The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries

SINNING
The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (373 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.

No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?

Ms. Jeffries has a wonderful new series on her hands if this first story is any indication of what’s to come. Of course, this was an auto-read for me because I was fascinated with Jeremy Keane from How the Scoundrel Seduces. His character ended up being quite important in that book but in The Art of Sinning he shines as a strong leading man.

Unlike The Dukes Men series which all had villains and mysteries to overcome and solve, Ms. Jeffries’ new Sinful Suitors series seems to be focused on the trials and tribulations of men of title finding suitable matches for their female relations or wards amongst so many dissolute and unacceptable men of the ton. I was greatly amused as to how the whole plan came together and under what circumstances. Then later, to see how it accidentally took off in one scene meant that there will be a lot of interesting books coming my way. I’m very excited.

In this novel, Jeremy continues to have the reputation of a rogue, rakehell and flamboyant painter. Once a reader, through the constant ploys of the heroine, Yvette, finds out about what type of person Jeremy really is they’ll understand why I thought him a perfect leading man and worthy of the title of hero.

Jeremy has angst; an internal struggle from his past that he never fully faced. He puts on a good show and is, for the most part, a functioning human being. The only thing not working is his heart – his ability to love and trust. It takes Yvette’s persistent pursuit of the truth and her wanton, passionate ways to finally reach the wounds hidden inside the hero and her issuance of a poignant and heartfelt challenge before he allows himself to heal. This is truly a character driven romance that is effective because I cared about and was vested in both Jeremy’s and Yvette’s happiness.

The seduction scenes were hot, sensual, well written and well placed throughout the story. I enjoyed Yvette’s enthusiasm and the fact that she could drive Jeremy wild. It was very fun reading.

Many secondary characters are sprinkled throughout the story which is good because I met a lot of interesting people who will make excellent main characters in their own books. I can’t wait.

Even though there isn’t a big external conflict to move things along, Ms. Jeffries knows how to keep the pace of the story moving. Her characters are engaging, witty, funny, quirky and challenging, and the dialogue was key. I enjoyed how Yvette surprised the hero with her choices of vocabulary. I laughed many times throughout the novel.

The Art of Sinning continues to showcase the strength of Ms. Jeffries’ imagination and writing skill. I had an almost impossible time putting the book down because it was that much fun. If not for having to work for a paycheck, I would have been happiest cuddled up on the couch reading this story uninterrupted for the entire day until I reached the final, adorable and entertaining happy ever after. As it was, I read it while I ate breakfast, then supper and then stayed up late to finish it because I simply had to know Jeremy’s big secret, had to know if Yvette would get him to stop blowing in the wind, and had to know who Jeremy’s sister might end up with. It’s not who I thought so I’m all atwitter over it. The Art of Sinning is a must read for new and old fans alike. It’s a winner.

By the way, I don’t usually mention covers but this one was perfect. I blushed every time I looked at it. I think it was the look in his eyes. That was a perfect Jeremy. ::fans self::

The Butcher’s Son by Dorien Grey

BUTCHER
The Butcher’s Son by Dorien Grey
A Dick Hardesty Mystery, #1
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical
Length: Short Story (144 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Dick Hardesty is pressed into service when someone starts burning down gay bars all over town and the police chief (nicknamed ‘the butcher’) shrugs the whole thing off. Then drag queens and female impersonators get into the act and Dick is required to sleuth out who is hot and who is not.

Some people are more sympathetic to certain types of victims in high-profile crimes. Dick isn’t one of these people.

I was quite pleased with how three-dimensionally the protagonist was written. The plot spent a great deal of time exploring his backstory which only made his quirks even more memorable than they would have been otherwise. His flaws were given an equal amount of attention. Knowing so much about where they came from and why they’d developed, though, only made me a bigger fan of Dick as a person.

The pacing was a little slow in the beginning due to all of the characters the narrator needed to introduce to the audience. While a few of them could have been introduced a little later on, most of the characters needed to show up right away so that the reader would understand what was happening. I understood why Mr. Grey wrote it this way, although I would have chosen an even higher rating had I not been momentarily confused by all of the people who showed up in the first few chapters.

One of the things that matters the most to me in a good mystery are plot twists that I didn’t see coming. This book was full of twists that I couldn’t figure out in advance, and all of them were really well done. They stayed true to the atmosphere of the story while at the same time prodding me to look at the evidence again to see if there was anything else I might have missed.

The Butcher’s Son was a thrilling introduction to the Dick Hardesty series. If this is any indication of what is to come, I can’t wait to see what happens in book two!

The Kissing Contest by Francis Gideon

KISSING
The Kissing Contest by Francis Gideon
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (38 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Homer Ruiz is a well-known actor who is constantly cast as bad guys, gigolos, or men of ill-repute. As a publicity stunt, his friend Jack Douglas has arranged a kissing contest to be held inside a Paris Hotel and Casino, where some of the most famous and attractive men from around the world will compete for the bragging rights of best kisser in the world.

It’s a contest that everyone enjoys—except Homer, who is left reminded all over again that people love the images and illusions he portrays far more than they will ever love the reality.

Homer is a very well known actor and has been talked into an unusual contest. The World Famous Kissing Contest was a publicity stunt. Men of different nationalities were pitted against each other with a bevy of willing women volunteers, and the best kisser would win the title of the Kissing King. The contest was held in Paris, and Homer can’t forget this is the bright city where he first fallen in love.

This is a very short story, but I found it filled with wonderful detail and kept me reading it all the way through in one shot. Homer – although not your typical hero – is an honest and refreshing character. Happily married to his second wife, he nevertheless doesn’t pretend to be some wide-eyed ingénue, or a slavishly devoted man while secretly harboring resentment at the repression of his life. I was startled at his private honesty – that his marriage to Clara was not the perfect picture they both painted. While Homer genuinely loves her, their relationship isn’t the normal, fairy tale, endless style of love. I found this honesty refreshing and indeed interesting, but more traditional readers mightn’t feel the same.

The twist at the end – the final kiss – was something I found satisfying and in its own way extremely romantic. There is a tone of M/M some traditional romance readers mightn’t like, but this is a sweet story – light kissing only – and I personally really enjoyed it. This is fresh, different and while not surprising, certainly not your average tale about a kissing contest. Different and fresh, I’d urge readers to give it a try and see if some of that Paris magic mightn’t leave you with a smile too.

Dark Heir by Faith Hunter

HEIR
Dark Heir by Faith Hunter
Publisher: Roc
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (363 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Shapeshifting skinwalker Jane Yellowrock is the best in the business when it comes to slaying vampires. But her latest fanged foe may be above her pay grade…

For centuries, the extremely powerful and ruthless vampire witches of the European Council have wandered the Earth, controlling governments, fostering war, creating political conflict, and often leaving absolute destruction in their wake. One of the strongest of them is set to create some havoc in the city of New Orleans, and it’s definitely personal.

Jane is tasked with tracking him down. With the help of a tech wiz and an ex-Army ranger, her partners in Yellowrock Securities, she’ll have to put everything on the line, and hope it’s enough. Things are about to get real hard in the Big Easy.

Jane has finally met a vampire that might be tough to kill and her beast can’t help her. One of the original sons of darkness, the markers of the vampire race, has escaped vampire headquarters and is on the loose killing humans. Jane has been called in by both the human and vampire authorities to stop the rogue vampire, but she’ll need help from her business partners and friends to do it. As Jane’s powers have been growing, so has her own uneasiness with her place in life. She’s not entirely sure what she believes anymore and how it fits into the new world view. It’ll take all her effort and the combined help of her friends to take down this super powerful vampire, if that can even happen.

Dark Heir is the ninth book in the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter. I suppose any action based book could, theoretically, be read as a stand alone since the focus is always on the action scenes but I wouldn’t recommend it. The characters, especially the large supporting cast, and plot rely heavily on reader knowledge of past events and complicated relationships for the book to fully make sense. So readers should ensure they’ve read the main books in the series before picking up this one. Here the plot is incredibly similar to the previous books – bad guy on the loose and only Jane can stop them. The story has upped the power of the bad guy to correspond with Jane’s own increasing power and ability. Jane is pretty super powerful in this book and only an uber powerful vampire can really match her now. The focus is solidly on the detective work to figure out where the vampire could be and then the several fight scenes between Jane and co. and the bad guy.

In some ways this works since the writing strengths are definitely in the action of the plot. It helps move the story along when I found it somewhat boring at times. I got frustrated with Jane’s all powerful new presence and kind of hated how she could survive literally anything. Not to give spoilers but the fact that she survives the ending and –then- kills the bad guy is almost ludicrous. I feel as though the story focused nicely on Jane but left out the most interesting secondary characters – Leo, Beast – and as always I’m so tired of Jane assuming that everything is always her fault. That kind of guilt is wearying when it’s so clear it’s untrue and unproductive. It also shows incredible arrogance that she feels she controls all destiny, both past and present. I really wanted to tell her to get over herself repeatedly.

That said I like this series for the most part, although this was a more introspective book focusing almost exclusively on Jane and her internal whining in between fight scenes. I think the other books have been stronger with their inclusion of the other characters and a more dialogue based story. I think fans of the series will enjoy this addition as it’s a classic JY story in almost every way. It has some differences and fans can decide if they like them or not but I don’t see this as a permanent departure for the series, more like one that didn’t work as well for me. I’ll still be getting the next book and hoping that there’s more of the witty banter and secondary characters that make the story shine so well.

Natural Lust by Madison Sevier

LUST
Natural Lust by Madison Sevier
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (106 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Kallie Masters has spent the past seven years becoming a renowned reviewer. In that time, she has forgone any romantic entanglements for the sake of her job. Good or bad opinions, she is highly respected by her readers and peers. However, when an arrogant author sends death threats in response to Kallie’s scathing review of his latest novel, her boss sends her on a weekend getaway to keep everyone, especially Kallie, safe.

Kallie’s mountaintop respite is shattered when she runs into Hank Fogle with his drop-dead gorgeous eyes and frat-boy attitude. Denying the unmistakable chemistry between them, Kallie steels herself against the attraction, determined to remain aloof and free of the mess this man would surely bring into her life.

Can the magic of the Smokies allow her to let things flow naturally between them or will she fall into a lustful trap that will only break her heart in the end?

Mix one reviewer and one author…and there will be arguments. But mix that reviewer with a hot guy? Then you’ve got a hot time!

Madison Sevier is a new-to-me author and I’m glad I picked up this book. There were moments of telling versus showing me the story, but that wasn’t a big issue. Once I opened the book, I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what would happen next. I’m glad this is a series because the ending came way too fast for me and I wanted to know more about these characters.

One issue I did have was with Kallie. I liked that she wasn’t easily broken. She’s a tough cookie and knows what she wants. I loved how she stood up to JB, her boss. I could relate to her various issues–getting her items broken and that run of luck. I’ve been there and it was nice to read a character with the same problems. Near the end, I thought her toughness melted a tad too easily. I understand why the author wrote her the way she did, but I almost thought Kallie needed to keep her backbone a little longer. That said, I could understand why Kallie did what she did. We all make choices and I’m glad she followed her heart.

If you’re interested in a hot read for the beach, then this might be the book for you. I recommend it.

Zach’s Rebound Girl by Monique DeVere

GIRL
Zach’s Rebound Girl by Monique DeVere
Publisher: Crystal Swan Publications
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Chick Lit, Comedy
Length: Full Length (241 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Television property renovator Maddison de la Botella is popular, adored, and on the brink of snagging the opportunity to restore her ancestral home. Life couldn’t glide along more smoothly. That is, until the night she discovers the sexy man ogling her in her hot tub is none other than Zachary Canady!

He’s still way too gorgeous, still makes her heart flip—and still sees her as just a friend. Back in uni, as her best friend, Zach made sure she understood men wanted exciting women. And there was nothing exciting about Maddie. Now ten years on, here’s her chance to make him notice she’s a living, breathing, desirable woman—even if she almost cracks a tooth to prove it.

Commercial property developer Zach is about to close the business deal of his career, until his past catches up with him, and he’s knocked sideways by the stunner next door. Suddenly he can’t decide what he’s protecting Maddie from—his white-hot desire, or the deadly stalker out to harm her.

Party boy meets quiet nerd. An unusual friendship becomes a spicy romance.

Zach’s Rebound Girl was a classic romance in the first part of the story. It took some time for the mystery and the suspense elements to come to light. Actually, the mystery and the suspense elements were practically non-existent in the first part of the story. When it did come to light, the development was slow at first and then it took off. It kept me on the edge till the end.

Maddison was a nerd in college who had a crush on her best friend that secretly turned into love over time. Zachary always had a special place in his heart for Maddison. After college he has a successful business but he wants his best friend back. Maddison is a renovator in a television show. However, when incidents starts happening on the set her friends and Zach suspects there is more to it than simple accidents.

Zach and Maddison parted on less than amicable terms when they were in university. When Zach left without informing Maddison, it hurt her beyond anything. She wants Zach in her life not as a best friend but as a lover, a partner. Will they be able to get past their insecurities and secrets to commit on a forever after?

Both of the main characters, when they meet after years apart, have a lot of chemistry and passion between them. I could see it even if they couldn’t right away. That also played a big part in keeping them apart until they start to really communicate. One other thing I loved about these characters was, even after years without really seeing or talking to each other they knew and understand each other, as well as believed that both of them has changed somewhat in those years apart.

This is a book for the romance lovers who love a little bit of mystery and suspense added to it.

A Spy Unmasked by Tina Gabrielle

SPY
A Spy Unmasked by Tina Gabrielle
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (363 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

London, 1820

The mission did not go quite as Robert Ware—known in society as the new Earl of Kirkland—planned. A spy in the service of His Majesty, Robert is a “guest” at a masquerade party as he retrieves vital information for a murder investigation. Until he’s quite unexpectedly interrupted by an exquisite, masked woman with glittering green eyes. And a pistol she has cocked and aimed right at him…

Lady Sophia Merrill has defiantly taken up justice’s shining sword, determined to expose the brigand who murdered her eccentric but brilliant father, and stole his latest invention. Now she must masquerade as Robert’s betrothed in order to infiltrate the Inventor’s Society and find the killer. But the undeniable potent attraction between them not only imperils the investigation, but Sophia’s reputation… and both of their lives.

I have to admit I have a weakness for anything set during the Regency and this book didn’t disappoint in any way.

Ms. Gabrielle did a wonderful job at allowing me, the reader, to be immersed in this very unique period in history. The luxuries, the social hierarchy, the customs and the extremes. Everything was detailed perfectly, and an added bonus was I learned another thing or two about the Regency. I’m guessing that she’s done lots of reading and research not only on this period but all aspects of everyday life in the 1820s.

I enjoyed reading about both the lead characters. At first I thought, oh no another story about two people posing as a couple, but the intrigue and storyline was unique enough to overlook this.

The dialogue is spot on. Sophie, the main character, is one you cheer for. Not only in finding the truth behind her father’s death but you hope she gets her man too. The pacing is fast and I found myself enjoying the last one hundred pages all in one sitting just to find out what happened.

For me there’s nothing better than a good Regency story and if you too like a romance peppered with a color historical setting, and not to mention lots of page turning intrigue, I’d definitely give this one a try. I know I’ll be checking out more of the author’s work.

Sleeping With Santa by Debra Druzy

SANTA
Sleeping With Santa by Debra Druzy
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (240 pages)
Heat level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Willow

When Nick reluctantly accepts the temporary transfer to the Scenic View Fire Department he doesn’t plan on playing Santa Claus for the kiddie Christmas party. Sticking around town for the special assignment will give him a chance to get to know lonely, local sweetheart Lily and find out why she wants nothing to do with him.

Lily is a lifelong fixture in Scenic View, sick of living hand-to-mouth in a place where everyone’s nose is in her personal business. Just when she’s ready to move out of town, she meets the gorgeous newcomer, and it’s lust at first sight. The only thing is she doesn’t date firemen, which is too bad, because charming Nick seems like a real keeper. With a little Christmas magic and help from the Santa suit, will Nick find a way into Lily’s heart and change her mind?

This novel was a lovely and quick read that I enjoyed very much. Ms Druzy created such likeable characters and a story filled with sweep-you-off-your-feet romance.

Sleeping With Santa is a fantastic read, that I have recommended to many of my friends. The story takes place in a small town was almost everyone knows everyone’s business. The mains characters, Lily and Nick both have a hot-and-cold sort of romance going on when she running into him in town one day. Both Lily and Nick have a very strong emotional connection from then on out.

I absolutely love Christmas and when I heard of Sleeping With Santa I was very excited to read more. The holiday feel to this novel kept very much in the Christmas sprit throughout the story. The back-and-forth between the two main characters, Lily and Nick, had me not wanting to put this book down as I have a soft spot of romance story like that.

I was very pleased to see that both Nick and Lily’s point-of-views were included and I could understand both of main characters actions as the story unfolded. This style of writing has to be one of my favourites.

Overall, Sleeping With Santa was a brilliant holiday romance novel perfect for anytime of year. I would recommend this entertaining and well-written story to those who like light hearted novels with a side of steaming romantic scenes. I very much look forward to seeing what Ms Druzy comes up with in the future.

This Long Vigil by Rhett C. Bruno

SPACE
This Long Vigil by Rhett C. Bruno
Publisher: Perihelion Science Fiction
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (11 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

This is the story of a lone spaceman aboard an interstellar Ark and his only companion, the ship-wide artificial intelligence, as together they count the hours until his impending and unending hibernation.

Imagine you only have a short time left before you permanently lose consciousness. How would you spend your final days, hours, and minutes?

The dialogue was really well done. All of the discussions between Dan and Orion flowed smoothly. At times I felt like I was eavesdropping on someone else’s private conversation instead of reading it on a page. It was simply that realistic and compelling. I especially enjoyed seeing how Orion and Dan used conversations to pass the time when there was nothing going on in the ship that required their immediate attention.

It would have been helpful to have a little more information about the backstory. I was able to infer the most probably reasons why Hermes was constructed and how Orion and the other humans ended up on that ship, but I would have loved to know if my guesses were correct. This was a minor criticism of an otherwise excellent story, though.

The ending to this tale was absolutely perfect. I especially enjoyed the foreshadowing of what was to come that occurred early on. It wasn’t something I picked up on the first time i read it, so I was surprised by the final scene even though it made sense given everything I’d learned about the characters early on. This is definitely something I will be reading again soon as the ending gets better every time I encounter it!

This Long Vigil gave me goosebumps. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who likes hard science fiction as much as I do.

Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis

CHANCE
Cedar Ridge Book 1: Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (368 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

RESCUE ME

Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is famous for crisp mountain air, clear blue skies, and pine-scented breezes. And it’s the last place Lily Danville wants to be. But she needs a job, and there’s an opening at the hottest resort in her hometown. What has her concerned is the other hot property in Cedar Ridge: Aidan Kincaid-firefighter, rescue worker, and heartbreaker. She never could resist that devastating smile . . .

The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance . . .

A second chance for a relationship once broken, in the face of an accident, which devastated a family.

Second Chance Summer is the first book in the series. The background of this plot is interesting and very well written. The past plays a very important role in this story and this past isn’t revealed completely in the first page or even the first chapter. It is revealed in sections throughout the first part of the book and that is what kept me hooked.

Aiden has always regretted not stopping Lily when she was hell bent on leaving everything familiar when tragedy stuck. But the return of Lily after ten years puts his heart at jeopardy. Will he risk his heart again to get back the love of his life? If he does, it won’t be an easy journey. For any of them.

Lily and Aiden have a lot of hot sizzling chemistry but it is going to take a lot of work for their relationship to heal and rebuild. Jill Shalvis did a wonderful job in not only building a plot but also building all the characters with their own personality so that every aspect and every part of this story kept me interested and wanting to read it.

Throughout the story what was evident was that Lily loves Aiden. But ten years before something happened that made her leave her hometown and break her relationship with Aiden. The first part of the story kept me asking why and how she left and when I did find out everything what kept me reading was “will she leave again?” Will they be a couple again? I got the answers and more.

Besides the main character the secondary characters plays their own important parts and I believe these characters would be the reason for me to read the next book in these series.

Second Chance Summer is not only a contemporary romance but is also a story that goes deep into human emotions and actions. This one is an easy recommend for readers who love their heroes flawed and little on the naughty side and their heroines determined to resist, even when it’s futile. A fantastic read!