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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Diggin' Up Bones

Diggin' Up Bones by Michelle Houston
Publisher: Phaze Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Review by Gardenia

All Alisa wanted was to be left alone with her writings. But the discovery of Native America bones on her property made that wish impossible.

The last man she wanted to see was back in her life, and with him Zach Bradford brought a whole lot of memories and some questions she really didn't want to answer.

Now besides digging for bones, he's digging into their past as well, searching for answers as to why she broke up with him suddenly, two years ago. And Alisa has to decide if she is going to keep living in the past, or if she's going to let it go and reach for a possible future with Zach. The future she should have had.

In DIGGIN’ UP BONES, novelist, Alisa is trying to meet a deadline, proof galleys, and not be distracted by the archeological dig in her back yard. If excavation equipment, intrusive workers, and endless noise aren’t enough to deal with, she also has to see Zach Bradford every day. Two years and a dark secret aren’t enough to keep her feelings, and thoughts, from the knowledge that she is still in love with him.

Although I was never aware of Alisa’s last name, Ms Houston does reveal her secret in the first few pages. To my surprise, and relief, Alisa isn’t bitter and angry with everyone in the story. I loved that. When most characters would have withered into a corner and lashed out, Alisa took full charge. She is a character that you cheer for the moment she walks onto the page and one you hope to emulate if the need ever arises.

The subject matter is handled well and offset with humorous scenes. At one point, Alisa has decided to put her plan in motion. She stands in a pharmacy, facing an overwhelming selection for a purchase she would rather not buy. I really empathized with her when the cashier scrutinized her selection. Talk about humiliating.

Zach is respected, patient, insightful, and secure enough to follow her lead. I loved it when he asked Alisa if she was that sure of him and she answered, “No, I was that hopeful.” Sigh. They melted my heart.

Alisa’s character is an inspiration to anyone who has suffered a personal tragedy. The best revenge is to live your life to the fullest, and she does just that.

If you only have time for a quick read about a woman who refuses to be a victim and a man who refuses to walk away, you have to read DIGGIN' UP BONES. Archaeologists unearth the most interesting secrets.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Finding Cupid

Finding Cupid by Daisy Dexter Dobbs
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full
Other: M/F, M/M
Rating: 5 Cherries
Review by Xeranth

A resident of Mount Olympus and student at Cupid Academy, Lula travels to Earth as part of her final exam for the Perfect Love Matches 101 course. Capricious and absentminded, she's determined to make a positive impression on Cupid, who'll be traveling incognito. To her horror, flight turbulence whips Lula's class materials out of the chariot. Without her map to Cupid's Earthly headquarters or her invisibility garb, the naïve nymph is in trouble.

Hunky, macho electrical contractor Dake is in hell. At least that's how he feels manning Cupid's Headquarters, his brother's flower shop, during an emergency. When a gorgeous, curvy, nearly naked blonde bursts into the shop, talking of such bizarre things as nymphs, Cupid, chariots and invisible wings, things start looking up. Dake's captivated, and wild with desire.

Of course, he's certain she's nuts. And probably a hooker.

Lula's thrilled. At last, she's found Cupid!

Reader Advisory: This book contains graphic male/male sexual interaction.

Finding Cupid is a story that embraces the erotic nature of a nymph with Olympian myths and two very hunky ordinary mortals thrust into extraordinary adventures.

This story is told mostly from Dake’s POV. He’s the guy who can’t stand flowers and refuses to admit he has a ‘feminine’ side to get in touch with. He’s a man who goes through life with nary a thought to the females that come onto him. He’s sort of full of himself and at first, not very deep thinking. What initially redeemed him for me was his love and acceptance of his flamboyant and artistic brother, Zeb. The brothers are that tight.

What next redeemed him and saved him from a life of pointless debauchery was the entrance of Lula. She’s a bit of a handful and her character was endearing and sweet, yet surprisingly insightful when it counted. However, I had to keep in mind that she was a nymph from Olympus. I tell you, they do things a whole lot differently there than here. For me, Lula was a walking, talking, American man’s wet dream. She certainly was Dake’s. The funny thing about Dake is even though she is his sex fantasy come to life in ways even he couldn’t imagine, he’s finding her innocent, enthusiastic, and sex-loving ways are doing strange things to him. He fights it and I thought, “Gee, how hard can he fight and still hold out against her?” It was like him fighting his baser instincts with a woman who not only understood them, but fed them, reveled in them and came back for more. The erotic quotient in this story is through the roof. I was waiting to see just what it would take for Dake to be a ‘goner’. In the process of discovering all things Lula, Dake realizes quite a few things. It’s those realizations that made me like him as a man, his prowess notwithstanding.

Lula is a unique mixture of the most alluring attributes known to man – or that man wishes he knew. She’s spunky and stands up for innocent little beings. She can immobilize the scum of the earth with surprising agility and grace. She’s not like Lara Croft, but she gets her point across. I liked how she had Dake bemused and panting. Yet she was never coy; she celebrated her femaleness with enthusiastic abandon --something that is kind of alien in our culture. Our rules and Puritan conscious prevent us as a society from enjoying our sexuality without guilt. Lula showed me a hint of what things could be like if we didn’t buy into that guilt. Another thing is Lula and Dake’s erotic language quotient; it’s at times earthy, funny, and many times typical guy-talk. How did Ms. Dobbs get that down so well?

I really liked Zeb. He’s a man who is waiting for the love of his life. In the meantime, he runs a profitable flower shop. What a great backdrop for this story. Zeb may be a secondary character to his brother, Dake, but guess what? He’s part of the second romance story. Yes, Finding Cupid is like finding love – it abounds and touches those around you and Ms. Dobbs spread the love. It was perfect. I absolutely adored the name of Zeb’s love interest. It’s so…cute!

There is a conflict and it stems from Olympus. If you know your mythology, you know the gods can be fickle and mischievous. They are also quick to temper and full of themselves. For a bit there, I was on pins and needles. How far would Ms. Dobbs take the HEA? Oh, I forgot – watch out for goat-boy. He’s a great character because it was very easy not to like him.

Oh! Donniger is a character that I want to know more about. I really like how Ms. Dobbs introduced his character and the role he played in this story. I really hope Donniger is in the sequel. There has to be a sequel! There is the clean up that has yet to be done from the little mishaps that Lula has in this story. But Donniger would be the perfect hero for the next book. Just wait until you find out what he is on Olympus.

I think this review is in danger of being too long because there is so much more to talk about, so much more to share about the things I liked. Ms. Dobbs’ books are always full of romance, celebrations of physical love with imagination and fun and an HEA worth looking forward to, and Finding Cupid continues her tradition. As lengthy as this book was, I wanted more. I want to visit them again. The question is, when?

Snowbound: Night Shift

Snowbound: Night Shift by Lacey Savage
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Review by Chamomile

Spending her Friday night running surveillance on a shadow stalker in the dead of winter isn’t Samantha’s idea of a good time. But doing it with a sexy partner… now that could be fun.

This short story is very short, but talk about the quintessential illustration of how to have fun at work!

Samantha has the appeal of an every-day kind of women who doesn't think much of her appearance. She certainly doesn't believe she has the ability to attract a hottie like Damien. I enjoyed it as her initial doubt turns to gradual acceptance of his obvious interest in her. The tentative boldness she displays in reaction to his game adds just the right spice to her character and I wanted her to succeed.

Damien is quiet and focused and I thought he had just the right touch of mystery. His suggestion for passing the time is inspired and I knew right off that I was in for an erotic ride. The nature of the encounter implies simple hot, sweaty sex, but Damien's reverent attitude toward Sam gives it a more sensual, meaningful tone that I appreciated, especially given Sam's vulnerability to him.

"Nightshift" is engagingly titillating with a paranormal aspect that provides a sexy little twist. Looking for a quick read to elevate your pulse? This one will do it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Christmas Cookies: Karmic Gifts

Christmas Cookies: Karmic Gifts by Kira Stone
Publishing: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Holiday (Christmas)
Length: Short
Other: M/F/M, Menege
Rating: 5 cherries
Review by Chamomile

Master Negotiator Riley Smith is a man on a mission, not the way he wants to spend the Yuletide holiday. He tries to make the best of it by flirting with Karma Engineer Pax, but the sexy Kar-En seems more interested in Yanar Aht, the mission's top translator, than him.

Yanar knows how to say yes in just about every language in the civilized Romba Galaxy, but he never gets the chance. His harmonic body longs to find the heart-mate who will drive him to sing the Song of Fulfillment, a seeming impossibility on a ship full of humanoids. It definitely puts a sour note in his holiday spirit.

As the ship is on the verge of flying apart, killing the entire crew, Pax must choose between duty and her growing love for these two men. She suspects carrying a cargo load of immature chaos balls would be easier. But Fate has a karmic gift in store for her… if she’s brave enough to accept it.

I'm always impressed when an author can deliver a fulfilling story in a minimum of pages and "Karmic Gifts" easily fits that description.

I can't imagine being responsible for the karmic well-being — and resultant structural stability — of a spaceship, but that is exactly what Pax's job is on the Kismet. As the Karma Engineer, Her initial inability to decipher the cause of the karmic unrest has a personal aspect to it. I can tell that she's too close to it to see her role in things, but I saw her first attempt to restore harmony as a teasing delight.

Riley is the strong silent type and I couldn't get enough of his hesitancy during Pax's seduction efforts. Part reserved professionalism, part mistaken jealousy, he tries to stay detached but I could tell that his emotions and libido are barely restrained, and I love a reluctant hero, especially when he finally lets go!

Yanar has brilliant violet eyes, blue hair and has to stay gloriously naked because his body absorbs light as fuel. I'm thinking that this is not difficult for the females on the ship to endure! Pax believes that she has found Yanar's bonded one so that he might sing the Song of Fulfillment. She's half right, and I found her journey of discovery to be sensually arousing.

The pair of Dytclis avians provide light comic relief throughout with their enthusiastic interpretations of 'Old Earth' traditions. Their antics reinforce the holiday theme and I absolutely loved them! The entire story is pure pleasure from beginning to end and offers searing passion, humor and an absorbing plot that kept me reading. I couldn't ask for more!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Initiating Christian

Initiating Christian by Emma Wildes
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 Books
Review by Gardenia

A scandal shy woman and a secret admirer...

Lauren DeSerre is widowed, independent, and most importantly, values respectability. It was bad enough that her affair with the notorious Duke of Bellingham ever came to light, but when her rakish former lover reveals his younger brother has a penchant for her, she cannot believe she is the least bit tempted. One taste of scandal was more than enough. However, Christian is just the opposite of the devilish duke, and his interest unexpectedly intrigues her.

Christian Foster harbors a hidden passion. He knows he isn't in the least like his charming older sibling, especially when it comes to women, but it doesn't stop him from having a fantasy or two about the captivating woman he just can't get out of his mind. When he discovers he has an opportunity to spend a clandestine evening with the luscious Lauren DeSerre, he can't help but accept. After all, it might be his only chance to prove to her that when you couple love with physical attraction, the combination can be combustible...

The Duke of Bellington, with an unusual request, approaches Lauren DeSerre. As a birthday gift to his brother, Christian, he wants Lauren to spend the night with his younger sibling. She is appalled but reminded that she is indebted to the duke. To make her more agreeable, she is told that Christian is infatuated with her but is too proper to approach. Faced with a possibility to fulfill a debt and a young man’s fantasy, she relents.

I was amazed with the depth of story and character in so few pages. The characters are well developed and very likable. With Christian’s brother Adam having such a strong part in the story, I was afraid Christian would be overshadowed or seen as an inferior character. This was far from the case. Ms Wildes portrays Adam as a virile and strong man, but it is clear he is a supporting character and Christian stands in no ones shadow. Christian is the man in control and Lauren is more than worthy to take him on. Together, they took my breath away.

I initially thought I would have an “um-hmm” attitude toward the basic plot, but I found myself understanding the reason for it. The reserved Lauren becomes more vulnerable than she realized she was capable of being and she gives more of herself than she thought possible. Christian is a man of honor and will not allow anyone to taint what they share, including Lauren.

The pace was spot on. In a story that is less than one hundred pages, there was more than enough description to allow you to see the scene and characters well. Ms Wildes rounds out the story with interesting supporting characters. I even laughed out loud with one scene involving Christian’s sister-in-law.

The plot was simple and straightforward, with nothing cheesy about it. There were no villains or villainous moments, but the story didn’t lack for substance. There was one main conflict threaded throughout the story and it is solved quite nicely. To be honest, this is a sweet story told in a spicy way. For me, I would like to see more of these and I will definitely look for more books (of all length) by this author.

Samantha and Her Genie

Samantha and Her Genie by Daisy Dexter Dobbs
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full
Other: M/F, BDSM
Rating: 5 Cherries

When mighty Sumerian warrior Lugal Damu-zid gallantly protects the virtue of a foolish, love-struck, virgin priestess, little does he know his actions will doom him to life eternal as a genie trapped in a bottle.

Five thousand years later, Samantha Rutledge unearths an ancient vessel at a musty estate sale. At home, she uncorks her twelve-dollar purchase, only to nearly die of fright when out pops her very own personal half-naked, saber-wielding genie. She can't help but notice that the tall, sexy-as-hell hunk of sun-bronzed muscles has a sizable bulge tenting the crotch of his voluminous sultan-style pants — especially when he grabs it as he's eyeing her. She soon discovers that this proud, bold, domineering alpha male has distinctly carnal intentions.

After all, Lugal's been waiting a long time to bed a woman as luscious as Samantha.

Are you ready to laugh? Are you ready to sigh in a romantic gush of satisfaction?? Then you are in for a treat when you read Samantha and Her Genie.

Ms. Dobbs has an incredible talent of making you laugh in surprised delight, swoon from decadent love scenes and cheer for the hero and heroine on their journey to their HEA.

Samantha is a very likable and lovable character. In the beginning, she has a dream on the back burner but is unable to come up with a way to make it come true. She works for a company in the field she intends to turn on its ear someday, but her boss is in the way. Sam is warm, caring, and a person I would, were I to meet her in person, call 'friend'. She has a great sense of humor and has an untapped passion just waiting for the right man to unleash.

She accidentally finds that man in Lugal. Poor guy, he's been trapped in a bottle for a very long time - all because he really is an honorable and caring warrior. Too bad he's the only one who knows it. That is until Samantha releases him and the fun begins. Lugal is the embodiment of my favorite kind of hero; strong, sexy with a capital "S" , alpha in temperament, protective in nature and inquisitive to the point of hilarity.

Did I mention really hilarious? Good gravy! I've read stories about men coming back from ancient times to the present and having to adjust to all our modern marvels but nothing prepared me for Samantha and Her Genie. Ms. Dobb's mind is a marvel. Where she came up with so many scenes in one story to make me laugh, I have no idea, but I warn you -- do not have food or drink in your mouth as you read. I was snickering, snorting and having a ball and so was Samantha and Lugal. These two are perfect for each other and I can't wait until you see for yourselves.

I was rolling on the floor when Lugal discovered a cell phone and electricity. And I will never ever think of chocolate covered cherries the same again and just wait until you read where Samantha takes Lugal shopping. Oh, sure, you'll be treated with what you expect but it's one of the unexpected destinations that had me agog and giggling --and then burning up from what came next.

But all is not all cherries and cream, there are some pits in this story and the worst was Bunny, Samantha's boss. She was a character that I really could get into not liking. Ms. Dobbs wrote this conflict in such a way; she TRICKED ME! I thought for sure I knew what was going to happen in one scene and it started out that way. Then this clever author blew me out of the water with what happened next and I just re-read it over and over just to appreciate how unique it was. Not only did Ms. Dobbs surprise me with the actions of Bunny, she surprised me as to how the story ended in dealing with that villainous witch.

There are so many scenes I'd love to share with you. I would enjoy quoting lines that I thought were pure genius and sharing with you what I thought were the sexiest scenes in the whole book. Lugal rocked Sam's world. To do that though, I'd be in danger of plastering spoilers all over the place. Samantha and Her Genie is a book chock full of the best elements that romantic erotic fiction has to offer and I whole-heartily recommend it. Daisy Dexter Dobbs rocks!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Review: To Have and To Hostage

To Have and to Hostage
by G.A. Hauser

When he was taken hostage by a strange man Michael never expected he’d lose his heart…

Michael Vernon is a rich, spoiled brat with a string of meaningless lovers and an entourage of superficial friends. With no direction in life, he wastes his days spending his father’s money and drowning himself in liquor…until he crashes into a man even more desperate than himself, Jarrod Hunter.

Jarrod Hunter grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Out of work, about to be evicted, and unable to afford his next meal, Jarrod thought he’d reached the end of his rope and was determined to take his life. Then fate intervened delivering him Michael Vernon. Why not take him home, tie him up, and hold him hostage to get the money he needs?

Two men from two different worlds…one dangerous game. Trapped together in close quarters, Jarrod and Michael find themselves sharing their deepest thoughts and fighting an undeniable attraction for each other. As the hours tick by, the captor becomes captivated by his victim and the victim begins to bond with his abductor. This wake up call might prove to be just what Michael needs to set himself free. To Have and to Hostage…sometimes you have to hit bottom before realizing that what you need is standing right in front of you.

I could never have imagined two so very different men getting together, but wow! The pairing of Michael and Jarrod is ironic, cathartic and intense.

I liked Jerrod right away, with his electric blue eyes and blond hair. He's pretty desperate at this point and I felt compassion for his predicament. Jerrod is sweet and kind, the kind of man that just tries to do the right thing, but he gets overwhelmed and takes a wrong turn. I think he would have most likely veered off that bad path and back to the right one if it weren't for Michael's high-and-mighty taunting.

Michael is not a likeable person. Rich and spoiled, he thinks he is entitled to live off of daddy's millions. That's bad enough, but he takes true pleasure in talking down to others simply to prove his superiority and revels in the opportunity to humiliate his so-called friends. By the time of their first meeting, I wanted Jerrod to shoot him! But then...I realized Michael could be redeemed.

It's not immediate, which I think gave his metamorphosis more credibility. Michael has to come to terms with the person he is and why, and the despicable monster he has become. Jerrod's influence during their time together makes him want to face his demons, for the first time. I would have thought that the extreme nature of their forced co-habitation — and the intimacy that takes place — would have been enough for his epiphany, but it isn’t. This fact enhanced the story so much for me because he needs more wake-up calls for him to truly grow. But Jerrod is the starting point for Michael and I loved this aspect of Michael's journey and the romance between the two.

Jerrod and Michael together are tantalizing and tormenting at the same time, as they try to find their way to one another. All sorts of good things happen toward the end, eventualities I was rooting for, which just makes it better and better. Another winner from G. A. Hauser that I enthusiastically recommend!


Review by Chamomile