Audio Review: Midsummer Magic by Catherine Coulter

midsummer magicHero: Philip Hawsbury is no longer the second son. When his older brother died, he became the next Earl of Rothermere. Now his father is on his deathbed and Philip must fulfill a longstanding promise his father made to impoverished Alexander Kilbracken, the Scottish Earl of Ruthven. He must marry one of the daughters – Viola, Clare, or Frances.  He has no desire to wed anyone and would prefer to stay in London with his mistress. Now how can he proceed to do both?

Heroine: Frances does not want to be married off to Philip or really anyone sight unseen. She’s certain he’s going to be an arrogant Sassenach. She’s the apple of her father’s eye and has a premonition that her father would like to see her marry the man. Since she must be present and participate, she decides to do so in the worst way possible. While her sisters, Clare and Viola, vie for the young earl’s attention, she’s going to make herself ugly, aloof, and a shrew. Little does she know that she presents the perfect image of a wife for Philip – who wants to fulfill his father’s promise, but leave the missus behind at Desborough Hall while he pursues his London life unchecked and unencumbered.

Review: This book comes from the era of the “bodice-ripper” / “forced seduction” and has the flaws that associate with that period of romances. The hero for instance is not a worthy hero by today’s standard’s. He’s shallow and doesn’t learn to love the heroine in her disguise, but rather falls for her [beauty] when it comes off. He’s also either a product of his times or an idiot because he doesn’t think wives should be treated like mistresses and in so believing makes zero attempts to please his bride when he and she do their “duties” to conceive.  But it’s supposed to be acceptable and tolerable because both characters don’t know any better. Baloney. He also likes to pretend he’s the wounded party in all of this, which is very aggravating.

When he’s not being an irritating jerk he at least remembers the cream (which is not saying much.)

It should be noted that the heroine’s characterization starts off great – she’s feisty, stands up to her father, and tries to trick the hero with a “clever” ugly duckling disguise. But then this tom-boyish, heart of gold (she walks miles to visit her father’s tenets,) strong heroine gets replaced by someone else entirely during their “honeymoon” stage. She’s uncertain, quiet, mousey, and timid – and not just for the appearance of keeping up her disguise.

So what did work for me was the beginning and the initial set-up.

Narrator: Anne Flosnik as usual had a wonderful performance. She is one of the reasons I stuck with the story to the end.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Midsummer Magic (Magic Trilogy), Midsummer Magic (Audiobook)

Audio Review: The Duke’s Deceit by Sherrill Bodine

Sherrill Bodine duke deceitHero: Richard, the Duke of Avalon, knows he’s made a terrible mistake. His fiancé is a horribly vain and self-centered chit, more concerned with appearances than him. When he makes a decision to travel right before the wedding to visit a philosophy professor in Scotland, she informs him that if he does not return with plenty of time for the wedding, she will call it off. He’s eager to skirt the deadline in hopes she will actually follow-through on her threat.

Heroine: Mary Masterton faces a terrible conundrum. Her late father amassed debts trying to realize a stud farm to a local noble. Sir Robert insists she wed him to cancel the debts, but Mary has no interest in the creep. When a heroic stranger is knocked unconscious by a falling timber while aiding her in rescuing horses from a fire, she claims him as her fiancé. When he wakes, he has no memory at all. He recovers and sticks around fulfilling all the desperate longings of Mary’s heart… but can she keep a man she loves in the dark?

Reviews: What Mary doesn’t know about the barn fire is that it was staged. Readers will realize right away who is behind the attack, or do they? There’s more going on then what is happening on the surface. It’s a little convoluted – involving a late grandmother, a cousin, a fortune, America, and blackmail.

Mary is a kind and tenderhearted heroine. She wants to tell the truth but is convinced by many parties that to reveal her deception to Richard would cause him irrefutable harm in his condition. He might die! So she holds her tongue, falls in love with him, and then the tables are turned. He regains his memories (not unusual) and pretends otherwise to get at the truth Mary hid. I liked Richard the man when was suffering under amnesia, he’s less likeable as the Duke in his initial dealings with Mary.

Narrator: Susan Duerden is a likeable narrator. I would describe her voice a bit like a stage whisper. It does not sound like how she might usually talk and is pitched a little low and a little husky.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Duke’s Deceit, The Duke’s Deceit (Audiobook)

Excerpt and Giveaway: Jumped by Colette Auclair

Jumped - coverJUMPED by Colette Auclair

SUMMARY:

A young woman in the equestrian fashion business finds herself head over heels for none other than her ex-husband in Colette Auclair’s steamy sequel to her 2012 Golden Heart finalist and “page-turning debut” (Library Journal), Thrown.

Thoroughly enjoying herself at a friend Amanda’s wedding, Beth finds herself in an unexpected state of shock when she realizes she’s been seated next to her ex-husband, Finn, at the reception. Determined to not let this fluster her, Beth strikes up a conversation only to learn Finn isn’t the same man she walked away from.

Relieved the reception is over, Beth is looking forward to a relaxing weekend against the beautiful backdrop of sunny Aspen at her best friend Amanda’s estate. Little does she know Finn will be partaking in the weekend activities too. But just as Beth decides to keep as much distance between her and Finn as possible, Finn has a terrible accident and Beth is stuck being his bedside nurse.

Over the course of the weekend, Beth and Finn discover that the wounds of their failed marriage are not all that’s left. There are sparks…and hope. But just as they decide to give their relationship another try, Finn confesses a huge secret that could destroy everything he’s fought to get back—Beth, their relationship, and another chance at love.

Will Beth turn away, or will she take a leap of faith and say “I do” once (again) and for all?

Buy: Jumped (Aspen Valley series Book 2)

EXCERPT:

Around midnight, Bethany came into the cabin with Mingo padding after her and closed the door as gently as she could.

“Mmm,” Finn said from his bed. Mingo went straight for him, a brown cylindrical rocket.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“That’s fine.” He slept with his broken leg propped on a few pillows. He pet Mingo, who was beside himself with happiness, wagging his stubby breakfast-sausage tail as though the earth’s rotation relied on it.

“Do you need anything?” she asked as she turned on a lamp next to the sofa and came to his bedside. He was rumpled. Finn could pull off rumpled like Kardashians pulled off wedding rings. Beth’s mouth went a tad dry.

He shook his head. “No thanks.”

“Have you seen my phone?” She went into the bathroom.

“Uh . . . let me look,” he said.

She emerged and was surprised to find him in the kitchen, scanning the counter.

“You didn’t have to get up!” she said. “I wondered if you happened to see it. I’m not sure where I left it and thought it might be here.” She crossed to the coffee table in front of the couch and looked under an architecture magazine Grady had gotten for Finn.

Finn hobbled over. His expression was . . . unwelcoming. “You have a fruitful discussion with Jack?”

To anyone else, Finn’s question would have seemed benign. But Beth heard the edge. She lifted a cushion on the sofa and peered under it as she spoke.

“For the love of God, Finn. Yes. He was great. Thanks for asking.” She made sure to sound happy. Wow, but he could be annoying.

“Business? That’s all you two talked about?”

She rolled her eyes. “My business? Yes, for the most part. I also talked to Harris, Amanda, and Grady. What are you getting at?” She looked under another cushion, then at Finn.

He gave her a look. You know what I mean. “He must be a cheerful guy.”

“Why?”

“You two sure laughed a lot.”

“Do you know your leg will heal faster if you stop being an ass? Go back to bed.”

“Do you trust him? You think he knows what he’s talking about?”

“Jack? Yes.” She picked up each of the five magazines on the coffee table. No phone. “Grady wouldn’t have put me in touch with him if he wasn’t good at what he does. Did you question Grady about the orthopedist he sent you to?”

She needed to stand her ground, so she made a point to stand tall, facing him. Her pulse wasn’t exactly racing, but it wasn’t slow, either. She was letting Finn get to her. She had to Teflon up.

Finn asked, “He’s a good-looking guy, don’t you think?”

Oh, he wouldn’t dare. “Yeah,” she said. “Very good looking.”

She crossed to an armchair, speaking as she looked under its cushion. “Smokin’ hot. Broad shoulders.” She looked under the other chair’s cushion. “Beautiful eyes. Great ass. You bet he was good-looking. A complete and total hottie.” Take that.

“Did he hit on you?”

She faced him. “I think a better use of your time and energy would be to help me find my phone.”

His eyes were dark-denim blue. “Did he hit on you?”

“Oh my God, would you stop! What if he did? What business is it of yours? We’re not married anymore, remember?” Beth wiggled her left ring finger at him. Then she got on all fours and looked under the chair next to him.

Finn’s mouth was a hard seam that turned down at the ends. He looked like a rank stallion. He filled the space above her with his wide shoulders and anger.

She huffed out a breath. “No. It was business.” Before she spoke her next words, she rose and stood directly in front of him. “But if he had, I would’ve said yes and I would’ve liked it.”

If Finn wanted to be this way, fine. She would give it right back to him. She glared. Come on, Finn. You wanna dance? Let’s dance.

She was trying to guess what his next caveman accusation would be. Would he go overtly sexual? A classic character assassination? The dumb jock route, because Jack didn’t work for his business, but got lucky in sports?

Finn wedged the crutches beneath his arms and grabbed Beth’s biceps. She gasped. She hadn’t expected this. A brigade of tingles zoomed up her body from somewhere near her ovaries. Her pulse sprinted. Finn’s stare was unnerving, full of hunger and fury as he searched her face. She wasn’t sure what the hell he was going to say.

He was shaking. After a second he pulled her to him, slanted his lips to hers, and kissed her. More liked possessed her. He cupped the back of her neck with one hand and pressed her mouth to his. In a half heartbeat, she remembered exactly what his lips felt and tasted like. It was surreal, vivid, and hot. They were soft, but his kiss wasn’t gentle. His jealousy was so intense, it was almost a thing, like a flavor on his tongue.

Buy: Jumped (Aspen Valley series Book 2)

Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:

http://xoxoafterdark.com/2014/07/21/pocket-star-e-night-jumped-colette-auclair/?mcd=z?140804_AuclairJump_PSEN

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Giveaway: 5 e-book copies of Jumped by Colette Auclair are up for grabs. Open to all readers. Enter by leaving a comment about why you might get back together with an ex. Contest Ends 8/15/14.

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Review: Maltipoos Are Murder (Doggie Day Spa Mystery) by Jacqui Lane

malitpoos murderReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

This book was told in the first person.

Cara Rogers works at her Aunt’s pet spa – this is one job I’d love to try. Being a vet, not so much – blood and me don’t get along too well. Cole Sampson has come to talk to her and this is when the mystery begins. I have to say that I’m no good at figuring out the mysteries – I got this one wrong. You’ll have to read and see if you can get it right.

This is a perfect cuddle read. So if you have a dog, or cat, find your best reading area and cuddle up with your baby. Maybe you’ve lost your baby, like I have, so a stuffed animal may make a nice substitute. But this book is not just for pet lovers – even though dogs are the animal of choice here. The tone of the story would have changed otherwise. I never realized how exciting a pet spa could be – I’m in the wrong profession.

In one scene, Cara mentions a poem and if you’re interested you may want to check it out. If you would like to read it yourself you can find it here http://www.bartleby.com/364/335.html. This may have been a mystery but it didn’t stop this author from making me laugh – once you get to that point in the story you will understand why it was so funny.

I was disappointed once the ending appeared. I wasn’t ready for this story to be over but I did love the ending. It was more of a HFN than an HEA. So you can certainly use your imagination to come up with your own ending. Me, I’m hoping that there is going to be a book two in the Doggie Day Spa Mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed Jacqui’s tale and so will you. And if you want to know more of who Jacqui is, make sure to read “About the Author” at the very end.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Maltipoos are Murder (Entangled Ignite)

Review: How to Lose a Lord in 10 Days or Less (Tricks of the Ton, Book 3) by Elizabeth Michels

how to lose a lord in 10 days or lessHero: Andrew Clifton is Lord Amberstall. On his return to London society, he realizes he is being followed and takes measures to evade his pursuers. At first it seems like a successful attempt to escape… but then his horse nearly lands on a young woman and he gets thrown.

Heroine: Katie Moore used to love horses until she had a bad fall off of one that left her with a permanent limp. Her retreat to the countryside was a decision she took knowing she would never be on the marriage mart again. Terrified to be near horses, Katie is still determined to save Lord Andrew’s horse.

Review: First of all, I love this book title. How fantastic is it? I think it’s great. I also love the series title. The hero and heroine couldn’t be more opposite. The hero is pragmatic while the heroine is overly sentimental. Katie is determined to put her foot down on Andrew’s decision to shoot his injured horse. He says it’s a fatal injury. She claims it is not. Who is right? What is humane? If the horse can be rehabilitated it won’t be able to walk or run like normal. Katie is not impressed. She wins the first round by refusing to lend Andrew a replacement horse and invites him to stay on her father’s estate while the horse mends. I’m sad to say, that both characters were kind of flat for me and I was never really involved in the story despite the intrigue around Lord Andrew.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy: How to Lose a Lord in 10 Days or Less (Tricks of the Ton)

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Excerpt: A Race for Love by Ann Black

araceforlove_200x300Blurb: Sara struggles to find her place in the fast-paced world of Thoroughbred horse racing, but will the arrival of a new trainer cost her everything she’s worked for?

Fast horses, strong personalities, and the thrill of mixing business with pleasure fill Sara’s world as an exercise rider. Her real desire, though, is to ride her favorite stallion, Cat, to victory in a race. There are two problems with this dream. The first lies in the fact she is a woman who wants to be a jockey. The second is a new, sexy horse trainer named Carter.

While Sara struggles to stay focused on her dream, Carter fights to prove his past doesn’t define his present. Will a tornado, a wounded jockey, a rich rival, and a horrible accident ruin everything, or can Sara cross the finish line in A Race for Love?

Buy: A Race for Love

Excerpt:

“How could this have happened?” Mr. Abbott questioned.

“Well, you know the horse is temperamental—” Carter started.

“Was he off before Corte got on?” Mr. Abbott asked.

“No. Sara didn’t have any problems with him today. He was a little stronger, you know, because of the mud, but they managed alright. Actually, they had one of their best workouts. But she understands his quirks. To be honest, Corte didn’t take her advice and they fought with each other the entire go ’round.”

He paused again. “Well, you know we were lucky getting Corte. After all, this is the busiest weekend of racing with the Golden Mile, the Florida tracks still in season, and the East Coast tracks starting their spring meets.” He shook his head. “No, I don’t know of any jockey in need of a horse to ride in the Golden Mile.”

Sara could hear Mr. Abbott’s voice raise on the other end. She figured he had started to put some pressure on Carter, knowing that he and Cat’s other partners had a lot to lose if the horse didn’t run in the race. Not only would they lose out on the chance of taking home a $500,000 purse, there were other perks that came from winning this race, including points toward the Triple Challenge.

“Well, I’ll see what I can do,” Carter told him before ending their conversation. When he hung up, he looked like he had just lost his best friend. Sara had never seen him so whipped. For the first time since she met him, he seemed vulnerable.

“You know I won’t be able to find another jockey,” he said. “Even if there were someone available, once word gets around what happened to Corte we might as well forget it. No one will want to take a chance on getting hurt with this only being the first leg of the Triple Challenge, and two more races in the series yet to run. Nope, our horse is probably already pegged for dumping jockeys.”

Carter paced the aisle. Between the filly that had colicked the night before and having to scratch her, and now Cat with no jockey, it had been a bad turn of events for the young trainer. “Why the hell couldn’t Corte just have listened to you and tried to get along with the damn horse instead of letting his anger show so Cat could feed on it!”

Sara reached out and touched his arm, trying to calm him down. “Carter, I think there’s only one option now…” She paused, gathering her thoughts. “I’ll ride Cat in the Golden Mile.”

Carter pulled away from her and focused his look. His face became skewed like he had just bitten into a sour lemon. “That’s not an option!” he snapped.

Sara bristled at his abrupt response. After all of this…did he still think she wasn’t a capable enough rider? “I can’t believe you! I don’t think that either you or your good old boys have a choice at this point. I seem to be the only one that can make it around the track in one piece on Cat,” she fumed.

“Sara, I never meant that you weren’t good enough. God knows I’m not that stupid or blind. I’ve seen you with that horse and I know that he’ll run for you, and probably better then he would for anyone else. It’s not that at all.”

He reached out and pulled her close to him. Her first reaction was to resist his touch. “Damn it, do you have to be so obstinate?” At his outburst, she stopped fighting him and listened to what he had to say. “You can’t blame me for wanting to protect you. Even if Mr. Abbott agreed to let you jockey in the race, I would never forgive myself if something happened to you. I know you’ve developed a relationship with Cat. But to be honest, he’s kind of a nut and I’m sorry if I don’t want the woman I’m in love with to get herself killed just for a stupid horse race.”

Buy: A Race for Love

Bio: Ann Black is a former newspaper journalist, and worked in the media for over 25 years. She is well-published in the non-fiction genre—including several books in the equine industry. In addition, she has had numerous poems that appeared in anthologies and chapbooks. She has been a horse owner for over 35 years and maintains a small horse farm in Michigan.

Review: Secrets of Seduction (Legendary Lovers, Book 3) by Nicole Jordan

secrets of seductionHero: The Earl of Hawkhurst loved and lost his first wife and child in a fire that also left him scarred. He buried his grief by working for the government in an elite group known as Guardians of the Sword. Hawk has returned to England to fulfill the honor-pact required by the group’s charter in order to lead Guardians. To do this he must wed his mentor’s niece… a woman he’s never met.

Heroine: Skye believes in her cousin’s idea about legendary lovers. In fact, she’s knows just which fairy tale hers is going to be… Beauty and the Beast. When she finds out the man she’s loved since childhood is back in England, but looking for a bride elsewhere, she brazenly enters his life under the threatening clouds of a convenient storm. If he’s going to be beastly about it, well… she’d prepared with a clever rouse to get his help solving a mystery of her uncle’s lost love.

Review: Secrets of Seduction is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I loved it. Skye is a brilliant heroine – not only clever and determined to win the heart of a man she’s loved from afar, but patient enough to see his pain and understand him. You’ll be rooting for her before she’s through uttering her greetings to the hero for the first time. Hawk is very funny – first knowing she’s a virgin, then convincing himself otherwise. Skye’s aunt is very talkative about these things and has prepared Skye for what to expect. It leads to a very sexy scene with some sponges. A classic feel good romance, you’ll love to read!

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Secrets of Seduction (Legendary Lovers)

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Review: Rising Assets (Maverick Montana, Book 3) by Rebecca Zanetti

rising assestsReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review.
Colton Freeze is a good friend to Melanie Jacobs. Colton is very business minded and Melanie is one very busy lady. Who’s to say that men and women can’t be friends? But when you add a little something extra into the relationship, why not go for it!

This in not just a simple romance – there are parts that will tickle your funny bone. It makes for great visuals. It’s also interesting to watch good friends taking their relationship to the next level. But it’s not a smooth transition and at times it looks to be a little awkward.

Our author has also included some personal conflict and family issues that intervene. How these issues get resolved is what will have the reader turning the page. This is a contemporary story but if you love sexy cowboys then you will want to make sure to pick up a copy for your library.

Life and work sometimes gets in the way while you’re reading a book. In my case, it was very hard to find a place where I wanted to stop. This made it very hard getting to work on time or getting back to work after lunch. I think this book would be perfect on a cold and rainy day – you will want to cuddle in your favorite blanket with something that will heat your blood.

The one disappointment I had was that the ending came up too quickly – I just wasn’t ready for it. But isn’t that a good thing? This is what makes the reader want to continue reading this author’s work. It’s also incentive to go back and read the other two books, Against the Wall and Under the Covers, of this series. Plus it will get you ready if there is a fourth book in the series. This is a book that you can read by itself – didn’t find that you needed to read books one and two in order to understand Colton and Melanie’s story.

Buy: Rising Assets (Entangled Brazen)