A Little More Scandal by Carrie Lofty – B+ This recently released novella is a prequel of sorts to Flawless and the just now released Starlight and features the patriarch of the Christie family. I’ve heard good things about Ms. Lofty’s books but had never read one before. A 99c novella is a good way to test the waters with a new author. I do think it is hard to write a complete story in such a short word count so I was especially pleased with my reading experience. William Christie is a self made made, a large, arrogant, boorish Scot who is tolerated in Society because of his wealth and a previous advantageous marriage (he is now a widower). Catrin Jones is a Welsh nurse who, on returning from the Crimea, was the only survivor of a shipwreck. She realises she will have notoriety for a short time and wishes to use that time to find a suitable husband. William wants shares in a newspaper and his part of the bargain is her story (which she has been notoriously closed mouth about). Both have mercenary goals but both are deeply attracted. I enjoyed the banter and the curious honesty between them. It definitely made me want to read both Flawless and Starlight – and there are lengthy excerpts from both in the back. Well played Ms. Lofty.
Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood
– See my full review here
Seven Day Loan by Tiffany Reisz – C-/D+ I found this hard to grade because although the story was written well, ultimately I found parts of the story distateful. Also, it’s not so much romance as erotica. I think I may have missed something. Maybe it is something to do with The Siren (which I haven’t read yet)? I definitely got the sense that this was related to another book. I think I would have had a better connection if I had understood the context more clearly but as it was, it felt a bit like a mid book excerpt rather than a complete story. There was something a bit unsavory and unsettling about Eleanor’s background and primary relationship. Daniel seemed nice enough but I wasn’t 100% sure about Eleanor’s ability to give consent.
**please note these next 2 reviews appeared in the July ARRA members newsletter and also on the ARRA blog on 1st August 2012**
Platinum Passion (Gods of Love #1) by Jennifer Lynne – C- Jeannie and Jake have been married for 20 years. They still love each other but their sex life has waned with the pressure of work, family and life in general. Pothos, one of the erotes (an aspect of the Greek god Eros) comes to them both, to reawaken their passion. I’m glad that most of the contact between these 3 was when all three were present. I was a little uncomfortable at first when Pothos initially appeared only to Jeannie and transported her to a moonlit beach in Port Douglas (where she and Jake had honeymooned 20 years earlier) but it was only a very short time until Jake joined them. After that, the 3 engage in a various sexytimes (no lube! ouch!) and the couple feel reconnected and determined to keep their sexual spark alive. The story is only about 40 pages long, so there is obviously not a lot of space for character development. It does have a happy ending but I think the story works better when viewed as erotica rather than a romance.
Aphrodite Calling (Gods of Love #2) by Jennifer Lynne – C-/D+ Himeros, one of the erotes, is called to Gina at her 15 year high school reunion. When Gina was at school, she was Gerry. She has since has sexual reassignment surgery. Gina is struggling to feel desirable as a woman and is obviously pretty uncomfortable with all the stares and whispers at the reunion. It was a very brave thing for her to attend, particularly as she went alone. Himeros appears and very soon he whisks her off to take her “virginity” – the first time she has had sex since her surgery. Her previous boyfriend (pre-surgery) liked having sex with her but it seemed he was a closeted gay man rather than in love with her and when she had the surgery, he rabbited. The story is about 36 pages long so too short to fully explore all of the issues Gina was facing. This was my first trans* story. My impression was that some of it was unrealistic but I feel singularly unqualified to comment further in this aspect of the story. Himeros becomes enamoured of Gina and they head off into HFN territory after some raunchy sexytimes, including some exhibitionism and some pain play (involving a stiletto heel and no lube). I never doubted that Gina was a woman but I would have loved her story to be more fully developed. I’m sure her journey was difficult and her path to self acceptance must surely have taken more than one night. Again, even though there is a happy ending, I think this story is better viewed as erotica rather than romance.
Pillow Talk by Maya Banks – B- After some less than successful erotic romance, I picked up Pillow Talk. Originally published as part of the Four Play anthology, it has now been released separately by Penguin as an eSpecial. While Ms. Banks’ books don’t always work super well for me, I find her a reliable read, particularly in the erotic department and this was no exception. Zoe and Chase are a couple and share a house with Brody and Tate. The 3 men work together as firefighters and Zoe is an ER nurse. During some sexy post (and mid) coital discussions, Chase and Zoe discover each other’s fantasies. Zoe gives Chase the birthday present of a lifetime and afterwards, Chase reciprocates with some group sex involving his most trusted friends. As an erotic story it works very well. It’s pretty darn sexy and there is definite connection between all the characters (although, sadly no m/m action). As a romance, it was a little less successful for me. The story ends with the foursome deciding to pursue a permanent menage but the main interest in that for me is the mechanics of it beyond the sex – how do they manage the jealousy (if there is any)? how do they each get time with Zoe? How does Zoe not feel overwhelmed and exhausted? How do each of the guys feel, in the longer term, about having to share Zoe three ways? How does Brody and Tate feel in that Chase has had the longer relationship? Is there a “primacy” to Chase and Zoe’s relationship? If not, how does Chase feel about that? There wasn’t time in a novella for those issues to be developed, but I’d love to read a book like that which dealt with those issues. As an erotic palate cleanser, it delivered the reliable sexy read I was after.
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller – see my full review here.
Fire on the Mountain by PD Singer – B- Enjoyable story about a young firefighter/ranger in the Rocky Mountains who is teamed with a hot slightly older (by 3 years) and more experienced firefighter for a 6 month stint. Jake isn’t out and isn’t sure if Kurt is gay. They are stuck with each other for 6 months, with only short trips to town for supplies. If he makes a move and Kurt rejects him how will they manage to spend the rest of their season? But, what if…? Told from Jake’s 1st person POV, I found the will he/won’t he a bit repetitive and boring after a while. Once the action started (they are caught in a fire) however, things picked up. There is another section of navel gazing afterwards and then a happy ending which was, unfortunately cut a bit short for me. There are other books in the series which I plan on reading – more of this couple together would be fun.
Worth the Wait by Lori Toland – C Okay short story about a science nerd who invents a time travel device in a cell phone. He travels back in time to give himself some social advice and there, runs into his hot High School science teacher. Time travel (which I love) usually does my head in and time travel in 38 pages is that x 1000. There’s really not enough time to develop the characters, the story or the science and I felt the sexy times at the end seemed a bit out of place with what had been a sweet story up til then. Chris liked it better than I did, so maybe I was just having a grumpy evening last night. 🙂
Safe With Me (The Beginning) by Shaina Richmond – DNF – I read about 20 pages in to this 50 page Kindle freebie. The sex happened quickly, wasn’t romantic and I wasn’t enamoured of either main character. Not my thing. So I DNF’d it. Great cover though.
How to Tell a Lie by Delphine Dryden – B- Cute, sexy shortish novel about two professors who meet online in a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game – think World of Warcraft for example) and, after some mild flirting for months, realise that they are actually at the same university. The meet and things progress fairly quickly from there. I think the aspect of Allison self sabotaging relationships to protect herself from loss could have been explored further and the I love you will you marry me was too fast for me. But, for the most part, I found this an enjoyable read. As I don’t play MMORPG’s I can’t say how accurate the play depicted was, but according to my husband (who does play) and from what I told him, it seemed like it probably was (with only a few name changes, I suspect to protect from copyright breaches).
Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry – see my full review here.
Where You Hurt The Most by Anne Brooke (Riptide Rentboys Collection 2012) – B- This is a short sweet and sexy story about a high class escort who is asked to take on a scarred and broken young man as a client and the connection they form. Dan was badly burned in a car accident and hides his face under a red hoodie (hence the cover – which is very well done). I loved the prose. There was something almost hypnotic (in a good way) about the spare and lyrical way the words were on the page. The story is short, so to believe the hook, you have to believe the instant and deep connection between the two men. I think, with more time, I would have totally believed in them but unfortunately, I thought their interactions were insufficient for me to really buy into it. I will be looking out for more from this author because her writing voice appeals greatly.
The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste – DNF I got about 41 pages into this 55 page 99c Kindle book. The concept was good – guy goes into a bar each Thursday for 50 weeks, on the 51st Thursday there is a hurricane – the bar-owner Deacon and Thursday are trapped in the bar and hijinks ensue. Unfortunately, I just didn’t buy the mutual unrequited passion of the pair. Shelby (aka Thursday) came into the bar each week yes, but they didn’t speak to each other, apart from the basics or ordering a beer. They didnt’ exchange names or anecdotes or stories or anything. Deacon identifies as bisexual with a leaning towards men and at the start of the book, Shelby identifies as straight – by the point I got to, he seemed to accept he was gay and no-strings Deacon seems to have fallen in love – so that’s a lot to unpack in a 55 page book. The early sex scenes had an element of dubious consent to them which bothered me a little – it was consenual but there was… a sort of threat which lingered in the air. In the end, it was late and I was tired and I just didn’t care enough to read to the end. There was confusion for me too with which “him” was being referred to in sentences from time to time – it seemed to change and made parts of the story hard to follow. And, as much as I liked the concept, I felt a bit hammered by the overuse of Thursday by page 10. However, plenty of people like this better than I did, so YMMV.
Here Be Monsters by Meljean Brook (from Burning Up anthology) – B-/B I enjoyed this short story about Pirate Captain “Mad” Machen and Ivy Blacksmith. On the one hand, I appreciated that there wasn’t an info dump about the world but on the other, I can’t say I truly understood about the nanoagents etc. There were a couple of steamy scenes and overall, it was cleverly written and a very good introduction to the MB Steampunk world. I think I’ll read The Iron Duke next.
Shifting Seas by Virginia Kantra (from Burning Up anthology) – B/B- I’ve been hearing a little about this author lately and so was inspired to try this book. I enjoyed the story and certainly liked Ms. Kantra’s writing style. Set in 1813, Jack Harris returns scarred from the Peninsula wars to take up his unexpectedly inherited estate in the north of England. He meets Morwenna, a member of the “finfolk”, an immortal shapechanger who can shift to any sea creature as well as take human form. What starts off as merely Morwenna taking her pleasure from Jack begins to be a relationship between them and then the wider town and fishing community. It seems that for Morwenna to choose a life with Jack permanently, she must give up her ability to shape shift and her immortality – I thought those aspects were not very well explored. It seemed that Jack didn’t know about it. And there were some little things, like when Morwenna has dinner at the estate, her hair is curled and styled but she didn’t know how to do it herself I don’t think – she’s never worn shoes before she meets Jack so I think her adaption to the human lifestyle was also a bit glossed over. This could well be because of the limits of the format – there’s only so much you can fit in to 100 pages or less. It did achieve the goal of making me want to try more of this author’s work so overall, the anthology was a win for me.
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook – See my full review here.
Firelight by Kristen Callihan
– full review to come
. I appear to be somewhat of an outlier on this one. ETA: Here it is.
Here Comes the Groom by Karina Bliss – B- Enjoyable story about a breast cancer survivor and an ex-SAS soldier suffering from survivor guilt and depression after he was sidelined from a mission which left two of his team dead and one other seriously wounded. Some years before, the pair made a drunken agreement to marry each other if they were both single at age 33. Guess what? I liked this quite a but but the ending felt a bit strange to me. I’m not sure the adventure of the last chapters fit with the rest of the book and I’m not sure that it actually solved anything. I would have liked a little more about how Jo and Dan were going to work on getting over their various emotional wounds. This is the first in a 4 book series (only the 2nd and 3rd are out yet) and maybe we will see more of Jo and Dan as the series progresses. I liked the New Zealand setting and the farm and small town life felt familiar to me. There is a little bit of series bait in the book but it didn’t take up a lot of room so I give that a pass. I did like Dan and his attitude to Jo’s mastectomy scar and the prospect of a recurrence of cancer. I liked how Dan helped Jo feel sexy again. I have the next 2 books lined up on my reader and I’m curious to know more about Nate and Ross.
The Duchess of Love by Sally Mackenzie, narrated by Abby Craden – B- I reviewed this for AAR so watch out for it in an upcoming Speaking of Audiobooks column.
Bedding Lord Ned by Sally Mackenzie, narrated by Abby Craden – C I reviewed this for AAR so watch out for it in an upcoming Speaking of Audiobooks column.
Once Burned (Night Prince #1) by Jeaniene Frost, narrated by Tavia Gilbert – B Another book I reviewed for AAR. You know the drill.
The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Sally Armstrong – A- see my full review here.
Sophia’s Secret by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Carolyn Bonnyman – (This book was released in the US and renamed The Winter Sea and the US audiobook release won Rosalyn Landor an audie award this year. I’m not a huge fan of Landor audie or not so I went with the Bonnyman option – she narrated Mariana and I enjoyed her narration very much.) Full review to come. ETA: Here it is.
Driving Mr. Dead by Molly Harper, narrated by Amanda Ronconi – A- This short novel (just over 5 hours on audio) was hiliarious. I started to laugh from the first and spent a lot of the listen with a smile on my face. Miranda is a hiliarious screw-up klutz type person – disaster follows here wherever she goes. Taking a job as a V-Line driver – transporting vampires safely during daylight hours, she travels to Washington state where she picks up Colin Sutherland – a finicky, uptight vampire who hasn’t left his property since 1948. Hijinks ensue. So funny. And yes, there is romance with a HFN (which suited the length of the story). I’m pretty confident that these two will be in it for the long haul though (pardon the pun). Miranda’s musing about whether “adam’s apple porn” exists was just one of the things which had me laughing. A feel good fun romance and Ronconi nails the narration.