Review: The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcomb by Sabrina Darby


A beautiful young woman—preferably one with no connections, who won't ask too many questions—to spend two weeks in the North of England with an obstinate, aloof, and utterly handsome man.

Must love dogs, fixing up crumbling castles, and gorgeous and complicated war heroes who may or may not be hiding hearts of gold under their gruff exteriors.

Must not, under any circumstances, fall in love . . .

Simpering misses need not apply.

John Martin's mother takes her cousin's advice and ends up advertising for someone to come and seduce her facially scarred son who she thinks might not be able to satisfy a woman because of war. Angelina is a former actress and courtesan who had some bad luck in both professions and is looking to A) Get out of London and B) Make some money. She takes the job from John Martin's mother with the knowledge that once she finishes the job she will leave 100 pounds richer.

Angelina approaches the ruined castle that John supposedly lives in with a bit of caution and with the story that she is in the countryside to draw the beautiful scenery. She meets John that first day but he is none to happy at having visitors and quickly gets her off the property. The next day she shows up again and then again. Eventually the pair are sharing lunches and conversation together and slowly getting to know each other. Angelina's a bit confused as to why he's not taking her up on her not-so-subtle advances and wonders if she's lost her touch.

After hearing Angelina's story John knows that she is emotionally hurt more than she lets on. He realizes that a friend is exactly what she needs – not someone who will take advantage of her sexually from the get go. Angelina however, is feeling guilty for the part she's playing in John's mother's scheme and doesn't know if she can keep up the ruse.

This was a surprising book for me. While I wasn't too sure about Angelina's part in the whole scheme the way that Darby wrote it worked for me incredibly well.

John had Angelina pegged when it came to her emotional needs. He saw below the surface to the distress she was truly feeling and didn't push her. Though Angelina thought that she was, at first, doing this great service for John she quickly realized that they were healing each other.

The fact that the pair started off as friends really worked for me. The quiet meals they shared together and the work they did on the castle together brought a different aspect to the romance that I very much liked. When they did eventually have sex it was sweet and slow and showed the way they felt without words.

The whole story was wonderful and I definitely recommend this short, sweet novella.

4.5 out of 5

Sabrina Darby

What I Read Last Week

Happy Monday!

It IS a happy Monday even if I had to come back to work today after some time off last week.

On Wednesday RWA had their Literacy Signing and it was HUGE. Seriously. There were so many authors there and the ballroom was massive. I loved that the authors were given so much space to work but man, trekking that thing was exhausting. lol I got to meet and talk to a lot of great authors and get pictures with some of them. I had a handy sheet with all the authors and the table layouts and I STILL managed to miss some of the authors I wanted to talk to. Pooh. But here are some pics I got:

LB Gregg - Always beautiful with a wonderful smile on her face!

HelenKay Dimon - Such a cutie
Holly, Jodi Thomas and moi.  Jodi is so very sweet and I loved listening to her accent.
Kira Brady - Haven't seen her in years (since SF RWA).  Love the hair!
Julie Anne Long - OMG total fan girl moment.  I tried not to make a complete fool of myself but it wasn't easy.
Sabrina Jeffries - Sweet and funny - she was cracking me up
Jessica Scott - So good to finally meet her after emailing back and forth.  She's adorable.
Elizabeth Hoyt - Another total fan girl gush over Elizabeth.  Yes, it was embarrassing.
Sarah MacLean - We saw her right after she had her own meltdown over meeting Linda Howard. :)
On Friday I drove back down to RWA (after taking Thursday to recover) and the So Cal Bloggers had lunch with Thea Harrison and her agent, Amy Boggs. We had a great time talking about Thea’s books, paranormal reads in general, books that we were looking forward to releasing and just lots of great stuff. Julie James popped by near the end and we all managed to get a picture together.

Renee, Wendy, Holly, Rosie, LB Gregg, Me, Julie James, Rowena & Thea Harrison
I loved just hanging with my buds.  I love talking books and family and just "being."  That's almost the best part of these things.

Wendy & LB Gregg
Rosie and her drink (ok, it was only a Pellegrino)
Rowena, Holly and I had lunch with Julie James on Saturday and then dinner with Carina editor Mallory Braus and Vivian Arend. OMG talk about a roaring good time. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a darn long time. Vivian kept Rowena and I in stitches, lemme tell ya.

Me, Holly, Mallory Braus, Vivian Arend & Rowena

I of course got to see all of my wonderful blogging friends, Renee, Rowena, Holly, Rosie, Wendy and honorary So Cal blogger, Lisabea aka LB Gregg and I met new ones as well. Overall it was a really fun time and I’m so glad I went. Next year I think I’ll have to save my money and register for the conference, I think it will be worth it.

Wendy, Rosie and LB dressed to kill for the RITA's.

While everyone was at the RITA’s, Holly Rowena and I went back up to our room where Rosie texted us to the minute info on the RITA winners (she’s such a giver, that Rosie). Somehow Holly and Wena got on a conversation about multiple partners and they started telling me about Coulter’s Woman by Maya Banks and how the men were all brothers. Now, the girls ask me, when said brothers are all doing their woman at the same time, wouldn’t one brother be tea-bagging another? And then went on to describe positioning, etc. I played dumb and they decided to reenact the scene for me, how gracious of them. Wena’s the woman, Holly is 1 brother, the pillow is another and well, the invisible one is behind Wena. Do you see the pillow tea-bagging? I gotta hand it to them, they did a fine job showing instead of telling. lolol 

Wena and Holly and their teabaggin scene.
Because of all this wonderful fun I had I didn’t get much reading done but it was all good.

I started the week with Return of the Viscount by Gayle Callen. This was the story of a woman who marries an old friend of her father’s by proxy as she’s in England and he’s in India. She never thinks to see him and frankly thinks he’ll be dead soon as he’s old. Yeah, he’s not old and he shows up on her doorstep. You can read my full review here but it was a really good story. 4 out of 5

Next was Now or Never by Michele Bardsley. This is the second book in the Wizards of Nevermore series and while it was a great paranormal it had basically no romance to speak of. Yes the hero and heroine were drawn to each other and it was made to read at the end like they would be together but really, no romance. Bummer. The story of the House of Ravens trying to take over the world was really good though and that saved the book. I read this for Book Binge. 3.5 out of 5

The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe by Sabrina Darby was a short historical novella having to do with an actress and courtesan who is hired by a man’s mother to bring him out of his war induced shell. I’ll post my review for this one tomorrow.

Last for the week was Men of Smithfield: Mark & Tony by LB Gregg (previously released as Gobsmacked). Yes, the Men of Smithfield are being re-released by Carina Press and this first book comes out next Monday. I’ll post my review of this one this week.

Well that’s it for the week. I KNOW not a lot of books but it’s hard to read when you’re having so much fun! :)

My Book Binge reviews that posted this week:

Happy Reading!

Review: A Scandalous Affair by Karen Erickson

From the moment Daphne, Lady Pomeroy, meets the mysterious Marquess of Hartwell at a masquerade ball, she’s determined to seduce him. The handsome, charming man cannot possibly be the cold, calculating lord who Society calls “Black Hart.” Risking everything, the lonely widow invites the elusive Hartwell to her dinner party . . . for two.

Hartwell’s arrogant reputation is built on a lie. For he has a shameful secret that keeps him in the shadows: a stutter—his downfall since childhood. He’d rather keep his mouth shut than look the fool. But he’s shocked to discover that in Daphne’s company—and in her bed—his stutter vanishes.

After one wanton evening together, Daphne is hurt when the lord lives up to his Black Hart name. Yet his reasons for leaving surprise even him. Now he must confess everything or risk losing Daphne forever…

Daphne Pomeroy throws a masquerade ball and is instantly intrigued by the masked man she dances with. Unfortunately he leaves before she learns his name but her brother is all too happy to share that information. The man is the Maquess of Hartwell otherwise known as “Black Hart” by the ton because of his aloofness and what they feel is a coldness of heart. Daphne is not put off by this description of Hartwell as she saw something different in him when they danced.

She eventually sees him again and invites him to an intimate dinner. She is quite bold and they end up in bed. Unfortunately due to a misunderstanding things go awry but in the end love prevails.

Those are the basics of the book and don’t really tell you all the intimate details of this lovely story. I thought that for as short as the book was that Erickson did a fine job with her characterizations of both Daphne and Cam.

Cam has an affliction which he was berated for constantly in his youth by his father. Because of this he chooses to stay, more or less, out of the spotlight of the ton and tries to speak as little as possible. Because of this the ton believe is a hard, uncaring man. I loved that Daphne saw something else in him that no one had taken the time to see. It’s these little things that I love about romance and this one had it in abundance.

Daphne was quite bold in this story – much more so than I expected. It didn’t make her a bad person though and I liked how she went after what she wanted. She was a woman who had been foisted on to an older man by her father and though she had a loving relationship with her deceased husband she hadn’t felt the passion that she felt with Cam.

I did have some issues with the story. One was Cam’s stutter. He had it but we rarely saw it. I can understand that he felt more confident around Daphne and it didn’t appear when he was with her, and since he was with her for most of the book this made sense. The other issue I had was the misunderstanding that involved a note that was sent to Daphne’s house but never arrived. Yes, it was worked out in the but we never found out what happened and for some reason that bothered me. Probably petty, I know, but there it is. The last one was the scandalous affair itself. Yes, what they were doing was scandalous but did anyone ever find out? Is it really a scandal if no one knows? IDK. :)

Overall I thought it was a sweet story and one I enjoyed. A nice addition to the Merry Widows series.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Karen Erickson

Review: Return of the Viscount by Gayle Callen

Her marriage of convenience seems far too 
convenient . . .

Desperation drove Cecilia Mallory to seek a union with a stranger--one who would wed her sight unseen and grant her full access to her inheritance with no expectations whatsoever. She anticipated, perhaps, an older, undesirable, equally desperate husband--never the young, vibrant, and devastatingly attractive man who answered her call. What could such a man really be after?

Unknown to Cecilia, Viscount Michael Blackthorne, a soldier and gentleman, owes a debt of honor to Lady Cecilia's father, and granting her unusual request to wed seemed a worthy way to repay it. But an unseen threat perilously close at hand is convincing Michael that his true responsibility is to protect the beautiful, warm-hearted lady he has married . . . the woman he is unexpectedly coming to love.

Cecilia is just 20 years old when she writes Sergeant Blackthorne in India to thank him for being such a wonderful friend to her late father. The pair continue their correspondence for two years when Cecilia, sounding a bit desperate asks Blackthorne to marry her by proxy so that she could have access to her inheritance. Her guardians were keeping it until she was 25 or married and since he was in India and she in England this seemed the perfect solution. That is until Blackthorne shows up on Cecilia's doorstep six months later and he's not the doddering old man that Cecilia had pictured him. Since he was her late father's best friend she just assumed he was, well, old. The hunky man who walks into her house, granted with a cane, is NOT old by any stretch of the imagination.

Cecilia is intrigued by her new husband but also a bit pissed off that the man is in England when he was supposed to be in India and not anywhere where he could control or manipulate her! Though he has no access to her dowry, as the marriage papers stated, Cecilia now thinks that maybe she will be able to get out of the marriage and still keep her money. She has taken control of her brothers estate as he spends most of his time drinking.

Michael, who is not only a sergeant but also a viscount, wants to make something of his marriage. He truly had no plans to return to England any time soon but he was wounded and was sent to England to recover. He was anxious to meet the woman he had written so many letters to. He is hiding guilt over Cecilia's father's death and Cecilia is trying to push him away at every turn but he is determined to get to know her. On top of that Cecilia keeps having “accidents” that can't be ignored and she finally believes that someone is trying to harm her. Michael is there for her safety and so much more.

This was an interesting premise. I liked how the couple became known to each other through letters and then became married. Neither of them planned to meet the other and that is definitely different from other romance novels! Lol Michael, I believe had some high expectation of Cecilia but he was a discerning man and could tell by the tone of her letters that something was wrong. He was correct, of course, and there ended up being so much more wrong than he ever thought.

Cecilia was a bit of a control freak but after learning of her past it was the only way she felt she could be in charge of her fate, or so she thought. I loved how Michael made her look at life differently and made her talk things out with him. He was pretty relentless with her but it just worked.

The mystery part of the story was done well, I thought. It played a big part in matters but certainly wasn't too much. I had the culprit figured out almost immediately but I'm not sure why I thought it was how it was. It wasn't obvious, that's for sure, but even though I knew whodunit it was still exciting to read when things came to a head.

I've read a couple of other books by Callen but I think this is my favorite so far. A nice romance, great family bonding and a good mystery all wrapped in to a great package.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Gayle Callen

Review: The Lady is a Vamp by Lynsay Sands

One late night leads to . . .

Kidnapped When Jeanne Louise Argeneau left work, she never thought she'd end up tied down by a good-looking mortal. More attracted than annoyed, she quickly realizes there is more to her abductor than meets the eye.

One desperate act leads to . . .

Love? Paul Jones has need of a vampire, and only Jeanne Louise will do. He just has to convince this beauty of a Vamp to help him . . . never imagining that he would fall in love. But with the immortal world's answer to law enforcement hunting them, their time together is running out . . . and Paul and Jeanne Louise will need to risk everything to spend an eternity together.

Jeanne Louise is a lucky girl. Well, kind of. You see she leaves work and is kidnapped so that’s not so great but when she meets her abductor, who is really very nice, she finds herself face to face with her life mate. This is pretty shocking as she finds out that he’s worked in the same building as she for the past 2 years as well as the fact that she’s only 102 years old and that’s really young to have found her life mate. So yeah, pretty darned lucky. Except that there’s the small problem of Paul, the guy who kidnapped her, will eventually have to face punishment no matter how far they flee.

Yep, when Paul and Jeanne Louise are located by the Immortal Enforcers they run so that they won’t be discovered. Jeanne Louise looks at it as her getting more time to get to know her life mate. Paul has a daughter, Livy, who is dying from a brain tumor. Paul wants Jeanne Louise to change her into an Immortal but if Livy does that then she can’t change Paul and will have to watch her life mate die. Jeannie figures that she can turn Paul and then he can turn Livy but she needs to make sure that Paul really cares for her and won’t leave her once he’s turned.

But life has a way of not turning out like we plan. Paul and Jeannie do get to know each other better and they do fall in love but the turnings don’t turn out the way they thought and Jeannie ends up using her one turn on Livy in order to save her life. You’d think this wasn’t a problem and that Paul and Jeannie love each other enough to deal with the fact that Paul is still mortal but it doesn’t happen. Soon no one is happy and there seems to be no solution to the problem.

You’d think that after 17 books in the Argeneau series that they would just all seem the same yet Sands just never stops amazing me with how her mind works. She’s constantly coming up with lovely new stories and this was one of them.

Paul is devastated when he finds out that his 5 year old daughter is dying of a brain tumor and after watching his wife die after an auto accident he just can’t do it again. He loves his daughter and wants Livy to live a long life with laughter and happiness. He kidnaps Jeanne Louise in a desperate attempt to save her but he’s also been attracted to her for a long time and knows tons about her. The two hit it off immediately even though Jeannie’s chained up at first. Very shortly after though she stays willingly in order to get to know Paul.

When Jeanne Louise turns Livy it’s because she loves her almost as if she were her own child. She doesn’t feel she has a choice but this leaves Paul and all of their plans in a grey area. Once all is worked out with Paul and the Argeneau family the couple then has to sit down and figure out how they will live as Livy and Jeanne Louise are Immortals and Paul is mortal. This makes him weaker, slower and of course more susceptible to death. Unfortunately this leaves Jeannie treating Paul with kid gloves and it starts to make him a bit crazy. Eventually the pair discover that they just can’t be together but neither of them are happy about it.

Oh the sadness of the story! Yes it had it’s fun times and I laughed at Sands’ humor as I always do but this one had me sighing and wondering how it would all work out in the end. I truly couldn’t see how it would happen and was so glad when it all came together. (That’s NOT a spoiler cuz ya know it’s gonna have an HEA - I didn’t tell you HOW it worked out!) Though I wasn’t necessarily happy with Jeanne Louise and her decisions at some parts in the book I knew she was doing what she felt was best for both of them. Didn’t make me like it but I understood.

I did feel like I got to know Jeanne Louise better in this book than I did Paul and though we learned some of his background we really didn’t get to know much. He said he didn’t want to leave his family – what family is that? They weren’t mentioned so I as the reader couldn’t exactly feel his pain as I hadn’t been introduced to them. Little things like that were a bit annoying but overall it was all good. Another great addition to the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Lynsay Sands

Guest Author + a Giveaway : Willow Rose - Where did the inspiration come from?

Where did the inspiration to Savage come from? I get that question a lot and it is so hard to answer in just a few sentences. Because where do inspiration come from? I for one have no idea. I get it from everything and everyone around me. From people I meet, from articles I read and movies I watch. For me a book starts with the characters. The characters and their story come to me. I like to say that they "pop up" in my head. That is the best way I can describe it. The characters are just there all of a sudden with their backgrounds and problems and then they start to do stuff and talk to other people and soon there is a whole story that I simply have to tell or else I will burst. The main character Christian in Savage is somewhat inspired by my husband. Back in '83 when he was 19 years old he was sent to Florida by his parents to live with a very wealthy family just like Christian in Savage. My husband's experiences coming from a small country Denmark to the big USA in the 80'ies are very similar to those of Christian, yet they do not share backgrounds. Christian has lost his mother in a young age and that has had a huge impact on who he is and why he acts the way he does. He matures a lot throughout the book and love changes him from being a selfish self-centered boy into a young man.

The female characters that Christian meets in the haunting house next door are my favorites in this book. They are so innocent and childlike yet very wise and magical. I like to say that they are inspired by my daughters and I have also dedicated the book to them. I have two young girls of four and six years and then I have a wonderful step-daughter who is twenty-three. Those three combined makes this world a magical place. As does the female characters in Savage. I simply adore them and I know everybody else will too. They are so lovable. I have a hard time letting go of them and think I will write many books about them. First of all I will write three books about the main character Christian and his great love Aiyana. It is sort of a family-saga really. In the first book he is in his twenties and so is she. In the second book they have kids of their own and are in their thirties with all the problems and seriousness that comes with being that age. In the last book they will have young teenagers and face completely new challenges. I am also planning on doing a book about Aiyana, the magic spirit-filled Native American girl that he falls hopelessly in love with. About her and when she first discovers who and what she really is. I might also do a book about her sister who does telekinesis and their grand-mother who predicts natural disasters. I love those characters so much that they each deserve their own book. Sometimes I love them so much that they themselves become an inspiration to me.

Willow Rose writes Paranormal Romance, fantasy and mystery. Originally from Denmark she now lives on Florida’s Space Coast with her husband and two daughters. She is a huge fan of Anne Rice and Isabel Allende. When she is not writing or reading she enjoys to watch the dolphins play in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Willow is giving away 1 digital copy and 1 paperback copy of her book Savage: Daughters of the Jaguar to 2 lucky winners.  To enter the giveaway leave a comment on this post along with your email address no later than 7pm on July 31st.

Savage:Daughters of the Jaguar

The year is 1983. Christian is 22 years old when he leaves his home in Denmark to spend a year in Florida with a very wealthy family and go to med-school. A joyful night out with friends is shattered by an encounter with a savage predator that changes his life forever. Soon he faces challenges he had never expected. A supernatural gift he has no idea how to embrace. A haunting family in the house next door. A spirit-filled girl who seems to carry all the answers. An ancient secret hidden in the swamps of Florida. One life never the same. One love that becomes an obsession. Two destinies that will be forever entangled.

Savage is a paranormal romance with some language, violence, and sexual situations recommended for ages sixteen and up.

twitter: @madamwillowrose
link to booktrailer:

Review: Because of You by Jessica Scott

Keeping his men alive is all that matters to Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison. But meeting Jen St. James the night before his latest deployment makes Shane wonder if there’s more to life than war. He leaves for Iraq remembering a single kiss with a woman he’ll never see again—until a near fatal attack lands him back at home and in her care.

Jen has survived her own brush with death and endured its scars. And yet there’s a fire in Shane that makes Jen forget all about her past. He may be her patient, but when this warrior looks her in the eyes, she feels—for the first time in a long time—like a woman. Shane is too proud to ask for help, but for Jen, caring for him is more than a duty—it’s a need. And as Jen guides Shane through the fires of healing, she finds something she never expected—her deepest desire.

Shane Garrison and Jen St. James meet the night before Shane and his team are deploying to Iraq in 2007. They share a bit of talk, some attraction and eventually a kiss.

When Shane is hurt in the line of duty and ends up with Jen as his nurse 4 months later he's angry and closed off and though Jen wants nothing more than to help him through this difficult time he pushes her away. Jen manages to break through his tough outer shell but Shane is dealing with more than his injury, he's dealing with the guilt of not being there for his men when they need him.

Jen is a fighter. She survived breast cancer and is stronger for it. She makes a huge difference in Shane's life but even Jen, for all of her strength, still has feelings of worthlessness because of her partial mastectomy. She can be strong for others but when it comes to herself she's not quite as confident.

This story started out strong for me and just continued that way until the end. I picked it up and read it all in one sitting because it was so compelling I just couldn't put it down.

Shane and Jen, from the very beginning of the book, were very real to me. They were just average folks and we were reading about their lives. Some readers might not like the reality of the story but I loved it. Shane was a fun and funny guy who was damned serious about his career. He felt an enormous responsibility toward the men on his team and felt it was his job to take care of them. When he's wounded and sent back to the states he really has a hard time dealing with life in general. He's stuck in a hospital room, not able to move and certainly not able take care of his men and it's just killing him emotionally. Jen is there for him but even she can't make things right.

Jen is amazing. She's an incredibly strong woman who has a heart of gold. She survived cancer and some family stuff (which I wish we would have learned a bit more about) and came out with her head, for the most part, screwed on correctly. She really was great for Shane and together, though they sometimes rubbed each other the wrong way, they made a wonderful couple.

Along with the romance in the book we get to see a little bit of combat, a skeevy Lieutenant, loyal friends, and so much more. There was a portion of the book that had to do with a couple of friends of Jen and Shane's (Laura and Trent and their marriage) that I wish was resolved in this book but I can only hope that we'll get more info on them in future books. The book is extremely emotionally charged and something that I wasn't really expecting but was so good in so many way I would definitely recommend it.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Jessica Scott

Review: Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis

Grace never thought she’d be starting her life over from scratch. Losing everything has landed her in Lucky Harbor, working as a dog walker for overwhelmed ER doctor Josh Scott. But the day his nanny fails to show up, Grace goes from caring for Josh’s loveable mutt to caring for his rambunctious kids. Soon Grace is playing house with the sexy single dad…

With so many people depending on him, Josh has no time for anything outside of his clinic and family–until Grace arrives in town. Now this brainy blonde is turning his life inside out and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “good bedside manner.” Josh and Grace don’t know if what they have can last. But in a town like Lucky Harbor, a lifetime of love starts with just one day…

Grace has lived a life of fulfilling expectations – and those aren’t her expectations, but her parents’. They want her to be the best she can be – as long as she becomes a career woman like they want her to. Well, she’s not exactly walking down that road at the moment. She landed in Lucky Harbor quite by chance and while looking for a position as an investment banker in Portland and Seattle she’s doing odd jobs around the small town. She delivers flowers, she models at the art gallery – she just does a little of everything to try to make ends meet. When she gets a call from someone who obviously has the wrong number but wants her to walk their dog for $40.00 she decides to do it. Who cares if she’s never done it before, right? Well, it doesn’t exactly go as planned and ends up losing the dog – so she thinks. She ends up calling the dogs owner who happens to be the town McHottie, Dr. Josh Scott, pulling him out of his job at the ER to help her.

Josh isn’t thrilled with Grace’s dog-walking services and fires her but he’s overworked and exhausted and when his nanny bails on him he manages to get Grace to take the position temporarily. Not only that but he offers her his guest house free of charge. He tries to ignore the electricity that sizzles between him and Grace each time they even look at each other but he can’t quite manage it.

Grace doesn’t know much about dogs, or kids, or paraplegic 21 year olds (Josh’s sister that lives with him) but she does a fair impression of a nanny and as the days go by she finds that not only can she do the job, she actually likes it. She knows that she should keep her hands off of Josh when they’re alone together but she just can’t. She still plans on meeting her parents’ expectations by getting that high-powered job and is still going on interviews but while she’s at it she realizes that what her parents want and what she wants are two totally different things. Josh also makes some drastic changes in his life but he’s not sure how to handle how he starts feeling for Grace when he knows she’ll be leaving town soon.

Grace and Josh are beyond adorable together. When I mentioned electricity between the couple I wasn’t kidding. These two light up the page like a 4th of July display. It’s hot and sexy but fun and funny at the same time. I love how Shalvis managed to make this an emotionally charged story with so many ins and outs and characters and still have her stock humor stuck in there.

I loved so many things about this book that I just don’t know where to begin:

**Toby, Josh’s son is so crazy cute that I just wanted to jump into the book and give him a great big hug. 

**The pug, Tank, well I could just imagine his smashed in face and still wanted to hug him too. 

**Anna, Josh’s sister was so lost and confused and angry and written so well I couldn’t help but like her tough girl attitude. Yes, she was a brat at times but it was completely understandable. 

**Grace’s fellow Chocoholics, Mallory and Amy, were present and accounted for as were their men from the previous books. They were always there with their friendship and advice and I loved seeing them try to take care of Grace in their own way. 

**The Chocoholics’ men…Ty and Matt? Totally hilarious. Them trying to coerce Josh into anything just made me laugh. One of my favorite lines in the book was when the three men were together eating and Ty and Matt were trying to get Josh to realize that it didn’t matter that he and Grace had said they were in it for fun, they weren’t any longer. Only Josh wouldn’t capitulate and I loved Ty’s thought on the subject:

Ty pointed his beer at Josh. “Want to know what I think?”

“No,” Josh said.

“I think you have a case of being a little girl. Maybe you should prescribe yourself a heavy does of man-the-fuck-up.”

OMG – so great to have friends that will tell you exactly what’s on their mind. lol

In the end I have to say that this is my favorite Lucky Harbor book. While I loved books 1-3 and books 4 & 5 were even better this one definitely takes the cake. It has humor, friendship, emotional upheaval, a great sense of family and an out of this world romance all wrapped up in a wonderfully written package. I loved the book and I definitely recommend it.

Rating: 5 out of 5

What I Read Last Week

Hey guys,

Well it was an interesting week last week. It never seemed like there was that much time to read but yet I did a fair amount of it.

This weekend was a very sad one. On Saturday morning my nephew’s girlfriend died. They went hiking and she collapsed from heat exhaustion. Apparently it was too severe and her organs started shutting down and she passed away. She was just 22 years old. She and my nephew had been dating for years – planning to get married after she got out of college and of course he’s just devastated. I don’t know her family but I’m sure they are as well. If you’re the praying kind I ask that you add them to your list that they can find some peace in their grief.

On a happier note I’m only working 2 days this week as I took the last part of the week off for RWA. On Wednesday I’ll head down to Anaheim for the book signing – which will be wonderful I’m sure – and then on to a blogger get together in the bar afterward. Yay. I’ll go back down to Anaheim on Friday and stay for the weekend and make as much trouble as I can. Kidding. I’m kidding. Trouble is Holly’s job. lol

So on to what I read this past week:

First up was Murphy’s Law by Sandy James. This story is about a rich spoiled man whose father dies and leaves some strange and annoying stipulations to his will that the man is NOT happy about. You can read my review here. 4.25 out of 5

Next was a novella in the Elder Races series called Devil’s Gate by Thea Harrison. The story was about Seremela who is a medusae and is taking time off work to go retrieve her wayward niece once again. Duncan is a vampire and works for the same employers (Rune and Carling from Serpent’s Kiss). He’s got a thing for Seremela – not that she knows that – and volunteers to go with her to get the niece. The story is short but really good and I loved the experiences that Serrie and Duncan have along with their romance. Good stuff. 4 out of 5

Next up was The Warrior Laird by Margo Maguire. The story connects two people – Laird Dugan MacMillan who is looking for French gold to save his clan from eviction from their lands – and Lady Maura Duncanson who is being shipped off to marry an old man just so her family can get rid of her. The pair meet when Maura steals Dugan’s map to the gold and they end up looking for it together – kind of. The story was good but not too terribly exciting. This was more of a get to know each other while traveling type book and while a decent read just didn’t rock my socks off. Read for Book Binge. 3.25 out of 5

Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis was next and while I read some really good books this week this one just was the absolute highlight. I’ll post my review on Wednesday.

My Tracy’s TBR Challenge read for the week (yes, I’ve been sucking on my own challenge lately!) was Moonlight Temptation by Stephanie Julian – Lucani Lovers series #4. The story is about Evie who was kidnapped in a previous book and now she’s trying to deal with the ramifications of the kidnapping as well as finding out that she has powers she never knew about. Dane is a doctor and while his mother wants him to only marry pure Lucani blood he’s got it bad for Evie. He calls his friend Ryan in to be a buffer, thinking that he can keep his feelings hidden if Ryan is there. What ends up happening is that they all fall in love but not before Evie is kidnapped again. It was a good novella with a quick and sexy love story. I wish the story was longer but what I got was very good. 3.75 out of 5

Because of You by Jessica Scott is a military romance that is so good. The story has to do with a soldier that is hurt in the line of duty and blames himself for every injury and death on his team. His nurse is a woman who has survived breast cancer and ends up being there to help him in so many ways. My review will post on Thursday so keep your eyes open. :)

A Sticky Situation by Kay Jaybee was an erotic novella that I read for Book Binge. The story is about a woman who does NOT like the new employee who is oh so close with the boss. She finds out that she’ll be heading to a conference with the guy. She’s more than a bit clumsy and though that aggravates the hell out of him it doesn’t stop him from wanting to lick all the food off of her chest. While they have their differences and arguments they still end up in bed together. It was a cute story but the heroine and her anger kind of rubbed me the wrong way at times. She was also getting notes from the hero (not signed) but yet thought they were from anyone but him – which seemed kinda ditzy to me. IDK – it was just an ok read. 2.5 out of 5

I went on a bit of a manga binge yesterday when I started the Yakuza in Love series by Shiuko Kano. Volume 1 is about a guy who is ends up working as a Yakuza (Japanese gangster) and quickly saves the boss’s life. He gets assigned to an underboss who is just getting out of prison and ends up having feelings for the underboss. On top of that there’s a lot of in-fighting between the boss and underboss. Good story, well drawn but a bit confusing as to which character was talking. That definitely could have been a lot clearer. 3 out of 5

Yakuza in Love Volume 2 shows us more from the characters in book 2 but deals more with the main character, Ichimura and his relationship with the underboss but also tells us more of a relationship between some other characters. Again, well drawn and definitely a lot more clear as to who is saying what. 3.5 out of 5

Last for the week was Yakuza in Love Volume 3 where all of the love/romance/sex and Yakuza infighting comes to a head. Things are worked out but I was still left with a thought that all was not as solid as it should have been for the end of the series. Very good though. 4 out of 5

My Book Binge reviews that posted last week:
*crickets chirping*

Happy Reading!

Review: Forever a Lady by Delilah Marvelle

TWO DIFFERENT CLASSES, ONE COMMON DESIRE... Lady Bernadette Marie Burton may be the richest widow in England, but like her dreams of finding true passion, her reputation is deteriorating. Cruel gossip, loneliness and hoards of opportunistic suitors have her believing Society couldn't be more vile...or dangerous. So when an attacker threatens her life, she finds safety in the most unseemly of places: the arms of a mysterious, Irish-American gang leader. His fortune stolen, young Matthew Milton is done playing the respectable gentleman. In the slums of New York, only ruffians thrive. But from the moment he arrives in London and encounters the voluptuous Lady Bernadette, he can't help but wonder about the finer pleasures he's missing. Or just how much he's willing to risk-not only to bed her, but to prove his worth....

Matthew Milton was raised in New York as part of the Merchant class as his father owned a well known newspaper. They did fairly well for themselves until their accountant spent all of their hard earned money and they were left destitute. They ended up in Five Points (which Wikipedia describes as “a disease-ridden crime-infested slum”) living in a tenement. The same day they arrive Matthew finds himself fighting for his life and from that moment on decides that he needs to help the people of Five Points. Now it’s 8 years later and Matthew is the gang leader of the Forty Thieves. He and his friend Coleman train the men to fight and they protect the innocent of Five Points against those who would make it worse than it already is. Matthew also teaches the men to read in hopes that they will be able to make a better life for themselves.

Bernadette is the daughter of a British aristocrat who is now living in New York. Her father had married her off at age 18 to a man she hardly knew but was 43 years her senior. He was very kind but it was a passionless union that ended with the man’s death after 12 years of marriage. Bernadette moved to first New Orleans and then New York so that she could live unencumbered by rules and her father looking over her shoulder. She loves her freedom and plans on never marrying again.

Bernadette was asked by a friend to turn a foul-mouthed Fiver Pointer into a Lady so that she can marry a Duke and be accepted into British society. She takes this job on and eventually delivers the woman (Georgia from book 1) to London where, strangely enough, she meets Matthew. Matthew is in England escaping from a crowd of men who want to kill him. Matthew saves Bernadette from a previous lover who is taking his anger out on her with his riding crop. Matthew and Bernadette are immediately attracted to one another and make plans to meet again. For Matthew he knows immediately that this woman is “The One.” He has no doubt in his mind that Bernadette will be his. While they meet again and they do have a wonderful time together Bernadette isn’t anywhere near ready, if ever, to make a commitment. Matthew takes Bernadette’s honor in hand and ends up stealing from her previous lover (the one who was beating her) and ends up in jail. Bernadette saves him from the hangman but she wants nothing to do with him from then on. Unfortunately they are now linked and Matthew fears for Bernadette as he has many enemies that might use her against him.

Matthew returns to New York but is completely unhappy. A horrible incident involving Bernadette and Matthew throws the pair back together and Bernadette finally concedes that she wants Matthew for herself. She offers Matthew a loan to try to get his father’s paper back into print. Matthew accepts but tells her that while he tries to get back on his feet and repay the loan they cannot see each other at all and can only communicate via correspondence. While she doesn’t care for the arrangement Bernadette understands and complies – she just doesn’t know if when they meet again Matthew will still be interested in her.

This is # 2 in the Rumor series and another good book. The whole premise of the story with Matthew being not only from one of the lowest classes but also a thief and Bernadette being an aristo was definitely a story worth reading about. I loved the descriptions of Five Points and could almost feel the grit and grime of that part of Manhattan.

Matthew was really an honorable man even though he did steal. I know that sounds funny but in his head he was doing the right thing - almost like a Robin Hood. It really took a good tongue lashing from Bernadette to get him to realize that even though he thought he was doing the right thing it was most definitely wrong. I admired Bernadette for standing up to him and not letting him just blow it off. She was a strong woman and as the story went on I truly could see how good they would be together.

Now I did have some niggles with the story. The first and biggest niggle was the fact that while this was a love story and there was romance in the book, Bernadette and Matthew were apart for most of the book. A good portion of the last quarter of the story was great as they were almost inseparable but the first three quarters made me a little nuts. They were thinking about each other but not together and it’s hard for me to thoroughly enjoy a romance novel when the hero and heroine aren’t together. Maybe that’s just me, IDK.

My other issue - while the overall story was really good it really focused on Matthew’s struggle in Five Points. Him pulling himself up by his bootstraps and making a better life for himself and those of his Forty Thieves that followed him felt first and foremost. While this was lovely and I was so happy he could change his life for the better, it felt almost like an interference in the love story. I guess this all connects with my first niggle. I know it all tied together and had to do with Matthew’s pride in that he wouldn’t take charity from Bernadette nor be a “kept” man living off of her money but again, it just kept the main characters apart. Toward the end of the book as I said, the couple is almost inseparable. They court and become closer but even that was a bit truncated for my liking.

Overall a good story with almost a princess and the pauper feel to it. I’ll definitely be reading book three in this series and seeing where Matthew’s friend Coleman ends up.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Saturday Song

Here's a song by Art of Dying called Sorry.   A little bit of apologizing on a Saturday morning. :)  Enjoy! (oh and it says with lyrics but there aren't any - just fyi)

Commercial Messages: A Guest Post by Author DC Juris

Hey folks! I'm DC Juris, and I've got the guest spot today! For those of you who don't know me, I'm a transgender guy who writes GLBTQ and heterosexual romances - mostly contemporary and fantasy.

A while back, a Facebook friend of mine posted a little rant about a commercial she hated. I don't remember which one it was, but she was concerned over the message it sent to kids. It was one of those ones that showed a guy being stupid and a woman being intelligent. Her concern was that it suggested to her young son that men were stupid and therefore ultimately bound by their ability to hook themselves up with a smart woman. Only then would they succeed.

At that time, I think I posted something about a commercial I hated, and left it at that. I didn't think much about what she said. Commercials are commercials, and I don't put much stock in them.

That is, until I spotted a commercial for the new Dr Pepper Ten. They're deliberately marketing it at men, and saying it's "not for women." What the heck? Since when does soda conform to gender boundaries? And what makes it for men? It's got only ten calories, but has a bold flavor. Because women only want calorie free soda with no flavor? Seriously? My husband loves diet soda. At 6' 2" and 350 lbs, I'd like to see someone walk up to him and tell him he's now a woman because he drinks diet soda. Really - go ahead and try it.

But the whole thing got me thinking, and I started paying more attention to the commercials on my television. And I noticed something - they're pretty damned sexist - and not just against women. I expected a large number of commercials to be sexist against women. After all, sex sells (or at least marketing people think it does) so seeing scantily clad women in advertisements is nothing new. Also, women have always been portrayed as rather stupid and stereotypical in commercials. I don't remember what the product was, but I distinctly recall an ad that showed a woman digging in her purse, trying in vain to find her keys so she could hurry up and run inside and answer her phone. Of course, she had everything in her purse - on top of her keys, no less - including things she didn't need, and the "purse" was really just a giant satchel with no organization. You know, 'cause women clearly can't handle that much complication.

What amazed me, was the number of commercials that portray men as complete and total idiots. I sat down with my husband to see what he thought, and his top three were:

1. The Bug Light commercial where the guy is "climbing" the rock wall, but he's only really a few inches off the ground and he's about to piss his pants. Interestingly enough, Hubby was also offended that they refer to this action as being "girly." Hubby spouted off a list of women he personally knew who could kick this guy and all his friends' asses.

2. The State Farm commercial where the guy can't drive for shit and thinks that "multiple car discount" is where you have one car, but multiple accidents.

3.The Travelocity commercial where the guy takes his wife and daughter to a crappy hotel, and the daughter is "swimming" in the empty pool. Hubby's response? "Now what is that supposed to teach the little girl about her father? That he's a moron who can't handle a simple vacation booking? Or that he's too much of a push over to speak up and say there's been a mix up and he wants a better hotel."

There's a bigger message that all of these ads send, though, and for me, I think the message is that status-quo with our gender stereotypes is just fine, for the most part. Sure, there are some brilliant marketing campaigns out there that don't seem to be offensive - I personally like the talking baby, and the mayhem commercials. But, by and large, nothing has changed. Women are still clueless and vapid, more focused on their man's body style than his brains. And thank god, because apparently men have no brains to speak of. No wonder they have to use Axe Body Spray to attract a mate!

Colorful brain courtesy of smokedsalmon


A Southern transplant who has retained none of his accent but all of his charm, DC Juris is an out and proud transgender bisexual living in Upstate New York with his husband, four dogs, three cats, and a menagerie of Halloween props just creepy enough to keep people guessing about his sanity. He's still hopelesslysingle when it comes to the woman in his life, and he'll gladly entertain offers or applications for the position! In the rare event that he's not writing, DC can be found surfing the internet for random research, killing things on his Xbox, reading, taking pictures of the world around him, or playing Farmville, to which he admits a complete and totally blissful addiction.

Guest Author: Karen Mercury + a Giveaway

The Good Old Days. How I Long For Them!

No, I don’t mean the 1970s. Although from this distant, hazy retrospective telescope I am looking down, the 1970s look rather idyllic and, well, hazy. I suppose that’s the benefit of retrospect. Watching Brady Bunch reruns makes us long for those flower power, bell-bottom, far out days. We completely forget that when we were in that decade, it was one endless, violent, dysfunctional bad acid trip. It was hell, pure and simple, and we longed to escape into the 1980s. It’s a sad truth that Greg Brady only looks hep and groovy from this distance.

I’m talking about the 1850s. How I long for those days! We often say that something “hearkens back to a simpler time” and I think that’s the bottom line about my love for the 19th century. Back then divorce was very uncommon. Couples were truly in it for better or worse, not just until someone got bored or irritated with someone’s TV-watching habits.

Back then men were men! My Victorian idols were the African explorers of old, manly adventurers such as Sir Richard Burton, de Brazza, Henry Morton Stanley, and Samuel Baker. These men didn’t pussyfoot around bitching that a parking spot was ten feet farther away. No, they had malarial swamps to ford, craggy mountain ranges to traverse, exotic countries to discover.

These were the sorts of men who would “woo” you. They’d spur their gallant horses a hundred miles to impress the woman of their dreams, and once they’d set their heart on a woman, a mere Bad Hair Day wouldn’t deter them. No, these men were in it for the long haul. Through typhus, boils, cramps, and pestilence, these hearty men persevered. Modern men hesitate to drive an additional exit down the freeway, much less hew a road through the mighty Sierras with an axe and a mule.

It didn’t hurt that back then, frontier women were so scarce as to be fairy tales. A fellow was more liable to go the extra mile for whatever broken-down, prematurely aged woman managed to make it through the trials of sea and land. The surviving women could pick and choose from these hearty trailblazing men. A trainload of bachelorettes was a bigger sensation than an annual mountain man rendezvous.

Ah, for the simpler days. Ten years ago it was foretold that a computer in every house and an iphone in every hand would make life simpler for us. Has anyone’s life been simplified? Who has more leisure time, is less stressed, lounges about more? No one! Technology has speeded up as our attention spans have shortened. Now movie trailers run at such warp speed you can’t even read the credits. The last Sherlock Holmes flick I tried to see in a theater was edited so swiftly I had to wait in the lobby due to vertigo. The next step in technology will be to permanently embed computers in our eyeballs.

Give me the more leisurely, more natural and basic days when a man came calling with a flower in his buttonhole. Or a whole line of gentleman callers stretching to the horizon. The only drawback about living back then was that once you made your choice, you were stuck with him.

I suppose the conclusion would be that “things look better in retrospect.” Even our cocktail-sipping lawn-mowing parents were on the verge of an encounter group meltdown. But to us it looked just hazy and groovy.

Karen is so kindly giving away one digital copy of her new release in the How the West Was Done series called Cold Steel and Hot Lead.  Leave a comment on this post, along with your email address, no later than 7:00pm on July 24th to enter to win.

Stuck on a snowbound train in Laramie, Wyoming, is Senator Derrick Spiro, traveling to introduce a measure giving women the right to vote. While watching a magician making a girl vanish, Derrick meets Rudy Dunraven, escape artist. When the girl fails to materialize again, the men flee from the unruly lynch mob.

They are assisted in their quest to find the real kidnapper by Alameda Hudson, bolting from a disastrous engagement to a serial cheater. A helpful and mischievous spirit instructs Alameda to join the play the circus is putting on in town. All three, tortured by past failed loves, are reluctant to love again. But they have no one to trust but each other, and they can’t clear their names until Alameda puts herself in danger during the final act of the play.

Alameda hopes she lives long enough to be the first woman voter in America.

Note: Each book in the How the West Was Done series stands alone and can be read out of sequence in any order.


Karen knew she wanted to be a writer when she was 3. She sat on her bed gazing at her book, The Bee Man of Orn, thinking “What power there is in creating imaginary worlds! The reader is automatically transported into a reality that you created. She hears your characters talking, sees the vistas you painted with words.” Then she realized she had better learn to read.

When Karen was 12, she had a dream of being in a village on the coast of Kenya, so at 23 she bought a one-way plane ticket to Nairobi to find the village. She climbed the Mountains of the Moon in Rwanda to see mountain gorillas, hitchhiked overland through Egypt, Uganda, Zaire, and Zambia, lived with the Turkana in the Northern Frontier District of Kenya, went down the Congo on a decrepit steamer, and sailed up the Nile on a leaky dhow.

Her first three novels were historical fiction involving precolonial African explorers. Since she was always either accused or praised (depending how you look at it) for writing overly steamy sex scenes, erotic romance was the natural next step. She is currently writing about the rough and tumble life of the California gold rush, and lives in Northern California with her Newfoundland dog.

Check out more about Karen and her books here.

TBR Challenge Review: Murphy's Law by Sandy James

This month's TBR Challenge was "How did this get here?"  A book that you don't know how/why it's in your TBR.  Well, I, like Wendy, pretty much remember every book I've purchased or gotten in a swap or...whatever.  There's nothing on my shelf that is a mystery to me. lol  So Wendy offered up a "Free Pick Month" and I ran with it.  Enjoy!

Seth Remington had a fortune at his fingertips, but something was missing in his life. Purpose.

Knowing he has one last chance to redeem his son, terminally ill Sterling Remington rewrites his will. To earn his inheritance, his son Seth must labor as a groom for a horse trainer.

Katie Murphy's orderly existence is turned upside down by Sterling Remington's will. Raised on hard work and dedicated to her harness racing stable, Katie agrees to take Seth on as a groom. How can she ever fulfill the challenge of instilling a work ethic in Seth and still keep her faltering stable running?

Kept at arm's length by the strict terms of Sterling's will, Seth and Katie are forced to struggle with their growing attraction until a devastating racing accident forces them to take a hard look at their relationship. How much is he willing to risk for her love?

Seth is a totally reckless 29 year old. Though he did go to college and actually got a degree in psychology he's never had to work a day in his life – he's a totally spoiled rich kid. After Seth crashes yet one more car (his 4th totaled car) his very ill father has had enough. He knows that Seth will be mighty pissed at him but he goes ahead and changes his will.

Seth's is mourning his father's death and still a bit in shock about it all when his lawyers read the will. Seth has a choice. He either goes with the woman he's just met, Katie Murphy, to her horse farm and become her underpaid groom for 9 months or he gets nothing. In fact if he chooses to decline the groom position he'll be left with 2 suitcases worth of clothing and nothing else. Seth is pissed but he can do nothing but agree to the stipulations of the will – there's like 95 million dollars on the line!

He chooses at first to make Katie and the lawyer, Ross, miserable with his attitude. He's agreed to the terms of the will but he doesn't have to like them. He isn't a stupid fellow though and soon is learning all about the horses, Katie's harness racing business and how much it means to Katie. He likes Katie a lot and wants to take her to bed but other terms of the will included the fact that Katie and Seth could not be together sexually for fear that Seth would try to influence Katie into saying he worked hard as a groom when he didn't. In fact the will went so far as to say that if Seth completed his 9 months he wouldn't be allowed contact with Katie for 5 years – thus proving that he didn't buy her acquiescence.

As the months go on and Seth gets more and more involved with the horses and yes, eventually with Katie, he thinks that maybe there's more to life than money, nice clothes and fast cars. Who knew? But he also thinks that Katie would never accept him without his money (no one else has, why should she?) and frankly he's not sure he can live without it.

This was a really good story – mostly of a man finding his place in the world - and it was a good one. I have to admit that when the author told me about the book she stated that Seth was a complete jerk but he redeemed himself in the end. I was skeptical that a jerk that big could pull it off but I tried to keep an open mind. Lol Seth was a jerk, absolutely, an complete idiot at other times, and overly-cautious about his feelings for Katie when he had never been before, but honestly I never saw him as all that bad of a guy. Yes, we saw his one car crash and we were told of all of his previous exploits but what I was shown was a man who was grieving for his father, trying to deal with the changes that he was forced to make and actually, a pretty nice guy after you took away all the expensive layers. He would open his mouth occasionally and I would want to smack him, sure, but overall I felt for his confusion and grief so much that I couldn't see him as too much of an ass. Maybe I'm just a big ole softy! :)

The relationship between Katie and Seth was sweet and tender. She was an independent woman but one who had been betrayed and hurt by a man in the past and she was understandably leery to get involved with Seth when she knew his background. But Seth proved to Katie that he was the type of man that she could lean on. That didn't stop her from having many, many doubts but who wouldn't. There was a bit of secret keeping on Katie's part that I didn't care for very much, I have to admit. She had every opportunity to come clean and be open with Seth and she chose not to. For some reason this just bothered me as I thought she was being a bit too much of a martyr. Oh well, whatcha gonna do, right?

When it was down to the wire Seth had to decide what was more important to him, money or love and I wouldn't have wanted to be in his place. I'd of course have chosen love but dang – that's a lot of money! Lol

The story was well written and so far what I've read of Sandy James's work I've really enjoyed. She created a love story that was engaging and quite emotional at times with great characters – what more could I ask for?

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Sandy James