Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

Title: Lexicon
Author: Max Barry
Genre: Sci-fi Thriller
Release Date: 18 June 2013

At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics—at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science .Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”: adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.

Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Brontë, Eliot, and Lowell—who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Parke is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.

As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless. Max Barry’s most spellbinding and ambitious novel yet, Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love—whatever the cost.

As a lover of language - how we use it to not only communicate but change the world around us - this book was immediately interesting to me. Words are important, a sentiment uttered more than once in this book and implied throughout. To put it bluntly, words mean things, and should be chosen with care and respect.

I'm not even quite sure what I was expecting of this book anymore, but it does start out running - and you better be prepared to chase after to keep up. You're thrust right into the action, on a bathroom floor as Wil gets a needle shoved into his eye and questions hammered at him. Then there's shooting and running and all sorts of other things being thrown at you. I will say that the book hardly had a slow moment. There was a 10% section somewhere near the middle that didn't seem to be bursting with fights, but that was it. Otherwise it was non-stop. Unfortunately, this didn't exactly appeal to me. I enjoy some good action, but it's characters that I care about most and here the characters never came alive for me.

Honestly, I find I have trouble even describing them. Instead of the actions of the world shaping them, and their choices, I felt like they were players on a stage with pre-determined events. They moved from one event to the next. It was the events that were important here, not the characters.

The language aspect, which I was really looking forward to, was mostly glossed over, or used as a platform to talk about social media, media bias, and speak about society today in general. I enjoyed these thoughts objectively - I've thought them before; that I make too much of myself available on social media and the internet, enabling companies to compile data about me to better sell to me, or convince me of whatever they want. With targeted advertisements flooding websites, it's not hard to believe some of the things the Poets do or plan. I liked this in the same way I like a good debate though, in person. It's interesting and fascinating - but written down it just becomes a bit dry. And these moments - either clippings from news sources about events in the book, or messages on internet discussion boards, or comments/discussion from readers served only to slow the book down and bog down the action. Interesting, but ultimately it felt redundant, and I felt that time could have been better used elsewhere.

More time spent on explaining what the hell is going on would have been appreciated. The book jumps from character POV to character POV, with barely a word that it's happening. It jumps from timeline to timeline to timeline, we're working with about 4 different and distinct timelines here, and it sometimes took me pages to figure out which timeline I was in. I spent the first 30% of the book with no clue as to any of the basic structure of the world, the motives of any of the characters, or the reason things were happening. When I finally did begin to get an idea, I felt like the book was doling out information like it was a precious commodity. Perhaps that's fitting in a book about the importance of words, but I didn't like feeling like a mark that was being 'compromised' - in case you're wondering, they compromise you and make you do whatever they want.

I think it kind of succeeded though because I did end up finishing the book, despite my wanting to DNF it several times. I almost did the last time at 80% of the way in, when I could barely make myself care how it all turned out. I did though, and I can't really determine if I'm glad or not. After the hell the characters were put through in the book it all tied up a bit too neatly for me.

Perhaps this is a case of this book just not being for me. It's possible that what I was hoping for and what I got were simply on widely separate ends of the spectrum. I can't pretend that I enjoyed this book though. I vacillated between confusion, boredom and irritation too much throughout.

Grade: D-

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GIVEAWAY: Her Sexiest Mistake by Jill Shalvis

Author: Jill Shalvis

Find Jill Shalvis:


Buy Her Sexiest Mistake:

Barnes and Noble

Mia Appleby finally has the life she always wanted. She's escaped her trailer trash childhood and built a nice life for herself with a marketing job and a cute, little condo. But no matter how much baggage she's ditched from her past, she still hasn't managed to shake her greatest weakness-men. So when her new neighbor turns out to be single and oh-so-sexy, Mia's worried she's playing with fire . . .

Kevin McKnight can't get enough of his gorgeous neighbor, but after one amazing night, she's already showing him the door. Something tells him this is the way she handles most men. But Kevin is far from your average guy-and he's ready to prove it to Mia. When a blast from her past shakes up Mia's life in a major way, will she stick with her self-sufficient solo act . . . or take a chance leaning on Kevin's strong shoulders?


The kiss started out sweet, soft, but cranked to intense quickly, a hot, deep, wet connection that reminded her that their bodies knew each other, craved each other like air, and that being this close was inviting the inexplicable maelstrom that occurred every time she let him put his hands on her. She stopped thinking then, just let herself feel, starting with the pure sensation of his solid, hard-muscled body against hers and ending with the heat of his mouth as he deepened the kiss.

He put his hands on her now, in her hair, holding her face, then with a groan glided them down her body, touching everything he could as he trapped her between the hard desk and his tough body. He stroked her breasts, then slid his hands beneath her clothes to warm her flesh with his hands, and the simmer burst into flames.

When he finally pulled back, she was grateful to have the desk behind her holding her up, because he’d just decimated her, burst right through her every single defense with one simple kiss.

Simple? Ha! She’d never been kissed, so thoroughly, so deliberately, so absolutely fully.

He staggered back a step himself, looking surprised and just as shaky. “There,” he said in a voice low and ragged and satisfyingly hoarse. “You’re finally speechless. I like you that way.”

She stared at him, let out a sound of disgust, and pushed past him to the door. “You’re an ass.”

She slammed the door behind her, a gaffe that surely announced in a scream how he affected her, but she couldn’t seem to help it. No more, she told herself. No more. She was Mia Appleby, ad exec, queen of her world, and no one made her crazy. She kept her cool at all times.

Author Bio:

New York Times Bestselling author Jill Shalvis wrote RESCUE MY HEART and FOREVER AND A DAY, along with many other romance novels including her acclaimed Lucky Harbor series. The Rita winner and 3-time National Readers Choice winner makes her home near Lake Tahoe. Visit her website at http://www.jillshalvis.com for a complete book list and daily blog, and http://www.facebook.com/jillshalvis for other news.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: If Only by Cherise Sinclair

Title: If Only
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 8
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 5 November 2013

After the last fiasco, Sally gives up. She’ll never find a Dom of her own. Instead the computer whizz is job hunting in between bending the law—just a bit—to unearth the bastards who’d enslaved her friends. The clueless cops and Feds obviously need help.

FBI special agents, Galen and Vance, have waited to play with Sally for a long time. When the mischievous submissive returns to the exclusive Shadowlands BDSM club after an ugly relationship, the experienced co-tops are pleased. Realizing she’s suppressing her emotions, the powerful Doms push her—only to find that her sassiness conceals a scarred and vulnerable heart.

Shaken by the unexpected emotional exposure, Sally flees the demanding Masters and the Shadowlands.

Both Galen and Vance have reasons not to seek a long-term submissive, but when a brutal attack by her ex-Dom sends Sally into their home, the two agents are driven to protect her. To help her. To take her under command. Falling in love isn’t in the plans.

But as the little imp brings light into their lives, they begin to want more…until they discover she’s hacked into an organization that delights in burning people alive.

I feel like I've been waiting for this story for years - oh, wait, I have been. *g* Sally has been a central fixture in the trainee program at the Shadowlands since the beginning, and I've always loved her. She's sassy and smart, loyal and determined, and so much fun. I'd love to be friends with her. What I didn't realize until this book was that she was hurting - and perhaps she didn't even realize it in truth. Some hurts run deeper than we can even acknowledge, and it takes two determined men to bring Sally further out of her shell than she's ever been.

Galen and Vance are FBI agents that have been helping to break the human-slave trafficking ring that has affected several submissives in the previous few books. Just recently having moved and made their home in Tampa, they're now Masters in the Shadowlands and finally feel able to set their sites on one mischievous sub - Sally. Her sassiness and wit, her sparkling personality are what draw them to want to play with her, but it's her heart that draws them in.

I will be the first to admit, I don't generally like menage stories and I especially usually don't like them when they're MFM - meaning that the men only are involved with the woman intimately, or sexually. Mostly this is because I don't think most books that tackle this manage to show how equal the love is between all parties. And if you're going to have a permanent menage, I need to know that everything is equal between them all. So no matter how much I was looking forward to this story, and I had a strong feeling that Sally was going to end up with both Galen and Vance since To Command and Collar, I was trepidatious, too.

I needn't have been. The love, affection, caring and need between the two men is just as heartfelt, needful and deep as anything between them and Sally. They're so close as to be two parts of a (nearly) whole. They compliment each other and neither of them can stand the thought of living without the other. What I love is how Sally compliments them both. The other nice thing is that Galen and Vance have been co-Topping (as they sometimes call it) for a long time - they're comfortable in their roles with the submissive, and with each other. It's a fascinating - and incredibly sexy - dynamic.

The Masters of the Shadowlands has been my favorite BDSM romance series for years now. I re-read it often, and always look forward to re-visiting the characters at the club. My only disappointment with this book is that it seems to be coming to an end. I know that Cherise Sinclair has said on her website that she's writing Master Jake's book, but I doubt the series will continue past this much, if at all. And it's a little sad to see it all ending. Though we've gotten the stories of nearly all the characters, there are still some that I'd love to see how they're doing, and what they're up to.

Grade: A

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: This Is Who I Am by Cherise Sinclair

Title: This Is Who I Am
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 7
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 27 May 2013

When trying to save a woman from slavers, Sam screwed up. Royally. Now Linda wants nothing to do with him. Or with BDSM. She won’t even admit she’s a masochist. As a dominant and sadist, he can give her what she needs, and when an opportunity arises, he slips into her life, intending to make amends. She’s everything he knew she would be…except for her bullheaded determination to be ‘normal’.

Now the horrible time is past, Linda just wants to return to her small conservative town, pick up her quiet life, and be normal. But how can someone who likes pain be ‘normal’? To her dismay, when someone spray-paints her home with obscenities, Sam shows up to rescue her. Again. Doesn’t he understand that the last thing she needs in her life is a sadist? He’s amused by her objections. But his dry sense of humor can’t disguise that he’s tough as nails and dominant and stubborn. He’s not going to let her drive him off this time. Soon she realizes she wants him to stay.

When he takes her to the Shadowlands, she feels as if she’s found a home…until she hears a voice from out of her nightmares.

It's been a long hiatus between books - from 2011 to 2013 - in this series, and then an even longer one for me. I didn't read this book until just a few days ago. I admit that Master Sam made me uncomfortable. I liked him whenever he showed up in the other books, but I wasn't sure how I felt about reading and entire book with his sadism at the fore.

Fortunately, once again, I needn't have worried. Cherise Sinclair took me well past my comfort zone and made me love this book. Sam and Linda are a perfect match, and seeing them recognize who they are - separately and together - is incredibly satisfying.

Linda has healed a lot since her involvement with the slavers (that we were first introduced to in Make Me, Sir). She's had a few months to heal and has started to get her life back on track. But she's also denying a very important part of herself - that she's a masochist and needs pain to feel complete. Again, this isn't something I understand at all, but I thought Ms. Sinclair did a wonderful job of showing Linda's needs and how she comes to terms with them.

Sam's need to be a sadist is a bit more unclear to me. I understand that he gets something out of the exchange, but I'm still not sure what. And that's okay. While I would never be okay with a lot of the things that Sam and Linda enjoy, I understood that they did - and that made me love this book ... even when I was supremely uncomfortable.

Cherise Sinclair's Masters of the Shadowlands series is still a favorite for me. And with Sally's book - one I feel like I've been waiting forever for - up next, it seems it's going to continue to be great.

Grade: A-

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Review: To Command and Collar by Cherise Sinclair

Title: To Command and Collar
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 6
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 29 November 2011

Determined to find the human traffickers preying on Shadowlands' submissives, Master Raoul gets himself invited to a small slave auction. Once informed, the FBI orders him to reject the limited choices so the slavers will invite him to the big auction. To Raoul's shock, one of the slaves is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands sub. She has a scarred body…and an unbroken spirit. He can't leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s carefully laid plans, he buys her.

Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still slaves. An FBI raid is their only hope for rescue. Desperate to help the Feds locate the big auction, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Wearing a collar again is terrifying, but under the powerful dominant’s care, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom. This is what she’s been drawn to—and fled from—her entire life.

She escaped the slavers who captured her body—can she escape the master who’s captured her heart?

The first five books in the series have followed a very similar dynamic between the characters - a D/s relationship that involved mostly the power exchange to occur during play, during sex. I admit that's the dynamic that I'm most comfortable with, but what I learned in this book is that Cherise Sinclair can easily make me understand other dynamics that I may not have understood so well before. In To Command and Collar we get to explore the dynamic of a full-time Master/slave (and I have to add how much I hate that word) relationship.

This is a 24/7 power exchange, and I can't explain it nearly as well as this book does. Kimberly needs the security of the rules and position, Raoul needs the security and satisfaction of caring for her that much. Before reading this I never would have understood why a woman, or anyone, would want to give up that much control in their life. It sounded too much like slavery to me. But I learned different. As Kimberly struggled with her needs to submit, I began to understand much more too. Living in this lifestyle didn't detract from her, it made her stronger.

Now, Kimberly was coming out of a horrific, true slavery experience. She had been kidnapped, trained - read beaten and raped - and sold. When she tried to kill her 'Master', she was returned to the slavers on death's doorstep. But she survived. She endured and came out the other side, still determined to try to escape. Kim didn't have much hope that she actually would escape, but she was going to try - no matter what. I admired her so, so much. Even if I did think her recovery was a bit quick. However, I took this in pure escapist reading and didn't allow my mind to settle on it too terribly long. We've seen a lot of issues get worked through by Doms and their subs, and though these were a bit more extreme, that's what we see here too.

Raoul, I genuinely liked. He cared, and fell deeper for Kim than he even meant to. Circumstance and determination to take the slavers down threw them together for a trial-by-fire. And they pulled each other through it. I hurt for some of the things he had to do in order to both help Kimberly and to make the ruse believable. He really struggled with the roles they were assigned.

Overall, the believability of Kim's healing kept this from being a higher rating, but I greatly enjoyed To Command and Collar. Ms. Sinclair continues to test my comfort levels - Master Sam, the sadist is up next - and always gives me something to look forward to. I re-read these books a lot, because they're sexy, fun, and have great characters.

Grade: A-

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Review: Make Me, Sir by Cherise Sinclair

Title: Make Me, Sir
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 5
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 1 February 2011

Her job is to make his life miserable. His job is to make her submit. Whose heart will surrender first?

Across the country, rebellious BDSM submissives are being systematically kidnapped, one from each club. When her friend falls prey to the slavers, FBI victim specialist Gabrielle volunteers to be bait in a club not yet hit: the Shadowlands.

She finds that being a bratty sub comes naturally, especially when she gets to twit the appallingly conservative Master of the trainees. But she soon discovers he's not as stuffy as she'd thought. Or as mean. She'd expected punishment, even humiliation, but she sure never expected to fall in love with a damned lawyer.

Courtesy of a prima donna ex-wife, Marcus loathes disobedient submissives. When the club owner insists he admit an incredibly bratty trainee, he's furious. But as he comes to know Gabrielle and sees the alluring sweetness beneath the sass, he starts to fall for her.

Unfortunately, Marcus isn't the only one who believes the feisty redhead is a prize worth capturing. And in the world of the slaver, such treasure is worth a hefty fee.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I first picked up Make Me, Sir. We didn't know Marcus too well, and Gabi was completely new to me. And it ended up being my favorite. Even after reading the rest of the series, Make Me, Sir remains my favorite book out of all the Masters of the Shadowlands.

Considering it contains two of my biggest book-annoyances, even I'm surprised that it's a favorite at times. Big Misunderstandings and Deceptions are generally deal breakers for me. However, Cherise Sinclair handles them so beautifully that I barely even recognized that they were being used in this story while I was reading it.

Marcus, the sexy southern lawyer, and Gabi, the rebellious, strong, big-hearted victim specialist are absolutely wonderful together. Seeing Marcus fall for someone he didn't even realize he needed, and Gabi learn that sometimes first impressions are not the whole story and a person you imagined not being able to stand could turn into your whole life - just made me so happy. I loved every moment of watching them get to know one another.

Since it also starts the human trafficking story-arc that continues for the next several books, the suspense plot is interesting and heart-wrenching. My heart broke for the women being taken, and for Gabi's need to do good.

Make Me, Sir is the book that I've re-read the most since it was first released. That it introduces Galen and Vance (double yum) is just a huge plus.

Grade: A

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Review: Lean on Me by Cherise Sinclair

Title: Lean on Me
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 4
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 30 March 2010

Andrea wants to submit, but not to just any so-called Dom. He has to be tougher than the slum-bred bullies she grew up with. She’d given up finding a true Dom when her friend finagles her a place as a trainee in an exclusive BDSM club with the powerful Shadowlands Masters. Andrea’s thrilled…and terrified.

Forced to accept an unknown submissive into his carefully run trainee program, Master Cullen is furious. Not only is the young woman new to BDSM, but she’s unsuited to her role--armoured in leather like a Domme, she’s more liable to punch a Dom than kneel. He decides to push her right back out the door. But as he ruthlessly intimidates her, punishes her, then cuddles her, his glimpse of the woman inside the emotional armour intrigues him, and her utter surrender captures his heart.

Although Master Cullen is famous for his unfettered lifestyle, Andrea believes he might be interested in her, until she discovers he’s not just a bartender--he’s a cop. Maybe he’d overlook her past brush with the law, but when another trainee accuses her of stealing money, Andrea knows she’s lost the Master she wanted with all her heart.

I admit I've been looking forward to Cullen's book since we first met the charismatic bartender in the first book Club Shadowlands. He's always seemed so easy-going, definitely my mistake as we (and Andrea) learn here, but I wasn't wrong about his kindness and his innate sexiness.

Unfortunately, for me, Andrea brought my enjoyment of this book down somewhat. I like her determination to do for herself, her pride in her work and her ability to help others, but I got so irritated - as did Cullen - with her need to not rely on anyone. She not only wouldn't ask anyone for help, she was bound and determined to never let anyone help her. She hurt her friends by not letting them care for her, and hurt Cullen more than once with the same overtly-independent desires. I do understand why she was that way, and how it could be incredibly tough to get past, but it was just too much for me at the same time. Probably because I know how irritating - and hurtful - it is to have someone deny my help.

Still, Lean on Me is a nice addition to this series, Cullen is fabulous, and Andrea does eventually realize exactly what she's doing and works hard to change. I really appreciated the lengths she went to prove to both herself and Cullen that she could change. And the lengths he employed to ensure they both knew they could count on each other.

In my opinion, the Masters of the Shadowlands series is still the best erotic BDSM series out there. Lean on Me is the first full-length novel in the series and I love seeing the additional character development and growth that Cherise Sinclair gives us. I highly recommend Ms. Sinclair's books in general, and this series in particular.

Grade: B+

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: Breaking Free by Cherise Sinclair

Title: Breaking Free
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 3
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 2 June 2013

Beth must yield to become aroused, but she's too scared to give up control. The last thing she wants is a ruthless, powerful Dom. But that's just what she gets, and exactly what she needs...

A sadistic husband left Beth scarred, inside and out. Only at the Shadowlands BDSM club does she feel like a woman. But her fears limit her to Doms who won't overwhelm her— the very ones who cannot arouse her. The Master of the Shadowlands gives her an ultimatum: accept the Dom he assigns or lose her membership. The last thing Beth wants is a ruthless, powerful Dom, but that's just what she gets.

Asked to take on a problem sub, Nolan sees the issue immediately— although truly submissive, the little redhead is too scared to relinquish control and her Doms have let her get away with it. That will change right now.

As Master Nolan takes Beth under command, compelling her submission, she's terrified, but the experienced Dom brings her pleasure, not pain. His only demand is that she never lie to him. Under his capable hands, her body comes alive, and she begins to heal. As he pushes her limits, she learns to trust...and then to love. And she realizes he is beginning to care for her in return.

But now her cruel husband has found her, and Master Nolan discovers she's been lying and lying and lying...

Though this is still a novella, Breaking Free packs a lot of story and character development into its pages; it's easily the best in the Masters of the Shadowlands series yet.

Beth is such a great character; she's so incredibly strong and absolutely inspiring. After escaping her incredibly abusive husband she's managed to begin rebuilding her life, not only starting her own business but recognizing her needs as well. Not only does she realize that she needs BDSM, but she continues to seek it out. After what she's been through that's an entirely amazing fact in and of itself. But she's not getting what she needs either.

Master Z, owner of Club Shadowlands, won't allow her true needs to continue unmet, so he assigns her a Dom - telling her that she must allow Nolan to attempt to work with her and see if he can't help her work past her issues. Of course, Z doesn't really know what he's open them up for either.

Nolan knows he's taking on a challenge, but he doesn't begin to realize how much of a challenge Beth is - or how much baggage she brings with her. He's a strong Dom and he scares Beth with his ability to control her. The way that he skillfully pushes her limits, prompting her healing and growth, her ability to recognize her needs, is amazing to me. He's walking a emotional minefield, and not even Beth understands where all the triggers may be.

I loved seeing these two find each other, pull towards the others and give something that neither knew they were looking for. I did have one slight moment of irritation at Nolan, but was able to forgive him for his absolutely emotional response - he simply wasn't being logical when he got hit in his emotions.

This is the book that cemented my love for Cherise Sinclair. Her ability to give such a satisfying story in such a short format - sexy, emotional, and heart-wrenching - made her one of my go-to authors for all things erotic. And next up is the sexy bartender, Cullen. Yum.

Grade: A

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Review: Dark Citadel by Cherise Sinclair

Title: Dark Citadel
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 2
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 7 April 2009

After Kari breaks up with her date during Beginner's Night at Club Shadowlands, she's given the option to continue with an experienced dominant. Despite her steamy fantasies about BDSM, the inexperienced schoolteacher plans to simply observe. Yet under the unyielding hands of Master Dan, she not only participates, but gives him everything he asks for. There is nothing she can hide from him. Not her passion…or her love.

Still mourning the death of his wife, Master Dan avoids getting involved with women and he never takes a sub twice. But this modest little beginner is such a sweetie, one night is far from enough. As he plumbs her responses, taking her ever deeper into the world of BDSM, the gentle submissive begins to show him how barren his life has become and what a dark citadel he's made of his heart.

During their three nights together, the teacher will learn to submit...can she teach the master to love?

I enjoyed coming back to visit Club Shadowlands, and the Masters there. In Dark Citadel we're treated to a beginners' class. Kari arrives with her boyfriend - who's a real asshole - and ends up dumping him when he oversteps his bounds. Luckily, Master Dan is there to help her explore her desires and questions about BDSM.

Kari's a school teacher that isn't quite sure if she should be even doing this. She's interested, more than, but at the same time she can't figure out what possessed her to agree to stay and play with such an intimidating, experienced Dom. I really like how she's secure in herself; Kari may not always be comfortable with her body, but she knows what she deserves and isn't afraid to demand it.

Master Dan hasn't let anyone get close since his wife's death several years ago. He doesn't want to risk letting anyone into his heart, but he's incredibly caring and the instant connection between Kari and himself is hard to deny - not that that prevents him from seriously messing up a few times.

Dan's own issues lead him to hurt Kari a couple of times - without meaning to - and I love how she calls him on it and tells him that she deserves more.

Dark Citadel is another novella so there's not really an outside plot, simply Kari and Dan getting to know each other, themselves and decide that they deserve happiness - something they can find with each other.

Grade: B

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Club Shadowlands by Cherise Sinclair

Title: Club Shadowlands
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Series: Masters of the Shadowlands, Book 1
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Original Release Date: January 2009

Her car disabled during a tropical storm, Jessica Randall discovers the isolated house where she's sheltering is a private bondage club. At first shocked, she soon becomes aroused watching the interactions between the Doms and their subs. But she's a professional woman--an accountant--and surely isn't a submissive...is she?

Master Z hasn't been so attracted to a woman in years. But the little sub who has wandered into his club intrigues him. She's intelligent. Reserved. Conservative. After he discovers her interest in BDSM, he can't resist tying her up and unleashing the passion she hides within.

I've re-read this book many times over the years since it was first released. Cherise Sinclair has become the go-to author I read and recommend when I'm looking for good erotic, BDSM, romance. Her Masters of the Shadowlands series continues to get better and better and I almost can't help but love it.

A lot of how you end up feeling about this book is going to depend on how you go into it. I do have some qualms about some of the things that happen between Z and Jessica, and some of the decisions - or lack thereof - that Jessica makes. However that doesn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the novel.

My biggest concern with this book probably comes directly at the beginning; Jessica's been in a car accident, is soaked and seeking shelter from the storm. She walks up to Club Shadowlands, unknowingly, looking for shelter. And there, freezing and unable to stop shivering, her mind not really working, she's required to sign consent papers in order to get in someplace warm to wait for help.

I do understand the reasoning for the consent forms, and her signature. With that type of club it's absolutely necessary. Honestly, health clubs won't let you walk around unescorted without signing consent and liability forms. But she was clearly in distress. There had to be an office she could have gone to, or something. Though that option wouldn't have moved the story along, so I eventually just accepted it and moved on. Once past that I fairly easily got into the story.

I liked watching Jessica be introduced to something so outside her comfort zone, and something she so clearly wanted to learn and experience more of. Master Z is the perfect person to show her everything she's curious about. Jessica's uncomfortable in her body, and I loved how it was shown that Z found her beautiful, without shaming other body types. One of my favorite things about her was her determination - to face her fears, her desires and recognize her needs. Accept them, and acknowledge them. She didn't back down from what she was feeling once she realized she was feeling it. The only thing I didn't like is that she was all too quick to dismiss herself in other people's eyes. It's an insecurity thing, and I understand it, but it's not my favorite thing to read. I do like how Z step by step allays any of her fears though.

I also really love how, with this being a short story, it's not all HEA (happily-ever-after) by the end. It's clear they're together and going to move forward in their relationship, but love's not declared, she's not moving in, they're not getting married. It's so refreshing.

And, I'd be remiss, if I didn't talk about the tension and the sex - which is scorching hot! This book is so utterly readable, pulling you along on this journey into consensual BDSM and so tantalizing while it does it. Cherise Sinclair is the first name I say when someone is looking to dive into BDSM erotica. I've recommended her hundreds of times and many of my friends that had doubts ended up enjoying something they never thought they would. Since my introduction I've read a lot more in this particular sub-genre, and I still haven't found anyone that combines all the elements as well as Ms. Sinclair. Club Shadowlands is a quick, sexy start to a series and a wonderful introduction, or addition, to a genre.

Grade: B+

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Review: Roman Holiday - Blindsided by Ruthie Knox

Title: Roman Holiday - Blindsided
Author: Ruthie Knox
Series: Roman Holiday, Part 3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 25 November 2013

In Episode 3 of Ruthie Knox’s eBook original serial, Roman Holiday, Ashley has led Roman across state lines in an attempt to save her home. And he’s about to learn just how wily this wild child can be.

Finally they've reached their destination, a 'hippie' commune in Georgia where Ashley's friends are. Roman is determined to unhitch the Airstream trailer and get the hell out of there, but when he gets stuck in the mud - literally - he has to remain another night.

It's amazing to me how much Ruthie Knox can pack into these small little bits of story. I'm liking Roman more and more, he's so out of his depth that he doesn't even know where to turn. Ashley keeps him completely off-balance, often without meaning to. We learn quite a bit more about Roman's history and the reason his drive to succeed is so high. I really can't wait to see Ashley open him up and show him there's more to life.

Ashley on the other hand learns more about herself. While she considers going to extremes to save her grandmother's resort, she finds out what her limits are and recognizes that sometimes the unconventional way is the best way to go. I liked this added depth. Ashley asks for advice, accepts it on some level, but then realizes that's not who she is. She has to conquer this in her own way.

I really loved the introduction of Roman's girlfriend - Carmen - and the fact that she's not the bad-guy here. She and Roman are just obviously not in love, not meant for each other. They both feel it's only right they're together, and I think they genuinely like each other, but that's about the end of it. I hope that Carmen finds the one that makes her feel everything she's been missing too; we get a hint (not so subtle) of who that's going to be. I'm excited.

I do have to admit that I didn't love this little bit in the swamps of Georgia, mostly because I didn't like the people there and how they always seemed to be laughing at Roman, at his expense. I enjoy him being uncomfortable and out of his element, but this just went a little too far for me.

I still can't wait to see what the rest of Ashley's friends and their new journey has in store for them both.

Grade: B+

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Roman Holiday - Hitched by Ruthie Knox

Title: Roman Holiday - Hitched
Author: Ruthie Knox
Series: Roman Holiday, Part 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 18 November 2013

Ruthie Knox’s eBook original serial, Roman Holiday, continues in Episode 2, as Ashley and Roman flee an oncoming hurricane by hitting the highway—only to encounter some outrageous bumps in the road.

After the fantastic start in Part 1, I expected Ruthie Knox to continue on in greatness. Part 2, Hitched picks up nearly immediately after the ending of Chained. Roman's agreed to take Ashley to safety, though he doesn't yet have an inkling where exactly. Ashley plans to use the time on their journey to Georgia to convince him to not destroy everything she holds dear.

Chained intrigued me, the characters drawing me in and making me interested - tantalizing little hints about their history and who they are. Hitched gives us more. We learn a lot more about Roman and his tragic history, explaining a great deal about why he's so focused on being unemotional and determined to succeed. Ashley and her history is nearly as heartbreaking - if for seemingly the opposite reason. Hers full of love from her grandmother, his lacking nearly any. I couldn't help but feel for both of them.

I love how Ashley pushes at Roman. She has no idea what she's beginning to incite, but she can't help but push. She talks and talks, sings and irritates - all in an effort to get under Roman's skin. She's determined, feeling she has nothing left to lose. Watching Roman realize that Ashley is a formidable opponent is incredibly satisfying.

Roman for his part can't help but being honorable. He doesn't exactly want to be, doesn't even expect himself to be, but he can't help it. It is who he is. As Ashley begins to like him, despite herself - against her own internal objections - I couldn't help but grin. He is continuously put in increasingly uncomfortable situations, by Ashely, making him react and feel in ways he hasn't imagined. I love seeing how he reacts to these moments, to Ashley herself.

She's so full of life, so vicarious, and he's closed himself off so much that they can't help but strike sparks off each other - even if they won't admit to themselves exactly what they're feeling. When they finally reach Georgia, I'm dying to see how he deals with this next thing that Ashley's presented him with. A commune of hippies.

I'm still not a fan of serialized novels, I'd rather read the entirety of it in one go, but I have to say that Ruthie Knox is doing a wonderful job. She gives enough to make me invested, want to read on, and yet I still don't feel like the story's being cut off in an illogical place. I'm greatly enjoying this series and am immediately diving into the next one.

Grade: A

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: Roman Holiday - Chained by Ruthie Knox

Title: Roman Holiday - Chained
Author: Ruthie Knox
Series: Roman Holiday, Part 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Serial
Release Date: 11 November 2013

Meet Ashley and Roman—complete opposites who can’t hide their attraction—in Episode 1 of Ruthie Knox’s eBook original serial, Roman Holiday.

Ashley Bowman is having a bad week. Reeling from the death of her beloved grandmother, she returns to the Florida Keys only to learn that a heartless Miami developer has gotten hold of the crappy vacation rentals she calls home. Ashley has one day to clear out before Roman Díaz destroys the only place in the world that matters to her. Chaining herself to a palm tree in the bulldozers’ path seems like a good way to stop him . . . until she realizes she should've brought food and water. And pants. Also, it would help if the evil developer weren't so ridiculously hot.

The last thing Roman Díaz needs is some sun-kissed blond protester getting her picture in the newspaper and messing up his plans. He bought the property fair and square, and the resort he wants to build on the site is the key to realizing his highest ambitions. But when a hurricane blows through, Roman has to hustle Ashley to safety if he wants to protect his reputation—and that means giving in to her unreasonable demands.

Roman needs to learn a little compassion, and Ashley’s decided to teach it to him . . . even if she has to drag him all over the Eastern Seaboard to do it.

A few months ago I read my first Ruthie Knox book, and I haven't looked back since. She writes some of the best contemporary romances I've come across and instantly propelled herself to a favorite of mine with her Camelot series. I admit, I'm not a fan of serialized novels in general; too frequently they feel cut off, incomplete, and altogether less than they should be. So, it was with mixed expectations that I started this, Part 1 of Roman Holiday - Chained.

Lucky for me, Ruthie Knox delivered. Here we're introduced to our two characters - Ashley and Roman. Ashley is a woman at the end of her options. She loves the vacation home her grandmother used to own, but now that her grandmother has just died and Ashley finds out it's been sold, the only - admittedly crazy - idea she has is a protest. Chaining herself to a palm tree, with no planning, leaves her with even fewer options. But she's determined and unbreakable in her desire to save this place that means so much to her.

It means a lot to Roman as well. It's the key to his plans for the area, and he figures he can be patient enough to ride out Ashley's demands and little protest. Roman is an interesting character, he spends a lot of time thinking about how he needs to act, and how he can't let himself feel anything. Normally, this might not be the best way to get me interested in him, but the little hints about his history make me think his demeanor makes a lot of sense, and that makes me very interested.

One part a week, and I can't wait to read more of this story - even if the wait might seem like it's going to kill me.

Grade: A

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Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Title: Angelfall
Author: Susan Ee
Series: Penryn and the End of Days
Genre: Paranormal Young Adult
Release Date: 21 May 2011

It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

What can I say about this book that hasn't been said a hundred times over? I came late to this party, just a little over a week before the release of the second book in the series when most others have been anxiously awaiting the book for two years. I can't say that I'm unhappy I've missed the last couple of years of waiting and not knowing what's going to happen; but I do wish that I'd read this so much sooner than I have.

Penryn is a refreshing character in the young-adult genre - a genre that I tired of long ago, with it's twittering, helpless females and annoying love-triangles. Afterfall is nothing like those. Penryn is smart and capable and brave. Not perfect, not at all, but she's more than able to take care of herself; in fact she has the weight of caring for her family on her throughout the book as well. As I kept reading I found more and more to love about Penryn, more and more to make me root for her.

Raffe, whom it's not hard to guess who he is, I simply want more of. The little that we did learn of him I found absolutely fascinating - and I don't want to say too much here for those (few) that haven't read this book. With the events of the end of the book ringing in my head I am really looking forward to seeing what happens with Raffe in World After.

Honestly, the plot is pretty standard fare, the blurb above doesn't seem to offer anything new to the staples that we've all read over the last several years. It doesn't seem like there should be anything at all special about it. And yet, there is. I can't even do it justice.

All I can really say is that if you haven't read this yet, do it. The writing is simple and beautiful, the characters refreshing, the world intriguing - and the second book comes out next week. Stop delaying. I promise it's worth it.

Grade: A

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Review: The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan

Title: The Heiress Effect
Author: Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister, Book 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: 15 July 2013

Miss Jane Fairfield can't do anything right. When she's in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can't save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She'll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he'll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn't need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn't need to fall in love with her. But there's something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can't resist...even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

Courtney Milan is one of those authors that continuously raises the bar, and I know I can always expect great things from her. Her characters are consistently favorites of mine, and she often leaves me scrambling for what to say that I haven't said before.

Once again it's the characters that draw me so deeply into this story. Jane Fairfield is a awesome person, strong and determined, and so very smart. She uses everything at her disposal to protect the one person that she loves above all others - her sister - including making herself an absolutely laughing-stock of society. The way she completely dedicates herself to the role, going all-in, not letting a single cutting remark be seen to affect her is breath-taking for me; her inner strength is awe-inspiring. I admired the way she put herself out there, willing to be hurt, willing to be disappointed, because she couldn't stand giving anything less than all when she put her mind to something.

If you've read The Duchess War you know we've already met Oliver Marshall - the Duke of Clermont's illegitimate brother who has spent many years making himself, treading a path that he laid before himself many years ago. He's got determination in spades, but constantly at odds with that need to get where he's decided to go are his core, intrinsic values - the ones that are behind his need for fair-play and a need for equality that is just beginning to be fought for. When he meets Jane, who is nothing like what he thinks he needs, he can't help but be drawn to her fire and strength. He finds that she's everything he's never known he needed. I loved his utter honesty. Where there were plenty of opportunities for deception and misunderstandings, Courtney Milan instead gave us a twist. The characters talked and had new issues to deal with, but they dealt with them together. Being honest and open didn't solve everything, but it sure made the journey all the sweeter.

The fight for the equality of all men to vote, Jane's need to protect her sister for another year, Oliver's struggle with his own ambition and desires - all of these things flawlessly pushed the characters to their limits. What were they willing to do for the outcome they desired. How far would it push them, and what unexpected surprises awaited them along the way. I was totally invested in each of these journeys, in each of these battles - large and small. I loved how Ms. Milan tackled hard issues like racism and labor rights, the right to vote, the voice of the common people. Again, her history is inspiring and fantastic to read. Accurate and beautifully uplifting. I can't say enough good things here.

I can't wait for the next book in this series. Sebastian intrigued me from the beginning, but after reading this I'm nearly pacing the streets waiting for The Countess Conspiracy, due out December 2013. Ms. Milan always delivers a fascinating story, with these characters that are so intricately created that I can't help but love them - strengths, flaws and all.

Grade: A

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Title: The Duchess War
Author: Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: 6 December 2012

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly--so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he's up to, he realizes there is more to than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he's determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match...

I've been in a bit of a dissatisfied mood with nearly every new book I've picked up lately, but Courtney Milan has never disappointed me. I realized I had one of her books in my review pile and eagerly dove into the Brothers Sinister series. I had read The Governess Affair back when it was first released, and I loved it - highly recommended; now I was hoping that I could fall back into the wonderfully described world and meet more incredibly realized characters here.

I made a good choice. Finally. The Duchess War made me chuckle from the very beginning. I knew immediately that I was going to like these characters, that I'd end up loving them.

Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is the son of the antagonist of The Governess Affair. As such he's spent the majority of his life trying to use his father as an example of what not to be. His father used and abused people, hurting and discarding on a whim; Robert chooses to take care and try to help - in fact he feels it's his duty to serve those that may not have the same privileges as himself. A radical idea at the time, or even now amongst some. He gets tongue-tied, is honest, and beautifully direct. More than once his dry humor and lack of artifice made me smile, grin and laugh.

Minnie on the other hand is full of strategem. She's intelligent, strong, reserved, cunning, vulnerable, and a realist. She has had her dreams ripped out of her and refuses to entertain the notion again. She's just so incredibly clever. She doesn't like using her cunning against anyone else, but she knows that it might be the only defense she left at some point. I loved her no-nonsense attitude, the way she faced things head-on and tried to make the best decision available. There were times when I was like her best friend, urging her to reach a little higher, to look up, but I came to understand why she couldn't either. That she was who she was, regardless of it all, made me admire her so much more.

The secondary characters here are just as vivid. From Sebastian and Oliver, Robert's family - his fellows in the Brothers Sinister; it's amazing to watch the three of them together, or in pairs. The commradarie, the friendship between them filled with jokes and support and obvious affection. Violet, another childhood friend, was wonderful. A strong woman, able to not only hold her own against three strong men, but challenge them. I loved her immediately. There were many others, and I can't wait to see more of them in the coming books.

I won't speak too much about the plot, mostly because I find it hard to find a lot to say about it. It was the characters that really were the story for me here. The plot was the events that drove the characters and didn't register as important to me. I did find it interesting though, the thought of what Robert was trying to do, Minnie's history, how all the players were acting and reacting. But for me, it was all about the characters.

Courtney Milan is one of those few authors that is a go-to for me. Her writing is always strong, her sense of history is impeccable, and I absolutely love her characters. Not to mention that Ms. Milan takes the conventions of the genre and subverts them so beautifully and naturally that I wonder why the conventions are the norm anyway. The Duchess War was a joy for me to read precisely because of each of these.

Grade: A

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Rocking Her Curves by Aubrey Rose

Title: Rocking Her Curves
Author: Aubrey Rose
Series: Asher and Trixie, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 23 August 2013

What’s your temptation?

Asher just broke up with his long-distance girlfriend. When he meets Trixie, he's smitten by her curves – but she's the lead singer for the opening band: strictly off-limits.

Trixie can't help but be attracted to the tall, handsome skater who plays music with such passion. There's no way that he would be interested in someone who isn't a rail-thin model, would he? Anyway, she's heard that he has a girlfriend: strictly off-limits.

When their paths collide – literally – they're forced to look temptation in the face and ask themselves: What do I really want?

Rocking Her Curves is an incredibly quick, easy read. At just 59 page it doesn't long to fly through it. Aubrey Rose's writing is simple and easy to read, comfortable to fall into, and lets you get to know the characters.

And I did like the characters. Trixie is lead singer in her band, that's what initially drew me to request this book. I wanted to read about a female rock star. She's incredibly talented and seems determined to succeed. She's also a curvy woman, a woman with 'padding' as it's said in the story, and she likes it that way. She's comfortable with her body and I really thought that was great - especially when it didn't come at the expense of other body types; though there was the one moment where she was calling Asher's type "Barbie" that rubbed me the wrong way. I'm still not sure how to reconcile it.

Asher was this interesting combination of shy and awkward and strong and dominating all at the same time. His fumbling attempts at flirting with Trixie, his interest (and hers) in skateboarding, the way that he just stated the truth like there was nothing else to say. It really endeared me to him.

I was going to give this some slack for being part of a series, but from all I can tell it's not actually going to be a series that deals with Asher and Trixie - but with other people in the band/s. I knew going into it that it was a short story, I knew not to expect too terribly much, but I can't help but being disappointed. The characters were so interesting, and great (for the most part) that I wanted more.

Unfortunately we spend about 80% of the book with Trixie nearly hating Asher - thinking he's hitting on her while he has a girlfriend - and Asher trying to figure out how to get her to talk to him. We have two disappointing, almost painfully so, sex scenes with the main characters and other people; in a story this short they just take up space that could have been devoted elsewhere. I didn't need a play by play.

Then there are all these obstacles in Trixie's life that come up, and suddenly they're just brushed aside for her to say 'Yes' to Asher. One sex scene later and we're at a happily-for-now ending. I say 'for-now' because Trixie's life is kind of up in the air right now, and Asher's leaving to tour Europe in little over a week. The ending left me feeling kind of let down, like there was still too much unresolved. I still don't even really know what's going on with Trixie that everything went crazy with her schedule towards the end.

Rocking Her Curves has some interesting characters and I'm definitely going to be reading more by Ms. Rose, but ultimately it left me wanting more - and not in a good way.

Grade: C

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

DNF Review: Raw by Jo Davis

Title: Raw
Author: Jo Davis
Series: Torn Between Two Lovers, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 15 October 2013

TORN BETWEEN TWO LOVERS is a gripping and sexy romance trilogy with a unique twist: Our heroine needs your help to decide who wins her heart… RAW introduces this sizzling new series, in which two enticing men will vie for Anna’s heart—culminating in a choice that will be determined by reader vote!

Anna Claire is a prominent restaurateur, the toast of New York. She’s not one to let down her guard, but her new prep chef is gorgeous enough to cause her to break her own rules, and soon she’s tearing up the sheets with Grayson James. More than that, she’s falling in love.

Until she discovers that Grayson is no chef. He’s an FBI agent investigating a drug ring he suspects is using her restaurant. Anna is shattered to learn she was just part of his cover.

The case means everything to Gray, right until the moment he loses what matters the most—not his intended target, but Anna. Gray is devastated when the woman he loves learns of his betrayal. Especially with his greatest enemy all too eager to take advantage of her…

So, will you join #TeamGrayson or #TeamJoaquin? Make the informed choice: Don’t miss RISKY, available in November 2013.

I admit, the unconventional idea of allowing the fans to choose who Anna got her HEA with drew me to request this book. I wanted to see how the author set this up and handled something where both characters would have an equal chance - something that often doesn't happen in love-triangles.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it more than 16% into Raw because of some pretty serious issues that are incredibly personal to me.

At about 9% Anna is walking home after a long night at her new restaurant; she's tired, but alert (supposedly) when she's suddenly grabbed and pulled into an alley and ... saved from being raped by a strong rescuer. Here's my first problem - why do authors feel the need to use rape and near-rape as a plot or character point? It's traumatizing, defeating, and can be so incredibly hard to come back from. Even a rape that you're saved from can have some devastating effects on a person. This portion of the series is only 80 pages, so I didn't have a lot of hope that her recovery from this traumatic experience would be at all realistic, but I pushed on.

So, Grayson turns out to be her rescuer and scares off the would-be rapist. Grayson then offers to walk her the rest of the way home...her response?

"On, that's not necessary."

Really? Not necessary? I don't care if it's just across the street, or down the block, or you're right outside your front door (in fact that all kind of makes it worse). This is independence to the point of idiocy. But fine. I keep going.

Next, Grayson mentions that they should file a report...

"I think that'll be a waste of time...

Look, I do kind of get it, but c'mon! I'm sure as Grayson was fighting him (especially as he's an FBI agent based on the book blurb) he got a decent look at him. It's just a good idea to file a report - it will likely never lead to anything (as most of them don't), it's still something that should be done. But okay, moving on...

Anna finally relents and lets Grayson walk her up to her apartment, and he starts crowding her space, and she starts getting turned on, disappointed when he doesn't kiss her. Look, I also get the whole reaffirmation of something that feels good, I get that not everyone reacts in a horrible way to such an attack, but it's now like it NEVER HAPPENED. In which case I'm left wondering why the hell was it included in the first place?

If this stuff isn't a hot-button issue for you, I freely admit it is for me, then the writing is good and I do think that the story has potential. I can't get past this though.

I quit.

Grade: DNF (at 16%) = F

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Review: A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway

Title: A Study in Silks
Author: Emma Jane Holloway
Series: The Baskerville Affair, Book 1
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
Release Date: 24 September 2013

Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London's high society, but there's a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse . . .

In a Victorian era ruled by a Council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty's secret laboratories. What's a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she's never found out?

But then there's that murder. As Sherlock Holmes's niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask . . .

I expected a lot from this book when I started it - it's hard not to when the author puts Sherlock Holmes in the mix, even if we are dealing with his niece. While in some aspects it didn't disappoint, in others it sorely left me wanting.

Evelina is a great character, interesting and idealistic, but with a lot to learn. I liked that I got to see some of this growth and learning in this book; small things, but important nonetheless. Evelina tends to think things through thoroughly, to the point of hurting herself and others because she doesn't want to make the wrong choice and she's not entirely sure what the right choice is. She's very protective of those she loves, and incredibly clever.

When she first decides to take up the mystery of the murder it's with less than pure intentions; she does it because she wants to clear the Roth family from scandal - hardly something her uncle Sherlock would put as a good beginning to an investigation. But I liked that regardless of her own desires and hopes she followed the evidence where it went and didn't let her own personal biases color her course of action...too much.

I can't talk about this book without mentioning the love-triangle. It seems to be a common trope in most novels these days - especially multi-book series. Fortunately, the triangle here worked for me much better than most others. Part of this was because of Evelina herself, who was so pragmatic and absolutely genuine in her feelings, the rest because of the two young men. Up until nearly the very end I couldn't definitively settle on who I was rooting for. I finally was able to, when one character did something absolutely beyond the bounds of forgiveness for me, but it took me nearly 90% of A Study in Silks to decide. That's rare in most of the triangles I've read.

Neither of the young men is perfect. Tobias Roth, golden boy of the Roth family, is a dissolute rake, unable to determine his path or even what it should be. Nick, the Indomitable Niccolo, from Evelina's past brings some serious issues and roadblocks for both his and Evelina's safety to the table. They both do, I genuinely believe, care about Evelina though, perhaps not as purely as they'd like to think, but it's still there. I won't say much more because I don't want to give away who I ended up rooting for (though I do think Sherlock may perhaps be leaning the same way I am!)

The real problem in this novel is the pacing. For the first 85% of the book I was mostly bored, with moments of pure anticipation popping up here and there. There was too much exposition, too many plot threads - at one time I counted six - and too many point-of-view characters - seven, maybe eight, of these. Every time I got into the story I was pulled out by some other character's unnecessary and slow scene. I think that a good deal of the intrigue and mystery would have been preserved and kept things moving if we didn't have quite such a complete picture of all the players.

Sherlock himself does make a few appearances in the novel, and he steals every single scene he's in; to the point where I was hoping for more and more of him. The mystery aspect of the book has too many moving parts, I think. It made it hard to really care about any of it. It is easy to see, finally after finishing, that several of these things are not supposed to be tied up until further on in the series which does give me hope for the next couple of books. For now, they've made the plot overly complicated and unnecessarily boring for a good portion of the book.

It's clear that Emma Jane Holloway has created and intriguing and interestingly detailed world. I definitely wanted to spend more time in it, and see what it could possibly become out from under the tyranny it's currently bogged down under. I really wanted to love this book, it had a lot of elements that I normally would love, but I got bored so frequently that I wasn't even sure I was going to finish it until things finally picked up for good around 85% in. I did like it enough, though, that I'm going to continue on to the second book. I think there may be a bit of first book syndrome going on here and I'm invested in the characters and world enough that I want to see what happens with them. All this makes it really hard to grade.

Grade: C-

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