Review: A Passion for Pleasure (Daring Hearts, Book 2) by Nina Rowan

passion for pleasureHero: Sebastian Hall, former rake and musician, is a second son with two options available to him regarding his future. The first has been decreed by his father and the second is a favor for his brother. Since Sebastian refuses to marry and become a patent office clerk, he is now in pursuit of a mechanical device that could help in the war.

Heroine: Clara Whitmore was a former student of Sebastian’s and would have loved a flirtation with the man. Now, she is a widow desperately wishing to be reunited with her son. Sebastian just might be the answer to her prayers. She will give him the papers on the device if he will marry her.

Review: I figured out early on in the story why Clara’s father refused to give her access to her son and he wasn’t very kind to his grandson (huge understatement). Both father figures of the main characters were cold, and Seb’s mother was unnecessary. I loved the musical references and the dialogue between Clara and Seb. My favorite scenes include Clara’s proposal to Sebastian and the piano lessons Sebastian gave Andrew.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: A Passion for Pleasure (A Daring Hearts Novel)

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Review: Never Seduce a Scot (The Montgomerys & Armstrongs, Book 1) by Maya Banks

20121209-092710.jpgReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Graeme Montgomery is to marry a woman per his king’s decree. Eveline Armstrong can tell her father Tavis is very upset. She’s speechless. When Graeme comes to wed Eveline, I would have loved to have been present. I can almost imagine the pageantry.

I love how Maya gives us a character that has a disability. Growing up and watching historical pieces, people that were “different” were shunned. But Maya shows that they aren’t pariah but someone who can be accepted. They have feelings just like everyone else.

Eveline shows that having a disability should not stop you from doing anything. If you set your mind to something you can accomplish anything – let your disability be a part of you but not define who you are.

Maya shows her readers that women weren’t usually taught to read and write during that time period. And any teaching to be done was done by a priest. But Maya also reminds us that not all priests were old. It will be interesting to see if we will see this priest in other stories.

Maya’s sex scenes are very descriptive. They are not done in a raunchy way but are very sensual. The characters give us hope that opposites can attract. Lovers can come together and have that HEA. The families may have history but that shouldn’t stop them from having any type of life together. When love is involved, anything is possible.

I’m glad to see that Eveline’s disability wasn’t cured miraculously. I would have been very disappointed with Maya if she had done that. In year’s past in romance novels, it seemed that everyone was always so perfect. It’s nice to see that is finally changing. If you read the “Acknowledgements” at the end, you will understand her inspiration – a very touching tribute.

I went to Maya’s web site, http://www.mayabanks.com/, and noticed that she has a book two that will be coming out. Bowen, Graeme’s brother, will have his tale told in Highlander Most Wanted. The book is expected to come out on February 26, 2013 and I can’t wait. I hope you enjoy this first book as much as I did.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Never Seduce a Scot: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs

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My Favorite Tropes: Physical Disabilities

Guest Post by Carla F.

I love stories in which the hero or heroine have a physical disability (blindness, deafness, unable to walk, etc.). The H/H has an additional barrier (a large one) to reaching their one true love. Sometimes he/she will use their impairment as shield to keep the love of their life away because they don’t feel worthy enough to be loved. Thank goodness that doesn’t work! These types of stories reinforce the belief that love conquerors all and the feeling that you will be loved no matter what your flaws are.

My weakness for some reason is those H/Hs who are deaf. So sorry that this list is a little bit heavy with that type of disability.

A Hearing Heart by Bonnie Dee (Western) – If you don’t grab a box of tissues when reading this, then you are tougher than I am. In 1901 Nebraska schoolteacher, Catherine Johnson, saves deaf stable hand Jim Kinney from being beat up and drug down the street by villains. Once she realizes that he cannot read and write, she offers to help him with his education.

The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney (Regency) - I would have put this one on my Marriage of Convenience list if I could have remembered the name of it. Fortunately, I found it for this list. Lady Jocelyn Kendal wants to keep control of her inheritance so she makes a bargain with Major David Lancaster, who is dying from the wounds he received at Waterloo. Marry her, and she will see that David’s governess sister is provided for once he has passed away.

Look What Santa Brought by Annmarie McKenna (Contemporary) - Her ex-boyfriend will not move out of her apartment and leave Tara Patrick alone. Her best friend’s blind brother, Scott Wyatt volunteers to be her “pretend” boyfriend, but he wants it to be for real.

Moon Craving by Lucy Monroe (Historical Paranormal) – It has a shape-shifter hero and a deaf heroine. Naturally, I loved it. Abigail has been deaf ever since falling ill when she was a child. She has hidden her shameful “affliction” from everyone in the castle except her immediate family. She is then forced to marry Talorc, Laird of the Sinclair, and knows that if he finds out that she is deaf he will cast her aside.

Dancing in the Moonlight by RaeAnne Thayne (Contemporary) - After losing part of her leg in the Afghanistan war, Lieutenant Magdalena Cruz returns home, and wishes that everyone would leave her alone. Dr. Jake Dalton has always been in love with Magdalena and has no intention of granting her wish.

Artistic Appeal by Andrew Grey (Contemporary GLBT) - Divorced and still partial in the closet, lawyer Brian Watson, falls for deaf art restorer, Nicolai Romanov.

Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas (Regency) – Gypsy Kevin Merripen has loved Winnifred Hathaway ever since the Hathaway family took him in when he was a child. Kev has never felt that he was good enough for Win and resists her temptation. When Win comes down with scarlet fever Kev nurses Win back to health, but the illness leaves her weak. She decides to travel to another country for treatment. When she returns, she brings with her a suitor.

Three Nights with a Scoundrel by Tessa Dare (Regency) - Susan S. mentioned this one in her Reformed Rakes list. Deaf heroine, Lily Chatwick’s brother Leo is killed in a London alley. Family friend, Julian Bellamy wants to find the killers, and he wants to find Lily someone to marry so that she will be taken care of. Lily is only interested in Julian, but he doesn’t think he is worthy to marry Lily because of his secret past.

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen (Regency) - Injured when a villain tries to strangle her to death, Olivia loses her voice. Lord Bradley knows that Olivia overheard a secret that could ruin his life. He gives her a post at his home so that he can keep an eye on her. When she recovers her voice will she reveal his secret?

Special Mention: GLBT/Mystery author Josh Lanyon has many heroes who dealing with some kind of physical disability. He is definitely a go-to-author for those who like GLBT and this trope. Plus the stories are also excellent police procedures/who-done-its. Some of his books are:

The Adrien English Mysteries (Contemporary) - Ariden contracted rheumatic fever as a child and has damage to his heart. The series follows the bookstore owner/mystery writer as he solves murders with the help of his sometimes romantic interest, closeted LA police detective Jake Riordan. Books in the series are:

Fair Game (Contemporary) - Elliot Mills was an FBI agent involved in a shootout that left him with a crippling knee injury. Now a college professor, his father has asked him to look into the disappearance of a friend’s son. This means that Elliot will have to work with Agent Tucker Lane who is his ex-lover.

Don’t Look Back (Contemporary) - Peter Killian is injured when he interrupts a burglary at the museum where he is curator. He wakes up in the hospital with amnesia and is being accused of being the thief by Detective Mike Griffin.

The Dark Farewell (Historical) - In post-WWI America Spiritualist medium Julian Devereux suffers from epilepsy. Newspaperman David Flynn doesn’t believe that Julian can see dead people, but then Julian starts getting messages from victims of a serial killer.

No matter how much I love this trope. There are still some books that just don’t grab me. Two of them are:

Life, Over Easy by K. A. Mitchell (Contemporary GLBT/Paranormal) – An accident ends the diving career of John Andrews, and now he suffers from vertigo and double vision. I love K. A. Mitchell’s books in general. This one started out interesting, but then took a turn with ghosts/paranormal that I wasn’t expecting or welcomed.

Dark Symphony by Christine Feehan (Paranormal) - Antonietta is a blind musician whose family is in danger. This is one of Feehan’s Carpathian books. I was looking forward to Brian’s story since he appeared in Dark Desire, which is my favorite of Feehan’s books. I think though that I had reached saturation with the series, and it was too weird for me.

Do you like these kinds of stories? Can you recommend some?

Photo Credits: sludgegulper

Review: Three Nights with a Scoundrel by Tessa Dare

Three Nights with a Scoundrel is the final installment in the Stud Club trilogy by Tessa Dare. Of the three men making up this exclusive and revolutionary club, I was uncertain if Julian Bellamy had what it took to be a hero because his character was fairly off-putting in the first two books. He had his vengeance mission going for him and he certainly cared about the girl but there didn’t seem to be much else to him. Was I ever wrong. Julian Bellamy has a whole other very secret side and we as readers get to learn all about it.

The vengeance mission is finally concluded in Three Nights with a Scoundrel. I fully recommend reading the first two novels in the trilogy if you’re the type who wants to get the full long arc of the vengeance mission. To recap what it is: Leo Chatwick, founder of the Stud Club, was found murdered. Four people witnessed it: the two brutes that beat him up, his companion who he was arguing with just before the brutes showed up, and the whore he’d paid to accompany him for the evening festivities. Of the three heroes, Julian is the most consumed with finding Leo’s killers and it’s been a long and twisting route to get to the final chapters.

He’s also been promoting that Lady Lily Chatwick needs to be married. He tried to get the heroes from the first two novels to do it, but they fell for their own heroines. He tried twisting the arms of other gentry. In the end he had to face the fact that he loved her and wanted her for himself – which is why his efforts never worked, because he was sabotaging them from the start by picking men he knew in the end would not ask for her hand or that she wouldn’t accept even if they had. That’s because she’s subconsciously wanted Julian all this time and only after a mind-blowing kiss does she let herself dream it might be possible.

Lily was a very big reason why I liked the book so much. She’s lost her hearing due to an illness and has learned to cope. In the book she makes even bigger efforts to break out of her comfort zone and attends social gatherings for the first time on her own without her brother there to subtly help her keep track of conversations and people. She’s very brave and very genuine of heart. Tessa Dare doesn’t undermine her efforts by miraculously healing her of hearing-loss (something that happens a lot with damaged characters especially with hearing and blindness).

Loved the pet bird too.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Buy: Three Nights with a Scoundrel

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Review: The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale

The Prince of Midnight was recommended to me by Anime June while guest blogging about My (Not-So-Secret) Favorite Romance Character Types because the hero was damaged and delicious.

I believe this romance also fulfills my lust of big age differences. I can’t remember how old the heroine was (17 maybe?) but the hero’s retired at 33, painting and sculpting in an old castle in France with Nemo a tamed wolf for company by the time Leigh Strachen tracks him down to help her avenge her family’s brutal destruction and murder.

Sophocles Trafalgar (poor guy, luckily he goes by the initials S.T. most of the time) Maitland is a partially deaf ex-highwayman who couldn’t walk a straight line if his life depended on it. When caught in an explosion he lost not only part of his hearing but also his balance. He’s prone to headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

S.T. is a completely charming, dashing, tripping all over himself hunk of a hero. He’s the romantic in the relationship as the heroine is an emotionally walled-off ice princess. With Leigh constantly sneering at him, holding him in contempt, mocking his efforts, and telling him he’s useless I’m surprised S.T. stuck with her, but he does because he knows she’s been hurt and needs a champion.

In fact the more she puts him down and humiliates him the more S.T. is determined he is to go with her, protect her, and prove her wrong. He wants to be her hero and against all odds he manages to steal her ice cold heart and warm it with his own.

There’s some religious cultism in the novel, which one should be aware of before starting. The bad guy, the Right Reverend James Chilton, sets himself up as some great religious man with a direct line to God. He has convinced through trickery, showmanship, and charisma the rest of the town—which consists mostly of TSTL females and a dozen or so men—to follow him and do all that he says. It reminds me Jonestown Massacre where everybody was following Jim Jones blindly and drinking the Kool-Aid. Lucky for Chilton’s followers, the Prince of Midnight was there to protect them from their own stupidity.

The Prince of Midnight is an emotionally intense read as both the hero and heroine have transformations. I almost cried reading S.T.’s pleading to not pour acid in his remaining good ear. When Leigh found out and beat the crap out of the Dove of Peace for following this order I cheered her on… it was so sad thinking that Leigh finally admit to herself and to S.T. that she loved him only for him not to be able to hear the words.

Another intense scene which comes earlier in the novel is his taming two badly mistreated horses. He does it once on his own and then instructs Leigh on how to do it with the more hurt of the horses. When the abused horse begins to trust her, she cracks and falls to pieces realizing she loves the horse… and possibly though she won’t admit it yet, S.T. too.

It’s too good to miss. Thanks AJ!

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Buy: The Prince of Midnight

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Review: Dark Hunger by Sara Reinke

by Sandra Scholes, guest reviewer

As the first novel, Dark Thirst had concentrated on Brandon’s life story and struggles with his own vampire self, Dark Hunger is about Tessa Noble, who wants to find safety with her brother Brandon, escaping the cruelty of the Brethren. As Brandon and she had left their family home, they have both been chased by the Brethren ever since, and if they ever catch up with them, they could run into great difficulties. Trying to evade their would-be assassins isn’t proving to be easy, not with Tessa making mistakes along the way that infuriate Rene who wanted them both to remain as inconspicuous as possible, as if they were, then he was – protected.

Tessa has moments in her life she wished she could dismiss, yet those moments in this part of the novel have her looking back to times when she was back with the Brethren with her brother, and later for her time spent with her husband, Martin who used to beat her. She knows if Brandon had heard about this, he would have almost surely killed him out of revenge, but she decided to bear that all on her own. Brandon is the pacifist as always and in this volume he is no different, while Rene hunts out those who can slake his dark thirst while also keeping the other two safe.

Dark Hunger turns up the heat of the first novel with the three of them being chased by their bloodthirsty vampire clan for trying to escape their cruel rule over them. Everyone is entitled to a life of their own choosing, but the clan doesn’t see freedom as a way out – it’s like the mafia, you leave – you die! Dark Hunger has enough tense moments, erotic blood thirst, and tender sequences to balance the horror element in it to make it more of a thriller and adventure rather than an out and out horror novel. With Brandon being deaf and dumb, and Rene’s amputation, Sara Reinke writes about them with a human heart about those with vampire hearts. No one will be prepared for the ending of this novel, but will find it does lead to other interesting developments in the overall story in the next volume.

Dark Hunger is a full-blooded supernatural attention-grabber that satisfies and doesn’t let go.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Dark Hunger

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Review: Dark Thirst by Sara Reinke

by Sandra Scholes, guest reviewer

Kentucky raised Brandon Noble lived among his family, his brother, Daniel, and his sister, always feeling as though he was the outcast; but being a part of a normal family was what he longed for, strived for, unfortunately his is a clan of cruel vampires known as the Brethren whose ferocity and drive to hunt humans runs deep in their blood. Brandon has never fitted in the Brethren, as one of their sons, being deaf and mute as a result of a failed burglary attempt at their home, made it worse for him as he came of age. His relationship with his brother Caine wasn’t the best as he along with his grandfather loathed him being a part of their family due to his difference to them, and his lack of ability to use his natural telepathic senses. They see it as his own fault, that he has brought shame on them.

Brandon’s acceptance into a human school for the deaf and mute sends his grandfather over the edge of reason enough to want to kill him. Fortunately he doesn’t, and Brandon is allowed to grow into maturity, still living his life among the clan. Now a man he has someone who advised him when he was a teenager, but she is a tough city cop who has a life of her own, not one controlled by any clan. She is fiercely independent, and believes if it can’t be seen it can’t be believed – but she is in for a shock once she meets Brandon again. Brandon seems to be the only one of the Brethren who isn’t a heartless and cruel person. The rest of them hunger for the blood of humans they consider are below them, while Kinsfolk were traitorous humans who kept certain humans for the Brethren to feed on when they were at their most ravenous.

As he didn’t attend the bloodletting when he was supposed to come of age, Brandon had become a true outcast of the clan. He had shunned being like them – he isn’t like them, he is sensitive, has a mind of his own, and wants out – desperately. With only a brief meeting with Angelina in his mind from his youth, he thinks she is the only one through it all who keeps him sane.

The Dark Thirst of the title is the intense desire vampires of the Brethren  feel when faced with humans, their smell, perfume sends their kind into a frenzy where they have to let their instinct come through to the fore, they would feed, taking the life blood from them, and more cruelly, tearing them to pieces. Rather than taking the romantic view of vampires, as countless authors have done before, Sara has instead taken the modern view that vampires aren’t repelled by garlic, crosses, holy water etc, the only otherworldly thing they can do is use their telepathic power to lure humans in to do their bidding.

The novel will touch the reader on a deep, emotional level. Sara has managed the art of shocking and depicting a state of passion never before seen. Unlike his family, Brandon has a respect for humans, and a love of life they will never know. He also has a love of Angelina that borders on the animalistic with lust he has to keep in check if he is to ever call himself truly different from the clan. The whole novel concerns his struggle to be happy with Angelina. There are powerful sex scenes in it too, as Sara makes even this love story more of a tale about his life, passion and what it was like being brought up by a dangerous clan of bloodthirsty vampires.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Dark Thirst (The Brethren Series, Book 1)

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Review: A Courtesan’s Scandal by Julia London

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Considering how courtesan romances usually go it’s easy to think Kate Bergeron is not really a courtesan, but she is in fact one. While I very much like that she really is a courtesan, I wasn’t a big fan that Kate was victim of rape and lusty determined privileged men (her first benefactor and the Prince) because while she goes willingly into the profession there is a strong element of force. What else were her choices? Become a common whore or become a rich man’s one?

Kate comes across as worldly and innocent by turn. Part of this is because she remains ever optimistic in the face of harsh realities. She helps women who are working and living where she grew up as best as she can. She plans for the day when a man will no longer desire her. She wants to learn to cook and bake so she can support herself outside of being a kept woman. She’s practical about her place in London society and takes things on the chin for the most part.

The Duke, Grayson Christopher, is arrogant, superior, and morally righteous despite the fact that he is cuckolding another peer of the realm. I wish Kate would have pointed out his and society’s incredible hypocrisy but that doesn’t happen. The book focuses on Grayson’s struggle to love a woman like Kate who is everything he should avoid like the plague. He juggles his feelings and the pressure of his dukedom credibly and in an adorable manner. Reading Grayson overcome his built-in disdain is very pleasing.

Then there is the Prince of Wales. George purchases Kate from her last master, but can’t be with her because he desires a divorce which he can’t get if another scandal is associated to his name. It is his plan to enjoy Kate visually from afar and to steal random meetings in public. To aid in his ruse he coerces Grayson into escorting Kate to social functions.

When the Prince discovers that the ruse is no longer a ruse he puts pressure on both and sows seeds of doubt in Kate. It is social suicide for Grayson when decides to eschew propriety and follow his heart. I was so sure Grayson would give his title to his younger brother and whisk Kate to America to start afresh, but that is not how they finally get together. The wrap up happens quickly and is very brief about the details, focusing more on Kate’s reunion with her long lost brother instead about the reprisal from society, Grayson’s family, and the Prince. So while it wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been the story is a delightfully different historical romance.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: A Courtesan’s Scandal