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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Review: Naked Bluff

Naked Bluff
by Betty Hanawa

The friendship with privileges relationship of American professional poker player Clarisse Jones and Prince Makis has bloomed into a love as beautiful as the roses his small country exports. His parents, the Prince and Princess of the island Principality of Renoun, have come to Monaco to pressure him into marrying. The American professional gambler is not who they wanted to be the new princess.


I was really impressed with the development of the characters in this very short story, especially Clarisse. I knew that she is focused and determined and doesn’t put up with any guff from anyone. She’s also a realist and I loved her approach to her situation with an “enjoy it while you can” attitude.

I didn’t have as clear a sense of who Mak is, but his identity in itself makes him intriguing. He is really into Clarisse and the ways he shows it had my heart fluttering. His parents are thoroughly entertaining and I had to laugh at the way they complicate life for both Mak and Clarisse.

“Naked Bluff” is a fulfilling story packed into a few pages. It’s a quick and steamy romance that is sure to delight.

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Review by Chamomile

Friday, April 4, 2008

Review: The Mask She Wears

The Mask She Wears
by Jennifer Leeland

In the BDSM lifestyle, Catherine Lanyard is an extreme submissive with serious baggage. For years, she’s avoided her pain and hidden dark secrets. Now, an experienced Dom has broken through her barriers and forced her to face her fear. Sex was always a give and take for Justin Travers. He’d always kept his “lifestyle” practices separate from real life. But when Catherine blurs that boundary, he must decide what he really wants.

“The Mask She Wears” is an unusual representation of the BDSM lifestyle, but I found it fascinating. The way that Catherine deals with long-suffered demons is both sad and triumphant at the same time. It was clear to me that up to this point, her coping mechanisms were just what she needed, when she needed them, even if it wasn’t obvious to her at the time. Her personality and the urges that drive her conflict, but in the context of the story, this contradiction works well and for me, makes her a more interesting character.

Justin is just yummy from beginning to end. Patient, attentive, and willing to give Catherine what she needs even when he knows the risk to himself is great. Of course, he’s not bad to look at either, which is always a plus! I loved that even though he has fears and reservations, he doesn’t let them deter him from his goal, and even takes chances that could lay bare his heart.

The two of them together are magic, and it starts from their first meeting, which I adored. The plot of “The Mask She Wears” is complex and I saw it as a wonderful story of healing and new beginnings. I highly recommend it!

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Review by Chamomile

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Review: Mission: Carnal

Mission: Carnal
by Mary Winter

Adrian turned his passion for action figures into a thriving comic shop, The Fantastic Five. After spending most of his life in the world of super heroes and aliens, he’s not surprised when the action figure he’s repairing comes to life. He’s more surprised by the instant attraction he feels to the man—and the fact that it’s mutual. These guys are supposed to be Real American heroes. But right now, Adrian wants him to be his hero.

Mack’s waited a long time for a reward. He’s come back wounded from a brutal mission, but the Toymaker upstairs promised him a new life and a new mission. When Adrian repairs his broken body, his gentle touch also repairs Mack’s broken heart. Now it’s Mack’s turn to repay Adrian, by teaching him about living your wildest fantasies and making your dreams come true.

With the explosion of paranormal romances today, pretty much everything has been done in one form or another, or so I thought. I was amazed by the originality of this concept: an action hero that comes to life. All I can say is WOW! The intrigue gets even better, but I'm not going to spoil it.

The story begins with Mack as the action figure in a battle. I thought this was a fantastic opening and it captivated me immediately. Mack is injured, badly (he has no feet) but he is mainly concerned about his friends in the jeep so I loved him right away — I can't resist a strong yet sensitive man. And being military, he has shoulders and a six-pack that won't quit so I enjoyed the nicely painted mental picture.

Adrian feels silly being drawn to a broken toy, but because I knew that it was Mack, it heightened the excitement for me wondering when/how/what Adrian's reaction would be when Mack — as a human man — would be revealed. I wasn't disappointed. Adrian tends to take things slow in relationships, so his immediate connection to Mack is shocking and disconcerting to him. I could identify with his hesitancy and the emotions that go with that, but I do have to say that he brings up his reluctance to open to Mack a little too frequently, either saying it aloud or to himself, and I wanted to say, 'okay, I get it'. But I will also admit that the final treatment of how he overcomes his insecurities is styled with a tenderness that was totally satisfying.

The bedroom scenes (oh wait, they never actually make it to the bedroom!) are tantalizingly erotic and frequent, which ratchets up the conflicting emotions for Adrian as he figures out what to do with Mack. "Mission: Carnal" is an entrancing tale that is wonderfully written. I will definitely pick up more titles by this author.

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Review by Chamomile

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Review: Children of the Dust 4: Resurrection

Children of the Dust 4: Resurrection
by Eve Vaughn

While the Freedom Fighters struggle to shape the resistance into a fearsome military force, Sydney and Jack are still bumping heads. Jack knows Sydney’s the woman for him, but Sydney has her doubts. Still, their passion burns hotter than ever.

Jack and Sydney aren't the only ones with flaring tempers. Holly and Chase too must overcome their differences before they can provide a united front to their team.

As the resistance gains strength, preparing to overthrow the Cyrellians, Earth's future hangs in the balance.

I found part four to be the steamiest of the "Children of the Dust" series. This installment circles back to Sydney and Jack which pleased me a great deal because I was left wanting more at the end of part two, where their story began.

Sydney becomes a much richer character for me in "Resurrection" because she confronts her insecurities and begins to learn new things about herself in the process. I admire how she proves that she is strong and capable, not just in lip service, but in her actions. She demonstrates her conviction by rising to the occasion against conventional wisdom, which made me see her as a true heroine.

Jack is rugged, gorgeous and, well, exceptionally randy when it comes to Sydney and their impassioned lovemaking scenes are both erotic and tender. The fire evident between the two had my pulse rate jumping each time they were together. Having his own insecurities, I love how he tries to be patient with Sydney as she deals with hers, but he also doesn't let her get away with letting her demons take over. For me, his sensitive approach to Sydney's personal turmoil was gentle yet firm when necessary, and I thought his tactics were exactly what she needed.

There are noteworthy passages — from Jack's and Sydney's point of view — in which I had to stop and just say 'wow'. Through their thoughts, I was able to get a detailed glimpse into how they each saw one another, and the depth of the emotion is beautifully displayed. I've enjoyed this series very much and I highly recommend that you try it.

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Review by Chamomile

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Review: She's On Top

She's On Top
by Susan Lyons

They call themselves the Awesome Foursome-four girlfriends who share everything except their men. Three have found the ultimate in lust and love and now it's Rina's turn.

PLAY ME

Music is Rina Goldberg's passion and she can never forget the sensual rhapsody she experienced in the arms of Giancarlo, her first lover. Ten years later, Giancarlo is sexier and more romantic than ever. His masterful fingers still know how to create the most intimate melody of pleasure and he understands every nuance of a woman's sensuality. And Rina is the only woman he wants. Their passionate encore takes her to a glorious, unforgettable climax and there's more where that came from. Much more.

I love the male love interest in this book, Giancarlo. He is romantic, gorgeous, and romantic — did I say that already? He says all the right things and does all the right things...this is what romance is all about.

Rina is, well, NOT a size 2 and is very self conscious about her ample bust and larger-than-a-fashion-model figure. She receives a marriage proposal, but she recognizes she doesn't want to marry her current beau simply because they are comfortable together. She begins thinking about Giancarlo, her first lover. She met him at the summer music school they attended before her last year in high school. She had been uninhibited with him because he had been a scrawny kid, and she felt that with his own physical imperfections, he wouldn't judge her appearance and find her lacking. Consequently, the sex between them was electric. Her circle of friends (the Awesome Foursome) encourages her to contact him when she discovers he is in town. Giancarlo remembers their time together fondly — very fondly — as well, and is eager to see her again. But Rina is intimidated by his new stud-muffin exterior and discounts his attention as a 'patented routine' of flirting.

The prevailing conflict in the story is Rina and her insecurities; not just her weight, but the differences in their lifestyles; what she needs and her perception of what he wants and needs. Ms. Lyons uses their mutual love of music, Giancarlo's show of patience and appreciation for who she is to whittle away her fears. There are many scenes that beautifully illustrate the emotional bond — and sizzling intensity — that grows between the two. The characters are fully developed and I have a clear sense of who Rina and Giancarlo are; their passions and fears, and what drives them. I do have to say that in my opinion, Rina's weight insecurity was a smidgen overdone. Giancarlo compliments her frequently on her appearance, but she discredits the praise with phrases like 'not hardly' and 'get real', even though she admits to herself that he seems sincere. She does this a number of times; it would have been nice if she would have just said thank you, at least after the first or second time she rejected his admiring words.

This is the last book in a series of the 'Awesome Foursome'. The stories follow the romantic paths of four close friends that meet each Monday, and any other time that emergency advice is required. Though part of a series, it is charming and complete without the benefit of the other three. You do get to meet the other women in this installment, however, and there is plenty of teasing about their own loving liaisons that convinces me I have to pick up the other three.

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Review by Camomile

Monday, March 31, 2008

Review: Dangerous Surrender

Dangerous Surrender
by Evanne Lorraine

Detective Zach Longstreet wasn't the kind of man any sane woman would give a second glance-unless she was just 'in' to getting her heart trampled in a post sexual stampede for the door. Unfortunately, he was the kind of man women were drawn to like metal shavings to a magnet-tall, dark, dangerous, and completely relationship phobic. He also hated journalists with a passion.

Ciara is an intricate character who is well-rounded and appealing. She has need-to-please issues with her father, and insecurities that stem from a life-long inability to do so. She doesn't simper and cow to him, however, which I admired. Her conflict with her father is presented in a realistic manner, and she interacts with him as an adult — not an approval-seeking child. She makes compromises with him because, in spite of everything, she loves her dad. Her differences with her father set the stage for her being a part of the story's intrigue as well as her hesitancy in getting involved with Zach.

Zach is beefcake cop who is commitment-phobic, but he instantly recognizes something special about Ciara. He doesn't really want to admit this, however, and is sometimes surprised at the intensity of his reactions to her, such as jealousy and possessiveness. I was drawn to him because of his inner struggles in coming to terms with his feelings for her. It made him human, sensitive and utterly dreamy.

The intimacy between Zach and Ciara is sensual and potent, and I can't say enough good things about Zach's stamina! I also found Ciara's enthusiasm for sex in light of her relative inexperience irresistible. The doubts they both harbor about the nature of their relationship keep the sexual tension high. I think because of this, when they do come together, their lovemaking is explosive and it adds to the overall sensuality of the story.

Although the characters were great and easy to relate to and the basic concept of the story piqued my interest, I felt the attempt to compound the conflict between the two in an effort to keep the suspense high fell a bit short. Ciara, on a few occasions, is quick to believe the worst of Zach when I don't feel it's warranted or even probable. Reasons are given for her quick conclusions, but I saw them as unrealistic and manufactured as a way to push them apart again. Zach also doubts her when he makes an assumption in an unlikely situation which I found frustrating.

The suspenseful plot is intertwined with the lives of Zach and Ciara in a way that I both appreciated and admired. The antagonist is hinted at in such a way that kept me guessing and the villain's identity is revealed at just the right time which increased my anxiety as I worried what would happen next — and, of course, I had to keep reading to find out! Dangerous Surrender is a thrilling romantic suspense novel that is sure to please lovers of the genre.

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Review by Chamomile

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Review: Svetkavista

Svetkavista
by Kayleigh Jamison

Trapped within a life where she has always been an outsider, Karina dutifully follows the wishes of her father by day, and secretly pursues her dreams by night. Raised within the strict, patriarchal society of the Rom at a time when discrimination and fear are at their peak, she is forced to hide both her love of music and her passion for those who encourage her dreams.

She seeks comfort in the arms of her dearest friend and mentor, who shows her that love and lust rarely confine themselves to the ill-conceived notions of normalcy.

When a lie, spoken in a moment of desperation, threatens to shatter everything Karina holds dear, she must choose between those she loves and her own reputation. Will the truth set her free or destroy her? Does she have the courage to follow her own heart?

Set among a band of gypsies in eighteenth century Hungary, Svetkavista is not your typical historical romance.

Karina is difficult to describe because she has so much going on and experiences rather sweeping personal growth from beginning to end. An easy thing to recognize about her, however, was that I loved her passion, which is evident throughout. I could feel it in her dancing, her love for both Papusza and Brishen and her search for the truth; she plunges into each with a zeal I could respect and admire.

I wasn't sure at first how I felt about Karina's long-time friend turned lover, Papusza. She came off as subtly manipulative and her jealousy is apparent as well. Karina is willing to risk her relationship with Brishen to continue her relationship with Papusza which ends up causing a lot more trouble than she could have anticipated. The turn of events set in motion by Papusza cause dire consequences for Brishen and I saw her actions as a bit selfish. Even though the situation is complicated and she has some reasonable justification for doing what she does, I still didn't like it! But she does redeem herself with a realism that caused my overall opinion of her to change for the better because I was able to see the growth of her character, inspired by her love for Karina.

Brishen is such a romantic character; I warmed to him right away. He teases, entices and claims Karina with such charisma and the realism of his affection for Karina leaps off the page. I was amazed at the depth of emotion that comes through as he plays his violin, especially when it is for her. For me, his devotion to Karina and his desire to protect her — at great cost to himself — secured his label as an irresistible hero.

The intimate scenes are explicit yet sensual and the way the three of them are maneuvered together is rousingly seductive. The chemistry between Brishen and Karina is breathtaking and I was forced to fan myself more than once. I don't hesitate to recommend this complex story; it thrilled me with its involved plot lines and kept me reading late into the night.

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Review by Chamomile