A Sinner without a Saint by Bliss Bennet

Two men with a past. Will their mutual obsession with art draw them closer together, or drive a wedge between them forever?

What’s it About?

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An honorable artist: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .

A hedonistic viscount: Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process.

Sinner and saint–can both win at love? But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?

First Impression

A feature you notice from the very opening page of this book, and which the author should be commended for, is that it truly feels as though we have been transported to the Regency Era. I’m sure some of you are thinking that for a 19th century historical read, we damn well better feel like we’re in the 1800s. Well, hear me out! To write a historical romance is one thing, but to feel as though the novel was actually written in the 1800s? That’s a talent all in itself. From the syntax to the British slang, the work felt reminiscent of something written by Jane Austen or Frances Burney. While it was a noticeably admirable trait of the novel, it did also make for a slightly slower read. What can I say? It took me some time to decipher what the characters were actually trying to say. But I also couldn’t deny that my desire for a pot of tea and tray of cucumber sandwiches grew stronger with every page turned.

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Classic Beauty vs. the Unnatural

In my opinion, the true mastery of this novel lay not necessarily with the romance between Benedict and Dulcie, but instead through their discussions and debates of art. Benedict’s goal in life is to open a national art museum for the British people. All British people, regardless of class, station, or wealth. Dulcie on the other hand is one of the leading art critics of the day, with his sights set on acquiring unique pieces for his own private collection. The heated discussions which erupt between the two, as well as with their fellow high-class art peers, were so insightful and thought-provoking that you couldn’t help but feel moved to take up an opinion on the matter as well. As the novel progresses we see a shift in the conversation from who is worthy of appreciating good art to who decides what good art is in the first place. The scrutiny placed on the artistic system was riveting, as our characters understand that sometimes you have to look beyond the paint to what is hiding underneath.

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What hit me the most though was how this discussion of art and beauty could find direct symmetry in the romance between Benedict and Dulcie. The two are art connoisseurs, yet they can both appreciate the talent in an artistic piece that might not be considered classically beautiful. While some might view tangled limbs and an imperfect male specimen on a canvas as grotesque, they are both enamored with the emotion such a piece can evoke in the viewer, and therefore can’t deny that it deserves praise. Even if the majority of their contemporaries don’t agree with them.

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Do me a favor. Do yourselves a favor. Stop talking, and look. You’re not required to write a paper. You’re not even required to like it. You *are* required to consider it. – Mona Lisa Smile

When we look at Benedict and Dulcie’s relationship, the majority of regency society would also look upon it as something grotesque and unnatural. And sadly, there are many in our own time who would see it in the same context. But what lies underneath the surface? What do you have when you push the physical component to the side. What lies beneath the paint? Simple, it’s love. Love between two consenting adults who want to spend the rest of their lives together. Love is love and romance is for all. While they can see the beauty in this, and a minuscule number of their contemporaries understand it, for the majority it is seen as too far removed from what society deems as “right” or “proper”. Again, the parallels between their love and the discussion of modern art was so subtly clever that I’m still thinking about it.

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Romance vs. Challenge

While I was fully entranced by the discussion of art for the masses, unfortunately there was one aspect of the novel that I’m sorry to say I had a much harder time falling in love with. And that would be Dulcie. Now, let me start off by saying that eventually he does manage to redeem himself by becoming a devoted partner and friend once again to Benedict. The problem is that it took sooooo long to happen. Throughout the novel Benedict is this adorable, wide-eyed puppy dog that I just wanted to pick up and snuggle, even though he definitely has some bark behind his bite. When it came to Dulcie though, he was like a predatory hawk. Constantly circling, searching for who he could mess with next.

Ok, ok, so a hawk might be too harsh a comparison. How about a puppet master who loved to pull the strings of others? He could tease, seduce and manipulate with the best of ’em. It was really a struggle to know whether or not his heart was ever behind his pursuit of Benedict, or if it was simply a challenge to regain Benedict’s childhood affections. Again, eventually we see Dulcie open up with Benedict, and share some of his innermost thoughts, feelings and fears. I just wish it had come a bit earlier on in the novel. Something else which I think could have helped me warm up to Dulcie earlier was if we could have received a prologue to show how the two initially connected at school all those years before. We see the moment where their interaction ends, and towards the end of the novel we realize how both of them suffered following the end of their friendship, but the missing element for me was that initial crucial moment which connected them in the first place.

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Let’s Get Physical…Or Not

Duclie’s pursuit of Benedict throughout the novel is fairly relentless. Both admit to an undeniable attraction that seems to be pulling the two of them together. For Benedict though, he doesn’t want anything to happen between them unless Dulcie is willing to offer up his mind in addition to his body. For Dulcie? He’s basically just looking for a good ole rough and tumble in the back room of a tavern. He employs all the seductive looks, touches, and smirks at his disposal to try and sway Benedict to his line of thinking. Essentially, he’s a classic playboy. What I found to be so fascinating though was what happened when the two finally did get physical.

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There’s some rubbing, some tugging, some “spending”. Anything beyond that though? Shockingly this is where Dulcie becomes more reserved! Throughout the whole novel his attitude and confidence towards getting Benedict in his hands sort of implies that he’d be the expert and dominant when it came to the physical side of their relationship. What debauchery might they get into when the seducer finally captures his prey? Who knew it would be the complete opposite with Benedict being the more experienced one?!?! It was very interesting to hear Dulcie’s rather negative opinion towards the concept of oral sex, not to mention penetration, almost as though it was beneath his high stature to engage in such uncivilized and…unsanitary behavior. I have a feeling Benedict might succeed in changing his opinion on that matter though 😉

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Penningtons, book 4. This was the first book I read in this series, and I will admit I had trouble with the links between some of the different characters. It was kind of difficult to understand the relationship and familial webs at times.

Final Impression: Overall I can’t say I was fully connected to Dulcie and Benedict as a couple. I couldn’t help but feel that Dulcie’s eventual transformation into a caring and selfless lover came a bit too late in the game for me, and if anything I wanted more for Benedict. As a social and artistic commentary though it was an enthralling read. There are arguments about classic beauty versus opening the mind to modern interpretations that will keep you thinking for a few days.

Smut Level: Any time a couple can successfully balance on a chaise longue whilst exploring each other’s bodies deserves honorable mention. While we don’t get any scenes involving penetration, we get a few decent kissing scenes, tingling spines, tightening of groins, cock-stands, and “spending” a time or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Bliss Bennet Books. 298 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: The Mate by Abigail Owen. Paranormal, Shifters.

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Hurricane Crimes by Chrys Fey

This story of murder in the midst of a deadly hurricane certainly packs a punch. And in just 43 pages!!

What’s it About?

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After her car breaks down, Beth Kennedy is forced to stay in Florida, the target of Hurricane Sabrina. She stocks up supplies, boards up windows, and hunkers down to wait out the storm, but her plan unravels when she witnesses a car accident. Risking her life, she braves the winds to save the driver. Just when she believes they are safe, she finds out the man she saved could possibly be more dangerous than the severe weather.

Donovan Goldwyn only wanted to hide from the police, but the hurricane shoved his car into a tree. Now he’s trapped with a beautiful woman while the evidence that can prove his innocence to a brutal crime is out there for anyone to find. As Hurricane Sabrina wreaks havoc, Beth has no other choice but to trust Donovan to stay alive. But will she survive, or will she become another hurricane crime?

First Impressions

I started this book before leaving for work one morning, thinking it’d be a somewhat low stakes novella to start and leave without finishing. Lemme say, bad idea! I read just 10 minutes of this before walking out the door, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day long. I seriously considered whipping my Kindle out during my lunch break to finish the rest of it all up in one sitting. Unfortunately that would have left my coworker to just watch me eat and read at the same time, and may have been slightly awkward. No talking allowed!!

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I was completely shocked at how much story the author was able to pack in here in just under 50 pages. Overall it was an absolute perfect blend of romance, suspense, and mother nature trying to knock down the front door. It’s not just a story of two strangers waiting out a storm together. We have the added drama of Donovan being framed for his brother’s murder, and it becomes a fascinating tale of trust. Beth has no reason to believe this stranger when he declares his innocence, but when she sees the desperation shining through his sultry violet eyes? Who could say no to that?

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A Bathtub Fit for Two

Although it was short in length, I never felt like any part of the story was rushed, or that any key plot points were left out. Did Beth and Donovan become intimate rather quickly considering the time frame? Sure, but hell, you can’t blame ’em! It’s an intense situation, and quite possibly their last moments alive as a deadly hurricane passes over them. And seriously, the dude has violet eyes. I say go for it! The only question I have is what the hell kind of bathtub did this woman have in her house where it could not only fit two people, but they had a bit of extra room to remove their jeans for some sweet, sweet, lovin’? (Note: as someone with a ridiculously shallow and narrow tub, this is just pure jealousy).

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Beth, Donovan, and Sabrina

The key players in this little novella are Beth and Donovan. However, through the brilliant use of metaphors, Hurricane Sabrina becomes a third main character in her own right. The descriptions or her rapid approach and violent wrath can practically be characterized as poetic. My favorite scene would have to be at the beginning when Beth struggles to make it to Donovan’s car which has crashed into a tree outside her house as the hurricane ravages on. You’re transported into the moment with Beth. You can feel the wind and rain lashing upon your face, feel the gravel digging into your hands as you crawl along the ground. Feel the tightening in your stomach from fear wondering if you’ll ever make it to this man before the storm carries you both away. For all of you authors out there wondering how to craft the perfect novella, I say use this as your template. Honestly, I really don’t have any criticisms! A rarity indeed 😉

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*A copy of this novella was provided for an honest review*

Series: Disaster Crimes, book 1. I officially want to read this whole series.

Should you read it? Yes! It’s less than 50 pages, you’ve got nothing to lose. Normally with novellas I make the comment that I wish it were a full-length novel. Is that the case here? Kind of. I loved the characters, the story, the drama of the storm and our murderous side plot. A full-length novel would have just given me more to enjoy. What can I say, I’m greedy at times 🙂 However!! I can honestly say that having a full-length novel was in no way a necessity. It’s perfectly wonderful as a novella, and I didn’t feel for one second that I was missing out on anything. Who needs extra fluff when you can just get to the meat of the story? Maybe instead of having a longer version I’ll just have to give it a second read!

Smut Level: We get some sexy kisses, but no details for the act itself. Considering the short length, probably a wise decision to use every bit of limited space towards the plot rather than the naked times. Never thought I’d say that!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 43 Pages.

Being You by S.T. Heller

This novel has convinced me that if I should ever leave city-living behind for the wonders of nature, I 100% need to buy a house by a lake that has a dock. It just seems like all of life’s major discussions and problems can be resolved by the serenity of sitting on a dock next to a peaceful lake.

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What’s it About?

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After years of trials and tribulations, Keegan and Jack are finally living their happily ever after. With their daughter and sons, their parents, and their friends, they are surrounded by love. Like all couples, Keegan and Jack face everyday issues, dealing with raising their children and concentrating on their careers, while remembering to focus on one another. But what happens when outside forces disrupt their happily ever after? Over the course of years, the strength of their bond is challenged by the ever-changing lives of their loved ones and by ghosts from the past that continue to haunt them. And, each time, Keegan and Jack must determine if their love for each other and their relationship can adapt and stand the test of time.

First Impressions

Mkay, so full disclosure: I have not read the first two books in this series. And my God! It sounds like I definitely missed out on a lot!! Personally I found that reading the synopses of the first two novels was a big help to understanding the main dramatic elements from the start of the series. In addition to that, I really appreciated the fact that the author gave us a brief recap of most of the key moments from the previous novels pretty early on in this book. Every time we are introduced to a character we are provided with the back story to how they relate to the main characters, and how their relationships may have evolved over time. That being said, I must admit it was rather difficult to keep all of the complicated relationships straight at times! Also, some of the major plot lines from the previous books were mentioned so nonchalantly there were a few times where I had to pause and ask, “Wait, what happened?!” From a casual mention of brain surgery, to an ex-girlfriend lying about Jack having died in a fire, it definitely seems like I missed out on some craziness in books 1 and 2!

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An Observation on Life

While it’s difficult for me to discuss exactly how this novel compares to the previous two, I can only assume this one was pretty mellow after reading the synopses of those first books. We have no undercover investigators, nor tales of murder to contend with. Instead what we are presented with is more of an observation on life. The book is littered with minor dramatic moments that any of us could encounter in our own lives. From a child needing stitches, to the stresses of work, and even having to put down a beloved pet. At the same time we are privy to the delightful moments of life which can offset those which seem so terrible and scary. Marriages, family vacations, and hanky panky fun times when the kids are asleep 😉

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While this definitely helps us relate to our characters with the everyday joys and problems of life that we too experience, it was also a bit light in terms of an underlying plot. Keegan and Jack do encounter two significant issues which threaten to impact the happy bubble they’ve created for their family. The first controversy doesn’t really come about until the half-way point of the novel, and all in all it is resolved fairly quickly. The second problem is more of a slow build-up to an eventual climactic point of contention. Through it all we question if Keegan and Jack will be able to overcome these dramas, or if outside forces will break the strong link which binds them together. One thing’s for sure, meddling exes definitely seem like a common theme throughout this series! Ultimately we see how Jack and Keegan’s strong commitment to being open and honest with each other provides the underlying stability to their relationship. No doubt this was built upon throughout the previous two novels!

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The Extended Family

The characters in this novel were unbelievably captivating and entertaining. Jack and Keegan especially are the driving force of the story, and I think one of the main reasons I liked them so much was the fact that they were in their late 40s when the novel began. This allows them to bring a crucial amount of maturity to their discussions which can oftentimes be lacking in romance novels featuring couples in their early 20s. They aren’t quick to make assumptions, or if they are they have the ability to talk to each other! Thank goodness we finally have a couple who can communicate!!! So refreshing. The book is told from their alternating points of view, with a few chapters told by their daughter Molly, which was always a unique surprise.

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As for the other characters of the novel, they too are a delight, but holy crap are there a lot of them! Seriously, you need some kind of 3-D diagram in order to keep all these people and relationships in order. We have ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, step siblings, half-siblings, and then just the general friend group. Phew, I’m exhausted! Again, with the first mention of each character we get a snippet of their background and how they relate to our main characters from the first two novels. It was a lot of information to keep track of. I seriously think some kind of extended family tree would have been very helpful, mainly just to maintain who is actually related to whom. I remember at one point Molly mentioned how when she grew up she was gonna marry a boy named Jace, and for a moment I panicked and exclaimed aloud, “But he’s your half-brother!!!” But then…I retraced the various webs of relationships and realized, ok phew, not a blood relative. Proceed!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Dock Series, book 3. While I definitely appreciated the recaps of the events from the previous books, I almost wonder if I had read them beforehand I would find this read almost too repetitive at times. It’s always nice to have a refresher when continuing on in a series, but I could see that in some instances a reader of the whole series might think they know all this already. Personally, I would really enjoy if we get a 4th book that follows their daughter, Molly. Fingers crossed!

Should you read it? I loved the calm of the lakeside scenery, and I honestly think it helped contribute to the levelheadedness of our lead couple. Sure, they have a few hiccups along the way, but for the most part their communication skills are a thing to be admired. The novel is mainly an observation of how Keegan and Jack get on with their everyday lives, whether that includes the good, the bad, or the ugly. I do wish we had been introduced to more of a concrete story line earlier on in the book, but in the same vein it also made the book more of a refreshing lesson in how moments of happiness are bound to come after those that might seem hopeless or overwhelming.

Smut Level: Overall a fairly clean read, but it still has some spicy scenes! Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Key to success? Back rub massages in a bubble bath.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 304 Pages.

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Winds of Time by Lilly Gayle

A vicious tornado whisks our heroine through the winds of time to unexpectedly drop her back in 1872. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto! Or at least…not in modern day Texas anymore.

What’s it About?

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The past is her future, the future, her past, but can she save an innocent man’s life before history repeats itself? As long as Selena Tillman dreams of her ancestor, Mary, who disappeared without a trace in 1872, she’ll never find peace. As long as she dreams of the half-Native American army scout accused of killing Mary, she’ll never find love. Hoping to end the dreams and learn the truth, Selena goes to Texas where Mary and the scout died and sees more than ghosts. She sees a tornado kill Mary in real time before it jumps to the twenty-first century to pull Selena into its vortex and send her back to the nineteenth century. Selena believes she’s fated to prove Dylan’s innocence and save his life, but Dylan isn’t just the man of her dreams; he’s her destiny.

Fed up with the army, bigotry, and women—especially white women, Captain Dylan Casey dedicates himself to solving the mystery of Mary’s disappearance, proving his innocence, and trying to stop a war between the whites and the Indians. Then Mary’s cousin shows up, claiming a tornado killed Mary. Dylan doesn’t trust Selena, but she’s his only ally in Canyon Creek. Yet despite their common goal, growing mutual attraction, and a Comanche shaman’s prophecy of a white woman who will change his destiny and foretell the fate of the Indian Nation, Dylan refuses to take a chance on another spoiled, white woman—until fate changes his mind.

First Impressions

Yes, we are dealing with a time travel historical romance here. But more than that we are exploring some inherently deep-rooted and devastatingly tragic instances of racism in late nineteenth-century Texas. The supposed superiority of the white man over the “savage” Indian, and the downfall of the great Indian Nation at the greed of the white man. What I love about any Lilly Gayle historical romance is that we always learn about a unique chapter of history, and in most cases they are lessons which I never really had the opportunity to study fully in school. In each instance my interest is spurned to learn more! You can tell a lot of time and effort was spent researching this topic in an attempt to give an accurate portrayal of what it would have been like for a “half-breed” to live at this moment in history, not to mention the obstacles involved by falling in love with a white woman. After finishing this read I must say I’m inspired to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, especially considering it’s just a 15 minute drive from my apartment!

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Traveling the Winds of Time

One of my favorite aspects of any time travel story is discovering the rules of time travel which the author has chosen for their world. Will it be like Outlander, in which the events of the past are firmly set in stone? In these works we usually find the attempts of our characters to change certain events will instead directly cement the circumstances of history. Or will we maybe see something along the lines of Back to the Future where practically everything you do has a direct impact and influence on changing the outcomes of the future? In this novel we see an interesting blend of both.

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After being dropped in 1872 by a wayward tornado, Selena seems stuck in the past with no possibility of traveling back to her own time. She knows the history surrounding the fate of Dylan Casey, who stands accused of murdering her ancestor Mary. However, she’s just seen that the same tornado which carried her through time is responsible for Mary’s death, not Dylan. Can Selena possibly alter the events of history to prevent Dylan’s own murder which she has seen play out in visions since she was 10? Is Dylan fated to die, or is it Selena’s destiny to save his life? You simply never know what the rules of time travel might be in any given romance.

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An Argumentative Romance

Race is an extremely important discussion in this novel, especially in how it relates to Selena and Dylan exploring a romantic relationship. Living in a small Texas town, Dylan experiences hateful glances and racial slurs practically every day. He’s had friends and lovers desert him upon discovery of his mixed heritage. He once thought Mary (Selena’s ancestor) was the woman for him, but in the end the fact he was a “half-breed” proved to be reason enough for her to give up on them. When Selena drops into town she’s unlike any other woman Dylan has ever met. She has no hesitancy about exploring a physical relationship with Dylan, which is something he simply can’t wrap his head around. Why would a white woman risk her reputation pursuing a half-breed like him?

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All in all I’d have to say that my one complaint with this book is how much of Selena and Dylan’s time together is spent arguing. I feel like Selena had a closer connection to Dylan because of the visions she’d experienced of him throughout her life rather than from their interactions with each other. The fact that Dylan is a scout for the army also means that he and Selena spend pretty long periods of time apart from each other. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect between the feelings garnered from Selena’s visions to her actual interactions with the man.

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Selena has literally been dreaming of this man forever, and when she finally has the opportunity to meet him in person he’s…well…a bit surly. She continuously reiterates the fact that his race is of no consequence to her. Selena’s actions also speak towards her dedication, especially when she gives up the luxurious comforts of his parent’s house to instead make a home for them in Dylan’s small ranch house. And yet, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to convince Dylan that she’s serious when she says his Indian heritage doesn’t bother her. He insists she could never love a “dirty savage” such as him.

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The Beast of Aubyn Hall by Alex L. Michaels

A slightly quirky and accident prone bookworm? Check. A sexy as hell and overly confident alpha male? Check! You can definitely understand why this book would be part of the Bookworms & Alphas series!

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The man they call the beast, sworn off love, meets the bookish beauty who thinks that love exists only in books. When Bronte Beltran finds out that her next assignment is cataloging the famous Aubyn Hall library, she’s ecstatic. But when she finds out they call the owner the Beast of Aubyn Hall, not so much. A week in a dusty library should be right up her alley. But a wrong word at the wrong time and she might just find out what exactly is beastly about the Beast of Aubyn Hall.

First Impressions

Holy crap this book is the epitome of sexual tension build-up. Practically from the moment that Bronte crosses the threshold into Aubyn Hall, and hears the dark and foreboding voice of Caine, aka our Beast, you can practically feel the air get thick with desire. That being said, prepare yourself to be teased, as we don’t get a full and final…climax to this desire until the very final moments of the book. You’ll want to scream out loud, “Just ravish each other already!”

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In a way, it sort of follows the same story arch of the first novel, where we were also presented with some delayed gratification. Whereas book one presents us with a plethora of being pushed up against a wall and being whipped around for an intense close-up discussion, in this novel we get the added glory of Caine continually coming up behind Bronte in the heat of an argument. Sexy whispers in her ear, not to mention that a particularly part of his anatomy is usually…digging into her bum. I will say, although we are being teased right along with the characters, this makes for a very quick read because you just keep reading on and on so you can get to the moment when they consummate this thing.

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Sexy as Hell, buuuuuuut…

This book is sexy as all get out, but at the same time I also found the dynamic between Caine and Bronte to be somewhat worrisome. It’s clear that Caine is set and determined to have Bronte in his bed, and while she is obviously affected by his sexy whispers and passionate stares, she expends quite a bit of effort to convince both herself and him that she’s not receptive to his sexual ministrations. He’s also quick to boss her around, and while sometimes it relates to the fact that she’s working for him, in his home, cataloging his library, it also crosses the line of professionalism. Below is one quote which I found to be particularly concerning:

In fact, I don’t think he ever approached me in a kind or respectful manner. He just kept sneaking around me, provoking me, making me feel uncomfortable and sometimes he plainly insulted me. He also made me feel foolish, confused, insecure and sometimes plain afraid. But he also excited me enormously, that much I was able to admit to myself.

I mean, goodness gracious if it weren’t for that last sentence I’d be screaming at the woman to get the hell outta that house! At the same time though, whether she’s sexually excited by this man or not, I feel like the fact he sometimes made her feel “plain afraid”, can’t really be a good thing??? The last thing we want is to have an alpha male who borders the line into jackass. Although, I guess we were warned right in the title that we’re dealing with a beast here 🙂

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However, based on how the novel progresses it becomes clear that Bronte is definitely attracted to this man, and she just doesn’t want to admit it to herself, so it results in Bronte continually running away from her feelings for this man. One of my favorite quotes from the book is said by another woman who has her sights set on Caine, and during one confrontation with Bronte she declares, “and you want him to get you whether you’re willing to admit this to yourself or not”. Such an intelligent statement that can carry over into so many romance novels. I guess I just wish there weren’t those moments thrown in where Bronte admits she doesn’t feel respected by Caine. It kind of throws a damper on the sexual fire that is spreading throughout the rest of the book.

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A Library in Disarray

Bronte and her team have been brought to Aubyn Hall in order to get Caine’s library in order for eventual public view. Maybe I’m just too much of a book nerd, but I sort of wish more time had been spent talking about the details involved with this work. I mean, what exactly goes into cataloging a library? Apparently a lot of heavy lifting, but what else? Alphabetizing? Writing down all the titles? Making sure there’s a designated romance section? This sort of ties in as well to my wish that Bronte and Caine had connected a bit more over their shared love of books. They both admit to the fact that they’re book lovers, but maybe having just one or two additional moments where they connect over books in the library might have transformed their relationship beyond just the obvious sexual connection.

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A Beast with a Set Mind

Apparently Caine has a motto in life when it comes to Bronte, and that would be “I have set my mind on you.” This is his answer for everything when it comes to why he is constantly pursuing Bronte, and why he refuses to give up on her. No matter how many times she says no. Bronte is totally stumped when it comes to Caine’s pursuit, since she can’t understand why someone as gorgeous and rich as him would pursue a bookworm such as her.

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This brings us to the inevitable confrontation and blow-up between Caine and Bronte. Just when they are starting to make some progress and headway to starting a relationship, it is revealed that Caine asked for Bronte specifically when it came to the work on his library. Apparently he had seen her once before, and this provoked his mind to be set on her. Honestly, I had a bit of trouble understanding why this was seen as such an offense to Bronte. She is immediately pissed, and explains that it was a way of Caine using his money to try and exert his control into her life.

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Which, ok, I can see is kind of weird. He could have just been a normal person, walked into the library where she was working and ask her out for a cup of coffee. But then we wouldn’t have a book, would we? 🙂 I guess her reaction seemed just a bit over-the-top considering this ploy to get her in his house was essentially his version of a pick-up line. My favorite comment on this entire situation comes from Bronte’s friend who states, “…boo hoo. So what? Maybe it wasn’t the smoothest type of seduction, but it wasn’t the worst either.” Amen sister!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Bookworms & Alphas, book 2. You really don’t need to read the first book in this series to follow the plot of this one. The female lead from book 1 does get a mention towards the end of the novel, but there’s no plot carry over, so you should be all set! I’d love to see future books in this series focus on some of the supplemental characters from this book, as they are an absolute hoot!

Should you read it? This is sort of a different take on your classic Beauty and the Beast tale, in that our beast is actually gorgeous. He’s more beastly in manner, not to mention a beast in the bedroom. When it comes to building sexual tension this book has perfected it to a damn near science, but I wish we would have seen a bit more connection between the characters over their love of books. It’s sort of the only time we see a soothing to his beastly manner, and I just wanted more of it. I also wasn’t a huge fan of their dispute over why Bronte was brought to Aubyn Hall to begin with. While it provided conflict to the plot, I couldn’t really understand why she was soooo offended at the thought of being brought there because he’d seen her before.

Smut Level: Caine just loves to make a happy hour of Bronte, in that he has the tendency to pour his alcoholic beverages over her before lapping it up. While we have to wait quite a long time before they officially have sex, we get a delightful amount of dirty talk and teasing before then.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 153 Pages.

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The Search by Nora Roberts

This is a tale of intrigue, murder, and a copy cat killer on the loose. And yet, I must say I found one of the most disturbing scenes in this novel to revolve around a soft drink. At one point a friend of our main character goes over to her house and is offered a cold beverage, at which point the friend requests a Coca-Cola. Our female lead responds that she just has Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. And the friend…proceeds…to drink it. Now, whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi I think we can all view this scene as an affront to human nature! You can’t just flip flop between the two!! Let alone accept diet when you wanted regular (for the record Coca-Cola is the best).

What’s it About?

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To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life—a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare. Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s an intensely private wood artist and the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy named Jaws. As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.

First Impression

This novel presents us with a rather odd blend of romantic comedy and murder mystery. On the one hand, we have Fiona, our strong-willed dog trainer who happens to find love with a new client who is having trouble with a rambunctious puppy. On the flip side, a killer has his sights set on Fiona, as she escaped from the clutches of this copycat’s mentor years before. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of disorienting to be laughing at the crazy antics of our untrained puppy while also remaining fearful of the evil we know is lurking in the background. Personally I felt the novel focused a bit too much on the light-hearted romance aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cute romantic comedy, and it was refreshing at times to be presented with another funny furry shenanigan after a rather brutal murder scene. However, it was also jarring to have so many cute scenes, and then suddenly switch gears to a short chapter involving our demented killer. In my opinion, the novel would have benefited from a more evened balance of romance vs. suspense.

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Give it To Me Straight

Now, I know what you all are wondering. Sure, we have a killer out there terrorizing young college females out for solitary runs through the woods. But…do any of the dogs die? Don’t lie, that’s exactly what you were wondering! Well, to all those pet lovers out there, let me take this moment to give you a brief spoiler alert so you know whether or not to give this novel a chance. When it comes to the question of whether or not any beloved canines lose their lives, the answer is…sort of. Ok, yes, a dog dies. BUT! We only hear a quick retelling of a story where a dog dies by getting shot. It’s not a dog that we develop any emotional connection to. That being said, if you’re anything like my mom, I’m sure some of you will see this as a reason to avoid this book entirely. However, trust me when I say you can get past it! The dogs in this story are adorable, strong and heroic. You might even pick up on a few training techniques, so it just might be worth the read!

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Red Scarf Killer 2

While our killer was in no means a fun character to be around, I felt that we didn’t get enough of a focus on him to truly understand his drive behind these killings. When it comes to the original killer, we are presented with a clear motive which revolves around a troubled childhood and a neglectful mother. For our copycat though, we are briefly introduced to a familial undercurrent, but the desire for fame and celebrity status apparently overrides all else. However, considering he hadn’t committed any crimes before coming into contact with this original killer, it seemed like we missed the driving force, the impetus if you will, behind why he felt the need to suddenly carry out such violent and devious crimes. Unless the true reason really was to make a name for himself. In which case…well that’s just freakin’ depressing.

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The Final Confrontation

In the midst of all our puppy training and developing romance, we know that the whole book is gearing up to a final confrontation between Fiona and the copycat killer who has slowly been making his way closer and closer to her island sanctuary. Our killer starts out his murderous spree in the exact image of his mentor, but as things progress he diverges more and more from the original killer’s teachings, and his killings become increasingly violent. Consider yourself warned that some scenes are pretty disturbingly graphic, dealing with the killer’s dark desires surrounding pain, torture, and even rape. When we finally get to the ultimate confrontation between Fiona and our copycat killer, I must say it wasn’t as climactic of a final face-off as I was expecting.

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Kind of a let down considering we spent the last 400 pages or so waiting around for it to come about. I will say though, in the end it was probably more realistic that Fiona wouldn’t be caught alone and unawares to be kidnapped by a psychotic killer for a second time in her life. Pretty much from page 1 we see how Fiona is the ultimate bad ass, trained in self-defense, and is constantly surrounded by her three loving canines who would do anything to protect her. Throughout the novel I became increasingly worried that we would ultimately be confronted with a scenario where Fiona would suddenly be found separated from her dogs, friends and new lover to be left as a sitting duck for our Red Scarf Killer. While that doesn’t happen, and our female lead does retain her bad ass status when eventually confronted with the killer, it made for a less exciting finish than I was expecting after so much build-up. In the end, the confrontation ends pretty quickly, and without much mystery or surprise.

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Series: Stand-alone.

Should you read it? Oddly enough, we probably could have removed the killer element completely from this story, and still have been left with a perfectly well-rounded romantic comedy. It was kind of bizarre to have this darker murderous element built in at such seemingly random times. In the end I’d have to say the biggest setback to this being a well-balanced suspenseful romance was the length of the novel. If it had been about 100 pages shorter, and with a handful less dog training scenes, it would have been damn-near perfect. The lead characters, both human and canine, have extremely strong and loving personalities. At times our male lead is a bit too fearful of admitting his feelings of love and commitment to Fiona, but in the end they have a special bond that even a killer can’t break.

Smut Level: You’d think it’d be tough for these two to find a moment alone, considering all the dogs constantly surrounding them. But…well that’s the benefit of a shower, now isn’t it?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. $5.88 Hardcover Price. Berkley Publishing. 497 Pages.

Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

From New Zealand to Los Angeles, sometimes you have to take a chance and go the distance for true love. Even when it involves a world famous rock star.

What’s it About?

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A bad boy wrapped in a sexy, muscled, grown-up package might be worth a little risk… Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media’s harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction.

A one-night stand with the hottest rock star on the planet, that’s all it was meant to be… Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he’ll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own. Sex and sin and sensual indulgence, all with an expiration date. No ties, no regrets. Too late, Molly realizes it isn’t only her body that’s become addicted to Fox, but her heart…

First Impressions

The meet cute is everything in a romance novel. When Molly first sets her eyes on Fox, in person, for the first time she is immediately smitten. She’s aware of his rock-star status, and is undeniably drawn to his sex appeal and dark persona. As someone who’s always played by the rules, Molly admits to herself that she could see herself taking a chance with this one. Even if it’s just for one night. Fox on the other hand? He’s been eyeing her from across the room all night long. He knows that Molly isn’t just someone he wants to take to bed, but rather is someone he wants to have a future with. She’s different than other women, and he’s dead set on convincing her that he’s different than other men. That they have a connection which is worth more than one night.

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Now, why was it that Fox’s commitment beam was focused so specifically on Molly? Honestly, I have…no…idea. And it bugs me! Throughout the whole novel I kept waiting around for some sort of explanation, or window into what Fox was feeling that night. How, considering his life in the limelight, he knew that this woman was so different than any other woman who had come before. Sure, we could say that it’s because she just wanted one night with him when other women had always demanded more. We could perhaps theorize that it’s because Molly’s sister is his PR rep, and maybe she had shared with him the details of how amazing and special her sister was. But we never hear that from Fox directly, and it’s kind of killing me to wonder how he knew before even speaking to her that she was worth pursuing so vehemently. Perhaps we’re dealing with a rock star with a bad case of love at first sight.

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From Part 1 to 2

While I didn’t really understand the logistics of their initial meet-cute, I must say the progression of their relationship was addicting to behold. A note to all the romance authors out there, this book is the perfect example of how to divide a novel into multiple parts. Part 1 of the book is set entirely in New Zealand, and is mainly focused on laying the foundation of Molly and Fox’s relationship. They’re getting to know each other, both physically and emotionally, and Fox is trying his damnedest to convince Molly to take a chance on him. She’s hesitant to enter into a long-term romantic relationship with him because she knows that if the paparazzi catch wind of their affair, then the sordid details of her family’s past will come to light. She’ll have to relive it all. But with Fox by her side, she realizes it just might be worth the risk. Cue Part 2.

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About halfway through the book we get a “Part 2” heading, and we immediately switch gears to Fox’s home turf in Los Angeles. The focus changes to living life in the fast lane, and wondering if their relationship is strong enough to face the pressures of reality and celebrity. And I must say, it’s unbelievable how important that little “Part 2” heading was. If it hadn’t been indicated, I think the book would have felt ridiculously disconnected, almost as though we were dealing with two books smashed together into one. But just by having that little heading, I was able to mentally prepare myself for the story to veer off into another direction. This is when Molly and Fox’s relationship is truly put to the test.

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Testing the Waters

There are bound to be disagreements and arguments in every relationship, especially when a couple moves in together. Considering this particular couple is moving in together after only knowing each other for a month, he’s a famous rock star, and she left behind all she knew in New Zealand to be with him? Yeah, you can prepare yourself for a spat or two. Now, I must say at times I found their dynamics during these arguments to be somewhat problematic. It seemed like Molly was always the one apologizing to Fox for whatever disagreement they seemed to be having. For example, at one point after the move to Los Angeles they get into a fight because she decides to buy groceries for them,  considering he’s always the one to purchase things.

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Fox kind of goes off the rails and says she needs to get used to the fact that he’ll want to spoil her a bit and pay for things. Mkay, I must say this kind of upset me. This woman just quit her job, said goodbye to all of her friends, packed up, and moved all the way to the other side of the world to be with him. She’s getting situated into a new life where she’s trying to feel needed, helpful, useful, and instead she feels guilty for always accepting his money. Let her pay for the damn groceries! If this is a way that she feels she can contribute to the relationship while she’s trying to get her life in order as he creates music all day, why use it as a source for an argument? Just have kitchen sex or something and get over it. It’s just one example, but there were a few times in the novel where it seemed like Fox would kind of snip at Molly for trying to acclimate to his world.

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The Truth Comes Out

Throughout the entire novel we are waiting for two major reveals. The first is the truth surrounding Molly’s family, specifically her father. The details are hinted at here and there, but we really have to wait a while before Molly has an honest and open discussion with Fox about the particulars. And I must say it is an utterly heartbreaking reveal. It finally makes sense why Molly was so hesitant to enter into a relationship with Fox. She didn’t want the paparazzi to start digging into her past, and drudge up all the horrific memories she’s tried to put behind her for so long. However, this sad past also highlights the beauty of her present relationship with Fox. She’s finally living her life for herself, taking chances and making decisions based on what she thinks will bring her true happiness. And for her that means Fox. He helps her learn how to live in the moment, and understand that a future with him can bring even more joy and love. Quite touching!

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The other big moment that we’re waiting around for is the discovery of Molly and Fox’s relationship by the paparazzi. And of course something else which goes hand-in-hand with that: the insinuation by the paparazzi of infidelity. There was no way it could be avoided, but there’s the constant wonder of when and how it will happen. And when it finally does I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the aftermath. At first Molly is devastated, and her flight response kicks in. But then lo and behold she does something that most romance novel leading ladies in a similar situation always seem incapable of. She takes a moment to breathe, calm down, and think things through logically. Molly reminds herself of not only how much she loves Fox, but all the different ways he’s convinced her of how dedicated he is to her. She then proceeds to talk to him about her fears and doubts, and together they are able to find their way through the mishaps and misunderstandings. Who knew they could be such cool-headed adults!! Did it make for a somewhat uneventful read when dramatic reveals were handled in such a mindful way? Sure, in a way, but it was also unbelievably refreshing to not once again see a female lead who could be so easily dismayed and swindled by gossip rags.

Series: Rock Kiss, book 1. I’m excited to see the romance stories of our other bad boy members of the band who played such crucial supplemental roles in this first story. Each musician appears to have a distinct personality, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them more.

Should you read it? Definitely an interesting story arch as we see our couple build their relationship from the coast of New Zealand to the fast pace of LA. They have their ups and downs along the way, with both of their pasts coming back to test them. However, they also find strength in each other, which helps them through the inevitable challenges of fame and romance. I do wish we learned a bit more of the impetus for Fox’s initial link to Molly, and why he was so willing to fight for her considering the start of their relationship was primarily based around sex. They eventually develop a heartwarming emotional connection that has you crossing your fingers in the hope that they’ll succeed through all the paparazzi mayhem. Personally I really enjoyed their ability to not give into the artificial drama which was being created around them, but instead they could focus on the importance of their own relationship and that with their closest friends and band mates.

Smut Level: This romance definitely has an interesting balance of scenes which are kind of glossed over, and then others which are provided in explicit detail. You never quite know what you’re gonna get!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. TKA Distribution. 406 Pages.