Liked It: If You’re Not The One by Jemma Forte

Series: Standalone
Format: eGalley
Release Date: June 1, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Women’s Literature

What if you could do it all over again?

Jennifer Wright is pretty sure her husband doesn’t love her anymore. She and Max used to be the perfect couple, but the pressures of work and kids have pulled them in opposite directions. Now , Jen is full of “what if” questions about whether her bland, suburban existence is all she was ever destined for.

When a terrible accident sends Jen into a coma, she is able to see what her life could have been if she had run off to Australia with the handsome, dangerous man she met on vacation, or if she had stayed with her workaholic college boyfriend. Would she ever have loved another child as much as she loves her daughters? Could she have become rich? More than anything, Jen wants to do the right thing for her family. But what she discovers may leave her with even more questions about the choices she made, and no easy answers about what to do next.

Have you ever wondered what it would’ve been like if you pursued a different path? Or perhaps married an ex instead of the one you’re with? This is basically what IF YOU’RE NOT THE ONE by Jemma Forte explored in this novel. 
The heroine, Jennifer Wright, is unhappy with her marriage. Her husband, Max, hasn’t been paying much attention to her, they haven’t had sex in five months, and its that craving for intimacy that had Jennifer desperate and completely unsatisfied. Then one night, just when she thought she’ll finally end her dry spell, she caught her husband flirting with a coworker over the phone. The same woman Jen’s entertained at her house a couple of times. Distraught, Jen ran out of the house and got hit by a car then went on a coma for three weeks during which time she had The Family Man moment. Jen went through “tunnels” and “lived” three different versions of HEA with her exes, one was surfer dude Aiden, then there’s billionaire Tim (a la Mark Zuckerburg), and then Steven, the plumber turned home TV shopping superstar. 
I have to admit, I’ve been in Jennifer’s shoes so it was quite easy for me to step in and see things from her prerogative. IF YOU’RE NOT THE ONE was told in flash-forward style with the alternative HEA’s interspersed in between. I was enjoying Jen’s voice and how unfiltered she was describing her life and it’s quite obvious she lived before settling down with Max. 
I don’t know where it started feeling monotonous for me though. I just started noticing how Jen is always irritated, whether it’s with her friend borrowing her dress, or how her current beau is behaving, it’s like she’s constantly PMS-ing. And this dissatisfaction extended to the alternative HEA’s, except for one but even that felt more like “settling” than authentically joyous. I’m usually left with feel-good vibes after reading women’s fiction, but IF YOU’RE THE ONE left me feeling sad and even irritated. Jennifer rubbed off on me! 
Now I hope this gets a companion novel or something because the novel feels incomplete. After a miraculous recovery from her accident, Jen’s marriage is still in shambles and it didn’t remedy the situation with Max. It did the opposite and it looks like Jen is about to make one of her alternative HEA come true. Now women’s lit is notorious for leaving its readers on a lurch, like the writers usually leaves it to us to make up our own ending. This time around I wish we had more closure because towards the end, IF YOU’RE THE ONE took a slight turn towards magic realism territory and I’d like to know where that road ends.

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Quick Hits: Wolf Bride by Elizabeth Moss + The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson

  

Wolf Bride | Lust in the Tudor Court 1 | Elizabeth Moss
Erotic Historical Romance | Sourcebooks Casablanca | May 5, 2015

Bloggy Friends’ Review: Nocturnal Book Reviews | Book Swoon

I was so excited to read WOLF BRIDE because I love the Tudor Court and anything that has to do with Henry VIII. It was also an added incentive that Lust in the Tudor Court was erotic historical romance and I sure could use a big dose of sexy in my life. 

Sadly, WOLF BRIDE wasn’t what I hoped for. I wasn’t regaled with descriptions of court life, the wardrobe, the silly protocols as the heroine, Eloise Tyrell, was so close to King Henry and Queen Anne. Instead I had pages and pages of sex, angst, more sex, zero courtship, and convoluted conflicts! I almost DNF’d this one but I was on the 88% mark and thought I might as well finish it since I made it that far. But boy was it a laborious 12%. Lord Wolf was a jackass and emotionally handicappped, and he was not sexy (to me at least) at all. In fact, I never understood his motivations and decision making process which further annoyed me. As for Eloise, the girl needs some personality (or a brain) and sass. She obeyed Wolf well but it’s hard to appreciate that when she’s been obedience throughout the novel. Nope, WOLF BRIDE isn’t for me.


 
The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest | Medieval Fairy Tale Romance 1 | Emily Dickerson
Fairy Tale Retelling | Thomas Nelson | May 12, 2015 
at 47%
THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST by Emily Dickerson is a mash-up of Swan Lake and Robin Hood. I love the premise of this YA novel, after all, Robin of Locksley and the accursed Odette are two of my favorite fictional characters.
I can’t help but feel insecure about not finishing THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST because a lot of people loved it! Almost half way through the novel I felt it was sorely missing something. For example, at this point, I feel we should’ve seen Odette in full Huntress mode. Instead all I got were her arrows left in the forest as clue for Jorgen, the forester and Odette’s love interest. It’s so bland and though we know that Odette and Jorgen are at odds, there’s barely any tension between the two. 
But please don’t take my word for it. A lot of people in Goodreads LOVED THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST so it might be one of those it’s not you, it’e me kind of thing, you know? Give it a go, you might end up liking this title more than I did.


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Loved It: Her Wild Hero by Paige Tyler

Series: X-Ops 3
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Department of Covert Operations Training Officer Kendra Carlsen has been begging her boss to let her go into the field for years. When he finally agrees to send her along on a training exercise in Costa Rica, she’s thrilled.

Bear-shifter Declan MacBride, on the other hand, is anything but pleased. He’s been crushing on Kendra since he started working at the DOC seven years ago. Spending two weeks in the same jungle with her is putting a serious strain on him.

When the team gets ambushed, Kendra and Declan are forced to depend on each other. But the bear-shifter soon discovers that fighting bloodthirsty enemies isn’t nearly as hard as fighting his attraction to the beautiful woman he’ll do anything to protect.

HER WILD HERO is the third installment of Paige Tyler’s high velocity shifter series, X-Ops, and it’s far from slowing down. The cover group is still trying to pin down the mad scientists who are in the business of abducting innocent humans only to turn them into rabid shifter hybrids. Declan MacBride and Kendra Carlsen thought that their mission in Costa Rica will go smoothly. Unfortunately for them, they got ambushed by hybrids however they’re not exactly the bad guys they were hunting down. Things just got sticky for everyone and it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting our answers anytime soon.
Jungle Fever
Declan and Kendra’s small group perished except for the two of them. Luckily, Declan is a very discerning bear shifter, and is more than capable of protecting Kendra, who is no shrinking violet because this chick can kick serious butt! She makes M4 sexy ;). It’s also worth noting that Declan has the hots for Kendra for seven years, had asked her out for a date relentlessly only to be turned down countless times because Kendra has a serious thing for Clayne (Her Lone Wolf). There’s something about getting hunted in a foreign country combined with humidity that had these two bumping uglies like there’s no tomorrow. 
I’m all for romance and love triumping, however I can’t suspend disbelief (I know I’m being nitpicky) and find the sex hot when Declan and Kendra haven’t showered nor brushed their teeth for days! And with shifter senses, ugh! I don’t think I can get over the unpleasant combination of acrid taste and smell wafting off of these two. Then again, I guess one can get used to that… (i.e. The Walking Dead)
Melrose Place
X-Ops is starting to feel a lot like Melrose Place. There seems to be a pattern here where one is pining/sleeping with another only for that not to work out, and then they both find new partners who were in a similar situation in the past. The characters are so interconnected (sexually with minor family relations) that by the end of this series, they’ve practically slept with each other. It’s entertaining but I think I’ll find it challenging to keep up with their past liasons in the long run. 
Turn-Turn
Even if I’m not a huge fan of the last two couples of this series, I am loving the series arc! In Her Lone Wolf, it looks like there’s a traitor in their midst and Landon and Ivy (Her Perfect Mate) have been going off the books to investigate this further. But then PTyler added another twist and now I’m so anxious to know what the fluck is happening?! Is there really a traitor? Who is the real threat to the X-Ops? How big is this conspiracy? WHAT THE FLUCK IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT??  
HER WILD HERO was an entertaining read overall, I liked the romance and loved the conspirital mystery even more. The parts where PTyler was developing the romance between Declan and Kendra felt sluggish for me, I was hoping for more action on top of their action. The last quarter of the novel was pumped with adrenaline thought and that small scene in the end got me excited for the next book. Lastly, the variety of shifters in X-Ops is what I find the most interesting, I look forward to meeting sharks, dragons, or even a bird-like creature in future installments. 
“Tate, someone’s coming,” Declan said urgently from beside Kendra. He hadn’t moved from that position the entire time. And while she’d taken down a few of their attackers, he’d taken down a whole lot more.
“Are they coming back?” Tate asked. “Which direction?”
“Not them. Someone else, moving fast—too fast.”
Declan turned in a circle, while the marines and cops eyed him in confusion. Kendra was already getting a queasy sensation in her stomach when the bear shifter’s attention locked in one direction.
“There,” he said. “They’re coming at us like a shot.”
Tate and the others aimed their weapons in that direction. Seconds later, the underbrush exploded in movement. Three men came through, moving so fast they were almost a blur. Gunfire erupted, but even with all the shooting, they didn’t go down right away.
Crap.
“They’re hybrids!” Kendra shouted, aiming her M4 straight into a creature’s chest and emptying the entire magazine into it.
Declan and the other men took down another, but that still left one hybrid, and it was running straight at her. With her weapon empty and no time to reload, she knew she was done for. The thing’s glowing red eyes filled her vision.
Then a roar so loud that it literally shook the trees around her filled the air and Declan charged in front of her, wrapping the hybrid in a crushing bear hug. Declan had known bullets weren’t going to put this thing down in time to save her, she realized, so he’d shifted right there in front of everyone.

Kendra’s eyes widened as the normally gentle shifter squeezed the hybrid so hard she heard the creature’s ribs snap over its growls and snarls. Declan roared again and slammed the hybrid into the trunk of a tree so hard that everything else in the hybrid snapped.

Paige Tyler is the USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. She and her very own military hero (also known as her husband) live on the beautiful Florida coast with their adorable fur baby (also known as their dog). Paige graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue her passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kick-butt heroines who fall in love with them.

Follow Paige
Website | Facebook | @PaigeTyler | Google+ | Goodreads | Pinterest

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Research on Western Historicals by Rosanne Bittner, Linda Broday & Co.

I don’t usually read Western historical romances, BUT I’ve been watching a lot of western TV series lately and are enjoying the shows immensely! Here’s a few authors 

Digging into the Old West for a Historical Western Romance

It’s no surprise that historical western authors love the history of the old west. But when beginning a new story, where do they start? Historical western authors E.E. Burke, Jacqui Nelson, Jo Goodman, Kaki Warner, Linda Broday, and Rosanne Bittner share the research they’ve done for their historical western novels!


A Dangerous Passion by E.E. Burke
Goodreads | Amazon | www.eeburke.com

People often ask me where I get my inspiration. Honestly, I couldn’t make up more exciting scenarios or colorful characters than those I come across in historical research—in this case, railroad history.

Fortunate for me, I had to look no further than my backyard (southeastern Kansas). I came across a thesis written by a Kansas historian about a railroad race in 1870 that had all the makings of an epic Western: crooked politics, underhanded landlords, angry mobs, liars, cheats, and mysterious killers. The characters and events surrounding that race set my series in motion and inspired Passion’s Prize and Her Bodyguard.

The hero in my latest novel, A Dangerous Passion, is loosely based on the first general manager of the Katy Railroad, Robert S. Stevens. He was the brains behind the Katy, as well as the driving force, and is credited for the railroad’s survival and growth at a time when railroads failed faster than banks.


Between Love and Lies by Jacqui Nelson
Goodreads | Amazon | www.jacquinelson.com

An author cannot visit every location she writes about, so I turn to books for some serious armchair travel to both distant settings and time periods. It helps that I work in a used bookstore where the perfect resource might arrive at any time, but more often than not I’m rewarded by the pages of an old favorite I’ve had since my teenage years—the 26 volume Time-Life Old West series.

The spark for my upcoming release, Between Love & Lies, came from this series and the following lines. “The longhorns were carriers of a microscopic tick. The Texas animals were immune to the parasite, but the same tick produced deadly splenic fever in local cattle.”

I imagined a small farm, held together only by the grit and hard work of its owner, might not survive such an event. I wondered what might happen next, both on that unlucky farm and in the nearest town: Dodge City, the Queen of Cattle Towns—where life would be challenging for a woman who luck had deserted.


This Gun for Hire by Jo Goodman
Goodreads | Amazon | www.jogoodman.com

I have books (yes, books) on lots of subjects that I reference frequently, but I also use the Internet for some specifics. I’ve researched clothes, of course, trains and train travel and train routes, dynamite, guns and more guns, mail express, safe cracking, dime novels, saloons, brothels, branding, barbed wire, outlaws, the marshal service, forts, maps and maps and maps, recipes, how to start and clean an iron cook stove, vocabulary, and how to saddle a horse. That’s still probably a short list.


Home by Morning by Kaki Warner
Goodreads | Amazon | www.kakiwarner.com

The list is endless. In addition to 1870s clothing, mining and ranching, weapons, horse training, railroads, transoceanic steamers, historical events (Great Epizootic, Underground Railroad, Irish migration, Transcontinental RR, Chinese labor, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, currency issues, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and so on), I also had to research medical practices, breast pumps, condoms, rabies, water witching, photography, blindness, and of course, cool new ways to kill bad guys. It was fun. And exhausting.


Twice a Texas Bride by Linda Broday
Goodreads | Amazon | www.lindabroday.com

Research is so important in any story, but even more so for historicals. I‘ve research modes of travel and how fast they could go by horseback, wagon, and train. In Twice a Texas Bride I had to research canned milk to make sure it could’ve been in my story after the baby ran out while the outlaw had them under siege and there was nothing else. In that story I also found that canned peaches were available so I put them in. I’ve researched gunshots, leg injuries, plants, medicines—you name it and I’ve just about researched it. In the book I’m writing now, I’ve had to learn how broken legs were treated back then and if a doctor had the expertise to put someone in a cast.


Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner 
Goodreads | Amazon | www.rosannebittner.com

I have been studying America’s western history for over 30 years. I grew up on westerns on TV, loved books and movies about pioneers and Native Americans. I have a huge personal library of research books – hundreds of them. I strive for complete historical accuracy in my novels – events, locations, tools and utensils, clothing – all of it. I don’t “invent” forts or cities or a gold discovery if gold wasn’t actually discovered there, things like that. I LOVE America’s “Old West!”
There you have it! A great historical romance is only as good as the research put into it. There’s so many nuances that some people miss from the clothes, landmarks, events, down to food and dialogue. Any book should have the ability to transport you, past, present, or future (or another world), and the ones above looks like it’ll be worth the trip.

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A Shot of YA: Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone + Print Giveaway

Series: Stand-alone(?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Genre: MYA-Contemporary Romance

BLURB:
What is Normal?

For Trevor normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves Trevor with no band, no teammates and no chance of graduating. It’s kinda hard to ace your finals when you’ve been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor—those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw.

For Everly normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor’s daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

QUOTABLE QUOTE:
It was about meeting someone who kind of knocked you on your ass. A girl who wasn’t anything like I imagined. A girl who was hiding stuff, and just like me, she was hoping no one would notice.
So maybe we could hide together, or maybe we could fix each other. [Trevor]

Oh my heart! Juliana Stone, why do you always give it such a firm but gentle squeeze?? You guys! SOME KIND OF NORMAL is my first Summer-ish read and it. Was. Wonderful! In case you didn’t notice the 5-cauldron rating. And if you haven’t tried Juliana Stone’s contemporary romances (there’s a couple of FREEBIES on Amazon), I suggest you do! Her stories are always relatable, realistic, and heartfelt, you’ll come back for more to get the feels! 
So I don’t know if SOME KIND OF NORMAL is part of a series or what. A sequel was mentioned in the end of Boys Like You, and Trevor was first introduced there… That said, this novel can be read as stand-alone, although I suggest you still read both… for the feels! Anyway, Trevor had it rough. He just came out of a coma after getting into an drunk driving accident and now things are sorta, kinda, normal with a few kinks that requires a lot of adjustment, positivity, and resilience from our young leading man. 
Trevor Lewis’ struggle was very believable to me. I appreciated that he wasn’t angry all the time, he didn’t dwell on the things he used to have, things he used to and can’t do anymore because of the after effects of his accident. I find it normal for him to be frustrated at times, but almost losing his life gave him some perspective, and helped him understand the difference between concern and control. Trevor’s a good guy overall, I expected him to pull the “victim” card but instead he surprised me by still maintaining a good vibes attitude. Suffice to say that Trevor wasn’t in a dark place that he failed to spot Everly’s need for friendship and empathy.
Everly (I love her name!) Jenkins was the pastor’s daughter and everyone put her in this “perfect box”. What people don’t know is her “perfect” family is going through a rough patch. For once, I love a young adult heroine who didn’t make every stupid thing about her! Anyway, Everly’s issue is about her parents’ crumbling marriage and I was astounded with how matured she handled the situation. I think it’s expected that Everly had her moments. After all, she’s only 17 and is forced to share the burden of her parent’s issues. But on those tense confrontational moments, Everly was very mature and even wise for her years. And amidst all of her personal problems, Everly still found it in her to extend the same empathy Trevor gave her in the beginning. And fixing each other is exactly what they did. 
I had a personal connection with SOME KIND OF NORMAL, this story hit so close to home, it set me in a melancholic/contemplatative mood after reading it. These kids are dealt sour lemons and I love how they turned it into a sweet and tangy lemonade. There was just one part that I felt was unneccessary, I don’t think the dirty laundry here should’ve been aired in that manner. But for the sake of dramatic tension, I’ll give it a pass. Fans of Katie McGarry will totally get into this series, it’s not as angsty as Pushing The Limits, but just as hard hitting. I just love this (series) so much I hope there’s another on the way!

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Steampunk Sundays: Of Silk and Steam by Bec McMaster

Series: London Steampunk 5

Format: eGalley
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Adult Steampunk

Enemies. Allies. Lovers.

When her beloved father was assassinated, Lady Aramina swore revenge. The man responsible is well beyond her grasp, but his dangerously seductive heir, Leo Barrons, is fair game. When Mina obtains evidence proving that Leo is illegitimate, she has the means to destroy both the killer and his son, a man who troubles her heart and tempts her body.

A woman of mystery, Mina’s long driven Leo crazy with glimpses of a fiery passion that lurks beneath her icy veneer. He knows she’s hiding something, and he’s determined to unravel her layer by silken layer. He just doesn’t expect the beautiful liar to be the key to overthrowing the corrupt prince consort… or to saving his own carefully walled-off heart.

And so it has come full circle. What was started in Kiss of Steel has now been concluded in OF SILK AND STEAM, book 5 of Bec McMaster’s fiery and sexy series, London Steampunk. This latest installment is explosively action packed, filled to the brim with damaging secrets, devastating betrayals, tempered with love and loyalty. Should BMcMaster decide to end the series at this point, I wouldn’t have complaints because she gave full closure on every long standing conflict and wrapped-up every story thread, big and small.
OF SILK AND STEAM is predominantly a friends-to-lovers kind of story. For 5 books, we saw the rivalry and tension build and swell between Lady Aramina, Duchess of Casavian, and, Leo Barrons, the Duke of Caine’s heir. Their long standing feud started when Caine allegedly murdered Lady Aramina’s father. Undeterred, Leo Barrons relentlessly pursued Lady Aramina through high water and Hell (intentionally reversed) and said pursuit was fruitful because these two eventually had their HEA.
It’s a little challenging to characterize these two as characters, and as a couple. In so few words, Lady Aramina is fire and ice, haughty yet passionate, and very loyal. Leo Barrons is playful, arresting, principled, determined, and Aramina’s perfect match. As a couple? These two are dangerous. I’m barely skimming the surface because as I mentioned, it took 5 frickin’ books to get them (and us) here. And that’s partly why OF SILK AND STEAM has an epic feel to it, BMcMaster has been building up London Steampunk to this moment from all angles and the novel’s scope is all encompassing. Now all the previous books are tied together by OF SILK AND STEAM. All the previous characters made cameos not just BMcMaster wants to give us treat, but because they all play important roles in ousting the cruel tyrant that is the Prince Consort: Blade the Devil of Whitechapel and leader of the Nighthawks, Lena and her tinkering genius, Lynch and Rosaling’s humanist efforts, and even Lady Peregrine’s stealth and skill as a Nighthawk proved integral in winning their impromptu coup de

If you remove the romance and paranormal elements of OF SILK AND STEAM, you’ll end up with a civil war story of sorts. The vein of this novel lie on the conflict between classes, discrimination between humans and the paranormal citizens of London, political conlfict within the Echelon, and other odds and ends that makes up for this ticking bomb. Add a madman into the equation and a Queen who’s been manipulated and abused close to breaking, and you end up with a story akin to Tolstoy’s epic novels…. albeit fantastical and definitely fictional. But you get my drift, right?
The best part? OF SILK AND STEAM isn’t the last book of the series. It may close off this particular story arc but there’s more to come! I had the pleasure of interviewing the super cool Bec McMaster and here’s a snippet of it:

Braine: How many books are you still planning to write for London Steampunk?

Bec McMaster: [As mentioned], if I continue the series, I will have to start a new story arc. I have two arcs in mind, which excite me, so I’m dabbling with one of those ideas at the moment. I’ve basically plotted out six books, all featuring characters that have appeared in the previous series, though right now I’m playing with a couple of other worlds and stories to keep me fresh.

The rest of the interview will be published on Romance at Random on March 11, 2015. We talked about a lot of things, and not to toot my own horn, it’s a juicy one because Bec was so game and shared a lot of great things about this novel and the series. I hope you’ll catch it!

Suped Feature: The First Kiss by Grace Burrowes

The First Kiss
Grace Burrowes
Sweetest Kisses 2
February 3, 2015
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Contemporary Romance
Classical pianist Vera Waltham is recovering from a bad break up by taking a hiatus with her daughter in the Damson Valley countryside. She’s content with her music, and has no interest in complicating her life with further attempts at romance.
Attorney James Knightley is a numbers guy who reads contractual fine print for lunch, and wants nothing to do with damsels, in distress or otherwise. Nobody is more surprised than James when he falls for Vera Waltham, and the only contract on James’s mind when it comes to Vera is holy matrimony.
**If you like, or even love, second chance romances, family drama, witty kids, sensitive men, with a dash of legal issues, then Grace Burrowes’ Sweetest Kisses series is perfect for you!**


“May I ask you a favor?”
“Of course.”
“Play the piano for me?”
Nowhere near play with me, but this was Vera. “You want to do a lesson now?”
“This isn’t a lesson. I’m asking you to play for me, James. Get out your old favorites, the friends you turn to when you’re heartsore and soul weary, the consolation pieces that aren’t for everybody else. You play them for yourself.”
She curled up across the room in a pap-san chair and pulled an old quilt around her.
Could he do this?
If Vera had asked James to go to bed with her, he would have known he was competent to bring her pleasure, to satisfy her most intimate wishes and secret, sexual desires. But this? To play? For her?
She wanted music that had called to him, spoken to his soul and become a part of him. Pieces of his heart.
James set his hands on the keyboard, took a slow, deep breath, and began to play. He played from memory, his fingers finding the notes easily in the dim light. He could play this waltz with his eyes closed, and he had, many times. He hadn’t heard it since the night his mother had died, but she’d loved it too, and his hands would never forget how to craft the phrases and melodies.
“Oh, James, the Chopin.” Vera signed her pleasure at his choice, and James’s heart sighed with her. He could do this for her, soothe her with music the way she’d made music to soothe and delight so many others. The waltz shifted from a work he’d set aside years ago – a grieving piece – to a gift from him to Vera.
Only to Vera.
When the last rippling rise of notes died away, Vera remained curled up, eyes closed, mouth slightly parted.
James had played her to sleep. He took a moment to memorize the sight of her, safe and at peace under the quilt his mother had made for her hope chest.
Then he thought back over other pieces he’d set aside, the ones that were too sweet or too sorrowful or both, and he began to play again.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

Follow Grace
Website | Facebook@GraceBurrowes | Goodreads

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Quick Hits: How to Handle a Heartbreaker by Marie Harte & A Single Kiss by Grace Burrowes


How To Handle A Heartbreaker | The McCauley Brothers 2 | Marie Harte
Contemporary Romance | August 5, 2014 | Sourcebooks Casablanca
Bloggy Friend Reviews: Guilty Pleasures & Christy’s Love of Books

HOW TO HANDLE A HEARTBREAKER was recommended to me by Bookish Babe Andrea (I miss you, beech!). I read this a while back and realized I have yet to review it so better late than never!

Anyway, Marie Harte is now one of my go-to authors for romcom. I still have to read the rest of the books but I’m sure it’ll be worth reading and very entertaining to boot! What I loved about HOW TO HANDLE A HEARTBREAKER is how Marie Harte executed the dual POV brilliantly! Brody Singer’s chapters are very playful and stupidly “male” while Abby’s are more romanticized and very girly. Also these two started as fluck buddies with Brody serving as Abby’s “research specimen” for her erotic novels. The progression of their story was filled with lots of sexy flirting, hot sex, and ridiculous bickering. And even when it got to the heart of things, when Abby and Brody were hashing out their baggage and transitioning from friends with benefits to a committed relationship, it still felt light and sincere. I love the family dynamics and the very light drama, this series is my kind of contemporary romance.



A Single Kiss | Sweet Kisses 1 | Grace Burrowes
Contemporary Romance | January 6, 2015 | Sourcebooks Casablanca

Grace Burrowes is a highly recommended author by my SW, Grace of Books of Love, she loves Ms. Burrowes’ historical romance novels and as I don’t read much histrom, I thought this new series would be a better fit for me. So trust me, I’m very disappointed that I didn’t like A SINGLE KISS
A SINGLE KISS to me was like a cross between The Good Wife and Law & Order: SVU, family drama meets the courtroom. There was a lot of legal jargon that flew over my head and at times I feel like I’m reading the story midway (I checked the prequel novella and it’s independent from this). Now these are all minor things compared to the overall picture, something I would dock a cauldron for for subjective reasons. I disliked A SINGLE KISS because: 
  1. Hannah Stark was very standoffish, mysterious, and very defensive for the first half of the book for reasons that are revealed later on in the story and in hindsight, I understand why her demeanor was so. However it took too long for her to warm up and by the time she was showing vulnerability, I was way past the mark where I could’ve connected with her
  2. Trent Knightley does honor to his name because he’s sweet, thoughtful, protective, and just embrace Hannah, secrets and all, from almost the beginning. Unfortunately his loving manners got too much where I found it corny. Braiding Hannah’s hair? Cute but not for me
  3. The conflict was shallow
  4. The resolution was so convenient rainbows and unicorns are jumping off the pages in pure joy! It’s too neat, too pretty and without preamble except for giving us readers a happily ever after. 
I’ll still read the next one because it features a different couple, different story, and I’m hoping A SINGLE KISS is just a one time thing and the rest of the books sweeps me off my feet.

Loved It: Hungry Like The Wolf by Paige Tyler + Seven Fun Facts

Series: SWAT

Format: eGalley
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Paranormal Romance

They’re tight
They’re on target
They’re as alpha as men can get

The Dallas SWAT team is hiding one helluva secret…they’re a pack of wolf shifters.

The team of elite sharpshooters is ultra-secretive—and also the darlings of Dallas. This doesn’t sit well with investigative journalist Mackenzie Stone. They must be hiding something…and she’s determined to find out what.

Keeping Mac at a distance proves impossible for SWAT team commander Gage Dixon. She’s smart, sexy, and makes him feel alive for the first time in years. But she’s getting dangerously close to the truth—and perilously close to his heart…

HAPPY NEW YEAR! And what better way to kick off 2015 than a new series featuring deadly and sexy as sin werewolves courtesy of Paige Tyler! HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF not only makes me bust out my Duran Duran playlist, it sure made my heart race from the heavy flirting and smexing between Gage Dixon, SWAT team leader and pack Alpha, and Mackenzie Stone, award winning journalist and nosier than your grandma during the holidays. 
Since PTyler is breaking HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF down to you below, I thought I’d do the same, whip out the bullets and give you a rundown of my thoughts and feelings about SWAT (Special Wolf Alpha Team) 1:
  • The first 2/3 of the story focused on developing the attraction between Gage and Mac. Of course there were necessary introductions but PTyler didn’t bother much with myths and world building. 
  • There’s no mythology here and unless I missed it, the werewolves here were born with a recessive DNA which was triggered later on in life by stressful situations. In this case, the SWAT team are military vets. No world building either, nobody knows werewolves exist and there’s no paranormal world/group to speak off. Don’t expect vamps, fairies, or some otherworldly to join in the fun. 
  • The high powered action didn’t develop until the last third of the book. However there is a LOT of action that went on beneath the sheets. 
  • I wish there was more werewolf stuff meaning Gage only shifted one time here and he was more of a man-beast than a full fledged wolf. 
  • Mackenzie was irritating, which is a given since she is a journalist out for a story. I did love her character development though, hers was a moral conflict between choosing a story and her relationship with Gage. 
  • Gage might be an Alpha but he didn’t go caveman here, no irrational acts of possessiveness and domination. 
  • The side characters were alright but I didn’t really get to invest on any of them as the story focused on Mac and Gage. 
  • HUNGERY LIKE THE WOLF is paranormal romance, expect insta-mating.
HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF will make your heart beat fast for different reasons because of the pace and the quick romance that developed between Gage and Mac. Also it’s supernatural-lite making it a happy medium for all readers of romance regardless of where their taste for the paranormal lies. PTyler is fast making her mark on this genre and having read two previous shifter novels from her, she has a specific style that I’m growing to love more and more. Her books are always a good time, I find her writing style to be effortless reading and her stories, despite their rather complex plots, simplified and easy to get acclimated to. Definitely a writer I’m going to follow more this year.


Seven Things Readers Should Know About HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF (SWAT 1)
by Paige Tyler

  1. The series is about a pack of alpha werewolves working for the city of Dallas as their SWAT Team, or as they like to call themselves, Special Wolf Alpha Team. They’re tight. They’re on target. They’re as alpha as men can get. Oh, and they’re pretty hunky, too!
  2. The werewolves all possess certain basic characteristics, like claws and fangs, exceptional vision and sense of smell, strength, speed, and the ability to heal from almost any wound. Although, a shot in the head or the heart will kill them. Beyond that, the werewolves run the gamut when it comes to their appearance. Some are limited to their human form with some werewolf capabilities, while others can shift completely into a wolf. It all depends on their personalities and acceptance of the beast inside them.
  3. The werewolves tend to lead a pretty violent life. The chances of at least some of them getting shot, blown-up, stabbed, or violently beaten in each book is pretty much a hundred percent. But they don’t whine or complain about it. They simply go seethe team medics and get fixed up. Besides, women think scars are sexy, as long as you have a good story to go along with them.
  4. Gage Dixon, the SWAT Commander, has spent the last few years slowly putting his team together one werewolf at a time, but he has his hands full with this pack. As alphas, these guys tend to be a bit aggressive, prone to snarling and fighting each other. They also have a habit of destroying a lot of property when they butt heads
  5. For obvious reason, the werewolves in the series go to great lengths to hide their identity. That means no claws or fangs in public. The same goes for running too fast, jumping too far, or lifting too much. If people can see what they’re doing, try their best to act normal. Of course, that can be hard to do when you’re a SWAT officer going up against a bad guy armed with an automatic weapon.
  6. For all their hard work at staying hidden, someone has become curious. Mackenzie Stone (Mac to her friends) is an investigative journalist for a local paper who decides that these guys are a little too good. They’re the toast of the town with an incredible arrest and conviction rate, as well as a reputation forgoing after the worst of the worst in a town full of really bad people. Everyone loves them—even the girl scouts. But when a guy in prison convinces her that the local SWAT team is onsome kind of performance enhancing drug, Mac decides to work her way into the good graces of the Darlings of Dallas and expose them for what they really are.
  7. Gage knows exactly what Mackenzie is up to, and he’ll do anything to protect his pack. But when both of them start to feel the undeniable connection between them growing, which one going to back down and risk everything for a shot at The One.

Paige Tyler is the USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. Paige writes books about hunky alpha males and the kickbutt heroines who fall in love with them. Visit http://www.paigetylertheauthor.com. She and her very own military hero (aka her husband) live on the Florida coast with their adorable dog.

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Suped Up: Full Throttle by Julie Ann Walker + The Holidays & Giveaway

Series: Black Knights Inc. 7

Format: eGalley
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: Publisher
Genre: Romantic Suspense

She Needs a Hero…

Abby Thompson didn’t sign up to be the daughter of the President of the United States. The position was forced on her by the small matter of her birth. Preferring a quiet life of study, she’s content to leave the politics and the international intrigue to her father. Unfortunately, the most powerful man on the planet is sure to make enemies. When a group of armed thugs takes her hostage half a world away, demanding the U.S. government release prisoners in exchange for her safe return, she fears her father’s policy of “not negotiating with terrorists” means she’ll never see the shores of the Potomac again. Luckily, there’s one glimmer of hope. His name is Carlos Soto. And though she abruptly ended things with him years ago, she knows now he’s the only man who can save her…

Black Knights, Inc. to the Rescue…

Carlos “Steady” Soto has taken part in his fair share of dangerous missions working at the covert government defense firm of Black Knights Inc. But nothing prepared him for the emotional rollercoaster he faces when he’s tasked with rescuing the only woman he ever loved-who also broke his heart. Racing against time and outmaneuvering a group of trained terrorists will take everything he’s got. Plus there’s the heat simmering between them which is threatening to ignite into an inferno. While ruthless enemies stalk them, they must learn to trust each other again. Even if they do make it out alive, will Abby turn her back on him… for the second time?

I’ll be super brief because I’m slated to review this over at Romance@Random and I hope you’ll check it out once it’s live. 
FULL THROTTLE, the latest Black Knight Inc. installment by Julie Ann Walker, is the best one yet. This romantic suspense series keeps getting better and better and one of my favorite biker set so far. First off they’re black ops and sexy as sin as opposed to glorified criminals who do not know how to treat a lady right. The pace is breathtaking it took me a single afternoon to finish this full-length novella because the plot is laid out fantastically and despite the complex sounding blurb, it wasn’t overreaching nor too ambitious for it to leave loose threads about. There’s no insta-love, Steady and Abby have known each other for years and have always been attracted to each other and this reunion simply jump started what lingering feelings they have for each other all this time. 
Now I’m docking 0.5 cauldrons off it because of the condom-less sex. Again NEVER take their word for it! You don’t know what block that wiener has circled… or thrust into. And though I love the passionate lovemaking these two had, I still find it unrealistic given that they’re running away from jihadist and are in the middle of god knows where. But these are obviously very subjective cons which can be easily overlooked by a lot of you.
FULL THROTTLE. Don’t miss it. Must read.


With the Christmas around the corner, I thought I’d ask Julie Ann Walker holiday what-nots from traditions to food, down to what her Knights are up to this coming holidays. Read more to find out!

Walker family Christmas tradition


Okay, so I come from a big family. Three sisters and eleven nieces and nephews. And to set the stage of what holidays are like, imagine everyone talking over everyone else, mashed potatoes inevitably falling on the floor causing someone at some point to slip, and ribald jokes told at each other’s expense. Got that picture in your head? Now imagine all of us clearing the table after the meal, gathering stacks of scratch paper and sharpened #2 pencils, and proceeding to play a game of cut-throat Pictionary. And when I say cut-throat, I mean cut-frickin’-throat! LOL! There’s always yelling. There’s generally accusations of cheating. And there’s usually threats to rain down revenge on the winning team. But in between all of that, there’s laughter and the telling of childhood stories. There’s hugs and high-fives and the sense that all is right with the world because we’re all together. And for those few hours every year, that’s absolutely, 100% true. Everything is right in our world. 


All you can eat pasta!

My oldest sister makes Hearty Pasta Salad, and it’s a flat-out fight to see who gets to take the leftovers home. LOL!


Hearty Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
-One large head of broccoli (chopped)
-One large head of cauliflower (chopped)
-One bag of carrots (sliced into disks)
-Two large Vidalia onions (chopped)
-One carton white mushrooms (sliced)
-One 16oz box of tri-color rotini
-One 16oz bag of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
-Butter
-Salt and Pepper

Instructions:
-Sauté all vegetable in butter until tender. (Add mushrooms last as they cook up quickly.)
-Cook pasta according to package directions.
-Combine all cooked ingredients (pasta and vegetables) in dish and stir in cheese until melted.
-Salt and pepper to taste. 



I can’t stand the holidays because…

Shopping. If another granny makes a flying leap toward the scarf I’m about to buy, I swear you will see me on the evening news. Nordstrom at Christmas feels a little like the Thunderdome. “Two women enter. One woman leaves!” 


Winter gear. Gloves, hats, scarves, long underwear, snow boots, coats… It takes me twenty minutes just to put on the right attire to go outside. And then once I am outside, I look like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story. I shudder at the thought of slipping and falling. I picture myself as a turtle, arms and legs waving wildly but unable to get off my back as a snow storm moves in and buries me. My only hope will be that my husband finds my fluffy-coated popsicle of a body after the spring thaw. LOL! 


Holiday best and worst

It’s funny you should ask, because one of my worst holidays ever was actually one of my favorite holidays ever. In 2011, my husband and I went to Dublin, Ireland for New Year’s Eve. It was amazing! The Guinness, the blarney, the all-around hospitality of the Irish! But on January 2nd – the day we had our return flight – I came down with what I have since termed “The Irish Flu From Hell.” I was sick as the proverbial dog, running 102-degree temperature with terrible head and chest congestion. And anyone who has ever hopped on a plane while sick and congested knows that’s a bad combo. My eardrums burst because of the pressure on the eight-hour trans-Atlantic flight, and there was nothing to be done for it except to take Ibuprofen and try not to cry and scare the other passengers. LOL! It was awful. But memorable! 


Knights and Christmas Carols

Oh, they’re all gathered inside the shop. Becky is still trying to learn to cook kosher for Angel. Frank and all the rest of the guys are complaining about this since they just want a big juicy ham to eat. Snake and Michelle are awaiting their bundle of joy. Ghost and Ali are still getting used to new parenthood – they spent way too much money on Christmas presents for their daughter. And everyone else is all-around happy and healthy! It’s a blessed BKI holiday season indeed!


Thank you so much for having me on Talk Supe. It was a blast!

Julie Ann Walker is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can usually find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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