Review: What a Lady Needs for Christmas (MacGregors, Book 4) by Grace Burrowes

what a lady needs for christmasHeroine: Lady Joan Flynn flees her family’s estate ill prepared to join her extended family for the holidays. Her maid deserts her halfway there and she’s stuck at a train station with no help in sight. She’s not so much worried about getting to the party as she’s worried about not having a husband by the end of the holidays.

Hero: Dante Hartwell needs to drum up investors for his mills. He’s going to a house party of a wealthy Scottish gentlemen in order to do just that. But he doesn’t really like nobbing with these folks. If it wasn’t for his secretary he might not go at all. When his daughter requests he assist a woman at the train station he’s more than happy to oblige.

Review: Lady Joan was compromised by an unrepentant rake. He wanted her talent, but not her, and when Joan finds him engaged the next day it is no wonder she’s all in a panic. This fashion designer spinster needs a man willing to take her on. When Dante proposes marriage he’s the blessing she was looking for. He gives her plenty of outs – she can wait to decide or change her mind if she finds she isn’t pregnant. Their romance is a sweet one. I particularly enjoyed their wedding nights as they worked to figure out their husband and wife routine.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: What a Lady Needs for Christmas (MacGregor Series)

Review: The Best Man’s Baby (Red River, Book 2) by Victoria James

The-Best-Mans-Baby-by-Victoria-JamesReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from the publisher and the author. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”.

Jake Manning is making a toast to the bride and groom. Claire Holbrook who has raised her glass has a major crush on him. But she doesn’t realize how well men can hide their feelings. They dance a song together all alone on the dance floor. What song do you think it would be?

They have an interesting conversation following an outburst at a barbeque – I wish this came with video. Especially when Claire breaks out some dry-erase boards. I could picture this transferring to the small screen very well.

If you love romantic comedies than this book is for you. There were times when I wanted to laugh out loud but it wasn’t conducive to the area I was sitting in – out in the middle of the library. At the very least you can’t help but smile while reading Victoria’s book.

There’s a scene where Claire is talking with her mom and all I can say is, “Two points to Claire!” I can totally understand having the same type of relationship with my mother. It also makes me realize that sometimes we give our mothers more power in our adult lives than they should have.

This is a great book to read when you’re on the treadmill. You forget everything going on around you and then you don’t realize how much time has passed. The bad news is that it brought me closer to the end. But the even better news is that I’m looking forward to reading more of this series. This is a must to have on your e-reader.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Best Man’s Baby (A Red River Book) (Entangled Indulgence)

The Search for Fresh and Original

proof of their sinGuest blog by Dani Collins, author of Proof of Their Sin

I’m still a relatively new author and this is my first organized blog tour. This post is my tenth on Proof Of Their Sin and I’ve written three books and two partials since it was accepted. I’ve been moving the writing of this blog down my To Do List for a few days, mind drooling as I attempted to find something fresh to say about this story.

It’s the same struggle we face when writing the book in the first place. To counter that old argument that all romances are the same, we writers struggle to make this story different and fresh and fun.

But how? Especially when writing for a well-loved line like a Harlequin Presents? At its heart, Proof of Their Sin is a secret baby with a reunion romance. The hero, Paolo, is Italian and rich. I know you’ve seen these elements before and when it comes to certain things—a tone of voice, a heated caress—it’s really easy to fall back on a nice bit of phrasing as common as tycoons and virgins. (She husked, while stroking light fingertips across her keyboard.)

Characters, however are unique products of their personal history and life experience, bringing that stab of freshness we’re looking for, so I thought I’d give you Proof of Their Sin’s backstory.

Before I sold in May of 2012, I was working with Suzy, one of the editors at Mills & Boon. She had recently rejected one of my manuscripts (ouch) and asked me to submit three fresh ideas for consideration. Proof of Their Sin was one of them, sent under the title Kidnapped For Keeps. She wound up suggesting I pair the heroine from one synopsis with the Russian hero from the other.

There’s a whole long epic Russian tragedy about how that story marched toward eventual cold and wintry death. (It may yet see resurrection.) After its demise, I wrote No Longer Forbidden? It was accepted in a two-book contract and I still had this lovely synopsis entitled Kidnapped For Keeps which hadn’t exactly been rejected so I sent it along as my second book.

I already had a jump start on the story with a stunning dress for Lauren and a white tie ball and a revelation of an unplanned pregnancy. Wait, have you seen that in a romance before? Yeah, me too. Fortunately, I had plenty of questions to answer: How does she get in? How did she get pregnant? How does she know Paolo?

Pretty soon I was getting to know Lauren and Paolo. He’s a banker who only succeeds in that field by tempering his natural, high-octane, surf-typhoon-waves-in-Indonesia nature. For all his projection of aloofness, he was incredibly devoted to his best friend, Lauren’s first husband. Lauren is an absolute mouse when the story opens, but she steps into her grandmother’s vintage designer gown and dares Paolo to judge her. In her quiet way, she keeps Paolo on his toes and offers him the excitement he craves.

Due to another epic saga, my first Mills & Boon will release with my third this December, making Proof of Their Sin my North American debut. It will hit shelves in my hometown, on July first. I’m ridiculously excited. (I actually went into a store today to check for it and they groaned in empathy when they saw me. “It’s not here yet.”)

I hope Proof of Their Sin strikes a chord with you. Here’s the blurb:

A beautiful mistake…

Pregnant. Lauren Bradley’s heart stops-there’s only one man who can be the father and it’s not her late husband, the man everyone thinks is a celebrated war hero….

Ravaged with guilt at sleeping with his best friend’s wife, Paolo Donatelli closes his heart to Lauren forever. But in nine months’ time, the proof of their incredible night together will be there for the world to see.

Marriage is Paolo’s answer to avoiding more scandal, but it’s Lauren’s worst fear-she still bears the scars from the first time she said I do. Can she trust Paolo enough to reveal the truth?

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

What makes a romance stand out from the pack for you? Do you have an example of something really different that worked really well for you—or didn’t at all?

GIVEAWAY: I have a copy of Proof Of Their Sin for one lucky commenter.

dani collinsBio: Dani Collins spent two decades submitting to every publisher with a transom while holding down a day job and raising a family with her high school sweet heart.

When The Call finally came, Dani ran with it, going to contract on eight books in that first year. Along with her Harlequin Mills & Boon titles, she has an epic fantasy romance, The Healer, with Champagne Books and an indie-published rom-com, Hustled To The Altar.

While her stories span very different genres, she always delivers alpha-male heroes squaring off with spirited heroines in a deeply emotional, unforgettable romance.

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

I’d love to hear from you. Find me at:

www.danicollins.com | FB:DaniCollinsAuthor | @DaniCollinsBook |Goodreads

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

Review: Dreaming of the Wolf by Terry Spear

Reviewed by Sharon S.

This is the 8th book in the Dreaming of the Wolf series, and the first one I have read. Each book can act as a stand alone and the author does a good job of explaining the rules of the Lupus Garou pack life, but I didn’t feel as invested in it as I probably would have if I had started with the first book.

When I first started this book I really didn’t want to finish it. Our smexy alpha hero Jake and the heroine, Alicia have an instant connection and are having hot outdoor sex by chapter 4. I have no problem with that, but it seem on every page one of them was thinking how much they liked the other, but nothing could come from it because:

A.) She isn’t one of us, we don’t date humans we only have one night stands with them, or

B.) I don’t have time for love I have to avenge my mother’s death.

I wanted to smack them both. The whole story is cliché and there really wasn’t much depth to it. The plot the romance was built around was weak, and I know what you are thinking…this is a PNR, the plot isn’t important. I know this, and there is an audience for this type of PNR, but it just isn’t me.

That being said…I found myself starting to get interested in a secondary character, Tom. He is the brother of Jake and Darien and by the end of the book the only one that hasn’t found his mate. I was able to connect with him unlike the other characters. Maybe because he wasn’t pining and whining over a woman <G>. Matter of fact, I liked him enough to hope the next book in this series is about him. I want to see him get his HEA.

So, I am giving this 3 stars because Tom found his way into my heart and made me want to read his book. Like I said earlier, this just isn’t my type of PNR, but I’ve read some other reviews and lots of people love it, which means it’s me, not you Dreaming of the Wolf <G>.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Dreaming of the Wolf

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My Favorite Tropes: Secret Baby!

Guest post by Carla F.

Secret Baby! The phrase just screams for capitalization and an exclamation point. Of course, this plot is when a couple goes their separate ways without the hero knowing that the heroine is pregnant. (Sometimes the heroine doesn’t even know.) The couple could have been separated by war, controlling parents, a misunderstanding, etc.

It is my impression that there are many readers that dislike this trope. It can be problematic depending on how the author deals with it. Unfortunately, many times these stories involve one or both parties who are Too Stupid To Communicate. The “breakup” could have been avoided if he/she could have just explained their thoughts/feelings. Sometimes just saying, “I love you” (when in fact the person does love him/her) would have made a difference.

Then there are the Contemporary stories where the couple forgets the condom. Sure it happens in real life all the time, but I would like to see at least my romance characters show a little responsibility. Of course, wearing a condom doesn’t always work because they seem to break a lot (or so I have read). This especially seems to be a problem for the millionaire/playboy/tycoon types. In fact, I am beginning to think that these types have extra strong sperm that just busts right through the latex, and someone should develop a new line of condoms just for them.

So why do I like Secret Baby! plots? In most of these the reader knows about the child before the father does. It is fun watching the other shoe drop. (Bad historical example: Duke of Candlewyck: “My portrait gallery is so huge that I had forgotten all about this portrait of great-uncle Basil. I never realized that Sarah’s son looks just him…Bloody hell!”) Then it is interesting to see how the hero deals with this knowledge. How he does this can determine whether you love or hate him.

If the author can avoid the situations that I mentioned above (especially Too Stupid To Communicate), I am ready to go buy the baby shoes and the onesie.

Secret Baby Plot:

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Books that I enjoyed with the Secret Baby! plot include:

  • Everyday, Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann (Contemporary) - Melody Evans is saved by Navy SEAL, Harlan “Cowboy” Jones, from terrorists. The attraction is immediately and intense, but Melody always wanted to marry someone who is average and not someone who takes risks. Melody and Cowboy return to their separate sides of the US. Yes, yes this is one where the condom breaks but Cowboy’s attempts to convince Melody that he is the man for her is so sweet and sexy that I can ignore that.
  • Texas Wedding for Their Baby’s Sake by Kathryn Albright (Western) - The hero Brandon goes off to fight in Texas after having to watch his brother kiss his secret fiancé, Caroline, in front of the whole town (-10 points for that reaction, Brandon). He is wounded physically and mentally in the war, and he knows that he can no longer marry Caroline. When she receives his letter telling her to find someone else, she heads west to find him.
  • Scandalizing the Ton by Diane Gaston (Regency) - Lady Lydia Wexin is rescued from a reporter that is harassing her by Adrian Pomroy, Viscount Cavanley. Lydia has been hurt and so Adrian carries her indoors, and thing progress from there. The next morning, Lydia insists that Adrian leave because she was already a target of so much gossip because of the death of her husband.
  • No Place to Run by Maya Banks (Contemporary) - When Sam Kelly was undercover, he had a brief affair with Sophie Lundgren. The mission falls through and Sophie vanishes. When Sam next sees her she is pregnant and tells him that his life is in danger.
  • Circumstantial Memories by Carol Ericson (Contemporary) - I had to have one with amnesia as part of the plot. Julia does know not where she was heading when she had her accident. She doesn’t remember anything about her life including who is the father of her baby. After returning from a multi-year assignment, secret agent man, Ryder McClintock, is stunned to see Julia living in his town. When he didn’t hear from her, he thought that she didn’t want to continue their relationship.
  • The Masquerade by Brenda Joyce (Regency) - It is actually the sister that bears the hero’s baby in this one. (Yes, hero.) Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fitzgerald was supposed to meet Tyrell de Warenne (who she has loved since she was a child) in the garden during the masquerade party. A mix-up causes Lizzie’s sister to be out in the garden at the appointed time. The sister and Lizzie go off to have the baby, and when he is born, Lizzie decides to claim him as her own. Things don’t go smoothly when Lizzie returns home with the child.

Ones that I didn’t enjoy so much include:

  • Seducing Simon by Maya Banks (Contemporary) - I really wanted to like this one, but couldn’t in the end. Simon catches the woman he is about to ask to marry him with another man. He comes home and starts drinking a lot. His roommate Toni, who has always loved him, seduces him. Trouble is that he doesn’t remember it the next day. When she becomes pregnant, she puts off telling him for a long time because she is afraid of his reaction. He goes all asshat when she finally tells him, because she didn’t tell him earlier.
  • The Frenchman’s Marriage Demand by Chantelle Shaw (Contemporary) - Millionaire Zac knows that the baby that his mistress Freya is carrying cannot be his so he throws her out. When Freya is in a traffic accident, her grandmother takes the daughter to Zac to watch over because she doesn’t want the responsibility. Zac is not happy about this at all. He insists upon a paternity test and demands that Freya and the child come with him to Monaco. He calls her names and orders her around, but thinks that she will just get back into bed with him because he is so irresistible. Unfortunately, she does.

What are you favorite Secret Baby! stories?

More Secret Baby polls!

Review: The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

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The Kingmaking is book one of the Pendragon Banner Trilogy by Helen Hollick. In one sentence this book is about Arthur growing from boyhood to manhood, from untried to experienced, from soldier to king. He is shaped by his times, loving women and drink freely and openly. It gets him into trouble more than once – the most serious time exposing him to the clutches of the current king and his manipulating wife and daughter. Forced into marriage with Winifred, Arthur’s full of self-loathing and fury, because instead of being married to a woman he truly admires and respects (Gwenhwyfar) he’s stuck with a spoiled rotten manipulative whore. If only he had kept it in his pants!

Arthur must decide which is more important – his quest for kingship or the love of his life?

Winifred is determined to keep Arthur for herself now that Gwenhwyfar has brought him to her attention. She bears Arthur one sickly daughter who soon dies, and one son, which he begets with her during the voyage from his home in Less Britain back to the king’s court. Not very smart of him since he was planning to divorce her so he could marry in the Christian way his beloved Gwenhwyfar. (He married her by the Old Way before leaving Less Britain and doesn’t know it but impregnated her.)

You will find that Arthur is the reason behind most of his anger and regrets. He tends to get in his own way by being loose with morals and engaging with whomever strikes his fancy. He says he loves Gwenhwyfar, but his actions lead him to many beds of slave and servant girls. It’s not clear, but I am certain he also found himself in bed with more than one gentle female. Plainly put, he is used to pleasure and to not denying himself. However while we know many of his illicit trysts, most of the details are rendered vague or skipped over.

Luckily for Arthur he seems to straighten out once he’s gone through the divorce and married Gwenhwyfar. Of course he almost slips up during the last stages of her pregnancy but a quick spat settles it. Loving and marrying Gwenhwyfar soothes the spoiled and selfish side of Arthur, but his barriers have not yet fallen down. I expect we will find him (more) enamored and open with Gwenhwyfar in book two, the Pendragon’s Banner, which I’m greatly looking forward to reading.

Hollick’s trilogy promises to combine a legendary hero with political intrigue, historical research (and obvious fictional interpretations of it), romance, and a quest for ultimate power. Harry Potter for grownups. Now try to wrap your tongue around half of the names… haha.

Rating: 4-4.5 Stars

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Review: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (with spoilers)

bookreview

I was very excited to get my Breaking Dawn in the mail from Amazon. They managed to get it to me one day before they told me that it would arrive on my doorstep and I devoured the novel, all 700+ pages, in two days, which is consistent with how I’ve read the other three that came before.

The novel did many things I did not expect, and one thing in particular that I did expect. This review will contain spoilers, so read at your own risk. Suffice it to say I give Breaking Dawn four stars.

The wedding, surprisingly takes place within the first hundred pages. I thought that it would happen at the end after Jacob did something to delay it so he could win Bella for his own. This is not the case. The wedding is lovely and Bella gets through it just fine and afterwards can’t believe how uptight she was about the whole thing.

On their honeymoon, Bella and Edward make love successfully; unfortunately the scene fades to black, which annoyed me. The morning after Bella stirs and is blissfully happy but sore, Edward is composed and staring blankly at the ceiling and ruins her buzz by killing the mood. He won’t make love to her again, claims that she’s lying when she says she’s feeling fine—no great, all because he can see how rough he was with her. Bella only recalls that he held her tighter when she wanted him to, etc. Edward is sickened by how much of her skin is covered in bruises that match his hands.

Luckily, Bella manages to break him out of his funk through the use of sexy lingerie Alice packed for her and some innocent seduction. The second and third and so on times, Edward manages to ruin furniture instead of Bella’s skin, making him extremely satisfied… Bella too.

Meanwhile, I started to think about how much food Bella was consuming and came to the conclusion before it was revealed that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy is ridiculously accelerated and Edward freaks out. Bella knowing something is up, makes plans of her own to protect the life inside her and calls Rosalie for help, making the female vampire happy for the first time with her decisions.

From here the novel switches from Bella’s point of view to Jacob’s, which made me call up my friend and ask for some spoilers because I just don’t like the werewolf. During this part of the novel we witness Bella’s pregnancy, a break in the werewolf tribe as Jacob takes partial leadership, and Bella becoming very attached to Jacob’s presence.

The pregnancy takes a lot out of Bella until they realize that because the child is part vampire Bella’s diet needs to change from human food to a liquid diet of blood. Drinking blood immediately affects Bella’s health for the better, but also that of the baby’s. Every time the child moves inside Bella it leaves bruises on her skin and potentially breaks a rib in the process.

Edward is seriously going crazy and blames himself at this point and goes as far as offering Bella to Jacob if she really wanted a child as long as she’d be willing to give their child up as it was hurting her so much. Of course Jacob thinks on the idea and manages to bring it up to Bella who denies that its children she wants so much as her and Edward’s child that she wants.

Bella dies during birth, but luckily Edward manages to successfully turn her into a vampire while Jacob does CPR to keep the venomous blood flowing through her veins before it activates. Jacob leaves when he thinks it’s failed and goes downstairs where he intends to kill the child, now in Rosalie’s care. He never does, because once he lays eyes on their baby girl he bonds with her. This ends Jacob’s point of view in the story and switches back to Bella’s viewpoint.

The rest of the story deals with what I thought would happen to postpone the wedding—the Volturi are coming and they plan to execute the Cullen family for their Immortal Child (which is not what Edward and Bella’s child is per se, the term refers to something else). Alice and Jasper leave after Alice gives some very stern instructions to the family. The whole Western hemisphere is being herded together to witness the growth and humanity of the child.

It ends happily and Bella has amazing control on her thirst and on her special gift. I love the last few scenes between her and Edward. I am looking forward to reading the series again from Edward’s point of view, starting with Midnight Sun.

What did you think of the series ending?

Rating: 3 Stars