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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Review: The Art of Ethan


The Art of Ethan

By Cara North

Grace Macpherson is in for the summer of her life! Megan, her cousin comes to visit with two men in tow. Megan's fiancé Chase, and his brother Ethan. Grace was born and raised in Beaufort, North Carolina where she intends to stay. No big city boy is going to change her mind about that! Ethan is a New York portrait artist who has women clamoring after him, even stalking him! It seems refreshing to have to chase a woman again, and Grace seems more than ready to make him work for her attention. A small town woman, a big city man, a stalker, a wedding...and so much more!

In The Art of Ethan ,Cara North writes a beautiful romance story in a slightly different format than what I'm used to. In this book I was astounded on how well and effortlessly Ms. North switched POV's throughout the story. Mainly we get perspectives on Ethan and Grace but there are the secondary characters that add vital flavor to this experience. Honestly, she made it work and this was a very fun reading experience.

Grace is a dynamic woman with a lot of baggage. She has emotional turmoil to wade through, truths to face and a love for Ethan growing despite how much she fights against it. My favorite quirk about her is her desire to be an author - she has the idea and the dream, but has a doozy of a writer's block.

Ethan is a yummy and desirable man able to reach past the barriers Grace puts up and finds a woman worth fighting for. Ethan comes with baggage too but his is a bit more troublesome. It not only follows him but endangers both Grace and the other passion he has. The baggage has a name, a face and an agenda. I'm not telling you anything more about that because its resolution is surprising and a clever twist of writing about human nature.

One of the secondary characters is Megan. She is Grace's cousin and plays a firm supporting role and helped me understand the complexity that is Grace. Hearing Megan's thoughts always occurred at the exact time I really wanted and needed to know what she was thinking. It only enhanced my connection to Grace.

Chase is Megan's husband and Ethan's brother. Getting his POV helped me get into Ethan's character and I enjoyed being able to experience the love between the two brothers. What I also liked was the humor and brotherly love that shone through their dialogue. I appreciated being given the privilege of getting Chase's side of things as he's an interesting character in his own right.

Even the villain gets their two cents in and it was creepy. It amazes me when a bad person can rationalize even the most stupid and heinous of acts.

There is so much richness in The Art of Ethan it is hard to condense all the many reasons I would recommend this story to fellow readers. The romance is dreamy, the tender and humorous dialogue between the primary and secondary characters left me feeling very connected and invested in their happiness. All of them.

It was a very fulfilling moment when both Grace and Ethan's internal and external conflicts get resolved. There is so much I want to say but I simply cannot wax poetic as I'd wish without resorting to spoilers and specifics. I am that enthusiastic about this book. I laughed at the ending; it was such a vibrant snapshot of the fun and silliness that these wonderful characters embraced at times throughout the book. I find Cara North has become a must-buy for me. She knows how to write romance.

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Reviewed by Xeranth



Friday, May 9, 2008

Review: Welcome To Eden

Welcome To Eden
By Rynne Raines

Within the walls of Eden, temptation rules and anything goes…

Psychiatrist Caitlyn Ward never imagined setting foot inside the hottest fetish club in Los Angeles until the day a patient’s concerns about sexual desires went beyond her expertise. Now, determined to uncover the answers needed to alleviate her patient’s mind, Caitlyn ventures into a world of dark and forbidden pleasure beyond her wildest dreams.

Let me first say; I had heard of this short story, read the blurb on my own and had already added it to my wish list when I realized I could review it! Now, I have to say, I’m incredibly glad that I did, as I got the chance to discover and enjoy a new-to-me author that will now be added to my auto-buy list.

When Caitlyn Ward is confronted with her ignorance as far as fetishes, by one of her own patients, she decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate a lifestyle that has always fascinated her. Whether she was willing to admit it or not, the thought of giving up control to someone else is something she finds titillating and she convinces herself that she is only doing this for her patient. I loved to see how uncomfortable, yet fascinated and extremely turned on she was by what she witnessed in the club. Her reactions to Evan were intense and kept the heat going from the moment they set eyes on each other.

Evan Chambers is the owner of Eden and when he sees Caitlyn in his club he’s convinced she must be playing some sort of game, and her innocence only intrigues him even more. When he discovers why she is in fact in his club, he’s relieved and fascinated even more by her seemingly naturally submissive nature. Evan’s sense of humor and intensity had my pulse racing on more than one occasion, and I envied Caitlyn her contact with him. When he’s just as determined to show her the many elements that make up her sexuality, I just wanted him more!

Rynne Raines has created a winner with this short story that left me wanting more, if only to get more of a taste of the heat generated between Caitlyn and Evan. My only complaint… I wanted MORE! I just fell in love with these characters and Rynne Raines has become someone to watch for. Her skillful blending of humor, heat and the beginnings of a relationship are more than enough for me to wholly recommend Welcome to Eden as a hot, intense and quick read.

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Review by Viscaria

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Review: A Summer Place

A Summer Place
by Ariel Tachna

Overseer Nicolas Wells had been coming to Mount Desert Island for ten summers to help build cottages for the rich and powerful. Despite his secrets, he had grown comfortable in the peaceful little island town, getting to know its inhabitants and even to consider some of them friends. The eleventh year, however, he arrived to startling news: the island's peace had been shattered by a murder. At the request of the sheriff, Shawn Parnell, Nicolas agreed to hire Philip Hall, the local blacksmith and the probable next victim, in the hope that the secure construction site would be safer than his house in the village. He never expected the decision to lead to danger. Or to love.

Set in the late nineteenth century, Summer Place is a touching romance that is genuine and timeless.

Phillip is a sensitive young man and I couldn't help feeling for him. He's been bullied since he was a kid but I was so impressed how he handles his tormentors, with dignity and dismissal. He doesn't let their insults bother him, but I could sense that he has learned to expect this behavior, and not just from the cretins that have pestered him for years, but from everyone. So I was really moved as many in the town rally to support him and his humble acceptance and awe at the unselfish approval of others is truly heartwarming. He's at a disadvantage because everyone knows that he is gay, but he doesn't know if Nicholas is, but boy, does he hope he is! The careful attention Phillip pays to Nicholas to try and validate his suspicions keeps the sexual tension between the two high. I really wanted them to get together, yet drawing it out just makes the first intimate encounter that much more satisfying — a perfect example of good things coming to those who wait!

Nicholas is in the closet and intends to stay there, regardless of his barely-controlled attraction to Phillip. Due to his position, this wasn't hard for me to understand. Nicholas is a complex character and I respected many things about him, especially how his workers look up to him, and I loved that he inspires such loyalty. But when it comes to Phillip, the poor man has so many inner conflicts as he tries to deny the attraction. I wanted him to just get over it; yet, the slow development of their romance enhanced the story for me and made it that much more sensual and gratifying, so I was ultimately pleased by his restraint!

Both men perform strenuous labor in their jobs and their beefcake bodies are evidence of it. Each of them is used to having the more dominant role in a relationship, so this facet of their pairing makes it even more exciting and gave me goose bumps as they fight for—and relinquish control. I think I was able to enjoy the lingering anticipation of the consummation so much because I was able to hear both men's point of view; their thoughts, fears and fantasies about one another. I grew to care about Phillip and Nicholas and wanted their happiness, and though I was anxious for it to happen, I was more than willing to wait as I relished the unfolding of their intrigue and desire.

The supporting players are rich and brought even more warmth and appeal to the story. I was guessing who the villain is (different guesses each time!) throughout and I wasn't disappointed with the final reveal. A delightfully sensual romance, I am happy to recommend Summer Place.

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Review by Chamomile

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Review: Space Opera: The Second Movement

Space Opera: The Second Movement
by Stephanie Burke

Free at last! But everything comes with a cost.

Gara and Javen have finally realized their dream of living on their own planet, free of the white-coats, free of the space stations and their restrictive beliefs, free of new Earth's Sphere and the taint of being "second class."

Free to play and explore the mysterious Evergreen Lands, free to live as they choose, by the strength of their bodies and the instincts they now allow to rule their actions. Free to construct a new society based on the ideals of justice and honor.

With dangerous factions at work, a mysterious prophesy, and an old enemy amassing, this stunning melody may ring out with the perfect notes to save the worthy and unworthy alike.

They were truly free. But that freedom demands an awful price.

The trials of love and life are an unending story. For many, they reach their end together. And yet still more aren’t always able to reach that point, no matter how they try. And so it is with Javen and Gara, Stephanie Burke’s delightful main characters of Space Opera: The Second Movement. Now, I highly suggest that you buy the first book of this series, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be dying to know just what happened before this story.

I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the first Space Opera but Ms. Burke doesn’t miss a step in filling me in on the past events in such a way that it doesn’t feel as if you’re learning something new but instead understanding what has brought our heroes to their newest step in their journey. Imperial Ryuu Javen and his mate, High Lord Chancellor Gara have found a paradise, one that Javen instantly connects to especially with the oncoming birth of his and Gara’s child.

Yes, Javen’s pregnant. Yes, Javen’s a male. It startled me too! But babies are babies and wait until you see the birth of this one! Definitely unique. I found it to be beautifully written. Not graphical but definitely unforgettable.

But even as they begin to build a home and a civilization with their friend, Mizuki and his mate, Gara’s Second, Shinji, all is not well. A mystical being has informed Javen that he will be needed once again, to fulfill his destiny as the Imperial Ryuu (talk about bad timing!). The lab they were created in, as protectors of New Earth against the Phoenix Strand, is having some severe problems. Like the once brilliant mad scientist who seems hell-bent on doing whatever he can to protect the new human race, even if it costs lives in the process. Let’s not forget that now that they’ve found a home, there are other ryuujin (dragons) and torajin (tigers) that still need saving!

Ms. Burke weaves a seamless tale of unconditional love, friendship, heartbreak and power in this second installment of her Space Opera and I loved getting to meet these men and learning their story. The dialogue is snappy, the sex sizzling and the emotions are so poignant, I sniffled quite a bit! It’s easy to fall for Javen and Gara and I was rooting for them despite a deep-down knowledge that their peace wasn’t to be.

Right now anyway. I highly recommend this story to all who like a different sort of love story and those with patience who can wait for the next segment. Ms. Burke, my hat’s off to you!

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Review by Narcissus

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Review: A Valentine's Gift For Tori

A Valentine's Gift for Tori
by Zenobia Renquist

Does a secret fantasy become a reality or is it like petals in the wind?

She wants a boyfriend for Valentine’s and her husband wants to deliver. Tori has come to the realization that her marriage lacks the spark it had in the beginning. She and her husband argue more than anything else and she foresees a nasty break-up on the horizon if something doesn’t change. When he asks her what she wants for Valentine’s Day, her answer is scandalous and straightforward—a boyfriend.

Rather than be upset, her husband is intrigued by the idea and sets out to make it happen. Tori has set herself—and him—an impossible goal and her prospects aren’t that promising. But she’s determined to have a boyfriend in time for the most romantic holiday of the year.

A Valentine's Gift for Tori is such a thrill! Can you just imagine bluntly telling your husband - not ask mind you, but TELL - after he cheated on you that you want a relationship with another man for a Valentine's gift? That you won't consider an affair and not only that, but you'd stay married to the cheating husband?

This is what Tori had the guts to do one day and to tell you the truth, this is a totally wonderful and extraordinary premise. How many women would actually dare doing something like that? Not many I guess, but what an avant-guardist, liberal and progressive way to envision relationships.

What I found funny were the different steps that led Tori to realize how difficult it was going to be to make her desire a reality. She was dismayed to find her Valentine's hunt riddled with narrow minded callers.

For me, the best part was the generous gift from her husband. Not only that, I was amazed at how her family seems to have an open-minded acceptance for the new situation. She even felt trapped and overwhelmed by the result at one point; but get ready for the wonderful surprise they get.

I can not continue without giving you spoilers about this wonderful and enlivening story...

Do not hesitate to read this yourself, because as far as I am concerned it was so good, it ended up being a fast read - I read it in less than 2 hours. Not only did I absolutely love it, I was really disappointed to see it end.

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Review by Sunflower

Monday, May 5, 2008

Review: Fool's Gold

Fool's Gold
by Ericka Scott

All her life, Rae Morgan tried to escape from the shadow of the Superstition Mountains. She joined the Army to do just that. However, after losing her hand and her marriage, she's back. All she wants is peace and a chance to put her life back together. But peace is the last thing she finds.

Mica Hawke is only half-Apache. But when it comes to keeping a Native American treasure hidden deep within the mountains, he's all warrior. On the lookout for a treasure map stolen fifty years ago, the last thing he expected to find was love.

Rae is a strong character that has been through some severe misfortune, and I admired how she works hard to get her life back. In today's superficial world, I could certainly understand the self-consciousness she feels about her physical scars. Her embarrassment comes through when her physical limitations become apparent and I really felt for her, but she moves on and doesn't linger in the awkwardness, showing her strength. She is, however, a little too kind-hearted, in my opinion. She shows compassion for people that had made terrifying threats on her life, which I can't understand. Maybe it's just me, but if someone threatened to kill me, I'd be thrilled if they got what was coming to them! But her reactions to Mica are steamy and provocative, and I wanted to see them together.

Mica is appealing and mysterious and I adored him. I loved how even though shy, he kisses the stuffing out of Rae in desperation, thinking he'll never get another chance. They didn't really know each other at the time, but his impulsiveness makes the event unforgettable for both of them, and raised the sexual tension for me as I watched them find their way to each other. I also respected his dedication to preserving his heritage, at all costs, making him that much more tempting.

I had a couple of issues with the story. Mica witnesses something before they begin their journey into the mountains, but he says or does nothing about it, which, in the context of the setting and potential danger, made no sense to me. I understand that what he sees is disclosed to increase the suspense, but the reveal could have been communicated from the perpetrator's point of view, accomplishing the same thing, but without the contrived feel. I also thought that there were a few references, particularly by Rae, to anatomy and the sex act that came off as vulgar. It wasn't that I was offended, it just didn't seem appropriate to the situation. When they are having sex or about too? Sure. But when she's in mortal danger? I don't think so. I'd be worrying how to get my fanny out of trouble, not thinking about jumping a guy; I don't care how hot he is! But even with these two minor points, I did find the plot attention-grabbing and I held on for the rollercoaster-like twists and turns.

"Fool's Gold" is an interesting saga of Native American folklore, treasure maps and deception. Mixed in with dream visions and missed opportunities made right, I found Mica and Rae's adventure to be an intriguing ride.

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Review by Chamomile

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Review: Leopard Tails 2: Submissive

Leopard Tails 2: Submissive
By: Isabella Jordan

Neva Kolenkov has lived in the shadows for years. Hiding from a dark and painful past, she just wants to exist beneath everyone’s notice.

Yet someone has noticed her. Isaak Stahl sees Neva in his coffee shop every day and is determined to claim her as his mate. They are from the same proud line of demon leopards, from the same homeland, and it only makes sense that they be together. It also doesn’t hurt that the exotic, green-eyed beauty makes him burn with lust every time he sees her.

When a serial killer claims the life of a young human girl who works in Isaak’s shop, the shadow of danger falls on their kind in Madden. Several of their females match the victims’ profiles -- including Neva.

Can Isaak protect her from the threat the killer poses? While doing that, can he help Neva discover the powerful, desirable being he sees when he looks at her?

Leopard Tails 2: Submissive was a great, fast moving book. Neva is a quiet, withdrawn woman who prefers to stay under the radar. I felt sympathy for Neva because of her brutal past. I think she is an incredibly strong woman and am a little envious that she finds a patient, sympathetic man like Isaak to help her deal with her past. If there were only more Isaak's in the world...sigh.

Members of the cursed leopard pard are living in a small community in Maine and basically stay to themselves. There are few humans who work or live in this small town. The murder of a human by a serial killer brings forth all kinds of issues. Will they be exposed as demon leopards? Will their women be safe from this new threat? I love that Isaak wants to protect Neva and her foster family.

It is fascinating to me how erotic and liberating the transformation of a human to a leopard must be - the sense of freedom a person must have to be a wild animal,governed only by your base instincts. Isaak pursues her with a predator's focus yet remains gentle but firm as he catches his prey. Neva is scared but Isaak nudges her into coming out of her shell. I really like this line, "No, he'd seep into Neva like heat from the sun. He'd wrap around her mind and her body until her desire for him was as vital to her as the sunlight, necessary for her existence." He was willing to wait--but was sure of what he wanted in the end, Neva.

This story is rich and full of interesting people. I would love to read more about the cursed demon leopards in this town!

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Reviewed by Ivy