Love comes in many forms and always at a price. At twenty-three, Princess Isabella must settle down for the sake of her kingdom. Caught up in a secret affair with her lady-in-waiting, Hannah, the princess knows it can only last for so long. When Prince Alexander arrives to court her, he confides that his father is on his death bed, and he will be crowned king soon. Isabella hastily agrees to the proposal, desiring to be queen, knowing little about her soon to be husband. Murder, secrets, and lies combine with menage, spanking, and erotic encounters in this steamy medieval romance.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Book lover problem #593: you forget what a book in your TBR pile is about by the time you finally get around to reading it.
Every book lover has been a victim of problem #593. Here’s the difference between other book lovers and myself. Most of you are smart enough to reread the synopsis before diving into the read so you have some idea of what to expect. Did I do that with this read? Hell no, I just dove right on in. Wowsa, what a surprise I got :) Palace Secrets starts out naughty and ends naughty with some serious drama and action in between. In less than 85 pages, Rayne takes the reader on a wild ride of political intrigue, murder, ambition, power and, sexual desire all revolving around Princess Isabella.
The Princess is 23 and not yet married, a fate worse than death in some time periods. Isabella has spent the vast majority of her life avoiding the institution of marriage for a variety of reasons not the least of which is her love for Hannah, her lady-in-waiting. Isabella’s position in the world demands she marry and before Prince Alexander arrived, she had no interest in any of the suitors brought before her. Prince Alexander is instantly interesting, attractive and, quite proactive. It is widely known the Prince’s father is on his deathbed and waiting to marry is no longer an option for the Prince.
Isabella has only one condition for marrying Alexander, her ladies must be allowed to stay with her at court. Alexander instantly agrees to the condition and the two are duly married within 24 hours. Inside of that 24 hours, Isabella discovers two startling truths: she very much enjoys sex with her new husband and he killed his father. Needless to say, Isabella totally freaks out and turns to the one person she has always trusted, her lover, Hannah. From this point forward, all kinds of Hell breaks loose as Isabella and Hannah are outed, there is an attack on the castle and, Alexander surprises everyone with both his words and his actions.
The Bottom Line: I am all kinds of wanting more of this, NOW!!!! The length of the read is perfect for the amount of information covered/introduced, the plot is fast-paced, the naughty bits are excellent and, the characters are interesting, bold and, exciting. My only complaint is the sort of uncertainty about the time period this all takes place in as a result of the mixed language. For example, some speech among the characters feels older and some feels very modern. This complaint certainly didn’t keep me from enjoying this read and I have to say, I sincerely hope there will be more to this story. There are certainly elements and characters that can be further developed but as of now both Amazon and Goodreads show Palace Secrets as a stand-alone. More. Now. Please. :)
Rough sex. Dirty talk. Criminal activity. Cursing. Fisticuffs. Closed course. Professional driver. Do not try this at home. Theresa Drazen wants to know one thing. Is there something wrong with her? Because from what she can see, she has money, brains, a body that does the job. Yet, she keeps getting shelved. Most recently, by her fiancé who happens to be the DA. And she’ll get over it, really. No problem. She’ll just have a nice, short encounter with a mysterious Italian named Antonio who may or may not be involved with some kind of alleged criminal activity…blah blah… Let’s call a spade a spade. He’s a mobster. Let’s face a few more facts. He’s hot. He’s smart. And if anyone breathes on her the wrong way, he’s got no problem beating their head against a Porsche until they’re willing to lick up their own vomit to make it stop. Just about everything about that turns her on. Yeah. There’s something wrong with her.
I caught the scent again and looked in her direction, as if I could see the smell’s source. It could have come from anyone. It could have been the gorgeous black lady with the sweet smile. It could have been the plate of saucy meat that crossed my path. Could have been the waft of parking lot that came through the door before it snapped closed.
But it wasn’t.
I knew it like I knew tax code; it was him. The man in the dark suit and thin pink tie, the full lips and two-day beard. His eyes were black as a felony, and they stayed on me as his body swung into the booth.
The smell had come from him, not the other man getting into the booth. It was in his gaze, which was locked on me, disarming me. He was beautiful to me. Not my type, not at all. But the slight cleft in his chin, the powerful jaw, the swoop of dark hair falling over his forehead seemed right. Just right. I swallowed. My mouth had started watering, and my throat had gotten dry. I got a flash of him above me, with that swoop of hair rocking, as he fucked me so hard the sheets ripped.
He turned to say something to the hostess, and I took a gulp of air. I’d forgotten to breathe. I put my hands to my shirt buttons to make sure they were fastened, because I felt as if he’d undressed me.
About the author and where to find her:
CD Reiss is a USA Today and Amazon bestseller. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn’t pick up, she’s at the well, hauling buckets. Born in New York City, she moved to Hollywood, California to get her master’s degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere, but it did embed TV story structure in her head well enough for her to take a big risk on a TV series structured erotic series called Songs of Submission. It’s about a kinky billionaire hung up on his ex-wife, an ingenue singer with a wisecracking mouth; art, music and sin in the city of Los Angeles. Critics have dubbed the books “poetic,” “literary,” and “hauntingly atmospheric,” which is flattering enough for her to put it in a bio, but embarrassing enough for her not to tell her husband, or he might think she’s some sort of braggart who’s too good to give the toilets a once-over every couple of weeks or chop a cord of wood. If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine.
On the windswept shores of Ireland, a British Agent must leave behind duty to country for the sake of his honor. Anne Doyle lost her father to a foolish war and her mother to madness. Left with debt and an ancient family home, she struggles to keep the rest of her family together even as an enemy attempts to take them away. After witnessing a brutal murder, Anne must enlist aid from the only family she has left if she is to save those she loves. Devon Clayton had no intentions of leaving behind his life of adventure and danger, but when he is charged with protecting a witness and her family, he must choose between duty to the country he serves and a woman who tests his honor and willingness to change. Together they will discover that nothing is what it seems and that without honor, love and life are for nothing.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
Clayton’s Honor is the third book in the British Agent series and one I have quite been looking forward too. Of the core group, Tristan, Charles and, Devon, Devon has been the most mysterious, the darkest and, the one most willing to take calculated risks and chances. To help his friends, Devon has gone to great lengths to protect them and would willingly die to save one of them or their spouses. Devon’s loyalty to his chosen family, his real family and crown and country is undeniable. His strength lies in his resolve and until Anne Doyle, nothing has ever shaken that resolve.
Anne Doyle is up to her ass in problems. Her father left her their ancestral home, Ballinrock Castle but it is nearly in ruins. Restoring the castle to its former glory is out of the question given the mountain of debt her father also left her. Adding to Anne’s daily stress are the families and employees attached to the castle, her mother who is slowly losing her mind and, a younger sister whose mind will never mature beyond that of a child. Oh, and there’s the murder she witnessed. With no choice left to her, Anne contacts her cousin Charles for help.
It doesn’t long for Charles to enlist the aid of Devon and his brothers to help sort out the mess at Ballinrock Castle. The men figure out very quickly there is much, much more to the matter than just the murder of a farm hand. Not only is Anne in mortal danger but her mother and sister are as well. With just the barest scratching of the surface, the group also discovers connections to a thirty year old death and an operation to forge currency. In no time flat, Anne’s situation has become a state matter as well as an intensely personal matter. The memory of her father is being tarnished the deeper the plot goes, her mother’s actions over the course of decades is being thrown into question and, Anne is developing serious feelings for Devon, a man who will likely never leave his life of danger and intrigue.
With each passing day and with each new bit of information, Devon sees a strength and determination in Anne that he can’t help but admire. Her loyalty to her family rivals Devon’s own and her ability to think and process information like a spy is as scary as it is attractive. Though Anne is frightened by the situation she finds herself in, she is also determined to be a part of the solution and Devon understands early on there is no use fighting her. Fighting Anne means distance from Anne and that is certainly something Devon does not want. Being near Anne is as exciting as any case he has ever worked and for the first time in his adult life, Devon can see himself leaving the Agency for good. He just has to keep Anne alive long enough to make her his own.
The Bottom Line: To date, I have really enjoyed this series but Clayton’s Honor fell flat for me. Devon has been such an interesting and somewhat mysterious character in the first two reads that I expected his story to be far more explosive, exciting and, sensual than it is. Devon is, by far the most dangerous man of the group and I expected and wanted so much more for him including more about his past. There is a lot of action and mystery in this read but it doesn’t feel as cohesive as the other two reads. So much unfolds toward the end of the read that it all feels rushed and awkward. Additionally, there are several wonky plot twists that feel like unnecessary afterthoughts. With that glowing recommendation how am I at three stars? Easy, even though I felt let down by Devon’s story, I still got Devon!! I also got more Tristan and Charles, Rhona and Alaina and, a bit more about Devon’s two brothers. I have no complaints as far as writing, editing, etc. go and, if I am completely honest, there is generally one book in every series that doesn’t quite reach the same height as the others. I am certainly not done with this series but do sincerely hope the next installment meets the stands of the first two books and not the standard set in Clayton’s Honor.
About the author and where to find her:
MK McClintock spins tales of romance, mystery, and adventure inspired by the heather-covered hills of Scotland and the majestic mountains of home. With her heart deeply rooted in the past and her mind always on adventure, she lives and writes in Montana.
*2014 RONE Award-Nominee for Alaina Claiborne -2014 Crowned Heart for Excellence from InD’Tale Magazine for Blackwood Crossing and The Montana Gallagher Collection
*2015 Crowned Heart for Excellence from InD’Tale Magazine for A Home for Christmas
Genres: historical romantic westerns, historical romantic mysteries, western short stories. MK is published with Trappers Peak Publishing LLC. www.trapperspeakpublishing.com
All she can remember is hunger…for him.
A year ago, Alexandria Stevens strode through the doors of Wicked Ways and into the arms of a man—a monster, really—who stole everything from her. Her memory. Her life. Now she’s a creature of darkness with only hazy images in her mind of that night and a confusing jumble of emotions. A fierce hate…and an even fiercer desire for Markus Santini. Markus has walked through this world for more than a hundred years, knowing exactly who and what he was, until Alexandria undid it all. Undid him. When a former vampire colleague threatens one of the Enclave’s own, Markus is needed—but only as the dark, powerful creature he once was. And in order to become that, he must find redemption…in the arms of a woman who despises him with every breath she can no longer take.
The Enclave Series:
Kenric St. James is out for revenge. Over 300 years ago, an ancient female vampire turned him against his will and killed the woman he loved. He’s spent more than a century building an Enclave of warrior vampires who have sworn to defend humanity against his evil sire and her minions. But when Kenric finds a woman he finally burns to claim as his own again, Kenric knows loving her means giving his sire another target.
Emily Ross just wanted a fresh start. She’s a survivor, coming off the tail end of an abusive relationship, and craves time alone to learn who she is and to save the home that holds her heart. The last thing she needed was a controlling, alpha male calling all the shots. Meeting Kenric might just have changed her mind, though. He is wrong for her in all the right ways. But in order to keep her heart from breaking, he first has to keep the hoards of evil vamps from stealing her very breath.
Arran MacLain is a vampire on a suicide mission, driven to kill his former partner who betrayed him and the Enclave they served. But two things stand in his way: Gabrielle, the human female who holds his heart, and the past that won’t let him go. If only death was enough to cleanse his soul. Gabrielle Steven’s sister is missing. Her hunt for clues brings her face to face with the one vampire she can’t forget. Their missions combine and thrust them into the heart of evil. Will their passion be enough to overcome the pain from their past, or will their dark desires destroy them both?
Guerino Lombardi’s world just went to shit. Vampire and second in command of the Warriors of the Enclave, he’s put everything on the line to save his best friend from what has to be the worst blow a man can take. Kenric, his friend and master of the Enclave, has a daughter, something believed impossible in the vampire world, and word has it she wants her father and his Enclave dead. Guerin is determined to protect Kenric, keeping the secret from him until he knows for sure if this daughter really exists and if she wants revenge. Eve Devonshire is a woman hiding in plain sight. Not completely human, but not quite a vampire, she’s accepted by neither race but is more powerful than either one. Her life has consisted of half-truths and disguises, never belonging or living in one place for any length of time. But now some have heard rumors of her existence and want nothing more than to trap her and dissect her like a lab rat. To stay alive, Eve can’t trust anyone, including the alpha vampire with midnight eyes and a thirst for pain and submission. With her enemies nipping at her heels, Eve has Guerin cornered, and both are determined to get the answers they’re looking for or die trying…if they can fight their desires long enough.
About the author and where to find her:
Jessica Lee is an EPIC eBook Award winner and international bestselling author of paranormal romance. She lives in the southeastern United States with her husband and son. In her former life, Jessica was a science geek and spent over twenty-five years as a nurse. But after the birth of her son, she left her medical career behind. During that transition, she discovered her passion for writing romance and has never looked back. Jessica Lee is currently published with Entangled Publishing and Resplendence Publishing. Plus she has several self published titles available.
Helen Banks is going to die. When her twin brother gambles away their fortune, she must save his life and take his place in a duel to satisfy the honor of a man her brother couldn’t pay. Disguised as her brother, Helen faces the one man she’s admired from afar, a widower with a dark past and eyes that scorch her very soul.
Since Gareth Fairfax lost his wife, the darkness in his heart continues to grow. Lashing out at anyone who opposes him, Gareth is stunned to face a lovely young woman opposite his dueling pistol. After discovering Helen’s deception, he offers her a choice: become his mistress or her brother dies.
Their devil’s bargain turns into a slow, sweet, intoxicating seduction. With each passing hour, Helen uncovers Gareth’s secret heartbreak and yet she can’t help but fall for the man who has ruined her. With Helen in his arms, Gareth wonders if he might yet be saved. All it takes is one passionate embrace, a kiss from the depths of his soul and a night of wild abandon.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Go ahead and ask me how much I enjoyed this read :) The Duelist’s Seduction is everything I love in historical fiction . . .a little bit of action, a daring woman, a sexy man, some naughty bits and, all of it set in a time period not my own.
Gareth Fairfax doesn’t need the money he is intent on claiming, he doesn’t lack for companionship should he desire it but he does lack a true companion, a true love to spend his life with. Since the loss of his beloved wife, Gareth has searched for the missing link, the thing that will bring him back to life and bring joy back into his world. In the years since her death, Gareth has become increasingly more reckless in an effort to feel again, to feel that spark of life. Maybe an early morning duel will do the trick.
Since the death of her father, Helen Banks and her twin brother have been just barely scraping by. Helen, by far the more levelheaded of the two, has denied herself basic needs in order to compensate for her twin’s dumbassery. Helen’s brother loves to gamble and is certain the next hand of cards will be the big one, the one to give him enough money to support he and his sister in a manner they both deserve. Unfortunately, that hand has never come and now, he is in trouble up to his ears over the debt he has accumulated. And by up to his ears, I mean an early morning duel.
Standing in the cool of the early morning, Helen has disguised herself brilliantly. To save her brother she would do anything and that includes losing her life in a duel meant to settle his debt. When the duel goes sideways and Helen is unmasked, she is forced into a deal with Gareth Fairfax that will save her brother but ruin her. Life with Gareth awakens something in Helen she never thought to have, passion. Gareth is sexy and brooding but there are also flashes of the man he once was, a man more than just content with his life, a happy man. He fires Helen’s passion and within days, she is completely lost to him and his ministrations. Helen knows her time with Gareth is limited so she determines to make the most of her situation, to take every moment of joy.
Gareth is completely confused by Helen Banks. Oh, make no mistake, he wants her desperately but he doesn’t want to feel anything for her. The loss of his wife nearly killed him and living as a shadow of his former self has become his norm. Helen brings a vitality back into Gareth’s home that he never thought he would see again. He has already compromised Helen’s name and reputation but making an honest woman of her scares the Hell out of him. The decision Gareth must make will either make him or break him.
The Bottom Line: What an excellent read!! At novella-length, The Duelist’s Seduction is the perfect length to introduce the Seduction series. Helen and Gareth are both terribly likeable characters and though their situation is a bit awkward at first, it all works out in the end. Helen is bold and courageous, kind and caring, free-spirited and passionate. Gareth is dark and brooding, sexy and daring and, the perfect balance to Helen. Their short time together is fraught with drama, passion and, intense feelings that will change both their lives for the better. Even though the read is short, Smith fully develops her characters as well as giving the reader a good sense of the time and place in which the events are occurring. The book opens with a duel and ends with an HEA. I’m not sure what else I could have asked for :)
About the author and where to find her:
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For one hundred years, Seri’s people have lived under the thumb of the Blood, the cruel and mysterious rulers of Athon. Seri wants nothing more than to put food on the table and marry the hotheaded but handsome Rilen come spring. But when a noblewoman asks Seri to be her handmaiden, Rilen insists she move to the enemy’s castle . . . and spy on the newly arrived prince.
Prince Graeme has grown weary of his family’s curse. The Blood are powerful and immortal, but doomed to live in the shadows, flitting from lover to lover, always in search of the mythic Eterna—the one woman who will sate their hunger. Now his father has sent him to the outskirts of the empire to stamp out a rebellious Vidari faction. But when a wild and alluring Vidari girl shows up at court, he finds himself torn between following his father’s orders and following his heart . . .
A war is brewing between Athonite and Vidari, between Blood and man. As uprisings sweep through the land, Seri and Graeme find themselves at the center of a storm with only one choice: betray each other, or betray their people.
Excerpt from Queen of Blood:
“Lady Mila de Vray,” the priest called.
Seri braced herself, readying the cords. Ahead of her, the lady swept into the center of the room, making her grand entrance with small flicks of her fan. Hands spread like she had been taught, Seri matched her steps to Lady Mila’s gliding ones as she carried the excessive train of skirts to the center of the floor. Prince Graeme’s eyes flickered over Seri’s appearance and then back to the lady before him. If he recognized either of them, he gave no indication.
Lady Mila sank down into a deep curtsy, skirts pooling around her.
Behind her, hands tangled in the noblewoman’s train, Seri hesitated. Lady Mila’s deep bow just emphasized the fact that Seri was still standing behind her. Was this all part of the game, then? To force her hand and have her insult the court? Someone coughed, a sound that felt out of place in the stillness, and she could feel the heat of every eye in the room on her.
They can string me up next to Kasmar, she thought. I will not yield to this.
Biting her lip, Seri closed her eyes and bent her head, the closest approximation to deference that she could give.
And she waited. Waited for a signal from Lady Mila, or a jerk of the cords. Waited for the priests to indicate that they would move on. Something.
Then, someone gave a surprised shout and then a low murmur rippled through the crowd. Seri looked up, and gasped. A white glow of light had formed in the center of the room, just above Lady Mila’s head. There was no brazier there, no candelabra, no discernible source for the glow. It had appeared suddenly and of its own volition, as if summoned by the gods . . . or the Athonite goddess herself.
“The Betrothed!” Lady Penella breathed, all tears gone. Shock skittered through Seri. Lady Mila? Truly? The small, cruel part of her was disappointed. Lady Mila would be even more insufferable than before. Poor Lady Aynee had looked to be a more suitable—and amenable—bride for the prince.
The two priests continued to chant the Goddess’s praises, rapt and exultant. The room hummed with whispers and Lady Mila stood bathed in the glow, a radiant smile on her face. The prince stood and stepped down from the dais, and the light continued to grow, until suddenly Seri’s skin felt as though it were on fire. Her stomach churned and she tugged at the cords, suddenly desperate to get free, to get out of this over-warm room, away from the Athonites and their goddess and their strange ways. But before she could move, a heavy hand landed on her shoulder.
The prince. He had walked right past Lady Mila to Seri. . . .
And that was when Seri realized that the white light wasn’t centered around Lady Mila, whose face was pinched and bright red with ill-concealed rage.
It was on her.
Seri’s body went numb. “It’s not me,” she protested. “It can’t be.”
The prince gazed down at her for a long moment, dark eyes emotionless. But she could sense turmoil behind them . . . as if he was as upset and surprised as she was. Seri moved to turn, moved to flee. This couldn’t be happening. She wasn’t Prince Graeme’s Betrothed. She was Vidari, and she had to get home, to Josdi and father. To Rilen—
As if sensing her panic, the prince took her by the elbow, turning her to face the crowd. His grip was tight on her arm, holding her in place. “The Goddess has granted me a Betrothed,” he called out in a flat tone that carried across the still ballroom floor. “Truly, I am blessed.”
The room erupted into wild cheers and angry chatter.
“It’s not me,” Seri said again. “It can’t be.”
“You echo my thoughts exactly, madam,” Prince Graeme said in her ear. “Now smile.”
About the author and where to find her:
Jill Myles has been an incurable romantic since childhood. She reads all the ‘naughty parts’ of books first, looks for a dirty joke in just about everything, and thinks to this day that the Little House on the Prairie books should have been steamier. After devouring hundreds of paperback romances, mythology books, and archaeological tomes, she decided to write a few books of her own – stories with a wild adventure, sharp banter, and lots of super-sexy situations. She prefers her heroes alpha and half-dressed, her heroines witty, and she loves nothing more than watching them overcome adversity to fall into bed together.
I vow. I crave. I give in.
I used to be a nice, normal girl. I had dreams. Good, happy dreams of a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a fairytale love that lasts forever. Nobody ever warned me that sometimes, the prince dies three weeks before the wedding.
Like any addict, I swear this time is the last….
Now, I go through my days, a shadow of my former self. I pretend I’m okay, and the people in my life pretend to believe me. But, sometimes, when I can no longer stand the craving, I roam an underground sex club looking for my next hit. It’s dirty and wrong, but I can’t stop, and my only line of defense between them and me, is the rules I’ve designed to keep me safe. The men always abide by my rules. Until I meet him.
And, like any addict, I’m wrong.
I don’t question the instincts that tell me to run. One look at him, standing there, power radiating off him in waves, tells me all I need to know. He will make me crave those happy dreams I’ve left behind. And that is not an option.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Layla Hunter wants desperately to be like other girls. She wants to be happy and beautiful with a career and family that sustain her. Layla wants to be like other girls but that opportunity was crushed the night she and her fiancé were attacked in a dark alley. Layla survived but her fiancé didn’t and for eighteen long months she has been trying to cope with a loss so big it has nearly consumed her. To make matters far, far worse, Layla has a dark secret, a craving that can only be fulfilled in what she considers to be a most depraved way. For eighteen months, Layla has gone through a vicious cycle of denying her craving to the point of pain and then allowing a far different kind of pain to be dealt out by a nameless stranger. When she succumbs to her craving, Layla is left the most temporary feeling of satisfaction that is quickly replaced by feelings of guilt, betrayal and, revulsion. Layla’s craving, like her grief is consuming her.
The night Layla meets Michael Banks, she knows instantly he is going to change her in the most profound way. Layla’s body betrays her on every level when Michael is near and though her mind screams for her to run far, far away her body and heart are singing a very different song. Michael’s pull is magnetic and no matter how hard Layla thinks she wants to stay away, her heart and body tell her he can be her salvation, he can be the thing that helps out of the darkness and back into the land of the living. Michael Banks can give Layla the pain she craves and needs to be whole and fulfilled once again.
From the moment he sees Layla, Michael knows she is broken and just a step away from being completely ruined. Michael is not a glutton for punishment by any means but he loves a challenge and after watching Layla for six months, he knows instinctually what she needs and he is just the man to give it to her. Layla’s wants, needs and desires are written all over her and if Michael can build trust and slowly chip away at her defenses, they may each find exactly what they have been searching for. Michael is an absolutely dominant man but his dominance is tempered with patience, kindness and, caring. Though it initially seems he is playing with Layla, what Michael is really doing is giving her the opportunity to trust herself again and know she can make decisions for herself. Michael is also establishing a very real D/s relationship with a woman he can’t seem to resist.
To say Layla and Michael’s relationship is fraught with emotional turbulence doesn’t do the word turbulence justice. Layla is literally a half step away from being completely ruined and with just one misstep, Michael can destroy her. Layla is as frightened by Michael’s presence in her life as she is excited. With each interaction, Michael awakens something in Layla she thought was buried with her fiancé. Make no mistake, this relationship isn’t just emotional but also deliciously physical. One of Michael’s true gifts is his ability to read people and Layla’s body is constantly talking to him. While she often tries to tell Michael to leave her alone her body screams at him to come back, to touch her, to hurt in the most erotic and welcome ways. Michael pushes though absolutely never forces Layla and he ultimately helps to her to see how strong she really is.
The Bottom Line: Crave was a one sitting, cover-to-cover read for me and I think I may have experienced every dip, dive and roll over Layla’s emotions went through right along with her. Though Layla is easy to root for, her story is hard to read. She sees herself as broken and depraved and utterly alone since her fiancé died. For 18 months she has punished herself emotionally and allowed others to punish her physically as a means of coping with her grief and sexual needs. Michael understands her in a way not even her fiancé did and with that understanding comes a fresh sense of guilt and betrayal. Layla fights her feelings for Michael, her desire for him until she finally realizes how tired she is from constantly fighting. To accept Michael and all he has to offer her doesn’t mean she has to forget about her fiancé. In fact, Michael constantly encourages Layla to open up to him, talk to him and, trust that he won’t ever try and take her fiancé’s place. Michael’s patience is as strong as his dominant side and each is equally sexy. He is somewhat overt in his displays of dominance while in public and that just makes some of the naughty bits all the hotter. While I certainly can’t pretend to understand the why of what it is that Layla needs to be sexually satisfied, I can tell you that these elements are dealt with head on and respectfully in this read. Overall, I was able to connect with both characters (in very different ways!), I found the plot to be justifiably permeated with tension and sexual desire and, I found the resolution to be most satisfying. Though this read certainly isn’t for everyone, for those who like this genre, it is a well-written work that takes the read on an emotional roller coaster ride with just enough kink to keep everything interesting.
When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that 1) He’s been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And 3) Survival is optional: to return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.
Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets’ nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.
Excerpt from Escape from the Past (Book #1: The Duke’s Wrath Series):
It was exactly 9:32 p.m. when I settled into my favorite chair, the one with the ripped Mexican blanket that serves as a cushion. Little did I know I’d be gone within the hour. I mean gone as in disappeared. Powering up my high-speed Cyber Xtreme and 32-inch monitor, a guilt gift from my dad and the only valuable thing I own, I stared at the blank disc in my hand. According to my friend, Jimmy, it contained some secret new game his father had invented. Jimmy said his dad thought the game was faulty and I wondered why his dad would have given it to him. Most people consider Jimmy the lucky one. He lives in a mansion because his father runs some ginormous tech company. My mom and me share space with a thousand spiders in a twobedroom cottage with a thatched roof. Who in the twenty-first century lives in a house covered with a bunch of straw? Anyway, I digress. The tower purred as it swallowed the disc, the best sound in the world. It took a long time to boot which should’ve given me the first clue something was wrong. If there’s one thing that drives me crazy it’s slow processors and I knew it wasn’t my equipment. I’ve been gaming since I was six and consider myself pretty good. Especially when it comes to debugging stuff. I was stoked to figure it out, maybe make a few bucks in the process. I’m still American enough to think of dollars instead of Euros because we’ve only lived in Germany for two years. I was scrounging for a candy bar in my desk when a flame shot across the screen, burning yellow, red and blue. Not that I smoke, but it looked real enough to light a cigarette. In slow motion the fire edged letters into the screen. EarthRider. Cool name. Of course I didn’t get it then. Stupid me. Below the fire appeared a globe, the kind librarians have on their desks. The thing rotated slowly, zooming closer and closer like Google Earth. Jimmy was right, this was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, the graphics as realistic as if I’d been standing there. Bornhagen, the place we live, was marked with a front door. Enter here flashed below. I was pretty fed up waiting, my fingers twitching to hit the keys. First it took ages to load, then it showed a map? But I didn’t have much else to do except review a few algebra problems— unlike Jimmy I’ve got no trouble with math—so I clicked. On the screen giant boulders shaped themselves into a gate, opening onto a bunch of hills and a shadowy forest. In the distance, high on the mountain, I saw a castle with two towers, a pale banner fluttering limply on top. It looked vaguely familiar, but at the time I didn’t really think much about it. An ox cart moved slowly across a country road toward the castle. I sniffed. Something reeked like boiled manure. I looked around to find the source when I noticed a man on the screen scurrying along a bumpy trail. He wheezed, dragging his bare feet. He was obviously injured, the filthy rags on his right shoulder dark with blood. The screen zoomed to follow as the man darted into the woods. Giant oaks swallowed the sun, a patchwork of shadows and light in the undergrowth. At the time I remember thinking how lame this game was despite the graphics—no dragons, no monsters, nothing exciting whatsoever. Besides, I was slightly worried my mom would come in. The whiskey she likes usually puts her to sleep on the couch, but you never know. Luckily, most of the time, she doesn’t know when I pull an all-nighter. Horse gallop thudded out of nowhere. Visibly trembling the grimy-looking man hesitated for a moment before thrashing his way through bushes and undergrowth. At the edge of the forest three riders in chainmail and helmets came into view, their chestnut horses whinnying and covered in sweat. The clang of metal sliced the air as the men drew swords.
At that moment my cell rang. I remember hesitating because I thought maybe Jimmy’s dad had found out about me borrowing the game. I’d sort of pushed for it. I should’ve stopped what I was doing right then, but I was still curious and decided to ignore the phone. On the screen a yellowed scroll, its edges burned and crumbling, unfolded into a menu. Continue Level One Expert Pause Exit Upgrade to Expert now? flashed below. Cool. There was an advanced version. I moved the mouse and clicked. Instantly the screen began to pulse and recede. Like looking into a fish tank, the tree trunks, oak leaves and bushes grew larger and threedimensional, sharper and closer. I heard birds chirping and rustling in the undergrowth. And the foul smell was back. I leaned forward because all of a sudden my chest was killing me. I was stuck in a truck-sized vise, my ribs squeezing together, body compressing. My lungs throbbed and I couldn’t breathe, not even a little. My arms and legs felt numb. Do something, I thought. I pushed myself to stand. Something is wrong with the game, stop the game, my mind urged. But I couldn’t. Lights exploded behind my eyelids and I had to pay every shred of attention to the task of breathing. It occurred to me that I was having a heart attack. My mother’s face flashed by. I wanted to shout for her, but my lungs had quit for good, my tongue a rigid piece of meat. She’d find me in the morning dead on the carpet. My sight turned foggy then black. I was passing out. I sucked frantically and drew in a bit of air. Slowly with each breath the crushing heaviness disappeared. Blinking away the haze, I wiped my sweaty forehead. I should make an appointment with the family doctor. Something moved ahead. There at the edge of a clearing cowered the man in rags holding his right elbow. He trembled and now that I was closer, I saw blood dripping from his wrist. The three riders had surrounded him, their blades pointing toward the man’s neck. One rider dismounted, his face shadowed by a half helmet and curled brownish beard, his hands covered by steel gauntlets like lizard scales. The other two sat motionless, waiting. I tried to get a better view of what the horsemen were doing when I looked down. And froze. I stood on the root of an oak tree. Surely I imagined things. But those were definitely my Nikes I’d forgotten to take off when I returned home. I moved my foot. Leaves crackled. A twig snapped. Something terriblehad happened, something I couldn’t wrap my mind around. I blinked and looked to my right. Trees and undergrowth were losing themselves in the gloom. I remembered the mouse in my right hand, but when I lifted my arm, my fingers came up empty—except for the smear of something sticky on my palm. I was bleeding. Wait. The bush next to me was covered in blood. Not mine, I realized with relief. Disgusted I wiped my shaking hands with a fistful of leaves and turned to look behind me. The woods stretched into darkness—shadows within shadows nearly black. My room was gone.
**Currently ranked #1 in hot new teen fiction, medieval**
About the author and where to find her:
Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories. “Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”
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A leprechaun is powerless without his gold….
Banished to the mirrored realm for hundreds of years, Declan Aherne had nothing but time to plot his revenge and mourn the loss of his beloved wife. But when a beautiful human woman, with a familiar amulet, stares into the mirror….Declan’s luck was about to change.
Excerpt from Luck of the Irish (Book #1: Leprechaun’s Gold Series):
The gold emblem, the one that matched her necklace, sat at the top of the oval gilded frame, and when she leaned closer she realized that it was a recessed space. She ran her finger over it and let out a shuddering breath. Maggie had a sinking suspicion that the amulet around her neck would fit perfectly in that space.
“A key,” she whispered through trembling lips. “Aunt Lizzie said the amulet was a key to release the leprechaun from his prison.”
Rising to her feet, Maggie carried the mirror down the narrow hallway to her bedroom. She bumped the door open with her hip and stepped into the small, cozy green and white room. When she changed clothes earlier she’d already removed the old print and left the blank spot above her dresser for her long sought after prize.
With great care she hung the mirror onto the nail and adjusted it so that it was straight. She stepped back and inspected it as she removed the amulet and gold chain from around her neck. The heavy, gold disc felt warm in her palm as she curled her fingers around it and debated what to do next.
Part of her was as eager as a kid on Christmas Eve brimming with anticipation. She wanted to slip the amulet right into that spot on the frame and see if the fairy tale was true. But the other part of her, the one that dominated at the moment, was reluctant. Not because she was afraid of a leprechaun jumping out of the mirror.
In fact, it was exactly the opposite.
What if after all this time and all the searching she puts the amulet in the mirror and nothing happens? That would be a big, fat, fucking let down of colossal proportions.
Tears stung her eyes and she sniffled, laughing out loud at her foolishness. How long had she been searching for the mirror never really believing she’d find it? The hunt for this treasure was what kept her going after family was gone. It was like an invisible tie that kept her connected to them, but now she’d found it and the hunt was over.
It was a stark reminder that her family was never coming back.
Maggie was alone.
“I wish the story was true, Aunt Lizzie,” she whispered. “But true or not, thank you for sharing it with me….I miss you all so much.”
She turned her teary gaze to her reflection as she ran her fingertip over the amulet. It was time to face the truth and stop hiding inside her own fairy tales, the ones she perpetuated every time she went in search of the magical mirror from Aunt Lizzie’s stories. She had to face the reality of the world she lived in.
Her family was gone and they weren’t coming back. The mirror wasn’t magic and she wasn’t anything special, and the only way to really face it was to put the amulet in the mirror—and watch as nothing happened.
Fairy tales weren’t real.
Neither were leprechauns or warlocks.
No more hiding from the world or retreating into fanciful stories.
“Time to face the truth.”
Maggie pressed the amulet to her lips before reaching up and slipping the disc into the recessed spot at the top of the mirror. The moment it clicked into place she whispered the Gaelic phrase Aunt Lizzie always uttered when she told this part of the story. “Scaoileadh mé tú.”
At first nothing happened and Maggie was ready to drown herself in the rest of the chardonnay. She was about to leave the room in search of the wine when a ripple in her reflection caught her eye. Maggie swallowed hard and squinted, not sure she was actually seeing what she thought she was seeing. But sure enough the glass surface of the mirror began to undulate and swell like silver waves in an otherworldly ocean.
She backed up as her image in the mirror blurred and a low, pulsing throbbing sound began to rumble through the room. Maggie scrambled backward and up onto the bed as the deafening noise grew louder by the second. Her hands flew to hear ears, the pulsing noise permeating every single cell of her body making her teeth clatter. It felt like the entire building would come down around her any second and if she wasn’t completely paralyzed by fear, she might have run.
But Maggie couldn’t move. She curled up into the fetal position, hands over her ears, as the world rumbled around her. She half expected the ground to open up and swallow her whole.
A split second later, the mirror erupted in an explosion of light and Maggie squeezed her eyes shut. As a scream threatened to rip from her throat the world went completely silent and still. No more bone rattling throbbing running through the air. The shaking and trembling had ceased, except for her body. She was quivering like a damn leaf and cowering on her bed like a total coward.
Her heart hammered against her ribcage and her eyes were screwed tightly shut as the unmistakable sound of someone breathing heavily filled the room. At first, she thought it was her own breath because she was huffing and puffing like she’d run a freaking marathon. But about a second later, it became glaringly clear she was no longer alone.
The fairy tale was true.
About the author and where to find her:
Sara Humphreys is a graduate of Marist College, with a B.A. Degree in English Literature & Theater. Her initial career path after college was as a professional actress. Some of her television credits include, A&E Biography, Guiding Light, Another World, As the World Turns and Rescue Me. In 2013 Sara’s novel UNTAMED won two PRISM awards–Dark Paranormal and Best of the Best. She loves writing hot heroes and heroines with moxie but above all, Sara adores a satisfying happily-ever-after. She lives in New York with her husband, their four amazing sons, and two adorable pups. When she’s not writing or hanging out with the men in her life, she can be found working out with Shaun T in her living room or chatting with readers on Facebook. For a full list of Sara’s books and reading order, please visit her website.
It’s been two years since Callie Holden helped put her father in prison, and since then, she’s learned a lot about life and herself. To Callie’s surprise, she actually likes working and has learned money is a tool to be used for good… or evil. She also realizes that even though she’s traveled the globe, she’s never truly lived. She longs for adventure and to experience a wildly passionate romance. The last place she expects to discover her dreams is in the arms of the ever-surly man she’s dubbed “The Beast.” But when they’re forced to work together, unexpected chemistry changes everything. In Wade Neumann’s arms, Callie finds the excitement and passion she’s been looking for, as well as a few other surprises.
Wade Neumann has spent the last year burying the pain and humiliation of being left at the altar by a woman who used him as a novelty toy before settling down with someone like herself—someone rich. He’s lost himself in a stream of nameless females, but instead of the trysts helping him heal, he’s only grown colder and more jaded. He hasn’t moved on with his life. He’s merely stuck going through the motions… until he meets Callie Holden, a woman who looks like his ex but is actually the opposite—sweet, compassionate, loyal, and most importantly, not rich. Or so he thinks. Because just as he starts to believe things with Callie are real and true, she gives him thirty million reasons to doubt all over again.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Wade Neumann has spent the last year mending his broken heart. And by mending his broken heart, I mean he has been whoring about with a handful of women who expect just as little of Wade as he wants from them. Just one short year ago, Wade was a week before his wedding and looking forward to happily ever after. His fiancé on the other hand was snogging another man and not at all interested in marrying Wade. Needless to say, the wedding was called off and Wade was left to pick up the pieces of both his broken heart and his pride.
Callie Holden has spent two years trying to make a life for herself outside of her father’s shadow and without his money. While this wouldn’t be tremendously hard for most people, Callie has spent the vast majority of her life completely sheltered from everything except friends, shopping and, socializing. Sure, she has a college degree but she’s never had a job and never had to do anything other than spend money and generally enjoy her life. Everything changed for Callie when her father lost his damn fool mind and landed himself in jail. In that moment, Callie knew it was time for her to strike out on her own and with the help of her friends, she bought a home, a car and got herself an 8-5 job.
For the last year, Wade has done his best to avoid Callie Holden. During the one and only time they worked together, Callie treated Wade like the hired help, order him about and being generally disagreeable. As if to add insult to injury, Callie looks like his ex and she acts like the spoiled princess he “knows” her to be. Much to his great displeasure, a seriously hungover Wade has been ordered by the boss to work with Callie on another project. With avoidance no longer being possible, Wade sucks it up and meets Callie for what he assumes will be a hellish day. As my tiny little granny used to say, “Assuming only makes an ass out of you and me!”
Wade’s day with Callie may be filled with work but he is most pleasantly surprised by her demeanor. From the moment he walks in, Callie is kind, courteous and, willing to work every bit as hard as Wade does. Inexplicably, Wade finds himself not only enjoying Callie’s company but not wanting his time with her to end. What The actual F*%^ is that all about?? For Callie’s part, her time with Wade is a mixed bag as her mind, body and, heart war with each another. Her mind keeps wandering into lustful territory that her body seems to want to agree with but her heart is cautious. Callie has spent so long trying to become a different, better person that she doesn’t quite trust herself around a man as beautiful as Wade. Plus, there was that time a year ago that she treated him like the hired help :)
After their surprising day together, Wade and Callie begin a slow and sultry dance around a relationship. Callie is fascinated by Wade, his sense of adventure, generally easy going nature and, smoking hot body that towers over hers. Wade is fascinated by how wrong he was about Callie, her willingness to try new things, her bold and courageous honesty and, her smoking hot body that fits so nicely next to his. In Callie’s new world view, she doesn’t care what her high falutin’ friends think about her new man, she is all kinds of broadening her horizons with Wade, she loves how she feels when she’s with him and, eventually she’ll tell him about her $30 million trust fund. What The actual F*&^ is that?? Part of the reason Wade trusts Callie is his clear understanding of how unlike she really is; she works hard for the money and the things she has and she appreciates the little things in life. Or, so Wade thinks.
The Bottom Line: This series just keeps getting better and better for me!! With “older” characters getting their day in the sun, I am digging everything about these reads. Callie originally appeared in Gavin and Sunny’s story and really didn’t make a great showing of herself. In fact, Callie was generally unlikeable the first time around. Going All In is a much better showing for Callie as she has all but become a totally new girl. Callie is really trying to make a new life for herself and Wade is the perfect addition to her new life. Wade’s distrust and general heartbreak have been a poison in his life for the last year and Callie is like an antidote. Once Wade truly sits down and faces his issues and deals with them, he is able to accept everything about Callie and work toward making a life with her. From the beginning, Wade and Callie are so clearly meant to be together and though they have some obstacles in their way, Lynne doesn’t drag the drama out for too long and this is one of the things I enjoy most about this series. There is just enough drama to make the story interesting but not so much as to feel like the characters are stuck in a never-ending cycle. The naughty bits in this read are quite delicious and that has everything to do with Wade and his experience and Callie and her innocence. In all, the Heat Wave is a perfect summer read series so load up your e-readers and rock on!
About the author and where to find her:
Alannah believes there’s nothing more magical than finding the other half of your soul, experiencing fiery passion, and knowing you’ve found happily-ever-after. She loves going to work each day (in sweats and a T-shirt) and writing about hot heroes and feisty heroines who torment each other in the most delicious ways before finding their happy ending. She lives in the coastal region of North Carolina with her husband, who also happens to be her best friend and biggest fan. They have two sons, a dog, and two cats.