Review: Matter of Time by Alannah Lynne

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** I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review **

Title: MATTER OF TIME 
Author: Alannah Lynne
Series Info: Heat Wave #5
Release Date: 4/21/2015
About MATTER OF TIME:

Matter of Time - Alannah Lynne

Some might think the phrase, “you complete me” is a just cheesy line from the movies, but Lizbeth Sanders knows better…

In MATTER OF TIME, Lizbeth has spent the past fifteen years desperately searching for someone to fill the void left by Logan Steele’s disappearance from her life. However, rather than finding love and happiness, all she’s found is disappointment, heartache, and an ever-present longing for the man she can never have.
Fifteen years ago, Logan Steele left the woman he loved to marry his high school sweetheart and be a father to the child he didn’t know he had. He’s always tried to do the honorable thing, to be a good husband and a great father, but despite his sacrifices and best efforts, the shaky foundation of his marriage crumbles and falls apart.
When his identical twin surprises him with a reintroduction to Lizbeth, Logan feels like he’s been given a second chance—at life and love. But a lot can change in fifteen years, and after hurting her so badly the first time, building trust isn’t just hard, it’s nearly impossible—especially when duty and obligation pulls him away again.

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Where to buy MATTER OF TIME:
Amazon | B&N | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

Click here to enter our Heat Wave Series contest!

My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

Matter of Time was an enjoyable and quick read. The chemistry between Logan and Lizbeth jumped off the page. Their mutual devotion and admiration for one another was obvious and well-developed. My only criticism is that I would have liked to have seen more of them. We were told from the beginning how perfect they were together, but for a brief flashback (which was lovely) we weren’t shown much about why they worked together or how they worked as a couple.

Logan made what he considered the responsible move and left Lizbeth (the woman he wanted to marry) in order to form a family with this ex and their infant daughter. I personally question the sensibility of raising a child in a home that is not founded on love, but hey, at least he tried. Lizbeth never blamed Logan for his decision, so I guess neither shall I.

After nearly fifteen years of marriage Logan freed himself to find his happiness and immediately set his sights on rekindling his relationship with Lizbeth. He really didn’t have to work too hard at it. 😉 While Logan’s been married, enjoying a successful career, and raising his three children (yes, they had more), Lizbeth has been flitting from relationship to relationship trying to find that spark she had with Logan, that sense of belonging. Lizbeth is open to letting Logan in her life (and bed) without nearly enough groveling in my opinion (then again, Lizbeth seems a lot nicer than me). Not that Logan and Lizbeth didn’t experience plenty of angst, but a little more conflict in working through their issues would have gone a long way to making this story more emotionally rewarding for me.

Lizbeth and Logan’s spark was certainly still there and they quickly started setting the sheets afire. After years with a ‘vanilla’ unsatisfying sex life with a harpy of an ex-wife –BOY! What a piece of work she ends up being!– Logan was ready to explore the more domineering side of his bedroom persona that’s he’s only ever let out with Lizbeth, and Lizbeth was ALL IN!

Matter of Time is a well-written tale that could have been made better by a little more ‘meat’ to the telling, but it was still ultimately satisfying.


Matter-of-Time-teaser-1Excerpt from MATTER OF TIME:

She couldn’t logically think through something that was ninety-nine percent emotional, but what if she took the emotion out of it? What if she reduced them to a baser, primal level, like animals circling each other in the wild?

A dog in heat didn’t study the neighbor’s Doberman and wonder if he would be around the next day. The bitch rolled over, allowed him to take what he wanted, and enjoyed the hell out of it. Comparing her and Logan to dogs seemed ridiculous, but that was the only way she knew to cope with the overwhelming magnitude of the situation.

Swallowing the lump in her throat, she slowly, tentatively reached out to him. With a barely-there touch, she pressed her index finger to the edge of his forehead, drew it across the unfamiliar scar at his temple, then down to the one intersecting his upper lip. He closed his eyes and moaned as a shudder shook his torso and his head fell back on his neck.

Seeing him respond to her touch as strongly as ever gave her the courage to continue her exploration. Using a whisper-soft touch designed to drive him crazy, she traced the outline of his upper lip, then pulled a long, slow sweep along the bottom one.

Her breath caught in her throat and she gasped in surprise as his lips parted and his teeth latched onto her finger, capturing her in the velvety heat of his mouth. His tongue wrapped around her and he sucked once… twice… a third time. The force of the suction shot through her arm, into her chest, and dropped into her sex with the heat and intensity of an atomic bomb.

Good, so freaking good, just as always with him. Simple caresses and touches were more powerful and intimate than full-on sex with anyone else, and she closed her eyes and allowed the carnal energy swirling between them to carry her away.

As the room spun and she grew lightheaded, like being caught in a massive vortex, a terrifying thought jumped into her brain. What if the past fifteen years hadn’t been a nightmare, but this was nothing more than a dream?

If so, it was the best, most realistic dream she’d ever experienced, and she prayed she never woke up.

She cracked her eyes open and watched his nostrils flare as the heat continued to build between them. She needed to be closer. To taste him. To feel him pressed against her. Scooting to the edge of her seat, she pressed her knees between his legs and smiled as his eyes flashed hotter and his chest rose and fell rapidly. His mouth was masterful, and while the suction on her finger did crazy things to her entire body, it wasn’t enough.

When she tugged on her hand, drawing him closer while also indicating she wanted him to let her go, he released her finger with a loud pop. The sound was like a starting gun, and in the next instant, his lips crashed down on hers, hot, hard, and demanding. Logan had always been sexually dominant, but this… this was unlike anything she remembered.

One hand slid through the hair at her temple, then wrapped around the back of her head and held her in place while he angled his head and deepened the kiss. His tongue thrust in and out of her mouth, harsh and nearly punishing, and when he nipped on her bottom lip, both of them groaned with the pleasurable familiarity.

The past fifteen years melted away, and she was a twenty-year-old girl again, standing in his bedroom, getting ready to crawl into his bed for the first time. They’d kept their relationship platonic for a year, respecting the boundary constraining them because of his off-and-on relationship with Bobbi Jo. But the night he came back to school and told Lizbeth he and Bobbi Jo had broken things off for good, it took less than thirty minutes to ditch their friends at the restaurant and make their way back to his condo.

His hands tangled in her hair and held her head in place as he ravished her mouth. She clawed at his shirt, trying to get to the hard muscle and soft skin beneath. She couldn’t get close enough, fast enough, and desperation had her whimpering into his mouth.

When he drew back to grab a breath, she latched onto him to keep him close. “More. I need more.”


2013PromophotoAbout Alannah Lynne:

Alannah believes there’s nothing more magical than finding the other half of your soul, experiencing fiery passion, and knowing you’ve found happily-ever-after.

She loves going to work each day (in sweats and a T-shirt) and writing about hot heroes and feisty heroines who torment each other in the most delicious ways before finding their happy ending.

She lives in the coastal region of North Carolina with her husband, who also happens to be her best friend and biggest fan. They have two sons, a dog, and two cats.

Connect with Alannah Online:

Website | BlogFacebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Review:Necessary Restorations by Kate Canterbary

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**I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Title: NECESSARY RESTORATIONS
Author: Kate Canterbary
Series Info: The Walsh Series #3 (Underneath It All, #1, The Space Between, #2)
Availability: AVAILABLE NOW! Released 4/15/2015
Where to Buy:

Amazon | B&N | iTunes/iBooks  | Kobo

Blurb:

Necessary Restorations

They liked to call me names. Manwhore. Slut. Player. But I make wrong look so right…

He’s a flawed perfectionist…
I can read women better than any blueprint. I understand their thoughts and feelings, their secret desires and insecurities, and I know how to get rid of them once I get off.

But all bets are off when Tiel Desai slams into my life. She redefines what it means to be friends, and she makes it sound like the filthiest thing I’ve ever heard.

I can’t read the gorgeous conservatory-trained violinist, but she’s the only one keeping me from shattering by small degrees, and I can’t let her go.

She’s wildly independent…
My past—and New Jersey—are far behind me, and now my life is blissfully full of music: playing, teaching, and lecturing, and scouring Boston’s underground scene with an annoyingly beautiful, troubled, tattooed architect.

I’m defenseless against his rooftop kisses, our nearly naked dance parties, the snuggletimes that turn into sexytimes, and his deep, demanding voice.

I have Sam Walsh stuck in my head like a song on repeat, and I’m happy pretending history won’t catch up with me.

The one thing they have in common is a rock-solid disregard for the rules.
They find more in each other than they ever realized they were missing, but they might have to fall apart before they can come together.

It’s the wrongs that make the rights come to life.

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My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

Necessary Restorations by Kate Canterbary took my expectations, tap-danced all over them then threw them out the window. In other words: this book rocks even more than I thought it would!

From the cover blurb I feared this would be another cookie-cutter dominant alpha-male meets the woman who tames him stories but Necessary Restorations is so much more – deeper and more satisfying than your average read.

Sam Walsh could have easily come off as a complete a$$hole, given his cavalier attitude toward women and playboy ways. Instead, author Kate Canterbary infused Sam with depth of character and spirit, a wonderful combination of dominance and vulnerability that it was nearly impossible not to root for him. Sam was a sickly child and lives with the burdens of being a Type 1 diabetic. For years Sam suffered verbal and psychological abuse from his alcoholic asshat of a father, who only recently passed away. Despite his success as an award-winning architect specializing in sustainable preservation and his close-knit family, the damage to Sam’s psyche done by his father, and his medical issues, have combined to shape Sam into an emotionally isolated man. Sam’s neurosis causes him to spurn physical affection, seeking anonymous encounters only to satisfy his own needs – which makes his reaction to the frenetic Tiel all the more surprising for him. Her energy and positivity have a calming effect on Sam from the moment they were trapped in an elevator together.

Tiel is not a perfect Mary-Sue, all sunshine and daisies, healing Sam with her manic-Pixie girl adorkableness. She brings plenty of her baggage into her relationship with Sam, including a strained relationship with her family and a failed marriage. As with Sam, the author does a wonderful job crafting a realistic and relatable character in Tiel. Her abandonment issues rear their ugly head at times, coloring her relationship with Sam and her interactions with his boisterous family. Tiels’s family treats her musical inclination and talent as a burden rather than a gift, causing her to be treated as an outsider and a failure.

Separately Sam and Tiel are fascinating characters, and together they form a realistic loving relationship, which is at times funny, hot, tender, and raw. The friendship they develop is refreshing and honest and the transitions from snuggletimes into sexy times feels natural and organic. It was adorable watching them both want more but not willing to jeopardize the rare friendship they found with one another. These characters truly were best friends before they became lovers. Their strong foundation proves necessary when the inevitable hurtles obstruct their path to happiness. I loved that they relied on each other’s strength to heal past hurts, rather than expecting love to provide a magical solution. My favorite line:

She didn’t save me; no, this was something I had to do for myself. But she did keep me afloat. Tiel was broken in certain spots, and strong in others, and we fit together that way.

Secondary characters play important roles in Sam and Tiel’s journey, providing humor and insight as fully realized characters instead of acting one-dimensional plot service. Kate Canterbary must be commended for the background she created for these wonderful characters, her treatment of issues ranging from sustainable architecture to the therapeutic benefits of music to children on the autism spectrum. Her handling of Sam’s diabetes and its physical and emotional effects was masterful. Kudos to you, Ms. Canterbary!


Necessary Restoration by Kate Canterbary TeaserNECESSARY RESTORATIONS Excerpt:

Chapter One

Sam

I never thought I’d die in an elevator.

I always figured it would have something to do with my brother Riley leaving the gas stove on all night, killing us softly in our sleep.

Or gin. Chances were good that my liver was well on its way to pickled.

Or doorknobs. Touching those things was like licking the goddamn plague.

But today was headed for the fires of hell, and it was all Shannon’s fault.

“Hi, you’ve reached Shannon Walsh. Leave me a message and I’ll get back to you soon.”

Fucking voicemail. Again.

“I don’t know where the fuck you are, Shan, but I’ve been waiting at the Commonwealth Avenue property for a goddamn hour. I thought we were trying to make a cash offer today, but I can’t very well do that without you here.”

Ending the call, I wet my lips and wiped the sweat from my brow. This heat wave was in its ninth day, and if I had even a lick of common sense, I would have hitched a ride to Cape Cod with my brother Matt and his wife Lauren for Labor Day weekend.

But no, I wanted to see the unit that just came available in the one-hundred-and-thirty-year-old French Revival hotel-turned-condo building in Boston’s Back Bay. Specifically, I wanted my sister Shannon—the one who held the firm’s purse strings—to buy that unit. I wanted to spend the long weekend drafting plans to demo it down to the studs and then restore the unit to its original beauty. I wanted to lose myself in lines and materials, things I could control.

And I wasn’t up for third-wheeling it with the newlyweds.

I also wanted to be alone.

I could handle industry crowds and clients any day of the week and twice on Sundays, and I did it so fucking well they were willing to drop unreasonable amounts of money for my services. I was beginning to think I could finger-paint my designs and still collect six-figure commissions.

But I hated small talk. Bullshit conversations about weather or sports or politics held no appeal for me. I mostly stared at tits and asses until I was getting head in a coatroom or a drink thrown in my face.

And I was in a strange place these days. It was an odd in-betweenness; I wasn’t sick but I certainly wasn’t well. Not suicidal, but far from happy.

I’d been sliding further into this rut for months, and letting my work keep me too busy to notice. But while I was restoring everything I could get my hands on, the bottom was falling out on me. It was gradual, an evolution too small to notice without stepping back and examining from a distance. It was better this way. I didn’t want anyone noticing.

So I was flying solo this Labor Day.

To me, alone didn’t mean hunching over my drafting table all night, or skulking around the ancient Fort Point firehouse I called home.

No, alone meant drinking myself numb while some nameless young thing sucked the stress right out of me. There was nothing one hundred dollars pressed into the palm of the right maître d’ and a good cocksucking couldn’t soothe.

But let’s be clear: blowjobs didn’t solve problems.

If we were talking solutions, we were talking about my dick in someone’s ass, and I didn’t have the enthusiasm for that right now.

I needed a steady stream of gin, a blonde who knew her place was on her knees, and an otherwise interruption-free evening.

Go ahead: call me a manwhore.

Slut.

Player.

For all the disgust packed into those words, they were always tied with a fine, shiny thread of admiration. I did what everyone else wished they could, and I made it look good.

And I’d heard far worse. Someone always had some name to call me, and some of those names were hard to shake. For the better part of this year, I’d been replaying my last conversation with my father. The record was stuck on repeat in my mind, scratching and skipping back to the raw, awful parts.

My younger brother, Riley, had been leading a walk-through at a property in Bunker Hill—a string of decent row houses that my miserable bastard of a father Angus bought and dumped on us to restore—with Patrick, Matt, and me.

We were almost finished when Angus showed up, and I knew the minute he walked through the door that he was drunk. He’d been various shades of drunk since my mother died, and that day, he was cruel drunk.

And that was the day I refused to ignore his bullshit. I didn’t want to walk away that time. It wasn’t rolling off my back. I’d absorbed decades of his hatred, and that tank was long since overflowing.

He attacked everything that I was—my sexuality, my work, my relationship with my mother and my sister, Shannon—and told me I was a mistake. That I was too fucked-up to be alive. That I shouldn’t have been born.

That was Angus’s gift. He could hear every dark, twisted thought I had, and he knew how to sharpen them into daggers. Ten months later, I couldn’t stop hearing those words.

I walked through the unit one last time, photographing what was left of the original design elements and noting restoration ideas. In the hallway joining the twin penthouse units, I texted Shannon to reiterate my annoyance. Then I hit up the manager at the new whiskey bar in the South End to reserve my preferred booth.

Tapping the corner of my phone to the elevator call button, I watched a woman emerge from the other unit. I stared at her, all summery and happy in her long yellow skirt and sleeveless magenta top, with a face like sunshine and a jingling ankle bracelet announcing her approach.

No one was allowed to look that pleased with life when it was too hot to exist.

“Hi,” she said with a smile, her thumb beating a rhythm against the call button. Dark, shoulder-length hair fell across her face as she leaned forward. “This thing being slow again? It was slow last week, too. I guess that’s part of the deal with old buildings, right?”

She was too much and too loud, and I dug in my pocket for some hand sanitizer. I’d come in contact with enough germs for one afternoon. I glanced up from her ankle and stopped attempting to extrapolate a good reason why any civilized person would wear a noisemaker, and shrugged.

She laughed, and said, “Okay then.”

She started humming, and then shaking her ankle with the tune, and I looked for the stairwell. I couldn’t stand in this hall with a chattering music box much longer, and sharing an elevator with her would require a sedative.

Despite my penchant for the high-end bar scene, I preferred quiet. Growing up with five siblings who made Attila the Hun’s crew look like a chill group of guys who enjoyed churning their own butter meant I had to find that quiet for myself. Noise-canceling headphones, soundproofed insulation in my office, and enough space so that my brother Riley and I could go weeks without seeing each other in the firehouse we shared.

Noticing a doorway at the far end of the hall, I gestured for her to step aside. A humid stairwell was a reasonable price to pay for serenity.

“Hey,” she said, her hand grabbing my elbow. “It’s here.”

I met her eyes for the first time since she jangled into my personal space, and as much as I wanted to scowl at her invasion, her smile was too warm, her hazel eyes too bright. She was pretty in a way I couldn’t comprehend—maybe it was her shortage of rail-thin, blue eyed blondeness, or the fact she wasn’t made up, blown out, or put together, or that she wasn’t simply looking at me but she was seeing me—and her smile transformed her whole face. Soon, I was smiling too.

Like a fucking lunatic.

Then I felt the first spasms of panic stirring my stomach, squeezing my lungs, making my skin too tight.

My instincts told me to walk away from Miss Music Box, pop some pills to cage the ugly green anxiety monster, and hike down eleven flights of stairs.

I always listened to my instincts. Beyond my siblings, they were the only things I could trust in this world.

But I stepped into that elevator anyway, gazing at her light eyes, and within ten seconds of the door closing, I was hurtling to my death.


Kate Canterbary
About Kate Canterbary:

Kate Canterbary doesn’t have it all figured out, but this is what she knows for sure: spicy-ass salsa and tequila solve most problems, living on the ocean–Pacific or Atlantic–is the closest place to perfection, and writing smart, smutty stories is better than any amount of chocolate. She started out reporting for an indie arts and entertainment newspaper back when people still read newspapers, and she has been writing and surreptitiously interviewing people—be careful sitting down next to her on an airplane—ever since. Kate lives on the water in New England with Mr. Canterbary and the Little Baby Canterbary, and when she isn’t writing sexy architects, she’s scheduling her days around the region’s best food trucks.

Find Kate Online: 
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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New Release: The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor by Paula Quinn

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**I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Title: THE SCANDALOUS SECRET OF ABIGAIL MACGREGOR Author: Paula Quinn Series Info: The MacGregors: Highland Heirs #3 Availability: March 31 (Forever Romance, Mass Market and e-Book) Where to Buy THE SCANDALOUS SECRET OF ABIGAIL MACGREGOR: Amazon  |  BAM  |   B&N  |  IndieBound  |  GooglePlay  |  iTunes |  Kobo About THE SCANDALOUS SECRET OF ABIGAIL MACGREGOR:

The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor by Paula QuinnA LADY’S MISSION . . .
Known for her beauty and boldness, Abigail MacGregor must preserve her clan’s dangerous secret: that her mother is the true heir to the English Crown. If the wrong people find out, it will mean war for her beloved Scotland. To keep peace, she embarks for London, unprepared for the treachery that awaits-especially from her wickedly handsome escort. He is the enemy, but his slow, sensuous kisses entice her beyond reason . . .
A WARRIOR’S TEMPTATION
General Daniel Marlow, loyal knight and the kingdom’s most desirable hero, would rather be on the battlefield than transporting a spoiled Highland lass. But Abby MacGregor is unlike any woman he’s ever met, in a ballroom or in his bedroom. Captivated by her daring spirit and seduced by her lovely innocence, Daniel must choose between betraying his queen or giving up the woman who would steal his country-and his traitorous heart.
My Rating:
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4.5/5 bottles of polish for another stellar creation by the remarkable Paula Quinn, pairing fast-paced adventure with courtly schemes to create a heartwarming love story.
My Thoughts:
Historical intrigue, action, and undeniable passion – what’s not to love? (Other than the perfectly crafted villainess Charlotte, Duchess of Blackburn – what a b***h!)
Abigail MacGregor and Daniel Marlow are the Jacobite era equivalent of Romeo and Juliet.  Daniel is sworn to serve and protect Queen Anne of Great Britain, while Abigail is the daughter of Anne’s secret older sister Davina– the rightful Queen.  Abigail’s royal lineage, coupled with her outlaw Highland roots, should make her the last woman confirmed bachelor and loyal general Daniel Marlow would give his heart to.  Daniel has spent his entire life close to Queen Anne and has build his career on protecting her throne from Jacobite rebels, such as the MacGregors.
The wonderful thing about Abigail and Daniel’s tale is, despite their differences, they are able to see past labels and prejudices and learn to love –and more importantly like– each other as individuals. Unable to deny their attraction and affection, they each retain a realistic outlook as to the futility of their connection, all the while falling further in as while their future grows farther out of reach. Luckily, honesty, mutual respect and communication save the day – with a little help from Abigail’s family.
On its own, the love of Abigail and Daniel would be a compelling read, however the historical elements are tightly woven into the story and enhance it rather than act as mere background. Author Paula Quinn continues to skillfully mine the era of Jacobite conflict to create historically accurate and intriguing plots, peppered with exciting action sequences. This is the third generation of MacGregors that Ms. Quinn has treated readers to (check out awesome MacGregor family tree and bonus details). The reappearance in The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor of characters from earlier novels is welcome, as they retain their unique personalities and add real value to the story instead of appearing one-dimensional.  I have to point out, Abby’s father Rob MacGregor (hero of Ravished by a Highlander) still cuts a fine figure. It’s easy to imagine choosing a life with him over the precarious position as Queen– smart move, Davina.
The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor is a lovely tale of passion and compassion overcoming seemingly insurmountable differences, with the added bonus of a chivalrous knight (and some steamy nights).
Giveaway Info:
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Enter the Giveaway hosted on Raffecopter for a chance to win:
  • (5) Lucky winners will receive the set of THE MACGREGORS: HIGHLAND HEIRS series

Click on Giveaway Kitty or the link above to enter!

About author Paula Quinn:
Paula QuinnNew York Times bestselling author Paula Quinn lives in New York with her three beautiful children, three over-protective chihuahuas, and a loud umbrella cockatoo. She loves to read romance and science fiction and has been writing since she was eleven.  She loves all things medieval, but it is her love for Scotland that pulls at her heartstrings.
Connect with Paula’s Social Media:
Goodreads  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  Website  |  Twitter: @Paula_Quinn
Read an excerpt from THE SCANDALOUS SECRET OF ABIGAIL MACGREGOR:

“Aye, ye did say that,” she murmured. “Well, since we’re both awake, we might as well spend the night together again.” The innocence in her voice struck him in the guts. She wanted nothing more from him than someone to be with outside in the night. He, on the other hand, was not innocent at all. Her choice of words sent a little spark of heat to his groin. The way she turned on the pads of her feet and ended up pressed against his side and tucked neatly under his shoulder tilted him on his axis a little. “I’m cold,” she whispered, her teeth chattering. He put up no fight when she lifted his arm around her shoulder, then covered them both with her plaid. The desire to protect her overwhelmed him and sent tremors through his muscles. He knew little of her. Was she an innocent daughter of a Jacobite chief, or part of some secret scheme Anne was devising. Hell. Anne didn’t devise schemes. “I wasn’t certain if you were ever going to speak to me again,” he said, when what he should have said was, You should go sleep somewhere, lady, and not on me. “I was verra’ angry with ye. But I’ve forgiven ye.” He heard the smile in her voice and made a mental note of how well it pleased him that she was no longer angry. He would decide what to do about his unwanted concerns for her tomorrow. Right now, he only wanted to sit with her just like this, with her beneath his arm and pressed snuggly into his side. Warmth swept over him like fine wine until he felt drunk on it. How was it that she fit so neatly into him, now and earlier when she slept in his lap, like she belonged there, close to him? Close to his heart. Hell, it scared him, and after fighting for over a decade, not much scared him anymore. “D’ye have a wife, General Marlow?” Came her sweet voice against his chest. “No, lady.” “Are ye betrothed?” “I am not.” “Is there a lass somewhere who has yer heart?” “No.” “Well,” she laughed softly, “are all the ladies in England fools?” “They’re the opposite,” he told her. “They’re wise to set their interests in another direction.” She shook her head then tilted her face up to his. In the filtered light of the moon, he could make her out enough to fall victim to the alluring curves of her mouth, her soft, sweet breath against his chin. “Nae, they are fools not to try to win yer affections.” He knew every reason there was to stop what he was thinking, what he was feeling, and what he was about to do. But reason was a puny opponent compared to desire. Slipping one hand behind her nape and the other to her throat, he tilted her chin another half-inch then covered her mouth with his. The instant after he did it, he regretted it, but then she coiled her arms around his neck and drew him closer, and he couldn’t stop. He never wanted to. She didn’t resist him, in fact, she melted in his arms. She groaned softly when he drew his tongue across the seam of her mouth. She bit his lip and ignited his blood to liquid fire. He swept his tongue in and out of her, holding her close to him while they kissed, wanting nothing more from her than what she gave him now. Making love to her could be dangerous if Charlotte found out. He’d have to make sure she didn’t find out, at least until he had proof of other crimes and could arrest her. If she hurt Abigail before that he’d hang her himself. He wondered, as he held her in his arms and kissed her long into the night, how he could be so content with one he was supposed to hate.

New Release: Random & Rare by Cat Porter (Lock & Key #2)

** I received an e_ARC in exchange for an honest review **

TitleRandom & Rare
Author: Cat Porter
Series Info: Lock & Key Series, #2; Lock & Key (Lock & Key Series #1)
You can read my review of Lock & Key here (4/5 bottles of polish).
Release Info: eBook available NOW
Where to Buy:
Kindle  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Smashwords
Cover Blurb:

I am that gash in her soul.
Once I loved Grace, really loved her.
And she loved me, and it was so fucking beautiful.
Once.
That pendulum swings to and fro.
We’re here,
and then we’re—
No.
How can that rare beautiful be rendered irrelevant, intangible when I still feel so damn much?
Does all that energy, that glory, that significance simply dissolve?
Turn to smoke?
To nothing?
It can’t. It just can’t.
Are the moments that shape us absolutely random?
Is time not fluid?
I made promises to them, to her.
Especially to her.
Promises I still burn to keep.

Giveaway Info:

  • Enter the Giveaway hosted on Rafflecopter for a chance to win the necklace featured on the cover of Lock & Key:

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My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

The cover blurb for Random & Rare doesn’t really give away much about the plot of this touching and slightly melancholy novel.  Random & Rare serves as both a prequel and sequel to Cat Porter’s early novel Lock & Key, which depicted the love story of the widow Grace Quillen and the emotionally reserved Miller. We learned Grace’s side of her life with her first love, Dig, and the consequences of his untimely –and violent– death.  Random & Rare begins with story of Dig and Grace from his point of view, as well as detailing his tragic past and heartbreaking end.

Part 2 tells the story of Grace and Miller’s present-day struggle to start a family. When tragedy strikes, Grace blames herself and nearly drowns in guilt over the child she has been unable to share with either of the men she has loved. An unexpected encounter with a figure from Dig’s past gives Grace a better understanding of her late husband and hope for the future for her and Miller. (Sorry if that’s too vague, but spoilers must be avoided! 😉 )

I enjoyed learning more about Dig, especially his past, but the telling of his tale in this new novel prevents me from recommending Random & Rare as a standalone read. Part 1 takes more than half the book (65% according to my Kindle) and introduces many characters that were featured in Lock & Key. I think I would have preferred reading Part 1 before Lock & Key, then reading Part 2 as an emotionally satisfying epilogue. Events from Lock & Key were referenced in Part 2 that I had forgotten the details of and certainly would make no sense to a reader new to the series.  Also, the best part of Lock & Key for me was Miller and his role in this novel is relegated to almost a secondary character (although I loved seeing him interact with Dig in Part 1 – and he remains undeniably sexy!). I know Grace and Dig shared a unique and powerful love, but I would have liked to read more about how Miller and Grace’s love was different and special in its own right.

The story of Dig, Grace, Miller and the One-Eyed Jacks Motorcycle Club, as told in both Lock & Key and Random & Rare, is unique and touching, with moments of extreme passion and characters you can’t help but care about. I look forward to more tales of the One-Eyed Jacks!

About Author Cat Porter:

Cat Porter was born and raised in New York City, but also spent a few years in Europe and Texas along the way. As an introverted, only child, she had very big, but very secret dreams for herself. She graduated from Vassar College, was a struggling actress, an art gallery girl, special events planner, freelance writer, restaurant hostess and had all sorts of other crazy jobs all hours of the day and night to help make her dreams come true. She has two children’s books traditionally published under her maiden name. She now lives in Athens, Greece with her husband and three children, and freaks out regularly and still daydreams way too much. She is addicted to the History Channel, her iPad, her husband’s homemade red wine, really dark chocolate, and her Nespresso coffee machine. Writing keeps her somewhat sane, extremely happy, and a productive member of society.

Connect with Cat’s Social Media:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter: @catporter103  |  Goodreads

Excerpt from RANDOM & RARE by Cat Porter ©2015:

Warning: contains graphic language and reference to NSFW scenarios

“Hey you.” Lissa’s voice piped up behind me stopping me in my tracks.

Ah, fuck.

“Hey.”

“Haven’t seen you around in a while.”

“Busy. Got married. Life.”

Glasses thunked on the bar top, and stools shuffled behind me.

Lissa’s thin eyebrows shot up for a second. “Oh. Right.”

“Yep.”

She punched out a hip and smirked. “And how’s that going?”

“Who wants to know?” Grace suddenly stood next to me, her eyes piercing Lissa.

“Uh…”

Grace inclined her head. “Who are you?” she slowly uttered the words.

Oh, she wasn’t asking for Lissa’s name. She was asking a deeper metaphysical question.

“I’m Li—”

“And I don’t care,” Grace practically snarled. “This is my old man. He’s not yours. Not yours to touch, kiss, lick, suck, strip for, dance for, tease, nor does he light your fucking cigarettes or buy you a drink. Ever.”

Lissa gulped, her eyes wide, her body motionless.

Grace turned to her BFFs standing on my other side. “Did I miss anything?”

“No, honey,” Dee replied. “You got it.”

Grace turned back to Lissa. “Did that register, or should I go over that one more time for you to make sure?”

Speechless.

I was transfixed.

“No, I-I got it,” Lissa mumbled.

“Let me know if you need a review of these basics because you cross those lines again, any of them, in any fucking way, large or small—ever—there will be serious repercussions for you.” Grace leaned into Lissa. Her stance wide, my old lady looked larger than life. My cock stiffened against my jeans.

“Did you hear that, bitch?” Alicia said, her face twisting in a nasty sneer.

“Got it. Yeah, sorry.” Lissa glanced at me.

Mistake.

Grace leaned in closer, her hand gripping Lissa’s chin. “Honey, I get that bikers do it for you. But this particular biker is mine. All fucking mine, head to toe, inside and out. So fuck off. Got that?”

Grace released Lissa’s chin, and Lissa stiffly and slowly nodded her head, like a toy robot on its last charge of battery power.

“Yeah, that’s right.” Dee let out a throaty dark laugh.

“I know you’ve been trying your damnedest for the longest time. I’ve been watching. But he is not going to be tapping that ass of yours. Not ever. Get the fuck out of my bar, and do not come back.” Grace was still, focused like a stealthy cobra calmly waiting in between strikes.

“Okay,” Lissa mumbled as she teetered away.

“Tommy!” Grace shouted to one of her bouncers at the door.

Tommy’s bodybuilding bulk towered before Lissa. His eyes flicked over her. “What’s up, Mrs. Q?”

“This girl needs to be escorted out of our bar, and she’s not allowed back in. Got that?”

“Got it.” He glared at Lissa. “Let’s go.”

Lissa plodded after Tommy toward the front door.

“Lissa?” Two girls screeched and bustled at the other end of the bar. “Lissa? What’s going on? Where are you going? Wait up!”

Grace scowled at me, her hands digging into her waist. “Sprite!” she snapped.

I nodded as I rounded the bar top. She grabbed my arm as I brushed past her.

Her big greenish eyes flashed at me. “My office when you’re done, and be prepared to get on your knees.”

My breath stalled.

I fixed that soda gun within four minutes, strode into the office, and made sure the door behind me was locked.


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Review: Before I Fall by Jessica Scott, a new release

Before I Fall by Jessica Scott Banner

**I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Jessica Scott
Series InfoFalling Series, #1 (After I Fall, #2 coming soon)

An emotional new series about a small group of veterans adjusting to life away from the military. They’ve got a lot to learn about life away from war – and college may or may not be the place for them to learn it.  — jessicascott.net

Release Info: e-Book available March 3, 2015
Where to Buy:
iTunes/iBooks  | Kindle  |  B&N nook  |  GooglePlay  |  Kobo  |  Goodreads

Cover Blurb:

Before I Fall by Jessica Scott CoverStay focused. Get a job. Save her father’s life.

Beth Lamont knows far too much about the harsh realities of life her gilded classmates have only read about in class. She’ll do whatever it takes to take care of her father, even if that means tutoring a guy like Noah – a guy who represents everything she hates about the war, soldiers and what the Army has done to her family.

Noah Warren doesn’t know how to be a student. All he knows is war. But he’s going to college now to fulfill a promise and he doesn’t break his promises. Except he doesn’t count on his tutor being drop dead gorgeous and distracting as hell. One look at Beth threatens to unravel the careful lies Noah has constructed around him.

A simple arrangement turns into something neither of them can deny. And a war that neither of them can forget could destroy them both.

My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

Author Jessica Scott uses her intimate knowledge of the military and veteran affairs to craft a beautiful and inspiring story of two young people touched by the darkness of war but saved by the light they find in each other. Noah needs to learn how to lean on someone and Beth needs to learn how to trust someone to be there. Through rough turns and sensual moments they both find the love, support and trust they need and deserve.

The story of Noah and Beth offers readers incredible insight to the struggles, both physical and emotional, of those returning from war.  Beth is trapped in the quagmire of red tape that is the Veteran’s Administration as she fights to ensure the proper care for her father, an injured army war veteran. The pressure of working, school, caring for her father and battling the VA have left Beth tired and emotionally closed off. In Noah, Beth finds someone to lean on and help lighten her burden. The lovely thing about this story is, she does the same for him.

Noah doesn’t sweep in and solve all of Beth’s problems, just like entering into a relationship with Beth does not magically cure Noah’s ailments. Noah is used to being needed, and it is natural for him to offer Beth support. However, Noah is not comfortable being the one who needs support. Relying on pills to deal with his pain and nightmares, Noah has not allowed his mind and body to heal to their full potential following his war experiences. With Beth’s love and support, Noah is able to learn how to take care of himself without guilt.

The romance and physical relationship develops quickly, but at least both characters acknowledge the fact it they fell for each other unusually hard and fast.  Beth and Noah were each trapped in such darkness that they both are eager to kindle the sparks between them. These sparks quickly grow into an intense yet surprisingly tender love.

About Author Jessica Scott:

Author Jessica ScottUSA Today Bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer, mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.

She’s also written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View Regarding War, and IAVA. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice.

She’s pursuing a graduate degree in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she’s been featured as one of Esquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year for 2012.

Connect with Jessica’s Social Media:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter: @jessicascott09  |  Goodreads

Excerpts from Before I Fall:

Chapter One

Beth

My dad has good days and bad. The good days are awesome. When he’s awake and he’s pretending to cook and I’m pretending to eat it. It’s a joke between us that he burns water. But that’s okay.

On the good days, I humor him. Because for those brief interludes, I have my dad back.

The not so good days, like today, are more common. Days when he can’t get out of bed without my help.

I bring him his medication. I know exactly how much he takes and how often.

And I know exactly when he runs out.

I’ve gotten better at keeping up with his appointments so he doesn’t, but the faceless bastards at the VA cancel more than they keep. But what can we do? He can’t get private insurance with his health, and because someone decided that his back injury wasn’t entirely service-related, he doesn’t have a high enough disability rating to qualify for automatic care. So we wait for them to fit him in and when we can’t, we go to the emergency room and the bills pile up. Because despite him not being able to move on the bad days, his back pain treatments are elective.

So I juggle phone calls to the docs and try to keep us above water.

Bastards.

I leave his phone by his bed and make sure it’s plugged in to charge before I head to school. He’s got water and the pills he’ll need when he finally comes out of the fog. Our tiny house is only a mile from campus. Not in the best part of town but not the worst either. I’ve got an hour before class, which means I need to hustle. Thankfully, it’s not terribly hot today so I won’t arrive on campus a sweating, soggy mess. That always makes a good impression, especially at a wealthy southern school like this one.

I make it to campus with twenty minutes to spare and check my e-mail on the campus WiFi. I can’t check it at the house – Internet is a luxury we can’t afford. If I’m lucky, my neighbor’s signal sometimes bleeds over into our house. Most of the time, though, I’m not that lucky. Which is fine. Except for days like this where there’s a note from my professor asking me to come by her office before class.

Professor Blake is terrifying to those who don’t know her. She’s so damn smart it’s scary, and she doesn’t let any of us get away with not speaking up in class. Sit up straight. Speak loudly. She’s harder on the girls, too. Some of the underclassmen complain that she’s being unfair. I don’t complain, though. I know she’s doing it for a reason.

“You got my note just in time,” she says. Her tortoise-shell glasses reflect the fluorescent light, and I can’t see her eyes.

“Yes, ma’am.” She’s told me not to call her ma’am, but it slips out anyway. I can’t help it. Thankfully, she doesn’t push the issue.

“I have a job for you.”

“Sure.” A job means extra money on the side. Money that I can use to get my dad his medications. Or, you know, buy food. Little things. It’s hard as hell to do stats when your stomach is rumbling. “What does it entail?”

“Tutoring. Business statistics.”

“I hear a but in there.”

“He’s a former soldier.”

Once, when my mom first left us, I couldn’t wake my dad up. My blood pounded so loud in my ears that I could hardly hear. That’s how I feel now. My mouth is open, but no sound crosses my lips. Professor Blake knows how I feel about the war, about soldiers. I can’t deal with all the hoah chest-beating bullshit. Not with my dad and everything the war has done to him.

* * *

Noah

I hate being on campus. I feel old. Which isn’t entirely logical because I’m only a few years older than most of the kids plugged in and tuned out around me. Part of me envies them. The casual nonchalance as they stroll from class to class, listening to music without a care in the world.

It feels surreal. Like a dream that I’m going to wake up from any minute now and find that I’m still in Iraq with LT and the guys. A few months ago, I was patrolling a shithole town in the middle of Iraq where we had no official boots on the ground and now I’m here. I feel like I’ve been ripped out of my normal.

Hell, I don’t even know what to wear to class. This is not a problem I’ve had for the last few years.

I erred on the side of caution – khakis and a button-down polo. I hope I don’t look like a fucking douchebag. LT would be proud of me. I think. But he’s not here to tell me what to do, and I’m so far out of my fucking league it’s not even funny.

I almost grin at the thought. LT is still looking after me. His parents are both academics, and it is because of him that I am even here. I told him there was no fucking way I was going to make it into the business school because math was basically a foreign language to me. He said tough shit and had helped me apply.

My phone vibrates in my pocket, distracting me from the fact that my happy ass is lost on campus. Kind of hard to navigate when the terrain is buildings and mopeds as opposed to burned-out city streets and destroyed mosques.

Stats tutor contact info: Beth Lamont. E-mail her, don’t text.

Apparently, LT was serious about making sure I didn’t fail. Class hasn’t even started yet, and here I am with my very own tutor. I’m paying for it out of pocket. There were limits to how much pride I could swallow.

Half the students around me looked like they’d turn sixteen shades of purple if I said the wrong thing. Like, look out, here’s the crazy-ass veteran, one bad day away from shooting the place up. The other half probably expect the former soldier to speak in broken English and be barely literate because we’re too poor and dumb to go to college. Douchebags. It’s bad enough that I wanted to put on my ruck and get the hell out of this place.

I stop myself. I need to get working on that whole cussing thing, too. Can’t be swearing like I’m back with the guys or calling my classmates names. Not if I wanted to fit in and not be the angry veteran stereotype.

I’m not sure about this. Not any of it. I never figured I was the college type – at least not this kind of college.

I tap out an e-mail to the tutor and ask when she’s available to meet. The response comes back quickly. A surprise, really. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I sent trying to get my schedule fixed and nothing. Silence. Hell, the idea of actually responding to someone seems foreign. I had to physically go to the registrar’s office to get a simple question answered about a form. No one would answer a damn e-mail, and you could forget about a phone call. Sometimes, I think they’d be more comfortable with carrier pigeons. Or not having to interact at all. I can’t imagine what my old platoon would do to this place.


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New Release: The Tempting of Thomas Carrick by Stephanie Laurens

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**I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy by the publisher in exchange for my honest review**

Title: The Tempting of Thomas Carrick
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Series Info: A Cynster Novel (Cynster Next Generation, #1)
Release Info: Available in Print and e-Book on February 23, 2015 (Harlequin MIRA)
Where to Buy:
Goodreads  |  Kindle  |  Barnes & Noble Nook  |  iTunes/iBooks  |  GooglePlay  |  Kobo

Cover Blurb:

The Tempting Of Thomas Carrick coverThomas Carrick is determined to make his own life in the bustling port city of Glasgow, far from the demands of the Carrick clan, eventually with an appropriate wife on his arm. But disturbing events on his family’s estate force Thomas to return to the Scottish countryside—where he is forced to ask for help from the last woman he wants to face. Thomas has never forgotten Lucilla Cynster and the connection that seethes between them, but to marry Lucilla would mean embracing a life he’s adamant is not for him.

Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla knows Thomas is hers—her fated lover, husband, protector, mate. He is the only man for her, just as she is his one true love. How can he ignore a bond stronger than reason and choose a different path? She’s determined to fight for their future, and while she cannot command him, she has enticements of her own to wield when it comes to tempting Thomas Carrick.

My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

Within the first 100 pages of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick we encounter two unexplained deaths, a family felled by a mysterious illness, shady goings-on with Carrick clan farms, and a Fated couple with opposing relationship goals.

Lucilla Cynster is the heir to her mother’s position as Lady of the Vale, healer and figurehead for the worshippers of a local ancient Celtic deity, known as the Lady.  Lucilla’s serene confidence and faith in the Lady’s prophecy that Thomas Carrick is her Fated mate is tested by Thomas’ stubborn refusal to embrace love and his Fate at Lucilla’s side as her consort, her protector and future manager of her family’s ancestral estate, the Vale. Thomas clings to his plan to embrace the quiet, comfortable life as a Glaswegian businessman, which includes finding a wife he will be in no danger of falling in love with – basically, any woman who isn’t Lucilla Cynster. Unfortunately for Thomas’ master plan, but fortunately for readers, his connection to and passion for Lucilla cannot be tamed, especially once she sets her mind to fanning the flames of their desire.

Thomas and Lucilla work well together trying to sort out the problems facing his clan, including the ailing health of his uncle, laird of clan Carrick.  Despite his efforts to push Lucilla away, Thomas comes to rely on her intelligence and partnership in dealing with his family’s mysteries. The chemistry between the protagonists is palpable and their communication is open and mature. Thomas is honest with Lucilla regarding his future plans and she pursues a relationship with him knowing he has no intention of making their bond permanent.  The problem is, Thomas isn’t being honest with himself.  Lucilla must learn to let Thomas embrace his free will and he must learn to accept his true self. The journey to making these revelations is satisfying – and beyond steamy.

The novel faltered for me once it dropped the threads of the mysterious deaths and nefarious ‘accidents’ that occurred at Carrick Manor.  Once Thomas and Lucilla escape to her home, the Vale, they leave their investigations into the Carrick clan secrets behind. Hopefully the unresolved questions will be addressed in the second Cynster Next Generation novel, A Match for Marcus Cynster, featuring Lucilla’s twin brother Marcus and Thomas’ cousin Niniver Carrick.

The mystical undertones of the Lady added an interesting layer to this charming tale of Fated love and acceptance.


Q&A with Author Stephanie Laurens:

The Cynster series has been going strong for years!  What do you think is key to the success and longevity of the series?

From an author’s point of view, it’s simple enough—figure out what story elements drew readers to the stories in the first place and then work to keep delivering what readers clearly want. This doesn’t mean “tell the same story only differently.” It does mean delivering the same experience around the same core values, which for the Cynster series were a) a certain style of romance with a certain type of hero and heroine, and b) family. Consistently delivering to readers what readers want and expect of a particular series is the key to continued success and longevity.

This book is the first of the Cynster Next Generation Novels, and will be followed by Lucilla’s twin brother, Marcus’s story in June. Are there more Cynster Next Generation Novels to come?

Yes, indeed! As By Winter’s Light was in essence a pivotal volume, shifting focus from the original Bar Cynster generation to the lives of their near-adult children, and within the tale of By Winter’s Light were the seeds of Lucilla’s romance, then her book had to come first, in The Tempting of Thomas Carrick. And within Lucilla’s story lie the seeds of Marcus’s story, and as he is her twin, his book, A Match for Marcus Cynster, had to come next. It will be released on May 26, 2015.

But at the end of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick, and even more definitely at the end of A Match for Marcus Cynster, we catch up with the other Cynsters now facing up to the challenge of marriage and finding a suitable spouse. We see and appreciate that all is not going to be smooth sailing for such very robust individuals, neither the males nor the females. There are at least 6 more Cynster Next Generation novels to come—the romances of Devil’s three children, Sebastian, Michael, and Louisa, and those of the remaining “older group”—Prudence, Christopher, and Antonia Rawlings. After that…well, I’m sure that by the time I finish Louisa’s tale, we’ll know a lot more about Annabelle, Juliet, and Therese. And I already know what Calvin and Carter get up to, which should prove a lot of fun. Lots more to enjoy!

Readers first met Thomas Carrick in the Cynster holiday special By Winter’s Light. Did his earlier meeting with Lucilla described in that book affect the pair’s actions in this book?

That earlier meeting in By Winter’s Light sets the stage for Thomas and Lucilla’s romance. Both of them leave that first encounter with the knowledge that the other could be their future spouse. Lucilla is ready to accept that Thomas is her fated future husband, lover, and consort, but Thomas, having experienced a complementary visceral connection to Lucilla, concludes that, as he wishes to avoid love, then she is someone he would be wise to avoid.

So from the instant they part after that first encounter, they are set on opposing tracks—Lucilla expecting and waiting for Thomas to return to her side and claim her hand, and Thomas doing his level best to stay far away.

It’s a standoff, until the actions at the start of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick force—literally force—them together again.

Lucilla’s position as healer to the Vale community, and, indeed, all people under The Lady’s protection, features strongly in this book. How common were such healers?

Despite the rise of more formal medicine and the doctors who practiced it, traditional folk healers—those we might now term homeopathic healers or herbalists—were not uncommon into the late 1800s in England. In country areas, they would almost always be the first consulted, even by those living in the larger, wealthier houses. The history of herbal remedies is very deep and broad throughout the British Isles, and the more isolated the community, the greater the distance from a major town, the more likely that the people would turn first to the local “healer.” Midwifery and the treatment of common ailments remained largely the province of such healers even into the 1900s.

That said, as mentioned in this book and the next, in this period, when it came to interacting with the apparatus of law and order, for instance in formally reporting a death, the “doctor”—meaning a man formally trained in the western medical tradition—would be the one sent for.

About Author Stephanie Laurens:

Stephanie Laurens#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing romances as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career when her first novel was accepted for publication, and with entirely becoming alacrity, she gave up writing about facts in favor of writing fiction.

Laurens’s novels are set in the time period of the British Regency, and her settings range from Scotland to India. Laurens has published fifty works of historical romance, including 29 New York Times bestsellers. All her works are continuously available in print and digital formats in English worldwide, and have been translated into many other languages. An international bestseller, among other Stephanie’s email contactsaccolades Laurens has received the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA Award for Best Romance Novella 2008, for The Fall of Rogue Gerrard.

Her continuing novels featuring the Cynster family are widely regarded as classics of the genre. Other series include the Bastion Club Novels and the Black Cobra Quartet. For information on upcoming releases and updates on novels yet to come, visit Stephanie’s website.

Connect with Stephanie’s Social Media:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

Excerpt from The Tempting of Thomas Carrick:

Somewhat to his surprise, she made no demur at his taking control; instead, she walked beside him, courtesy of the narrowness of the corridor rather close, her velvet riding skirt brushing the material of his trousers. Once he was sure she was, indeed, consenting to leave the scene, he eased his grip, then released her altogether.

He would have increased the distance between them, but there was no space.

Lucilla found herself dealing with a rather odd fracturing of her awareness. On one level, she was increasingly exercised over the matter of the Burns sisters’ deaths, and very conscious of the tug of duty on that score, yet simultaneously her sensual awareness was reveling in Thomas’s nearness. In his touch, however brief.

The toe of her riding boot hit something, and she stumbled. “Oh!” She pitched forward—

Thomas caught her and hauled her upright. Hauled her to him.

She ended in his arms. Locked against him, her palms flat against his chest.

The first thing she registered was the heat of him, the warmth that seeped through the layers of fabric and sank into her.

Into her flesh, feeding her senses.

They came alive on a giddy rush of anticipation.

She raised her gaze to his eyes. In the same instant registered the sudden tension that had gripped him, that had turned taut, resilient muscle into granite and steel. The arms that held her so securely felt less malleable than iron.

But it was his eyes that most gave him away; the gold-flecked amber burned.

She didn’t stop to think. To question.

To give him time to snap his shields back into place.

The Lady might help and create the chance, but it was up to her to seize it.

Stretching up on her toes, she barely paused to whisper “Thank you” before she pressed her lips to his.

For one instant, her confidence wavered. What if he didn’t respond?

Then she sensed it—a sharp hitch in his breathing, a leaping, uncontrollable, barely reined impulse to seize.

She’d felt that reaction in herself—she recognized it in him.

All doubt evaporated. All caution fell.

She pressed her kiss on him, sure, certain.

Stepping boldly into him, she slid her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, savoring the heat and the strength beneath her palms, then she reached further, to his nape, and slid her fingers into the thick, heavy locks of his hair.

The feathery touch caught her, steadied her.

All her senses alive, she turned her mind from conquest to persuasion.

Drawing one hand from the silk of his hair, she placed her palm against one lean cheek and gave herself over to the communion of the kiss.

Thomas was lost, his anchor gone, swept away by a tide of ferocious yearning. His, but equally hers. Her longing had poured into him, inciting a response he had no hope of reining back. Of taming. Of restraining.

He wanted her; he always had.

But the part of him that wanted her—still, regardless—was the part of him he normally kept leashed, controlled. Hidden.

It hadn’t been her kiss, the sharp and shocking pressure of her lips against his, that had shattered the chains, that had broken the lock and flung wide the doors of his inner prison.

It hadn’t been the searing heat of her touch as she’d slid her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, an evocative, provocative come-hither act that yet had felt curiously innocent.

Even her fingers tangling in his hair—he was more than experienced enough to set all such temptations aside.

But the feel of her palm, her fingers, lightly riding against his cheek…

It was as if by that touch she’d tamed him. Slayed all resistance and claimed the man he truly was.

He’d always known she was dangerous. That she and she alone could rule him.

He hadn’t wanted that. He still didn’t want that. Yet…

Her lips tasted of a heady blend of rose and nectar. He couldn’t resist the temptation to sip.

Just a little. A bit.

New Release: Below the Belt by Sydney Halston

Sidney Halston Below The Belt

**I received an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review**

Title: Below the Belt 
Author: Sidney Halston
Series Info: Worth the Fight #3 (Against the Cage #1, Full Contact, #2)
Release Date: February 10th, 2015
Where to Find Below the Belt:
Goodreads  |  Kindle  |  Nook  |  iTunes/iBooks  |  Google Play  |  Kobo

Cover Blurb:

Once one of the most sought-after names on the mixed martial arts circuit, Antonio “Scarface” Marino watched his career go down for the count as he chased skirts and made tabloid headlines. Now he’s finally making a comeback, and it’s all thanks to Francesca Silva, a Brazilian bombshell as tough as any of her fighters. But who’s the real Francesca: the trash-talking trainer who rides him hard, or the vulnerable woman who blushes at his touch?

Francesca went to the mat to sign Tony because she believes he still has the potential to bring big success to her gym—if she can keep his head in the cage and out of her personal life. After a short-lived marriage soured her on love, a one-night stand is all she can handle. Now Tony’s kisses are stirring up complicated feelings—especially when he agrees to face her ex in the ring. Francesca’s used to freezing guys out. But Tony’s tempting her to give in to the heat.

My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

At it’s heart, Below the Belt is a tale of two people learning to let go of others expectations of them and opening themselves up to love. Unfortunately, issues on the periphery of the main story distracted me from fully enjoying the potential depth of this novel.

Past pain closed Francesca Silva off to the possibility of falling in love. Setting aside her black belt, she used power suits and stillettos as her armor protecting her heart. Successful MMA fighter Tony Marino started  the novel boardering on A**hole Alpha male status but was soon discovered to have a gooey inside (hint: kittens are involved).  Tony and Francesca are open with each other and communicate well (with some minor stumbling blocks). It was important that Tony let Francesca express her emotions at her own pace and her eventual acceptance and acknowledgement of her feelings felt earned.

I was disappointed that the issue of safe sex was inadequately addressed. One expects contemporary romances to address this real life concern. The characters briefly touched on the topic of birth control – only after engaging in unprotected sex. There was never any further mention of preventative measures and I kept waiting for that to be a plot point (i.e. unexpected pregnancy). I was more worried about Francesca getting pregnant that the two of them seemed to be, not to mention contracting an STD.

Some readers may find Tony’s habit of speaking in heavily accented English when emotional endearing, however I felt it was off-putting. The inconsistently written dialect caused the Miami born Cuban-American fighter to come across as a bit of a caricature at times. The way the dialect was written was not necessary to establish Tony’s Hispanic heritage. Other characters openly mocked Tony inconsistent accent, including  referring to him as ‘Ricky Ricardo’. Sorry, but the continued use of pharses such as “ju goin’ do something?” and “ju don’t do chit” kept me from enjoying this story as much as I could have.

And don’t get me started on the lack of a scar on the cover pic supposedly of Tony “Scarface” Marino …

About Author Sidney Halston:

Author Sidney HalstonUSA Today bestselling author, Sidney Halston lives her life with one simple rule: “Just Do It” Nike, and that’s exactly what she did. After working hard as an attorney, Sidney picked up a pen for the first time at thirty years old to begin her dream of writing. Having never written anything other than very exciting legal briefs, she found an outlet for her imaginative romantic side and wrote Seeing Red, among four other novels currently in the works, including the sequel to Seeing Red. That first pen stroke sealed the deal and she fell in love with writing.

Sidney lives in South Florida with her husband and children. She loves her family above all else, and reading follows a close second. When she’s not writing you can find her reading and reading and reading… She’s a reader first and a writer second.

When she’s not writing or reading her life is complete and utter chaos trying to balance family life with work, and writing (and reading). But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Connect with Sidney’s Social Media:

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About the Worth the Fight Series:

Against the Cage (Worth the Fight #1)

9780553390964_p0_v1_s260x420For Chrissy Martin, returning to her Florida hometown always seems to bring bad luck. The day starts with a breakup text, followed by a jailhouse phone call from her troublemaker brother. Now a routine traffic stop has ended with her accidentally punching an officer . . . in a delicate place. Then Chrissy realizes that the hot cop on the receiving end of her right hook is none other than the man from her teenage fantasies.

Jack Daniels knows how to take a hit. After all, when he’s not chasing reckless drivers, he’s kicking ass in a mixed martial arts ring. So what takes his breath away isn’t the low blow, but the woman who dealt it: a gorgeous knockout with legs Jack wouldn’t mind being pinned under—who just so happens to be his best friend’s nerdy little sister, all grown up. Soon their instant chemistry leads to a sizzling affair, but Jack and Chrissy are fighting an uphill battle if they want to make love last beyond the final bell.

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Full Contact (Worth the Fight #2)

Full Contact by Sidney HalstonHow could she have been so stupid? When Jessica Cross decides to give her violently jealous boyfriend—the otherwise influential and charming Dennis Stavros—a second chance, she very nearly becomes a statistic. After weeks of healing from a broken rib and collapsed lung, and with Dennis behind bars, Jessica finally feels ready to come out of hiding. But will she ever be able to take a chance on love again with someone new?

Mixed martial arts fighter Slade Martin knows he has a bad reputation. Hell, he’s probably earned it. So it won’t be easy to convince beautiful, vulnerable Jessica that she can trust him—that from the moment she walked into his life, she’s been the only one he’s wanted. Powerful and confident, Slade knows he can honor his vow to protect Jessica body and soul. Winning her heart will be another matter . . . but a woman like Jessica is worth the fight.

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