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: The Look of Love (The Sullivan Series, Book 1) by Bella Andre

look of loveReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Chase Sullivan is a photographer at a family gathering taking pictures of his mother and his eight siblings. After leaving the gathering he comes across a woman who’s had an accident. Chloe Peterson needs to be rescued in more ways than one.

You can almost feel the heat coming off the page when Chloe and Chase meet for the first time. Bella shows the reader that if you’ve come out of a bad relationship, you still deserve a second chance at love. This story also reminds us that we are not at fault and not to be afraid to let others into our lives. I found it interesting that one particular morning that I’m reading this book, our local news station was doing a piece on domestic violence – déjà vu (http://www.wggb.com/2013/08/10/domestic-violence-walk-in-memory-of-tyshianna-atkins/).

Ellen works for Chase’s brother Marcus who happens to own a California winery. If you do have the chance to travel, and visit a winery, what better setting to read this book. She and Chase almost hook up but it doesn’t happen for them. It does leave me wondering if she’ll ever hook up with someone before this series is over. I’ll have to keep reading the other books to see if my question is answered.

What I’m impressed with is that Bella leaves the ex in the background, for the most part, so that she can build the relationship with Chase and Chloe. I’m afraid that if he had made a strong appearance, the whole feel of the story would have changed and I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. Chase is the epitome of the knight charging in on a white horse. Who doesn’t love to read a feel good story with a happy ending?

The next book in the series is titled From This Moment On and it is Marcus’ story. At the end of this book, Bella gives the reader a hint of what his story is going to be about. If you enjoyed Chase’s book as much as I did, make sure to check out this next one.

Rating: ★★★★½

The Look of Love (The Sullivans)

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Review: A Light on the Veranda by Ciji Ware

light verandaReviewed by Cara Lynn

This is a re-publishing of her novel. I read an uncorrected advance copy.

This was a hard book for me to get into. It wasn’t until I was on about page 200 when I began to figure it out. Perhaps that was because it took me so long to read the first 200 pages that I might not have remembered clues given earlier. Who knows.

The basic story is about a harpist Daphne Whitaker Duvallon who wishes to attend her brother’s wedding (and perform). Her conductor in NYC, Rafe, who also happens to be an ex-lover, fires her from her position. She goes to the wedding anyway. About a year earlier, she had literally stopped her wedding to Jack when she discovered her soon-to-be husband in the throes of making love to someone else. (She announces that at the wedding.) He holds a grudge; she is terribly hurt. He sabotages her harp just before her brother’s wedding.

Enter Sim Hopkins, a bird photographer, whose marriage ended disastrously in divorce when he was not home when his wife loses a baby. His ex-wife is a lawyer that Jack hires to push through disposing toxic waste too close to the bird sanctuary. Of course Jack does this after researching Sim on the Internet and knowing that he and Daphne are getting close. Daphne tries, unsuccessfully, to convince Sim that they are up to no good.

Both of them hear a harp playing in the middle of the night when no one is there. They are in two separate locations.

In a way, this book is a sort of time-travel gothic romance. Daphne finds herself transported back into the past when she hears certain sounds or music. She witnesses the people; she isn’t part of it. (That wasn’t clear to me in the beginning.) Whether Sim has any similar experiences, we don’t know.

Suffice it to say that the lives of the ancestors are in some ways influencing the present. And they are thoroughly unlikeable, with a couple of exceptions, as well as mentally off, shades of Jane Eyre with the crazy wife in the upper rooms, then the daughter with similar issues put in an insane asylum when she doesn’t deserve it by a tyrant of a second husband after her money, stillborns, forced marital ‘rights’. Even with the geneologies in the front of the book, I had a hard time keeping them straight. This is the deep south, in the time of slavery.

The book flips back and forth from present day to the past.

Both Sim and Daphne are wounded by their own pasts, let alone their ancestors.

Be warned: There is abortion, miscarriage, stillborn, suicides, insanity, disfigurement, a Gothic-type denouement.

Recommended: If you like reading about the past and the above situations.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Light on the Veranda

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Reviewed: Painted Love by Kimberly Duncan

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Our main characters are Layna Killian Hertz, a photographer for an advertising firm and her college sweetheart Brendon Fordon, a famous artist.

We first see Layna after she has a vision, or nightmare, about her ex-boyfriend Brendon. She can’t decide what to do so she calls her friend Winifred for advice. As part of her job, she needs to travel to New Orleans (and it just so happens that’s where Brendon lives). Wini’s solution is to read her tarot cards. You’ll have to read the story to find out what they told her.

Our first impressions of Brendon are that he loves women, loves partying, and of course painting. But does all this really make him happy? He admits to us that he uses women. Is this the man that Layna loved?

Brendon is also a man that loves to inflict pain onto his submissive partners. As you read this story, you will have to question if Brendon made a deal with the devil for the price of being famous. You also see that he is such a jerk – Layna is better off without him. What did she ever see in him?

Layna and Wini go to New Orleans where Layna meets up with Brendon and to do her job. Wini is there to be her support system. We also learn that Layna and Wini used to be a couple (which we don’t see prior to this). Layna and Brendon end up going back to his place. There is a feeling of darkness about it – especially in the bedroom. Layna doesn’t realize that evil is Brendon’s roommate.

Everything about Brendon is dark especially what he likes sexually. But don’t give up on him yet. Maybe when Kimberly was writing this story, the man isn’t supposed to save the day. Maybe she’s put in a twist – it’s the woman that steps into that role.

There’s just something about New Orleans that makes the perfect setting for this type of story. The town is just the right backdrop and the ambiance comes through. I couldn’t picture a better setting.

As I continue to read the story, I have to wonder about the title. The title is Painted Love but the first four letters are P-A-I-N. I found that very interesting and wondered if that was Kimberly’s intention.

The scenes are very physical and not everyone is a fan of this much graphic BDSM. It will be up to you to decide if this book is for you. There are all kinds of erotic novels and some are more graphic than others. Do you find this acceptable in your love stories? Maybe this is a case of where evil wins the day. But you will have to read the book to find that out.

Kimberly does take the BDSM much farther than I have ever read in a book before but for this type of dark paranormal it works. You tend to forget that Brendon is possessed by something evil. You wonder how far he will go to inflict that much pain on someone he loves.

The darkest part of the book comes toward the end and it’s a complete surprise – not quite what you may be expecting. I felt that things ended fairly quickly after that. Would I read the story again? Probably around Halloween.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Painted Love

What Do Readers Love About Romance?

Guest Post by Kat Martin, author of Against the Storm

It’s a question that dozens of people have tried to answer.  On Valentine’s Day, article after article attempted to explore the concept.  Non-fiction books are written about it, essays are printed.  Internet sites Chat about it.

The truth is there is no single answer.

From the time we’re teenagers, we’re thinking about finding a mate.  When we’re old and alone, our spouse long gone, we’re remembering the romantic days when we fell in love, the days of our lives we spent with someone who loved us.

From the start, it’s a journey fraught with perils.  Today, with people living in cities, the odds of finding the right mate are mind-boggling.  Thousands of bars and restaurants, millions of people all searching for someone.  People turn to Internet dating to improve their chances of finding a person with the same interests…someone they might have a chance to love.

The same journey happens in a Romance novel and it’s fraught with even more peril.  As the reader turns the pages, for a very brief time, he or she gets to feel all the wonderful emotions a man or woman feels when they fall in love.

In my latest book, Against the Storm, the fourth in my AGAINST series, Trace Rawlins is a man who’s had rotten luck with women, especially redheads.  So when Maggie O’Connell, a fiery tempered, red-headed photographer, comes to him for help against a stalker, Trace’s instincts warn him away.  He doesn’t trust her and as some of her secrets come to life, Trace is even more determined to stay away from her–no matter how much he wants her in his bed.

But what if Maggie is telling the truth and she really is in danger?  No matter his feelings, Trace is determined to keep her safe.

The best part about reading a Romance is that from the very first page, the reader secretly knows that whatever perils this couple faces, whatever suffering they endure, will be worth it.

Because by the last page of the book, these lovers are going to get the happy ending they deserve, the forever kind of love.

I hope you will watch for Against the Storm, and that you’ll look for Against the Night and AGAINST THE SUN, coming after the first of the year.

Till then very best wishes and happy reading, Kat

P.S. Would love for you to take a peek at my Against the Storm book trailer, interview (I do these under duress!) reviews, and excerpt.  Please visit my website, enter my contest and why not connect with me on facebook?

Buy: Against the Storm (The Raines of Wind Canyon)

Review: IOU Sex by Calista Fox

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Main Characters:  Fiona Carlisle, jilted by her fiancé for her sister.  Michael Houston, playboy photographer and Fiona’s rebound fling.

This is a book that is written in the first person.  The reader can get a sense of what it’s like to be in Fiona’s shoes.  Fiona begins her story by thinking about her sister’s engagement party.  In order for her to make it through the party, where her ex-fiancé (of course) will also be attending, she has decided to ask Michael to go with her.

Michael is definitely the ultimate bad boy.  Michael has been very persistent about sleeping with Fiona after that brief fling.  Just like all good romance novels, the female character doesn’t want a repeat because she is afraid how it will affect her.

You have to love the descriptions that Calista uses.  The reader can just imagine how vindictive Fiona’s little sister is.  You also have to sympathize with Fiona.  No one deserves to be treated the way she was.  But Calista also makes Fiona a strong independent woman.

When Fiona goes to see Michael to ask him a favor, you can just about see the electricity that is created between the two of them.  If I was reading a paperback, instead of an e-reader, I’d have to use the fire extinguisher to put the flames out.  Calista creates some really “hot” scenes.

Like every good erotic romance, you go over to ask a guy a favor and instead things get out of control and you have some very heavy petting.  But the girl comes to her senses at the last-minute and puts a stop to it.  No one wants to get burned twice.  Then the reader finds out how the book got its title.

One thing I like about Michael is he never quits when he wants something.  And what he wants is Fiona.  With Calista’s way with words, the reader can tell how much Michael cherishes Fiona.  This is the type of erotic romance that I love to read – so hot you can’t put it down.  The sex scenes are pure steam and no place is off-limits when making love.  Calista makes her sex scenes a natural progression of their love for each other.

Michael is Fiona’s strongest supporter.  Fiona fights their connection but I don’t think she realizes what a strong couple they really are.  Michael certainly knows how to take care of a woman.

Calista also does a great job with Fiona.  When it comes time for the engagement party, the reader has to cheer Fiona on.  We see how both vulnerable and strong she is.  Calista writes the type of book that you want to read again and again.

One thing I loved about this book is that there aren’t a lot of pages.  This forces the author to keep the scenes short and to the point.  We don’t feel that the scenes drag on forever before getting to the point.  If that did happen, the book wouldn’t flow as well as it did.  Plus, I don’t know that I would have liked it as well.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: IOU Sex

Audio Review: Vision in White by Nora Roberts

I got the audio book of Vision in White after listening to Bed of Roses. Emily Durante reads it and does a pretty good job at it. She’s probably the only reason I kept listening to the novel. Vision in White is not nearly as good as Bed of Roses. It reads like a Nora Roberts, but it doesn’t feel like one.

The chemistry between Mackensie and Carter is fairly flat. Nora didn’t put much effort into them and it shows. In fact, I think they’re very poorly suited. Mac’s commitment phobic and neurotic. Her craziness will apparently pull Carter out of his quiet shy shell. Carter is meant to subdue Mackensie’s neuroses and add stability to her life. Honestly? I think they’d kill each other or divorce in five years, three if something happened to draw their ire sooner.

Much of the book is filled with Mackensie’s inability to deal with her dreadful mother. Mac is strong in everything but unable to stand up for herself. The woman ill uses Mac and plays every manipulative trick in the book. Mac and Linda both needed to grow up and deal with one another like human beings. It was too much and took too much away from developing the relationship of the main characters.

Carter is a beta hero. He teaches at a local high school even though he has a Ph.D. from Yale. Despite being very insecure with poor social skills when it comes to women, he is somehow an animal in the sack. Oh really now? Hmm… I would have been happier with a virgin hero or Mac taking him in hand and showing him the way.

I kept waiting for some actual conflict or drama to develop. Nothing ever really happened between Mac and Carter. Corina doesn’t count. It was very slow going.

Rating: 2 Stars

Buy: Vision in White, Vision in White (An Unabridged Production)[8-CD Set]

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Review: The Sheikh’s Disobedient Bride by Jane Porter

guestreview

Cara Lynn writes to us her first romance novel review in response to the $10 gift card contest! LRP is very happy to have her with us today! If you would like to win a copy of a book by the author of this novel please see the end of the post for more information.

It’s pretty unfair for me to review this book, as this genre isn’t my particular favorite. However, they do get published!

When Tally finds herself kidnapped by Sheikh Tair, a fierce desert warrior, she comes up against the proverbial immovable mountain. I am not surprised. Tally is a photographer, and she has taken some compromising photos, or they could be. And not only that, her translators are more than they appeared, as they are enemies of the Sheikh. He isn’t at all convinced that she is innocent. However, he is more than willing to put her into his harem and to test her loyalties more than once.

She is determined to escape, but not knowing the land, finds herself in dangerous situations, where she needs to be rescued. And you guessed it, by Tair.

Ultimately, the Sheikh marries her (as you can tell by the title) and they fall in love – or do they. Perhaps they fall in lust. As in many Harlequin books, there are banter and arguments, but underneath it is respect for the man who is always wealthy and rich. Let’s face it, who would put up with these attitudes if he weren’t! The woman is always denigrated to an extent, which grates on me after a while – or from the beginning. It seems like an intelligent woman would use that intelligence to discern what kind of man the man is and not waste her breath on verbally fighting him. Of course, part of that is supposed to be sexual tension. How to rate the sex in this book? I didn’t feel like they had any chemistry. But that’s just me. Perhaps you did. I appreciate the fact that the sex is not crude. On the other hand, she doesn’t think she’s in love with him. And on the other hand, she is not a virgin, so she knows the ropes. And they both think the sex is great.

If you want a mindless read, or if this is your genre, you will enjoy this book. I’d have preferred it, if she had determined how he governed, what his daily life was like, what the issues of survival were, how she could contribute if she were his consort. (I can’t see her ruling.) Because she is less than prepared along these lines, she finds herself kidnapped by the men who had been her translators. She is rescued in about a page. I think this could have been extended too, over some of the other things in the book. But it fits the genre. After all, the Sheikh’s mother is from the West and married his father in similar circumstances. Perhaps one of the earlier Sheikh books by another author tells the generic story of their meeting.

Rating: 1.5 Stars