Night Rebel series.

When we last saw Ian, he had pledged his soul to the demon Dagon to save the life of a friend.  The demon knew his friend was in no danger, but Ian didn’t.  The deed was done, and Ian has been trying to escape Dagon’s hold ever since.

Vampire Law Guardian Veritas, an enforcer for the vampire council, has her own reasons for wanting Dagon dead. Figuring Ian would be the perfect bait, luring the demon but wanting him dead to save his own soul, she seeks him out for an alliance.

Although Veritas locates Ian in a brothel, interrupting his orgy, she soon learns his hedonistic rogue persona masks his dangerous nature and clever mind. Unfortunately, Ian remembers her as assisting in the execution of his friends’ daughter. He wants no part of helping her, and Veritas can’t tell him the execution wasn’t real. They quarrel, then fight until she uses an ability she isn’t supposed to have to force him to listen to her. Only Dagon’s death will free Ian and save his soul, so he agrees to work with Veritas. Both of them have abilities they shouldn’t, abilities that tend to become apparent when they fight common enemies or quarrel with each other.

Once Ian and Veritas forge an alliance, they agree to go to clubs frequented by mages, witches, and demon kin in hope someone will tell Dagon Ian is there, drawing the demon into a fight. As Ian and Veritas work together, each begins to see, and empathize with, the other’s emotional vulnerabilities.  The impressions they had of each other were superficial and wrong. A bond begins to form between them, one of loyalty and sympathy at first, and then something deeper.

The verbal sparring between them is beautifully done and woven into their growing mutual attractions. Early in the story, Veritas learns Ian’s sire, Mencheres, is coming for her if Ian dies on this quest.  Reluctant to fight an old friend to the death, she resolves to be sure Ian survives. As they spend time together, however, she grows to want his survival for his own sake.

Both Ian and Veritas carry deep wounds from their earlier lives. Frost depicts these in ways that are wrenching. So is their gradual, initially reluctant progress toward each other. Neither of them wants the intimacy growing between them, especially when an encounter with one of Veritas’s friends forces their relationship to a new level. Various other friends complicate their situation, each time forcing them to face their growing feelings for each other.

The characters are beautifully drawn, the story moves at a good pace, and the characters are impossible not to root for.  Longtime readers of Frost’s series will enjoy seeing the hidden depths, previously only hinted at, of these characters while new readers will find themselves drawn to these complex characters and their layered, multifaceted magical world.

Highly recommended.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Review, Q&A, and Giveaway - - Defending Chloe


Defending Chloe
By Susan Stoker
Mountain Mercenaries - Book 2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Reviewed by PJ
 


Gorgeous women don’t just stumble onto Ronan Cross’s remote property. But this one—vulnerable, victimized, and needing the kind of help only Ronan can offer—tells a story that makes his blood boil almost as hot as his need to protect her.
Since her father’s death, Chloe Harris has become a prisoner. Her own brother, a flesh peddler and low-level player in the Denver Mafia, is forcing her to sell her body for an endgame Chloe never saw coming: control over a vast fortune. Her only way out is to run—straight into the arms of the one hard-bodied man she can trust.
Defending Chloe could rain punishment down on the Mountain Mercenaries. Her brother has Mob connections and the local police in his pocket. But Ronan still has an edge—the unshakable loyalty of his deadly teammates. As well as an unquenchable thirst for retribution…and Chloe.

My thoughts:

I only recently discovered Susan Stoker - this is my second book by her - but I'm really enjoying her writing. Like the first book in her Mountain Mercenaries series (Defending Allye), Defending Chloe is a fast-paced story filled with action, suspense, slow-burning romance, and enough twists and turns to keep me wondering how it would all turn out. 

Ronan is a hero who checks my boxes. He's definitely an alpha male who won't hesitate to use force to protect a woman being mistreated but he's also kind, steady, and tender with the woman who instantly piques his interest and is gradually capturing his heart. His British accent doesn't hurt either. ;-)

Chloe is an intelligent woman who has slowly and insidiously been entrapped by someone she loved and trusted. Learning to trust someone new won't be easy. She's a relatable, sympathetic character who gradually takes back control of her life with me cheering her on every step of the way. 

If you enjoy contemporary romantic suspense with engaging characters, edge-of-your-seat suspense, plenty of action, and heart-tugging romance, give this book a try. I'm already looking forward to the next Mountain Mercenaries story, Defending Morgan, due out in March 2019. 

~~~~~~~~~~~

Author Interview: Susan Stoker


1) Rowan Cross is the second of your ‘Mountain Mercenaries’ to get his story told. What is it about Ro that makes him the perfect hero?

Ro is a great Hero because he’s a little moody, and he likes things to be black and white. Of course Chloe’s situation is anything but black and white. Not only that but he has to work very hard to earn her trust…which is a new thing for him. He’s also British…and imagining his sexy accent is a bonus!

2) His background is a little different from the rest of the Mercenaries since he is from another country. How is he settling down as a civilian in Colorado?

Ro loves Colorado! Loves the sun, loves the mountains. He has a house up in Black Forest (north of Colorado Springs) where he has some space to breathe and where he can work in his mechanic’s garage without interruption. He’ll always be the ‘foreigner”, but as he doesn’t “people” much, he’s okay with that. 

3) What is Ro’s role in the Mountain Mercenaries?  

Ro is one of the six men (plus their mysterious handler, Rex, who make up the Mountain Mercenaries. He used to be a British SAS (special forces) and uses what he learned in the military to help rescue women and children who are in peril. 

4) When you were creating a heroine for Ro, what were some of the attributes you knew you wanted her to have?

Chloe has been through hell in her life, but she hasn’t let that make her bitter. She’s still even a little na├»ve, but with an inner core that is strong as hell. She bends, but doesn’t break. All she wants is to love and be loved. Trust doesn’t come easily to her anymore, not after all she’s been through, but deep down, she wants to be able to trust Ro.

5) Ro has such a big personality, how does Chloe stand up to him?

I think she recognizes a kindred spirit in Ro. He’s lost someone close to him just as she has and that creates a bond between them. And because Chloe is a fighter, she won’t let Ro just walk all over her either. The two of them together are explosive. 

6) The romance between this couple is a little unusual. They don’t have a typical courtship since Chloe is hiding out at Ro’s house. So instead of dinners and dates, they do laundry and play cards. What is your favorite part(s) of their romance?

Exactly what you mentioned. I think relationships would be so much better off if they started like Ro and Chloe’s did. She got the chance to see what he was really like, not just what he wanted her to. And while going out is nice, staying at home, under a blanket, with fat pants and a sweatshirt on sounds so much more relaxing. My favorite part of their romance is the way Ro doesn’t push Chloe. He shows her that she can trust him rather than forcing her into a situation where she has to. Chloe knows she’s in trouble, but instead of taking the “out” that Ro offers, she lets her shields down just a smidge…enough for Ro to get in there and prove that he’s the kind of man she can rely on. 

7) What is up next for the Mercenaries?

As is my way, the end of Defending Chloe includes a small glimpse into the next book, Defending Morgan. Archer “Arrow” Kane and the rest of the Mountain Mercenaries are on an op to rescue a child taken out of the country by her non-custodial father. When they find the little girl they are surprised to find a very well known missing woman named Morgan Byrd. 

She’s been missing for a year and her name and picture have been plastered all over the news for months. Of course they can’t leave her behind, but the story about why she was kidnapped, how she ended up in the Dominican Republic, and who wanted her gone, but not dead, is a whole roller coaster of a story. Of course Arrow is definitely able, and willing, to keep her safe until they figure it all out. :) Defending Morgan is slated for release in March 2019.




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Susan Stoker is a New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author whose series include Ace Security, Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, SEAL of Protection, Unsung Heroes: Delta Force, and Mountain Mercenaries. Married to a retired army noncommissioned officer, Stoker has lived all over the country—from Missouri to California to Colorado to Texas—and currently lives under the big skies of Tennessee. A true believer in happily ever after, Stoker enjoys writing novels in which romance turns to love. To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website, www.stokeraces.com, or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorsusanstoker.



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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Review - - His Duchess at Eventide


His Duchess at Eventide
By Wendy LaCapra
Mythic Dukes - Book 2
Publisher: Wendy LaCapra
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Reviewed by PJ



Lord Cheverley, son of the Duke of Ithwick, never wanted to go to war, but when he eloped against his father’s wishes, the furious Duke forced him to choose—either take a naval commission, or have his marriage annulled. Devastated physically and emotionally by seven years of war, a shipwreck, and six years in the captivity of a brutal pirate, Cheverley returns to England to find that the courts have declared him dead, and his wife is entertaining suitors. Should he demand his rightful place, disrupting his family’s lives, or should he return to sea, seeking vengeance against the pirate? He sets out to find the answer in disguise.

Penelope once believed in love, but then the man who swept her off her feet deserted her, leaving her and her unborn child utterly alone. Now a widow, she will do anything to protect her son, including enlisting the aid of a mysterious sea captain to uncover the true intentions of her devious suitors. When the captain awakens something in Penelope she thought long dead, she begins to suspect he is no stranger. But, as they peel back the layers of a deadly plot, can this broken family heal their wounds in time to save what really matters?



My thoughts:
· 
Wendy LaCapra is an author whose stories engage my emotions and leave me eager for more. After enjoying her debut trilogy in 2015, I was sad when she stepped away from writing for a few years but that all changed in 2017 with the publication of her (2018 RITA® nominated) novella, Her Duke at Daybreak. She's back and better than ever. 

His Duchess at Eventide, a full-length historical romance that's sweeping in scope and stunning in emotional intensity is, for me, her best writing yet. Penelope and Cheverley drew me into their story as well as their hearts. I traveled this journey with them, experiencing their anger, fear, joy, anguish, yearning, and hope with a full investment in their happiness. LaCapra's beautiful writing brought it all to life, keeping me reading late into the night and finally leaving me with the reassurance that some bonds, though stretched beyond imagination, cannot be broken, that evil foes can be vanquished, that love wins. I won't be forgetting these characters - or their story - for some time. I highly recommend this book. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

'Tis the season of giving and you all know how much I enjoy giving away books, especially those that keep me up reading way past the time when I'm normally asleep. For a chance to win one of three Kindle copies of His Duchess at Eventide that I'm giving away today, tell me:

Do you enjoy reunion romances?

Do you like books that are deeply emotional or light and fluffy?

Have you read any Wendy LaCapra stories? 

What's the last book that kept you reading past your bedtime?

Winners will be randomly chosen from comments posted by 11:00 PM (EST), December 6, 2018. 



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

TLC Tour Review - - The Lady Travelers Guide to Deception with an U nlikely Earl


The Lady Travelers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl
By Victoria Alexander
Lady Travelers Society - Book 3
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: November 20, 2018
Reviewed by PJ




Harry Armstrong has spent years in Egypt, recovering relics and disregarding rules. Now he’s back in England with a new title and a new purpose: penning his exploits. But his efforts are overshadowed by London’s favorite writer about Egypt—a woman they call The Queen of the Desert, of all things. Worse, her stories—serialized in newspapers and reprinted in books—are complete rubbish. 

Miss Sidney Honeywell didn’t set out to deceive anyone. It’s not her fault readers assumed her Tales of a Lady Adventurer in Egypt were real! Admitting her inadvertent deception now would destroy her reputation and her livelihood. But when the Earl of Brenton challenges her to travel to Egypt to prove her expertise, accompanied by his dashing, arrogant nephew, what choice does she have but to pack her bags?

With the matchmaking founders of the Lady Travelers Society in tow, Harry is determined to expose Sidney’s secret. But the truth might not be as great a revelation as discovering that love can strike even the most stubborn of hearts.


My thoughts:

One of the things I've most enjoyed about this new series by Victoria Alexander is the settings. Pair an adventurous, historical romance with an exotic location and I am so there!

Alexander has assembled an entertaining cast for this newest novel and given them an adventure reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie, complete with witty banter, humor, and an archeological quest. Harry and Sidney are likeable characters who engaged my interest from the get-go but it's Sidney's "chaperones," three lively widows on their first overseas adventure, who come close to stealing every scene they're in. There are also a couple secondary characters who I would love to read more about. Hopefully, Alexander has something in mind for them.

While there's an HEA, the story itself leans more heavily toward adventure/romantic comedy than a full-fledged romance. Alexander's smart, witty, dialog, beautiful descriptions of Egypt, and skillfully-depicted characters made that perfectly okay with me. 

This is the third book in Alexander's Lady Travelers series but though there are a few continuing characters who appear in all three books, each story stands on its own so feel free to jump in at any point in the series. 










Monday, December 3, 2018

Coming Attractions










On Tuesday, December 4, I share my thoughts about Victoria Alexander's newest novel, The Lady Travelers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl














The review tour for Defending Chloe, a new romantic suspense novel by Susan Stoker, stops here on Thursday, December 6













Stop by Wednesday, December 19 for my review of The Duke's Suspicion and a Q&A with the author, Susanna Craig















Jennifer Ryan launches her new Wild Rose Ranch series with Dirty Little Secret. Check out my review on Thursday, December 20.



Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Review - - The Good, the Bad, and the Duke


The Good, the Bad, and the Duke
By Janna MacGregor
The Cavensham Heiresses - Book 4
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Reviewed by PJ



Lady Daphne Hallworth is ready to celebrate the holidays with her family. But when they accidentally leave her home alone, Daphne uses the time to work on her dream—opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: She’s in a battle to win the property for the home against her brother’s best friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all: someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome Duke will solve both their problems?
Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. So when a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: He will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along?

My thoughts:

When I read The Bad Luck Bride, the first book in Janna MacGregor's The Cavensham Heiresses series, I was not inclined to be sympathetic to the secondary, villainous character of Paul Barstowe, former best friend of the book's hero. In book two, The Bride Who Got Lucky, there were glimmers of a better man - or at least the possibility of one - hidden deep inside and I began to wonder if there could be more to Paul than I had first believed. I queried the author and learned that the fourth book of the series would be Paul's journey to redemption and love. The Good, the Bad, and the Duke releases today and, as I suspected, there is indeed much more to this man than his previous behavior would have indicated. Not only did Daphne fall in love with him but I did too. In fact, not since Lisa Kleypas's Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent have I enjoyed a redeemed hero this much. 

Who better to match with a formerly dissolute, currently striving for redemption hero than his ex-best friend and current enemy's younger sister, right? As much as I enjoyed Paul, his heroine, Daphne is equally as wonderful. It was pure pleasure to watch her recapture the sense of self and adventurous spirit that she'd kept firmly on the shelf since the death of her sister and see her go to toe-to-toe both with her family over her relationship with Paul as well as with Paul himself. I adored these two together. The banter between them sparkles, their chemistry is off the charts, his tenderness with her is sigh-worthy, her defense of him is cheer-worthy, and the bond formed in their youth, while stretched to its limits by Paul's actions and Daphne's brother's enmity, remains strong and unbroken - a solid foundation upon which to build a love for a lifetime. Their beautifully paced evolution as a couple, as well as individually, engaged both my mind and my heart and put me firmly in their HEA corner. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke is not only my favorite book in Janna MacGregor's The Cavensham Heiresses series but also one of my favorite books of 2018. It has my enthusiastic recommendation. 

 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Review - - Diamond Fire


Diamond Fire: A Hidden Legacy Novella
By Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Reviewed by PJ



Nevada Frida Baylor and Connor Ander Rogan cordially invite you to join their wedding celebration. Summoning, weather manipulation, and other magical activities strictly forbidden.
Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle.  Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan's extensive family overruns his mother’s home.  Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.
To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic.  But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn't do for her sister's happiness.  Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.

My thoughts:

I've fallen in love with the magical world created within Ilona Andrews' Hidden Legacy series and the characters that inhabit it. In the first three books, readers have watched Nevada and Rogan fall in love, vanquish enemies, and find their happily ever after. We've also been introduced to the members of Nevada's family, characters with oodles of potential for stories of their own, characters like her younger sister, Catalina. 

Diamond Fire is a novella that ties up Nevada and Rogan's journey with a happy bow while also setting up the next trilogy in the series. It's a fast-paced, action-packed, suspense-filled story chock full of betrayal, intrigue, and magic. And humor. I love how Andrews uses laughter to balance the darker elements of her stories.  

It was fun to watch kick-ass Nevada Baylor turn into a bundle of nerves over the prospect of planning her wedding and, especially, meeting her future mother-in-law. I adored Connor's mother! She's an intriguing character with powerful magic, a good heart, and no patience for anyone who threatens those she loves. I'm looking forward to hopefully learning more about her in future books. 

While the secondary cast is well-developed, the star of this novella is Catalina. The eighteen-year-old really begins to come into her own in this story and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her slowly begin to embrace her powers. I can't wait to find out what the future holds for her in the next trilogy. 

Diamond Fire is the newest addition to my Ilona Andrews keeper shelf. It's a brilliantly executed transition from Nevada's journey to Catalina's and I highly recommend it to both fans of the first Hidden Legacy trilogy as well as those new to the series. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Review - - Bark! The Herald Angels Sing


Bark! The Herald Angels Sing
By Roxanne St. Claire
The Dogfather - Book 8
Publisher: South Street Publishing
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Reviewed by PJ




With Christmas and a family wedding fast approaching, there’s happy chaos in the air at Waterford Farm. However, not everyone in the Kilcannon clan is caught up in the magic of the moment. Matriarch, octogenarian, and beloved blogger Gramma Finnie hears the clock of her long life ticking far too fast, while her great-granddaughter, teenager Pru, feels squeezed out of planning her mother’s nuptials. 

But when this unlikely duo is tasked with the project of producing the “Somethings” for the wedding – and only have Christmas Eve to get the job done – Gramma Finnie and Pru have a purpose and a plan. They set off to find the perfect old, new, borrowed, and blue treasures, but it doesn’t take long for things to spin out of control faster than Gramma’s Toyota in a snowstorm. Detoured by a stray border collie, thwarted by nature and an elf parade, and trapped by a rifle-toting mountain man, it will take more than the power of the Kilcannon clan to save these two from a Christmas catastrophe. It will take the luck of the Irish, a love story from long ago, and a whole lot of help from the angels to make this holiday merry and bright.



My thoughts:

The stories in Roxanne St. Claire's The Dogfather contemporary romance series aim straight for the heart and this new holiday novella is no exception. In the final days leading up to the wedding of reunited lovers Molly and Trace (Bad to the Bone), the couple's teen daughter, the uber-organized Pru, is feeling left out of the preparations and her great-grandmother "Gramma Finnie" is feeling left out of life. When the two combine forces to find four very special "somethings" (old, new, borrowed and blue) for the wedding, their enthusiasm leads them into a snowy adventure with unforeseen, and potentially perilous, consequences that could see the Kilcannon family spending Christmas without their beloved matriarch and "General" Pru.

I adored this story. St. Claire has brought these characters to life throughout the course of this series but, for the most part, they've been secondary characters, not the main focus. In this novella, Gramma Finnie and Pru finally step into the spotlight, giving readers the opportunity to learn more about them and the special bond they share. Especially enjoyable is the window St. Claire opens into the past as Gramma Finnie shares the untold story of how she met her beloved late husband, Seamus. Moving flawlessly between 1940s Ireland and their present-day adventure, Gramma Finnie's story is poignant, heart-wrenching, and hopeful. St. Claire has a way of pulling me into a story so that rather than reading about the events within I feel as though I'm actually experiencing them along with the characters. I could easily identify with both Pru, a girl on the cusp of young womanhood, as well as Gramma Finnie, a woman in the sunset of her life, wondering if all of her adventures are behind her and after "meeting" young Finnie and learning about that part of her life, I have even more affection and admiration for this woman who is the very heart of the Kilcannon family.

Whether you've read the earlier books in this series or not, this is a short, heartwarming story that celebrates family, the joy of the season, the unconditional love to be found in a four-legged companion, and the absolute necessity of kindness. Pru and Gramma Finnie's adventure made me laugh, cry, and fall in love with the Kilcannon family all over again.


It isn't necessary to read the entire Dogfather series in order to enjoy Bark! The Herald Angels Sing but I do recommend reading Molly and Trace's journey to love in Bad to the Bone first. Once you've finished those two stories, head on over to Roxanne St. Claire's website to sign up for her newsletter for access to the heartwarming and poignant bonus story of Molly and Trace's wedding. You'll want to keep the tissues handy! 


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review - - Rancher Untamed


RANCHER UNTAMED
By Katherine Garbera
Publisher: Harlequin Desire
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Reviewed by Hellie
 



For Pippa, what should have been a simple one night stand before she takes her life back turns into something much more complicated. She’s been in hiding for four years until she comes of age and can return to inherit her place as head of a global jewelry corporation and finally be out from under her father’s thumb and insistence for the right man (read: hand-picked husband) to guide the helm. On her last week in hiding, she finally decides to have a fling with her temporary home’s Most Eligible Bachelor, Diego Velasquez. Diego is also the head of his family’s multi-million dollar corporation, and he has had eyes for Pippa since he first met her--though she’s been determined to evade him. Until now.

Pippa buys Diego at the charity bachelor auction, and they go out on a whirlwind date, which of course, ends up with the whirlwind whisking off their clothes and there being lots of happy, naked fun times. Until the morning after. Diego has no idea of Pippa’s other identity, though he does know she’s a secretive woman; and Pippa is dismayed to find that her carefully laid plans to be casually laid blows up in her face. The rationale was simple: a relationship with Diego would never work, but having a little bit of pleasure is better than none at all, right? Except now she’s questioning the future she was so sure she was getting; and the possible future she’s leaving behind.

Both the hero and heroine are very likeably flawed and the conflict was real and deep enough that I did wonder how such a long distance relationship could work out. However, as promised, Ms. Garbera does make it work--and Diego and Pippa get their much deserved happily ever after. For me, the story felt a little thin. This story lives up to all the expectations of a Harlequin Desire (200 pages, lots of sex, HEA)--I’m afraid my lack of enthusiasm stems more from the constraints of those expectations than the characters themselves.

If you love quick sexy reads with heroes who are conscientious, kind, and smoldering in that “consent is sexy” way, throw this book in your cart and take it for a spin. If, however, you prefer more story to sexy times, more high-leg to thongs, and more probable HEA to possible HEA, maybe find a longer book set in a period before g-strings.