Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sin For Me by Jackie Ashenden

Title: Sin For Me
Author: Jackie Ashenden
My Rating: B+

Genre: Erotic Romance 
Series: Motor City Royals #3
Main Characters: Gideon and Zoe
Release Date: March 2017
Publisher:  Kensington
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
It was anything but easy, but Gideon Black has finally managed to create a safe haven for himself on the gritty streets of Detroit. He worked hard to get on the straight and narrow, pulling himself up from an underground crime syndicate before it consumed him completely. But the past isn't staying put, and now that it's come calling, it's not after him, but the woman he considers the closest thing he has to family . . .

Zoe James has always loved Gideon more than anything in the world. She knows he only wants to keep her safe, but his overprotectiveness has taken over her life and it's got to stop. She's sick of him treating her like a little girl, but is she woman enough to handle the truth when it finally comes out?

As old enemies close in, a complicated but undeniable passion is growing between them. Gideon tries to hold on to Zoe and keep her safe, but he may have to let her go in order to save them both . . .

My Review:
This is an unusual story. Gideon and Zoe met when they were both in the same foster home for a short period of time. She was a young girl, he was a teenager. They always stayed in touch and eventually Gideon took her under his wing and basically appointed himself as her guardian in life. He took that job very seriously. 

At 25, Zoe has been very sheltered. She hasn't really been allowed to experience anything of the world...because of Gideon. That little tidbit is the conflict in this story. Zoe has no experience because of Gideon's overbearing, protective attitude toward her. The reasons for that are good, but when things move onto "more" between Zoe and Gideon, there is some question as to whether she really ever had a choice in the matter. 

Note...some people may find issue with that. I wasn't one of them, but I could see how it really could be a problem for some readers...as well as several of their friends.

Overall, I did enjoy the story. I enjoyed the relationship between Gideon and Zoe. As the details of the story unfolds, it's obvious why he has the attitude toward her that he does. He's spent his life protecting Zoe and that includes protecting her from his attraction to her. He's also very good at hiding his emotions, so she has no idea how much he's had to battle to stay away from her. I loved it when things finally broke. 

I'll admit there were a couple of times when I questioned the internal dialogue and reasoning of the two main characters, especially toward the end with Zoe. Despite that, I enjoyed reading the book. I've read a couple of books from this series and I have enjoyed both books a lot. 

There's a side-plot that feeds into Zoe's background that I also really liked. I had no idea how that would play out/sort itself out, but the author did a good job with it. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Bossed by Sloane Howell

Title: Bossed
Author: Sloane Howell
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: -
Main Characters: Jenny and Ethan
Release Date: March 2017
Publisher:  Loveswept
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
He’s the boss. But she’s ready to take charge.

In this provocative and sexy* office romance, a cheeky new hire tempts a hotshot sports agent to mix business with pleasure.

Jenny: Job interviews are a bitch under the best of circumstances, but when your potential boss is the world’s biggest prick, that’s when you should simply walk away. It’s just that I need this job so badly—and I’m mesmerized by Ethan Mason’s piercing gaze. Men like him aren’t supposed to exist in real life. But under the tailored suits and GQ looks, Ethan simmers with barely restrained ambition. And no matter how hard I work to fight the attraction, I’m going to get burned.

Ethan: You don’t become a top agent without learning how to close a deal. I always get what—or who—I want, by staying cool and in command. Then Jenny Jackson walks into my office with her lush curves and “screw you” attitude and blows away my intentions of keeping things professional. All I can think about is exploring the perfect body hidden beneath those conservative clothes or shutting her saucy mouth with one hot kiss. Jenny’s worth breaking the rules over—if I can convince her to break the rules for me.

*By sexy, we mean sexy. Like, 18+ sexy.

My Review:
OMG, this was such a fabulously fun book. I loved the way the story started and exactly the way that Jenny and Ethan maintained that contentious relationship throughout most the story. I love her and that she doesn't let Ethan cow her. She speaks her mind and many times that's to her detriment, but Ethan is so surprised by that, he's intrigued...and that means he lets her get away with more than anyone else ever would.

As well as their crossed words, their attraction is pretty much immediate. There is a lot of sexual chemistry happening in this story and I love that.

I've never read Sloane Howell. I assumed he was female until I got to the author bio at the end, but I'll admit I wasn't that surprised to find he was male. There were little tells in the story...mainly just in some of the language that the women used. Most women don't call each other pussies...at least in my experience. But beyond that, everything about this book worked for me (and it should be noted, that the language certainly didn't bother me...it just felt a tiny bit off....but again, the heroine is a tomboy, so it works for her still, too).

I ADORED the sports/baseball aspect of this story and how much Jenny knows about the sport. I loved her and listening to the explanations of working a deal and figuring worth was fabulous. I also really enjoyed Ethan, especially his relationship with Matt. Their bromance was a fabulous addition to the story. It made it especially fun that Matt just happens to be one of Jenny's favorite players. 

Note: the competition between Jenny and her dad with their fantasy baseball teams...so much fun and in the end so bittersweet. Seriously, that was the best ending...LOVED it so much...even through the tears. 

I loved this book so much. Gah...I wish I could get it in print. I'd love to have it on my print reread shelf. While this was my first Sloane Howell read, it won't be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading this story and look forward to reading more from this incredible author. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Kiss Marry Kill by Sidney Halston

Title: Kiss Marry Kill
Author: Sidney Halston
My Rating: A

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Iron Clad Security #1
Main Characters: Jax and Megan
Release Date: March 2017
Publisher:  Swerve
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Five years ago they fell in love after one whirlwind summer. Now she's an internationally famous musician and he's officially out of the military, but when their worlds collide, can they keep things strictly professional? Sweet, thrilling, emotional, and sexy, fall in love with Megan and Jax in USA Today bestseller Sidney Halston's Kiss Marry Kill.

He's been chasing a memory . . .

It was just supposed to be a regular Thursday afternoon…and then he saw her. Sitting in seat L214, one seat over from his at the baseball game, right next to her douche of a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. An impromptu kiss for the kiss cam, and Jax knew his life would never be the same. Five years and a tour in Afghanistan later, Jax is back stateside running his own private security firm, Iron-Clad, with his best friend. He isn't the man he used to be... but Megan isn't the sexy and sweet, though sheltered, twenty-two-year-old he left behind, either. And she's in trouble. 

...but now they're on the run.

Megan Cruz has made something of herself. She’s turned her dreams of pop stardom into a reality. But when a deadly stalker breaks into her home claiming to be her number-one fan, the only person she can turn to is the boy who got away. But Jax isn’t the same carefree charmer who stole her heart, then broke it when he joined the military. This man is seductive, hard, guarded. And he'll do anything to protect what's his.

My Review:
Next to friends to lovers, second chance at love is my favorite trope in romance. This book features that trope...and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Five years before the book took place Megan and Jax had four days together. Those four days took place right before both their lives were about to change...so they accepted that that would be all the time they'd have together...no future. 

And they stuck to that...until 5 years later when Jax sees Megan on the news because of her stalker. When they knew one another before, Jax was on his way to a deployment, Megan was about to embark into law school. Now Megan is a famous rock star and Jax owns a security firm. Of course, when he sees the problems she's having he has to run to her aid. This is his specialty now...and of course things embark from there. 

I liked the book. The story is told via a series of present day and flashback scenes throughout the entire story. So, it's like reading two romances at the same time...featuring the same people. I have to admit, I love who they are today so much more than where they were back then...rightfully so, but I really love how those 4 days totally changed Megan's entire perspective on her world. 

I love how totally over-protective Jax is about Megan. He's so alpha that he loses control of it sometimes. I also loved his team and Joey and how they will call him on it sometimes, too. I love that he works security. He knows exactly how to protect Megan with her rock star career. I also really loved that aspect of the story. The band and the whole musical aspect was great. I wasn't quite sure what to make of TNT and the remaining two members...especially as this is a romantic suspense, which has the reader questioning everyone's motives. 

I admit, I"m a fan of Sidney Halston's writing and am especially excited about her new venture into writing romantic suspense. This was a great example and I hope she writes many more along this genre. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Strays by Garrett Leigh

Title: Strays
Author: Garrett Leigh
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Urban Souls 2
Main Characters: Nero and Lenny
Release Date: March 2017
Publisher:  Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:

Work, sleep, work, repeat. Nero’s lonely life suits him just fine until his best friend, Cass, asks him to take on a new apprentice—a beautiful young man who’s never set foot in a professional kitchen. Despite his irritation and his lifelong ability to shut the world out, Nero is mesmerised by the vibrant stray, especially when he learns what drove him to seek sanctuary on Nero’s battered old couch.

Lenny Mitchell is living under a cloud of fear. Pursued by a stalker, he has nowhere left to run until Nero offers him a port in a storm—a job at the hottest restaurant in Shepherd's Bush. Kitchen life proves heady and addictive, and it’s not long before he finds himself falling hard and fast for the man who has taken him in.

Fast-forward a month and a neither man can imagine life without the other, but one thing stands in their way: a lifetime of horrors Nero can’t bring himself to share with Lenny. Or can he? For the first time ever, happiness is there for the taking, and Nero must learn to embrace it before fate steps in and rips it away.

Story Overview:
I love Garrett's stories. Her heroes are so deliciously wounded. It makes for some great angst filled reading and I do love that.

In this book we get to know Nero better. He was in the first book and has had a crush on Cass for a long time. The two guys are very much alike, but he's also a brilliant chef who travels around all the Urban Decay restaurants as he's needed. So when Cass needs a favor, he goes to Nero.

Lenny was a waiter in one of the Urban Decay restaurants when his life imploded because of a stalker. The three guys who own Urban Decay couldn't stand by and not help. They put him with Nero, knowing that Nero would take care of him. What they didn't expect was for Nero and Lenny to become more than friends. 

Nero has a lot of ghosts in his background. He's not the easiest guy to get to know and that is frustrating for Lenny. But Lenny has a pretty decent amount of baggage that Nero isn't digging into either. When they're first together, they are really good about maintaining their boundaries, but as their emotions develop, so do their expectations...especially on Lenny's side of it. Angst...I did mention this book has it, right?

In the midst of all that angst though is the wonderful setting of the restaurants. I especially loved the idea and visualizations of the new restaurant that Nero is working on...and the murals/graphics. So much awesome in my head centered around all that. I also really loved the scenes though where Lenny was just learning the restaurant business and how things work in the kitchen. I liked that he seems to have a natural talent at it. 

The book was just flat-out good. I thoroughly enjoyed both characters and the way that their stories unfolded. It was a great romance and I definitely recommend it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

House Rules by Chloe Neill (audiobook)

Title:  House Rules
Author: Chloe Neill
My Rating: A-
Narrator: Sophie Eastlake

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Chicagoland Vampires #7
Main Characters: Merit and Ethan
Release Date: March 2013 (audiobook)
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
In a city full of vampires, trouble never sleeps.

At the tender age of twenty-seven, Merit became a sword-wielding vampire. Since then, she’s become the protector of her House, watched Chicago nearly burn to the ground, and seen her Master fall and rise. Now she’ll see her mettle—and her metal—tested like never before.

It started with two . . . Two rogues vanishing without a trace. Someone is targeting Chicago’s vampires, and anyone could be next. With their house in peril, Merit and her Master, the centuries-old Ethan Sullivan, must race to stop the disappearances. But as they untangle a web of secret alliances and ancient evils, they realize their foe is more familiar, and more powerful, than they could have ever imagined.
My Review:
Overall: 4.25
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.0

It's been a couple of years since I read one of the Chicagoland Vampire books, although it is easily one of my favorite urban fantasy series. I decided recently to pick up again via audiobook...and I'm so glad I did. I've missed Merit. 

In this book, Cadigan House is on the cusp of the ceremony breaking all their ties with the GP, so nerves are very high. Add to that, there appears to be a vampire serial killer on the loose and Merit still hasn't come clean with Ethan that she's joining the Red Guard. There's a whole lot of stress on Merit...and Ethan. 

But with all that going on, I really like where Merit and Ethan are. There's no doubts between them anymore (for the most part) and they are a united front in trying to do what's best for Cadigan House and the vampires in general. It feels like Merit finally has earned the respect she deserves...not only from Ethan, but from the majority of the vampires. Yes, she's still young, but she's strong and willing to do what she needs to that gets the job done. They recognize that in her now...and this series is even better for it. 

I also really like where the series is going overall. The separation from the GP for Cadigan House is not going to be easy, but I foresee that creating some great drama in the future. It will be interesting to see what happens with the other two houses in Chicago. 

Overall, I just really enjoy this series. This book was action packed and riveting. I listened to it in just two days because I didn't want to step away from the story.

And the best part now...since I took a break, I can devour several books in the series back to back.

Friday, March 24, 2017

F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker

Title: F*ck Club: Con
Author: Shiloh Walker
My Rating: B+

Genre: Erotic Romance 
Series: (F*ck Club #2)
Main Characters: Con and Shawntell
Release Date: March 2017
Publisher:  Shiloh Walker
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
Rule #2…Respect the ladies.

Conner Steele has nothing but respect for ladies. He absolutely adores them and takes more than a little bit of pride in his job—or rather, his former job.

After a run-in with a cop, former male escort Con, along with his brother Riley and best friend Shame, decided it might just be best to hang up their…hats and retire from the business of being paid to pleasure.

After all, they have a profitable business going with their new pub. No reason to ruin a good thing and Con is more than happy to keep pleasing the ladies—just…no longer as a job. Finding a date or company for the night has never been an issue for him, either. He’s been told more than once that he can charm a tiger out of its stripes. But lately a new hire at the bar is turning the tables on him—she is the one charming him, twisting him up into knots and getting him so worked up, he can barely see straight.

In his rather expert opinion, Shawntelle Callahan is nothing less than a queen.

And she’s a queen on a mission, too. Even as tangled up as he is over her, he can see that. First she tries to coax him out of retirement for one last engagement. When that doesn’t work, she sets out to drive him crazy. After finally admitting that she’s a writer who’s looking to do a story on male escorts, Con realizes it will be best to just stay away from Shawntelle. Sure, she says she’s just looking for some hands-on information but he knows there’s more to it than that. There are secrets in her eyes, barely hidden lies and doubt.

My Review:
The premise of this story...male prostitutes...seriously, I think that's so hot. But as of now, these three guys are retired, although no one has forgotten just what they were doing before. They had to stop after it became too well-known and they were in danger of getting in real trouble. 

But that hasn't stopped others from coming into the bar trying to get the guys to incriminate themselves. So when they're new bartender, Shawntelle, starts asking questions, Con is on the defensive...something that is made so much more difficult by the fact that he desperately wants her. 

This book is told entirely from Con's point of view, so the reader is just as in the dark about what Shawntelle is up to as Con is...and she most definitely is up to something. 

I am enjoying this series, but gah...I wish they were longer. They just don't go deep enough for me. Shiloh Walker is such an amazing writer and she makes these work, but I always finish one wishing it had gone just into a little bit more emotionally which has kept the ratings a tiny bit lower for me. I get that they're erotic romance and the sex is hot and sexy. She fulfills that promise really well. But these boys have some deep wounds from what they've been doing. Even Con who is fairly blase about it all has moments where the word whore comes up and he's not exactly bragging. 

But I'm expecting huge things from Shame's book. He and Charli have played out in the background of both the other two books and their story promises to be incredible. I can't wait. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Imperfection of Swans by Brandon Witt

Title:  The Imperfection of Swans
Author: Brandon Witt
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Kevin and Casper
Release Date: January 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Kevin Bivanti’s dream is to open a wedding dress shop, a place with the stunning gowns to make every bride-to-be feel adored. At thirty-eight, he quits a successful advertising career to buy an old brownstone in a trendy Boston neighborhood and to make his dream a reality. When one of his cosigners drops out, fate intervenes, ushering in Casper James, who hopes to open his own bakery. With Casper willing to take the risk, their ambitions meld into a wedding dress and wedding cake boutique.

Extensive renovations to the brownstone, an affair with his ex-husband, family drama with his mothers, and the anxiety of significant life changes push Kevin to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the midst of stress and uncertainty, Casper becomes more than a business partner, a mutual attraction that adds another layer of intensity and risk.

With their dreams on the verge of reality, Kevin and Casper must find the courage to face the stress of managing their attraction, the gamble of a new business venture, and the resurgence of Kevin’s personal demons.

My Review:
This book was one of those books. I started listening to it on audio on a late Sunday night....and stayed up way too late continuing to listen to it. The next day was Monday and began in just that way...so I decided to curl up with the print book and finish reading  the book while I ignored the rest of the world happening around me. 

It provided a great escape. 

This book is truly Kevin's story. The prologue starts when he's a child, showing his anxiety and eating disorder and then jumps ahead to when he's 40...still battling the same things. But the difference is...when he's 40, he's in an even harder place. He's about to abandon the career he's done for the last almost 20 years to pursue his dream of opening a bridal gown shop. But it's a dream that could cost him and all his family everything as they are all risking everything for him. 

Casper ends up coming into this venture midway...and becomes a partner, too. The two main characters stay just friends and partners in the business for a lot of the story. The difference is...Casper sees the issues Kevin is going through, and he's the only person who can see how truly serious it's becoming, too. I loved Casper for that and for his courage to face Kevin's issues. That seriously couldn't have been easy. 

Their relationship is a slow build and then it's all intertwined with what they're trying to build with the shop...so it's really so much more complicated than just trying to navigate a new romance. 

This book delves into some really serious issues, and I felt like the author did a PHENOMENAL job tackling the intricacies of the issues. The book was so, so good. Like I said, it provided me with a much needed escape and captured my attention from page one. This is my first Brandon Witt read, but it definitely won't be my last. This book came highly recommended and I definitely agree with that recommendation.