Gush and Gripe #13

You Get What You Give

Hello Supies! I hope the New Year has been kind to you so far if not then I hope things get better for you soon. Before I vent my gripes, here are three of my favorite reads this month.
SERIES NAMES: Transplanted Tales 2 | Daughter of Smoke & Bone 2 | Three Stages of Love 
My Gush & Gripe for this month is about setting the right expectations as far as books are concerned. This will be a little subjective and this post is solely my opinion in relation to my reading picks and habits. Some of you may agree, others may not. Just the same please bear with me. 
Like some of you, I have my phases and moods where I prefer a certain genre over the other. Currently I’m in a PNR-Romance kick and I am steering clear YA & fantasy with very few exceptions (I can’t pass up Days of Blood & Starlight). My cravings, for lack of a better word, determines my reading list for the week and the tours I sign up for. I feel it’s a disservice not only to myself but the author who worked hard to publish his/her book when my rating is already predetermined because I’m not in the best state of mind to appreciate their work. 
Setting the right expectations determines the mood and mind-set of the readers. It sets the tone of our emotions and how we respond to the story similar to how we pick which clothes and shoes to wear for the day. And I hate it when the blurb or marketing blasts would say the book is one thing and I end up with something else completely. This skews my objectivity and there’s only a handful of books that could get away with surprises like this as far as I’m concerned. I also think this is one of the reasons why some people rate books lower than what it deserves not because the book sucked but because their expectations weren’t met.
One recent example is Deep Connections by Rebecca Graf. When you look at the blurb it doesn’t hint at anything supernatural so before I signed up for the tour I specifically asked if it was romantic suspense because I was on an RS bender at that time. Well it IS romantic suspense but it was also a PNR sort of thing. Aside from other issues I had with the book, I felt duped because if I had known it had supernatural elements, I wouldn’t have signed up for the tour or bothered to read the book at that time. 
Another example would be The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron and Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear. These books marketed themselves as Steampunk but tell-tale characteristics we look for and crave associated with this genre were meager. So readers were waiting for kick ass automatons, blimps, clockwork gadgets and other cool stuff only to be left wanting. If you look at some of the 3 star ratings and below for these books, you’ll see that their expectations in reading Steampunk were not met.
To close this Gripe, there’s being suspenseful and there’s downright duping. Every writer and publisher wants the best possible rating for their book that’s why they juice up their presentations through cover arts, book tours, and other marketing plans. But not every book is for everyone and the first step in getting fantastic ratings, is targeting the right audience and tricking us won’t help you with that cause.
So have you ever been duped by a book? 

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Braine’s 2013 Reading Challenges Update #1

It’s that time of the month where I try to be diligent and give you an update about the status of my reading challenges I was brave foolish enough to take. Fingers crossed I’m on track:
Hosted by Jenese at Reader’s Confession
My Goal was to read books from author’s whose works I haven’t tried yet. Epic fail! I wish I could’ve done better. Here’s the update:
Goal: 9 
  1. Shadow Bound by Erin Kellison
  2. Hellforged by Nancy Holzner
  3. King of Darkness by Elisabeth Staab
  4. Haunting Beauty by Erin Quinn
Hosted by Sharonda at Salacious Reads
The goal is to read a series beyond the first book.
I didn’t get the chance to do a declaration post so consider this challenge accepted. 
1. Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews (5 books)


2. Elemental Assassin by Jennifer Estep (8 books)

3. Anabelle Lee by Stacey Jay (3 books)

4. Lords of Deliverance by Larissa Ione (5 books)

5. Chronicles of Yavn by Elisabeth Staab (2 books)

Hosted by Hobbitsies
The goal is to read at least 12 Young Adult or Middle Grade books by either debut authors or authors who are writing for YA-MG readers for the first time  by January 31, 2014. I’m in a YA funk so I’m in the bare essentials mark.
Goal: 12 books
January
  1. Enchanted Immortals by C.J. Pinard
  2. Splintered by A.G. Howard

Hosted by Work Day Reads
The challenge is to read as many ebooks as you can regardless of length or genre. This I’m confident I can do.
Goal: Server Status – 100 books
January
  1. King of Darkness by Elisabeth Staab
  2. Enchanted Immortals by C.J. Pinard
  3. Splintered by A.G. Howard
  4. Big Bad Bite by Jessie Lane
  5. When Silver Moons Rise by KaSonndra Leigh
  6. The Seduction by Lisa Renee Jones
  7. There Is No Light In Darkness by Claire Contreras
  8. Taken by Kelli Maine
  9. No Takebacks by Kelli Maine
  10. Breaking The Rules by Cat Lavoie
  11. Vain by Fisher Amelie
  12. Cat’s Meow by Stacey Kennedy
  13. The Better To See You by Kate Serine
  14. Shadowguard Series by Michelle Zink
  15. Nice Girl by Kate Baum

Have you signed up for any challenges? 
How are you doing so far?

Gush and Gripe #13

You Get What You Give

Hello Supies! I hope the New Year has been kind to you so far if not then I hope things get better for you soon. Before I vent my gripes, here are three of my favorite reads this month.
SERIES NAMES: Transplanted Tales 2 | Daughter of Smoke & Bone 2 | Three Stages of Love 
My Gush & Gripe for this month is about setting the right expectations as far as books are concerned. This will be a little subjective and this post is solely my opinion in relation to my reading picks and habits. Some of you may agree, others may not. Just the same please bear with me. 
Like some of you, I have my phases and moods where I prefer a certain genre over the other. Currently I’m in a PNR-Romance kick and I am steering clear YA & fantasy with very few exceptions (I can’t pass up Days of Blood & Starlight). My cravings, for lack of a better word, determines my reading list for the week and the tours I sign up for. I feel it’s a disservice not only to myself but the author who worked hard to publish his/her book when my rating is already predetermined because I’m not in the best state of mind to appreciate their work. 
Setting the right expectations determines the mood and mind-set of the readers. It sets the tone of our emotions and how we respond to the story similar to how we pick which clothes and shoes to wear for the day. And I hate it when the blurb or marketing blasts would say the book is one thing and I end up with something else completely. This skews my objectivity and there’s only a handful of books that could get away with surprises like this as far as I’m concerned. I also think this is one of the reasons why some people rate books lower than what it deserves not because the book sucked but because their expectations weren’t met.
One recent example is Deep Connections by Rebecca Graf. When you look at the blurb it doesn’t hint at anything supernatural so before I signed up for the tour I specifically asked if it was romantic suspense because I was on an RS bender at that time. Well it IS romantic suspense but it was also a PNR sort of thing. Aside from other issues I had with the book, I felt duped because if I had known it had supernatural elements, I wouldn’t have signed up for the tour or bothered to read the book at that time. 
Another example would be The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron and Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear. These books marketed themselves as Steampunk but tell-tale characteristics we look for and crave associated with this genre were meager. So readers were waiting for kick ass automatons, blimps, clockwork gadgets and other cool stuff only to be left wanting. If you look at some of the 3 star ratings and below for these books, you’ll see that their expectations in reading Steampunk were not met.
To close this Gripe, there’s being suspenseful and there’s downright duping. Every writer and publisher wants the best possible rating for their book that’s why they juice up their presentations through cover arts, book tours, and other marketing plans. But not every book is for everyone and the first step in getting fantastic ratings, is targeting the right audience and tricking us won’t help you with that cause.
So have you ever been duped by a book? 

Tour Stop: Flawed by Kate Avelynn

Welcome! Thank you for stopping by Talk Supe’s stop on the FLAWED Blog Tour! Today we have the author of Flawed, Kate Avelynn on the blog answering some of our questions about her writing process, characters and life after FLAWED. Also make sure to read to the end because there are two awesome giveaways going on!

You can click HERE to follow the blog tour.
Debbie: Hi Kate! Thank you so much for taking your time to do this interview. Before we get started could you give our readers an introduction about yourself? 
Kate: Thanks for having me here today, Debbie! Hmm, let’s see. I’m married to a funny, sexy-as-hell man I refer to as Resident Hottie, who is extremely handy when it comes to working out plot holes, developing my male characters, and making sure I don’t forget to drink something every now and then. Music, photography, and figuring out what makes people tick are my “things.” I’ve been writing pretty much forever, mostly short stories, screenplays, and really bad poetry, but didn’t attempt to write a novel until the summer between 8th and 9th grade. It was a scandalous contemporary romance about a group of kids playing a kissing game on a playground late at night and it was horrible, but I was so proud of those 328 handwritten pages! In high school, I ghostwrote a play for one of my friends about a boy who floods the bathroom at a potential girlfriend’s house that went viral, then wrote a thesis about what I did over summer break that shocked the crap out of the entire school. I think I was destined to write dark, unexpected stuff from the beginning. It just took me until a couple of years ago to figure it out. 
Debbie: FLAWED was such a beautiful and tragic tale and Sarah, James and Sam’s story stayed with me well after I finished reading it. How did you come up with the storyline or what was your inspiration for FLAWED? 
Kate: FLAWED initially came to me as an image of James, hovering in the shadows watching Sarah get dressed. I wrote the bare bones of the story as a screenplay first, then decided I needed to go deeper than a screenplay allowed. The story was just so clear in my head once I realized their father’s back story, and the book kind of fell out of my head in a rush. Alcoholism, abuse, and sacrificed dreams are all issues close to my heart, so this was an exploration of those things for me. 
Debbie: When I first read the synopsis for FLAWED the first thing I got out of it was incest. Were you worried at all that this might have deterred some readers from picking up the book? 
Kate: Not really. I was more concerned about presenting a vague, watered down synopsis that didn’t hint at just how dark the story is and have it be picked up by younger readers than I intended. There are definitely threads of incest woven throughout the story, though not to the same degree as, say, FORBIDDEN or FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. I think the synopsis conveys that this isn’t a story about consensual incest, but escaping a dangerous situation that involves incest. And that’s accurate. 
Debbie: Your website indicates that you like to write dark romantic fiction. What made you want to write darker romantic stories rather than light, “fluffy” ones? 
Kate: I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision. That first novel about the kids in the playground? Dark and manipulative. I think I’ve just always been drawn to the darker, psychological aspects of humanity and that comes through in my writing. I’m working on a follow up to FLAWED right now that I’m calling BETRAYED. It’s Alex’s story (though told from the heroine’s POV). He’s a funny guy and the heroine is a lot snarkier than Sarah, but the premise itself is dark. I don’t know if I could come up with a light, fluffy plot if I tried. 
Debbie: So what is your writing process? Do you start out with an outline or do you just sit down and write what comes to your mind? 
Kate: I’m a total plotter. We’re talking every scene is mapped out, listed on its own note card, and tacked to a corkboard, then I write the book—in order—from there. I tried pantsing a book once during NaNoWriMo a couple years back. It’s still one of my favorite stories, but OMG does it need a ton of work to be publishable. I’m more of a “get it right the first time” kind of author, so the thought of having to revise and revise a book that wasn’t well-thought out makes me cringe. 
Debbie: In FLAWED, the heroine, Sarah, deals with some very heavy and serious issues. At times you had me feeling absolutely shattered over Sarah’s story. During your writing process, did you ever encounter a scene you found difficult to write or be overwhelmed with emotion? 
Kate: Oh, man. I cried while writing several of the scenes in that book. I absolutely hate crying in front of people, so I tried to sneak in writing time for the scenes I knew would gut me when Resident Hottie was at work and I knew I’d be alone. I wrote the whole book while in a chat room with my critique group, though, so they at least got to hear about how devastated I was after finishing a scene. The last chapter (in its original form) was the hardest scene to write. I could barely see with all the tears. That being said, I recover quickly. Pouring that kind of emotion into writing is cathartic for me. Once it’s out, I’m okay. 
Debbie: Now I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t read FLAWED but did you already know in your head how it was going to end? I just have to say I was absolutely devastated even though I figured it would end the way it did. 
Kate: I had a very vague idea of how it was going to end (badly), but it wasn’t until I sat down with Resident Hottie and went over my options that I knew exactly what was going to happen, though the details changed a bit in edits. The final chapter was rewritten at least four times during the submissions and editing process, so there are three alternate endings—the original, a happy ending, and what we ended up going with. I’m planning to release the other two eventually. 
Debbie: Is there a message in your novel that you want your readers to grasp after reading FLAWED? 
Kate: Beyond the obvious message that drugs and alcohol can really mess up a person’s life, I think the moral of the story is that there is such thing as unhealthy love, and that loyalty can be a dangerous thing when it’s misplaced. 
Debbie: What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing? 
Kate: I love dark, emotional contemporary books best, but there’s also a special place in my heart for authors like Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer Echols, whose books crack me up and make me fall in love a hundred times over. As for what influences me, I’d say I’m more affected by snippets of lyrics I hear that specific books or authors. There’s a line in SUCH A PRETTY GIRL (Laura Wiess) that inspires me to be a better writer, though. The heroine is seeing her father—who sexually abused her and went to jail for it—for the first time in several years. When she avoids looking at the baseball charm he wears around his neck, she thinks, “My front teeth throb as the memory of the charm bangs against them.” It’s one of the most devastating things I’ve ever read and I love how Laura was able to do that to me with just one line. 
Debbie: So what’s next for Kate? Any other books or maybe a series in the works? 
Kate: I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a book about Alex and Leslie’s little sister, Ashley, but there’s another story that’s been fighting for headspace for about a year now that keeps getting in the way. The heroine of that book splits her days between working at the local diner, school, and spending time with her best friend—a boy who was abandoned by his parents a few years ago and has been hiding out ever since, waiting for one of them to come back. She’s saving up money to get out of their tiny town where no one ever amounts to anything, and he wants nothing more than to drop out of high school, marry the heroine, and settle down right where they’re at. Bullying, mental disorders, and school violence are all part of the plot. I’m eager to get started! 

Thank you Kate for for stopping by Talk Supe!
Read my review of FLAWED HERE

Kate Avelynn lives in Central Oregon with her husband, whom she fell in love with at eighteen after realizing he shared her obsession with music, sports, and psychoanalysis. When not devouring Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer Echols novels, holding down her editing gig, or attempting to coax life out of the weed patch she calls a “garden,” Kate writes dark, young adult romance that blends first love, betrayal, and danger. FLAWED is her debut novel.

Connect with Kate on

Series: Stand Alone
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: Mature YA, Contemporary

Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.
Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.
Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact . 
I’m probably the only person in school that dreads the final bell before summer vacation. Summer for me equals ten weeks of wandering around town or hiding in my room with the door locked, hoping against hope my father will work extra hours at the paper mill and James will work less.
From my desk in the back of the room, I watch my classmates swap yearbooks for the last time as they walk out the door, happily chattering about the usual lake parties and summer jobs and hour-long road trips down into California. They don’t notice me, the skinny girl with stringy hair and eyes too big for her head. They don’t ask me to come along or wonder aloud why I don’t have a yearbook for people to sign. I’ve made it a point to be invisible.
The room clears within seconds. The seniors got out three days ago, so it’s like everyone is in a hurry to join them. Even my American Lit teacher, Mr. Carter, seems eager to escape to wherever teachers spend their summers. Maybe I’ll stay in my seat until the janitor kicks me out, or maybe I’ll move from room to room until he locks all the doors and I have nowhere else to go.
The school is probably peaceful at night.
I can’t stay, though. I won’t. James gets off work early on Fridays—four instead of four thirty, a whole half an hour before our father—and I don’t dare worry James by not being there when he shows up. He already worries too much. Plus, he’s always starving when he gets home, and he’ll burn the house down if someone’s not there to guard the stove.
And then there’s our father. He expects dinner ready and waiting.
With a sigh, I heft my backpack onto one shoulder and trudge into the hallway, empty save for open lockers and leftover papers that flutter and scrape across the linoleum on the breeze coming through the open doors. Out in the parking lot, cars honk and engines rev as my classmates spill into the streets. Their freedom tastes sweet on the air. I breathe it in and wish it was mine, too.
Next year it will be. James and I are moving out the second I graduate—three-hundred and-sixty-three days from now—that’s the promise he makes every time something bad happens. He’s been saving the money he makes at the mill for almost a year now while I write out budgets, and fish the Sunday paper out of the neighbor’s plastic recycling bin every week to look for places we can rent. So far, we haven’t found anything cheap enough.
I cannot wait until we do.
After glancing at my watch, I decide to take the long way home, the one that winds through the nicer neighborhoods east of school, past the seventeen stores that make up the Granite Falls strip mall, and into the park just outside the paper mill’s gates. It’s deserted, of course. No one goes there because of the gritty haze that drifts down from the stacks and coats the trees in a layer of silt. Our neighborhood is two blocks past the park, and once I skirt the pond and pass the picnic tables, I can see our street.
It’s 3:42. And by the time I get to our driveway, I still have thirteen minutes to get dinner started. Perfect.
It’s hard to ignore the peeling beige paint on our house. This isn’t a “nice” neighborhood by any stretch of the imagination, but nobody else has a house that flakes paint like dandruff.
The low hum of my mother’s television and fresh cigarette smoke greets me when I step into the kitchen. I close the door quietly and hope she doesn’t hear the click. Some days, when there isn’t any smoke and the house is too quiet, I creep down the hall and listen for her breathing. It’s a weird feeling coming home from school, wondering if this is the day I’ll find my mother’s dead body. Part of me is terrified of that happening. The other part—the darker half of my heart I keep smothered for James’s sake—wishes she’d just overdose and be done with it.
After tossing my stuff into my bedroom, I head back to the kitchen, grab a pot from the drying rack by the sink, and set about boiling some water for mac ‘n cheese.
James remembers the way our mother used to be, back when she still smiled and didn’t take pills or smoke cigarettes all day. He hates our father for what he’s done to her—what he’s still doing to her—because of us. Sometimes I think picking up her prescriptions and leaving cartons of cigarettes outside her door is James’s way of making up for being born.
My father hasn’t always been like this, though. Ask anyone who doesn’t live with us and they’ll tell you he still isn’t. Our house is a shrine to the famous ex-boxer who has it all: a close-knit family, a successful athletic career in a former life, and a solid job at the mill.
It’s amazing how much people overlook when you’re a local celebrity.
Title belts painted an unconvincing shade of gold adorn our living room walls, faded, red boxing gloves dangle from sheetrock nails, and newspaper clippings yellowing in their cheap, tin frames line the fireplace mantle. In the center of it all is an enormous publicity poster from the Armory, the local boxing arena, featuring a man with a crooked nose and a busted lip. He waves triumphantly at our empty living room from atop the crowd’s shoulders.
James “Knockout Jimmy” O’Brien, Granite Fall’s very own boxing legend—a title he held until a young groupie poked holes in the condom she made him wear “for protection.”
My brother was born nine months later, fists already swinging.
I sink into a chair and stare at the pot of water, willing it to boil. Our father only married our mother because he had a public image to maintain—an image that didn’t include an abandoned son that might make him proud someday. Desperate and thinking a second baby would make things better between them, our mother seduced him again, lied about not needing birth control while breastfeeding James, and wound up with me.
Two babies in little more than a year and a half. Knockout Jimmy was forced to give up boxing and take a job in the paper mill.
It broke him, and in turn, he broke us all.

Purchase FLAWED

And now for the prizes! Kate is giving a $15 gift card to either Amazon or B&N—your choice. All you have to do is leave a comment about what genres you read most and why, along with your email address and which gift card you’d prefer. Giveaway is open to International readers.

But that’s not all!!!

Kate is also running an Ultimate FLAWED Fan Pack contest via the Rafflecopter listing below. Enter daily for a chance to win some really cool stuff!

Review: Flawed by Kate Avelynn

Series: Stand Alone
Format: eBook (Kindle)
Release Date: December 11, 2012

Publisher: Entangled Teen
Source: Self-Purchased
Genre: Mature YA, Contemporary

Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.
Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.
Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact . 
I love a book with a happy ending. Life is scary and some really scary shit can happen throughout our whole lives and I just need the affirmation that the characters I’ve invested my time on end up on a path that leads me to believe that all things will be all right and they end up happy. FLAWED by Kate Avelynn is NOT one of those books that end with a happy ending. Honestly, I am still a little torn up about the ending but that did not deter me from absolutely loving this beautiful, tragic, and utterly heart & soul-shattering story. 
Now when you first read the synopsis for FLAWED you might think that this story is about incest. I can tell you right now that it’s not. FLAWED is about two broken teens that have the unfortunate fate of being brought up in a house that’s filled with nothing but pain, heartache, loneliness, and devastation. Kate Avelynn sets the dark tone of this romantic fiction right from the very beginning. Sarah O’Brien has grown up in a household that has been filled with nothing but pain, heartache, and disappointment. As the youngest child in her family, Sarah has pretty much grown up with a father that is a drunk and violent/abusive man and a chain smoking, pill popping mother that has totally given up on trying caring and protecting her children. 
“James, the savior. That’s the image of my brother I clung to. Still cling to.” 

Sarah’s only beacon of light in her broken home is her older brother James. Her relationship with James is not normal compared to other brother and sister relationships but in their circumstance it’s absolutely expected and understandable. James has always stood up for Sarah and has taken the brunt of their father’s fists for her, so the deep love, trust, and closeness she shares with James is something no one else can comprehend except for the people who grow up in a house like theirs. But James and Sarah’s close relationship starts to shift when James best friend Sam Donovan finally shows interest in Sarah. After years of pining for Sam, Sarah starts seeking comfort and escape with him which upsets James and makes him possessive over his sister. 
“I don’t know who I am without you. I don’t want to. I need you more than Sam does, but you don’t need me. God it hurts.” 

Sarah is such a strong and resilient protagonist. While she isn’t physically strong, mentally she’s been strong enough to endure the years of abuse from her father. A lot of her strength does come from the will to be strong for her brother but deep down Sarah is a fighter. James was a very complex character that I loved and ultimately felt even sorrier for than I did for Sarah. Growing up in a loveless home, James was desperate to hold on to his sister’s love. The idea of being abandoned by the only person he’s ever loved is what drives him to do the things he does. He wasn’t a bad person; it’s just that his situation lead him to do things that were ultimately unforgiveable at the end. Also the burden of keeping himself and Sarah protected for so many years has completely broken him and I don’t think anything could have been done without medical and psychological help. As for Sam, gawd I just loved the kid. The strength he portrayed was totally opposite from James. While James was quick to use his fists to defend Sarah, Sam was able to provide the comfort and escape that James couldn’t. Sam was the ray of sunshine that Sarah desperately needed in her dark and gloomy life. He, along with his mother, represented hope for Sarah to have a life that isn’t filled with love, happiness, and safety rather than pain, heartache and desolation. The romance between Sam and Sarah was utterly sweet and the bond the two share towards the end was unbelievable. The lengths Sam took to protect Sarah absolutely broke my heart and left me in a mess of tears. 
FLAWED is one of those books that will have you emotionally invested with the story and all the characters. Although you might feel overwhelmed with all the pain and sadness in Sarah’s life, Avelynn has a way of letting you see the light at the end of Sarah’s very dark tunnel. Like I said earlier, FLAWED is not the kind of book that end’s in a happy ending but the emotions you go through while following the dark and grey areas of her life is worth the experience. 
“You told me once dear, you really loved me and no one else could come between. But now you’ve left me and love another; you have shattered all my dreams.” 

While FLAWED might not be an easy read, it’s definitely one that you do not want to miss. I was absolutely floored with Kate Avelynn’s brilliant writing of this dark tale and want to thank her for bringing me along in this emotional whirlwind. I absolutely fell in love with her brand of dark romance and she’s definitely one author I will keep my eye out for. Avelynn has an exceptional voice and her unforgettable story will stay in my heart for quite some time. If you’re a fan of emotionally charged reads like Slammed, Hopeless, Pushing the Limits, or The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden, then you will definitely want to read FLAWED by Kate Avelynn.
Purchase FLAWED from

Giveaway Winners

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They won digital copies of Three Stages of Love: Lust
#227 Kirstie Hicks
#503 Arely Z
She won a digital copy of There Is No Light In Darkness
#363 Megan
She won a Paris themed giveaway basket
#249 Heather
They won digital copies of Dark Seraphine, When Copper Suns Fall & When Silver Moons Rise
#140 Tess Halim
#53 Erin F
They won copies of Consequences & Truth
Paperback: #228 Syd Lion
Digital: #136  Susan Cooley
Winners were chosen using random.org

Winners have been notified and have claimed their prizes.


Congratulations again to the winners and thanks to everyone who supported our events. We look forward to more virtual parties with you!

Don’t forget to join our existing and future giveaways, YOU might be our next winner!


Review: Nice Girl by Kate Baum

Series: Girl Series 1
Format: PDF
Release Date: December 5, 2012

Publisher: Self-published
Source: Author
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Graduate student Grace Locke moves from the Midwest to New York City to complete her Masters degree in Criminology. She longs to one day be a college professor. It is a field that is dominated by men. She is worried about succeeding in such an atmosphere. Past sexual relationships have caused her to feel intimidated. Her experiences with college men have left her jaded and unsatisfied. She gives herself a challenge. Time to toughen up or she won’t make it in a career she yearns for. She decides to surround herself with alpha males so that she can practice becoming what she sees as a strong confident woman. She finds power and defiance in her new attitude…until Vinnie.

When Grace takes a part time secretarial job at a private investigator office, she assumes it will be interesting to watch how the cases unfold. It is close to her campus apartment and gives her the extra cash she needs as a struggling college student. Even more perfect is that the office is surrounded by street wise hardened males. Now, she can get the needed practice at increasing her confidence among men. She wasn’t prepared for Vinnie Lewis. A former hit man who decides to go straight, he is the ultimate “bad boy”. After growing up with a prostitute mother on the streets of New York City, he has no patience for nice girls like Grace. He is difficult to work with. She finds him just plain scary with his six foot four frame, bulging biceps, and a scar from a former knife fight that goes across his right ear to his chin. She shakes in his presence but then…is shocked when she can’t stop thinking of him.

NICE GIRL is your usual feel good contemporary romance novel, it’s filled with sexual and romantic tension between a nice girl and a bad boy. It has the expected rom-com elements like funny supporting characters, quirky side stories and a little drama to spice it up and keep it interesting. What the blurb doesn’t tells us is Grace Locke and her three bestfriends made a pact that they will have their first orgasm come what may. They have been frustrated with their sexual experiences in the past and they want to experience the full gratification the act can give them and NICE GIRL is Grace’s quest for that coveted first orgasm. 

I’ve been called a nice girl my entire life. I’ve had it with that label.

NICE GIRL to  me is like a “second coming-of-age” story, a little formula but if it ain’t broke right? Anyway, Grace essentially is all about finding her inner sexy. She had a New-York-Minute wherein she went through and initiated a lot of changes in her life starting from moving to a new city, meeting new people, starting a new graduate program, a new job down to a personal makeover, shedding not only pounds but her nice girl persona and just embracing herself, flaws and all. Seeing Grace’s metamorphosis is engaging and very relatable for me to read. I just wish I could be as dedicated to weight loss as she is, I could lose 15lbs myself LOL. 
Her eventual love affair with Vinnie was slow burning, there’s a lot of flirting and close run-ins and man cave over protectiveness that went on before they finally hooked up. He has that bad-boy-tortured-soul going on for him being an ex-mobster with a prostitute drug addict for a mother complete with a 6’4 frame, shaved head and a nasty facial scar. I probably won’t date someone like Vinnie in real life even if he’s rich but he is so attractive on paper. I get why Grace’s thongs are in a constant bunch when he’s around. 
The secondary characters are great and provided the comedic breaks rounding up NICE GIRL’s rom-com pitch. Jamie, Grace’s gay co-worker is my favorite plying Grace with office gossip and playing matchmaker for her and Vinnie. Grace’s girlfriends, and upcoming Girl feature heroines, are a rowdy bunch too. They have a Sex in the City vibe going on for them with their personalities loosely similar to Carrie Bradshaw and Co. Grace would be the meek and girly Charlotte York. 
Grace, baby, don’t you know that it is you I want to keep me out of trouble.
You, Grace, remind me of where I want to go.
NICE GIRL is a good debut for someone trying to break in the romance genre. As a librarian who turned to her naughty side, KBaum paid attention as a reader and penned and delivered a fun and sexy story. There are some things that I wish were more fleshed out like Vinnie reconciling with his traumatic past and how Grace became his vehicle for redemption. I would’ve wanted that element in the story to have been in-depth instead of Vinnie’s cousin, Anthony, doing the soul baring on his behalf. 
Still I had fun reading NICE GIRL, it’s character driven and the dialogue smooth and upbeat. The mini-collisions and the main conflict were light but had enough emotion to keep me attentive and entertained. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Brave Girl (Spring 2013), with the tough and feisty Eve as the heroine.

Kate Baum is a librarian who resides in the Hudson Valley area of New York. She lives with her husband of 23 years and 5 children. Their busy household also includes a dog and a cat adopted by the local rescue shelter. When she isn’t working, cooking, doing laundry or taking care of the kids, she loves to write down her fantasies!


Visit Kate

Website | Goodreads | Email: katebaumbooks@aol.com

Review: Nice Girl by Kate Baum

Series: Girl Series 1
Format: PDF
Release Date: December 5, 2012

Publisher: Self-published
Source: Author
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Graduate student Grace Locke moves from the Midwest to New York City to complete her Masters degree in Criminology. She longs to one day be a college professor. It is a field that is dominated by men. She is worried about succeeding in such an atmosphere. Past sexual relationships have caused her to feel intimidated. Her experiences with college men have left her jaded and unsatisfied. She gives herself a challenge. Time to toughen up or she won’t make it in a career she yearns for. She decides to surround herself with alpha males so that she can practice becoming what she sees as a strong confident woman. She finds power and defiance in her new attitude…until Vinnie.

When Grace takes a part time secretarial job at a private investigator office, she assumes it will be interesting to watch how the cases unfold. It is close to her campus apartment and gives her the extra cash she needs as a struggling college student. Even more perfect is that the office is surrounded by street wise hardened males. Now, she can get the needed practice at increasing her confidence among men. She wasn’t prepared for Vinnie Lewis. A former hit man who decides to go straight, he is the ultimate “bad boy”. After growing up with a prostitute mother on the streets of New York City, he has no patience for nice girls like Grace. He is difficult to work with. She finds him just plain scary with his six foot four frame, bulging biceps, and a scar from a former knife fight that goes across his right ear to his chin. She shakes in his presence but then…is shocked when she can’t stop thinking of him.

NICE GIRL is your usual feel good contemporary romance novel, it’s filled with sexual and romantic tension between a nice girl and a bad boy. It has the expected rom-com elements like funny supporting characters, quirky side stories and a little drama to spice it up and keep it interesting. What the blurb doesn’t tells us is Grace Locke and her three bestfriends made a pact that they will have their first orgasm come what may. They have been frustrated with their sexual experiences in the past and they want to experience the full gratification the act can give them and NICE GIRL is Grace’s quest for that coveted first orgasm. 

I’ve been called a nice girl my entire life. I’ve had it with that label.

NICE GIRL to  me is like a “second coming-of-age” story, a little formula but if it ain’t broke right? Anyway, Grace essentially is all about finding her inner sexy. She had a New-York-Minute wherein she went through and initiated a lot of changes in her life starting from moving to a new city, meeting new people, starting a new graduate program, a new job down to a personal makeover, shedding not only pounds but her nice girl persona and just embracing herself, flaws and all. Seeing Grace’s metamorphosis is engaging and very relatable for me to read. I just wish I could be as dedicated to weight loss as she is, I could lose 15lbs myself LOL. 
Her eventual love affair with Vinnie was slow burning, there’s a lot of flirting and close run-ins and man cave over protectiveness that went on before they finally hooked up. He has that bad-boy-tortured-soul going on for him being an ex-mobster with a prostitute drug addict for a mother complete with a 6’4 frame, shaved head and a nasty facial scar. I probably won’t date someone like Vinnie in real life even if he’s rich but he is so attractive on paper. I get why Grace’s thongs are in a constant bunch when he’s around. 
The secondary characters are great and provided the comedic breaks rounding up NICE GIRL’s rom-com pitch. Jamie, Grace’s gay co-worker is my favorite plying Grace with office gossip and playing matchmaker for her and Vinnie. Grace’s girlfriends, and upcoming Girl feature heroines, are a rowdy bunch too. They have a Sex in the City vibe going on for them with their personalities loosely similar to Carrie Bradshaw and Co. Grace would be the meek and girly Charlotte York. 
Grace, baby, don’t you know that it is you I want to keep me out of trouble.
You, Grace, remind me of where I want to go.
NICE GIRL is a good debut for someone trying to break in the romance genre. As a librarian who turned to her naughty side, KBaum paid attention as a reader and penned and delivered a fun and sexy story. There are some things that I wish were more fleshed out like Vinnie reconciling with his traumatic past and how Grace became his vehicle for redemption. I would’ve wanted that element in the story to have been in-depth instead of Vinnie’s cousin, Anthony, doing the soul baring on his behalf. 
Still I had fun reading NICE GIRL, it’s character driven and the dialogue smooth and upbeat. The mini-collisions and the main conflict were light but had enough emotion to keep me attentive and entertained. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Brave Girl (Spring 2013), with the tough and feisty Eve as the heroine.

Kate Baum is a librarian who resides in the Hudson Valley area of New York. She lives with her husband of 23 years and 5 children. Their busy household also includes a dog and a cat adopted by the local rescue shelter. When she isn’t working, cooking, doing laundry or taking care of the kids, she loves to write down her fantasies!


Visit Kate

Website | Goodreads | Email: katebaumbooks@aol.com

Tour Stop: Vanilla on Top by C.J. Ellison

Welcome to our stop on the Vanilla on Top by C.J. Ellison Blog Tour! Today, we will be sharing with you the first 2 chapters of this deliciously sexy book, so make sure you check it out and then enter the giveaway for an ebook copy of the book plus signed swag pack. You can also find my review for Vanilla on Top right below this post. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

Click HERE to view tour schedule

Vanilla On Top
C.J. Ellison
Walk on the Wild Side #1
January 11, 2013
Brazen (Entangled)
Adult Contemporary Romance

Discover your inner bad girl, and set her free…

Heather Pierce is done being a wallflower, both personally and professionally. Desperate to live a different life for one night, she attends a speed dating event. Maybe here, anonymous unless she chooses otherwise, she can become someone new. When a man way out of her league sits across from her, Heather gathers her courage and takes charge of what she wants, secretly fearing he won’t desire the real person she’s desperate to hide.

Top acquisitions officer and international playboy Tony Carmine is about to close the biggest deal of his career. But then he meets Heather at a speed dating event…and discovers losing control may be exactly what he needs. Her blossoming sensuality occupies his every thought, consuming him with the need to possess the most intriguing lover he’s ever encountered—until he walks into the boardroom and sees Heather on the other side of the negotiating table.

Read Ch. 1 & 2 from Vanilla on Top
Chapter One
Heather
The bartender approaches us, carrying our drinks, a lopsided grin on his aging face. “Gin and tonic?”
“That’s me,” I reply, reaching for the squat glass.
He sets a wineglass in front of Carla.  She accepts it with a nod and turns her perky blondness my way. “Who orders a mixed drink at a wine bistro?”
My best friend forgets, I’m not nearly as bold as she is and often require stronger fortification for my nerves. “Sometimes wine doesn’t cut it.”
The elegant room fills with bodies, and my temperature rises. So many handsome guys, I’m afraid to open my mouth and trip on my tongue. What in the hell possessed me to try this type of outing again?
Carla eyes the variety of men pouring through the double doors. “Linda outdid herself with tonight’s event. There weren’t this many hotties at the last one. But then again, it wasn’t run by Linda.”
I shudder at the memory of the first speed dating attempt she dragged me to.
God, I’d felt like such an idiot.
I clearly blocked the humiliation of how no one wanted a date with me afterward. Then again, the prospect of being alone the rest of my life doesn’t sit well either.
“Yup, our lovely organizer did a great job with the men showing up tonight.” I force a laugh to hide my awkwardness. “Maybe one will even call me later.”
“Hey, cut that long hair into some semblance of a style and you might have the same luck Julie did.”
I self-consciously tuck a strand of fine black hair behind one ear. I have no intention of getting a cute pixie haircut like Carla’s. The long locks are one of the few things I like about myself. “Your sister lucked out with her hotshot property developer, but let’s be real. Most of the good ones in this city are gay or married.”
“Not true! I refuse to think there are no good ones left.” She nudges me with her shoulder while pointing her glass at some of the men around the room. “Take a good look. I bet there are at least six here who aren’t married, or gay and looking for a beard.”
I gaze at my friend and appraise her good-naturedly. With curvy good looks and a low cut blouse, she has a much better chance of snagging a guy than I do.
Linda, the busty brunette in her forties who organized the event, waves at us from across the bar, gesturing we should head over to the tables like she explained earlier. Carla and I select small, two-seater tables next to each other, sliding into the cushioned chairs at almost the same time.
“Smile, Heather,” Carla says with a cheeky grin. “You’ll do fine.”
“Oh, yeah.” I hold back my grimace, reminding myself of the free booze. Maybe, if I drink enough, I’ll say something charming and one of these men will choose me for a date. “I’m sure I will.”
Carla leans over and swats my arm playfully. “Step out of your comfort zone, girl. Slip on a new skin while you’re here.”
Putting on a brave face, I nod. “I’ll try.”
I swirl the thin red straw in my gin and tonic while looking over the prospective men.  There’s a tall, dark, and gorgeous one in the corner. He’s sporting a blinding white smile, offset nicely by his cocoa-colored skin, deep brown hair, and sharp casual jacket. Yum. My lips tilt up at the corners. He looks in my direction and I drop my glance to the clipboard on the table in front of me. I’d die if he caught me staring at him.
Carla once labeled me a “doormat” while we were commiserating over my past relationships. She might have been right. I’m always bending over backward, sometimes literally, to make a guy happy. And what has it earned me? An empty bed, lonely nights, and lots of meals for one in my freezer. I take a long sip of my drink.
Maybe I should slip on a new skin. Honestly, this current one isn’t working too well. I stiffen my spine as I glance once more around the wood-paneled space. I know there’s a guy out there for me. I just have to find him.
Two men arrive together, one looking slightly more harried than the other. The first one is sandy-haired and built like a runner, slim hipped and lean. His tailored, pinstriped suit still looks fresh at eight o’clock. He’s got a dimple in his chin and an infectious grin as he looks around the room at the available ladies.
Quite a few women look older than me, so even if I’m not stunning, I’m still sitting near the top of prospects for the evening. This may turn out to be my lucky night, yet. The man behind the runner makes me pause. He’s easily the best looking guy in the bistro. And sure enough, by the way heads are turning, I’m not the only one who notices him.
Though slightly shorter than his lanky friend, he must outweigh him by thirty pounds or so. His lean middle implies that extra bulk is all muscle. He’s…arresting. Sable-brown hair, cut short and styled in a lazy fashion that somehow looks professional on him. His charcoal suit drapes across his broad shoulders and defines his narrow waist like it was custom-made. His white shirt contrasts with his Mediterranean complexion, and when he looks up at his friend’s teasing tone, I get a glance at his light brown eyes and chiseled cheekbones. What I wouldnt give to run my fingers through his hair and kiss him senseless.
I shift in my chair, aware of a growing dampness in my panties. God, how embarrassing. To be drawn to a man I’ve never talked to and who is obviously way out of my league. I probably don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of attracting his attention. I wish I had something prettier on. This slim black skirt and snug spring sweater might emphasize my build nicely, but I’m betting it will take cleavage and a lot of leg to attract a man like him.
My eyes shift sideways to Carla sitting next to me. The deep vee of her shirt showcases her plump, high breasts perfectly, and her tousled pixie-hair simply screams, I’m a fun girl, date me.
A small part of my eagerness for the night deflates over my chances of meeting him compared to hers. The two good-looking friends finish their paperwork and saunter to the bar. What am I really doing here? Sure, I might have a chance of meeting a guy for a midnight hook-up, but really…speed dating?
Makes me wonder—what’s wrong with these guys if they can’t find a date on their own? Shut up, Heather! I scream at myself. You sabotage everything before it even starts!
All right, all right, some of the men could be normal. I sip my drink and scan the room once more. The only decent ones here are the man with the blinding smile, the runner, and Mister Italian Stallion with the sexy bed hair who came in last. A sigh escapes me as I realize I’m close to drooling. Each one of them looks utterly delicious and I pray they’ve got brains behind the pretty faces and gorgeous bodies.
Now, if I can just say something interesting to one of them in the allotted two minutes, I might have a chance.
Linda stands near the middle of the bar area and raises her arm. “Attention Speed Daters!” All eyes turn toward the organizer. “We’re ready to begin. You all know the guidelines. Make polite conversation, ask questions that matter to you, make notes on your card, and move on. All in good fun!” She smiles and nods to a few of the participants around the room. “You never know. You just may meet your one and only match tonight.”
I sigh and plaster on a happy face. Still better than sitting home alone with another microwave meal, so I’m not going to complain. I slurp the last of my drink through the tiny straw. Damn. Need to take advantage of that free booze or it will definitely be a ruined evening.
After getting a refill at the bar, I saunter back to my little table for two, ready to meet my first “date” of the evening. Mr. Serial Killer in Training sits across from me and immediately asks if I’m a vegetarian…thank God for my second drink. I glance down the line to see who will be shifting to my table next. A shudder runs through me as I take another sip. Hopefully the alcohol will make meeting Sloppy Guy and Blinding Smile a little easier to bear.
In thirty minutes, the Italian Stallion slides into the chair at my table. He’s just come from sitting with Carla and wears a smile from ear to ear. A lump forms in my throat from looking at him close up.
A small scar traces the left side of his jaw, its pale color faded with age. I’d like to hear the story behind the old wound. His full lips look soft enough to kiss and his classic Roman nose would be better suited on an Abercrombie model than a businessman in Manhattan.
His eyes glide over me, a slight spark of what I hope is interest in their depths. A flare of awareness ignites in my chest. The man’s charming grin remains in place. A good sign so far. Right as he opens his kissable mouth to speak, his phone rings. His relaxed expression turns into a grimace as he digs in his pocket to retrieve the offending device.
“Sorry,” he mumbles my way before answering. He turns slightly in his seat, angling himself away. “Yes?” He barks into the phone. “No, I won’t be back in tonight. The instructions are in the email I sent.”
At least I had the decency to turn off my phone before I came in. Hell, unless you’re a doctor on call, I doubt there’s anything that important requiring your phone to stay on for two hours. He looks into the distance and I feel a twinge of annoyance.
“No,” his tone grinds out, authoritative and powerful. “You need to listen to me, Brian. The directions are in the email. You follow them precisely and the deal will close. Call me again and I’m going to be really pissed.”
He clicks his phone shut and closes his eyes. Tension spills off him and I hesitate to break the silence. What could be so important that he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders? He takes a deep breath and opens them again, staring straight into my eyes.
“I’m sorry, that was rude of me.” He angles toward me. I nod my reassurance that it’s okay, but inside I can’t help but think I’ve lost even more of my precious allotted time with this desirable stranger. He really is way out of my league.
“You know what I want more than anything?” he says with a touch of longing. “I want someone else to take control for a while. I’m really sick of being the guy in charge all the time.”
I smile, not particularly sure I can relate, but willing to appear understanding. His phone rings again and sharp anger stabs my gut.
“Turn it off,” I say, with a challenge in my tone. I sit up straighter and stare into the depths of his caramel eyes. “You want someone to tell you what to do?” He nods, his calculating gaze on me as the phone continues to ring. “Turn off that damn phone,” I bite out, pretending I’m issuing a command. “Now.”
Shock registers across his expression, but he hides it quickly. I raise an eyebrow and feel the sparks fly across the table between us. He returns my stare and smiles, the first real one I’ve seen on him since he came into the restaurant. It’s kind of lopsided and lazy, curling my toes at the devilment it promises. The phone rings a third time and I break our standoff and glance away, tilting my chin an inch higher, showing my displeasure in his lack of action. He fumbles for the phone on the table between us and shuts it off.
My pulse races and a part of me waits for him to shout that I’m the rudest bitch he’s met tonight. Well, I tried my hand at ballsy and domineeringworth a shot. I look toward him and smile, catching him off guard, if his raised eyebrows are anything to go by. The interest I thought I saw earlier still lurks in his eyes.
Hmmm Maybe tonight wont be a total wash after all.
I pick up my drink and tilt it toward him in greeting. “I’m Heather.”
He raises his to meet mine and clinks it across the space. “Tony.”
“What do you do, Tony, that has people calling you after office hours?”
He stiffens and his tone comes out flat. “I head acquisitions in a large shipping conglomerate. We’re organizing to buy out a small firm this week.”
I nod, not sure if knowing what he does matters. He seems wired pretty tight, poor guy. “Who did you arrive with, that guy with the sandy-colored hair?”
Tony lifts a brow and interest lights his expression. “Why?” His grin broadens. “You want me to introduce you?”
I stare back at him with a feigned confidence I don’t possess. “I’ll meet him soon enough, won’t I?”
“Touché.” He touches the timer on the table. “We are speed dating.”
“That’s why I asked. You don’t seem like the type to be here.”
“Probably not, but Marcus talks me into lots of stuff I might not normally try on my own. He’s an old college buddy. Dragged me here ‘cause he said I needed a break from work.”
I glance down my nose at his phone, angling my head a bit. “He might be right.”
“And hey—what makes you think I’m not the type to try speed dating on my own?” he asks, a twinkle in his eye.
This man doesn’t know me from Adam. I could be anyone in this moment, anyone who is brash enough to tell a stranger to turn off his phone. Carla said to slip on a new skin…maybe she was onto something…
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I reach across the table and trace a finger down the back of his hand. “You’re wound too tight,” I say, dropping my voice, trying for a seductive tone. “Like you’re going to snap.” I gaze at him through my lashes, hoping I can pull off a sexy look like I’ve seen in movies. “What you need is to let off a little steam.”
Desire sparks in his caramel eyes and he turns his hand over to grasp my own. “Really? What did you have in mind?” Tiny shocks of pleasure shoot up my arm at our increased contact.
The two-minute timer dings and the prospective dates around the room say their goodbyes and shift out of their chairs, eager to move on to the next person down the line.
I shrug and pull my hand away. “Why don’t you follow me to the patio and find out?”
There’s no doubt I’ve peaked his curiosity. I pick up my drink, still staring into his stunning eyes, and circle my tongue around the tiny swizzle stick before slipping the red plastic into my mouth for a taste of my drink.
Tony’s lips part in an exhalation of breath, his stare locked on my mouth.
I smile at his expression, pleased I’ve made an impression. He seemed to like when I told him what to do. I wonder how far I can take this with him willing to follow. I slide from my chair, now glad I wore a pencil skirt that emphasizes my butt, and walk out of the room without a backward glance, hoping he takes the bait.
My black stiletto heels rap against the marble tile of the bistro as I swish my hips toward the narrow door leading to the closed outside seating in the rear of the restaurant. I push the door open and step through. The metal door whisks shut behind me. It’s early spring and unseasonably warm outside tonight, but still too early for the bistro to have the area set up for receiving diners.
My heart races as I lean against the cool brick. What the hell am I doing, trying a stunt like this in a public place? Will he come out here? If he does, what do I do then? Anyone could walk out here, and by the full ashtray on a stack of tables, the probability of it being a smoker is high.
Ten minutes. All you need is ten minutes.
Can I talk my way through this? Well, why the hell not? If he follows me out here then I’ve definitely intrigued him enough to learn more about me. But how do I set myself apart from the countless women who’ve probably already thrown themselves at him?
The door creaks open and Tony steps out. You can do this, Heather. Take command. Tell him what you want. Tell him what to do, just like he said he wants. Now or never.
I smirk with a confidence I’m not completely feeling. “Nice of you to join me, Tony.” I relax against the brick and check him over from head to foot, making sure he knows with just my eyes exactly how desirable I find him. You can do this, don’t panic. He won’t laugh at you.
I nod toward the stacked chairs. “Take off your coat.” He slips the expensive garment from his shoulders, pulling the starched fabric of his shirt across his defined chest. I nod my approval and his eyes glint with desire in the dimming light.
He smiles, seemingly eager to play whatever game I’ve got in mind. “Anything else?”
I push down my inner anxiety and grin, in what I hope is a teasing manner. “Your tie.”
His eyebrows shoot up, but he loosens the knot and pulls the material free. The red silk slides over his shirt, and then is tossed carelessly toward his coat.
Holy crap, hes doing it. Hes listening to me. What now?
“Unbutton the top two buttons of your shirt.” The command springs unbidden to my thoughts.
He complies and reveals the golden skin below his throat, with a few stray chest hairs visible near the neck of his undershirt. He looks so good I’d like to grab his shirt and rip it open, licking the skin as it’s uncovered.
Holy cow, where did that come from? I’m not this aggressive woman I’m pretending to be.
“How’s that?” he asks.
My pulse pounds so loudly in my ears I can only nod, afraid I’ll give too much away if I answer. I clear my throat, reaching for nonchalance. “It’ll do.” My hands slide to my hips and I take the plunge, pouring every ounce of courage I possess into my next actions.
I grab my skirt’s black material and work it slowly up my thighs. Tony’s eyes grow round as he follows my movements.
“Get down on your knees,” I say, forcing out my voice in a firm tone. Keep it together, girl! He looks like he’s game. Keep going.
I tug the fabric up, until my skirt scrunches up around my waist and my black lace underwear is bared to the night air. The handsome man’s breath rushes out and I worry he’s going to balk, leaving me here with my skirt rucked up like a fool.
The intensity of the sexual moment overwhelms me a bit and I slide a finger over my heated mound, teasing the aroused flesh underneath. Desire pushes me to be bold. “Did you not hear me, Tony?” Strength pours into my voice, making me sound more sure of myself than I feel. God, if he laughs at me now, Ill die.
Tony steps closer and sinks to the cobblestone terrace, reaching with two eager hands toward my hips. He buries his face in my crotch and breathes deeply. “You smell so good.” He rubs his cheek back and forth against my panties. “What do you want me to do?”
A shudder ripples through me as the breath of his whispered voice warms my skin through the thin lace. He wants me to tell him what to do. I can do this.
“Kiss me,” I rasp, my voice barely above a whisper.
His soft lips press against the thin garment as the heat from his flesh teases me higher. My every sense feels on high alert during this encounter. I’ve never done anything so daring in my entire life. The next kiss presses harder and little shocks of arousal dart through my core.
“That’s nice,” I say, resisting the primal urge to grind myself into his face. “But I need more.”
I glance down into Tony’s light brown eyes and see an intensity I’ve never seen on a man’s face. To know it’s directed toward me feels even more amazing. “Tell me what you want.” His hot hands skate up my thighs to rest near the aroused juncture between my legs.
I feel the wetness pooling in my panties, my body eager and ready to be with this man I just met. More than anything I want his fingers teasing me to a release. “Slip your thumbs under my underwear and stroke me.”
He pulls his hot lips away from the damp cotton panel of my panties and breathes deep. “Yes, ma’am.”
A prickling ignites my skin, sending the hairs on end when he calls me ma’am. I like it.
I like it a lot.
Two thick digits slide under the delicate fabric, one angling for my aroused bud and one slipping deeper toward my waiting wetness. A jolt of pleasure rips through me the second his thumb makes contact with my clit. An instant later, his other thumb presses against my tight opening.
“You’re very wet.” His voice rumbles into the evening, almost reverent, like I’m a precious object he’s not sure how to handle. “I want to taste you.”
“Not yet.” There’s no way I could handle his mouth right now. I’d lose it completely and my credibility on driving the bus in this scenario would blow up in my face. My breath hitches and I gather myself, aiming for calm, cool and collected. “Only when I say.”
A moan of protest echoes into the night, cutting off when his hungry kisses pepper my thighs. My legs widen of their own accord and I slide down the cool brick a fraction of an inch, heedless of the snags my clothes will receive. The stiffness of his thumb pushes deep inside me and after a few plunges a small groan erupts from my lips.
It’s been months since I’ve been with anyone. I’m so turned on by this man doing exactly what I want, what I told him to do, that I fear I won’t last long. The slick pressure on my clit starts to circle, driving me even higher.
“Come here and kiss my mouth,” I say. His hands pull away and I feel bereft of his touch. I hastily add, “Don’t stop touching me. Use your fingers instead.”
In a flash, the sexy businessman stands, ravaging my mouth with a passion I’ve never had directed toward me. A deep rumble sounds in his throat while his lips cover mine. The frenzied action reveals his pent-up arousal and desire, and I’m almost giddy with the power surge I feel. He truly wants me. Not just what I can do for him, but wants me and what I’m making him feel. What a rush!
Two slick fingers pump into my sex while Tony sucks on my bottom lip, nipping it once in his haste. He leans in to deepen the kiss and the length of his erection presses against my hip. I want nothing more than to tell him to take me right here—to beg this gorgeous man to do me until I scream his name—but a part of my brain still holds on to the act.
I bet he can have any woman he wants any time. I need to stand out from the others. For once, I want to be the desired one. My mind empties as exquisite waves of pleasure build and spill through my limbs.
I break the intense kiss to focus on what I need to do. “On your knees,” I whisper. “Now.”
Tony complies and gazes up at me with an eager look on his face. “Yes?”
“Pull the lace aside and lick me.”
The evening air brushes against my heated flesh before his hot tongue laps at my engorged button. One firm hand holds the material aside while the other pumps steadily in and out of me.
A moan of delight drifts out as Tony’s clever tongue zeros in on my clit, pushing me beyond all boundaries of pleasure. My breath hitches again and Tony moves faster, plunging his fingers in me furiously while sucking my bud between his lips. His pointed tongue tickles the aroused skin, and the combined sensations propel me up and over the edge.
An intense release rips through me, lighting my nerve endings and sending shudders to cascade over my body. Tony eases his movements, gently tonguing my wet flesh.
Warmth infuses me as I collapse against the bricks, panting for breath. I can’t believe what I’ve just done. And in public! I’ve essentially had sex with a stranger. A drop-dead gorgeous stranger, but a stranger nonetheless. Granted, it was one-sided sex, but still not something I’ve ever done.
Tony eases my panties back in place before standing. The arousal engulfing his entire body makes his movements stiff. Even in the dim light, I see the outline of his protruding cock straining against his tailored slacks.
A smile curves my lips as the prefect response to the evening comes to me. Damn. Can I pull this off? Well have to see.
I slide my skirt down my hips, smoothing the creases out with the flat of my hand. “You did a good job.” Tony smiles and reaches for me, but I side step out of his grasp. “Next time might be your turn.” My face sets into a distant mien of confidence I’ve never felt before. “Give me your number. Maybe I’ll call.”
Chapter Two
Tony

“Sir? Sir?” My assistant’s voice crackles from the speakerphone, shaking me out of daydreams. “Are you there?”
I shift my growing erection and try to focus on the here and now. This is the third time this morning my thoughts have drifted to the black haired temptress from the bistro last night. “I’m here.”
“Your eleven o’clock is rescheduled for one-thirty and your lunch appointment is moved up to twelve.”
I nod and check my electronic calendar on Outlook with a click. “Got it.”
“You’ll be cutting it close to get back in time, so don’t linger over lunch.”
I smile at the added instructions from the ultra-organized woman. “Yes, Deidra. I can handle it.”
She clicks off the speaker function and my mind trails back to my recent preoccupation of last night. Who was Heather? How can I see her again? Where can I find her?
Frustration boils in my gut as I realize I have no way of contacting her. Maybe she’ll call? The indignity of having to wait on a woman, any woman, feels maddening…and, if I’m honest—quite arousing. She was so sexy when she took control. The power wasn’t mine for a change and, I have to admit, I liked it.
I liked it a lot.
As I scroll through the recent figures for tomorrow’s acquisition, it occurs to me this mysterious woman might be exactly what I need in my life. Someone to keep me on my toes, keep me guessing—someone else who calls the shots for a change.
A thrill spikes through me as I recall my painfully aroused state twelve hours ago. Last night’s shock when she sauntered back into the bistro was unprecedented. No woman I’ve ever been with would deny my release, especially after I made sure she was pleased first.
I wanted to thrust into her and barrel toward my own relief—to hell with the consequences. I waited a moment after she left, watching, hoping she’d turn and come back with a smile on her face. When she didn’t, my heart beat even faster. Blood pounded through my body and my aching cock wept, not ready to give up on fulfillment.
I’d never felt so alive in my life. Her smell on my fingers lingered for hours, driving me slowly insane with the remembrance of her release. The slim woman peaked on a restaurant’s patio—practically in public—showing an abandon and freedom I’ve never experienced. She was stunning in her sexuality. Confident and completely in control of the situation…and me.
My cock hardens behind my fly. Ive got to get this woman out of my head. Ive work to do. I glance at the flat screen on my desk, not really knowing where to start my day.
Who am I kidding? I need to find her.
I reach for the phone.
The phone rings an inordinate amount of times before I hear a voice. “Match Made in Heaven, this is Linda.”
“Hi Linda. It’s Anthony Carmine.” I’m this close to finding her. Warmth steals over me, coating me from head to foot. “I attended your event last night at Manhattan Wine.”
“Ah, yes. Nice to hear from you Mr. Carmine. Did you enjoy yourself?”
Immediately I see Heather in my mind, leaning up against the brick wall, lips parted, breathing shallow as she comes. I clear my throat. “Umm, yes. I had a great time.”
“Good! That’s what I like to hear.”
“I’m actually calling to get the name of one of the ladies I chatted with.”
“A personalized email went out today with everyone’s prospects.”
I recall the email I opened this morning on my way to work. Heather’s name was not in it. “Well…she wouldn’t have put my name down, I don’t think.”
A silence meets me on the other end of the line. “Oh dear. You mean you’d like the name of someone who didn’t check off to meet you?”
Thinking back to the darn clipboard we were all saddled with, I realize there’s no way Heather marked hers and handed it in. After our…encounter…on the secluded patio, she made a beeline for the exit. “Yes, someone who maybe forgot to hand in her form.”
“I collected all the clipboards when the event ended. All forms were accounted for.”
Damn. I know she couldn’t have filled hers regarding me. I never saw her lift a pen when I sat with her. “We…chatted…outside for a while. But I didn’t get her last name.”
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Carmine. I can’t reveal anyone’s name without permission.”
Anger spikes through my calm façade. This is not going as well as I planned. “Can you make an exception?”
“No sir, I cannot.”
“What if I promised to donate a large sum of money to your favorite charity?”
A distinct iciness creeps into her voice. “No.”
A sigh escapes me and my shoulders slump. Money won’t buy me out of this one. I’ll have to try another avenue. “Okay, thanks for your time.”
We end the call and I shift in my seat. The sensitive helmet of my cock rubs against my underwear, driving me to further distraction. I reach down to move myself, hoping to find a comfortable position.
Impossible.
I’m aching to jerk off, an act I don’t normally have to perform unless traveling for business in an isolated area.
Unbidden, the image of Heather across the bistro table blossoms in my mind, bringing back the exact moment she asked if I wanted someone to tell me what to do. Her long, black hair cascaded over a shoulder, the trailing ends hugging the underside of one pert breast. An enigmatic smile creased the delicate features on her fresh face. No one would have guessed her simple sweater and skirt hid a cauldron of sexual heat bubbling below the surface.
No pretense of heavy makeup, no overly done hairstyle a man can’t touch, no slave to fashion…well, except those spiked heels she wore. If she hadn’t barked that order at me to turn off my phone, I could have easily missed her. And that would have been a crying shame.
The memory of her taste has me jumping up to lock the office door, right as I reach to unzip my fly. The pressure mounting in me has to come out or I’ll be useless all damn day. A small part of me is annoyed at how she left me hanging last night, but as my fist closes over the flesh of my engorged cock, I have to admit I don’t care.
I free the swollen organ and feel like an eager teenager discovering the joys of self-pleasure as I pump my length up and down. My head leans on the chair back as I close my eyes and picture Heather telling me to get on my knees. The skin slides up and down in my grip, creating a warm friction.
I recall Heather’s husky voice guiding my thumbs to her wet sex. Her musky smell spilled into the night, choking out the lingering aromas of the city.
A bead of come leaks out the weeping slit of my cock and trails down the side. I massage the slick warmth around my shaft in a circular twist of my fist and increase the pressure on each stroke, driving myself closer to a peak.
My mouth waters at the remembered taste of her. She was so sexy when she came, mewling soft little sounds of pleasure deep in her throat. I want to slide into her tight wetness and feel her writhe around my flesh. I’d make her call out her release, not stifle the noises like last night. The image of driving myself deep and fast into her permeates my mind, forcing out all other thoughts.
The arousal I’ve felt all night and all morning combined with the stimulation of my hand promises to deliver a powerful peak. The pressure builds in the base of my cock and all I hear in my head is Heather moaning her pleasure while I plunge inside her. I jerk my fist faster, willing my fantasy to become real. At the last moment I remember to cup my left hand around the head and catch my come as it releases.
Wave after wave of sensation shudders through me in time with my pulsing prick. Tension flows out of my body as calmness enters my brain. I open my eyes and reach for the tissues in my top drawer. Steely shards of determination spike down my spine as I clean up and toss the tissues away.
I want her. Man, do I want her.
At least now I should be able to get some work done.
I wonder how long she will make me wait before she calls. I will find this woman, if its the last thing I do.

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C.J. Ellisson

C.J. Ellisson, author of contemporary fantasy and erotica, lives near DC with her husband, two children aged 11 and 9, two Staffordshire Bull Terriers and a young cat she’s newly allergic to. After spending most of her working life dealing with real estate – either as a sales manager in wholesale mortgage banking, a corporate trainer, a Realtor, or as a property manager – she’s now writing full-time and happy for the first time in years. Writing has become her passion and to find people want to read her stories feels like a dream come true.

Connect with C.J. EllissonWebsite  |  Facebook  |  Facebook Fan Page  Goodreads  |  Twitter   

Brazen is giving away ONE digital copy of VANILLA ON TOP.
Open INT. End Feb. 12th. 
Also, for every 10 comments C.J. will be giving away a swag bag. So the more comments on this post the more chances you have of winning a swag bag. (US ONLY) 
Good Luck!

Review: Vanilla On Top by C.J. Ellisson


Series: Walk on the Wild Side #1
Format: Digital ARC
Release Date: January 11, 2013

Publisher: Brazen (Entangled)
Source: From Publisher for Review
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance

Discover your inner bad girl, and set her free…

Heather Pierce is done being a wallflower, both personally and professionally. Desperate to live a different life for one night, she attends a speed dating event. Maybe here, anonymous unless she chooses otherwise, she can become someone new. When a man way out of her league sits across from her, Heather gathers her courage and takes charge of what she wants, secretly fearing he won’t desire the real person she’s desperate to hide.

Top acquisitions officer and international playboy Tony Carmine is about to close the biggest deal of his career. But then he meets Heather at a speed dating event…and discovers losing control may be exactly what he needs. Her blossoming sensuality occupies his every thought, consuming him with the need to possess the most intriguing lover he’s ever encountered—until he walks into the boardroom and sees Heather on the other side of the negotiating table.

“So, what do you plan on doing this weekend with Tony? You gonna go out and buy a bunch of sado-masochistic toys and do up your spare bedroom like some freaky-ass Fifty Shades of Grey scenario?”
If you are a fan of romance reads with lovable characters, sexual chemistry that’s off the charts and scorching hot sex scenes without it being overtly raunchy like some erotica reads out there, then VANILLA ON TOP is definitely a book you’ll want to pick up. This is the first book in Ellisson’s Walk on the Wild Side series and I am seriously looking forward to what Ellison has in store for her characters. 
I won’t go into to much detail about the premise of VANILLA ON TOP. It’s quite a quick and easy storyline about a twenty something young woman named Heather who is tired of being a wallflower and is ready to change things up in her love life. She goes to a speed dating event with her best friend and meets enigmatic business man, Tony Carmine. To grab his attention, Heather immediately intimidates Tony by ordering him to shut his phone off while they are on their two-minute date. Tony is taken back for a minute by Heather’s blunt orders but also very intrigued. Heather sticks with her take charge attitude and takes Tony out to the balcony of the winery the speed dating event is taking place in and let’s Tony get to know her a little more intimately *wink, wink*
Now I love an Alpha, bad-boy millionaire as much as the next woman but I really got a kick out of Heather throwing Tony off of his axis. Being a mover and shaker in the business world, Tony is was accustomed to people following his orders and getting his own way. So when this beautiful young woman starts telling him what to do and how to please her, he was immediately attracted to her take charge attitude. But the most brilliant thing about this story is that Heather learns along the way on how to keep Tony drooling and practically begging to have more time with her. She talks about some of the things she’s read about in her romance novels and just kind of wings the whole “dominatrix” thing. Now, Heather is no where near being a dominatrix and as the title of this book hints, everything is pretty vanilla. The sex scenes with Tony are still incredibly hot but there really isn’t any hardcore BDSM going on. Well, there might have been a scene with some spanking but nothing too hardcore for those who are vehemently anti-BDSM. 
“Who knew being an emotionally unavailable bitch would be such an aphrodisiac for some men?”

Overall, VANILLA ON TOP was a very enjoyable, fun, and fast-paced read that’ll satisfy any romance reader who’s looking for something sweet, sexy, and sizzling to get lost in. Heather was a great romantic heroine and I really loved and admired her drive to shed her wallflower persona and discover her inner vixen. It really takes a lot of courage and brass to pull off what she did and as her confidence in her sexuality grew, she became a stronger woman in the end. Honestly, it was a nice reversal to see a timid young woman call the shots in the bedroom especially when she’s with a male who is accustomed to getting what he wants because of his job, reputation, or financial status. Often times we see the guys calling all the shots and it’s refreshing to see a female character bring her lover to his knees begging for some more good lovin’. 
This was my first C.J. Ellisson and it most certainly will not be my last. She’s really has made an impression and me and I have already decided to give her earlier work a try. I truly enjoyed her attractive characters, easy dialogue, and great storytelling. 

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