Audio Review: A Passionate Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

passionate affairSummary: Charley Lambert wants the perfect life and thinks she has the perfect career. Which is great for her because she is a workaholic who lusts for her boss. He’s hot, they click, and he’s a damn good flirt. But it’s been seven years! So when she breaks her leg, finds out her boss is getting married, and must take time off from perfect job – Charley searches for something to fill the void. Her friends guide her to the perfect hobby – providing online dating help to the luckless women out on the web. She does their flirting for them and they get to meet the guys they think are great. Charley’s friend and roommate, Sam is an actor wannabe who loves women and junk food. They’ve friend-zoned each other long before the story starts. He helps her with her get her business started. It’s fun and smooth-sailing until Charley falls for a guy she’s helping another woman snag.

Review (with spoilers): So it was clear to me from the start of the sequence for the online-dating that Sam was going to be perfect for Charley. They both just didn’t know it. I never liked Charley’s boss (what kind of guy claims to like a woman for seven years and never ask her out and what kind of woman waits seven years to be asked out?) – and his behavior and general smarmy attitude just didn’t work for me. Sam was very immature at the start and grows into a better guy through a series of events in the novel. My favorite sequence was Charley falling in love with Sam and Sam with Charley but both thinking they were falling for a stranger on the internet and ghost-writing for a client. Loved it.

Narrator: Cathleen McCarron’s voice is very distinct and so is the Scottish accent. On one hand she was a great narrator lending Charley some maturity when needed and levity when needed. On the other hand Cathleen was sometimes difficult to listen to as it seemed like she read slower in certain parts.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger

Review: Ravishing the Heiress (Fitzhugh Trilogy, Book 2) by Sherry Thomas

ravishing an heiressHero: Fitzhugh is an impoverished Earl, who recently inherited his earldom. If he doesn’t wed for money he and his family will be doomed to live in poverty forever. The idea of a loveless marriage does not appeal to him in the slightest as he is in love with a beautiful woman… but he can’t provide her with the life she deserves and she isn’t as wealthy as he needs. So, for the love of duty and England, he will marry Millie instead.

Heroine: Millicent (Millie) is a sardine-canning heiress. She’s not gentry, she’s not beautiful… and she isn’t Isabelle. She agrees to marry Fitz knowing that he doesn’t love her. She proposes that they abstain from consummating the marriage for a few years and then get together long enough for them to beget an heir. Fitz thinks that is a great idea because he can’t imagine wanting to sleep with his wife and proposes an extension of the abstinence plan.

So, of course, the beautiful Isabelle returns freshly widowed and ready to start an illicit affair with Fitz just when the married couple plans to consummate the marriage.

Review: My big issue with this book is the flaunting of adultery as the hero cheats and screws his way around London. He’s even willing to abandon his wife publically for a calculating harpy, just because his younger self thought he was in love with the woman. Ugh. I did however, like Millie, even if she took the role of doormat. I got her as a character. She loved Fitz at first site, is a young teenage girl, and believes she’s causing him more harm than good by being married to him. Sure it is a bit delusional, seeing as she’s bringing way more to the marriage with successful businesses and wealth while he’s only bringing a title and some land… but… that’s Millie. The hero has very few redeemable qualities and uses his broken heart as an excuse to behave awfully. What I didn’t understand was why Isabelle wasn’t given the cut-direct several times over? She’s clearly not “high society” even if she married well because she relentless pursues a scandal broth that would consume her, Fitz, and her children. In short, if Millie got a very determined admirer who honestly made her feel special and gave her the idea to run away from her loveless marriage, I might have enjoyed the story better.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Ravishing the Heiress

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Audio Review: The Naked Earl (Naked Nobility, Book 4) by Sally Mackenzie

naked earlHero: The Earl of Westbrooke, Robert “Robbie” Hamilton, has no trouble getting “it” up. No, the problem lies in keeping “it” up. This road block is tied to a humiliating moment in his youth and he’s unable to let the incident go. Just when things begin to heat up — like seeing the inebriated and naked Lizzie in her room — the memory will crop up and the excitement turns to frustration.

Heroine: Lady Elizabeth “Lizzie” Runyon, is the younger sister of Robbie’s best friend, James. She has been in love with Robbie most of her life and would like nothing better than to marry him. When he falls through her window (escaping across the rooftop from a calculating marriage-minded spinster), during a house party, she takes advantage of his naked state and her own, by stealing innocently passionate kisses.

Review: When the guests come running to her door, he begs her for silence and so while she could have kept him all to herself, she does as he asks, which I think takes guts. Of course, Lizzie feels Robbie will come around properly to ask for her hand and is flummoxed when he does not. There was a lot of potential with the book and where it fell flat for me was the passion fizzled at its highest points (and I don’t mean when it fizzled for Robbie as those were some of the better moments in the book because you could really feel his anxiety and frustration over his reactions or lack thereof). Robbie really wanted to be the man he felt Lizzie deserved and needed/wanted. The best-friend’s-sister or brother’s-best-friend trope is a tough one for me to warm up to, but I found myself rooting for the two quite early in the novel. The momentum just didn’t keep up with my expectations.

Narrator: The narrator was exceptional and one of the reasons it was so easy for me to get involved in the romance. I would recommend listening to Terry Donnelly if you get the chance. She’s very good at the intimate moments and keeping characters straight and reads very lively and with emotion. (4.5 of 5 Stars)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Sally MacKenzie Bundle: The Naked Earl, The Naked Gentleman, The Naked Marquis, The Naked Baron, The Naked Duke, The Naked Viscount, The Naked King

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Review: The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

The Secret of Ella and MichaReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Ella and Michel have always been the best of friends since childhood, but one night changes everything and Ella leaves Micha for a new life at college. There she wants to forget those past events with her former boyfriend, but when summer break comes, Ella has to think about where she can stay, and finds she has only one place to go, her own home, and with Micha living next door, she fears the horrible memories of what happened in the past may come back to haunt her all over again. Micha, on the other hand is determined to win her heart, and doesn’t care what it takes to do so.

The Secret of Ella and Micha was originally self-published in October of 2012, selling 84,000 copies during the first month of sales and over 200,000 copies since. It got to number 2 on the New York Times ebook bestseller list and number 2 on Amazon.

The Secret of Ella and Micha is a dual viewpoint story set out in small chapters using their first names so the reader can tell who they are reading about. Jessica Sorensen also uses popular music most of the way through the story to give readers a track listing they can listen to while reading. This can give them a better understanding of the book’s characters and the way they think. This novel is designed for readers who like an upbeat romance novel set in modern day, and deals with modern issues among older teenagers.

Micha admires Ella’s personality, the way she stood up for others when they were kids and her fiery nature – she has often been able to arouse him, and although he would never admit it to anyone, she is the only woman who can do that. When she returns to her home for the summer holidays, he is shocked to see her and even more amazed when she refuses to talk to him even though he has waited eight months to ask her why. For Micha, Ella was his first love, and as far as he is concerned, his only love. He can never feel this way with any other woman. Ella still loves him, but has to realise it, and what better way to rekindle their love than to be his next door neighbour – again.

I admired the honesty that the author put into this story, and the realism the characters had. I could actually believe that there were characters like Ella and Micha out there, as these acted as though they were living and breathing. This is definitely one for the keeper shelf. Also in the same series are The Forever of Ella and Micha and The Temptation of Lila and Ethan.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Secret of Ella and Micha

Review: The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer

being emmaReviewed by Carla F.

Our heroine: Emma Woodhouse is the new Marketing Director at Highbury Foods. She is embarrassed to remember the teenage crush she had on older family friend, now brother-in-law, Mark Knightley. Her father who is the head and owner of Highbury Foods wants Mark to be her mentor. Just what she doesn’t need is Mark telling her what to do (again)!

Our hero: Mark Knightley has recently returned from his job in Mumbai for the family owned Donwell Organics so that his father can go on an around-the-world cruise with his second wife. He has also taken his father’s place as a non-executive director at Highbury Foods. He gladly agrees to be Emma’s mentor. However, he surprised to see her all grown up with beautiful curves and great legs.

This retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma has all the romance of the original plus it has a very appealing modern heroine. She is still the Emma that we recognize who believes that no one is better at matchmaking than her. However, she is also a college graduate who is ready to inject some new life into the family business that has been run conservatively by her father. I also liked the fact that she has been sexually active and that her growing attraction to Mark is not just one of romantic feelings.

Besides Emma’s and Knightly’s story, what made the original novel so much fun was the cast of quirky characters. They are here as well. One that stood out for me was Emma’s temporary PA Harriet Smith who is definitely not one of the upper crust. Another one was Emma’s father who worries by his health and diet so much that he won’t eat anything made by his own company.

Archer has brought all the charm of the original, updated it, and made it into enjoyable friends-to-lovers story.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Importance of Being Emma (Darcy & Friends)

A Match Made in…Shamrock Falls

lucky breakGuest Blog by Kelley Vitollo, author of Lucky Break

When I sat down to plot out the series, I always knew the first book would be a friends to lovers story. I’m a huge fan of watching a friendship grow between characters, or knowing that the couple has known one another for most of their lives, and then seeing it grow and change into more.

In Lucky Break a lot of it had to do with the small town of Shamrock Falls as well.

Sidney and Kade grew up there. They went to school there, learned to ride bikes and got into trouble there. They shared kisses, and proms, parties all throughout their childhood.

They saw each other through hard times and laughed in this close-knit, community.

That past molded who they both are and it was important to both of them…

And then Sidney left.

When the story picks up current day we have characters who have been apart for five years. Who are re-learning who they each are, but that foundation they built as children in their sleepy little town of Shamrock Falls is still there.

It’s a story about best friends who will always mean the world to each other no matter what. That even if something comes between them, they still have that part of them that will always belong to each other.

It’s about learning to grow and move forward without forgetting who you were. It’s possible to merge those people and it’s a pretty incredible thing to do.

I had a blast writing Sidney and Kade’s love story—showing their past and watching these two best friends recreate their future.

Do you like friends to lovers stories?

http://www.kelleyvitollo.com

Buy: Lucky Break

Friends to Lovers: I’m Not Your “Sister” Anymore

Guest Blog by Tracey Devlyn, author of A Lady’s Revenge

Have you ever fallen in love with the wrong man? More specifically, your brother’s best friend?

You’ve known him since you were a little girl. He’s a constant in your household and joins forces with your older brother in tweaking your nose. He’s pesky, obnoxious, and slightly more tolerant to having you tagalong than your sibling.

Then when you edge toward womanhood, your awareness of your childhood friend shifts, throwing you off-kilter in unexpected and terrifying ways. His eyes are more striking, his smile more sexy, and his bum…well, it exists now.

This is what happened to novice secret service agent Cora deBeau on the eve of her first mission to France. The summer before she set sail across the Channel, Guy Trevelyan, the soon-to-be Earl of Helsford, transformed from a brotherlike figure into a handsome and distracting man. When she started imagining all her days spent with Guy and her lifelong quest to avenge her parents’ murders began to fade, that’s when she knew it was time to flee, er, leave. Time and distance, that’s all she needed to dispel Guy’s hold on her.

For the next three years, she would catch a glimpse of an ebony-haired man or a whiff of spicy sandalwood and her memories of Guy would all come back. Then a storm of questions would flood her mind. Where was he? What was he doing? Did he ever think of her? Yearn for her with the same heart-twisting intensity she ached for him?

Not until she saw Guy’s beloved face emerge from the shadows of Valère’s dungeon did she truly understand that she could never, ever flee their love.

Excerpt from A Lady’s Revenge

(Setup: The year is 1804, England. Cora and Guy just finished a Tai Chi session in a meadow near the woods. Up to this point, Cora has resisted touching Guy because of the atrocities she had endured in a French dungeon. This scene is a major turning point in their relationship.)

Guy grasped her hand and led her to a large, fallen tree. Atop the lichen-crusted trunk sat her red leather slippers. “Do you wear these so you can find them in the woods?”

She sat next to them, slanting him a cross look. “Noooo. I wear them because they make me happy.” As you do. At that moment, she wished she had worn a pretty dress rather than her pai jamahs.

He knelt beside her and patted his knee, a request for her foot.

“I’m not so fragile, Guy. I can manage my own shoes.”

“I know. Now give me your foot.”

Reminiscent of his demand in the library, she knew he wouldn’t budge until she complied. “Stubborn man.” She extended her leg and couldn’t help but smile when he dusted dirt and debris from her bare soles like a father would a recalcitrant child.

“We make a good pair.”

Did they? She had always felt a connection to him. Something deeper than a mere friendship, something that had unfolded petal by fragile petal over the years.

A realization made all the more acute when her young girl’s admiration had transformed into a woman’s awakening. Her discernment of his masculine charms had gradually surfaced. She had noticed small things, like the magnificent length of his ebony eyelashes, the adorable dimple in his right cheek, and the fine hairs that peppered the backs of his hands.

She had felt awkward and guilty, especially once her focus shifted to admiring the breadth of his shoulders, the musculature of his thighs, and the beauty of his angular face. This was Guy, for goodness sake—practically her brother. Her thoughts had seemed immoral, wrong somehow, or at least that’s how she had felt at the time.

Her preoccupation with her friend grew to a degree that had kept her insides in a quivering knot any time he drew near, and her normally easy quips would lodge in her throat with just one of his teasing winks.

When she began imagining all her days spent in his company and her lifelong quest to avenge her parents’ murders began to fade, she started avoiding his company and eventually set off for France. She had hoped distance and the distraction of her mission would rid her of the unbearable longing he had stirred in her young heart.

She hoped in vain.

She stared down at his bent head. Sunlight sheened off his black hair, creating an illusion of moonlight dancing over dark waters. Long waves cradled his massive shoulders while he guided her foot into an awaiting red slipper. Without thought, she combed her fingers through his thick strands, taming their wild disarray, and wishing—no, longing—for the courage to bury her nose amidst all that luxury.

He stilled, as if fearing any movement would make her stop. He worried for naught. She loved feeling the silky texture of his midnight locks against her skin. Had dreamt of running her fingers through their length for days. Years.

He sat back on his heels and met her gaze, his internal struggle obvious. He, no doubt, wanted to give her some time to absorb the intimacy they had shared, but the demands of his body were at war with his strong mind. A situation she knew all too well.

In a near whisper, she said, “Turn around, if you please.”

His gaze sharpened, fired hot like a glowing cauldron. But he said nothing, simply maneuvered his body around until he faced the opposite direction, spine erect, senses alert.

She glanced down at the leather thong still wrapped around her middle finger. Its worn appearance was a testament to the many hours spent taming his gorgeous mane. She clamped the tie between her teeth while her hands smoothed over his hair.

“’Tis beautiful.”

He tilted his head back, his eyes closed. “Nonsense. Men don’t have beautiful hair.”

Leaning forward, she swept the tail she had created over her face, inhaling the faint scent of sandalwood mixed with the fresh country air. “You do.”

* * *

Friends to lovers—has this ever happened to you or someone you know?

GIVEAWAY: Please leave a comment for a chance to win a print copy of A Lady’s Revenge. (U.S. and Canada only, please.) Last day to enter: April 6, 2012.

Thank you Love Romance Passion for having me here today!

* * *

LadyRevenge

BRIEF SUMMARY OF A LADY’S REVENGE:

A British agent flees her French captor’s torturous dungeon and falls in love with the decoder responsible for her imprisonment.

NOTHING GETS BETWEEN A LADY AND HER VENGEANCE

In a daring rescue, beautiful and wily secret operative Cora deBeau is reunited with her childhood friend Guy Trevelyan, who wants so much more from her now than friendship…

HE’LL STOKE THE FIRE UNTIL THEY BOTH GO UP IN FLAMES

But Cora’s mission against the French has become personal, and even the fire between her and Guy won’t deter her. When it comes to getting sweet, cruel revenge, nothing will stand in a lady’s way…

Buy: A Lady’s Revenge

* * *

Tracey Devlyn

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine’s happy ending). An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at:

TraceyDevlyn.com | Twitter.com/TraceyDevlyn | Facebook.com/AuthorTraceyDevlyn

LadyJanesSalonNaperville.com

Review: Darn Good Cowboy Christmas by Carolyn Brown

Reviewed by Susan S.

Carolyn Brown’s Darn Good Cowboy Christmas is a sizzler; like bacon on a burning hot frying pan. A darn good love story for the holiday season!

Spikes & Spurs Romance Series: Book Three

I’m as shocked as the next reader; I made it on Santa’s good list. Can you believe it? Oh. You can’t? Well…I did! And he fixed my busted review-o-meter. Whoo- Whee! I’ve really missed that ticking noise. Let’s have a look-see. Wow! It’s red, it’s steaming, and the pointer’s on the number five.

Summary: Liz Hanson, heroine, is a fortune teller who’s traveled all her life with her carnival family. She loves them very much and enjoys what she does, but has always felt an unrelenting desire to settle down. To own a house, and to just enjoy the stability that others seem to have. Which explains her speedy acceptance to Uncle Haskell’s offer. He’s giving her what she’s always wanted; her own home. Moving into Haskell’s place was an expected event, after all, she agreed to move in. What Hanson didn’t expect, was to run into her childhood crush, Raylen O’Donnell.

Raylen will awaken her womanly desires, and have her wanting to share her stability with him. Her carnival family on the other hand, insists her restless heart needs to travel. Liz is at a crossroads. Stay in Texas, or leave and travel.

Will Liz’s crystal ball foretell misery, or show her a happily-forever-after?

Review: If you’ve read a Carolyn Brown novel, then I’m just preaching to the choir, because you know how wonderful they are. But, if you haven’t, Darn Good Cowboy Christmas is the perfect place to start reading. Don’t fret new readers; Brown’s novels are stand-alones. She does a great job of cluing you in.

I really enjoyed all the heart-to-heart conversations between Liz and Blaze (who’s like a brother to her). During the dialogues I felt I was sitting next to the characters…listening. No, I wasn’t having auditory hallucinations (laughs). I simply meant the author writes them so expertly.

The story itself is touching and heartwarming. It’s about a woman finding the courage to follow her heart and realizing…that happiness means taking chances.

Recommendations: Recommended for all romance readers regardless of favorite subgenres. You’ll really enjoy it if you like the friends to lovers trope, happily-ever-afters, stories about meeting your soul-mate, and novels about rekindled love.

Cameos and Updates Galore: This Christmas is a cameo celebration. I spied with my little eye hunky Slade Luckadeau (hero from One Lucky Cowboy) with his granny Nellie and her sister Ellen. Jane (heroine also from One Lucky Cowboy) gets her fortune told. An update you won’t want to miss!

The author also updates us on Wil and Pearl, as well as Rye (Raylen’s brother). Because this is Raylen’s story his family plays front and center: sisters (Gemma and Colleen), brothers (Dewar and Rye), parents (Cash and Maddie), and his grandparents.

Lucy from Red’s Hot Cowboy also pops into the Chicken Fried Café. She’s been one busy gal!

What’s Next? Book four, One Hot Cowboy Wedding, has a release date of April 2012; it’s the story of Jasmine and Ace. Someone’s going to Vegas, baby! And just you wait until you see the cover for this novel. Beautiful, I tell you. Absolutely. Beautiful!

Review-O-Meter Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Darn Good Cowboy Christmas, Darn Good Cowboy Christmas (UK)

Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., Romance, Copyright Oct. 2011, Mass Market Paperback, Print Pages 379. ISBN# 978-1-4022-6157-2.

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