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Archive for October, 2011

Val’s Rancher by Debra Kayn
* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Val McDougal knows all about heartbreak. First, the love of her life, Sam Turner, left to join the rodeo circuit two years ago. Now she faces a new kind of pain—her beloved father is dying. The last thing she needs is Sam’s unexpected return to Pike, Montana, to take over his family’s ranch, stirring up desires Val doesn’t think she can handle.

Sam knows he made the biggest mistake of his life when he broke things off with Val. He’s determined to win her back, this time for good. But despite the sizzling heat between them, Val keeps pulling away. He has to convince her to trust him—and her own heart—again, especially as the time draws near when she’ll need him the most…

Val is the youngest McDougal daughter and runs the local tavern, Valenciennes.  She is dealing with her father’s illness and can’t handle Sam walking back into her life.  She was devastated when he walked away two years ago; he claims that he is back for good but she is afraid to take a chance on love again.

Sam knows that he screwed up when he left two years ago.  He told himself that Val needed to grow up but in reality it was him that wasn’t ready to settle down.  Now he’s back and working to make his grandparent’s ranch a home.  With the help of Stuart, he made some wise investments with his rodeo winnings and now he is the proud owner of his own cattle.  Now he just has to convince Val that he’s there to stay and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her.

Val never stopped loving Sam and she’s scared to death that her love is going to kill him.  Everyone she loves has left her and she’s sure that it’s all her fault.  After a near miss, she has to walk away from Sam for his own safety, even if she is miserable the rest of her life.  There’s only one person that can show her that it’s ok to love Sam and to enjoy every day, her daddy.

Val and Sam have so much history that you are instantly pulling for them to work things out.  She has seen so much unhappiness and loss in her life that she deserves some happiness.  It’s not easy for her to trust Sam or her heart again but he holds the key to her future.  When Val loves, she loves deeply and for life, that is why she could never find anyone else because they weren’t Sam.  A lifetime of happiness is in front of her, if she can grab a hold of it.

Sam is a sexy cowboy with his own issues.  He never stopped loving Val but felt she needed some time to grow up; in reality, he was the one that needed the time.  He screwed up and he admits it but he is willing to do whatever it takes to convince Val that he isn’t going anywhere.

I love the family dynamics in this series.  The McDougal’s are a tight knit family that can face anything as long as they are together.  Their father’s illness has really taken a toll on the sister’s and the strain is starting to show.  Val tries to hold everyone together and ends up making herself sick in the long run. The author keeps the focus on the main characters, while still giving us a glimpse into the lives of the others.

I loved this installment of the McDougal sister’s series.  This book invoked a wide range of emotions from happiness to sadness and everything in between.  Stuart still reminds me of my grandfather in so many ways, which made this story hard to read but also therapeutic.  I give Val’s Rancher 4 Flaming Hearts. 

 

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Naughty Delivery by Lucy Felthouse
 * I received this eBook free from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Sonia and Ben have decided to bring some more spice into their bedroom by ordering some sex toys off the Internet. The anticipation of their new gadgets’ arrival ramps up their passion tenfold, and by the time their naughty delivery turns up the couple are at fever pitch!

But a mix-up with the package leaves Sonia and Ben with some toys they didn’t expect. Reluctant to let it spoil their sexy fun, the pair experiment and end up discovering a world of kinky sex play that they’ve never even considered!

Sonia and her boyfriend Ben have always had an enjoyable sex life but now they want to try something new. After researching sex toys on line they decide to take the plunge and order a couple of “tame” toys to start off with.

After a mix up in the warehouse they ended up with some items they never expected. Unwilling to let the new toys go to waste they agreed to test them out and found that they enjoy sex play a lot more than they ever thought they would.

This was a sexy, fun short story about a couple testing their boundaries and finding out how much they enjoyed doing it. They are comfortable enough with each other that Sonia was able to let go and just enjoy the experience. I would’ve loved to read more about this couple – it was just a glimpse into their lives but I still enjoyed it a lot.

I loved this short story. It was hot and steamy and I give Naughty Delivery 4 Flaming Hearts. 

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Lord of the Rage (Royal House of Shadows #2) by Jill Monroe
* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Princess Breena had been dreaming of her warrior lover when she was ripped from her Elden castle and thrown into a strange, dangerous realm. Lost and alone, she prayed for survival and vengeance for her stolen kingdom. She found both in a woodland cottage…in a dark bear of a man.

The golden-haired beauty had eaten his food and slept in his bed when Osborn found her. Though he wanted to awaken his virgin princess to carnal pleasures, Breena wanted more—including his warrior skills. Skills the once-legendary mercenary had long buried. Now Osborn had a choice—risk his life or deny his princess her fairy-tale ending.

Princess Brenna is alone and scared in the forest. She doesn’t know how she got to Ursa land; just that she’s tired and hungry.  Whenever she tries to remember what happened to her family she experiences a sharp pain.  She is driven by instinct and two words survive and avenge that she is certain her parents left her with.  Her only comfort is the warrior of her dreams, now if only she can find him so he can help her in her quest.

Osborn had to grow up quickly on the night of his Barenjagd, when he returned from his quest, his village was under attack.  He lost everyone that night except his two younger brothers, who managed to escape.  Now he is doing what he can to raise them and protect them.  The only time he is at peace is when he sleeps and the beautiful woman visits his dreams.  He never expected to find her asleep on his bed.

Brenna is a typical princess, she was loved and cherished by her family but doesn’t have any marketable talents.  She is driven by the urges that her parents planted in her head.  She has to convince the warrior of her dreams to help her reclaim her home and avenge her parent’s deaths.  She is resourceful and manages to not only get Osborn to teach her to fight but his younger brother’s as well.  In the end his training combined with her magic saved her life.

Osborn is a beserker (one with his bear spirit) and one of the last surviving members of the Usra tribe.  He has been hiring himself out as a mercenary in order to care for his little brothers.  He has sheltered them and tried to keep the trauma from the childhood from them.  With each passing year Bernt has been getting more and more restless.  With Brenna’s help he realizes that he is hurting his brother’s more than he is helping them by keeping the past from them.  He realizes that the more time he spends with Brenna; the harder it’s going to be to give her up and his little brothers want to keep her too.

Brenna was the perfect match for Osborn; she helped bring out another side of him.  They have both suffered the loss of their families and vowed revenge.  Through her dreams, she has slowly been falling in love with him and she hopes that he will come to love her too.  The attraction between the two is evident from the beginning but Osborn holds back because he thinks she belongs to someone else.  He feels that she deserves more than a mercenary.

I loved the twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears with Brenna, Osborn and his brothers.  The broken chair and him finding Brenna sleeping in his bed were classic.  The link with his bear spirit added to the mystic of the fairy tale.

The story was a little slow moving at first but it didn’t take long for the story to pull me in and I couldn’t put it down.  Overall I enjoyed this book and think it’s a great addition to the Royal House of Shadows series.  I can’t wait to read the next installment.  I give Lord of Rage 4 Flaming Hearts.

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High School Reunion by Claire Matthews
*I received a copy of this book from Breathless Press in exchange for an honest review*

What happens when your first love returns for a second chance?

Ava Pennebaker has left her awkward, lonely high school memories behind, except for the one night she shared with Derek Bartlett, the high school “It” boy from her senior year. When they meet again at their ten-year high school reunion, sparks fly. Ava realizes that her feelings for Derek had never left her after all. Will Derek and Ava be able to rekindle the romance of their youth? Or will real life, along with Derek’s disapproving family, stand in their way?

Ava has loved Derek since high school but she has always worried that she wasn’t good enough for him.  She walked away from him ten years ago because of these fears but she has never forgotten him.  She agrees to accompany her friend Stacey to their high school reunion after she makes sure Derek won’t be there.

Derek may have been in with the popular kids in school but he only had eyes for Ava.  While working together on the yearbook staff he fell in love with her.  He was heartbroken when she pushed him away after graduation.  He is glad to see Ava at the reunion because it will give him the opportunity to apologize for scaring her and running her off ten years ago.  He is stunned when she apologizes to him instead.

These two are a good match.  They have loved each other for years but because of Ava’s hang ups they have wasted time they could’ve spent together.  She agrees to date Derek and see where their relationship will take them.  She is more confident than she was ten years ago but inside she is ultimately still that scared teenager she used to be.  This time, Derek doesn’t give up so easily and decides to fight for what he wants.

The progression of the story is natural and I think the writer did a good job of providing just enough background on Ava and Derek.  I love that that they take time to get to know each other again before they take the relationship to the next step.  I really wanted Ava to tell him what she overheard but it wouldn’t have served a purpose.  The ending was great but she should’ve made him work a little harder – just kidding.

Overall I enjoyed High School Reunion and give it 4 Flaming Hearts. 

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Getaway by DD Symms
* I received a copy of this book from Breathless Press in exchange for an honest review*

Solitude is best when shared.

Marcie heads to the Angeles Mountains to recover after breaking things off with her fiancé. What was to be a week of solitary soul-searching, takes a whole new twist when a way too sexy up-and-coming film actor interrupts her skinny-dipping romp. Cole is on a getaway of his own, and it doesn’t take Marcie long to realize that solitude is best when it’s shared.

Marcie had planned on the trip to the mountains to be a celebration trip after her wedding but that all changed when Stephen called her Marilyn.  She cancelled the wedding and decided to take advantage of the peace and quiet to regroup and figure out what she was going to do next.  While enjoying an afternoon swim she discovers that she’s not alone and she’s not sure what to make of her neighbor.

Cole is an actor that is chasing the ultimate job and he tired of people complaining when he’s trying to rehearse.  He lives in the city and his neighbor has called the police on him.  He plans on using his time in the mountains to prepare for his third call back, he never expected to Marcie.

There was so much more to this story than just a “hook up” in the mountains.  Both Marcie and Cole are both dealing with some intense personal issues.  Marcie is realizing that her life with Stephen has left her unfulfilled, she just wants someone to tell her she’s beautiful.  Cole’s ex-wife called him a loser and he has been dealing with self doubt ever since, until he met Marcie.

They get off to a rocky start at the lake but it soon becomes apparent that they have much to offer each other.  The scene at Cole’s campground singed my fingers as I read it because it was so hot.  I love that they spent the evening actually talking and getting to know each other.  They shared secrets and discovered their mutual attraction.  It made me happy that they plan on exploring this new relationship further after their time in the mountains.

Overall I really enjoyed Getaway and give it 4 Flaming Hearts. 

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I want to thank JM Powers for taking the time to stop by and answer some questions for me. 

I had the opportunity to review Basket of Hope by JM back in August.  I really enjoyed this book.  It’s a great Halloween read.  You can see my review by clicking on the title.

 Now on to the fun!!

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 usually write after the kids are in bed and continue until the sunrise. That way I can write for hours without interruption. However, sometimes my characters demand time when chaos is rampant in my household, so it’s not uncommon to see me writing while cooking dinner…I burn stuff a lot.

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 listen to my muse, so it doesn’t matter what is going on—tv, music, a fireman carrying me out of the house…I’m oblivious to my surroundings when I write. (Okay, I made up the hot firefighter; I just liked the visual.)

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? 

No, but I tend to instant message when I should be writing. Do you allow yourself time on them or do you have to stay away from them completely while working? I allot time each day for Twitter, Facebook, my blog and yahoo groups. It’s necessary to keep in touch with my readers and fellow writers.

Some authors like to read books in completely different genres than the one they write. What types of books do you find yourself reading? Do you think these books influence what you write?

I actually read mysteries, epic series, historical romance, memoirs—just about every genre. I believe I glean knowledge from every book in one way or another. 

What’s your favorite genre to read?     Historical Romance.

Why?  The different eras are a peek in another world. I love learning about the social ways, foods, customs, expectations, and all the aspects of life in each era.  Medieval is my favorite period—there is something hot about a powerful knight showing his loving and tender side.

Who are some of your favorite authors to read?  Hannah Howell, Johanna Lindsey, Terry Goodkind, and Jean M. Auel.

“Be careful or you’ll end up in my book!”  Do your characters have traits of friends and family?  Or are they completely new individuals?

I don’t consciously use characteristics of my friends and family, but sometimes they come through in my books.

Are you a full time writer or do you have to make time to write?

I wish I could write full time, but I must keep my day job until I hit big time status. Is it difficult to juggle working, writing and family life? Well, not really. I just have to section out time. Sleep is the only thing that suffers.

Lightning round!
 Favorite color?    Purple!
Favorite beverage?   Sweet tea
Favorite Food?   shrimp scampi
Favorite animal or pet?   Squirrels in my backyard (what is with all the S answers?)
Sweet snacks or salty?   NEED both (almost said salty, but that is another S)
Morning person or night owl?   Night owl
Mac or PC?   pc
TV, Radio or Nothing when you are writing?   kid chatter
And because you’re a romance author:  Sweet or smutty?  Depends on mood

Now – will you tell us a little about BASKET OF HOPE?

Sure! I loved writing this paranormal romance. It is set in the medieval era.  Kara, a scullery maid, has loved Machias most of her life. Problem is, he is a man of royal blood… Here is the blurb:

All Hallows Eve looms near, and encroaching evil shall have its way if a marriage filled with true love and pure magic does not take place. Machias must choose a witch, something Kara never hopes to be.

Machias’s father will do anything to ensure his son chooses wisely—lies, beatings, and even an attempt to soil Kara’s innocence is not past the man.

Machias’s marriage announcement promises to burn Kara’s hope to cinders…unless something truly magical happens at the All Hallows Eve ball.

Just to entice you a bit, here’s an excerpt:

The thump of Thaddeus’s sword faded as Kara’s gaze traveled from him to Machias. Coveting his body, she perused it until she reached his buttocks, resting her gaze upon the curve and firmness, and following down to where it met his legs. Leather breeches accented his form, caressing his lean muscles like a lover and pronouncing his sinewy limbs with each of his movements. The way the sun glistened against Machias made her wish she could conjure magic, if only to make his clothes fall away. Kara squinted, trying to imagine Machias naked while she slipped another berry in her mouth. Naught could possibly compare to his beauty…in her imagination, anyway. Her heart ached with love, and her body seemed to vibrate with the want of him. Each morn, the memory of his stolen kiss so many years ago still remained her first waking thought.

Kara dabbed her brow with Stella’s apron, feeling her cheeks heat at the reminder of her solitary attentions while fantasizing about Machias. Though she prayed for forgiveness, Kara could not help but touch herself as soon as she woke from her wanton dreams, her body still trembling with need. Stella caught her once and told her she needed to offer a village boy a good rut to ease her tension. Kara found the suggestion disgusting.

“I shall die a virgin,” she whispered. Ah, if he but knew how I love him.

The men seemed to be done with practice. Machias rested his arm on the top of the pell, talking to his brother. Her heart skittered when Machias’s gaze met hers from over Thaddeus’s shoulder, seeming to feel her scrutiny.

Hoping her expression belied her thoughts, Kara quickly turned her back to him and resumed picking berries. She concentrated on each tiny orb within the fruit, forcing innocent thoughts in the stead of reckless ones.

She glanced at the checked pattern on the apron, spurring a childhood memory of a game called Queek. Though his father, Lord Tanner, discouraged their play, Machias would meet her in the meadow, hiding the checkered cloth underneath his tunic. Out of sight, they would spread it onto the ground and collect small stones. After guessing whether the stone would land on dark or light, they would toss it upon the cloth. She suspected Machias peeked, especially if she began to call Queek too often, but he never admitted it. She did not care if she won or lost. She simply relished the time spent with him. Over the years, Kara began to love him more than the game.

When Machias reached ten and five, bordering on the verge of manhood, he departed for training. He kissed her, among the first rays of sunrise, whispering his fare thee well. Be it innocent, ’twas a true kiss, and though her heart was young, it knew of her love for him even then.

Adrift with loneliness, Kara awaited his return for six years. She would inconspicuously lean closer while serving the evening meal, hoping to hear snippets of Machias’s life through his parents’ conversation, but they did not say much in her presence.

She bordered on giddiness when Machias returned. Although she had grown into womanhood, Kara was ill prepared to see the difference in him. Ah, what a true shock when naught of the lad she knew entered the gates, but a man. Muscles, perfectly sculpted as the marble statues in the gardens, seemed to flex with the smallest of movement. His angular jaw, sporting a hint of a beard under his dark complexion, only accented his rugged looks. Moreover, his voice…his voice, deep and tender at the same time, defined a grown man. Had it not been for the single dimple on his left cheek when he smiled, Kara often wondered if she would have recognized him at all.

At first, Kara believed he had the same issue with her, for the most attention he paid was discreet thanks when she served his meals or a request for a refill of sweet mead for his female guests. However, one day, he whispered a childhood endearment as he passed her in the garden. G’day, Kay-Kay. Oh how those words made her swoon, though she did a fair job of hiding her joy at the discovery that Machias did recognize her. He just saw her differently—beneath him. As did she, but in a sinful way.

Kara crumpled the apron in her fist, no longer finding joy in the pattern.

Ah, Machias, social standing became everything ta ye, and I became naught.

Machias waved from across the meadow. Kara looked to see who approached but saw no one. Smiling so hard her cheeks hurt, Kara slowly raised her hand. Spotting her berry-stained fingers, she snatched them down.

His smile flashed, bright and inviting. Mayhap the inviting part was simply her imagination. Just the same, Kara decided to join him and started his way.

At a poke from his brother, Machias turned away and blocked the next jab.

Kara’s grin faltered and she pretended her intention was to give her mare a few berries. She grabbed a handful from her basket and outstretched her hand to Dunny. She peered over at the sound of Machias’s voice. His broad back was to her, muffling his words to his younger brother, but she simply listened to the euphoric melody of the deep yet soft tones. Dunny snorted, seeming to ask for more of the sweet treat, but she returned back to the bushes.

“Why do I torture myself so?” she whispered, ripping berries from their hold. She did not even care that the thorns bit her fingertips. In a way, she welcomed the pain, for ’twas preferable to the ache in her heart.

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Getaway Weekend by Jaye Raymee
* I received a copy of this book from Breathless Press in exchange for an honest review*

Cara is too young for Jack. But can he deny his growing feelings as they share a three-day weekend together?

Jack is planning a trip up the coast to relax over the holiday weekend. He wasn’t going to bring anything but his books and a few bottles of wine. That is, until Cara invited herself along for the ride, and in spite of himself, Jack can’t say no to the young girl he finds so fascinating. But he’s certain that friendship is the only future they can have together, and he’s determined to make sure Cara knows it too.

But Cara plans to use their three days together to make Jack see just how wrong he is.

Jack is all set for his weekend getaway but he is taking more than he originally planned when Cara invites herself along.  He enjoys her company but thinks her joining him on his trip is a bad idea since he is twice her age.  Will he be able to get past his hang-ups and enjoy their weekend together?

Cara may only be nineteen and a virgin but she has been on her own for awhile now.  She is working to put herself through college and is more comfortable around older people.  She met Jack while at work and they have had a few coffee dates.  She plans on taking advantage of their time alone to convince him that that they could be good together.

From the beginning it’s obvious that Jack and Cara have a connection.   She may be half his age but when they are together, he seems to forget that fact.  The whole time they are together he is fighting his attraction to her because he thinks he’s too old for her.  When it becomes obvious that she is more than attracted to him, he starts to let go and enjoy himself.

I love the air of mystery with Cara.  She spends her days away from the hotel leaving Jack to his own devices but the nights are a different story.  She may be a virgin but she’s not innocent and knows that she will have to make the first move with Jack.

This was a fun read with beautiful scenery.  I enjoyed Getaway Weekend and give it 3½ Flaming Hearts. 

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