Love and Other Games by Ana Blaze, Melinda Dozier, Aria Kane, Kara Leigh Miller

 

LOVE
Love and Other Games by Ana Blaze, Melinda Dozier, Aria Kane, Kara Leigh Miller
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (242 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

LOVE AND OTHER GAMES is a collection of four sexy new adult stories centered around athletes competing in the Winter Games by Ana Blaze, Melinda Dozier, Aria Kane, and Kara Leigh Miller.

Worth More Than Gold by Ana Blaze

Amy Pierce, the klutzy sister and manager of America’s Skating Sweetheart, is used to being invisible. But when a friend drags her to a party near the Olympic Village, Amy catches the eye of a sexy Norwegian ski jumper. It’s a magical night, but an awkward next morning has her running.

Everyone knows Erik Andresen’s best shot at an individual medal was back in 2010, before an injury pulled him from the competition. He’s there for his team, but a hot night and a remarkable final training session have him wondering if a gorgeous good-luck charm could give him another chance at the podium.

With a little bit of luck, these two might have a shot at something worth more than gold.

Trouble with Gold by Melinda Dozier

US snowboarder and notorious prankster, Ty (Trouble) Madsen is only getting a taste of his own medicine when his Olympic teammates shackle him to a fence wearing nothing but his boxers.

Reception and protocol volunteer, Nadia Hoffman, gets up close and personal with the sexy snowboarder to rescue him, but she’s not the kind of girl who lets her hormones get in her way. A professional performance could help her land her dream job at Olympics Committee Headquarters, but her new assignment supervising the rambunctious US Snowboarding Team is making that difficult. Can she see behind the snowman in the community center bathroom and into the warm heart of the man everyone calls Trouble?

The Girl behind the Gold by Aria Kane

Greek aerial skier Lia Milonas’s parents are about to lose the family farm. Saving it means medaling and landing a huge sponsor. While her no-nonsense attitude has her well on her way to a medal, it hasn’t won her a place in fans’ hearts.

“Come back with a story that will make readers cry, or don’t come back.” This is what Brandon James’ boss told him before he left New York to cover the Winter Games for Moment Magazine. With a wink and a smile, he can charm his way into any invite-only party, but that career-making story is nowhere to be found – until he meets Lia.

The two strike a deal that should get them both what they want – but neither would have guessed they’d also find what they need.

Ice Gold by Kara Leigh Miller

Colton Campbell thrives on the fast paced, adrenaline rushed lifestyle of being an Olympic hockey player.

Despite Brenna Jessup’s abhorrence for the games and the athletes, she’s hand-picked as the official photographer for the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.

When a faux pas by Brenna almost costs Colton his career, she owes him. Too bad for her, Colton doesn’t want apologies — he wants retribution! And he knows just how to get it — and her — in the process.

Although the most recent Winter Olympics are behind us, Love and Other Games is a fun read that will get you in the mood for some sweet, sporty action.

This new adult collection of four short stories is a quick read, but despite the stories being relatively short, they’re not rushed. The four authors managed to get their characters across well, with enough detail and development to sound real and intriguing.

My favorite story was Trouble with Gold because of the cute banter between Nadia and Ty. But the other three stories weren’t far behind. What I really enjoyed with this collection was that the authors showed the reader that while the athletes work hard for their success, they also know how to have fun. On top of that, the Olympic village being the setting adds an additional charm. The Olympics are the height of any athlete’s career so they are bound to involve tension and heightened emotions. All this was very obvious in the stories.

The stories are linked by a legend about a lucky torch that brings the gold medal to the athlete that finds it in the village. I felt that was a lovely touch that entwined the stories together. Also, the writing styles of the authors were similar enough so that the differences between them didn’t feel disruptive. The stories had enough conflict and drama to intrigue the reader but not too much for their length.

Love and Other Games was a nice surprise that has me craving more Olympics stories.

A Savage Exile: Vampires with Napoleon on St. Helena by Diane Scott Lewis

EXILE
A Savage Exile: Vampires with Napoleon on St. Helena by Diane Scott Lewis
Publisher: Books We Love Ltd.
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (127 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Isabelle, a young French maid, follows her notorious mistress to the island of St. Helena after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. She discovers quickly that a “beast” roams this remote island, and people are vanishing or found drained of blood. She falls in love with Saint-Denis, Napoleon’s valet, but this enigmatic young man hides a deadly secret. Hudson Lowe, the island’s governor—a vampire himself—plans to destroy the French. Isabelle rushes with her lover to stop the vicious outcome, and save her own life.

Can Isabelle earn her independence before the beast claims her?

Isabelle certainly is in a predicament. She has little desire to follow her mistress into exile with Napoleon, but Isabelle couldn’t turn down the amount of money the Countess de Montholon was offering to pay her. At first, the countess seems silly, but harmless. However, as time passes, Isabelle begins to see a change in her mistress. I really felt sorry for Isabelle. She desperately wants to get away from her mistress, but as woman on her own, Isabelle doesn’t have many options. Her best hope is to continue to serve the countess for a while longer until she can earn enough money to safely make her own way in the world. I couldn’t help but wonder if the money Isabelle was earning was enough to risk her safety by staying on an island inhabited by a vampire.

Isabelle is a strong woman with a plan for her future. The one thing Isabelle never counted on was falling in love. Saint-Denis, nicknamed Ali, wiggles his way into her heart. Unfortunately, Ali is a man with secrets that he isn’t comfortable sharing. Isabelle has a very hard time trusting Ali and even though she professes to be attracted to him, she never seems comfortable around him. Consequently, I thought the chemistry between fell a little flat for a majority of the story. This does improve a little bit toward the end as Ali opens up a bit, and Isabelle slowly learns to trust him.

There are several villains at work in this tale, and I’m honestly not sure who the worst one is. Isabelle’s employers are truly terrible and have no redeeming qualities. The Governor is a dark figure as well, but he doesn’t seem to be entirely bad. Even though he has little regard for human life, he does seem to care for his wife and her daughters. However, the Governor definitely has some evil plans regarding the French. While I was certain his ultimate goal wouldn’t be accomplished, I couldn’t help but wonder if Isabelle would be a victim of one of his schemes.

Overall, I thought A Savage Exile was a good book. Isabelle is likable heroine, and I enjoyed watching her make the best of a bad situation. Anyone who enjoys historical romance with a paranormal twist might want to check it out.

Gemini by Clancy Nacht, Thursday Euclid

GEMINI
Gemini by Clancy Nacht & Thursday Euclid
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (240 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Cass Manning is a serial monogamist, grad student, and identical twin to Paul, a drug-addicted prostitute. Fleeing his unfaithful boyfriend, Cass returns to Houston after years away only to be drawn into danger before he’s out of the airport.

When Paul dies under suspicious circumstances, Cass must rely on one of Paul’s clients, Kilo, a mercenary willing to protect Cass in exchange for sex. Together they have a chance to bring justice to the corrupt heart of Texas’s political power structure, but Kilo’s mysterious past may tear him from Cass when he needs him most. Even if they outlive their untouchable adversaries, how does a polite academic find lasting love with a soldier of fortune?

Exposing a cheating boyfriend is not the worst thing to happen to Cass that day. Although he thought finding his boyfriend in bed with his female best friend was devastating, Cass is soon plunged into a life and death thrill ride with an uncertain outcome. Fleeing the scene of the great betrayal, Cass heads to Houston and the home of his estranged twin bother, Paul. Although Paul is a drug addict and prostitute, Cass has always wanted to help his twin. Except his help is not only unwanted, but too late. Within hours of arriving at Paul’s place, Cass watches helplessly as Paul overdoses. At a loss of what to do, Cass only knows to trust Kilo, a mercenary that Paul had called for help. On the run from unknown assassins with powerful political connections, Cass can’t trust anyone but Kilo. Instinctively Cass wants more from Kilo than just protection and a warm bed, he senses they could have a real future. If only they’re not killed first.

Gemini is an action packed, fast moving adventure. It relies heavily on suspension of disbelief and the ability to be immersed in the story without questioning the many plot holes and contradictory details. I found sometimes I could be on board with the story and enjoy the over the top action, hot sex scenes, and entertaining chemistry between Kilo and Cass. At other times I was pulled out of the story frustrated over huge leaps in logic and changes in the plot and actions that didn’t make sense. I struggled with this story. I found the beginning to be entertaining and engaging and could forgive some of the obvious silly details, such as the airport bathroom scene, pretty easily. Once Paul died though I started to struggle a lot more with the plot and some glaring logic gaps.

Kilo and Cass are great characters and I loved their chemistry. Their sex scenes were hot, sexy, and just about melted the pages explosive. They simply worked together and that helped to really overcome many of my qualms about the book. I didn’t like the overly convoluted political plot that didn’t seem realistic or believable nor the convenient details that allowed for the resolution. I did like how both characters seemed to change over the course of the book, bringing out different qualities in each other. Their relationship by far was the best part of the book and I only briefly mourned the change from their initial agreement and hot sex to a more equable partnership almost immediately.

I liked parts of this story, but was too frustrated by the nonsensical plot unfortunately. I think the key to enjoying this particular offering is being able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the near non-stop action without questioning the details and plot turns that it takes to get there. It’s similar to an action movie with so many explosions that sometimes the lack of logic isn’t a problem. It all depends on the reader and their expectations. I’d cautiously recommend this for readers who think they could enjoy it.

Faith by Angelique Voisen

FAITH
Faith by Angelique Voisen
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (55 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In a society where a common servant girl doesn’t have much in the way of prospects, Faith’s plain appearance and sharp tongue make a good match even more unlikely. But finding a husband is the least of Faith’s worries when she finds herself caught between a beautiful swordswoman and her grotesque, monstrous prey.

Given as a reward to the huntress, Faith is beyond terrified. According to rumors, these less-than-human slayers share too many qualities with the creatures they kill for a living, but Faith can’t deny the strange spark between Valac and her.

Val used to think cutting away parts of her humanity was a worthwhile exchange for wreaking vengeance on the monsters who threaten her people, but lately she’s gotten tired of her profession. Val believes her assignment in a remote city in the mountains is simple until a servant girl’s arrival stirs emotions Val thought she’d abandoned long ago. If Faith is capable of invoking unbridled passion then the best thing Val could do is stay away, but when Faith’s life hangs on the balance, can Val risk all to save her?

Sometimes love shows up when you least expect it.

This book had a strong opening scene that described the main character gathering mushrooms early one morning outside of the city gates. What I found most appealing about it was how much it revealed about Faith and her society to anyone who paid close attention to what the narrator did and did not say about them. Within the span of a few pages I had a good first impression of Faith’s personality as well as a few theories about why the people in her community were so afraid to wander away from the gates. There is definitely something to be said for such subtle foreshadowing.

I would have preferred to meet a smaller number of characters in this story so that there could be enough time for their personalities to fully develop. Alternatively, the plot could have been stretched out into a full-length novel in order to explain the character’s backstories and relationships in greater depth. Getting to know so many characters in such a short period of time was overwhelming, though.

The monsters were creepy. They were described in ways that briefly sketched out what they looked like and how they could be expected to behave, but I was happy to see that there was still plenty of room for me as a reader to imagine what it would be like to stand next to one. In this case, that was a smart decision. While I don’t know if the author is planning to write a sequel, it would be interesting to see how she approaches these creatures in the future if she does.

I’d recommend Faith to anyone who likes sexy science fiction.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

MR
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Horror, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (436 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.

Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

There aren’t many books that have scared the crap out of me, but this book is right at the top of this list.

I’ve only read a few books that didn’t just stay with me, but haunted me. Mr. Mercedes is one of them. The scene with the car running into the crowd of people isn’t just freaking scary…it’s scary because it really could happen. In this day an age, this is something you can see on television and experience in your own town. This really hit home for me because I’ve been in large crowd situations. What if one of those situations ended with a Mercedes being driven into the crowd?

Stephen King always writes books with a twist. There are so many in this book, it was hard to keep up. I’m not complaining, though. I liked being kept on the edge of my seat. Every time I thought, okay, this will happen…it didn’t. That’s one of the marks of a great book.

Although he’s not a typical hero character, I liked Hodges. He’s a former detective and hard-boiled for sure, but he’s worth rooting for. Jerome was my other favorite. I loved his savvy. I think the one I liked the best was Holly. She seems like she’d be a completely secondary character. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens, but I guarantee its worth it. I couldn’t put the book down and when I got to the end, I read as fast as possible.

If you want a book that’s scary, life-like and spooky, then this is the book you’re looking for. Recommended.

An Irish Promise by Isabella Connor

 

IRISH
An Irish Promise by Isabella Connor
Publisher: Choc Lit.
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (414 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Art historian, Rachel Ford has returned to the Irish village of Kilbrook intent on keeping her promise to take revenge on the school bullies who ruined her childhood and destroyed her family.

Australian actor Finn MacKenzie sets hearts fluttering when he turns up in sleepy Kilbrook to help his aunt with a school production. He seems to have a charmed life, yet his confident façade hides heartbreak and tragedy. Although Finn isn’t looking for love, when he meets the mysterious Rachel, there’s a definite spark between them.

Rachel is torn between her desire for revenge and this new love affair. She doesn’t want to deceive Finn, but can she trust him to keep her real identity a secret? And will he understand why she must keep her promise, no matter the cost?

An Irish Promise is a story of revenge, remorse, guilt, and secrets with love having a hard time getting a toehold.

Rachel returns to Kilbrook, where she’d lived as a child with full intentions of hurting bullies. She soon realizes her plan could hurt innocents also. But she reads “The Diary” each night to remind herself why she returned to this place of remembered miseries. It strengthens her resolve.

Father Daniel Quinn has returned to Kilbrook for a very different reason. His efforts, emotions, allegiance, and, finally, his honesty, with himself and others intrigue. His gaining enough courage to do what is right for himself and others is an intricate part of the plot.

Finn Mackenzie returns to Kilbrook, supposedly to help his Aunt Helen, but he, too, has a secret agenda. He has reinvented himself and is a successful actor, but it wasn’t easy. Now, he wants, in some way, to atone for a cruel wrong he was a party to in his miserable youth.

The primary antagonists, Mellissa and Jay Cole, were bullies in school and continue, as adults, to use people, giving no consideration to the damage they are doing. Of course, there is a back story about them that explains their behavior, but it is not enough to excuse their actions.

Rachel and Finn’s relationship evolves and he gives her a pendant with the Claddagh, an Irish design of two hands holding a crowned heart that symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and love; yet each of them have secrets they have not revealed to each other.

Deceit is a major element in An Irish Promise. I even felt deceived at one point. But love is tenacious and hangs on through a multitude of conflicts.

Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor and the Case of the Dark Lords Conspiracy by Dan Ehl

PRIVATE
Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor and the Case of the Dark Lords Conspiracy by Dan Ehl
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (197 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Private inquisitor Jak Barley is ready for some down time after battling Ghennison Viper Mages, being attacked by piss dragons, and fighting off priests of Dorga the Fished Headed God of Death. That is why Jak was not a bit amused to have a scruffy mage insist that he is to be one of a group of questers decreed in an ancient prophecy that must cross the icy Alf Mountains to foil the return of the Old Gods. To do so meant using a map all too heavily dotted with “Here Be…” warnings that read like an “Idiot’s Guide to Monsters.”

And why are Westian Lizard Wizards targeting young red-headed maidens and who is behind the numerous and bizarre attacks upon Jak? Once gain Jak finds himself saying, “I hate adventures.”

Jak Barley gets caught up once again in a dangerous quest, in order to fulfill an ancient prophesy and save the world from certain destruction. When a pair of Djork Ship Rats from Aghjem’s Litter ask to join the quest, Jak finds it most peculiar. His friend and fellow quester, Lorenzo sighs and says, “Tell me what isn’t peculiar about heading through the frozen north mountains based upon gibberish verses dealing with crazed wizards, a stone with purported powers, and ancient deities bent on world destruction? What’s a couple rats thrown in that makes it any crazier?” And so the group heads on their way, with one hair-raising adventure after another.

Jak is a very likeable protagonist. He isn’t always brave, but he is loyal and true. He really doesn’t like adventures, and he gets tired of being told that “If quests were meant to be easy they would be called vacations.”

There is plenty of humor in this story, as well as some very bizarre hexes and spells. My favorite of these is when Jak is hexed so that he is upside-down. The description of this malady is very well done as the reader sees things from Jak’s perspective as well as from the normal world’s, if there is such a thing in this delightful book.

There are many interesting characters along the way, and the hideous monsters are as unique as they are terrifying. Jak has plenty of reason not to like adventures of this sort. The quest seems impossible, especially once it is learned that “a small throng of Blackwatch Goblins are in possession of the gem of Hinay and Book of Necrothaumaturgy and will reach the icy Hall of the Dark Lords within a month.” Nevertheless, Jak and his fellow questers stay on the trail, no matter what the dangers.

Fantasy lovers are sure to enjoy traveling with Jak as he attempts to fulfill the prophecy, stop the Dark Lords, and save the world.

Pressure Head by JL Merrow

HEAD
Pressure Head by JL Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (260 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Some secrets are better left hidden.

The Plumber’s Mate, Book 1

To most of the world, Tom Paretski is just a plumber with a cheeky attitude and a dodgy hip, souvenir of a schoolboy accident. The local police keep his number on file for a different reason—his sixth sense for finding hidden things.

When he’s called in to help locate the body of a missing woman up on Nomansland Common, he unexpectedly encounters someone who resurrects a host of complicated emotions. Phil Morrison, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case. And the former bully partly responsible for Tom’s injury.

The shocks keep coming. Phil is now openly gay, and shows unmistakable signs of interest. Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent?

As the pile of complicated evidence surrounding the woman’s murder grows higher, so does the heat between Tom and Phil. But opening himself to this degree exposes Tom’s heart in a way he’s not sure he’s ready for…while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.

Finding hidden things can be a gift worth killing over. Tom has a knack for finding old, hidden things. Not just anything, but objects with great emotion attached to them: secrets, bodies, and the ability to find leaks, which is handy in his day job as a plumber. On the side he occasionally helps the police find missing persons. In the latest case he found the dead body of a young woman that was dating a childhood friend of his. That friend hired another childhood associate turned private investigator, Phil. Phil and Tom have a sordid history as teens that ended in Tom having a permanent limp. The two somewhat reluctantly team up to find out the truth about the murder but can’t stop their personal feelings and past from interfering.

Pressure Head is the first in a new series by JL Merrow. Merrow is a great author and definitively one of my favorites for her sense of humor and distinctly British flair. There’s no question her books take place in the UK and it lends another layer of detail and interest to the story. There are so many mentions of specific neighborhoods and highways that I feel as if I could map the physical steps Tom and Phil take to solve the murder, which is simply delightful. Additionally the language, terminology, and British euphemisms make the story entertaining when they’re not commonplace to my very American sensibilities. It’s a very nice contrast to the usually bland backgrounds of contemporary books set in a familiar but unrecognizable setting.

The characters have incredible rapport and it’s to the story’s credit that they can make a romance and furthermore a relationship viable given the past between the two men. They come across as well developed, interesting, and complex in their own ways. I wish we’d gotten more insight into Phil’s thinking and motivations but Tom is a charming and engaging narrator. His humor and quick wit are sometimes over the top, I wish he’d stop with the quips on occasion, but I found him engrossing. Likewise the murder story offers a solid mystery with a seemingly endless option of culprits. The ending was over the top for me but nothing that detracted from my enjoyment. I found the explanation rational and believable, which made me like the story that much more.

I was surprised how quickly I read the story given that there isn’t a lot of action. However the budding romance between Tom and Phil as they stutter, stop, reverse, and step forward through the rocky path to their relationship offered a lot of interest. Additionally there is a whole cast of characters that are interesting in their right and help keep the story moving between the actual investigating. I especially liked that Tom seemed to really work at his day job as a plumber while trying to sleuth and have a social life. It made the story believable. This is an easy story to recommend for both mystery and romance fans as it satisfies on both levels and with the distinctly British flair it has a lot to engage even jaded readers.

The Playboy of Rome by Jennifer Faye

ROME
The Playboy of Rome by Jennifer Faye
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Taming the Italian playboy…

Lizzie Addler’s dream of working in Italy is about to come true—that is if she can convince passionate Italian chef Dante DeFiore to keep his side of their bargain. Dante might be hotter than the Italian sun, but he’s as cool as ice toward Lizzie…

Dante hasn’t the time to pander to Lizzie’s dreams of culinary fame—he has a restaurant to run! But as Lizzie proves herself to be a spectacular addition to his kitchen—and to his life—Dante wonders…can he keep her forever?

The Playboy of Rome has an appealing premise: a hot Italian chef, a young, aspiring cook and the fiery tension between them, all filmed for a reality show.

The novel starts off very promising. There were great scenes with the chef, Dante, especially the scenes at his family home. His interaction with his grandfather, father and brother were intense and very revealing of his character. But unfortunately, they were also far more emotional than his scenes with Lizzie. I simply couldn’t feel any chemistry between the two of them despite the fact that I liked them as individual characters.

Perhaps this was due to the slow progression of the story – we get to see some action in the kitchen only in the second half of the novel, while in the first half they more or less only talk. I felt that the instant attraction between Dante and Lizzie was a bit overdone, a slower start would’ve been more believable. However, the deep feelings that they both feel towards the end made their break-up even more painful and angsty.

Lizzie’s character and her strength were heart-warming. She was a foster child and the neglect she’d experienced in her early childhood explained many of her characteristics, but towards the end this storyline became a bit too repetitive. However, I liked her gentleness towards Dante’s grandfather and father; it showed clearly what family meant to her.

Despite the protagonists being chefs, The Playboy of Rome focuses more on their romance and not on the cooking. However, their love story under the hot Italian sky is delicious nonetheless.

A Matter of Sin by Jess Michaels

SIN
A Matter of Sin by Jess Michaels
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Length: Full Length (203 pgs)
Genre: Historical
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Bittersweet

Scandal between the pages…surrender between the sheets.

The Ladies Book of Pleasures, Book 1

The widowed Lady Isabel Avenbury has one remaining younger sister to shepherd into an advantageous marriage, and then she will be free. Free to take a lover to fill her lonely nights—the only option left for a woman on the delicate edge of a certain age.

Except when she chaperones her sister to a country house party, she is taken aback by her sudden, undeniable attraction to the host. And deliciously scandalized when she finds a copy of the notorious, much-gossiped-about Ladies Book of Pleasures in his library.

When Seth Rowland, Marquis Lyndham, notices his book is missing, his interest is piqued as to which of the potential young brides at his party has absconded with it—and he’s shocked to discover it’s Isabel. Though older than the women he’d planned to court, the powerful beauty exudes a sensuality he cannot ignore.

The book inspires them to begin a desperate, passionate affair. But their time together is running out and they must choose. Follow society’s rules, or take a chance at love.

What a delightful book! It had been a long time since I’d read a regency romance that felt so authentic. This was my first book by Jess Michaels, but I’m definitely going to be looking out for more from this author.

A well written novel, I was drawn into the world of Lady Isabel Avenbury and Lord Lyndham without any effort.

On the one hand, as heir to the marquis, Lyndham must find a woman to marry and produce heirs. On the other hand, Lady Avenbury, a young widow, is ready to marry her sister off and enjoy her life to the fullest–including sexually. The attraction between them is palpable but to make matters worse, the Ladies Book Of Pleasure, (a forbidden book circulating the Ton), comes into the picture, creating the best and most erotic kind of trouble for them.

Unlike many other period novels where characters seem made out of cardboard, Lyndham and Avenbury felt real and human. As their feelings and their affair developed, so did they.

Throughout the book, I laughed and smiled at the moments of joy, almost cried at certain points, and stood hanging onto the edge of my seat at others. The emotion between the characters jumped out of the book and I could do nothing but root for them and hope that everything would end well in the end, for although there is a happy ending, A Matter of Sin was not entirely predictable.

All in all, A Matter of Sin was a delightful, steamy and romantic read that had me craving for more. I will look forward to more stories featuring this infamous, Ladies Book of Pleasure.