Review: Yanked (Book #1.5: Frenched Series) by Melanie Harlow

Title: Yanked Series: Book #1.5: Frenched Series Author: Melanie Harlow Format: ebook, 150 pages Published: June 5, 2014

Title: Yanked
Series: Book #1.5: Frenched Series
Author: Melanie Harlow
Format: ebook, 150 pages
Published: June 5, 2014

Synopsis:

Mia Devine fell hard for Lucas Fournier after their magical week in Paris. But eight months later, the free-spirited half-French musician still hasn’t made any promises about their future. And as magnifique as long-distance phone sex is, nothing compares to the real thing.

Fed up with stolen weekends and lonely nights, Mia flies to New York armed with a list of reasons why they should take the next step, but an unexpected guest in Lucas’s apartment derails her plans. He’s been keeping secrets–worse, he claims he’s happy with the way things are.

Without the magic of Paris, can their mismatched love survive?

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Review: 

For eight long months, Mia Devine has been living her life in Detroit while her boyfriend, Lucas Fournier lives his life in New York. No longer worried about things like inhibitions, Mia has been enjoying some seriously good phone sex and, when possible weekends with Lucas. But Mia hasn’t been able to shake all of her old habits and after eight long months she is once again pondering the future. Knowing Lucas’s feelings regarding the future, marriage and kids, Mia knows she must tread carefully or everything she holds dear will be gone like a skittish rabbit.

In a very un-Mia like moment, Mia buys a plane ticket to New York and shows up on Lucas’s doorstep determined to have a very serious conversation about their future as a couple. Unfortunately, the first conversation Mia gets to have is with Lucas’s ex-girlfriend, Jessica. What a conversation it is: Jessica is staying with Lucas until she finds a new apartment, Jessica is bunking in Lucas’s bedroom, Jessica knows nothing about Mia and, Mia clearly knew nothing about the current cohabitation situation. Needless to say, Mia’s second conversation is with a very surprised Lucas and Lucas is a complete and total ass! Seeing her HEA winging its way right on out the door, Mia follows and Lucas doesn’t.

Alone and heartbroken in a New York bar, Mia all too quickly succumbs to the texts sent by Lucas and shows up at his Gramercy Park hotel room only to engage in zero conversation and some really steamy and totally angry sex . . . .twice. But things still aren’t as Mia would like them to be and after a disastrous night out with some of Lucas’s friends and his ex (oh yes, the ex is there!), Mia goes to sleep determined to have a serious talk with Lucas knowing it may be the end of their relationship.

The Bottom Line: I LOVED Frenched in so many ways and was totally smitten with Mia and Lucas’s story but Yanked rubbed me the wrong way. Lucas is a very dominant man and through everything has had to give up very little where his relationship with Mia is concerned. Mia, on the other hand has changed rather dramatically and been willing to sacrifice her own wants and desires out of a fear of losing Lucas. When Mia shows up on Lucas’s doorstep and things go quickly from bad to worse, Lucas is a complete ass yet within hours Mia is once again succumbing to his will in the bedroom without so much as an apology for his appalling behavior. I totally understand that Mia is head over heels in love with Lucas and wants to be with him but the relationship is far from equal. Yes, I also get that Lucas eventually pulls his head out of his ass and makes things right but for me, it is too little too late. Finally, I found myself disappointed in Mia and that ultimately left me disappointed with the read as whole. With that being said, I am now completely on the fence with having loved one of the books in the series and not so much with the other which means Forked, the forthcoming book in the Frenched series will be the determining factor for me.

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About the author and where to find her:

Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her lipstick red, and her history with the naughty bits left in. I write New Adult historical and contemporary stories.

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Cover Reveal and Sweepstakes: Hard Knox (Book #1: The Outsider Chronicles) by Nicole Williams

Title: Hard Knox Series: Book #1: The Outsider Chronicles Author: Nicole Williams Age/Genre: NA/Adult Contemporary Published: August 12, 2014 Cover Design: Okay Creations

Title: Hard Knox
Series: Book #1: The Outsider Chronicles
Author: Nicole Williams
Age/Genre: NA/Adult Contemporary
Published: August 12, 2014
Cover Design: Okay Creations

Purple Goodreads

Synopsis:

Knox Jagger. The name inspires resent in every male at Sinclair University, want in every female, and contempt in Charlie Chase.

Charlie can be summed up in three words: independent, independent, and independent. To Charlie, Knox epitomizes everything that’s wrong with college males: prolific one-night stands, drunken senseless fights, and a body that hints at prioritizing gym time over study time.

As an up-and-coming writer for Sinclair University’s newspaper, Charlie’s tasked with getting to the bottom of who’s been dropping little white pills into girls’ drinks at parties. In an ocean of All-American boys sporting polo shirts and innocent smiles, Knox is the obvious suspect. As evidence piles up against the bad boy of Sinclair, Charlie becomes more and more certain it isn’t Knox. But when her drink is dosed at a party and she wakes up on Knox’s couch the next morning, Charlie’s left with more questions than answers when it comes to Knox Jagger.

How can Charlie ever hope to uncover the truth behind a guy so closed off he’s become . . .

Hard Knox.

About the author and where to find her:

I’m the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the CRASH series (HarperTeen, S&S UK), LOST & FOUND series, UP IN FLAMES (S&S UK), The EDEN TRILOGY, and a handful of others. I write stories about everyday kinds of people who find themselves in extraordinary kinds of situations. I tell love stories with happy endings because I believe in making the world a better place, and that’s one tiny way I can make it so. I’m one of those people who still believe in true love and soul mates, and would rather keep my head in the clouds any day over having my feet firmly on the ground.

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The author is offering (1) print copy of HARD KNOX! Visit her Facebook page to enter!

To sign-up for the HARD KNOX Blog Hop in honor of this release and/or the HARD KNOX Blog Tour, visit AToMR’s site!

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Review: Yield to Me (Book #1: Club Excelsior Series) by Sarah Castille

Titel: Yield to Me Series: Book #1: Club Excelsior Series Author: Sarah Castille Format: ebook, 106 pages Published: June 2, 2014 by Sarah Castille    ISBN: 139780993816802

Title: Yield to Me
Series: Book #1: Club Excelsior Series
Author: Sarah Castille
Format: ebook, 106 pages
Published: June 2, 2014 by Sarah Castille
ISBN: 139780993816802

Synopsis:

No-holds-barred attraction…

Amateur MMA fighter, Marcy Foster is determined to win the state championship. But dark secrets and a broken trust mean there’s one submission she just can’t master. Fortunately Club Excelsior has hired a coach who knows all the right moves.

Sexy, confident and commanding, fight consultant Jax demands control, both in and out of the ring. But once he has Marcy against the ropes, Jax knows he’s in too deep. He has the dominance to give her what she needs, but once he unleashes her hidden passions, there’s no going back.

Under Jax’s skilled hands, Marcy submits to her deepest desires. But when her personal and professional worlds collide, she is forced to face a brutal truth — yielding to her darkest needs may be the one thing that costs her the fight…and her heart.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

On the surface Marcy Foster is your average girl – cute, smart, hard-working and, has a small circle of close friends. It’s under the surface that Marcy Foster becomes far less average. For several years now she has trained as an amateur MMA fighter and is finally within reach of her goal, the title of state champion. There’s only one problem, Marcy can’t seem to get past her fear of being submitted. Sure, she has knocked out more than one opponent but the second an opponent gets her in any sort of a submission situation, Marcy loses her focus and the game is over.

Jax Stratham has a wonderfully successful career as a sports psychologist. As a former MMA fighter himself, Jax has a unique perspective that has made him enormously successful on the MMA circuit. His reputation for helping fighters improve their game is stellar and so, he spends the better part of every year on the road travelling from one MMA club to the next. Travelling can be lonely but, on top of his talent he has incredible good looks which have allowed Jax to spend his limited time in each town and club with nearly any woman he wants. His limited time in each town also means he doesn’t have to commit to anyone which is a damn good thing given his aversion to commitment.

Marcy instantly acknowledges how damn good looking Jax is and with the same instantaneous response rejects his help. As far as Marcy is concerned, Jax has nothing to offer her on either a personal or professional level so he may as well move on to the next fighter. The trouble with Marcy’s plan is how attracted she is to Jax and how stubborn he is. For reasons he just can’t explain Jax is determined to gain Marcy’s trust, help her overcome her fear of submission and, if at all possible, get her into his bed. Turns out, all of those things are connected and once Jax begins to understand Marcy and what it is that she really fears, the entire situation for both changes dramatically. For the first time since a very nasty and humiliating break-up, Marcy is considering telling a lover her secret and for the first time in years, Jax is considering the possibility of a real commitment.

The Bottom Line: I am totally digging what Sarah Castille is contributing to the MMA genre. Marcy and Jax’s story is short and sweet but it is packed with all kinds of emotional and sexual tension. Marcy and Jax are stubborn, damaged and, afraid of what the other has to offer. To truly trust one another and be open to the possibility of a real relationship is terrifying to both and the road to their HEA is not an easy one. As I have come to expect and enjoy, Castille puts her characters through Hell, gives them some truly spectacular naughty moments and, some excellent dialogue. Even though Yield to Me is a short read, it is packed with the promise of more to come. Club Excelsior’s cast and crew is pretty deep and there is lots of material there for a full-blown series. Sarah Castille, you have your marching orders :)

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Review: Forbidden (Book #1: The Soulkeepers Series) by Lori Adams

Title: Forbidden Series: Book #1: The Soulkeepers Series Author: Lori Adams Format: ebook, 432 pages Published: April 15, 2014 by Flirt   ISBN: 0345549252

Title: Forbidden
Series: Book #1: The Soulkeepers Series
Author: Lori Adams
Format: ebook, 432 pages
Published: April 15, 2014 by Flirt
ISBN: 0345549252

Synopsis:

When Sophia St. James learns that she’ll be moving from Los Angeles to a podunk town somewhere in Connecticut for her senior year of high school, she isn’t expecting an otherworldly encounter. But there is more to Haven Hurst than meets the eye: it’s home to a family of Guardian Angels, and she is the only one who can see them in spirit form. Sophia soon realizes she wants to see much more of Michael, an irresistible yet volatile Guardian who seems drawn to her too.

As Michael battles his forbidden desire for the beautiful young newcomer, one of Hell’s most notorious Demon Knights arrives. Handsome and charismatic, Dante has come to claim the reincarnated soul of his lost lover trapped in Sophia. Cursed with the demon of Persuasion living inside him, Dante will use his seductive charms to lure Sophia into a dangerous game that ends with the kiss of death—unless Michael, who has captured Sophia’s heart, can now capture her soul.

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review: 

I have long been a fan of books that involve angels, prophecies and, humans who are more than they appear to be. The Forbidden, Lori Adams first book in the Soulkeepers trilogy gave me everything I like to find in an angel read and more.

Adams covers a lot of ground in this first read including why Sophia and her preacher father are moving across the country, why Sophia’s father is seemingly losing his mind, why the stunningly beautiful Michael Patronus and his stunningly beautiful brothers rarely ever mingle with the rest of the kids they go to school with and, why the strange new European boys are so intensely interested in Sophia. In addition to answering the above questions, Adams also has to provide a serious amount of information about the entire world she has created. Here’s the skinny:

The Patronus Family: Michael and his brothers Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel are Guardians. Their purpose on Earth is to help souls either back into their corporeal bodies if it isn’t quite their time or help guide their souls to Heaven. Beyond being a guardian, each of the brothers has a special gift or talent that aids them in their endeavors. Though Michael is the oldest of the group and has always been the most focused and dedicated, he is now the most conflicted and that has everything to do with the arrival of Sophia. Michael is connected to Sophia in a way that no one in the “other” world thought possible and the connection will be either the destruction or the salvation of the young Guardian.

Sophia: For her entire life Sophia has had one overriding and sometimes overwhelming thought, “What is my purpose?” After a particularly nasty incident with an ex-boyfriend, Sophia finds herself in a small Connecticut town making new friends and trying to get through her senior year with no problems. From the moment she sees Michael – in the “other”/spirit realm no less – she is drawn to him. She can’t understand the weirdness that happens when Michael is near and she certainly can’t understand why he hates her so very much. Though she doesn’t know it yet, Sophia is the key to everything and everything and everyone is interested in the path she will take.

Knights of the Unforgiven/Demon Knights: These are the big bads and they have come to town for one reason and one reason only, to collect Sophia’s soul. Posing as high school students, Dante and his gang of Demon Knights infiltrate Haven Hurst and cause as much trouble as they possibly can. The Demon Knights are devious, angry, desperate, volatile and, will stop at nothing to get what they came for. Though they are meant to be all kinds of scary, I had a really hard time taking these guys seriously. I totally understand that they are very, very old and have an agenda so posing as high school students and trying to woo the locals was a bit far-fetched for me.

Halos of the Son: these are the elite guard of Heaven and only show up when the situation is all kinds of serious or seriously interesting. When the Halos come to town everyone in the “other” world takes notice and most quake in fear. The Halos are seriously interested in Sophia and a lot of folks are quaking.

The Bottom Line: Yeah, I have some issues taking the bad guys seriously but that didn’t stop me from totally enjoying this book. This is a character-driven read that is backed up with some totally cool history and information. Adams is very, very good at spacing out the delivery of the information; in fact, I found myself reading as quickly as possible so I could get to the next bread crumb of information. Adams has built a world where the past, the present and, the future are all on a collision course with one another. (It’s totally tense – HA!! See what I did there? :)) Adams cleverly answers the questions she needs to in order to make this story feel complete but she also leaves the reader with a huge list of things still unanswered. In all, I am hooked!! I NEED to know what happened to Sophia’s mother and why she has some serious “other” worldly connections, I NEED to know why the Halos of the Son (and others!) are so interested in Sophia and, I NEED to know exactly how Sophia is going to truly impact Michael and his world. Bring it on, Lori Adams because I am more than ready for round two!

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Cover Reveal: Forget You by Jennifer Snyder

Title: Forget You Series: Cold Creek Companion Author: Jennifer Snyder Age/Genre: NA Contemporary Expected Release: September 2, 2014 Cover Design: Lindee Robinson Photography

Title: Forget You
Series: Cold Creek Companion
Author: Jennifer Snyder
Age/Genre: NA Contemporary
Expected Release: September 2, 2014
Cover Design: Lindee Robinson Photography

Purple Goodreads

Synopsis:

Eva Bennett might be known for her candid approach and sharp tongue, but on the inside she’s still a vulnerable twenty-four year old who’s sick of kissing toads and being habitually single.

Full of comical one-liners and wielding a charming smile, Sawyer Keeton is more than meets the eye. After the news of his brother’s tragic death, however, Sawyer is pulled into a place filled with crippling emotions and pain—a place no one can seem to reach him…until the moment Eva steps into his life.

A twist of fate will bring them together and then tear them apart, forcing the two to learn there are people in life whom you cherish and pray will never forget you.

About the author and where to find her:

Jennifer Snyder lives in North Carolina were she spends most of her time writing New Adult and Young Adult Fiction, reading, and struggling to stay on top of housework. She is a tea lover with an obsession for Post-it notes and smooth writing pens. Jennifer lives with her husband and two children, who endure listening to songs that spur inspiration on repeat and tolerate her love for all paranormal, teenage-targeted TV shows.

SHATTERED SOUL was my debut novel and no, you haven’t seen the end of me yet…

Website      Twitter      Goodreads      Facebook Author Page

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: When You Make It Home by Claire Ashby

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“Quirky, sexy and heartwarming – a story of love, forgiveness and what it means to be a family.”

 ~ Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of Thought I Knew You

Title: When You Make It Home Author: Claire Ashby Format: Paperback, 320 pages Published: July 2014 by Red Adept Publishing  ISBN: 1940215315

Title: When You Make It Home
Author: Claire Ashby
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Published: July 2014 by Red Adept Publishing
ISBN: 1940215315

Purple Goodreads

Synopsis:

Meg Michaels, a bookstore owner, has already walked away from two cheating exes. She’s learned her lesson and has her mind set on success—until she gets knocked up. Embarrassed and unwilling to discuss her situation with friends and family, she wears layers to hide the pregnancy.  When Meg gets sick at a party, she’s mortified. Even worse, Theo Taylor, the guest of honor, discovers her secret. Theo, an Army medic wounded in the war, agrees not to reveal her condition, and the two forge a bond of friendship that blossoms into love.  Theo is soon filling all of Meg’s late-night cravings—and not just the pregnancy-induced ones. But can their love overcome all the obstacles that stand between them and creating a happy family?

Excerpt: Chapter One:

I first caught sight of Theo at his welcome home party. A mob shifted around him, jockeying for a position next to the guest of honor. I lingered near the door to the living room and listened to the joyful words and murmur of good wishes directed toward him.

Someone whispered, “… lucky to be alive.”

The doorbell rang and crowd parted. For a moment, he stood alone. Tears burned the backs of my eyes. I couldn’t see the luck in what was left of him.

Ellie pinched my arm. “Don’t stare,” she said on her way to the door.

I bit my lip, turning away. But my attention found its way back to him, and I sneaked another look at his arms, surveying the road map of scars trailing away from bandages. My gaze traveled to his face, and I gasped. Theo glared at me with defiant hazel eyes, as if to say, Go ahead and look all you want; I can take it. I knew he’d lived through much worse than I had and that my own problems paled in comparison with his. I could use some of his strength. But, of course, I couldn’t tell him that.

“What’s wrong with you?” Ellie hissed, using the same voice as when she caught me eating the cookies meant for story time at our bookstore.

She steered me into the dining room, and once she had me cornered, she snatched a box of tissues and pushed them at me. “Get control of your hormones. We already went over this. If you want to keep your secret, you can’t get all teary eyed.

“I know.” I blinked rapidly, waving the tissues away. “I’m not crying. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” I pressed my lips together, trying to clamp down on the list my brain rattled off. I had plenty wrong with me. But a party wasn’t the time for a self-directed lashing. I could save that for home, after I dispensed a generous share of support to my best friend, who was desperate to give her brother-in-law the hero’s welcome he deserved.

Ellie hugged me, and the tension between us evaporated.

“Don’t let Theo see you looking at him with those weepy eyes. He gets pissed whenever anyone shows him an ounce of sympathy.”

“Deal. But I wish we could do something for him.” I hadn’t meant to gawk at the guy.

With all the progress updates Ellie had shared with me, I knew far too many details about his surgeries and struggles. Theo often woke up screaming, but no one said whether his cries came from pain or nightmares. That knowledge haunted me until my overactive imagination filled in the blanks. I knew too much about the man, and I’d never met him before today. Worse, all I could do about it was put on a happy face.

I stepped back and reached out to touch the soft cotton of Ellie’s new yellow dress. “You look fantastic.” The fabric hugged the curve of her belly, erasing any doubt she was pregnant and not just packing on the pounds.

“Thanks.” She scanned the crowd. “Jake got back late last night,” she whispered. “He picked Theo up at the rehab facility and brought him to their mom’s house.” The lines around Ellie’s mouth deepened. “Jake offered to let Theo stay here, but fortunately, their mom didn’t like that at all. Jake’s optimistic, but I never met Theo before he deployed, you know? I wish I had.” Ellie rubbed her belly. “Theo’s quiet.”

The doorbell chimed, and Ellie hurried off. I used the chance to slip into the bathroom. I flipped the exhaust-fan switch and sighed with relief that the hum muffled the noise of the partygoers. With trembling hands, I turned on the cold water and let the icy stream rush over the insides of my wrists. I took a deep breath and checked my clothes in the mirror.

My new Marc Jacobs jacket covered the basic black T-shirt that hid a waist-contouring camisole. Skinny jeans and burgundy, open-toed heels completed my look. Almost anywhere else in the country, my outfit would’ve been perfect for a casual spring evening.

But not in Texas.

Early May, and the temperatures had already soared into the mid-90s. To make matters worse, my jeans fit tighter than they had the week before. I’d expected they would loosen after I wore them awhile. At least the cut of the jacket hid my growing belly. My secret is safe for another day.

I licked my lips and swallowed the lump in my throat before rejoining the party. The chatter and laughter had risen to competitive levels. I couldn’t face trying to fit in, and I fell back into a trance. Theo fumbled around Ellie’s living room, gripping his crutches. One of his arms was heavily bandaged, and he had a thick square of white gauze taped below his ear. But what sent a shiver through me was the sight of his leg. He had only one.

“Come on. I’ll introduce you,” Ellie said from behind me. She hooked her arm through mine and pulled me along. “Theo, this is my friend, Meg Michaels.”

“Hello.” He gave a slight nod, shifting on his crutches to extend his hand to me.

Despite the fact that I’d had my eyes on him for most of the last half hour, I’d failed to notice his hit-the-pause-button good looks. Theo’s injuries drew attention away from his athletic build, but there was no hiding the tall, rock-solid composure. Close-cropped dark hair added to his dangerous edge. But when his full lips lifted into a smile, I could barely stand still at the unexpected warmth that surged through me. That surge skidded to a halt when his brooding eyes locked onto mine.

Theo cleared his throat.

I reached for his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Did he have any idea how much I already knew about him? My face heated, and I felt like a big dummy while he appraised me as though he had all day. Ellie had disappeared, and I didn’t know the proper protocol for socializing with a man I inexplicably felt intimidated by. Not that Theo seemed to mind.

He appeared all too comfortable with silence, but I needed to speak, if he wasn’t going to. So I wouldn’t have to yell over the noise of the party, I leaned into him, despite the fluttering in my chest that made it hard to inhale. “Would you…” Background music and clatter from the growing crowd swallowed my words.

He angled in closer. “What?”

I kept my eyes on his, refusing to glance at any other part of him. “Can I get you something to drink? Do you need anything?” I cringed at my voice—too pitchy, too polite.

He shook his head and looked past me.

I mumbled an excuse about helping out with dinner, stepped away from him, and fled to the back of the house.

Melinda, Ellie’s mother-in-law, darted around the kitchen, yanking covered casserole dishes from the fridge and shoving them in a row along the counter. How had Theo and Jake come from such a trim little woman? Her white hair fell in waves around her flushed cheeks.

“Hey there.” I huffed shallow breaths to fend off the strong aroma of browned butter. My stomach clenched.

“Hi Meg.” Melinda’s puffy, dark-ringed eyes surveyed the spread in front of her.

“You’re doing an amazing job, but don’t you want to go sit with Theo?” I wrapped my arm over her shoulders, giving her a squeeze, suddenly aware that no one was looking after her needs. I wasn’t qualified for that job; mothers were not my thing. “Tell me what to do. I’m here to help.”

“Why did I insist Jake and Ellie give Theo a party?” Her voice cracked and her lip trembled, but she continued to work, tearing foil off macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and corn on the cob. “Theo used to be so popular. He always wanted his friends around—they were all so wild—but only a few of them replied to the invitation.” She slammed her hands down on the table and lowered her head. Her pale-blue eyes were wet and red rimmed, but she held back her tears.

“It’s okay. He’s going to be fine,” I promised, even though I had no clue if that were true. “He’s not alone. There are tons of people out there. Ellie invited the staff from the bookstore, and Jake has plenty of wild friends.”

Melinda turned to me, nodding. “You’re right. You know, I accepted what Theo had been through… how he had changed. But that was at the hospital and at rehab where he was surrounded with guys he could relate to, people who were going through the same thing he was. It’s different here.” She blinked, and tears slipped in two straight lines down her face. “Every time I look at a young man I think: Theo should be like that. He shouldn’t have to go through this. It’s not fair.”

“It’s not, and I’m so sorry.” I moved to hug her, but she wiped at her face and turned away from me.

“It’s okay. I’m fine.” She cleared her throat and squared her shoulders. “Theo needs to eat. He has to keep his energy up. Can you man the grill? I can’t do the burgers and do this.”

“Trust me, no one wants me in charge of the grill, but I’ll go find Jake. Are you sure you’re okay?”

She yanked open the silverware drawer and rummaged around, pulling out a collection of serving spoons. “I am. Thank you, Meg.”

I ducked out of the kitchen, wiggled my way around the thirty or so people in the living room, dodged conversations with friends, and found Jake and Ellie whispering together near the front door. Jake’s hand rested on Ellie’s belly, an image I’d seen many times, but today I had to look away.

Watching Jake and Ellie highlighted the loneliness of my pregnancy. I could almost long for Bradley’s return, but since he disliked public displays of affection, I doubted he’d be much of a tummy toucher. I had called off our wedding four months earlier, partly because of his business trips. At first, he’d leave me for a few days or a week at a time. But as his weeks away piled up on each other, that feeling of a shared life fractured. The longer he stayed away, the less we connected when he came home.

Especially once I found out he had plenty of time to spend in the company of another woman.

“Hey, break it up guys,” I said. “Jake, your mom wants you at the grill.”

As he walked by, he patted me on the shoulder, in on my little secret. When one’s best friend gets married, one learns that even the most classified information is going to echo off an extra set of ears. I loved Jake, though, so I was okay with it. Ellie’s man was loyal. I’d trusted him even before she did and had convinced her that she was going to lose a good one if she didn’t give in to love. In the first year of her marriage, Ellie was already four-and-a-half months pregnant.

That was the best part of my mistake. While I might have gotten my single self knocked up, at least my lifelong best friend and soul sister was preggers, too.

“Hey, little momma.” Ellie rubbed her belly, smiling deliberately at mine.

“Shush!” I looked over my shoulder and stuffed my hands in my jacket pockets. “Don’t say that.” I’ve never been a self-conscious person, but since my flat abs had exploded into a telltale pooch two weeks before, I’d been nearly hysterical, feeling as if I were wearing one of those “Baby on Board” T-shirts with a big arrow pointing down.

“Sorry, Meg. I just know everything is going to work out for you.” The warmth in Ellie’s voice triggered a lump in my throat. “Besides, you’ve always got me to lean on.” She squeezed my shoulder.

Scanning the faces in the room, I struggled to breathe. How many of those people thought they knew all about me? I took a step back, but there was no escaping the pressure that rolled over me like a wave pulling me under.

My stomach churned under the unrelenting fear of discovery and the weight of choices before me. The smell of beef cooking on the grill didn’t help. Rising bile in the back of my throat overwhelmed the familiar metallic taste.

“You don’t look good.” Ellie came to my rescue, as always. “Why don’t you lie down in my room for a while? I’ll cover for you.”

“Are you sure? I’m supposed to be helping you.” I took a deep breath, determined to pull myself together, but prickling sweat popped out on my brow.

“Let’s go.” Ellie put her arm around my waist and led me away from the crowd. I looked over my shoulder. Theo was eating from a plate on a TV tray, carefully chewing each bite. Melinda sat next to him looking calm and composed.

After Ellie left, I kicked off my heels and hung my jacket and T-shirt over the chair of her antique vanity in the far corner of the room. The ceiling fan, set to low, spun in lazy circles. I lifted my hair in a twist and looked down at my body. The camisole that used to conceal my belly accentuated the protruding bump. I couldn’t deny the obvious.

There was a baby onboard.

I tugged the hem of my camisole up over my bump and tucked it under my swollen breasts. The snug top stayed where I’d left it. I couldn’t believe someone was in there. Before, every choice I’d ever made was calculated. A few random decisions had changed everything.

The bedroom door banged open, and I jumped, expecting Jake or Ellie. Instead, Theo lumbered in on his crutches and slammed the door behind him.

“Excuse me, do you mind?” I tugged my top in place to cover myself, but Theo’s gaze took in my bare skin. He watched my movements closely and locked the door. For some reason I flushed and grew warmer as he came closer to the bed. Could he want to trap me? Of course, the thought was ridiculous. I was pretty sure my small, five-foot-five-inch, exhausted, knocked-up self could plow through a one-legged boy covered in bandages if I wanted to get out of there badly enough. The thing was—I wanted to stay.

“Give me a break.” He hobbled to the king-size bed without looking at me then propped his crutches against the wall before falling back onto the mattress. “You think you can hide in here all by yourself?” He hauled what was left of the lower half of his body onto the bed. A flash of pain crossed his bronzed face. Closing his eyes, he lay back on the striped navy sham. He ran his good hand through spiky hair the same tawny brown as the week-old scruff on his face. “Hit the light on your way out,” he barked.

“Hey, I was here first, and I was just about to rest there. Ellie told me I could.” I smacked a hand over my mouth. “Wait… I’m sorry. That was rude.”

Theo lifted his head off the pillow, squinting from the overhead light. He peered at me in a slow, thorough inspection that left me fighting not to squirm.

“Well, Jake told me I could crash here. Turn off the light and come on.” He patted the bed next to him. “Forgive me—I didn’t see that you are with child.” He rolled his eyes.

The breath shot out of my lungs, and I wrapped my arms around my stomach as if I could hide the truth. “Stop looking at me,” I said, making my way to the light switch.

Although he’d draped his tan, muscular arm across his forehead, I sensed his eyes tracking me. I pictured my belly growing with each step, the truth transparent. I switched off the lights. The sun was on the other side of the house, and fading afternoon light glowed in the room. I went back around the bed and paused, not sure I really wanted to get in with this hostile-looking guy who had spent recent years surrounded by sand and weapons.

Theo glared sideways at me. “Don’t flatter yourself. I’m not about to make a move on some pregnant chick. Either get in or get out—I don’t care.”

My mouth fell open. “Oh… you think I think…” My voice quivered, so I stopped and tried another tactic. “I don’t…” More quivers. I forced out the only response I could manage. “Whatever.” I snatched my heels off the floor, ready to go home.

“Wait. What are you doing?” Theo scrubbed his hand over his face. “Don’t go.” His tone softened. “I shouldn’t be alone right now.” He was giving me those big, puppy-dog eyes, but I could see his smirk.

“What? Now you want me to stay?” No more quivering. The words flowed when the focus was on him. “What’s with you?” I itched to make a run for it, but even so, he intrigued me.

“Cut a guy some slack, will you? My social graces are rusty.”

“Oh, please! I’ve been warned not to give you anything that might resemble sympathy.”

“I don’t want your pity.” A spark flared in his eyes. “Are you always this sassy, or is your condition playing with your hormones?” He had a full-on grin, his white teeth gleaming.

His audacity got the best of me. “Shut up, or I’m going to take your crutches when I leave.”

My threat only made Theo roar with laughter, infuriating me more.

“You’re a bad girl, teasing a hurt man. Just get in bed—you look tired. I’ll leave, if you really want me to.”

I gave in because he was right: I was worn out. “No, don’t go.” I dropped my shoes, went to the bed, pulled back the covers, and climbed in, staying as far away from him as I comfortably could. “Let’s call a truce. I’ll stay over here, you stay over there.” I settled the plush bedding around me and rolled over to face his direction. The visible side of his body was flawless.

“Fine, but you better not snore or I’m going to flatten a pillow over your head.”

I stifled a giggle. “You’re not at all what I expected.”

He jerked his head toward me, eyeing me suspiciously. “What did you expect?”

“I just thought a war hero would be nice.” I yawned.

“I’m not nice enough for you?” His voice, low and smooth, did nothing to hide his amusement.

I relaxed, sinking in the mattress. “No, you’re a total asshole.”

The bed shook with his laughter. “Well, at least you’re honest, but don’t call me a hero.”

I heard the smile in his tone, but my eyes were closed. I really should have just stayed in bed today, I thought, drifting off to sleep.

***

My eyes were open before I realized I was awake. Theo, bathed in moonlight, lay stretched out on top of the covers next to me.

“You don’t have a ring on.” He searched my eyes.

“I gave it back when I cancelled the wedding. Bradley wanted me to keep it…” I looked at my bare hand in the dim room. My ring finger felt naked without the karat-and-a-half, princess-cut diamond. Sometimes I still caught myself rubbing the area, searching for the phantom ring. “But I couldn’t.”

“So what, you didn’t want a shotgun wedding?”

“Wait. Bradley’s not the father.” I cringed as soon as the words left my mouth.

His eyes twinkled in the moonlight, and he grinned again.

“So you are a bad girl.”

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About the author and where to find her:

Claire Ashby was born and raised in the heart of Atlanta. At a young age, she began keeping journals and over time embellished the details of her quiet days. Eventually, she let go of writing reality altogether and delved completely into the world of fiction.  When she’s not reading or writing, she spends her time watching extreme survival shows and taking long walks after nightfall. She has an unnatural love of high places, but still regrets the time she skydived solo. She believes some things are better left to the imagination. She resides in Austin with her family and a pack of wild dogs.

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Promo and Sweepstakes: Under Contract by Jacquelyn Ayers

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Title: Under Contract Series: Book #1: The GEG Series Author: Jacquelyn Ayers Format: ebook Published: July 5, 2014

Title: Under Contract
Series: Book #1: The GEG Series
Author: Jacquelyn Ayers
Format: ebook
Published: July 5, 2014

Synopsis:

Charlotte McKendrick is your typical thirty-something stay-at-home mom. She has three beautiful children, a loving family, special friends, and the most wonderful, adoring husband. Her life is a dream.
Er . . . let’s try this again.
Charlotte McKendrick is not your typical thirty-something stay-at-home mom. Yes, she’s got three beautiful children, a loving family (all of them lingerers—you’ll see), and her friends are special, all right! As far as her wonderful, adoring husband, what a joke! That bastard abandoned her and the kids six months ago. 
Now, she will do anything she can to survive and provide for her children. Even if it means signing on the dotted line . . .
Mitch Colton is the CEO of Colton Technologies. Most of his year is spent traveling around the world, bringing companies the latest innovations in automobile technology. He doesn’t have time for a traditional relationship and the BS that comes with it. He doesn’t do the “marriage” thing, the “kid” thing, and he certainly doesn’t do the “falling in love” thing. All that said, he still wants someone to come home to. Someone who will offer everything he wants, and nothing he doesn’t. He realizes loyalty paired with these kinds of demands won’t come cheap. No problem. What he doesn’t realize is that once Charlotte McKendrick signs that dotted line, he’ll be paying with a lot more than money.

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About the author and where to find her:

I am a domestic engineer (born and raised in NJ) whose sole responsibility is to guide three young, impressionable kids into becoming phenomenal adults. This challenging yet rewarding work requires a lot of love (coffee), patience (wine), and determination (periodic exorcisms). I work this magic from the beautiful state of New Hampshire.  Before becoming a domestic goddess (not really), I spent over a decade in the medical field, where I wore more hats than the Queen.  I have loved the written word and the great escape it provides since I was a little girl. When I wasn’t reading about people and the places they lived, I was creating my own characters and adventures.   Finding myself again through my writing in The Lost & Found Series, The One, and The GEG Series has been nothing short of a dream come true. Also, it makes people feel better when I laugh randomly or talk to myself, knowing it’s my characters and not “the voices” . . . that would be creepy. 

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Cover Reveal and Sweepstakes: Fast Glamour (Book #3: Glamour Series) by Maggie Marr

Title: Fast Glamour Series: Book #3: Glamour Series Author: Maggie Marr Age/Genre: NA Contemporary Published: July 2014 Cover Design: Okay Creations

Title: Fast Glamour
Series: Book #3: Glamour Series
Author: Maggie Marr
Age/Genre: NA Contemporary
Published: July 2014
Cover Design: Okay Creations

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Synopsis:

A broken heart forever bears scars. . . 

Sterling Legend grew up a prince in the City of Angels. His life was perfect and he wanted for nothing until his entire world shattered. He lost everything dear to him the year he turned seventeen. Now he’s grown into a formidable man on the cusp of outrageous success. His life revolves around his work and all the beautiful baubles that Los Angeles can offer to a wealthy young man. He’s buried his feelings and his heart so that he will never be hurt again. 

A lost love that she could never forget . . .

Rhiannon Bliss was forced to leave L.A. to extinguish the fire of a first love, but an ocean, a different country, and seven years couldn’t quell her desires. Now she’s returned to the City of Angels to care for her mother. Can she fight her feelings for the man that once broke her heart? Does she even want to? 

Finding your way back to love can be an impossible path. . . 

Sterling Legend is at the top of the entertainment industry. His fast rise to success due to his talent and to his last name. But Sterling wants to find success on his own. He is on the path to producing his first film, without his famous father as the star, when the ex-love of his life re-enters his world. Rhiannon Bliss left seven years before without a word. Sterling has no need to forgive, but his desire for Rhiannon is overwhelming. Can two broken hearts use the heat of their attraction to find their way back to love? 

About the author and where to find her:

author - Maggie MarrMaggie Marr grew up in the Midwest and made the move to Los Angeles to work in the movie business.  She was a motion picture literary agent for ICM before becoming a full time writer.  She’s written for film and TV and ghostwritten for celebrities.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

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Maggie Marr is offering an ARC of FAST GLAMOUR! To enter, please visit the Facebook giveaway page.

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Review: The Last Good Knight (An Original Sinners Novella Series) by Tifany Reisz

Title: The Last Good Knight Series: A 5-Part Original Sinners Novella Series Author: Tiffany Reisz Format: ebook Published: May 6, 2014 by Mills & Boon Spice    ISBN:1472096533

Title: The Last Good Knight
Series: A 5-Part Original Sinners Novella Series
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Format: ebook
Published: May 6, 2014 by Mills & Boon Spice
ISBN:1472096533

Synopsis:

The 8th Circle – Three years before The Siren When Mistress Nora, newly separated from her lover Søren, encounters a sexy newcomer at the 8th Circle it is lust at first sight. But when their session is cut short by Kingsley Edge, Nora vows to seduce the gorgeous submissive, even if it goes against all of Kingsley’s orders.
The Last Good Knight is an Original Sinners novella told in five parts.
This collection includes:
Part I: Scars and Stripes
Part II: Sore Spots
Part III: The Games Destiny Plays
Part IV: Fit to Be Tied
Part V: The Last Good Night

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review:  

**Contains spoilers for other books in The Original Sinners series**

Welcome to round two of the Tiffany Reisz love fest!! The Last Good Knight is the latest addition to the world of serial novella reads and I am all kinds of loving this format.

The Last Good Knight takes place three years before The Siren (Book #1: The Original Sinners series) and in this time and place we find Mistress Nora all out of sorts.   As one of the most sought after Domme’s in the world, Nora is exceptionally good at mixing pleasure with pain for her clients. Her only hard and fast rule is that she never, in her words, f*%ks her clients. Business is business and Mistress Nora’s pleasure is her pleasure and not work so on the night Lance walks into The 8th Circle, Nora is all about her pleasure.

Lance is a beautiful and broken man with nothing but good intentions in his heart and his actions. After suffering a serious, career-ending injury in the Navy, Lance returned home to a wife and daughter he thought he could be happy with for the rest of his life. Turns out, Lance’s wife wasn’t quite so optimistic and in a turn of events that still has Lance’s head spinning, he lost his wife and his daughter in a nasty divorce. In an effort to earn the money necessary to fight for his daughter, Lance has taken a job with Kingsley Edge and in the course of his first night’s work, he meets Mistress Nora. Turns out, what the Mistress has to offer is exactly what Lance is looking for and the two spend a most painful and pleasurable night together.

In a most disconcerting way, Nora discovers that she doesn’t just like Lance’s body and his well-trained submissive side, she like the man. He is honorable, he is kind, he is caring and, as an employee of Kingsley’s, he is Nora’s bodyguard. Their time together is riddled with conversation, strange encounters (the hotel adventure is excellent!) and, a very good deal of sexual tension and release. As the series unfolds, one novella at a time, Nora and Lance both have some very serious decisions to make. Can Nora actually commit to a real relationship? Can Lance justify giving up his daughter for what he describes as “the perfect woman’?

The Bottom Line: This was a fantastic read that gave me even more insight into Nora, Søren and, Kingsley and left me with a butt load of questions. I have, to date read this novella series and The Saint totally out of order so I am a bit lost on a few topics but that didn’t stop me from devouring this read in a single sitting. This is a whole new side of Nora for me and Lance is completely delicious. From the moment he walks into Nora’s life everyone, including the reader knows that Lance is going to change everything for Nora. I very much enjoyed “seeing” the duality of Nora – on the one hand, the completely competent and confident Domme and on the other, a soft and vulnerable woman willing to cede some of her considerable control to a man she may just be able to love. In all, this novella series totally and completely convinced me that I am now and will continue to be a Tiffany Reisz fan. I am all kinds of ready for the rest of the series, most of which I have already purchased :)

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Review: The Saint (Book #5: The Original Sinners: The White Years) by Tiffany Reisz

Title: The Saint Series: Book #5: The Original Sinners: The White Years Author: Tiffany Reisz Format: Paperback, 448 pages Published: June 24, 2014 by Harlequin MIRA

Title: The Saint
Series: Book #5: The Original Sinners: The White Years
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Published: June 24, 2014 by Harlequin MIRA

Synopsis:

Gutsy, green-eyed Eleanor never met a rule she didn’t want to break. She’s sick of her mother’s zealotry and the confines of Catholic school, and declares she’ll never go to church again. But her first glimpse of beautiful, magnetic Father Søren Stearns and his lust-worthy Italian motorcycle is an epiphany. Suddenly, daily Mass seems like a reward, and her punishment is the ache she feels when they’re apart. He is intelligent and insightful and he seems to know her intimately at her very core. Eleanor is consumed—and even she knows that can’t be right.   But when one desperate mistake nearly costs Eleanor everything, it is Søren who steps in to save her. She vows to repay him with complete obedience…and a whole world opens before her as he reveals to her his deepest secrets.   Danger can be managed—pain, welcomed. Everything is about to begin.

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 6 stars!!

My Review:

 What’s normal for me:

*I HATE reading a series out of order even if the books can be read as standalones. I have actually stopped reading a book when I discovered a preceding title in order to read the preceding title and then start the second book again so I can maintain the series order. Yeah, I’m that kind of anal :)

*I LOVE backstory and history, especially in a long series. For me, the backstory and the history is the heart of any series. This is the part where you get to dig into the characters you know and love (or not!) and understand them a bit better.  I have the utmost respect for any author who can build (and that’s what it is, building!) a history and a backstory for his/her characters and make it believable, pertinent and, interesting.

*I am not the biggest fan of BDSM especially when it borders on something as dark as sadism but, this author has a huge and very loyal following so I thought I would give it a go.

*I rarely ever finish a book and then go straight to Amazon and buy every other  book in the series.

*I only use a five star rating system.

 

What happened with this book:

*I have not read the rest of this series and had no idea I was reading this book out of order. When I realized my mistake I wasn’t even a little bit pissed.

*I got an amazingly detailed read with all of the backstory and history of two of the major players in this series. I already know where they started and how they got to where they currently are in their lives and relationship.

*Let me be clear, I am now a huge fan of Tiffany Reisz’s brand of BDSM. While the kink is pretty dark in this read, Reisz handles it with care and makes it palatable to even the most squeamish of readers. In fact, she leads the reader into this dark, often dangerous and, seriously erotic world in baby steps. By the time the plot took me to the really intense stuff I was already so invested in the characters and understood how they got to be who they are that I was totally OK with the darkness.

*I had to force myself to put this book down and do my “real” job. Seriously, I had to bargain with myself: OK, if I work for 45 minutes I can then go read two more chapters of this book. Only a truly excellent read can get me to bargain with myself like this since I am an admitted workaholic. Furthermore, the second I finished this book, I went straight to Amazon and bought (at full freakin’ price!) the preceding four books in the series and then read the latest five-part novella series (thank you, Netgalley!) in a single sitting.   

The Bottom Line: I have only handed down a 6 star review a couple of times since I started writing reviews more than three years ago. (1½ years for my own blog and 1½ for AToMR – yeah, I just name-dropped right there!) I was simply blown away by the care and handling of this book and the seriously dark themes that it delves into. Tiffany Reisz and her excellent writing style took me through this story step-by-step and made sure I was ready for the big, heavy bits. Make no mistake, dear reader this is NOT a book for the faint of heart and the big, heavy bits are actually HUGE, GINORMOUS bits that will leave you, at times heartbroken, at times aroused, at times mystified, at times overjoyed and, all the time interested and invested . The Saint delves into many, many dark parts of the BDSM world but it isn’t a read that is just about the sex. This is, at its core a love story and about how two people come together and stay together through the most trying of times and circumstances. The Saint is Nora and Søren’s history, their very lives. By every standard and convention, Nora and Søren’s love is forbidden and when you add to the mix their mutual desire for pain, it becomes even more taboo. The Saint is a very, very dark, emotional, erotic and completely fascinating read and I am thoroughly glad that I gave it a go. Tiffany Reisz took me well out of my comfort zone and I was absolutely rewarded with a fantastic read.

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