Review: The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman

reluctant elfHeroine: Lottie and her daughter, Mabel, are planning to visit Aunt Kate this Christmas because Aunt Kate is starting a bed and breakfast (B&B) business. When Kate is hospitalized, Lottie and Mabel leave a day early for their Christmas vacation. The B&B is in dire straights, so are Aunt Kate’s finances, and the help just absconded for a break to recuperate. Everything hinges on getting a good rating from the reviewer. But Lottie hasn’t the foggiest clue what to do to run a successful B&B.

Hero: Danny, the taxi driver, is an unlikely but most definitely needed hero. When Lottie offers him enough money to fund a trip to see his young daughter in America, he agrees to aid her in anyway he can. He helps paint, fix, repair, clean, and cook. And along the way the two find they have an affinity for each other.

Review: The B&B reviewer and his family are seriously dysfunctional. I am very glad that the creepy brother/in-law doesn’t barge in on Lottie in the bath. He was a very ignorant self-absorbed cad. His wife was a hypochondriac and couldn’t stand her children. The two kids were terrors. I’d be afraid for Mabel to hang out with them. The only one sane was the reviewer. Are you up for some crazy hijinks involving scolding plumbing, falling down ceilings, holes patched with toothpaste? Then you’re in for a treat with this wifi-less Victorian-themed holiday chick-lit. Happy ending for all. There’s definitely room for continuation.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: The Reluctant Elf

Audio Review: Lady Caroline and the Egotistical Earl by Terry Spear

lady caroline and the egotistical earlHeroine: Lady Caroline has aided her mother in managing the estates after her father’s death. All was well until knights in the earl’s colors started to terrorize the people and kill livestock. When her mother seeks to speak with the earl, a simple request for assistance turns into something else.

Hero: Lord John Talbot is not aware of any rogue knights. He is however very aware of Caroline. He wants to be near her and decides she must be a lady-in-waiting for his mother. Caroline might not be amenable to the idea, but he has ways to persuade her… and if she’s in danger all the more reason to keep her close.

Review: Lady Caroline is one to take charge. She has an excellent memory and plans to investigate the raids if Lord John won’t. After she gets into a few scrapes… the worse getting her chased up a tree by villainous raiders, he keeps her securely within his arm’s reach. You have to agree that Lady Caroline, while she may be a tad too independent, was right because someone had to proactively investigate! Readers will find this a clean romance without sex, but with sexual interest and overtones to liven up any afternoon.

Narrator: Maria Hunter Welles has a very affected voice for Lady Caroline’s character who is 19 years old. It worked, because Caroline is young and impetuous.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Lady Caroline and the Egotistical Earl

Review: Smoking Ruin by D.R. Martin

smoking ruinReviewed by Karin

This book was quite a read and quite different. I liked it a lot.

It is not a typical romantic suspense. It is higher on the suspense level and the who-dun-it is hidden until the last pages. I guessed the right character(s) fairly early on, but I didn’t guess the whole of it or the why of it.

And it is extremely well written, lots of wonderful color, lots of great descriptions that never got old, very good character development. And a mystery with increasing danger and perhaps two intertwined or intersecting plots.

Minneapolis PI Marta Hjelm is the main character as well as the voice of the book. She is at the edge of burnout because of losing a woman to her abusive husband a year before. She and her live-in/live-out boyfriend have just argued over whether she should give it up (he’s a photographer) and when they argue to that level, he goes to his brother’s house, which is where he is for nearly the entire book, although the two interact. Any sex, and there’s not a lot, takes place off page. But there is definitely love.

Out of the blue Marta’s ex-husband shows up and offers her a job with an advertising company. This doesn’t set well with the boyfriend, as you can imagine. Considering she really wants nothing to do with him, why she lets him in and why she accepts the job (the money to help her and her boyfriend with his photography business) — even she can’t figure it out.

And before you know it, her life is in danger — and the lives of others also. It seems like there is a terrorist plot against the advertising company.

In many ways, it’s a setup, and not just for Marta.

Very clever book — there was one word I’d never heard of and a couple that aren’t used very often.

It was a good read. I’d like a second.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Smoking Ruin

Review: Love Like the Movies by Victoria Van Tiem

love like the moviesHeroine: Kensington Shaw is always coming in second place in her family. Her parents, especially her mother, do not make her feel seen. She’s never quite good enough, even though she thinks she’s got a pretty good life. What really gets her? Her brother’s wife, Ren, who is always one-upping her. Kensi though, knows today is her day, finally. Today she is announcing her engagement to the man she loves and her family adores. Nothing Ren can do will top that…

Bachelor One: Bradley – He’s got the family’s approval. He’s got a steady solid job at the same company where Kensi works. He’s always trying to solve problems that arise between Kensi and her family. He’s a good man and gorgeous. But is that enough?

Bachelor Two: Shane – He’s not going to take “No” for an answer. He will get his ten movie moments with Kensi or he’ll take his big project and walk. Walking, is not something Kensi’s career can take so she agrees to do his ten movie moments as long as they don’t cross a line – after all she is engaged.

Review: This story will make you say, “Aww.” Shane is super adorable and pulls out all the stops. He clearly wants to win Kensi back and will do what it takes. I love how Kensi’s love of rom-coms permeated into Shane’s life even after they had broken up. I love that when he saw them, he thought of her. The movie moments are adorable because they get mixed up and slightly out of order. Shane won’t hesitate to say the female’s part in the movie to get his point across. The only thing I didn’t like was how often Kensi would cry. That girl would tear up and/or bawl for the good and the bad. A little less waterworks would’ve been great. Kensi’s a heroine to love, because she’s willing to be swept away. I love that she channels her inner Bridget Jones (and other heroines).

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Love Like the Movies

The Appeal of Romance Novels to the Committed and Not Dim-Witted


lovinglink-5Guest Blog by T.D. Hassett, author of Loving Link

I was recently reading the resurgence of the Quilliam study on the evils of romance novel reading. I admit it, as a fan of the genre and an author; I got pissed at her conclusions.

For those of you who don’t follow research on romance novels I will summarize it. Basically a British Psychologist, Susan Quilliam, did a study that looked at 78 romance novels written between 1981 and 1996 and determined that reading those novels could lead women to be less careful about condom usage in their own relationships and gave them unrealistic relationship expectations.

Apparently many of the books written during that time period skimmed over using condoms. However, the findings concerning lack of rubbers in fiction and actual modern practices just seemed to be too much of a leap for me to accept since the novels were written prior to HIV/AIDs receiving the attention is does now. If she had selected novels written in the last ten years there would have been extensive mention of condoms and concerns about sexual health in the story line. Presumably reading about sexually responsible couples would send a more positive message about prophylactics.

However, how the hero wraps his “sword” wasn’t the only thing that got my ire up. Romance readers have long been stereotyped as lonely, desperate women with too many cats and a low IQ. But the exact opposite is a more accurate a description of the genre’s fans. Readers are more likely to be in a serious and committed relationship than non-readers and the number of romance authors with Ph.Ds. from Ivy League colleges is quite long. Just think Bly, Quinn and Gimpel for example. I have a master’s degree in clinical psychology and 72 postgraduate credits in educational psychology yet still spend my evenings writing and reading romance novels.

Does this all jive with Quilliam’s assertion that heavy readers of the romance genre may develop unrealistic or idealized notions of what a relationship should be? Her report has many unproven contentions such as, “It might mean – in the wake of such panic –judging that if romance has died then so has love, and that rather than working at her relationship she should be hitching her star to a new romance.” (Quilliam, 2000). Hmm, we are all flighty women who don’t know what a real relationship should be like? I don’t think so.

To put it simply, smart women read and write these novels, report higher levels of satisfaction in their relationships and enjoy the escape to a world where women characters are the center of the story. The modern romance novel features independent career women who refuse to settle for less. They are determined to tackle life on their own terms. It is the men who need to change in order to find happiness and fully self-actualize. And by the way, if you are still questioning how romance novels compare in terms of language use and vocabulary try pasting in a few pages of a Susan Johnson novel and comparing it to the readability score of say a Clive Cussler adventure book just for fun. I had a few minutes and did just that only to determine that both score about a 1100 Lexile level – about the 11th grade in terms of reading level. Awfully close. Perhaps the stereotype has more to do with the inclusion of sex in the storyline than any other factor.

While the naysayers will say reading romance is hazardous to your health I will keep on reading, writing and enjoying! After all, the establishment once believed that women reading much of anything could be detrimental to their ability to successfully have a baby. Holy bunk.

Loving Link blurb:

Can two artists salvage true love out of the unexpected consequences of one night of passion?

A young tattoo artist. A seasoned rock star. Both focused on their careers. What harm can there be in giving in to their desires for just one night? They’re about to find out as their scandalous relationship sweeps the internet. Will they stand together to face the world? Or will their emotional scars tear them apart? T.D. Hassett takes you to the heights of passion in Loving Link, Book 2 of her hot, sexy series Love and Music.

Link Jacks is done with women and determined to focus solely on music and rock-band Becket’s upcoming album. He’s been living as a marketing-prop bad-boy rock star for so long he doesn’t remember who he really is anymore. Not until he meets Madison, the emotionally guarded and theoretically off-limits younger sister of his best friend’s wife.

Madison just wants to get her fledgling tattoo career off the ground and stop relying on the generous charity of her wealthy brother-in-law to get by. She knows she should never get involved with the likes of Link but his presence is downright intoxicating. Her indiscretion will lead to Internet sex video and media frenzy. Their one wild night of passion will have scandalous repercussions and force each of them to confront their inner fears and emotional demons.

Buy: Loving Link (Love and Music, Book 2)

Excerpt:

Madison had just finished up with her second to last client and was tired. She thanked him for trusting her to do such an involved and powerful tattoo.

“No, thank you Madison. You’ve no idea how much this means to me. It’s absolutely beautiful.” the young private explained quietly, and then surprised her by wrapping her in a big hug and kissing the side of her head. It seemed to be an impulsive gesture and it took her off guard. For perhaps the first time she understood how important body art could be to somebody, how it truly was more than just something inked. She broke free of the embrace as her boss, Lori, came into the room. Madison froze in place seeing Link Jacks standing behind her boss and scowling. The private slipped her his card and was forced to squeeze by Link, who stood with his arms crossed, practically blocking the door.

Lori interrupted the awkward silence. “Madison, you might know Link Jacks through your brother-in-law. He’s been having a dragon done over the last couple of months and I’m thinking you’re the perfect person to do some of the scale work. I’ve seen you do some mythological pieces where the coloring is almost luminescent. That would be perfect for this piece. I’ve done all the lines and a good chunk of the fill but think if you wrapped up the scales it would be American Tats Magazine worthy.” Lori stated in her no-nonsense way.

Crap, there’s really no way to just say no, especially if Lori was thinking of putting the work on display. She had one more customer left for the day and was looking forward to a quiet night back at the apartment. She and Darling would probably just order pizza and watch a movie.

Maddie’s befuddled brain flashed back to the spiel Lori had given her about no drama and she braced herself for whatever this could mean. I just need to keep my focus on the work.

“Sure, as long as Link is comfortable with me doing the work. I’ve got one more customer tonight but I’d be happy to make him an appointment,” replied Madison.

Link’s icy expression slipped. He smiled at her and gave her a little wink, suggesting her stall tactic wasn’t going to work.

“No need, I’ve switched your last appointment to someone else so that you could have time to work on this piece now,” Lori smoothly added.

So much for putting this off until a later day. Lori walked away, leaving Link and Madison alone. Great, this would be a nightmare after what had transpired between them last week. She was already anxious around him and now she’d be spending hours touching his half-naked body. How did Monet ever paint those incredible nudes with such beauty just within reach?

Madison busied herself getting out sterile gloves and new needles. She focused her head on how best to color in the scales that she recalled so clearly from running her hands up his chest and arms. His low voice startled her when he asked what to do.

“Should I take my shirt off now and lie down, or just stand here feeling stupid?” Link questioned.

“Sorry, go ahead and lie down and you know, take off your clothes. I mean shirt.” Maddie blurted out awkwardly. She finished assembling her things on the tray and turned around in time to see him pull his tight black shirt up over his head exposing a broad, well-muscled chest that her fingers ached to touch. It was going to be torture to put needle to skin, to have her hands running over his washboard abs and strong arms, yet the full sensation would be blocked by the latex of her gloves. She studied the work already done on the tattoo. It was a masterpiece in the making. She’d never seen such a large, detailed mythological piece and couldn’t stop herself from tracing the line of the dragon’s tail from the waistband of his jeans up and across his chest and over his shoulder to where it ended on his back. The dragon’s head looked across his shoulders, its eyes done so realistically you felt like the beast was watching. She could see the mix of colors and shading she’d need to complete the work. The artist in her was clamoring to get started but the woman was afraid to keep touching him lest she lose her head again. She looked up from his skin to notice his eyes had been watching her with an expression of longing. His hand was clenched tightly against the arm of the chair and she noticed the telltale bulge in his pants. Memories of him pulsing in her sent a wave of moisture to her core.

She needed to put aside the tantalizing images flashing through her head. He was just a man who could only hurt her if she let him. Isabel had shared stories about Links escapades with women while on tour. It seemed everyone in the band but Link had settled down, so they all laughed at his adventures. Now that Madison had been one of his conquests, she hated every other woman who had ever looked at him and she hated herself even more for feeling that way.

“Okay, I’ll get started but as you probably know, work around the ribs and other bony areas can get pretty painful, so let me know when you need a break. Any questions?” Maddie was proud of how calm her voice was despite the rolling pit of emotions swirling around her belly.

“No questions. Baby, I’m ready for whatever you want to do to my body; bring it on.” Link answered with a cocky smile.

Damn him, he had to make this extra difficult. She’d made a mistake in what she did with him; she’d just been too curious a cat and she’d gotten her heart involved. But there was no way she would put that tail out there again for him to play with. Maddie had seen what heartbreak did to her mother and she knew better than to get involved with anyone who could do that kind of damage to her. Besides if Isabel ever found out what she’d gotten up to with Link she’d probably lecture her to death. And Thomas would probably kill Link; after all he had become quite the protective big brother to her after he and Isabel met.

Madison needed to focus on the task at hand and stop ogling him like … well, like some kind of groupie. She prepped a gun and tested the foot pedal, and then dipped her color, steadied her hand, and pressed needle to skin. The gentle vibration of the gun hummed to her as she worked a lower portion of the design over his right ribcage. She peaked across his chest, noticed another tattoo under his heart, and jabbed the needle in too hard.

Buy: Loving Link (Love and Music, Book 2)

TDPhotoAuthor Biography:

T.D. Hassett grew up reading the romance greats—Jackie Collins, Julie Garwood, and Judith McNaught. She was certain that life should be like a romance novel, with lots of passion, some incredible adventures, and a guaranteed happily ever after. She attended college in New England, earning a B.A. in History and an M.S. in Clinical Psychology before changing her mind again and studying education. Currently Ms. Hassett lives in Connecticut with her very patient husband and two young children. Her rambunctious family shares their home with three crazy cats and a darling golden retriever named Delilah. Her eccentric relatives and their quest to make her feel like the only normal nut in the family tree inspire her writing.

Visit her at http://tdhassett.wordpress.com

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– who has written 422 posts on Love Romance Passion.

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Review: Revealing Us (Inside Out Trilogy, Book 3) by Lisa Renee Jones

revealing usReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

This book is told in the first person.

This third book starts off with us getting a glimpse at some more of Rebecca Mason’s lost journals. This is a set of books that must be read in order. If you want to fall in love with Lisa’s characters, you must be patient and read her books as they were meant to be read – they should not be read as stand-alones. There is a preferred reading list, http://www.lisareneejones.com/reading-order/, to follow and then you can sit back, relax, grab your favorite drink, and enjoy these very sexy reads.

This story is a little different from the other two in this trilogy because they go international. As you read this book, you will realize that there is no way that this story could be contained in just one book. Chris and Sara’s story needed to be told over time. They were sharing their lives with us – like getting to know new friends.
Sara’s insecurities also follow her into this book – is it because of her age? Or is it her lack of life’s experiences? One thing I love is that Lisa makes Sara more human by showing her foibles. One of those foibles is in how she learns a foreign language – she isn’t shown as a woman who instantly knows how to speak another language. Not all of us find it easy to learn something other than English. Plus, if you pay close attention, you will get a mini French lesson.

Our author also has me wondering that if I didn’t have to take care of an elderly parent, would I take off with a handsome guy to a country where I didn’t know anyone or the language? Would you? Besides the language barrier, Sara also seems to be a little uncertain of what she wants to believe. The mystery also seems to escalate in this last book and then Lisa has you thinking how it connects to the title.

As you get closer to the end of this book, Lisa builds the suspense and it gets more intense the closer you get to the end. The ending will be a complete surprise for you – you won’t see it coming. But it also makes you wonder if this is where her next book is going to pick up.

I didn’t check into a playlist for this book because I’m not too sure of the international stars coming out of France. You may want to decide to listen to something classical or maybe even one of your favorites. I think something quiet that stays in the background would be good. I also went to Lisa’s web site to see if I could find out anything coming up that revolves around this series but alas there’s nothing posted on her web site, http://www.lisareneejones.com. If you love a good erotic series, you can’t go wrong in reading what Lisa has to offer.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Revealing Us (Inside Out Trilogy)

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Review: If I Were You (Inside Out Trilogy, Book 1) by Lisa Renee Jones

if i were youReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

This book is told in the first person.

This book starts with a temptation that Sara McMillan could not resist. And one temptation that is her friend Ella’s obsession is a current reality show and it makes me wonder what I’ve been missing. One character, Rebecca has written her thoughts in a journal and it is one sexy read. Do you keep a journal? And if you do, are you strictly vanilla about it or do you get sexy in writing down your thoughts? But be warned, you’ll need a fan handy when reading this book.

This is a book that quickly sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until the end. It’s a great read to have if you’re taking a staycation. Part of the setting takes place at an art gallery. I know you wouldn’t be able to sit in a gallery to read this but what if you went to an art museum. That way you could read a little and then get up and look at some great art. Then when you find a good spot, you could sit down and read a little more.

This also made me think of one of our local museums, The Clark (http://www.clarkart.edu). It’s a great place to go see some great art exhibits and they have a place where you can go outside and have a picnic.

One of our characters, in this book, Chris Merit has a tattoo that Sara finds very hot – made me wish that this book came with illustrations. I’ll have to check out the web and see if I can find anything or I might even find something on one of my summer guilty pleasures – “Tattoo Master”.

I liked how the book ended (kinda-sorta) because it was left open-ended getting ready for the second book. Bad news is that there is no excerpt to give you a hint as to what to expect. Mum’s the word as to what happens to the “players” in this first book. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did.

Warning: There is a lot of sex that goes from beginning to end. Prepare for steamy goodness!

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: If I Were You (Inside Out Trilogy)

Review: The Beauty Within by Marguerite Kaye

 Beauty Within by Marguerite KayeReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Considering he thought he was only as good as the subjects he painted, prominent artist, Giovanni di Matteo is a modest man and often wonders why women of a certain age throw themselves at him, and although others who have commissioned paintings from him think him as an amazing artist, he is unsure of his talents. Giovanni has been at the top of his profession for many years since he had come to England, but his enthusiasm for painting as waned, his muse, his subject matter, not piquing his interest.

Although Giovanni is supposed to be commissioned to paint Lord Armstrong’s sons, he has a yearning to paint his daughter Cressida once he sets eyes on her, even if she is forbidden to him. Cressida, like Giovanni is intelligent and accomplished in scientific matters. She lives and breathes it and isn’t one to consider men, let alone marrying one that her father arranges. He does not regard his daughter as anything other than marriage material, while his sons are those he holds in much higher regard; so much that he wants him to paint his sons rather than her. For him this is annoying as all he wants to do is paint the elusive and attractive Cressida. When they talk in her father’s absence, she points out his dissatisfaction at his own work. He believes it only relies on the rules and principles of mathematics to appear brilliant. His work wasn’t always like that, earlier, he painted from the heart, full of enthusiasm and vigour, and even if he got harsh criticism for being at one with his art, he at least was true to himself back then.

Marguerite gives readers a first hand account of what Giovanni is like as a person. They get to see his whole personality in this volume, his thoughts that his painting hasn’t inspired him until he meets Cressida, the woman who fires his heart and gives him the drive to paint again. Giovanni finds her a beautiful woman who is overlooked by her family, mainly her father who is more concerned with his precious sons. It is easy to get into the story and the characters are made real by their backgrounds and personalities. Readers can be sure they will be entertained by this story, and it will be one to introduce them to future novels by this author. This is steamy and romantic, and one that if you don’t already, you will have an interest in art by they end of it! This is well worth a 5 star rating.

Likes:

  • Marguerite Kaye has an excellent grasp of the technical process of art, and the reader can feel she has researched it in full to make her character of Giovanni Di Matteo believable.
  • Cressida plays the role of the ‘ugly duckling sister’ very well, yet doesn’t realise how beautiful she is inside as well as out.
  • There is the contrast of Cressida’s cruel stepmother and father to her natural niceness.

Dislikes:

What’s not to like?

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Beauty Within (Harlequin Historical)

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