Review: Lord of the Rakes by Darcie Wilde

So it’s no wonder he’s called the Lord of the Rakes. Rumor has it he’s the most dangerous seducer in the city, with quite the extensive list of conquests. Talk of his prowess as a lover and his ingenuity in the bedroom are enough to make even the most prudish of ladies succumb to temptation. But as of late, Phillip has found himself a bit bored. Until he sets his eyes on a fiery newcomer.

New to independence and London, gorgeous heiress Lady Caroline Delamarre wants to make the most of her life. And when Phillip meets her gaze, she knows the perfect place to start: in his arms …and in his bed. But what begins as a long night of breathtaking passion leads to more than the two bargained for. Haunted by troubled pasts and inescapable family entanglements, each of them must decide if they can risk a gamble on what might be true love.

Lady Caroline is more than a bit surprised when she finds out that her now deceased mother left her a trust and she had no clue about it. Caroline had been practically imprisoned in her home all her life with only short forays out into country society. She sees this trust as her way to freedom from her overbearing brother and she’s going to take it. Her best friend is getting married in London and then she plans on heading to the Continent, possibly forever.

In London, at her very first ball, she sees Phillip. She’s immediately told to ignore the man as he’s known as the Lord of the Rakes and she should have nothing to do with him. Caroline knows that she never plans on marrying but after being cooped up she wants to live and that includes experiencing passion. She sends Phillip a note and they meet in the garden. From that moment they both know that they will continue the tryst in private.

Phillip is immediately taken with Caroline. He can’t stop thinking about her and wants her in so many different ways. He was getting bored with his life and Caroline opens new doors to excitement, except, he starts to want to see Caroline constantly and wants no other woman. This is perplexing to him but he goes with it. As he gets to know Caroline better he starts to really look at his life and what he sees isn’t something he’s happy with. For both his own happiness and hopefully that of Caroline he decides to make a change. Unfortunately Caroline may be forced back into imprisonment if Phillip can’t help her out.

This is a new book by a new author and I have to say I enjoyed almost every minute of it. I was immediately engaged in the story from page one and couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

I think I liked Caroline so much in this book because she was so different. I suppose I thought as she had been out of her home so little that she would be shy and not know what she wanted but that wasn’t the case at all. She may have been sheltered but she knew exactly what she wanted and went after it. She had some misgivings a time or two but for the most part took the bull by the horns.

Phillip was a tad bit stereotypical as the rake but his character was well written and I found myself rooting for him. I wanted him to be with Caroline and the way the author had him growing in the book may have been a bit predictable but it worked.

Overall I found Lord of the Rakes to be a very good book and I’m looking forward to reading what Ms. Wilde writes in the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Darcie Wilde


Review: Bare Essentials: Naughty But Nice\Naturally Naughty

There were two connecting stories in this book and I had very different views of each so I'm reviewing them individually.

Naughty But Nice
by Jill Shalvis

Lingerie model Cassie Tremaine Montgomery intends to have her revenge on the citizens of her hometown—starting with seducing the sheriff, Sean "Tag" Taggart. Tag, however, isn't cooperating. He's more than willing to set the sheets on fire with her, but he's asking for more than just sizzling sex…. He knows Cassie's not as tough as she pretends. And he knows she cares about him—even if she won't admit it. So he'll just turn up the heat until she concedes there's more between them than this red-hot passion. 

Cassie grew up in a town called Pleasantville that wasn't very pleasant. Her mother was not one to shy away from men, to say the least, and her family was known as "that trashy Tremaine family."  Needless to say Cassie didn't really trust any of the men in town because she had no idea who had slept with her mother and who hadn't.

On prom night ten years earlier her date, who she wanted to get away from, got pulled over by the Sheriff and was made to walk home.  Cassie was happy that it was Sheriff Taggart because she trusted him - that is until he started suggesting that Cassie pay him back for his kindness with sex. Ew. She got home safely but was a bit traumatized by the event.  She crawled up into her tree house and wrote out a revenge list for when she was older.

Ten years later and Cassie is back in town as her mother has given her a bunch of properties that she inherited from some of the men she was "friends" with over the years.  Cassie thinks she's gonna close things up and sell until she gets there and finds that not everyone knows who she was from years past and that she kind of likes it in Pleasantville.   She decides to open a women's store, Bare Essentials, (lingerie and sex toys, among other things) along with her cousin Kate. Kate already has a Bare Essentials in Chicago that is a total hit.  Cassie doesn't plan on the new Sheriff Taggart, who is the originals son.  He's hot and he really likes Cassie - even though it doesn't show at first.  Tag is looking for long term but Cassie has self-esteem issues as she doesn't believe that any man could like her for more than her body.

This is probably the first Shalvis story that I didn't absolutely love.  I think I had issues with Cassie as I couldn't quite believe that after all those years she truly didn't believe herself a good person inside.  

Tag was a great guy but even he was playing the sex card with Cassie and it just didn't feel right to me - even though it was a big part of the story.  

Cassie, imho, was all over the place with her emotions, jumping from one to the other very quickly.  She really didn't know what she wanted and I believe she held out too long with Tag and his love for her.  

So while this was a good story I did have some issues with it.  I liked the addition of Kate in the story as it led us nicely into the next one but I didn't love this one.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Naturally Naughty
by Leslie Kelly

Kate Jones, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is home. And she's got an agenda. To get revenge on the man who humiliated her mother, Kate's going to seduce that man's son—the town's golden boy, John Winfield Jr.—and then leave him drooling in a puddle of lust. However, when she finds herself seduced by a sexy stranger named Jack, little does she guess that the tables have just been turned…

Kate was always a quiet, studious girl who was thought of as kind.  When her prom date dumps her for another girl Kate ends up walking home alone.  When she's almost at her house she sees her mother, who is a maid at Mayor Winfield's house, get out of the car with a man and kiss him.  It's none other than Mayor Winfield!  Kate is crushed that her mother would kiss a married man or that Mayor Winfield seemed to be taking advantage of her mother!  She climbs up to her backyard tree house (and yes, her cousin Cassie is already there) and along with Cassie makes a revenge on Pleasantville list.  

Ten years later Kate is a successful business woman and has even been featured in Chicago's Business Journal.  She's there to get some things from her old house as her mother has moved to Florida and plans to sell the place.  While in Pleasantville she sees a man across the street.  They catch each others eye and can't look away.  He crosses the street and ends up kissing her right there - without even knowing her name.  Later that day they end up in the local (deserted) theater and have sex.  Jack is the man and he's completely smitten with Kate - without even knowing her name.  Jack knows she's from Chicago as he is and tells her he'll call when he returns.  

Jack gets back home - to the Winfield house - and finds out that the rumors about his now deceased father and  Kate's mom are completely true.  He feels guilty that his father treated Edie the way he did and feels that he needs to right the wrong.  He doesn't feel he can see Kate while he's on the mission - so he never calls.

Months later they're both back in Pleasantville and when Kate finds out that Jack is actually a Winfield she's done with him.  She's already pissed off that he never called but unfortunately she can't seem to stay away from him - and Jack despite his guilt, can't seem to stay away from Kate.

They eventually give in and start a relationship but Kate is still mired in her "I'm not good enough" for long term thinking and it may just ruin everything.

I liked this story so much more than the first!  I really liked both Kate and Jack so very much.  Kate was a strong business woman who still had a few issues to get through personally but was still open to love.  Jack, in my opinion, should have done away with his guilt much sooner than he did but I'm glad he finally realized he didn't need to feel guilty. 

I was a little bothered by the fact that everyone got a happy ending in this story - even the mean people - as it was made to look that they'd turned nice and frankly I strongly doubted that.  Besides that fact I really liked the book and was so happy I continued reading from the first story.

Rating: 4 out of 5

What I Read Last Week

Howdo neighbors!

Sorry, I’m so behind this week!

We had my daughter’s sweet 16 b-day party this past Saturday and while I thought the kids weren’t having that much fun it turns out that they all said it was the best party ever. I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand teenagers before, now I’m positive. lol

Since then that same daughter has done something to her leg – possibly a pulled muscle? – and the doctor has her on crutches for a week, poor thing.

Other than that there’s not much happening in Tracyland. :)

So, what did I read last week? Let me tell ya:

I started off the week with The Billionaire Banker by Georgia le Carre. This is the story of a woman desperate for money so that she can pay for her mother’s cancer treatment. She starts to sell her body to one man but ends up with a different man by the end of the night. Lana and Blake have an incredible attraction but after 3 months is up, what will happen to her and Blake – especially when she figures out she’s in love with him. This was a decent read but ended on a cliffhanger. Good thing the 2nd book was almost out by the time I read it! 3.5 out of 5

The next book in the series is Forty 2 Days. Lana took off and broke her agreement with Blake. She’s now back in London and Blake is pissed that she left in the first place. He insists that she complete the 42 days that were left on her contract. Unfortunately his family wants her to have nothing to do with Blake and they’ll stop at nothing to get what they want. This was again, a decent read but I had issues with the end of the book. You can read a single post with reviews of both book 1 & 2 at The Book Binge by clicking here. (There’s also a giveaway going on as well until 2/24/14). 3 out of 5

Reckless by Skye Jordan was a freebie I got off of ARe at one time. The story is about a dress designer who is flying to NY from LA. She sees a guy she thinks is hot and with the help of an app from her friend is able to text him anonymously. They strike up a conversation and end up planning a tryst once they get to NY. They have a great time – in a completely darkened room – and he still has no idea who she is. He’s a stunt man and she designs for big stars. Both of them are leery, from being previously burned by ex’s, of getting into a relationship and trusting. Unfortunately this aspect of the story brought it all down for me. They were both so suspicious of each other constantly and the trust wasn’t there. I can’t see the kind of relationship the author was trying to give us happening with no trust. Yes it all ended with an HEA that was pretty satisfying but I just wasn’t sold enough to believe it would work in the long run. 3 out of 5

Next up was Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid. This is the second story in the Knitting in the City series and was Elizabeth’s story. Elizabeth is a doctor in Chicago and meets Nico after not seeing him for 10 years. Nico was a friend when they were kids but then used to bully her somewhat. There was history with him and her now deceased boyfriend that cased a bond…and a rift. Nico wants to be friends but he’s been in love with her for years so his friends without benefits offer is a little strange but Elizabeth goes with it. This was a very good book that I really enjoyed. I loved the characters – both main and secondary and it was fun and funny. 4 out of 5

No If, Ands or Bears About It by Celia Kyle is the story of a woman who moves to a Bear shifter town to live her in now deceased grandfathers home. On the first day she finds a bear cub shifter in her pantry and when she meets his belligerent and violent uncle she decides she’s not giving him back. The Sheriff, and Itan of the Bear clan has something to say about that but he’s almost more interested in the woman as she’s his. The story is about Mia’s resistance to Ty as she thinks it’s just chemical and not love, and the fight with the Uncle and therefore another Itan over the keeping of the bear cub, Parker. It was a fun, cute book and I really liked it. 3.75 out of 5

Last for the week was Lord of the Rakes by Darcie Wilde. Sheltered and practically imprisoned all her life, Lady Caroline finds out that her deceased mother left her money that is all hers – money her brother can’t touch – which means she’s now free. She heads to London with the plan to be in her best friends wedding then move to the Continent but she soon meets Phillip and her plans go awry. I’ll give you my thoughts on this one later this week when I post my review. 4 out of 5 

My Book Binge reviews that posted last week:
Hope Flames by Jaci Burton
Torn by Kim Karr
The Billionaire Banker and Forty 2 Days by Georgia Le Carre
Guilty as Sin by Jami Alden

Happy Reading!

Review: Highlander Mine by Juliette Miller

Deep in the lush Highlands, a powerful laird with everything to lose must risk it all for the lass who storms into his keep--and his heart.

Raised on the debauched margins of society, Amelia Taylor depends upon her quick wit and fiery spirit to survive. When danger closes in on her already precarious home, she flees into the Highlands and finds refuge in the iron-strong circle of Clan Mackenzie. There, her lack of propriety and intriguing beauty draw the attentions of their formidable leader. But to remain safe from pursuit, she must conceal her identity, even if it means deceiving Laird Knox Mackenzie.

A fiercely guarded and staunchly moral warrior, Knox never expected a ravishing stranger like Amelia to reawaken his desires. Yet as their heated confrontations unlock untold passion, temptation proves impossible to resist. So when Amelia's tapestry of lies begins to unravel, the secrets from her dark past threaten both his Clan and a future they can only dare to dream of...

Amelia and her 9 year old nephew, Hamish, are on the run.  Her brother-in-law, who partly owns a gambling hall in Edinburgh is off making an illegal smuggling run and the man who has the controlling interest in the hall wants Amelia.  He'll not take no for an answer and will rape her if she won't comply.  He even goes so far as to threaten to harm Hamish which puts them on the run.  Amelia's sister refuses to leave without her husband but so Amelia does what she has to do.   

Riding hay carts to get to the highlands the pair end up at a tavern where Amelia thinks she might find work until three noble ladies and their very large highlander guards enter the tavern.  Hamish is transfixed by the guards and when the ladies ask their story Hamish tells a tale of being accosted by bandits who then killed the driver of their carriage and their now searching the highlands on foot to find a cousin.  The ladies offer to take them to their keep so that their brother, the Laird, can help them find their cousin. 

When they arrive at the Kinloch Amelia is fascinated by the beauty of the area.  She feels she's found paradise and never wants to leave - even though she knows she must.  The Laird, Knox, comes looking for her and when their eyes meet they are both smitten. 

After talking to both Amelia and Hamish Knox knows that their tale is far fetched but he puts out word about the cousin anyway.  During the next few weeks Knox and Amelia become closer and Hamish finds a place in the clan.  Amelia, who always wanted to be a teacher, starts to teach a couple of the clans children.  Amelia is in love with both Kinloch and Knox but she knows she must go back to Edinburgh to save her sister.  

This story had definite pros and cons for me. I really liked the story which I found to be sweet, sexy and intriguing.  I didn't, however, care for the execution of the story.  

Miller has a way of writing that really took some getting used to. The inner thought and ruminations of Amelia (which were the only thoughts we got as this was 1st person POV) were in plentiful supply.  The dialogue was mostly broken up by thought.  One person would talk and then we'd get many paragraphs of thinking and then a reply - then the cycle would start again.  It was incredibly frustrating as, like I said, I really liked the story.  I wanted Amelia to just stop thinking for a while and have a regular conversation.  I think there was enough "regular" dialogue to keep me reading but only about a 1/4 of the time.  

I can't remember the last time I read a historical romance where it was 1st person POV and I found that to be a hindrance to the overall love story.  I think having Knox's POV would have added so much more to the book and I was disappointed that I didn't get that.  

The characters in the book were great, I must say.  Knox was a wonderful man and fierce Laird.  Hamish was a fun and loving 9 year old boy.  I just wanted to hug the little thing time and again.  Knox's family were interesting additions and the soldiers of Kinloch were also loyal and kind.  Amelia was a great aunt and sister as well as she would do anything for their safety and I loved that about her.  

Overall the story was a good one and one I'd recommend reading but with a warning that there is a plethora of inner thought that you have to wade through.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Juliette Miller

Saturday Song

I can't believe I've never posted a Skillet song here. What the hell was I thinking???  I love almost all of their songs but what got me hooked was listening to Comatose.  Here it is for your listening pleasure. :)  Enjoy!

Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?

Abducted by handsome highwayman?
Rescued from drudgery by a charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one. 

Izzy is practically homeless and about to be hopeless as well when she finds out that she’s inherited something from a friend of her father’s. When she arrives in Northumberland she finds that what she’s inherited is a decrepit castle but unfortunately the previous owner is still living in it.

Izzy is frustrated by Ransom, the Duke of Rothbury but no more than he is with her. He tries just about everything to get her out of his house as he’s sure she’s off her rocker. He DID NOT sell his castle! Unfortunately the papers she has say otherwise and she’s not about to go anywhere. He finally decides to hire Izzy to be his secretary, at an exorbitant daily rate of pay, to go through his hundreds of pieces of mail that have piled up since he was blinded in a duel.He has to find out what's going on and figures that there must be something in the stack.

Izzy is happy for any excuse to stay in the castle and making the money only gives her coin to fix the castle up to its former glory. Again, Ransom gets in the way. He’s so grouchy! Despite that Izzy starts to like the man and soon is falling in love with him.

As much as Ransom doesn’t want Izzy to claim the castle he really wants to claim her. She’s fun and vivacious; she’s charming and kind; she’s caring and thoughtful – what’s not to like. He also wants to get her into his bed but that’s like a cherry on top. Ransom may say he wants her gone but in reality he’ll do almost anything to get her to stay in his life forever.

OMG what a great book! I loved this one so very much. I’m not sure why I love blind or deaf characters in romances so much but I think it has to do with how the authors have to work that much harder at their romance and it usually pays off big time – as it did in this book.

Ransom is a ornery SOB but after hearing about his childhood I have no doubt that’s how he thinks everyone should be. He was treated horribly so when Izzy comes in and starts showing him affection and caring he’s not sure he likes it but soon craves it like nothing else. The things that annoy him about her soon are things he can't live without. He’s falling fast for her but there are obstacles. Like – his solicitors trying to prove that he’s crazy or the troupe of role playing characters that seem to follow Izzy, and the ermine that seems to like to chomp on his fingers.

It’s all so very nuts but the book is written in a way that the nuttiness is appreciated and it makes the book that much better. Dare took a simple pair of characters and made them amazing. She took a simple meeting of two people and made it into a wonderful love story. I can’t say enough good things about this romance, that’s for sure. Do yourself a favor and read it – you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Tessa Dare

Review: The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell

Lady Aileen never thought she’d be in this position—falling in love with her sister’s betrothed! Of course, her sister did run away rather than marry him, and he doesn’t seem to be all that interested in her sister either, but even so, such a match is impossible...isn’t it?

Aileen is certain she must turn away from the man she loves in order to protect her sister’s reputation. However, he’s not one to give up without a fight, and now that he’s met a woman he wants to marry, nothing on earth could convince him to let Aileen go.


Lady Tara fell in love with the Horse Master when she was younger. She left him, however, to go to London to see the greater world and have a season, leaving her love, Ruary, devastated. Now it's 3 years later and Tara is engaged to marry the bastard son of a duke. She decides 3 days before the wedding that it's really Ruary she wants and escapes London to head to her hometown in Scotland. Unfortunately things don't work out like she planned. She gets home only to find Ruary engaged to another woman but she feels sure that he will choose her over the other woman. Then there's her fiance, Blake Stephens, who follows her to Scotland along with her father. The father insists on the marriage taking place but Tara just wants Ruary.

Her sister, Aileen, is a divorced woman who lives at home. She's happy she's divorced as her husband was a angry man and beat her regularly. When Tara shows up at home she's upset but determined to force their father to to let Tara be and get her out of the marriage contract. Unfortunately Tara changes her mind suddenly and now the wedding's on again. Another unfortunate is Blake and Aileen falling in love and Tara not willing to let Blake off the hook. Yowza.

I've only read a few of Maxwell's books but I've liked what I've read so far. This one was on par with the others but I did have some issues with it.

First what I liked: I really liked the characters. They were well written and I enjoyed reading about almost all of them. The story about Ruary and his fiance, Jane Sawyer was a good addition to the overall story and I very much liked that portion of the book.

What I didn't like: Tara I really didn't like. The next book is hers and I'm not sure that I liked her enough by the end of this book to read her story. I also didn't really care for the romance between Aileen and Blake. While it was great that they fell in love it almost took a back seat to everything that was going on with Ruary and Tara. I didn't feel like we got enough of their falling in love to feel the true emotion of their predicament. This felt more like Tara's book than Aileen's.

Despite my issues with the book I thought it was a good read overall. I'll have to see how about Tara when it comes time for her romance.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cathy Maxwell

Review: Believe by Erin McCarthy

Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend's boyfriend. Now she's faced with being THAT girl, and couldn't be more disgusted with herself. She can't even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that's good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin's house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he's drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn't care that he's done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it's a na├»ve dream to believe that his record won't catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…

For the entire previous school year Robin was the party girl.  She skipped classes and went to parties nightly.  She made out with a lot of guys but didn't generally go home with them.  When she wakes up one morning and finds that she's in bed with one of her best friends boyfriends she's appalled.  She can't remember a thing as she blacked out from drinking so much but she knows that she would have normally never stepped over that line.  She quits drinking and partying over the summer and keeps to herself - telling no one what happened.  

Two and a half months after that night she shows up at the Mann house (where Tyler, Riley, their brothers and Jessica live - from previous books) to paint a pop art piece of Easton Mann and she meets Phoenix.  Phoenix is cousin to the Mann brothers and just got out of jail after spending 5 months behind bars. He strikes up a conversation with Robin and then asks for her number.  She doesn't quite know how to say no so she hands it over.  Not 5 minutes later she gets a text from him that makes her smile.

Phoenix is kind of lost.  His mother moved while he was in jail and he has no idea where she went.  He didn't have much to his name but now what he did have is completely gone - never to be recovered.  He thinks Robin is cute but he knows that she's way out of his league.  This unlikely couple strikes up a friendship and end up spending time together just hanging out.  

What starts as friendship soon turns into lovers and the pair fall in love.  Unfortunately there are obstacles in their way that may lead to their relationships demise.  

This was another good story in the True Believers series.  I really like the characters in these stories as they just feels so normal to me.

Phoenix is kind of a mess but he really has a good head on his shoulders.  He has serious anger issues and has a hard time controlling his temper but really it's targeted at those who are shitheads.  He spent 5 months in jail for beating up his mothers boyfriend when he found the man raping her and carving her stomach up.  He saved her life but went to jail for it.  He doesn't regret what he did as he loves his mother - despite his childhood.  He loves with his whole heart and knows what he has to do to get to where he's going.  He immediately finds a job and pays his cousins back for all they do.  He had this kind of weird code of honor thing going and I just really got him.  He was good for Robin and wouldn't give up on her.

Robin was a mess as well.  She was living with the guilt of her drunken night with Kylie's boyfriend and on top of that Nathan kept texting her and wouldn't leave her alone.  She seemed to find a bit of a kindred spirit in Phoenix as she was an artist and so was he. She liked to get her feelings out in her painting while he liked to sketch and was apprenticing at a tattoo shop.  When shit hits the fan with her friends she dives into the deep end and almost ends up dead but Phoenix is there to pull her through and let her know that he won't leave her.  I loved their relationship.

While the story wasn't the most gripping thing that I've read I thought it was solid and had a certain darkness to it that I enjoyed.  I think if you like McCarthy's writing and enjoy this series this is one you'd enjoy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

What I Read Last Week

Happy Monday!  I know it's happy for me as I'm not working today (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the states) so that's nice.  

The week was a weird one as I had shoulder and neck muscle spasms all week that were causing massive headaches.  I have no idea what caused the spasm, I just want it to go away now, thank you very much. lol  

Still getting ready for my daughters 16th b-day party.  It's on Saturday, the 25th so I only have a few more days and then it will be here...and over! lol  Hopefully the next time I plan a sweet 16 party (in 5 years) it will be easier as I've done it before. *crosses fingers*

So on to what I read this past week:

I started off the week with the continuation of the YA series Pushing the Limits and read Dare You To by Katie McGarry.  This story was about Beth and Ryan.  Beth moves to live with her uncle who she has seen in years and she definitely has some animosity towards everyone.  Ryan is a guy who originally takes a dare to go out with her but then ends it when he finds he really likes her.  It was a fantastic story and I loved it.  You can read my full review here. 5 out of 5

Next up was Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews.  I have no idea why I didn't get this book when it first came out but I finally got it and loved it.  Kate and Curran are off across the sea with a contingent of shifters to babysit a pregnant woman.  They know it's a trap of some kind but they have no idea how huge of a trap it is until they arrive.  Things start to go a little weird with Curran but all is well in the end.  I loved the action in this one as well as the characters and the writing.  I laughed, I gasped, I cried - the story was just so good.  So good.  5 out of 5

Next up I read some freebies on Ilona Andrews website called An Ill-Advised Rescue parts 1 & 2.  This was Kate saving Samin from some kidnappers along with Derek and I liked both of them.  Part 1 got a 3.5 out of 5 and Part 2 a 4 out of 5

Another freebie story on Andrews' site is A Questionable Client and this is the story of when Kate is hired to protect and meets Samin.  It's an interesting chain of events and was really good as well. 4 out of 5

Bare Essentials by Jill Shalvis and Leslie Kelly are 2 companion novels (short novels) that are both in the same book.  The stories are about two cousins, Cassie and Kate, who each return to the hometown that looked down their noses at them when they were kids and now it's time for revenge. I liked Kelly's book more than Shalvis'.  I'll post my review of this one next week.  Overall rating is 3.5 out of 5 

Highlander Mine by Juliette Miller was the first book that I've read by this author.  This about a girl and her nephew who escape an lowlife villain in Edinburgh and managed to be rescued by a group of Mackenzie clan.  Amelia and her nephew lie about their reasons for being stranded.  The laird knows their lying but can't figure out what the reason behind it is.  This doesn't stop the laird, Knox, from falling in love with Amelia.  I'll post more in my review later this week. 3.5 out of 5

Last for the week was Believe by Erin McCarthy.  This story follows Robin as she meets Phoenix who just got out of jail after spending 5 months inside.  Robin has a secret she has to keep from her friends and Phoenix is the one to bring her out of her self imposed prison.  I'll post my review for this one on Wed. 3.5 out of 5

My Book Binge reviews that posted last week:
Rumor Has It by Jill Shalvis

Happy Reading!

Review: When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries

It had been a decade since Victor Cale, first cousin to the Duke of Lyons, had seen his wife. After some royal jewelry went missing from the jeweler’s shop where they worked, Isabel Mertens disappeared. When Victor gets word of a woman who fits his wife’s description, he sets out to confront her. But he discovers that nothing is as it seems—and revenge is never as sweet as true love.

Isabella was just 18 years old when she married Victor Cale. She truly loved him and wanted to save him from her sister and her husband who were planning on stealing jewels and then taking a fake jewelry piece she had made and putting it in its place. Isa tried to fake illness in order to stop the robbery but when she woke in the morning her sister stated that it had been done. Her sister, Jacoba, stated that Victor had ended up helping them with the theft and that he had left for Antwerp to try and hawk them and that he would meet them in Paris. Isa waited and waited but Victor never showed. She finally takes a job and heads to Scotland with an assumed name.

Ten years later Victor is working for The Duke's Men, really named Manton Investigations. His first job sends him to Scotland to look into a woman named Sophie Franke. She is spending time with a Baron and the Baron's mother wants the scoop on this older woman (she's all of 28!) Victor heads to Edinburgh and finds his wife, Isa. She wants nothing to do with a man who stole jewels and he wants nothing to do with a woman who played a part in stealing jewels. There are a ton of misconceptions flying around, all perpetrated by Jacoba and her husband. Victor and Isa find that they still love each other and eventually find out the truth about what happened 10 years ago but is it enough to let them heal after so many years of distrust?

Sabrina Jeffries does it again. She brings another fab story to us and weaves an intricate tale into it all. I loved the ins and outs of the whole jewelry heist and getting to the bottom of it all. I felt that Jeffries did a wonderful job of leading us to doubt Victor and that was part of what I loved about the book. You just wanted to trust but you weren't sure if you could.

Sophie/Isa was an incredibly strong woman and I really liked her character. Her intelligence and courage in the face of everything she went through was highly admirable. She made a life for herself starting from nothing and that's not easy - especially back then.

Victor, the poor man, what just confused. He's thought for so long that Isa had everything to do with the jewelry heist but he still loved his wife and truly didn't want to believe that she could have done such a thing. Yeah, he acted like an ass at first but after what he went through after the theft it was understandable.

Overall it was an exciting story and one that I had to pick up and read whenever I could. I didn't want to put it down but life kept getting in the way! lol I definitely recommend this one go in your TBR pile.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Sabrina Jeffries

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

Beth has an alcoholic mother with a boyfriend who beats her.  He likes to beat on Beth too so after the last time she moved in with her mother's sister and has been doing just fine.  That is until the bartender at the local bar calls her to come get her drunken mother one night.  Beth helps her mom out of the bar but the mom takes it upon herself to start smashing her boyfriends car.  Asshole boyfriend shows up and starts beating on Sky, the mom, and Beth's had enough.  She picks up the bat to hit Trent and that's when the cops show up.  Trent accuses Beth of destroying his car and her mom doesn't stand up for her.

Beth gets arrested and that's when her uncle Scott shows up.  He and Beth used to be the best of friends and he wants her to have a better life.  He insists on taking her home with him and tells her that if she tries to contact her mother he'll have Sky put in jail for the secrets she's hiding in her apartment.  Beth doesn't want her mother to go to jail but Scott's rules are ruthless and Beth is belligerent.  Besides that she has to leave her friends and start a new school.

When she starts school she's approached by Ryan who is a star baseball player.  Ryan is under a dare to get Beth to go out with him and to stay on a date for at least an hour.  Ryan's all for it until he starts spending time with Beth and realizes he really likes her - more than likes her.  But Beth is keeping secrets and while she does tell Ryan some of them trust is a big issue for Beth.  Ryan has to get through to Beth that he loves her and that she can trust him but Beth is too focused on saving her mother to see the love that's right in front of her.

You know, I don't normally read YA books but when I see a story that sounds interesting I pick up the book whether it's adult romance, NA or YA.  This was one of those times that the story sounded interesting enough to read and I'm so glad I did.

I love that the relationship between Beth and Ryan started on a dare but that was what got Ryan close enough to get to know Beth.  She wasn't pleased with the attention he was giving her but she more or less tolerated it because she could get something from him as well, rides into Louisville.  They kind of end up being at cross purposes but finally Beth agrees to date friends.

Ryan knows that he wants more from Beth but he doesn't want to scare her. I was a bit peeved at Beth for being so focused on her mom but she had her reasons. Unfortunately her mom really didn't want to be saved so it kind of sucked for Beth.  I loved that in the end Beth and Ryan trusted each other and all of their secrets came out.  I loved Beth and felt for her but I also loved Ryan and felt for what he was going through as well.  I just loved their love story!

This was just a non-stop page turner.  It had alternating 1st person pov's from Beth and Ryan. I liked that we saw both sides of the coin as I thought it made the story so much more emotionally charged.  This was an amazing book and one that I will definitely re-read in the future.  This is book 3 in the Pushing the Limits series (2nd full length novel) and so far I'm a huge fan of the series.

Rating: 5 out of 5

What I Read Last Week

Hey there!  Hope your week started off well.  

Nothing much happened this past week except a lot of reading so I'll get right to the books I read:

First I read The Experts Guide to Driving a Man Wild by Jessica Clare.  The story focuses on Grant and Brenna who have worked together for years and constantly bicker.  When Grants family comes to visit and his mother starts harping him about dating Brenna steps in and pretends to be his girlfriend.  Relationship ensues.  A great story about opposites attracting and trusting in the one you love.  Good story.  You can read my review here.  4 out of 5

Next up was Forged in Steele by Maya Banks.  This is book 7 in the KGI series and focused on Steele who works for KGI and his falling for a doctor named Maren.  They hook up but she's then kidnapped and Steele has to find her and then never let her go.  It was a decent book but I didn't think there was enough background on the love story.  We were brought in when he already had feelings for her - which was good and bad.  3.75 out of 5 (read for Book Binge)

My next read was a paranormal story called Scared of Spiders by Eve Langlais.  It's about a woman who has nightmares about spiders and hates them with a passion.  She goes to work for werewolves who find that she's their mate.  Unfortunately there really is a giant spider after her and he's psycho.  This wasn't a bad story - just pretty predictable.  3 out of 5

After the Storm by Maya Banks is book 8 in the KGI series and this one, while parts were really good the romance was rushed completely.  Donovan fell in love in 2 days and became a bit of an overbearing jerk.  If the romance had been drawn out more this could have really been a great book.  You can read my review here. 3 out of 5

Simple Perfection by Abbi Glines.  This book has Woods' father dying and him inheriting all.  He turns into a complete jerk who was on overly possessive ass with Della.  I couldn't read that much before I just had to stop. DNF

Hope Flames by Jaci Burton was my next read.  The story is about Emma who is a vet and opens a veterinary clinic in her hometown.  She has no plans on dating anyone after her past with a controlling idiot until Luke McCormack, hot and sexy cop, comes into the clinic with his dog Boomer.  The story was sweet and fun and I really liked this one.  4 out of 5 (read for Book Binge)

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry is a YA book that I read about on Leslie's blog and had to read.  The story follow Echo who is senior in high school who is dealing with a memory loss.  Her mother tried to kill her but she's blocked out that entire day and the docs think that her mind needs to remember on its own so no one will tell her what happened exactly.  She meets Noah who is a foster kid and they strike up a friendship and then so much more.  This was a really great book. The emotion in this one was wonderful and I couldn't wait to read the next book.  I did think that things were wrapped up a tad bit too pat with her father at the end but it still all worked for me.  4.5 out of 5

Crossing the Line by Katie McGarry is a novella in the above series.  Lila was Echo's best friend in the previous book and has been writing letters to Lincoln, a guy she met only once in her life. When she finds out he lied to her she's ready to call it quits until he shows up on her doorstep.  Good story.  Pretty short but still emotionally charged. 3.75 out of 5

Last for the week was The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell.  Tara is to marry in London but decides that the love she left behind in her hometown in Scotland is the man she really wants.  She escapes London 3 days before her out of his marriage contract?  This was a decent read that I had some issues with.  I post my review later this month.  3.5 out of 5

My Book Binge reviews that posted last week:

Happy Reading!

Saturday Song

Here's a new to me band called Starset with My Demons. Enjoy


Review: After the Storm by Maya Banks

Over the years, Donovan Kelly has fought relentlessly for justice, women and children always holding a special place in his heart. Working side by side with his brothers, Donovan has witnessed firsthand the toll it’s taken—physically, mentally, and emotionally—on his loved ones, and the innocent lives caught in the crossfire. What he never expects is for his next mission to happen right on his home turf—or for it to take a very personal turn.

Picturesque Kentucky Lake is the perfect place for a soul in search of safe harbor. A beautiful stranger has arrived—desperate, breathless, and on the run from a dark past closing in on her and the younger siblings she has vowed to protect. Donovan must now draw on every resource at his disposal—if he wants to save a woman and the children who may prove to be his destiny.

Donovan Kelly is ready to settle down. He wants what his brothers have which is a good woman to come home to and love. Now they're all starting to have children as well and frankly he's a bit jealous. When his sister Rusty comes to him and tells him of a 15 year old boy that she's hired under the table he's concerned for her safety. Rusty assures him that Travis won't hurt her but she's concerned because she sees herself in Travis. She used to be him before she was adopted by the Kelly family. She asks Donovan for help and he agrees. They follow Travis home and find a dilapidated trailer that holds his 23 year old sister and his very sick 4 year old sister. They are secretive and don't want to have help – both Rusty and Donovan know that the three are hiding something.

Donovan is blown away by what he feels is an instant connection to Eve, the older sister. He wants nothing more than to get to know her better but he can tell that she's skittish and is constantly looking over her shoulder to see what's coming. After a tornado hits town Donovan is scared for the siblings and ends up finding Travis and his little sister, Cammie, in a culvert and Eve under a mattress – they've all been hurt. Donovan takes them home, gets them medical care from the KGI doctor, Maren, and then takes care of them like he's known them for years. This has all taken place in the span of 2 – 2.5 days but already Van knows that he wants the siblings to be his family. He wants Travis and Cammie to be his children and Eve to be with him for the rest of his life as his wife. He dreams of the years they'll spend together and the children they'll one day have.

The siblings are running from their controlling, murdering father who is a complete ass and Van wants them away from him forever. KGI makes plans to take the father down but in the meantime Eve overhears what she thinks is a major betrayal by Van and she runs. Shit hits the fan and Van might lose Eve forever.

Alright, let me be honest...this was not a bad book. It wasn't, really. The story of Travis, Cammie and Eve was a good one and one that I thought had the potential to be great. Unfortunately that was completely ruined by the insta-love of Donovan for Eve. Seriously, throughout the book it didn't matter what was happening it was all tainted by the fact that this man had known this woman for 2 freakin days and called her his. Then his whole family accepted this as if it was the perfect norm and called her family. What. The. Fuck. I couldn't get it out of my head. It was a little bit crazy if you ask me. I almost think that saving this woman from her horrible father and THEN falling in love with her would have been better. I know that the Kelly men in the previous books had fallen in love with their women quickly but for those, imho, were written in a way that made it more acceptable. IDK, this just didn't work for me when it came to the romance.

I think the other thing that bothered me about this one was the amount of inner thought and introspection that occurred by both Van and Eve. I think SOME of that is good in any book but in this book it was the majority of the book. Not something I liked as it slowed the story down even more than it was already.

I felt the rest of the story needed some more of the excitement and suspense when it came to the teams but other than that I thought the story was a good one. I did like when the teams got together to work at the end as it felt more of KGI book in that instance. Anyway, while I liked parts of this one I can't say that I recommend it.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Maya Banks

Review: Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young

Despite her outgoing demeanor, Olivia is painfully insecure around the opposite sex—usually, she can’t get up the nerve to approach guys she’s interested in. But moving to Edinburgh has given her a new start, and, after she develops a crush on a sexy postgrad, she decides it’s time to push past her fears and go after what she wants.

Nate Sawyer is a gorgeous player who never commits, but to his close friends, he’s as loyal as they come. So when Olivia turns to him with her relationship woes, he offers to instruct her in the art of flirting and to help her become more sexually confident.

The friendly education in seduction soon grows into an intense and hot romance. But then Nate’s past and commitment issues rear their ugly heads, and Olivia is left broken-hearted. When Nate realizes he’s made the biggest mistake of his life, he will have to work harder than he ever has before to entice his best friend into falling back in love with him—or he may lose her forever…

From the moment that Olivia saw Nate she was attracted to him but they soon morphed into buddies and then best friends. Nate is a player and is constantly taking women home with him but the minute he thinks they’re thinking of more than sex he takes a hike. Olivia gets completely tongue-tied around men that she’s attracted to so she can’t understand how Nate does it. When Olivia wants to start talking to a postgrad that comes into the library she works at, and admits to not being with a guy in 7 years, Nate offers to try and teach her some flirting tips.

The lessons go well until Liv realizes that even if she ends up going out with the postgrad, Ben, she’s only had sex once and it was horrible. She asks Nate to teach her in bed how to please a man and Nate agrees – on the stipulation that they remain friends and that “shit won’t get weird.”

You can guess…shit gets weird. The longer the “lessons” continue the less Liv actually wants to date Ben because she’s falling in love with Nate. He is all that is good and kind and is so hot in bed. He comes to her place constantly and their friendship remains constant so that’s a bonus. That is until Nate freaks out one night and Liv admits that she’s in love with him. This begins the decimation of their friendship and then shit gets REALLY weird.

While this wasn’t my favorite of the books that I’ve read in this series so far but it was still a good one. Nate and Liv’s friendship was really the clue that kept this one together and moving and I loved that about it.

Nate has issues that stem from losing his first love and refuses to admit that there’s more to his relationship with Liv than friendship. He’s the one making all the sweet moves but he still thinks it’s all in the name of sex lessons. Is he stubborn and pig-headed? Absolutely, but even then I could see how much he cared for Liv and just wanted him to admit his feelings. The problem that I had with the book is the lack of perspective from Nate. This book is first person POV from Liv and that really left a gap for me. I really wanted and kind of needed Nate’s thoughts but unfortunately had to guess at everything he was thinking and feeling which was a bummer.

Liv was a really great character. She was so beautiful inside and out but she just couldn’t see that. Yes, we’re all critical of ourselves in ways that others aren’t but she seemed to be lacking more in confidence than complete lack of self-esteem. Nate’s “lessons” were amazing and she loved being with him but when he stepped back and wouldn’t admit his feelings she cut him loose. It’s definitely what he needed in order to get his head on straight and I loved Liv for standing up for what she believed in.

The section of the book where Liv and Nate were apart was heart breaking but it played an important part in the overall story line and I appreciated that Young didn’t shy away from it. I very much enjoy the fact that Young takes her stories where they need to go even if the reader doesn’t always expect or like it. In the end it’s what makes for great books.

I liked this one a lot and love this series. I picked up this book and didn’t stop until I was done reading – definitely a page turner.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Samantha Young

Review: The Expert's Guide to Driving a Man Wild by Jessica Clare

Grant and Brenna have been like oil and water ever since the Wilderness Survival Expeditions Company opened up. Grant likes organization. Brenna thrives on chaos. Grant likes quiet. Brenna thrives on chaos. Grant likes clothes that match. Brenna thrives on chaos. But when Grant's family shows up and begins to harass him about why he isn't dating, Brenna decides to take matters into her own hands...

That little blurb pretty much told the story of Grant and Brenna up until our story begins so I’ll go from there.

When Brenna ends up driving Grant to the airport to meet his family she’s not happy about it but since it was her fault his car wouldn’t start she was resigned. That was until his mother started in on Grant about how he should get out and date and not cut himself off from possibilities Brenna kind of saw red. Grant may not have dated in the 5 years since his wife died but Brenna didn’t think that was something a mother should be bugging her son about. When Grant’s mom says that she invited a woman to dinner to meet Grant Brenna stepped in and stated that they were dating. Grant’s shocked but plays along. He had no idea that the ruse would continue back to his place and end up in his bed. He was quite happy with that and Brenna but in the morning when he wants to cuddle she pushes him away. Brenna states that they’re pretending for his family’s sake but that the night before was just no-strings attached sex.

Grant is frustrated and doesn’t understand Brenna’s motivation for having no relationship with him but as the sex continues – and continues to be mind-blowing he goes with it. He decides that he wants Brenna to be his permanently but knows that if he tells her that she’ll take off so he acts like it’s a non-committed relationship but he’s all in. He just needs to give Brenna time and then she’ll come around – or so he thinks. He has no idea that Brenna is carrying around a deep, dark secret that may change everything.

So…I think I’m officially in love with Bluebonnet – or at least the people who live there. The camaraderie between the characters is so easy and flows so well that I just want to be where they are while I’m reading.

While Brenna and Grant’s relationship starts as just sex it soon morphs into more – especially for Grant. He has guilt issues from his first wife, and Brenna has her big secret. Because of Brenna’s past she’s more than leery to get close to Grant and this messes with her head because she actually wants to get close but fear holds her back. Grant has his work cut out for him in keeping Brenna from skittering off into the wilds but he does a great job of controlling things while still treating her with kid gloves. It sounds strange but it absolutely works for them.

The story is fun – mostly because Brenna is crazy funny – sexy, and even a bit heart wrenching at times. I very much enjoyed the love story and it was nice seeing the couples from previous books showing up. We also got some insight into the next book and just from that peek I know it’ll be a good one as well.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Jessica Clare

What I Read Last Week

Happy New Year to you all! Here’s to good friends and good books in 2014! :) 

I hope everyone had a save New Year’s Eve. We stayed home but stayed up late…or very early (whichever) and had a good time.

It was a pretty nice week last week. The weather here was beautiful and in the mid 70’s so that was nice. Not too hot, not too cool. I feel for all of you in the colder states as I know it’s awful for you right now. Hopefully our warm front will head your way next.

Here’s a couple of pictures that my oldest took of our cat Echo looking absolutely adorable. I think she ate some magic cat food that makes her more adorable cuz she’s not only cute she’s been really cuddly lately and that’s just not like her. :)

Ok, on to what I read…

I started off the week with Barely Undercover by Sarah Castille. This story is about a woman who is a PI who is staking out the leader of a Motorcycle Club so that she can get dirt on the guy so his wife can divorce him and get custody of their daughter. Lana runs into James – the man who broke her heart two years prior – who is an undercover cop trying to take down the MC. James tries to protect Lana but in doing so brings her farther into the club. This causes Lana’s past to rear its ugly head and the shit hits the fan. This was a great book and I really liked it a lot. 4 out of 5 (read for Book Binge)

Next up was Badlands by Jill Sorenson. This is book 3 in the After Shock series and it was Owen and Penny’s story. Such a good book! I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it. You can read my review of it here. 4 out of 5

Saved by Venom by Lolita Lopez is the 3rd book in her Grabbed series. This book has Venom in a “Grab” where he meets Dizzy. They hit it off and become mated but there are more than a few issues in the relationship. For the most part it was a pretty tame book when it came to angst but it was sexy, sexy and I really liked Venom a lot – even though he was pig-headed at times. :) 4 out 5

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare is about a woman who has nothing and no home who inherits a decrepit castle in the wilds of Northumberland. She arrives to find the Duke that lives there – who thinks he owns the castle – a bit put out to have her about. He’s blind but that doesn’t stop him from trying to get rid of her. They of course end up falling in love but the road is not always smooth. This was a fantastic read and I’m saying READ IT when it comes out! 5 out of 5

Last for the week was Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young. Nate and Olivia's story.  I'll post my review this week. 4 out of 5


My Book Binge reviews that posted last week:
Desperately Seeking Heaven by Jill Steeples

Happy Reading!


Review: Badlands by Jill Sorenson

Love is the most dangerous territory of all . . .

Every day, bodyguard Owen Jackson puts his life on the line — and keeps his feelings for Penny Sandoval locked away. Assigned to protect Penny's father, a presidential candidate, Owen can't get emotionally involved. That is, until Penny and her young son, Cruz, are abducted and taken deep into the California badlands.

Owen knows the bleak territory from his childhood. Worse, he knows the gang leader making ransom demands — his own brother, Shane. When a terrified Penny escapes into the desert with Cruz, Owen has to save her: from the elements and from the gang in close pursuit. Owen has hidden the darkness in his past from Penny. Now his only chance of keeping her alive is to let her see the man he really is — even if it means losing the only woman he'll ever want.

Owen met Penny during the San Diego earthquake that trapped more than a few people in an freeway underpass. Owen was an prison inmate at the time but since his release he’s been an exemplary citizen and has plans for the future to become a fireman. His current job is working as a bodyguard to Penny while her father runs for President. Unfortunately he’s unable to stop Penny, her 5 year old son Cruz, and himself from getting kidnapped and he hates himself for it. He’s determined to save them all.

Penny is scared out of her mind when the three of them are kidnapped but she’s strong and resourceful and soon escapes with Cruz (not Owen as she believes him dead). She doesn’t get far before Owen escapes as well and finds her. They travel together through the desolate and burning hot Badlands of California to try to get to civilization but unfortunately their kidnappers are tenacious and they only get so far before they're recaptured.

During the time that Penny and Owen are together they finally admit their feelings for each other. Owen had more than friendship feelings from the first time he saw Penny. He believes himself to be a man not good enough for her as she comes from a family of wealth and standing whereas he comes from a poor home and was a convicted felon. Penny, however, sees the wonderful man Owen truly is and she finally wants him to realize that not only does she want him, and has for a while, but she loves him deeply as well.

Another great book from Jill Sorenson! I just love her writing, her characters and the diverse locations she comes up with for her stories. In this series we’ve gone from an earthquake ravaged San Diego with the story taking place in a closed off underpass of a freeway, the Sierra Nevada mountains and now the Badlands. The setting was harsh and rough and I felt like I was there with Penny, Cruz and Owen when they were experiencing the pain, agony and exhaustion of the desert.

In this story the major star, imho, is Owen. His emotional growth is pivotal to the story and so Sorenson made sure that Penny played a vital role in Owen’s growth. Penny’s thoughts on Owen’s childhood and his brother, Shane, brought a new light to Owen’s way of looking at things and it made all the difference in the world. I loved that Owen opened himself up to a new way of thinking as it showed that he wasn’t mired in his damaged past and could move on, with Penny, to a new and brighter future. Their love story was definitely not ordinary and I loved that it wasn’t. Two extraordinary characters needed an extraordinary happy ending.

Badlands is not your typical romance story but it was absolutely worth reading. This is one I’d recommend without reservation.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Jill Sorenson

Review: The Wedding Favor by Cara Connelly

Before the wedding

Tyrell Brown wanted to get the hell out of Houston and back to his ranch. Instead, he’s stuck on a flight to France for his best friend’s wedding. To top it off, he discovers he’s sharing a seat with Victoria Westin, the blue-eyed, stiletto-heeled lawyer who’s been a thorn in his side for months.

At the wedding

Victoria can’t believe it! How can she be at the same wedding as this long, lean cowboy with a killer smile? So what if they shared a few in-flight cocktails, some serious flirting, and a near-miss at the mile-high club? She still can’t stand the man!

After the wedding

The wedding disaster’s in the rearview, but the sizzle between these two is still red-hot. They tried to be on their best behavior in France, but back in the States all bets are off . . .

Victoria Westin is a lower associate in a law firm where her mother is a partner.  She's instructed to defend a case against a man who is charged with manslaughter after he killed a woman while driving his hummer.  Vicky doesn't want to defend the man but she does what she has to do.   

The man whose wife died, Tyrell Brown, hates Victoria.  He calls her the bitch on wheels and can hardly stand to look at her.  The jury comes back with a guilty verdict and Ty leaves Texas to attend a wedding in Paris, France.

Ty almost misses his plane but he manages to squeeze onto it in time.  Unfortunately his seat mate in first class is none other than Vicky Westin.  Ty manages to get drunk and they actually get along - until Ty wakes up with a hangover and remembers what a bitch he thinks Vicky is.  

When the pair end up at the the same wedding they're both shocked.  Ty doesn't want to ruin the wedding for either the bride or the groom so he talks Vicky into acting like they'd never met before.  Vicky is leery but plays along.  She actually starts to like Ty and his quirky sense of humor but Ty is on such an emotional roller coaster he doesn't know what he wants.  He wants Vicky in bed but when it comes to any more he puts up the walls.

Vicky is hurt by Ty's rejection but manages to deal with it.  She ends up getting fired from her job but is ok with it all and her life takes a turn that she really loves.  Unfortunately with Ty coming in and out of her life her heart is taking a beating and though she loves him she knows that Ty's too emotionally unavailable to ever be hers.

What a great story.  The antagonism between Ty and Vicky really made for some great tension throughout the book. I loved seeing the supposed hate on Ty's part turn to sexual tension.

Vicky hadn't really done anything in her whole life that had been her choice.  Everything she did - including becoming a lawyer - had been her mother's choice and as Vicky wanted to please her mother.  Unfortunately Vicky wasn't happy with her life - any of it.  Realizing that Ty had a whole other person hidden under his hatred was a revelation to Vicky.  She found his humor and snarky attitude, and his body, to be a light in her life.  

Ty cared about Vicky after he got past his preconceived notions about her, but he was stuck in the guilt he carried about his dead wife.  He believed he had killed her after he had taken her off of life support and it was more or less soul crushing for him.  However, Vicky's sense of humor, her smile and her blushes made him stand up and take notice.  He found that he couldn't stop thinking about her and it was frustrating for him.  He wanted to hate Vicky but he found himself falling in love with her and it was great seeing him brought to his knees.  Now, did he act like an ass and screw up repeatedly?  Oh yeah he did, but I thought he did a wonderful job of sucking up to Vicky and making up for his mistakes. 

The book was entertaining, fun, funny, frustrating, sexy, just all around great.

Rating: 4 out of 5