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TheRomanceEvangelist

The Romance Evangelist

The BookLikes companion to The Romance Evangelist (mharvey816.mh2.org).

 

Reviewer for Seductive Musings, Night Owl Reviews, and Romancing Rakes For the Love of Romance.

 

I live for the HEA/HFN and am decidedly pro-epilogue.

Review: Just One Lie by Kyra Davis

Just One Lie - Kyra Davis

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

 

This review contains spoilers for JUST ONE NIGHT, the first book in this series. You can read JUST ONE LIE as a standalone. In fact, I think you might prefer it that way.

 

I still remember how blown away I was by Kyra Davis’s fantastic JUST ONE NIGHT serial. It was only three parts, but the plot was paced perfectly between them, with a relentless knife-edge tension that I rarely see in romance stories that aren’t dependent on physical threats to the heroine. So when I heard there was a follow-up book about that heroine’s doomed older sister, I was more excited than I probably should have been. Because although I did enjoy reading JUST ONE LIE, it was in spite of my elevated expectations, not because of them.

 

In the previous story, JUST ONE NIGHT, our heroine Kasie Fitzgerald had lived her whole life to her parents’ extreme specifications, never allowing herself to step out from behind their imposed facade of the good girl who never makes mistakes. After all, Kasie’s sister Melody made all the wrong decisions and that’s why she’s dead. Or is she? Because as we eventually discover in the opening chapters of JUST ONE LIE, Melody might be dead, but Mercy is very much alive, and trying desperately to stay that way.

 

Now the man who helped kill Melody, as Mercy keeps telling us, is back in her life and wants to pick up where they left off. Ash doesn’t seem like the best choice for Mercy but she can’t resist the pull, even as she’s becoming more drawn to Brad, the new drummer in her band. Which man will help Mercy heal from her tragic past, and which man will drag her back to the grave she thought she’d buried Melody in for good?

I’ll confess that although I knew this book was about Kasie’s sister, I was a bit lost at the beginning. Once I figured out what was going on, I was able to settle down and enjoy what turned out to be something completely different than what I had expected.

 

Because unlike JUST ONE NIGHT, JUST ONE LIE is a New Adult romance in every respect, and I was not prepared for that. Mercy made terrible choices as Melody, and continues to do so as Mercy for a major portion of this story. Ash was the guy who helped get Melody evicted from her home and life, yet she wants to him to be the one who saves her now. Brad is clearly the better choice, yet there there’s no clear path between them and real happiness either. Between the drama and a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, it was sometimes only my need to see how all this tied back into Kasie’s story that kept me going. But once the book stopped jumping around in time and began its final approach to Mercy’s HEA, I was all in.

 

Although I did enjoy reading JUST ONE LIE, I honestly think I would have liked it more as a completely standalone book. The connection to the previous book set up assumptions that weren’t correct or fair. And that’s not the fault of the story, which is a touching romance about two people who eventually learn the right lessons from their past mistakes so they can be truly happy together. If you love dramatic angsty New Adult romance, JUST ONE LIE is what you want. It’s not JUST ONE NIGHT, but it’s still a good read.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=921

Review: Caged by Lorelei James

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

 

CAGED is the latest entry in the Mastered series by Lorelei James and one that continues the upward swing of my enjoyment in a series that started out rough for me but keeps getting better. In this book, we finally get an HEA for two previously introduced secondary characters, including the one whose initial violent encounter was the starting point for the entire series.

 

Deacon McConnell is famous in the local mixed martial arts community for his ability to read and exploit his opponents’ weaknesses in direct competition. Yet when it comes to making a claim on the woman he’s wanted for years, he’s still unable to follow through. Molly Calloway came to the dojo at her best friend Amery’s insistence for self-defense training after an attack that threatened her physical safety. Now that Amery is happily married to the dojo’s Sensei, it’s Molly who’s still working on defending herself from both physical and emotional threats, the greatest of which is her undeniable pull toward Deacon. When Molly finally confronts Deacon in the unlikeliest of places, the simmering attraction between them flares up hot and strong. But as demons from both their individual pasts threaten to come between them, it will take more than physical desire to stay true to themselves and each other to their happy ending together.

 

I’ll admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to either of these characters in previous books, other than when Molly was being stubborn about not wanting to go to the dojo when Amery agreed to participate in classes with her there in the first book. But CAGED has fleshed out the backgrounds of both Molly and Deacon almost to the point of overload, and shown that they do have more in common than just irresistible sexual chemistry. Both of them were rejected in almost ridiculously horrific ways by the people who should have loved and protected them, and each has managed to not just survive but succeed in spite of all that. It was wonderful to see them have each other’s backs as they had to re-fight their family battles one last time, even when the going got rough and inevitably faltered along the way.

 

The only part that didn’t quite work for me in CAGED was the early continuing emphasis on Deacon’s various confrontations with his trainer and a new but ultimately temporary competitor, and the constant misunderstandings from Ronin’s lack of transparency in his dojo management. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be the bad guy and who wasn’t, and was still confused right up until a few pages of explanation much later in the book when Ronin deigned to make things clearer to both Deacon and the reader. Frankly, anything that isn’t directly related to the romance is of lesser interest for me, so I was happiest when Molly and Deacon were front and center together. Their personalities complemented each other well when they didn’t let external forces become a distraction, and the obstacles in their path to their HEA helped them grow emotionally as individuals and a couple. By the end of CAGED, I knew that they were going to stay together no matter what, and that it was the best possible ending for both of them. I can only hope that they and we as the readers will continue to enjoy seeing other members of the Black Arts dojo family find their own happiness as the Bound series continues.

Berkley / NAL Romance is giving one lucky commenter a free copy of the first two books in the Bound series (BOUND and UNWOUND). Just leave a comment here at the blog on this review between now (7/9/2015) and a week from now (7/16/2015). The winner will be drawn at random from all comments on this post and will receive this prize directly from the publisher.

 

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=890

Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie James

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

 

SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER is only the second book I’ve ever read by Julie James, but she has already become a writer I trust to provide a couple I can’t resist in an interesting story filled with seemingly effortless dialogue and just enough plot twists to keep it lively. In this latest entry in her ongoing FBI / US Attorney series, our hero is an investigative journalist who was introduced as a secondary character in a previous book and his heroine is a divorce attorney determined to keep her life free from romantic entanglements.

 

Victoria Slade wasn’t supposed to move into her new house until the end of summer, but when burglars send her to the hospital with a panic attack, she’s forced to find another less frightening place to live until then. When she meets Ford Dixon, her temporary neighbor, Victoria is tempted, but refuses to let her libido or her heart get her in trouble. What she didn’t count on was getting pulled into Ford’s quest to find the father of his sister’s baby, and how their constant proximity would soon blossom into a romance neither Victoria nor Ford is quite ready to handle.

 

What I loved the most about SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER is how Julie James takes two people who are complicated characters in their own right and throws them together in a way that not only seems possible but inevitable as we feel every moment they experience on the way to their happy ending. Although Ford and Victoria come from different worlds, the childhood traumas that shaped them aren’t all that dissimilar, and when they reach the inescapable black moment of the story we can see their coping mechanisms are also variations on the same theme. The search for the father of Ford’s sister’s baby may at first seem not directly related to the romance, but as Ford and Victoria become more engrossed in their shared quest, their teamwork helps build the rapport and trust each needs to take their summer affair into something deeper. It’s also what ultimately keeps them in each other’s lives long enough to realize what they have is stronger than any past trauma, and pushes them into the shared leap of faith a real commitment requires.

 

It’s hard to fully describe the feeling I get when I read a Julie James book without sounding either pretentious or hackneyed. For me, her writing is like a perfectly mixed cocktail or a flawlessly constructed dessert, where you know there was extensive effort behind the scenes to make it all work but all you experience is the sublime result. SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER made me laugh, made me cry, and made me swoon, sometimes all in the same paragraph. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year and reminds me I still need to go back and read all the other titles in this excellent series.

 

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=885

Review: Asking For It by Lilah Pace

Asking for It - Lilah Pace

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist (but I bought my own copy afterward).

 

ASKING FOR IT is an unusual story from a new author, or at least a new name to the genre. I wish I knew the name that Lilah Pace used for her other books, because I want to glom her backlist. Because I loved ASKING FOR IT. I loved it so much that I bought my own copy when it was released weeks after I read the ARC. It’s easily the best book I’ve read so far in 2015, and the only book I’m anticipating being better is the follow up book to come later this year.

 

Vivienne Charles has a special need for sexual satisfaction, an overwhelming need and a secret shame. Secret until one fateful evening when her drunk ex blurts out the truth in front of the one man who hears and understands. For Jonah Marks has his own wants and desires, and what he wants is what she needs. The forces that let them to this point may be pushing them together, but when long buried secrets are revealed, those same forces will drive them apart just as quickly, perhaps for good.

 

I’m not going to drop any spoilers to show why I found this book to be so incredibly good because as always, the joy is in the reading. But there is one thing I need to reveal because I’m convinced it will make you like the book more, not less. ASKING FOR IT is not a stand-alone book – it’s book 1 of a duology. That means the romance started here in ASKING FOR IT will not have its happy ending until book 2, BEGGING FOR IT.

 

If you hate cliffhangers, please know that I hate them just as much, and if I hadn’t known this story was continued in the next book, I’d have felt blindsided. Yet I did know, and as a result, the ending felt more like an intermission between acts, a natural break as opposed to an arbitrary stopping point. Vivienne and Jonah just have so many problems to work out both individually and together that any HEA in this book would have to be rushed and completely unbelievable. By the time ASKING FOR IT ends, there’s so much we know about Vivienne, but we’ve only just begun to plumb Jonah’s depths, and why what Vivienne wanted is what he wanted to give her…until it wasn’t.

If you’ve read the blurb or the disclaimers, you know what this book is about. It’s a woman with rape fantasies and a man willing to make them happen for her. But what this book is also about is consent, in big flashing capital letters. Consent is what brings Vivienne and Jonah together. Consent is what differentiates their relationship from any other either has ever had. And lack of consent is what could ultimately tear them apart. Because consent needs to be mutual, or it doesn’t exist at all.

 

The line that resonated with me the most about consent is also what I keep coming back to when someone asks me why their story had to be in two separate books. It was spoken by Vivienne’s therapist about Jonah, and it’s part of why this book was so different for me in a genre overrun with dub-con, non-con, and every variation of what is sold as “dark romance” these days.

 

“But he gets to have limits too.”

 

Readers also get to have limits. ASKING FOR IT might hit your limits, and that’s understandable. But if this is the kind of book you think you might like, I think you might like it a lot. I know I did.


 

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=874

Review: The Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison

The Perfect Letter: A Novel - Chris Harrison

Not as bad as I'd feared but not as good as it could have been.

Full review at The Romance Evangelist.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=866

Review: Seduced By Sunday by Catherine Bybee

Seduced by Sunday (Weekday Brides Series) - Catherine Bybee

What started out strong got bogged down in a suspense plot that not only pushed the romance to the sidelines, but had a resolution as unbelievable as the romance eventually did.

Full review available at The Romance Evangelist.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=858

Review: The Billionaire's Ink Mistress by Joely Sue Burkhart

The Billionaire's Ink Mistress -  Joely Sue Burkhart

I liked how it avoided the more obvious ways the plot could play out for something less expected yet more realistic.

Full review at The Romance Evangelist.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=854

Review: The Enticement by Tara Sue Me

The Enticement: The Submissive Series - Tara Sue Me

One of the reasons I’ve loved Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series is the way she continues to show its romantic couple – Nathaniel and Abby – grow in their love for each other while they deal with everything married life continues to throw at them. It’s not often we get to see a D/s erotic romance couple in their lives together after the HEA, but THE ENTICEMENT, the latest book in this series, is just as fascinating and enjoyable as its predecessors

 

Full review at The Romance Evangelist

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=850

Review: Beauty's Kingdom by Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquelaure

Beauty's Kingdom - A.N. Roquelaure, Anne Rice

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

 

BEAUTY’S KINGDOM is the surprise addition to the infamous Sleeping Beauty trilogy written by Anne Rice under a pseudonym over thirty years ago. In the history of erotic literature, the Beauty books hold a special place of honor and with good cause. From THE CLAIMING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY, through BEAUTY’S PUNISHMENT, and ending with BEAUTY’S RELEASE, we see the innocent sheltered heroine both figuratively and literally awakened to a whole new sensual world neither she nor we thought existed. Each book goes deeper in and further out so that by the time Princess Beauty finds her Happy Ever After with the powerful Prince Laurent, the reader can’t help but be as changed by the experience as its titular character.

 

But now it’s twenty years later in Beauty’s world, and the domain where she discovered both her true nature and her true love is in danger of collapse. The task ahead is great, and it will take the help of friends both old and new to secure their beloved land’s future. All this and more is the story of how Queen Eleanor’s kingdom is transformed into Beauty’s kingdom.

 

I wish I could say that I enjoyed reading BEAUTY’S KINGDOM even half as much as I’ve loved the original trilogy. But it became clear to me early on that this book was trying to hook new readers unfamiliar with the previous books while still servicing existing fans by bringing back nearly every named character from the original kingdom. The result is a story that falls down in the two areas where the original books excelled, namely exposition and pacing. It wasn’t wonderful and it wasn’t terrible. It was just…there.

 

In the original trilogy, the story is focused on Beauty herself, and to some extent, the people with whom she comes in contact on her voyage to self-discovery and love. We are given just enough information about where Beauty is and why it matters, leaving the rest for our own imaginations to run wild. But in BEAUTY’S KINGDOM, everything is laid out for the reader in such meticulous detail that it soon becomes a struggle just to absorb everything without losing track of wherever the plot is supposed to be going.

 

Thanks to all the catching up on what happened since the last book and all the details involved in Beauty and Laurent deciding to accept the throne, it takes seven long chapters – nearly a third of the book – before we actually get to Beauty’s kingdom. Before then, it’s pages and pages of “and then this happened” with name checks for all the original characters in the kingdom, even those who’d just been mentioned briefly in the earlier books, and for me it was easily the most deadly dull part of the whole book. By the time we finally arrive nine months and a hundred pages later, all I could picture was that scene in Monty Python And The Holy Grail where everyone is yelling “Get on with it!”

 

The most disappointing thing for me about BEAUTY’S KINGDOM was how little we get of Beauty or Laurent’s points of view once they are established as the new rulers. Most of the book is about how Lady Eva kept the kingdom traditions going in the absence of its previous rulers and then how each of Beauty and Laurent’s fellow pleasure slaves from twenty years ago return to take control over various areas of activity in support of the new regime. There are a few chapters here and there featuring “volunteers” in the new and improved pleasure slave experience, and those were the stories that kept me reading when I was tempted to give up. But for someone whose name is in the title of the book, Beauty herself gets precious little time in BEAUTY’S KINGDOM, and the book suffers in her absence.

 

Yet all could have been forgiven if the ending of BEAUTY’S KINGDOM was worth the work to get there. The other characters constantly refer to some terrible secret involving Lexius, the mysterious Sultan’s servant who’d been mastered by Laurent back in the third book, but when both he and it are subsequently revealed, I didn’t know whether to be amused or appalled. Meanwhile in the few glimpses we get of Beauty herself, we can see she’s still not fully content with her role in the new kingdom despite all the public credit given to her. Up until the very last scene, I was holding out hope that the parallels drawn between her and the pitiable Sir Stephen were hinting at an updated happy ending for her. But like so much of what preceded it, what is intended as Beauty’s ultimate triumph fell flat for me. By then, I was happier to be done with the story than with what I got at the end.

 

In conclusion, for me BEAUTY'S KINGDOM was as overstuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey, and just as lifeless. I'm not sorry I read BEAUTY'S KINGDOM. I'm only sorry it wasn't better.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=806

Review: The Duke of Andelot by Delilah Marvelle

The Duke of Andelot (School of Gallantry) - Delilah Marvelle, Jenn LeBlanc

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is the triumphant conclusion to Delilah Marvelle’s excellent School of Gallantry series, but like the other books before it, it can easily be read as a standalone, even if you don’t know who everyone is in the lovely epilogue. I myself came into this series with book 4, NIGHT OF PLEASURE, and since then have enjoyed going back and discovering the stories running concurrently with all the others.

As the final book of the series, THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is somewhat different from the rest in that the bulk of its story takes place decades earlier. In it we learn how the notorious Madame de Maintenon found her own true love, only to lose him, perhaps forever, to the chaos of the French Revolution. Before she was the toast of Paris and London, she was merely Thérèse, the butcher’s daughter, tramping through the countryside on her way to her beloved cousin Remy and his small Paris theater. When a threatening highwayman turns out to be Gérard, a highly placed aristocrat on his way to attempt an improbable rescue of his beloved godfather, Thérèse is attracted to him, but skeptical of his motives. As their journey continues, their love for each other grows as quickly as the danger they both face while the Revolution speeds toward its predestined conclusion.

I’ll admit that when I first started reading, I was disappointed to begin in the past, with only my knowledge that this was Madame de Maintenon’s story to keep me from immediately losing interest. But once Thérèse and Gérard find themselves completely in love with each other, I was thoroughly hooked. And by the time they each must make the decisions they need to stay alive, I was awash in tears which lasted all the way to the short but satisfying epilogue which tied up the whole series in joy. Even the small repetitive parts (for those familiar with the previous books) couldn’t keep me from wallowing with glee in the Happy Ever After for the woman who had brought so many to others before her and the one man worthy of her love. THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is a satisfying historical romance for anyone who loves a happy ending that’s merely delayed, not denied.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=804

Review: Say My Name by J. Kenner

Say My Name: A Stark Novel - J. Kenner

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

 

In SAY MY NAME, J. Kenner returns to the world she established in her original Damien Stark erotic romance trilogy, only this time the heroine is Stark’s most trusted employee and her hero is the one man she’s loved enough to push away for his own good. When the only way Sylvia Brooks can save her first solo Stark International project is by begging Jackson Steele for help, that rescue could cost her own sanity. But as the two star-crossed lovers slowly learn to love and trust again, they soon find what’s at stake might be their own lives.

Although I quite enjoyed the original Stark trilogy, I’ll admit this new book started a bit slowly for me. I’ve never been a big fan of trying to guess what the initial relationship was between the hero and heroine, or what broke them apart so brutally that she fears his harsh reaction as he initially tries to reject her. So the story was a bit frustrating for me until the flashbacks were over and we were completely in the present. But from that point on, I was completely enthralled, even already knowing how Kenner structures these trilogies so that the first two books end on a tentative Happy For Now, saving the Happy Ever After for the final story.

Both Jackson and Sylvia have endured terrible childhoods which are still influencing their present lives more than even they could have predicted. They can’t stay apart any longer and yet everything seems to be conspiring to split them up anyway. And hovering over it all is the outsized influence of Damien Stark himself, to the point that Sylvia may soon have to choose between the man she loves and the man who has earned her complete loyalty. It’s a heady mix of love and intrigue, and Kenner continues to deliver a knockout experience that made me long for the next book even as I was more than satisfied with this story’s ending. To say more would give too much away, and I encourage everyone who loved the original Stark trilogy to read SAY MY NAME to find out what’s there for themselves.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=802

Review: The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz

The Virgin - Tiffany Reisz

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

As each book in the White Years portion of Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series is released, we discover more about how this unconventional family came together as one. So if you’ve read the Red Years books, you can guess the outcome of The Virgin, even if you don’t know how you’ll get there. Yet that’s what makes each of these stories so remarkable, as Tiffany Reisz continues to capture the attention of readers who already think they know how everything will work out. With this latest release, THE VIRGIN, the story of how Eleanor ran away from the only man she’d ever loved and not only found herself, but helped Kingsley do the same, however inadvertently, and like the others, the story might not go quite as the reader might expect.

Eleanor could never have left Søren without being caught if she hadn’t had Kingsley’s detailed training on how to get lost and stay there. But once away, she needs a place where even Søren himself could not gain admittance. Her mother’s convent home may be an unlikely sanctuary, but just as unlikely is the one person who helps Eleanor find the strength to go on, with or without her only Master.

The moment that drives Eleanor away from Søren sets Kingsley on his own path in the opposite direction, unsure if he’ll ever return to his kinky kingdom. The despair of the woman he discovers outweighs his own, stoking his need to save them both. But as Eleanor and Kingsley both find new love away from home, will their individual travels bring them back to Søren or keep them all apart for good?

In THE VIRGIN, as in the others before it, it’s the journey itself and not the destination, and the personal quests for both Eleanor and Kingsley make it all worth reading. And like the other White Years books, we have a present-day framing device designed to keep us guessing as to what is actually happening and how it will affect our beloved characters. All of these threads are expertly woven together in a tapestry of extreme emotions which will keep the reader bouncing about with anticipation as to how it will all come together in the end.

I was happily transported by the majority of THE VIRGIN, with only the part of the story featuring Kyrie, the young novitiate and title character, falling somewhat flat for me. I couldn’t help thinking that her presence was contrived solely for the purpose of helping Eleanor out of the safety of the convent back out into the real world, especially with regard to Eleanor’s future career as an erotic novelist. But that’s a minor quibble compared to the glory that is the sublime romance between Kingsley and Juliette, the heartbreaking angst as Søren and Eleanor struggle with what has driven them apart, and the joy of the first wedding between two of my most favorite Original Sinners.

If you’re a fan of this series, THE VIRGIN is obviously a must read, even though it also means there is only one more book in the series before it all ends forever. I’m sure I’m not prepared to face THE QUEEN, but I can’t wait to read it just the same.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=796

Review: Red Handed by Shelly Bell

Red Handed: A Benediction Novel - Shelly Bell

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

Anyone who follows my reviews at all knows that I’m not a big fan of serials, but one of the best romances I read last year was Shelly Bell’s four part romantic suspense serial, WHITE COLLARED. So naturally I was excited about reading her full length follow-up novel, RED HANDED. The previous story introduced us to the super exclusive BDSM club Benediction, and now in RED HANDED, we get to see that club’s mysterious owner Cole DeMarco find his own HEA with a woman we meet at the worst time in her relatively short but turbulent life.

Danielle Walker was still in shock after her father had gone to prison and died there soon after, apparently by his own hand. But now that Danielle’s seen her own stepmother kidnapped by the same people who’d helped send her father to jail, she has only a few short days to infiltrate the BDSM club of the only man she’d desired but could never have, Cole DeMarco. The kidnappers want whatever Cole’s hiding in his private office safe, and the kidnappers want her to get there by offering herself up to Cole as a sexual submissive trainee. So off Danielle goes into certain danger, never suspecting that what she’ll find along the way is her one true love.

Cole had known Danielle as the lovely but off-limits daughter of a man who’d gotten over his head with a dangerous crowd. Now that she’s old enough to be naked and under Cole’s control, he’s the one who’s over his head in what is definitely overwhelming sexual attraction but could also be the love he’s tried to avoid his whole life. With the impending danger to them both, there’s no time to take things slowly, and when everything Danielle believes in gets turned on its head, it’s Cole and Danielle’s love that will ultimately see both them and the reader through.

I love this author and this new series, but I’ll admit I was seriously put off by the initial premise of RED HANDED. Romantic suspense is always a bit tricky for me, as there’s only so much violence I can handle as a reader, so the opening scenes involving Danielle’s stepmother and the kidnappers’ threats were almost too intense. The idea that Danielle was being forced to participate in a 24/7 BDSM relationship under duress really didn’t sit well with me, but I continued on, trusting that the author would get me to the place where everything made sense. When that moment arrived, my relief was palpable, and my enjoyment of the story unconditional. Cole and Danielle are more than equally matched in both body and spirit, and as the story progresses, we see how their romance was inevitable in spite of the evil forces that had brought them together. The twists and turns are never too over the top, and the final HEA is well earned. If you love romantic suspense with a BDSM flavor, Shelly Bell’s Benediction series, including RED HANDED, is a must read.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=790

Review: Protecting Fate by Katee Robert

Protecting Fate (Entangled Brazen) (Serve) - Katee Robert

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

I’m a fan of Katee Robert’s romances but hadn’t read this particular series before reading the PROTECTING FATE novella. The good news is that it works well as a standalone without leaving the reader clueless or dumping unnecessary background information. It’s quickly obvious how the hero and heroine know of each other without having had the opportunity to spark any relationship before this moment.

Sara Reaver is still feeling the pain of her parents’ divorce and is trying not to resent her siblings for succumbing to marriage when they’ve all seen how bad it can be. Now that her own reckless actions have forced her into hiding with her brother’s best friend Zebadiah “Z” Loreto as protection, her deliberate avoidance of any emotional entanglements will be tested to the limit.

Z trusted a woman he loved, and nearly lost everything as a result. Sara needs him to be safe, but when he realizes there’s something more between them, it will take more than just their sexual connection to lead them to the happy ending neither thought could ever happen.

Although I would expect a reader familiar with the series to enjoy this story more than I did, there was plenty of romance to get me involved with the characters and root for them to succeed. The couples from the previous books work well as secondary characters here, and the initial danger to the heroine is resolved realistically, if somewhat preemptively. I was also gratified that the heroine didn’t just swoon into agreeing to marriage after her vehement objections to it for so many years. PROTECTING FATE is an intense and entertaining short read that I enjoyed enough to want to read all the previous books in the Serve series.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=793

Review: Unraveled by Lorelei James

Unraveled: The Mastered Series - Lorelei James

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

One of the best things that can happen in an ongoing series is when the author can redeem a mostly unlikeable character from an earlier book as the winning love interest in a following book. In UNRAVELED, Lorelei James has taken Ronin Black’s sister Shiori Hirano, a woman I initially disliked and only begrudgingly came around to liking, and made her the best heroine yet in the MASTERED series.

Now that Ronin is off on a trip to Japan to continue his martial arts training and spend time alone with his new wife Amery, his Black Arts dojo is temporarily in the hands of his sister Shiori and his right hand man Knox Lofgren. On the surface, this combination seems like a disaster in the making, since all Shiori and Knox ever seem to do is fight for domination. Yet there’s a deeper attraction under all the sparring, and when Shiori discovers Knox’s true nature, it’s all she can do to keep from immediately claiming him for good. Knox wants to be the man that Shiori believes he is, but it will take more than irresistible sexual desire to help them get past all the obstacles between them and happiness, not the least of which will be Ronin’s reaction to all that’s happened in his prolonged absence.

The ongoing transformation of Ronin’s sister Shiori from interfering and unapproachable to supportive and emotionally vulnerable without losing her innate strength has been a big draw for me in the MASTERED series and it’s a joy to see it come to fruition in UNRAVELED. As strong as she has needed to be from the start, it’s only when Shiori lets down her guard with Knox that we see the full person behind the facade. And when Knox trusts her with his newly discovered submission, the results are exhilarating. We see so much more of both characters and what’s shaped them into the people we think we know today that when they come together, it’s seems impossible that they could have ever resisted each other before. Even when the dreaded black moment of big misunderstanding arrives like clockwork, we see that neither of them is really ready to give up for good, and it makes their final HEA all the sweeter.

UNRAVELED is a solid entry in a series that keeps getting better and better for me, and I can’t wait to see how Lorelei James is going to keep it going next.

Source: http://mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=783

Review: Never Let You Down by Joely Sue Burkhart

Never Let You Down (The Connaghers) - Joely Sue Burkhart

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at Night Owl Reviews.

Review Excerpt:

Much like the unconventional relationships highlighted in each of the previous Connagher books, NEVER LET YOU DOWN also features an unconventional way of telling the multi-layered story of Virginia and Jeb’s romance. We have a view of the present day as Jeb returns to woo the woman he’d never stopped loving. We also view the past, as all the questions about how he is inextricably linked to Virginia and Ty are eventually answered in full. And then, as the past and present wind their way around each other toward the anticipated HEA, a third voice enters the story in the form of a book within the book -- a slightly over the top erotic western romance with a more than passing resemblance to the love story being told in the rest of the book. This manner of storytelling is risky with the danger of confusing the reader, but I was able to easily keep the three portions separate while appreciating how they all fit together as closely as Virginia, Ty, and Jeb did by the end of the book. It’s a beautiful love story in all its combinations, and a wonderful addition to one of my favorite erotic romance series.

Source: http://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Reviews/Mharvey-reviews-Never-Let-You-Down-by-Joely-Sue-Burkhart