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Archive for January, 2011

Drew in Blue by JM Kelley
* I received this ARC/book free from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Drew Doyle’s done a lot of stupid things in his life, but the biggest mistake by far was not paying attention to that 2% failure rate listed on the back of the condom box.

Drew in Blue is the story of a thirty-six year old loner unexpectedly saddled with the task of raising a baby while trying to sort out his mess of a life. Problem is, he just keeps making things worse for himself. It’s a running theme in Drew’s life, considering he never does anything the easy way. The River’s View, Pennsylvania gossip mill is watching each misstep as Drew juggles a price-gouging babysitter, a major case of artist’s block, and a best friend with an opinion to share on every bungled choice he makes.

His love life isn’t faring much better. Despite a long history of relationships that never really get off the ground, he falls head over heels for someone new, hoping that she might be the one to end his romantic bad luck streak. Things finally start looking up for Drew, until he finds out (the hard way, naturally) that this new love interest isn’t the one for him after all. Turns out, it’s actually lifelong pal, and high school girlfriend, Kristina Moser.

Drew’s feelings for Kris intensify as he witnesses her growing bond with his son, and he finally realizes where he belongs. Now all he has to do is convince Kris he’s right… and she’s just not buying it.

Drew in Blue is about so much more than the brief glimpse we get in the synposis.  Drew grew up in the small ltown of River’s View and even though he moved away for awhile, he decided to come back home to set up roots.  He’s an artist with severe writer’s block and hopes something will stir his creative juices because his money is about to run out.

When his ex drops off his son and says “here you go” he is dumbfounded and doesn’t know what to do.   He grew up in foster care and is determined to be a father to his son, no matter how many times he screws up.  With the help of Kris, his best friend, he bumbles his way through it.

Kris falls in love with the Nick a little more each day.  She is there whenever Nick and Drew need her, no matter what.  She and Drew have been best friends since they were little kids and she would do anything for him, except date him again.

Drew is a very complex character, even though it doesn’t seem that way when you first meet him.  He doesn’t have any family and has a handful of friends.  He displays his artwork at the studio in town that Kris owns and he lives a simple life.  He is forced to grow up and take stock of where he is in life when Nick becomes his responsibility.  He fumbles through it like any new dad would but finally gets the hang of it.

His has bad luck with relationships but manages to remain friends with his ex girlfriends.  When he meets Valerie, he is sure things will be different this time, but they’re not.  While on vacation with Nick, he does a lot of thinking about his past relationships and why they didn’t work out.  He draws one conculsion, none of the girls measure up to Kris.  Now he just has to convence here that she is the one for him. 

There are so many wonderful moments in this story.  It’s filled with humor, love, and heartache that tug on your heart strings.  One of my favorite scenes was when he was reading the letter and Kris was there to hold him through it all, it just broke my heart. 

The turn around in Drew was the other thing that impressed me about his character.  He grew so much throughout the book and became a man focused on providing for his child rather than feeling sorry for himself.  Kris was so much fun to read, I love her ability to dish it out with the best of them.  She’s a strong female lead that knows what she wants out of life and the perfect complement for Drew.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and was really surprised by the whole thing.  I highly recommend it, it’s a great contemporary love story from a new author.  I give Drew in Blue 4½  Flaming Hearts. 

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Paramour by Margaret Ethridge
* I received this ARC free from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Camellia Stafford has never been alone in her room. For twenty years, she’s been engaged in a fierce power struggle with her bedroom’s previous tenant, Frank DeLuca, the ghost trapped in the light fixture above her bed.

Caustic and cranky, Frank has one soft spot—Cam. Over the years, their feelings for one another have evolved from grudging friendship to an enduring love that burns white-hot until Frank puts his feelings for Cam on ice.

When she suffers the loss of her beloved father, Cam returns home to say good-bye, and confront her feelings for Frank. She finds an unexpected shoulder to lean on in neighbor, Bradley Mitchum. Cam falls hard and fast for the handsome ad man’s charming smile and passionate nature, but Brad’s easy-going exterior masks a steely backbone tempered by adversity.

Two men: one living, one dead, and both vying for her love. Now Cam must determine if her heart is strong enough to choose which dream could lead to a love that will last a lifetime.

Paramour is a captivating story that draws you in from the very beginning.  Camellia has returned to her childhood home and Frank DeLuca, the resident ghost.  Her father has passed away and she is all alone.  Frank has always been there for her growing up so she turns to him for comfort, until she meets her handsome neighbor Brad.

Brad bought his parents home when they retired.  He loves the idea of having a home in suburbia with a lawn to mow, complete with the requisite nosy neighbors.  He has been interested in Cam since they were kids but she never noticed him because he was a couple years older.  He plans to change all that now that she has returned home.

I loved this story; there is a love triangle of sorts between Cam, Frank and Brad.  Frank has been with Cam since she was a young girl and has fallen in love with her over the years.  He is a ghost trapped in his room and he knows he can’t be what she needs.  Cam wants to experience all the normal “firsts” with Frank even though it’s not possible; in her heart anything is possible though.  From the first moment Brad sees Cam, he decides he wants to be there for her.

I loved the way the author handled the first almost kiss between Cam and Brad.  It was very sweet and emotional and Brad was a gentleman.  Another very touching scene was when the 3 of them were laying in Cam’s childhood bed and Frank was talking to them.  From the beginning I was pulling for Brad to get the girl but you still feel that connection to Frank too and you don’t want to see him hurt, even though he’s a ghost.

To me, one of the things I loved most was watching the characters grow.  Cam has to grow up and learn to trust her feelings and not live in fear and Brad is there to help her along the way.  I think Frank probably grew the most throughout the book.  He is an angry ghost that is that is tied to his room but he realizes that he can’t be selfish any longer has to put others before himself.

There are so many wonderful things about this book and I highly recommend it.  It’s a different twist on the paranormal element, the chemistry between the characters is amazing and the love scenes are hot.

I give Paramour 4 1/2 Flaming Hearts. 

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The Promise by Ambrielle Kirk
* I received a copy of this book from Breathless Press in exchange for an honest review*

Craig has been waiting for the right time to show Tina just how badly he wants her. His patience pays off when she visits him on his Christmas tree farm.

Tina could care less about buying a tree to decorate her home this holiday season. She’s more concerned with the naughty promise he made to her months ago. For this couple, fulfillment of a promise could mean the beginning of a steamy rendezvous.

The Promise is a quick short read that tells a story and packs a punch.  Both Craig and Tina have been dancing around each other for months.  Craig has been teasing her whenever they see each other, every time leaving her wanting.  Tina is tired of waiting and decides to take things into her own hands.

The characters have a history that stretches over several months building leaving them both hot and bothered.  The chemistry is amazing between the two and when they finally come together it is HOT!! 

The story provides some background regarding the couple’s history.  We know what type of careers they have and what type of person they are.  I love the description of the cabin that Craig spends most of his time in and appreciate the fact that it was also mentioned that he has a “big” house in town for entertaining.  It tells you a lot about his character.

Overall this was an enjoyable story.  I give The Promise 3 Flaming Hearts.

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The Wise Woman by Juliet Cardin
* I received a copy of this book from Breathless Press in exchange for an honest review*

Belinda Cordrey, the village wisewoman, has loved Lord Balek Grey for as long as she can remember. Despite her devastation over his betrothal to another, Belinda rushes to his side when he sends for her aid. To her surprise and delight, Balek asks her to cure his impotence. Though solving his little problem may prove to be an enjoyable task, Belinda knows that she will surely lose him forever should she succeed. Despite the consequences, she decides to put forth all her skills and efforts to heal him. But as she sets to work with her special herbs and oil, Belinda hopes to show her lord that it is she who his heart truly desires.

The Wise Woman is the story of Belinda the village healer and Lord Balek, whom she has been in love with for years.  She was orphaned as a teenager but has been allowed to live on the property of the Lord.  She became known as the village wisewoman because of her skills as a healer.

Lord Balek had to step into his father’s shoes as Lord of the Manor at an early age.  He and Belinda were friends growing up but his father has promised him to another and he intends to honor his father’s dying wish.  He is unable to satisfy his betrothed so he calls for Belinda to help him “rise” to the occasion. 

With the help of some herbs and encouraging words from Belinda, Lord Balek thinks he’s ready to take on the world.  When he goes to his betrothed, he is still unable to satisfy her needs.  He can’t understand why he and Belinda have no problems being together.

The characters are interesting and have chemistry between them.  They have a history, which gave the story meaning and credibility.  I like Belinda’s character, she is determined and knows what she wants but worries that she has gotten it by being devious.  There is a twist at the ending that added a nice touch. 

Overall I enjoyed the book and would like to see more of Belinda and Balek.  I give The Wise Woman 3 Flaming Hearts. 

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Angel Thief by Jenny Schwartz
* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
 
She’s breaking the rules. Again.
An archivist in the heavenly library, Sara must follow protocol when it comes to curating the knowledge of the universe. But “liberating” an ancient text from the collection of a human—an Australian drug lord—could save a boy’s life. Sara has no way of knowing that one of the man’s other treasures is a sexy-as-sin djinni, bound by a wish to guard the estate.
 
He’s only following orders.
Filip is compelled to turn over intruders, even celestial ones, to his master. When he catches Sara in the library, he isn’t above indulging in some sensual kisses with her, or using her to trick the mobster into wasting a wish. It’s what he must do to preserve his facade of freedom and protect his heart.  But the kidnapping of the drug lord’s daughter forces Sara and Filip to work together—bringing out the hero that lurks within the soul of the djinni, and the passion within the angel.

Angel Thief is more than just a tale of good vs. evil, it’s about the choices we make as human and the consequences of those choices.  A drug lord’s daughter is kidnapped for revenge and he orders his djinni to rescue her while he plans an attack on the kidnapper.

Filip is used to being at the command of others, he is a djinni.  His is a life of servitude from one master until the next.  In history, only 1 djinni has been freed from his bottle and Filip is ok with that until he meets Sara.

Sara works in the library in Heaven.  She loves her job but is bored and has started sneaking old texts to try and find a cure for a young boy that is dying.  She knows she’s breaking the rules but she is sure the reward will outweigh the consequences.  Her quest leads her to the library of a drug lord that is guarded by a djinni.

Sara is inherently good but naïve.  She wants to help people and is not afraid of the punishment she will receive if caught.  She wants more out of life and feels alive when she has a purpose.  She is drawn to Filip and doesn’t understand her reaction to him; he is sexy and makes her feel things she has never felt before.  She is willing to risk everything to help him save Jay, the drug lord’s daughter.

Filip is bound to his bottle and his master’s bidding.  When he finds Sara in the library, he is compelled to take her to Vince.  It goes against everything in his being to turn her over to Vince, especially after he has had a taste of her but he has no choice.  He is not inherently bad but has done things he is not proud of because he has to do his master’s bidding.

I was pulling for Sara and Filip to find a way to be together, despite the obstacles they were facing.  The chemistry between them was evident from the beginning, even though they came from two different worlds.  They worked together to save not only Jay but Kahn too.

This story is so much more than just a story.  It’s about love, redemption, forgiveness and the choices we make in life.  Sara has faith in humanity and in the end, it pays off and her dreams come true.  For the first time in his life, Filip begins to dream about love and a future, not tied to his bottle.

Overall Angel Thief is a refreshing story that helps restore our faith in humanity and love.  I give it 4 Flaming Hearts. 

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Kate Douglas is the lead author of Kensington Publishing’s Aphrodisia imprint and the author of the popular erotic romance series Wolf Tales as well as the Zebra series, The DemonSlayers. She and her husband of almost forty years have two adult children and five grandchildren. They live in the beautiful mountains of Lake County, California, north of the Napa Valley wine country.  You can find Kate on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/katedouglas.authorpage or follow her on Twitter at @wolftales.

Please welcome Kate to Everybody Needs a Little Romance.  Leave a comment or ask her a question, she will be stopping by throughout the day and is going to give away one of her books. 

She has graciously agreed to indulge me and answer a few questions about her series and writing process.

Thanks, Heather. I appreciate the chance to chat about my stories.

With two popular series, Wolf Tales and Demonslayers, is it difficult to switch gears between the two when you finish one deadline and get ready to work on the other series?

I hate to admit it, but it’s been harder than I expected. Plus, I did a really dumb thing—when I write, the characters’ names just pop into my head. That’s the only explanation I can give for naming one of the heroes in the DemonSlayers series Alton. (Kate, hitting head with large, flat board…) I had to go through and do a search and destroy at the end of each book because I kept calling him “Anton.” Duh.  Plus, I knew I was winding up the Wolf Tales series, but didn’t realize I’d be writing the final Wolf Tales and then turning right around and writing the final DemonSlayers. It was an emotionally charged period of time, saying good-bye to two casts of characters at the same time. I get WAY too attached to my imaginary friends!

How do you keep your characters separate between the two series and do you keep any kind of diary or “bible” for the Wolf Tales series since it is so large?

Doesn’t matter how large—even if I’m writing just one book, I do a complete character study of each one in the story—everything from date of birth to hair color, to how many siblings, birth order, where they grew up…the whole nine yards. Stuff I may never use, but I need to know so that I’ll have a better idea who they really are when I write. I also keep a time line—something really necessary for any continuing series. I usually set up lists showing relative ages of my characters in each story and major events and when they happen in case I need to reference them again.

With Wolf Tales, I kept track of the evolving abilities of the Chanku, the various things they learned about themselves as the series progressed, and when they learned those things. I had to keep track of which characters had sex with which others, what their sexual preferences were and, for the men, even facts like which ones were circumcised! Things like that are the sorts of things that readers love to catch an author screwing up. Of course, my classic mistake is in Wolf Tales III where one of my readers (Who is now a much-trusted beta reader) wrote and asked me where the fifth body was. Jake and Baylor had killed five bad guys, but I only disposed of four bodies. I told her he was probably still lying in the driveway where I left him…

I also keep house plans—I had to have a good visual for Anton’s Montana home, for instance, because so many of the stories took place there. Having those records helps to keep the characters more realistic, because you can refer to things readers are familiar with. I honestly think it creates a sense of emotional connection between readers and the characters, something that is especially important in erotic romance. That personal intimacy and strong emotional connection makes it easier for the reader to accept some of the more explicit sexual events that occur in my stories. I’ve heard, for instance, from a number of readers who are uncomfortable with same sex relationships, and yet they see them as part of the Chanku way of life and have no problem with them in the books.

How did the Demon Slayer series come about?

My agent knew I wanted to break into mass market in order to find a larger audience and push my career to another level. Erotic romance is popular, but doesn’t attract the numbers of readers that the regular paranormal stories do. We were talking about what I should consider as far as plots or themes, and, joking, I said, “What about good versus evil?” My agent’s response was, “Send me the proposal.”

Okay, so then where do you go? Good versus evil covers just about everything, but for some reason, the first thing I thought of was demon-possessed garden gnomes. NO idea where that came from, except I’ve always thought they were rather evil looking little suckers. I knew I wanted to set the series up around Mount Shasta, since my husband and I had been up there camping and loved the area—plus the legends of the Lemurians living inside the mountain fascinated me. I also wanted to set at least one book in Sedona, since we’d recently been there as well. The connection between Shasta and Sedona was so natural, working through the vortexes—both areas are known as mystical places of power. Perfect for the settings I needed.

Once I had the visual of a garden gnome attacking a naked man, it all began coming together. I actually proposed three books, but Kensington wanted four, and that meant coming up with a new story that I could slip between the second and third stories I’d already mapped out. StarFire, the one coming out in April, is the result. I’m really pleased with it—the characters in that story end up driving the series in a totally new direction, something that always makes writing more interesting.

Will the rights to your older Ellora’s Cave books ever come back to you or will the books continue to be available through EC?

I could get the rights back eventually, if I wanted them, but for what reason? EC continues to sell the books and as much as I love the StarQuest setting and characters, I’ve moved on to other things. I was able to write a final short story, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, that brings closure to the series—it’s available as an ebook through Ellora’s Cave and jumps into the future when Kefira, the daughter of Mara and Sander, ends up involved with Tad Barton, the son of the ex-World Federation president. They had met as children in Pride of Imar, (I think! It’s been a while) and I always wanted to show them as adults. I had a chance to write the story as a charitable donation and I’m really pleased with the way it tied up the other books in the series.

Do you have a routine when you are writing?   Do you have a set time you write, certain number of days a week, word count, etc?

I generally write almost every day, beginning around seven in the morning. I break when my eyes get tired or the laundry needs doing, but writing is what I do, so I do it daily. If I’m not working on a current project, I’m busy with social networking and promotion, or writing blogs or any of the myriad other chores that are part of being an author. An average writing day for me is about 5000 words, though I’ve been known to do 10,000 or more. Some days though I barely end up with 500! Ya never know…I have problems with short term memory, so I start out every day rereading what I wrote the day before, mainly because I have no idea what it was. Once my memory has been refreshed, I get into the zone, connect with my characters and get to work. For me, writing is like channeling the characters in my story. I check in with them and let them tell me what’s going on.

I’ve heard a lot of author’s mention play lists they listen to while writing, do you listen to music while you are working or do you have to have the quiet?

I generally prefer the quiet, though sometimes I feel a real need for music to set a mood. Plus, my husband gave me an iPod Nano for Christmas (it’s bright red and engraved on the back with “Wolf Tales by Kate Douglas.” I LOVE IT!) and that may change things! I’ve got it loaded with lots of neat music and I love the sense of isolation you get when you’re plugged in.

I can think of one scene in particular that I needed music in order to get the story to work—in Wolf Tales 10 there’s a violent scene where Oliver is furious with Adam and he’s got him tied to a bed and beats him bloody and then, essentially, rapes him. It’s a sexually charged scene, but it’s ugly, too, and I couldn’t get into what I knew I had to write. I finally found some really discordant death metal by a Finnish band that was perfect for the scene. I played the same piece over and over again until the scene came together for me. It’s not easy to read—it was even harder to write, but it works perfectly for the story. Without the music, I doubt I could have made it work.

I’m a Twitter junkie and I’m bad about reading Twitter posts when I am supposed to be working.   Do the social networking sites tempt you away from work when you are writing?  Do you allow yourself time on them or do you have to stay away from them completely while working?

I’m not too crazy about Twitter because it’s really such a time suck! I try to check in at least once a day, and I use it to announce blogs where I’m giving books away, but I have too many books to write to spend a lot of time hanging out. I check on Facebook more often, but I tend to use it to take breaks from writing. Plus, it’s a great way to keep up with the kids and the grandkids! As a writer living in a rural area, social networking sites offer me about the only social life I have, outside of the occasional trip to the grocery store. My husband does most of the shopping, goes for the mail and keeps up the house so that I can write. That’s what I do—write! When I know I have a deadline looming, or I find that I can’t get into the story because of distractions, I’ve learned to just flip the little switch on my laptop that shuts off the Internet. When I can’t connect, it keeps me out of trouble.

Wolf Tales 11 came out on December 28th, what do you want to share with us about the latest edition to this series?

Wolf Tales 11 is my first “political” book, and it came about when President Obama was first running for office and I saw him on the news with his wife. One look at Michelle Obama and I freaked—she was Keisha Rialto! The woman looks exactly as I have always pictured Keisha—tall and strong, absolutely gorgeous, and obviously athletic with a lot of self-confidence. Keisha’s skin is darker and her hair is longer, but she and the First Lady could be sisters, if not twins. I knew then that if Obama won, I was somehow going to use his wife in one of my stories.  I never mention their names, but I think it’s obvious who I’m talking about in the book, and it was so much fun to write with that perfect visual for Keisha. I also had no idea how the story was going to end, up until the final chapters when AJ and Lily told me what was coming next. That’s the fun of writing from a deep point of view, where your characters direct the story—it’s always a surprise.

I’ve been thrilled with the reader comments I’m getting so far on this book, so I can honestly say that I believe it’s one of the strongest in the series. However, I’ve written the final book, which is about 30,000 words longer than any of the other Wolf Tales, and Wolf Tales 12 absolutely surprised the hell out of me. I discovered answers to questions my readers and I have had from the beginning—things I never realized how to answer until I was typing the words and reading what I wrote. As sorry as I am to see the series come to an end, after writing Wolf Tales 12, I realized that this was the perfect time. I hope to do a second generation series so readers—and I—can see what Lily and Alex and all the others are up to as adults, but until then, I’m more than satisfied with the way the series will end.

Thanks Heather. I’ll be checking in to answer questions, and I’d love to give away a book to at least one reader leaving a comment.

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XXXmas Ale by Liz Crowe
* I received a copy of this book from Breathless Press in exchange for an honest review*

Dani, the new female brewer, has something special in mind for Blake behind closed doors of her brew house. Guaranteed to leave an impression…

It’s Holiday Party time, and the employees of Winter Street Brewing Co. are doing it up right, with a special ale brewed just for them by one of the owners. High in spice and alcohol, XXXMas Ale gives Blake, the handsome and shy warehouse manager, the liquid courage he needs when he encounters Danielle, the new female brewer. Dani’s determination to see what Blake has to offer after their first introduction brings him out of his shell—long enough for him to appreciate not only her expertise with rare Belgian beers, but what passion she offers that may threaten his heart.

XXXmas Ale takes place at the Christmas party for Winter Street Brewing Co.  Blake is the warehouse manager but he mostly keeps to himself.  He is good looking but shy and tends to stay away from strong women, until Dani comes along. 

Dani has her degree in Brewing Science has she has been hired as the Assistant Brewer for the company.  Her specialty is Lambics, a sour beer, but she is not ready to share it with anyone except Blake.

The characters complement each other, he is quite and laid back and she is more outgoing and fun.  They end up in a compromising position with their bosses right below them and Blake is horrified they will get caught.  (This was one of my favorite scenes in the story)  By the end of the night, Blake begins to loosen up and have some fun.

This was a fun story that focused on the characters and the moment.  They may have just met but it looks like they will be spending more time together, getting to know each other.  The story was humorous but still sexy, the setting is a Christmas party with lots of alcohol, in a brewery none the less and the characters are engaging, what more could you ask for.

Overall I enjoyed XXXmas Ale and give it 3 ½ Flaming Hearts. 

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