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Friday, June 1, 2012

May Book of the Month Poll Winner: Divine Phoenix by Heather Rainier

Divine Phoenix by Heather Rainier
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (324 pgs)
Other: M/F, Masturbation, Spanking, M/F/M, menage, toys
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Plumeria

Every woman wants a fairy-tale ending, but Lily Valentine has given up on that. Other women may get their happily ever after, but what she lives is more like a nightmare. Admitted loner Clay Cook has heard all the stereotypes about artists and even lived some of them. He struggles with his craft, wondering if his best work is behind him.

Mortally ill, Lily flees to Divine, barreling headlong into Clay’s life from the distant past. Clay’s brother Del returns from a lengthy deployment, suffering from deep trauma of his own, at a loss for how to move on from it. In an effort to remake herself, Lily unintentionally does more harm than good.

As Lily Valentine rises from the ashes of her former life, jealousy is sparked and danger comes calling. Will Clay and Del be able to save her when her old life tries to reclaim her?
Read the full review here!

Reluctant Revenge by Xandra James

Reluctant Revenge by Xandra James
Publisher: Pink Petal Books
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (62 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Verbena

Nash was bound to her completely – by a blood connection and a deep desire. An Enforcer for the Supranormal community, he was obligated to protect the sexy assignment from those who coveted her future Angelic abilities, but can he forgive the woman whose family had devastated his world?

Sienna, upon the realization she'd been betrayed by her family for keeping her birthright a secret, seeks solace in the arms of her surly and reluctant protector; a demon hybrid with a secret of his own. Can she come to terms with her destiny after discovering that she could be as dangerous as those Nash was protecting her from?

Is a vow of revenge more powerful than the lure of one’s heart?

Sienna had grown up in an emotionally cold home. Her mother gone, her father too busy, the only love she knew was that of her grandmother and brothers. She’d be the first to admit she was spoiled and never lacked for anything…material. But what good are worldly things when they’re merely given to veil dark secrets? A few hours before her birthday, Sienna’s whole life turns upside down. Suddenly, the scary things from nightmares and bad movies become real. The only person saving her from the clutches of evil is a man who is just as emotionally distant as her father, but hot as Hell. With her life in danger, her hormones in overdrive, and her mind on the brink of Crazy town, turning thirty promises to be a birthday to remember.

Nash had made a promise: revenge on the man who murdered his beloved and ripped out his heart. He’d waited a long time for the opportunity to take from the Clementis what they’d taken from him. Now that he had Sienna in his clutches, it’d be nothing to snuff out her life. And yet, he felt the stirrings of emotions he’d thought long dead in his dark heart. She evoked feelings he didn’t want, desires he shouldn’t have. Suddenly, his simple plan for vengeance became complicated. How could he kill his life-mate?

Reluctant Revenge was an exciting ride. The chemistry between the characters kept me enthralled, eager to see what happened next. Ms. James adds her own spin to the typical “vampire” character, calling them Strix. Her demons are sexy-as-hell-hot, and her creativity is refreshing and new. The book isn’t riddled with redundant sex. No, Ms. James adds enough heat to get your hormones going, but doesn’t flood the book with one sex scene after another. There were a few editing errors and point-of-view violations; but nothing distracting enough to take away from the story itself. Overall, I loved her tale and look forward to reading some more of her work. Perhaps there’s a story for Jesse or Austin? My piqued interest can only hope.

If you’re looking for an exciting book packed full of paranormal creatures, sexy heroes, and feisty damsels in distress, then look no further, Reluctant Revenge promises to fulfill your need for demons, excitement, and steamy romance.

Anything But Vanilla by Madelynne Ellis

Anything But Vanilla by Madelynne Ellis
Publisher: Mischief-HarperCollins UK
Genre: Contemporary
Other: Menage, anal sex, m/f, f/f, m/m, m/f/m, bondage
Length: Full Length (246 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

Why settle for just one man?

Kara North is on the run. Fleeing from her controlling fiancé and a wedding she never wanted, she accepts the chance offer of refuge on wild, rocky Liddell Island, where she soon catches the eye of the island's owner, erotic photographer Ric Liddell. Wickedly sexy by day and just plain wicked by night, Ric rules his domain like a feudal lord. He's used to getting what he wants, without any commitment, and just when Kara thinks she has him hooked, he hides behind a cool, dispassionate mask.

But pleasure comes in more than one flavour when Zachary Blackwater, the charming ice-cream vendor also takes an interest, and wants more than just a tumble in the surf. Zach offers her warmth that she never felt from her ex, and soon it's not just the ice cream that's melting.When Kara learns that the two men have been unlikely lovers for years, she becomes obsessed with the idea of a threesome. Zach is reluctant, until he sees the dynamic effect Kara has on Ric's emotions. She might be the key to finally capturing Ric's heart.

Soon Kara is wondering how she ever considered binding herself to just one man. She's never had so much fun or felt so uninhibited, but just when everything seems so perfect, the man she left behind returns with some very old-fashioned ideas about rescuing her and taking her home to his own idea of wedded bliss.

The title of this book sums it up nicely. Whatever your inklings in erotic romances and erotica, this story has a little bit of everything. It starts with a bang, no pun intended, and we’re quickly introduced to the main character who, refreshingly enough, is running away from her wedding and not being jilted.

I can't pinpoint exactly why but I didn't quite connect with Kara as much as I did with Ric and Zach in this story. Maybe it was because the men already had a relationship together when Kara joins them on the island. While she was interesting, I thought the two men came across as more caring so I felt like I was rooting more for them than her. Having said that, I wasn't disappointed in the way the author chose to end the book.

I really enjoyed the setting of this story…the isolated island on the coast. It added to the atmosphere and fit in well with the plot. There's a couple of running plots in the story, including an individual who threatens the happiness and possible future for Kara, Zach and Ric as a triad. In particular, Ric is the focus of this outside advisary. There's a scene that Ms. Ellis handles very well but it might be disturbing to some readers who tend to avoid any reference to rape.

The dialogue was very realistic and despite this being a full length novel, the pacing was spot on. The action kept going but I felt had the story focused more on characterization, especially for Kara, and less on sub-plots and these characters many interactions, it would have been stronger. I liked the ending and thought it was a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lady's Minstrel by N.J. Walters

Lady's Minstrel by N.J. Walters
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (41 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Amaryllis

Alicia was barely a bride before her husband Reys left on Crusade, and she has waited six years for any word on his whereabouts. Without a strong lord, the castle is in a precarious position and it is only a matter of time until the king orders her to remarry or tries to take the keep by force.

When a mysterious hooded minstrel shows up at the castle, the man’s furtive actions lead Alicia to believe he is a spy. She confronts him—and discovers he is no stranger. Reys is scarred emotionally and physically by his years in a foreign prison. Now both are left wondering if there is a future for them or if the love they once shared is gone forever.

Against all odds, she kept her faith that he would come home to her. Alicia and Reys were wed a short time before duty to the king called him away to a distant land. Alicia was left all alone to handle her own new duties, managing Reys castle. She kept her faith that God would see him through his holy mission and bring him safely home to her. Yet as the years passed without any word or sign that he was safe, it became harder for her to cope. One night a mysterious man shows up and his behavior makes her suspicious. However, this is not just any vagrant. Love and light are about to re-enter Alicia’s life.

Alicia is a very strong woman yet not so strong that one cannot connect with her. I found her very easy to relate to and I liked her very much. One cannot help but feel sympathy for her plight, a young bride isolated from others by her social position yet having no broad shoulder to lean on. It’s easy to admire her. Reys is sexy, tender and strong, the husband a woman would dream of. He’s very good at love talk.

When they finally reconnect, the sex is romantic, breathtakingly intimate and sensual. Ms. Walters imbues the scene with much emotion. A thoroughly satisfying reunion scene.

This is a very short story but it's everything a short erotic novella should be. The characters are well developed and the plot is focused close on their erotic and romantic conflict. I enjoyed this tale very much and look forward to reading others by Ms. Walters. Sweet, sexy and romantic. A perfect quick read.

Keeping Secret by Sierra Dean

Keeping Secret by Sierra Dean
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (321 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Foxglove

Something old, something blue, something deadly…what else is new?

Secret McQueen, Book 4

It’s a nice day for a white wedding. At least that’s what Secret McQueen is hoping for, with her poofy-princess-dress marriage to a werewolf king looming closer and closer by the day. But as ever, nothing can be that easy for a vampire/werewolf hybrid for whom someone still harbors a death wish.

Summoned to the south by her werewolf uncle, who makes no bones about the fact her mate bond with Lucas doesn’t pass muster, Secret learns her furry heritage looks more like a tangled vine than a family tree. Getting her royal uncle’s blessing hinges on finding one of the missing twigs. Even with vampire sentry Holden Chancery at her side, she manages to land up to her neck in a swamp of trouble.

As an assassin’s scope zeroes in, family dramas boil up and a fast-collapsing love square threatens to bury her alive, making it to the church on time could be the least of Secret’s problems.

Secret McQueen-half vampire, half werewolf, is all bite and no bark. Mated to the King of the Eastern Werewolves, her wedding to Lucas Rain is fast approaching. The only problem is someone is trying to make sure she never walks down that aisle. To complicate matters, Secret’s uncle, King of the Southern wolves, has decided that Secret and Lucas must visit Louisiana and get his approval. And then there's her position as one of the three most powerful vampires in New York, the exalted Vampire council triad of leaders. As the attempts on Secret’s life keep coming, Can she and Lucas ever make it down the aisle and present the united front the pack needs? Can Secret discover who's behind the plot to kill her, before one of the hit men actually succeeds? And what about her debt to her former mentor, Holden Chancery?

Sierra Dean has built a fantastic world filled with danger, passion and trouble around every turn. The characters are like old friends after four books, and I love watching as these characters interact and grow in their roles. The intertwined destinies of the characters are complex and well written, and I look forward to seeing where Ms. Dean takes Secret next.

Secret McQueen is a very unique woman; half vampire and half werewolf, she's passionate, strong and extremely loyal to her friends and family. She's willing to face whatever comes her way with a huge dose of sassy sarcasm and wit, and more than a little courage. I enjoyed watching her face the worst of her fears in this book-the dreaded wedding planner! Her adventures in bridal traditions are all terrific fun. And her solutions to many of the problems is such a great twist.

The men in this one are all strong and deliciously gorgeous. Lucas Rain is the rich and powerful King of the Eastern wolves, and Secret’s mated other half. Desmond Alverez is the wolf Secret loves and he's Lucas’ lieutenant in the pack. He's light to Lucas’ dark, and both are hot, strong and sexy. Then there is vampire Holden Chancery, a man who is as drawn to Secret as either of her wolves. I enjoy watching as each of these men tried in their own way to win Secret and make her theirs. They each have strong personalities, and sometimes they all clash over who will be with Secret.

There are several stories running through this one, but all converge toward the end for a very surprising and unexpected turn of events. This is definitely not the book in this series to start with, and I recommend that these be read in the order they are written for best results. Does Secret get her happy ever after and her ‘white wedding’? All I will say is you must read Keeping Secret to find out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wicked Alpha by Anitra Lynn McLeod

Wicked Alpha by Anitra Lynn McLeod
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (70 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, Anal Play, Toys, Voyeurism
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

The right kind of pain…

Terribly insecure Anthony Reed believes he’s undesirable, so when the hottest guy in school hits on him, he figures it must be a joke. How could anyone want a guy with a head like a jar, the big, brown eyes of Bambi, and the body of Rambo? Who would want a freak who’s turned on by pain?

Determined to show Anthony just how hot he is, Kevin Henderson goes after the gentle giant with everything he’s got, and his assets are considerable. Kevin knows just how to press the sweet, sexy linebacker’s buttons, and soon the two are inseparable.

When things get too intense, and Kevin’s own insecurities and secrets are exposed, Kevin realizes they have more in common than just a need for kinky sex. Anthony thinks of himself as worthless, but Kevin needs to show him that he’s worth everything. The trick is loving himself completely first.

Breaking down the walls around each other’s hearts draws them deeper into an indestructible bond. But will they be able to let the past go and join their brethren in the Twin Pines Grizzlies, or will they retreat into solitary safety?

Sexy football players seducing one another, what more could a reader ask for?

Anthony and Kevin really seem to complement each other well. This isn't only because Anthony's a natural submissive, while Kevin lives for dominating his partners. It's because they bring out the best in one another, and make each want to be a better man. Even when they don't recognize that they need mending they seem to help one another, and that's what a truly special relationship is all about. It's also what let me know that no matter what, these two will be together for a long happy lifetime.

While there is a slight paranormal element to this story, it really doesn't play a prominent role in the development of the storyline or characters. Personally, I would have liked for it to have had a larger impact on the storyline. All it really did was leave me confused on why it mattered at all. I wonder if it'll be explained in later stories.

While this story is the fifth of the series, it read fine as a stand alone. I had not even realized there were previous stories written until the paranormal element was introduced. I appreciated how easy it was to jump right in and not feel left out of the characters' lives, especially because I quickly become fascinated with them and wanted more and more. Though this is the first story I've read by this author and this series, I suspect Anitra Lynn McLeod is a author name I'll be looking for when deciding what to read next.

Because I Can by Amarinda Jones

Because I Can by Amarinda Jones
Publisher: eXcessica Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (199 pgs)
Other: M/F, BDSM
Rating: 4 Stars
Review By: Dianthus

Can having wild sex in a lift with a gorgeous stranger a bad thing? It is when that man turns out to be the CEO of the company you work for and he is the last man you want having any control over you. Being all hot naked and sexy with the CEO is not exactly a career move – especially not in public, screaming your lungs out as you come.

When Justin Hale teaches Miranda Marshall a steamy lesson about who is the boss, Miranda is more than happy to pay him back in kind. The game is on. Just how in control is the boss? Can she bring him to his knees without falling hopelessly to her own? After all, this has nothing to do with love. It’s just toe curling sex…isn’t it? And Miranda certainly does not want the whole office to know what she and Justin Hale are doing.

But someone does know. It’s the same person who has been causing chaos in the office for months. Is this person the office Robin Hood or are they out for revenge with Miranda in his sights?

Miranda “Rand” Marshall is about to rock the new CEO’s world. If only she could keep her eyes off the hunky guy walking ahead of her. Sex needs to be a higher priority in the future, because this guy is nothing like what she needs, but there's something that keeps drawing her eyes to him. And yet, he seems to be going the same way as her, so a little looking won’t do any harm, at least until they part ways. Then disaster hits, the lift stops working, and the tables turn on Miranda. Her world is the one getting rocked, by none other than Justin Hale her new CEO and current number one enemy. She knows it isn't the best idea to keep sleeping with him but she keeps coming back and just can’t seem to get enough. But danger is lurking in the shadows, and accidents start to happen. While these two get closer to each other a mad man is out to get Rand and bring her down. Can Justin stop him in time or will he lose Rand to this madman before she knows how he feels?

Justin Hale hates being in Brisbane, Australia. And yet the more he hears about the problems Rand Marshall is causing at his call center the more that he's liking this unplanned detour. She's nothing like the women he's been attracted to in the past, and yet he can’t get enough of her. It’s wrong and yet this attraction feels so good. Surely a little bad could be a good thing in the end. When the threats on his company turn to Rand in particular, Justin is willing to do anything to keep her safe, but can he find the mad man in time to save the girl?

While the beginning of this story left me a bit confused with the order in which I was introduced to the main characters the more I read the better things got. I was disappointed to note several editing goofs because they tended to pull me from the flow of the story, but I was still able to enjoy reading this saucy book. I loved the suspense element of this one, and the tying in of the real life characters/situations made this book enjoyable.

Amarinda Jones is a new to me author, and she's one who I'll read again in the future. If you're looking for a good romance story with some nice suspense and great, smoking hot sex then this is a book you'll definitely want to pick up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Divine Phoenix by Heather Rainier

Divine Phoenix by Heather Rainier
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (324 pgs)
Other: M/F, Masturbation, Spanking, M/F/M, menage, toys
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Plumeria

Every woman wants a fairy-tale ending, but Lily Valentine has given up on that. Other women may get their happily ever after, but what she lives is more like a nightmare. Admitted loner Clay Cook has heard all the stereotypes about artists and even lived some of them. He struggles with his craft, wondering if his best work is behind him.

Mortally ill, Lily flees to Divine, barreling headlong into Clay’s life from the distant past. Clay’s brother Del returns from a lengthy deployment, suffering from deep trauma of his own, at a loss for how to move on from it. In an effort to remake herself, Lily unintentionally does more harm than good.

As Lily Valentine rises from the ashes of her former life, jealousy is sparked and danger comes calling. Will Clay and Del be able to save her when her old life tries to reclaim her?

Even in the darkest of times, a person can claw her way out and rise above the ashes to start anew.

This story is about Lily Valentine, originally from Divine and childhood friends with Clay and Del Cook. Lily and her family moved away while she was still in school and she lost contact with the boys. Moving away may have seemed like the worst thing to ever happen to Lily until she met and married a man named JT, who turned out to be a sick, sick man. Lily spent the next twelve years in her abusive husband's clutches, with no hope for escaping. But after a final humiliating confrontation she decides enough is enough and Lily heads for Divine. Little does she know her entrance would be a smash.

Clay is the local jeweler and owns a shop where he designs his own creations. Even though he’s as dependable and caring as he can be, Clay still buys into the stereotypical idea of what artist should be, flaky, in touch with with emotions and unreliable. He spends most of his time alone and works on his friends' tokens of love for their women while he has no one. It wasn't until Lily came crashing back into his life that he realized what he was missing.

His older brother Del finally comes home from working in a private military company. It’s been four years since his last visit and this time he brought home some emotional baggage. Unable to deal with his issues, Del sets himself to making his run down ranch functional. Of course, that’s easy to do when you never sleep. Once he and Lily reconnect, sparks fly but Del can't help but worry about Clay's feelings.

While Lily sets a backbreaking pace to improve herself and her life, Del sets the same pace but instead of improving, he ignores his issues. Clay is the healing agent for them both. Initially the story starts off as Clay and Lily grow closer to one another and when Del shows up everything shifts to create their triad. I really loved how different all of theses characters were and how they complimented each other without even trying. And how they just easily flowed into creating their relationship between the three of them with little discussion. Once the idea was planted, it literally grew wings and flew.

What I enjoyed most about Divine Phoenix was the emotions that the author was able to pull out of me. As a reader, I admit I can be a bit jaded when it comes to conflicts and the bad guys. But this story really grabbed me from the beginning to the very end. I just wanted to hug Lily, kiss Clay and hold Del. And I really wanted to do serious damage to JT.

But what made this book 5 stars for me was Ms. Rainier’s restraint when it came time for the climax. I deeply feared what I was going to read as I sped through her words but she gave you just enough without going too deep. Once you read this book, and I think everyone should, you’ll understand what I mean. Sometimes authors walk a fine line when it comes to painting a character especially the bad guy. They can come off a one dimensional or even ridiculous, but Ms. Rainier did it just perfectly. She painted a beautiful story with all the right colors and the end was a portrait of a divine phoenix.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Flying High by Em Woods

Flying High by Em Woods
Publisher: Total-E-Bound
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (63 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play, Spanking
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Sometimes a mate bond can be damned well as crucial to survival when a murderer sets his sights on one of the pair.

As if life isn't tough enough for a half Fae, half butterfly shifter, Tate is thrown for a loop when his mate turns out to be a reclusive Lynx shifter. Cain is focused on tracking his brother’s killer, and stumbling across his mate at the same time he finds the murderer wasn’t in his plans. Especially when the discovery means the killer gets away.

Sparks fly between the Lynx and the halfling even though neither wants to cave to a fated-mate bond. But when a serial murderer comes after Cain, Tate must call up powers he rarely uses to save them both.

Vampires and wolves, wolves and humans, lynx and butterflies…one of these is NOT a typical shifter mating but it is the basis for an exciting and thoroughly entertaining story by the talented Em Woods.

Cain Howell is a lynx shifter. The story opens with him tracking the man who viciously killed his brother. His anger and impulsiveness puts him in the sites of the killer until he suddenly catches a fresh scent that distracts him from his goal. His mate.

A trope often used in fated mate/shifter books is the ability of the mates to know each other by scent. The smell is typically pleasant, intoxicating even. This is true for Cain when he catches Tate’s scent but there’s more. Cain also describes the scent as “reassuring and soothing” but that doesn’t mean he’s going to roll over for a belly rub just because some cosmic force deemed them mates. How can a lynx mate with a butterfly anyway? He can when the butterfly in question is more than he seems. Also, it doesn’t hurt that these men aren’t too proud to accept some motherly advice. Those scenes are actually pretty funny.

Tate wasn’t out looking for his mate, either, when he spots Cain hiding in the tall grass, but they can only deny facts for so long. Tate accepts his fate a lot quicker than Cain and that’s a good thing. They need each other and the timing is perfect. He uses his influence on Cain to convince him to wait until the right moment to confront the killer. Even still, they’re both thrown for a loop when the truth behind the murders is revealed. Would fate be so cruel as to bring them together, just to be pulled apart before they have time to truly appreciate their bond? This is romance; what do you think? The way they talk to each other, the way they touch, it all works together to solidify a very tangible bond.

Ms. Woods knows how to build a story around her characters. Cain and Tate are wonderfully drawn out men. They come from totally different worlds and just the idea of mating a butterfly to a lynx seems impossible. Not only does Ms. Woods make it possible, she makes it plausible. I first read a shortened version of this story as a sequence of editions to The Story Orgy’s Monday morning story prompt shorts. She expanded on a clever premise and breathed life into the characters and their struggle. If the short edition was fun and unique the expanded version is completely entertaining. The dialogue is witty and the chemistry palpable. There’s no doubt the men are attracted to one another. When they finally act on those feelings the scene is literally combustible.

If you love a good paranormal but want a story that’s unique and well written. Look no further than Flying High by Em Woods. She’s an auto buy for this reader and I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Club Esoteria Christmas by Cooper McKenzie

A Club Esoteria Christmas by Cooper McKenzie
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (82 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/M/F, M/M, BDSM, Flogging, spanking
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Plumeria

You are invited to Club Esoteria’s Christmas Party
Friday, December 23, 2011, 8 p.m. until ?
Entertainment: A Sub’s Talent Show
RSVP required; floggings will be administered to those who do not

Antony returns from an eight-month deployment and wonders if Jenna will let him return for good. Gentry worries that he will be kicked out now that Antony is home. Whitney gets new toys for Christmas as Taurus pushes her boundaries. Sloan, Dane, and Merlin make their appearance though Sloan is seven and a half months pregnant. They leave early when Sloan goes into labor after she and Merlin dance for the talent show. Jackson is juggling bartending and keeping his lovely submissive satisfied. He grows more nervous about proposing but he is determined that she will marry him.

Will Jenna let Antony back into her household? Will Sinclair agree to Jackson’s proposal? Will everyone have a spanking good Christmas party?

What Christmas at a BDSM club would be complete without a tree decorated in balls, whips, handcuffs and chains?

This book is about Club Esoteria’s Christmas party which features a talent contest involving all the subs. The acts must be non- sexual in nature, which I found kind of charming.

This book is number seven in the series and focus on couples/groups from previous books. We revisit Dane, Merlin and Sloan from His Sub’s Submissive, Taurus and Whitney from Caught by the Master, Jenna, Antony and Gentry from Minding Mistress which are books one through three respectively. And finally we see Jackson and Sinclair recently from His Beck & Call Girl. Cooper McKenzie was able to bring a lot of her characters together in this installment and never let any one set overshadow another. Each couple or group had their own scenes that led up to the other. I was able to invest in everyone even with this book being a short read.

I had not previously read the prior six books, but in no way did I feel lost or at a disadvantage reading A Club Esoteria Christmas. I personally believe that takes a great deal of talent, and it made me want to go back and read the books to experience how all these couple came to be where they are in this novella. Fans of Ms. McKenzie or the Club Esoteria series will not be disappointed at all.

Temporary Mistress by Cecily French

Temporary Mistress by Cecily French
Publisher: Ellora's Cave Legend
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (98 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Aster

Brokenhearted after the death of his wife and infant son, Phillip Graves—Viscount Danbury—lives only for pleasure, changing his mistress every few months. After his mistress-to-be is indisposed, he acquires a temporary replacement who, to his surprise, offers him something he never thought to find—a second chance at love.

After being forced on the streets by her late father, Franny Talbot is desperate to escape the whoring life. The chance to be under an aristocrat’s temporary protection gives her more than a path to freedom, though. Philip’s skilled lessons in sensuality show Franny all the delicious and titillating ways a man can possess a woman. And she unexpectedly finds herself falling in love with a man who can never truly be hers.

It's been a while since I read a story that hooked me from the first line, but Temporary Mistress definitely fits that category.

I fell in love with this heroine from the start. She was feisty, intelligent, and made absolutely no excuses, despite her stature and position in life. Where others may cower in fear, Franny held her head high and did whatever had to be done to move ahead, never apologizing nor feeling sorry for herself, although she had every right.

I enjoyed the hero of the story just as much. Phillip's heart was closed to all around him, which could have led him to become cold-hearted and cruel, but instead he was fair and straight-forward. He had his reputation with the ladies, but was always certain when their time ended (and even during their time together), the women were well taken care of.

Ms. French's writing is wonderful. Her descriptions were vivid and her dialogue was appropriate and helped keep the reader in the time period the story was set it. I do wish she had taken a little time to explain what the ton was. It's a term I had not heard of prior, and had to look it up. But once I did, all the pieces fell into place and her use of names and terms was spot on. I loved the way she would switch from one point of view to the other, skipping a line so it was easy to follow, but allowed me, as a reader, to know what each main character was feeling as the story progressed.

The villains in the story, though a minor element, were very well formed and the anxiety of whether they would find Franny had me cheering for her all the more. I was hoping Phillip would become the champion for his love and I was not disappointed. Even better, Franny was no wilting flower. She fought for herself. No damsel in distress in this story!

There were a couple of weaknesses, however. There were a few places where I felt the story was either rushed or stopped abruptly and shifted scenes. The first was during the scene where the couple made love for the first time. The scene was wonderfully described, and flowed easily, but it seemingly stopped as soon as they "finished," and we were on to the next chapter. It was a bit jarring and took me out of the story temporarily.

The second weakness, and in my opinion the most important, was during a key break through. Just as Franny was able to crack through Phillips hard exterior, and he finally opened up to her about the loss of his family, we skipped ahead several days. The author simply made mention that they talked more about it as the days progressed. To me, it was a key time that the two could have been connecting at a deeper level - falling in love - but instead was skipped over, much to my dismay.

There were other missing elements, the biggest of which is the two never admitting their love for each other. The first "I love you," is one of my favorite parts of romance stories, and although the feeling was most certainly there, it was never said, and I missed that.

Negatives aside, the story was definitely enjoyable. I loved feisty Franny, and the obvious admiration Phillip had for her. Their interaction, his teaching her the ways of love while she taught him an appreciation for life, was a joy to witness and I enjoyed it very much. I would love to revisit this couple, and see how their lives have progressed (or even how they plan for a wedding). If you like a story that allows you to travel to a different time and witness two strong characters falling in love, Temporary Mistress is one I would recommend!