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Friday, April 13, 2012

How Not To Date a Bear by Stephanie Burke

How Not To Date a Bear by Stephanie Burke
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (75 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Declan Batalova is a bear unlike any other. After brokering a deal that will keep his people safe in their new country, the Russian shifter goes for relaxation in a new club that caters to bears.

Cosmetologist Gillian Leekey is a woman on a mission. She loves big, muscular, hairy men, and Declan is perfect in every way.

But after one night of passion, the Bear Shifter Mafia is declaring war at her front door! When did life get so complicated? But that's what happens when you decide to date a bear.

Readers should not eat or drink while reading this short because it’s an extremely hilarious, knee slapping, laugh-until-your-sides-ache kind of story. Definitely don’t start How Not to Date a Bear if you have to rush out the door any time soon. This is one paranormal romance that truly was impossible to put down. Once this little beauty started rolling the only time I stopped reading was to grab a tissue because my eyes were watering from laughing so much. I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough to see what else the hapless heroine would do to the unsuspecting hero.

I’ve always been partial to shifter stories and I’m delighted that more and more bears are showing up. Wolves and cats are fine but bears have that certain something that usually we reserve for the cute and small, like kittens and puppies. This book cemented my affections.

One thing I have to make sure the author knows is that I am totally awed by her writing. It’s a very hard thing to write humor effectively. The timing and dialogue are hard enough but descriptions and details can break a scene by muffling or diffusing the intent. Ms. Burke got it perfect. When she referenced Yogi Bear was the first time I had tears in my eyes from extreme giggles. When the hero, Declan, finally had to reveal the truth behind the missed meeting is when I almost fell out of my chair. My husband even got worried at one point. There I was in my room all alone making these strange burbling noises and he couldn’t figure out if I was crying or what. Imagine his bemused expression when all I could do was look at him, giggle and point to the book. I can’t remember that ever happening.

Here’s the thing. Gillian, the heroine, likes well groomed furry guys and she thought it was just her natural inclination and one of the reasons why she’s such a good hair stylist. The author surprised me with the real answer which was not only shocking but really cool. A warning about Gillian is to expect to read about a woman who literally grabs onto her man. It moves pretty fast and for a change that kind of sexual momentum is the only way to go. It’s great. It's in line with what I later learned about the heroine and it starts the fun right away. Usually I prefer some kind of build up to a relationship but Ms. Burke handled things the way she did for a reason. It works, I’m thrilled and I’m still grinning. I adored the whole ‘hop on and don’t let go’ thing that Gillian had going on. In fact, it was one of the things that made me blink and really take a good look at what I was reading. It was perfect. I admired how the author walked the line of kink without being heavy handed.

Despite what Declan said early on, Gillian is the one calling the shots amidst the sheets. Again, there’s a reason for that but I’m not telling why. I was entertained by the physical descriptions of the hero but was later blown away by what happened to the guy afterwards. Wait until readers get a load of his grooming fiasco – to say someone got carried away is an understatement! It made perfect sense, while it was happening but later on, the ramifications were quite tumultuous.

The reason why this story rates so high for me isn’t only because it had me grinning from ear to ear most the way through but because there was just the right amount of drama and reality to engage the part of me that enjoys conflicts that have to be overcome. It enabled me to see what both the hero and heroine are made of and I’m jazzed about the results. There was the right amount of tension and worry about a potential war to keep me fascinated and yet the focus remained on Declan and Gillian and their reactions and choices regarding the conflict. That is until Declan is forced to make a split second decision that changed the course of all their lives. It was awesome, well written and one of the best parts of the book.

I even applaud the author in how she wrapped up the story. I’m assured that there is the requisite happily ever after but she also ended it with a huge dose of kinky cute. I can’t think of another way to describe it. It was saucy and yet the words Ms. Burke chose were so delightful and perky, I got the biggest charge out of them.
How Not to Date a Bear has my vote as being one of the best and most fun paranormal romances that has been my pleasure to read in ages. I cannot stress enough to readers just how fun and exciting I found this story to be. It might be short on length but the romance is so sweet, the humor so large and the writing done so well, it seems bigger than it is. What can I say? This story left me feeling happy and upbeat, bouncy and chipper. Certainly the sexy romps and bed bouncing antics between Declan and Gillian were entertaining and fun. If this is Ms. Burke’s style of writing then she can count me in as a new fan. I’m over the moon about this.

Off Limits by Emma Jay

Off Limits by Emma Jay
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, LTD.
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (126 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed By Dianthus

Don’t look. Don’t touch. Definitely don’t want.

There’s no boundary Zach Purser won’t push. Three-ways, four-ways, sex clubs, he’s tried it all. It’s all about the freedom, but lately he’s had the nagging feeling that something is missing.

At a friend’s engagement party, he spots the missing piece all tied up one hot little package of a woman. Trouble is, she’s his best friend Adam’s baby sister. Adam knows all of Zach’s dirty secrets. Which means if he even thinks about touching her, he’s dead.

Paige Clark has crushed on Zach since she grew breasts, but he’s never so much as glanced her way. Until now. She knows desire when she sees it, and Zach’s eyes burn with that unmistakable heat. Finally, she’s got his attention—now if only she can get him to act on it.

Zach tries his best to push her away, but she doesn’t push back, she pulls—tumbling them both over the edge of resistance and right into bed. Panic isn’t far behind. Now he’s stuck between a big brother who’d like to bust his nose, and a woman who’s gotten under his skin. And of all the things he’s tried, romance isn’t one of them…

For Paige Clark there's only ever been one man for her, if only he would open his eyes and see that she's been waiting for him, things would be so much easier. Since Zach Purser has never done things the easy way, at least in Paige’s eyes, she's going to have to get dirty to get the guy. Giving into her heart isn’t an option in this game, but getting at least something from Zach is better than never having him at all. But the more she's with him the more that she wants him. Sooner rather than later she realizes that walking away isn’t an option anymore. Will offering him herself with no strings attached be just the right bait or will Paige end up losing not only her heart but her dignity as well?

Zach Purser just wants to have a good time, hang out with friends and relax every night with a different woman. He isn’t ready to settle down and doesn’t know if he will ever be ready. Settling is how Zach sees Paige; she's someone you could make a life with, maybe have a few kids and a house in the ‘burbs. However, she's not someone you have a few fun nights with then never talk to again. When Zach tries to make Paige into the woman he can handle, with negative results, panic is the only thing left for him. He can’t need her, or want to be around her, yet every time he tries to stay away the more he aches for her. One touch is never enough, and even out of the bedroom she's so much more than he expected. Simply put, falling for her is so easy.

With an over protective brother, sick kids and nosy roommates, Zach and Paige have their work cut out if they want to make this relationship work. Emma Jay made this story easy to read. The characters really told the story and made this so enthralling I was sad to see the last page. Because Ms. Jay is a new author for me, I didn’t know what to expect, but this book was wonderful to read and a pleasure to review. This one would make a great addition to anyone’s TBR pile, just like it has to my keeper shelf. I can't wait to read it again.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Insatiable by Landrie Richards

Insatiable by Landrie Richards
Publisher: Xcite Books
Genre: Contemporary
Other: Menage, m/f/m
Length: Short Story (79 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

All her life, Rachel has been the good girl who does what she’s told and neglects her own needs. When she heads out to a club in order to finally let loose, she gets more than she ever bargained for in a handsome stranger and his twin brother.

With Rachel determined to shake her innocent image and cocksure Mark dead set on helping brother Aaron get over his recently ended relationship, the three find that things begin to fall into place when they all fall into bed for the night.

But will even the wildest of one-night stands begin to satisfy any of them? Can Rachel, Aaron and Mark ever get enough?

This book was hot and steamy from the beginning with its opening in a nightclub and the twins spotting a lady they both are very attracted to. Rachel is a likeable character and when she heads home with both guys I found myself trying to figure out which one she might end up with. Was Mark the better match for her, or maybe Aaron?

As the story progresses, Ms. Richards, answers the question because both men seem right for her. The next question is will the twins be happy sharing Rachel with the other one? As is often typical with twins, the brothers are complete opposites. Mark is playful and easy-going where Aaron is more serious and sweet. I enjoyed the dynamics of the story and the way these three characters interacted.

I won’t give away any more of the plot but if you’re looking for a page turner in the erotic department this is certainly one to check out. It’s a non-stop romp that is also a fast read and perfect for ménage fans.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Snow Day by Willa Edwards

Snow Day by Willa Edwards
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Torrid
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (29 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

Michaela is thrilled to get home after the tense drive from work on the snow covered highway. And she may be just a little bitter that her boyfriend and teacher, Ben, spent all day in bed, on a snow day from school.

But she's relieved to be let out of work at least a few hours early. That is until she hears noises from her bedroom, that in no way resemble monster trucks or football announcements, and sound way too close another woman's moan.

Michaela can't help but investigate. She never could have guessed that what she finds in her bedroom would be just as stimulating for her as it is for Ben. With a little bit of sexy help, Michaela plans to show Ben exactly who he belongs too, and make him wish every day could be a snow day.

The blurb says it’s a sexy short and I couldn’t agree more. I enjoyed the beginning of this novella and the way Ms. Edwards kept me on the edge of my seat as to what was going on the bedroom. The fact is, it sounds like Ben's getting horizontal with some other lady and might break the heroine’s heart.

I hope I’m not giving it away by telling you she had nothing to worry about. From the moment Michaela enters the bedroom and sees and hears what’s really going on with Ben, it’s hot and sexy all the way to the very end. The dialogue is very natural sounding between these two perfectly matched characters, and the pacing fast enough for you to read this in fifteen to twenty minutes.

If you’re looking for a quick and steamy read, this is a good one for you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Outlaws of Love by Em Petrova

Outlaws of Love by Em Petrova
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (168 pages)
Other: F/M/M, ménage, anal play
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Carnation

Upon traveling west to marry, Annabelle Stephens longed to leave her nickname of "Sweetheart Annie" and the strict rules of Boston society behind. The taboo freedom she faces isn’t exactly what she had in mind. A sexy outlaw storms into her rented room and kidnaps her, and then she’s embroiled in a dangerous game with not one man, but two.

Until now Xander Hollis wanted one thing--or maybe two--to stop the Southern Gorge Railroad from stealing the homesteaders’ land, and to act on his desires with his partner in crime, James. Like Robin Hoods of the Old West, he and James embark on a mission to rob from the rich and give to the poor. When he refuses to let go of the woman who could identify him, he finds he’s in true danger. Danger of losing his heart to the heiress of the very railroad corporation he struggles to bring down.

Circumstantially abducted railroad heiress, Annabelle is about to discover she is as hot-blooded as the irresistible outlaw, Xander, who has taken her from her hotel bathtub for the adventure of her life. Though she finds it incredible, she's just as filled with passion for his partner in crime, James. The three become outlaws of love, each burning with desire for the others.

Anna discovers that her father, who owns the railroad, has been stealing land from the poor, hardworking people in his westward drive to ‘progress’. Texans, Xander and James, who are do-good outlaws, are waging a personal war against the injustice by trying to return the land to the people and thwart the greedy advance of the rich railroad company. They live their lives in hiding from the law and the posse’s who hunt them.

Anna and Xander fall quickly in love with a raging heat that firmly bonds their hearts. She agrees to marry the intense, sexy man as soon as they reach civilization. But Anna finds herself searching her soul for answers to who she really is when she's confronted with a powerful and mutual desire for the handsome, tenderhearted James. James and Xander also face their erotic love and longing for one another when the three join as lovers forever.

Xander and James are heroes who inspire and reflect the best in men. These rugged, sexy cowboys are almost too hot to handle! The fantasy of having the love and passion of them both is made believable and true in Ms. Petrova’s capable telling.

Anna is a sweet heroine with a strong will and sense of adventure. She loves with power and courage. This is a story of a young woman’s life-changing awakening to her true self. Anna bravely confronts the truth of who she really is… not who she’s been told to be. The awareness of her own convictions, passions and independent spirit is brought to life through her love for two men and the freedom she finds in their arms.

Outlaws of Love is a moving and exiting love story that stretches the boundaries of the ordinary and leads the reader on a journey of hope. This story is of joy, profound love and devotion, courage and strength. I was swept up in the sexy romance, and the emotionally powerful plots. This ambitious tale truly hit a home run. I chuckled, squirmed and shed a tear, and know I won’t forget this story.

Infusing her writing with a pristine, fresh prose, Em Petrova draws the reader deftly into a landscape of the heart and mind. Her powerfully engaging work is a refreshing delight. Here is an example of her luscious descriptions: “The sun sank over the lip of the land, retracting its warm fingers as it did.”

Outlaws of Love is the first in the Hollis Boys series. My advice is, don’t miss this one.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Found in Bliss by Sophie Oak

Found in Bliss by Sophie Oak
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Other: mild BDSM, M/F, M/F/M, Ménage, Anal Play, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Eight years after being tossed aside by the husband who took her son away, Holly Lang finds herself caught between two lovers—the exotic and dangerous Alexei Markov and the gentle but haunted Dr. Caleb Burke.

A former hit man for the Russian mafia, Alexei has been in witness protection while he testified against the mob. Now that he is done, he will do anything to earn Holly’s love.

Dr. Caleb Burke is a walking contradiction. His love for Holly is obvious, but he keeps her at a distance. Underneath his gruff demeanor is a tortured soul that only Holly can heal.

As their passions burn out of control, Alexei and Caleb discover someone is trying to kill her. The only way to discover the identity of the killer is for all three to face up to the secrets of their past and work together to fight for everything they have found in Bliss.

Dr. Caleb Burke has gone native and the sexiest Russian to ever infiltrate the mob is back in Bliss. Grab your gun, fearless reader, 'cause someone’s gonna die.

Caleb, Holly and Alexei together bring whole a new meaning to “miscommunication”. Alexei is Russian, so I gave him a pass on sentence structure screw-ups. The English language, with all the slang we use, is difficult enough. Alexei has the added issue of trying to talk Caleb through the fear and guilt that haunt him when the sun goes down. I have to give Ms. Oak major kudos for keeping Alexei in character throughout the book. There wasn’t a moment where I felt he slipped in speech or personality.

Alexei’s would-be partner in this trio is Dr. Caleb Burke, bless his heart. Ms. Oak knows how to torture her heroes. Caleb was once an idealistic medical crusader. Betrayal and the death of innocent civilians stole his security and sense of self-worth. Caleb can put more meaning into the word “no” than most people could with an entire book. He’s built walls thicker than the Great Wall of China around his heart and not even the Mongolian hordes would be able to breach them. Surely he’s safe from a simple waitress and an aggravating ex-mob hit-man. It’s the ones you underestimate who can cause the most damage and the perfect healing.

Pop singer Kelly Clarkson has a song out that could have been written for Holly Lang. The lyrics include “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller, doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone. What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter, footsteps even lighter, doesn’t mean I’m over 'cause you’re gone.” Holly’s ex-husband holds honors in scumbagology. He even admits it. But like the song says, Holly has taken the trials and came out a stronger, more confident woman but she still can’t seem to get Caleb to make a move. Just when her life seems to be heading in the right direction with Caleb and Alexei forming a tentative partnership, in walks a curveball in the form of her son. Nicky’s going to be a fun character to watch.

And because this wouldn’t be a proper Bliss book without a homicide, Ms. Oak has someone gunning for Holly, Alexei or Caleb. The author does an amazing job of building the tension and keeping readers on their toes trying to figure out the intended victim, the shooter and the reason behind the hit. There are several surprises along the way, good and bad, and one poor Bliss resident finally hits rock bottom. It’s going to take a trip to Texas to heal this future hero.

If you’ve never been to Bliss, what are you waiting for? This is a terrific series. I anticipate each new book even more than the last. The residents of Bliss become so familiar; it’s like taking a mini-vacay to visit quirky friends or odd yet lovable family with each new story. Take a break and find Bliss. You’ll never want to leave.

In the Penalty Box by Riley Shane

In the Penalty Box by Riley Shane
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (135 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play, Voyeurism
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Coreopsis

For four years, writer Landon Quinn has struggled to forget the one night he spent with Seattle Marauders defenseman Gregory Samson. Then Landon’s life takes an unexpected turn, and he finds himself back in Seattle and face-to-face with the man who broke his heart.

Samson doesn’t know what he did to run Landon off all those years ago, but he’s sure Landon’s leaving was for the best. The bright, beautiful young man Landon had once been was far too adoring, far too open, for the closeted hockey player’s peace of mind. The intervening years have only made Landon an even sexier temptation -- and Landon’s return presents Samson with a whole new set of problems.

Attraction sizzles between them, but having been burned once by Samson has left Landon twice shy. Even as Samson convinces Landon to let him out of the penalty box and into his life, Samson has to face the fact that his closely guarded secrets may come to light. Caught between the ghosts of his past and the promise of a future with Landon, the hockey star must decide if now that he's come off the bench, he's ready to come out of the closet.

All's fair in love and war but when the person you’re in love with constantly keeps letting you down, what do you do? Well, for Landon Quinn it was to run away. I couldn’t blame this character for tucking tail and running off to lick his wounds. Landon was an easy character to like. He’s sweet and caring. The love for his family and friends is clear within the pages. So it’s no shock that his heart is still open to the one man who broke it four years prior. I really liked how Landon kept his composure around Samson. It was a good game of cat and mouse. He wasn’t intentionally trying to make Samson jealous but it worked and made for some entertaining reading.

At first I really didn’t like Samson. The man did an unforgivable thing to Landon that broke his young heart. But as I continued to read I learned the whys of it. Samson has an unpleasant backstory that brought a tear to my eye. The fear of the unknown can rule a person’s life and it has taken control of Samson’s. The author did an excellent job of getting Samson’s pain across; a very touching story.

In the Penalty Box revolves around a hockey team and that right there had me hooked before I even cracked open my laptop to start reading. But it was the touching storyline and in-depth characters that had me falling in love with the book. This is a book that definitely puts your emotions on a roller-coaster ride from beginning to end.

If you’re a reader who likes a good dose of drama in your happy ever afters then this is a must read for you.