Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: The Suffragette Scandal (The Brothers Sinister #4) by Courtney Milan

An idealistic suffragette...

Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women's rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope...but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.

...a jaded scoundrel...

Edward Clark's aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger. When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help. So what if he has to lie to her? She's only a pawn to use in his revenge.

...and a scandal seven years in the making.

But the irrepressible Miss Marshall soon enchants Edward. By the time he realizes that his cynical heart is hers, it's too late. The only way to thwart her enemies is to reveal his scandalous past...and once the woman he loves realizes how much he's lied to her, he'll lose her forever.
“I’m Edward Clark. Born Edward Delacey. Now, apparently Viscount Claridge.” He shut his eyes. “You can address me by my preferred title: you idiot.”
Aristocrat Edward Delacey is presumed dead, but he instead became Edward Clark, and this man is out for revenge. His own family left him for dead years ago and he did anything he had to do to survive. He learned a trade, he learned how to forge anyone’s handwriting and he survived torture. When he learns that one of his best friends growing up is being targeted by his brother, James, Edward puts his plan of revenge against his brother into play. James’s main target is Free Marshall, a woman who runs her own newspaper written by women and speaks out for women’s rights, something that’s causing some waves. She rejected James’s proposition to her and he wants to put her in her place. Edward gets information of his brother’s plans and makes plans of his own to stop him, using Free.

What made Edward and his plans work for me from the start was while he rarely told the truth, he did to Free. He made sure she knew he was a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel and she shouldn’t trust him. That said, he did the exact opposite with her and she came to realize that she was the only person he couldn’t do all that to. It’s a struggle for him, to believe that he could be the man that Free needs, that he could be good enough for her. I loved seeing this fight within himself and also seeing what Free’s belief in him does and the effect it has on him.

I loved Free. She doesn’t let anything get her down. She speaks her mind and even though she knows she’s fighting an uphill battle, fighting for women’s rights, she keeps on pushing. When her newspaper columns are stolen, when she’s harassed and even after her home burns down, she doesn’t stop. So when Edward comes to her with proof that James is behind the recent attacks on her, instead of letting Edward take care of things, she joins him and even takes matters into her own hands. She’s strong willed and fights for what she’s believes in and while this was a side of her that I enjoyed seeing play out, what I really enjoyed most was seeing her not buy into the act Edward puts on around her. She knows from the start that he’s not telling her everything but she slowly gets him to open up about his past and what he’s gone through and she ends up understanding him better than even he does. Near the end when the possibility for huge relationship angst could have taken off, I appreciated that Free didn’t let it get out of hand. She’s level headed and reacts as such, even when Edward is giving her a run for her money.

This ended up being one of those stories that the farther into it I got, the harder it became to put down. I loved getting to know Edward, learning about his past and how that’s shaped him into the man he’s become and the man he wants to be. Free was a great heroine to get to know. She’s strong and during a time when strength in women isn’t exactly encouraged, she doesn’t let any obstacles stop her from trying to make a difference. Regardless of the big reveal Edward has about who he really is to her, these two people won’t ever fit into a perfect society box and that’s what made them so fun to get to know.

Rating: B+

Release Date: July 15, 2014
Courtney Milan: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by author for review* 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: Poison Promise (Elemental Assassin #11) by Jennifer Estep

In book eleven of her New York Times bestselling Elemental Assassin series, author Jennifer Estep continues “one of the best urban fantasy series going on the market” (Fresh Fiction).

Gin Blanco is hard-nosed, sexy, and lethal. Nicknamed “The Spider,” she’s a stone elemental assassin who brings her unique mix of magic and tact to every assignment, no matter the target.

There’s a new drug on the streets of Ashland, and its name “Burn” sums up the potent effect it has on its users. When one of her restaurant employees is threatened by dealers of the drug, Gin steps in to set things straight…
“I haven’t killed anyone yet today, and it’s almost noon. Time to rectify that, don’t you think?”
Gin is has a target on her back, but nothing new there. Being the Spider and killing Mab Monroe, has brought the shady players in Ashland to Gin’s doorstep trying to be the one who offs the Spider. She’s used to looking over her shoulder though and takes care of all the threats until one night when one her waitresses, Catalina, witnesses the murder of guy she used to call a friend, and a dangerous drug pushing, scientist, vampire, Beauregard Benson, now has her along with Gin’s sister Bria on his hit list. Bria’s been trying to gather evidence on Benson for weeks and is solely focused on bringing him down, no matter who she has to use to do it. Gin doesn’t like her sister’s obsession with Benson and it leads to Gin becoming tangled in Bria’s case and ultimately, Gin needing to find a way to kill Benson, who’s a much more powerful vampire than he appears feeding off not only blood, but emotions.

Admittedly, as soon as I finished my first thought was that this is book’s main focus was setting up the next big storyline arc surrounding the mysterious person with the initials M.M.M. And while it is, I wouldn’t be quick to call this book a series filler, which ok fine, I initially thought that too. After seeing all the pieces that were moved into place because of Benson and Gin’s big showdown with him, the stage is set for M.M.M. and Gin’s worried. We do finally get confirmation on who exactly M.M.M. is and while maybe it’s not quite a shock, one piece of information did surprise me - who this mysterious person’s father is (or was.) It just makes her that much more dangerous and the biggest danger for Gin, this person knows exactly how to get to her, target her friends and family.

If Poison Promise did nothing else, it brought the Spider out into the open and one specific scene had me smiling with just how badass I imagine Gin to be in my head. It also lends itself to the fact that from book 1 to now book 11, Gin’s life has changed (obviously) but the most noticeable change, she’s gone from a woman with very, very few people on her side, to a group of close friends who will stand behind her and fight. She gains a couple more of those individuals after the events in Poison Promise and I have to think that she’s going to need everyone’s help when her next huge fight comes to a head.

As usual, I loved every word that comes out of Finn’s mouth. He brings the humor to normally heavy, dangerous situations and I love him for it:

Finn complaining about Owen’s birthday gift to Gin:

“Way to overachieve, Grayson,” he muttered. “You totally ruined the new toaster I got her.”
I love the place that Gin and Owen are in with their relationship. Thankfully, it seems their rough patch is behind them and it’s full steam ahead there…at least one area of Gin’s life seems to be solid. I was so annoyed and frustrated with Bria early on and her single minded focus to bring down Benson, no matter who she had to use. She says some hurtful things to Gin and I hated her for it. Gin deals with it but it made me wonder, what does Bria really think about Gin and her Spider persona. Is it the mean things she said in the heat of the moment or is it the things she says in the quieter moments when she and Gin seem to be building a solid relationship? I hope it’s the latter, that’s for sure.

Poison Promise pits Gin against a drug pushing vampire who tries his hardest to get Gin to emotionally crack. If you’ve stuck with Gin over the course of these 11 books, you know she just doesn’t do that and it proved to be a great fight between these two heavy hitters. I can’t say that the main series storyline, now surrounding M.M.M., progresses much but the setup is building, Gin’s team is growing and I can’t wait to see how Gin and M.M.M. battle it out.

Rating: B

Release Date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: Pocket Books
Jennifer Estep: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Peanut Goes to School (Elder Races novella) by Thea Harrison

Dragos Cuelebre is no longer the only dragon.

Dragos’s son Liam Cuelebre (a.k.a. Peanut) is springing into existence, reminiscent of the first of the Elder Races who were born at the beginning of the world. At just six months of age, he has already grown to the size of a large five-year-old boy. He can read, write in complete sentences, and his math skills are off the chart.

A white dragon in his Wyr form, Liam also holds more Power than almost anyone else. In an effort to give him a taste of normality, no matter how fleeting, his parents Pia and Dragos enroll him in first grade.

They hope school will help teach Liam how to relate to others, a vital skill that will help him control his growing Power. But school has a surprising number of pitfalls, and relating to others can be a tricky business.

When a classmate is threatened, Liam must quickly learn self-control, how to rein in his instincts, and govern his temper, because there’s no doubt about it—he is fast becoming one of the most dangerous creatures in all of the Elder Races.
“…that innocent boy is also a dangerous predator. He can already take down animals that are more than twice the size of his Wyr form.”

It was only one cow, Liam thought.
This is a very cute story told primarily from Liam’s point of view now that he’s suddenly and crazily much older than he really should be. I’m loving this little boy more and more and especially when we can see how his mind works and processes things. It’s very interesting to see how different he is, Dragos and Pia don’t even know what to make of him and how fast he’s aging, which is something apparently he can actually initiate himself. It makes me wonder what else he’s going to be capable of.

The story primarily takes place during the first day of school for Liam and while the school work may be way below the level he’s currently learning at, it’s a great social introduction for him and he’s intrigued by studying the different kids and how his own senses flare to life. In just one day he deals with school bullies and an abusive teacher and uses ways to deal with them both that are advanced and very mature.

There’s a very sweet scene that stood out between Liam and Dragos – for as big as Liam is (now about the size of a five year old) it’s starting to be easier to forget that he really still is a little boy and he has moments of needing reassurance. He’s so smart to seek it out and talk about what’s bugging him and it results in a very touching scene between father and son.

I can’t wait to watch this boy turn into a young man, which could happen in the next book considering the growing pace he’s currently on, and to see what kinds of amazing things he’ll be capable of. If how he handled the school bullies and his horrible teacher is any indication, Liam and Dragos will make an unstoppable team in the future.

Rating: B

Release Date: June 30, 2014
Thea Harrison: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by author for review* 


Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: Fanning the Flames (Jackson: Girls' Night Out #0.5) by Victoria Dahl

Burning for you

Some men are off-limits. Close friends of your ex-husband, for instance. Or firefighters who work in the same building as you. Yet despite her best judgment, librarian Lauren Foster can't help noticing fire captain Jake Davis whenever he jogs by…shirtless. They've always been friends, but all it takes is one not-so-chance meeting at a local bar and one not-quite-innocent walk home to ignite a fierce, uncontrollable desire between them.

Widower Jake Davis has tried to ignore the spark he feels whenever Lauren's around, but once he sees her curves in a little black dress, there's no turning back. No matter how often she says she's all wrong for him, the sexy, outspoken divorcĂ©e is driving him wild in the best possible way. Maybe she's just blowing off steam. Or maybe he can convince her to fan these flames into something deeper, hotter and truer than they ever expected….

Fanning the Flames is short, sexy and dirty – you know, just another Victoria Dahl story! Jake is a widower who’s a fireman at a station that shares the building with the town’s library. Lauren is a librarian who’s been drooling over Jake and his shirtless running days for years. She’s divorced, her son is in college and she’s loving the single, empty nest life. But both she and Jake are looking for something more and while Lauren is hesitant to make her feelings for Jake known, he’s friends with her ex after all, they run into each other at a bar and start spending time together.

I loved that the lead characters were older than what’s generally the norm out there in the romance book world, at least it seems that way recently. It instantly made both Lauren and Jake more relatable in that way and it was easier for me to connect to them. Besides, age is just a number and Lauren and Jake had me fanning myself, forget fanning the flames.

Dahl packs a punch with this short story. It introduces the characters in her new Jackson: Girls’ Night Out series while bringing together two people who are both starting new chapters in their lives. Jake is sexy, Lauren (and I) loves that and it’s a nice quick look at how these two people come together and Dahl gives us a nice introduction to this town and some characters we’ll get to know better in the books to come.

Rating: B

Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Victoria Dahl: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: For the Longest Time (Harvest Cove #1) by Kendra Leigh Castle

For Samantha Henry, it took a ten-year absence to appreciate the close-knit New England town with an appeal all its own....

After a perfect storm of events leaves Sam high, dry, and jobless, she has to head home to Harvest Cove to regroup. Growing up, she was the town misfit, and a brief high school romance that resulted in heartbreak made her realize she was never going to fit in. But now with the support of her mother and an unexpected circle of allies, Sam starts to wonder if she’s misjudged the town all these years.

Life’s been good to Jake Smith. He transitioned from popular jock to town veterinarian without any trouble. But Sam’s homecoming makes him question his choices. The sharp-tongued beauty was never a good fit for the small community, but he’s never forgotten her—or how good they were together. While she makes it clear she’s not about to repeat the past, Jake’s determined to convince her to give him—and Harvest Cove—a second chance.

Sam Henry left Harvest Cove after a torturous high school experience and vowed to never look back. She’s an artist and in classic high school mean-kids fashion, she was teased and tormented for being different. The “popular” clique did most of the damage, but one of the group members, Jake Smith, befriended Sam and she lost her young heart to him only to have him smash it to pieces in front of his friends, proving he was no better than any of them. Years have past and now Sam’s back home after losing her job and needing to find a new place to live. She’s staying with her mom and trying to start over. She finds a dream job at the local art gallery and finds a new friend in her boss, Zoe. She’s still not comfortable running into the same group of friends who made her life hell growing up, even if they are now adults, around town, but it’s unavoidable as they’re all still tight with their same circle of friends. But Jake is different and he’s never forgotten Sam or the way he treated her years ago. He vows to make her see that’s he’s changed, he’s not the same stupid kid he once was and wants to start over with her and hopefully become more than just friends.

It was incredibly easy to feel Sam’s pain that came from being labeled a certain way in her teens, being made fun of and not accepted by the popular kids who, like it or not, run the school. Maybe it’s because I also grew up in a small town and while I can’t say I was tormented or teased in a way that Sam was, I was able to relate quite a bit to Sam’s small town experience then and now. The same people still living in the same town, still running around with the same friends – personally I just shake my head…and am thankful I escaped, much like Sam did! But back to Sam, I was able to connect with her early on and wanted her to find her own way in her hometown, find new, real friends and most important, try to not let the pain from the past get to her. And she does it. She has a few moments when it’s hard, but I really liked seeing her move on from all that happened in the past, even giving a few of the people who made her miserable a second chance and she finds a good life in Harvest Cove, something she never expected.

Sam’s romance with Jake is very sweet. I liked this guy and couldn’t wait for him to open his eyes about his circle of friends and see things for what they really were: same group of gossipy, mean friends that hadn’t changed at all between high school and the present. It takes seeing things through Sam’s eyes for him to understand the real people that he’s been surrounded by and he’s not all happy about it. But it doesn’t let anyone stop him from wanting to get to know Sam better and trying to mend some of the damage his teenage-self did to her years ago. Their romance progressed nicely, not too fast (which is my pet peeve) and Jake does his best to prove he’s a good guy and ultimately good for Sam.

We’re introduced to many residents of Harvest Cove including Sam’s sister, who seems to be somewhat of a loner – her book is up next. I liked everyone who came across the page and it helped set the series and the town up really well for potential books to come.

I really enjoyed getting to know Sam and Jake and see them reconnect after years apart. I also really, really enjoyed seeing Sam stand up to Jake’s friends and not let them tear her down like they did in the past. The setup for this new, small town, contemporary series is well done and I’ll definitely be coming back for more.

Rating: B

Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Signet
Kendra Leigh Castle: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*Book provided by publisher for review* 


Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: Over Exposed (Salon Games #3) by Stephanie Julian

When the cameras are off, the real action begins.

Greg Hicks is a Hollywood power player. For years he’s enjoyed the perks that come with being a top director and producer: the influence, the wealth…the women. But none of his many conquests have ever possessed the incredible sensuality of the young woman he once watched lose all inhibition in front of his camera.

Sabrina Rodriquez’s life is far from a Hollywood dream. Refusing to make the same mistakes as her unlucky-in-love mother, she’s focused on her first real job and avoiding all distractions, especially those of the male variety. Yet a man as compelling as Greg is difficult to ignore. And the desires he awakens are even harder to quench.

While a winter storm rages, a night at Haven Retreat leaves Sabrina’s and Greg’s temperatures rising. As Greg introduces Sabrina to the pleasures of voyeurism and exhibition, she unleashes his most decadent passions—and his creativity. But having Sabrina as a muse isn’t enough. He wants her to take a starring role in his bed…and in his heart.

The first thought that came to mind when I finished with Over Exposed was, meh…kind of boring. I hate saying that about book but I just had a hard time really getting into the story, connecting with the characters and I admit, it ended up being a skimmer.

Greg and Sabrina made an unlikely couple in my mind and that was helped by their age difference. Normally I could care less about any age different if it’s done right, but here, I found their 13 year age difference to be a lot considering the heroine is 23, it just seemed way too young in comparison to Greg. This along with their relationship in general didn’t cause me to buy in to the idea that Greg and Sabrina would be a match. There’s not much more than just sex, sex and more sex that make up the basis of their relationship . It lacked overall depth and I can’t imagine them being happy for the long run outside the bedroom. I needed more, period. I needed to see their connection out of bed, and understand why this couple works and that was missing for me here.

I found myself more intrigued with Greg’s assistant who takes organization and being on top of things to a whole new level and the rock band members who show up at the resort, Sebastian and Nikky. It’s Sebastian who becomes good friends with Sabrina. I’m curious to know about him as well as Greg’s assistant Trudeau and hope that something might be in the works for them for their books in the future. But this reminds me, while Sabrina might not have felt uncomfortable during one exhibition scene, I sure was when Greg allowed Sebastian to watch him and Sabrina having sex. This is an erotic story, I get it, stuff like that is par for the course but it didn’t seem sexy to me, just out of place and weird.

Needless to say, Over Exposed wasn’t a big hit for me. It had some interesting moments, but the romance between Greg and Sabrina never made sense for me, I needed to know why this couple was going to be able to make it work for the future and all I got was plenty of sex between them and not much else.

Rating: D+

Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Stephanie Julian: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: Straddling the Line (Play by Play #8) by Jaci Burton

Trevor Shay has it all—a successful football and baseball career, and any woman he wants. But when he finds out his college mentor’s daughter is in trouble, he drops everything to come to her aid.

Haven Briscoe has finally landed a dream job as a sportscaster for a major network. But she hasn’t been able to move past the recent death of her beloved father, and it’s affecting her career. A plum assignment following the daily life of sports superstar Trevor Shay might be just the inspiration she needs…

Trevor will do anything to spark life back into Haven, including letting her into every aspect of his world. The chemistry between them flames higher than one of Trevor’s home runs and faster than his dashes to the end zone. But as they grow closer, Haven stumbles onto Trevor’s closely guarded secret, one he’s hidden his entire life. And despite his protests, now it’s Haven’s turn to put everything on hold to help Trevor. Will he let her in and trust her with a secret that could blow his professional and personal world apart?

Trevor Shay has been close with Haven Briscoe’s parents for years when they were the college “parents” to him and his group of athlete friends. Haven’s father recently passed away and she’s not doing well in dealing with the pain and grief. She’s letting a sportscaster job that has been her dream for so long slip away and without a big story to bring to the table she’ll be heading home. The thought of going home doesn’t sound bad to her, but her friends and family don’t want to see her dreams slip away so the ungettable get, an interview with two-sport superstar Trevor Shay, is heading her way. Trevor agrees to the exclusive interview with Haven for the sole purpose of giving her something to do to help jump start her career. Even though they’ve known each other for quite awhile, being in close proximity brings to the forefront feelings on both sides, and the professional relationship gets personal fast.

I kind of dislike starting a review like this, but really, there was nothing about this story that made it stand out in Burton’s Play by Play series. Trevor and Haven start out their sexual relationship being in it just “for fun,” thinking that there’s no way can they get serious, then bam, it’s serious. Trevor has been keeping a huge secret from everyone but two people, and while I won’t spoil what it is, I swear I’ve read about this hero with this problem before, another book, another series. But that aside, for as desperate as he was to keep this a secret from everyone and the main reason he declined ever doing interviews, he sure does a fast 180 on his attitude after Haven finds out and wants to help him overcome it. I expected major push back from Trevor but he was all in. Maybe the burden of the secret being out freed his mind and attitude about it, but it still his quick attitude change felt a bit abupt.

Maybe it’s just my overall love of epilogues and I really enjoy seeing the ending of story play out a bit beyond the couple finding their happily ever after and I would have liked to have a little bit more here. The ending felt too rushed for my taste and I was left wanting just something more. I did enjoy the sports aspect, especially with Trevor being a two sport athlete and wish there would have been more of it. I’m a sucker for some great sports scenes!

Now don’t get me wrong, I know the review above may be more focused on the negative, but it is a likeable story overall. The series as a whole is one of my favorites and Liz is by far my favorite character and as usual has some of the most memorable lines in Straddling the Line. But that said, everyone and everything is so friggin perfect. All the time! Perfect athletes, perfect jobs, perfect friendships. Sure it can be fun to read for the escape factor, but it can also be boring at times. This book introduces a jump to a new set of characters, brothers (yay!), so hopefully they’ll liven things up a bit going forward.

Just a quick note on the romance between Trevor and Haven – of course it’s steamy, Burton can write some great sex scenes and she delivers here. But even those got a little monotonous at the end. I liked parts of Straddling the Line, the friendship scenes always seem to be the parts I remember most, but I wasn’t in love with the story as a whole.

P.S. I swear Jaci Burton gets the BEST covers in the romance world. Seriously drool worthy, every, single time!

Rating: C

Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Jaci Burton: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 

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