Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton


Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery, Horror
Length: Full Length (708 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/M, M/F/F, F/F, M/M, F/M/M, Multiple Partners, Menage
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

In her twenty-fifth adventure, vampire hunter and necromancer Anita Blake learns that evil is in the eye of the beholder…

Anita has never seen Damian, her vampire servant, in such a state. The rising sun doesn’t usher in the peaceful death that he desperately needs. Instead, he’s being bombarded with violent nightmares and blood sweats.

And now, with Damian at his most vulnerable, Anita needs him the most. The vampire who created him, who subjected him to centuries of torture, might be losing control, allowing rogue vampires to run wild and break one of their kind’s few strict taboos.

Some say love is a great motivator, but hatred gets the job done, too. And when Anita joins forces with her friend Edward to stop the carnage, Damian will be at their side, even if it means traveling back to the land where all his nightmares spring from…a place that couldn’t be less welcoming to a vampire, an assassin, and a necromancer.

Ireland.

Ever have a book that gripped you so hard that it sucked you right into the author’s world and your own faded away? That’s what Crimson Death did to me. I only did the bare minimum of household chores. I read late into the night until it flipped to morning, grabbed a few hours of sleep only to wake up a few hours later to devour a few more chapters before having to slog off to work to simply come home to read and read some more until almost midnight the next night. Yeah, so, it took me two days to read, but what an amazing two days it was.

I’ve been following this series for years. I’ve watched Anita view everything as black and white; a character was either good or bad, no quarter. Monsters were bad, humans could be bad too but they were human. As the series unfolds, the heroine realizes that she can no longer ignore the ‘gray’ areas; life is a LOT more complicated, and messy and as she grows, Anita realizes that gray areas not only exist, they’re huge. It opens her up to accepting and doing things she never, ever, in a million years would think or do. Following her has been an amazing journey and that journey continues in Crimson Death. Sure, there are original fans that prefer her early years when it was all about the mystery, the horror, the suspense, drama and how it affected her. I mean, first person point of view really gets into a character’s head and the author has the daunting job of staying there. Ms. Hamilton has done Anita for so long, it seems second nature – I’m always right there with Marshall Blake, even when the blood flows.

This huge novel is no different when it comes to exploring her growth, both in her personal life and in her power. Yes, there is large section that explores Anita’s power’s connection to sex within her small group of loves and lovers, but before anyone scoffs at all the sex, be aware that there are a few astounding and earth shattering revelations that ripple through the rest of the novel stemming from all that erotic sex, which includes just a smidgen of voyeurism and exhibitionism from one of mine and Anita’s favorite people. Another warning to die-hard fans – be prepared to sniffle or cry or just get serious goosebumps on what happens. The one huge tragedy that affected me the most ends up being a turning point in Anita’s life that will have ginormous ramifications for future books. I didn’t want it to happen. All I could say was ‘no! no! no!, but of course Ms. Hamilton excels at writing the hard scenes – scenes for which a reader ultimately comes to the sad but resigned conclusion that it served a valid, crucial and necessary purpose. I don’t have to like it but I recognize Ms. Hamilton is staying true to Anita’s journey.

A lot of my favorite recurring secondary/primary characters populate this novel. There is one new character that sheds some light on Edward/Ted. It was actually humorous at times, which I didn’t expect at all. I think Anita was just as bemused as I was. Thing is, she has the ability to pester him in future books to satisfy her curiosity. I’m looking forward to what she finds out.

Of course the main villain and cohorts are truly evil, nasty, horrific, sociopathic and creepy. However, not all the cohorts are there willingly and how the author dealt with them kept my heart pounding with dread. This is such a powerfully, well written book, I could not remain unaffected.

This isn’t truly a standalone read because some of the things that occur are at their most commanding and powerful if a reader is personally vested in caring for certain characters from previous stories. If a person were to just start with this book, there are mentions of past experiences that provide Anita with the power she currently has, and they might be shocked by how erotic and numerous the sex initially is, but the main mystery of trying to figure out who or what is making all these vampires and why, can carry this novel by itself. It also might capture new fans and they might be inspired to read the series from the beginning or at least a few of the books that were alluded to in this one.

I am a fan of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, and I highly recommend this novel to fans that’ve followed her all this time. Crimson Death wowed me to the point that writing this review was a compulsion. I just HAD to tell you how marvelous and incredible Crimson Death was, and recommend it to readers with high praise and accolades.

Seduction in Session by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake

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Seduction in Session by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake
The Perfect Gentlemen Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (400 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Privileged, wealthy, and wild: they are the Perfect Gentlemen of Creighton Academy. But the threat of a scandal has one of them employing his most deceptive—and seductive—talents…

Recruited into the CIA at a young age, Connor Sparks knows how dirty the world can be. Only when he’s with his friends can he find some peace. So when an anonymous journalist threatens one of the Perfect Gentlemen, Connor vows to take down the person behind the computer, by whatever means necessary—even if it means posing as his target’s bodyguard.

Publishing a tabloid revealing Washington’s most subversive scandals has earned Lara Anderson the ire of the political scene—and a slew of death threats. To keep herself from ending up a headline, Lara hires a bodyguard, a man as handsome as he is lethal.

When the bullets start to fly, Lara is surprised to find herself in Connor’s arms. But as they begin to unravel a mystery that just might bring down the White House, Lara is devastated when she discovers Connor’s true identity—and finds herself at the mercy of forces who will stop at nothing to advance their deadly agenda.

Trust. It’s so hard to win and just about the easiest thing to lose. Unless you naturally believe in the innate goodness in all people and then you simply want to make the world a better place. But how do you get the attention of those who have the power to affect the needed changes? You create a tabloid blog and start naming names.

This is the second book in The Perfect Gentlemen series. The mystery that began in Scandal Never Sleeps continues into Seduction in Session. There’s a complete story that starts and finishes within these 400 pages but I can’t imagine not wanting to understand where it began so, I’d suggest reading Scandal first.

Connor Sparks left an indelible mark on this reader at the end of book one and I needed to see him redeemed. Lexi Blake loves a tortured hero and Connor fits the bill nicely. His background story sprinkled in throughout this book and the little taste of his youth at the beginning all meld together to make him someone I wanted to see happy. But could this hard core, kill ’em if I can’t use ’em, never let them see you vulnerable, Agency man find happiness, more importantly peace, with a tree-hugging vegan? I had my doubts but I should know better by know.

Lara Armstrong wants to save the world one tree full of squirrels and one tasty cow at a time. She doesn’t find them tasty but Connor sure does and so does her fugly (Connor’s word) dog. I liked Lincoln, he may be a shivering mess but he brought some necessary comedic relief to what could have been a really dark story otherwise. I liked Lara, too and she does end up being exactly what Connor needed. He gravitated to her light and didn’t even realize it at first.

The book flows smoothly and easily sets up the next in the series, Big Easy Temptation. This mystery just keeps taking on new layers and new players. I started trying to make guesses but there’s no way to know the direction it’ll ultimately take. So many paths!

Readers who want a healthy dose of intrigue with their redeeming romance should run, don’t walk, to the nearest retailer and get in on this series. The heroines are the right mixture of tough but tender and the men are the perfect combination of protective and push-over (not that they’ll ever admit that but, the women know). Bottom line, well worth the read and another fantastic series from these brilliant story tellers.

Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake

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Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (400 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

They are the Perfect Gentlemen of Creighton Academy: privileged, wealthy, powerful friends with a wild side. But a deadly scandal is about to tear down their seemingly ideal lives . . .

Maddox Crawford’s sudden death sends Gabriel Bond reeling. Not only is he burying his best friend, he’s cleaning up Mad’s messes, including his troubled company. Grieving and restless, Gabe escapes his worries in the arms of a beautiful stranger. But his mind-blowing one-night stand is about to come back to haunt him . . .

Mad groomed Everly Parker to be a rising star in the executive world. Now that he’s gone, she’s sure her job will be the next thing she mourns, especially after she ends up accidentally sleeping with her new boss. If only their night together hadn’t been so incendiary—or Gabe like a fantasy come true . . .

As Gabe and Everly struggle to control the heated tension between them, they discover evidence that Mad’s death was no accident. Now they must bank their smoldering passions to hunt down a murderer—because Mad had secrets that someone was willing to kill for, and Gabe or Everly could be the next target . . .

Everly’s world took a nose dive when her friend and boss died in a plane crash. Now she has a new CEO who may fire her on the spot, cyber-security issues that threaten the company and a one night stand that feels like so much more…and those are the easy problems.

Hold on to your hats fearless readers, this is a bumpy ride with so many twists, turns and layers, I thought I was going to need oxygen at one point.

Both Lexi Blake and Shayla Black are known for writing intricately built worlds where just when a reader thinks they are going to zig, they zag. I couldn’t help but love every single minute of it. I’ve read everything Ms. Blake has ever written and this new series holds true to her writing skills. I got lost in this world of the privileged where life isn’t nearly as cushy and smooth as having money should make it. I loved the whole premise of a group of friends who share a bond forged by a common distaste for the life they’re forced into. They all know their futures are planned out and they have a duty to fulfill. It doesn’t mean they have to like it and it certainly doesn’t mean they have to fall in line quietly. In fact, thanks to the ring leader of this band of high society sons, Maddox Crawford, they’ll draw all kinds of attention before they assume their rightful places. But then Maddox had to go and die. It changed everything.

Gabriel Bond, Gabe to his friends, stands to both win and lose the most with Mad’s death. I like how Gabe is both alpha male and yet it’s clear his feelings for his friends and family run deep. It made him seem reachable and vulnerable and yet I had no doubt he’d get to the bottom of the problems Mad’s death caused. Gabe is also faulty. He has a short temper that tends to make him say things before his brain has time to consider otherwise. It gets him into hot water more than once in this novel. At the same time, when Gabriel wants to be smooth, he’s practically silk. Everly didn’t stand a chance.

Everly is one those heroines that I love pretty much immediately. She’s a geek and truly nice to everyone who isn’t crazy mean. I say that because there is a crazy mean girl in the picture. Seriously, this girl has issues but she isn’t Everly’s main problem, just a side slice of pain in her behind. I had no problem at all in cheering for Gabe and Everly’s HEA. They had so much chemistry. I also love that she isn’t afraid to walk away from Gabe, she doesn’t want to but she’ll stand up for herself even if it means losing him.

Readers who enjoy a hot romance with lots of non-sexual action and suspense outside the bedroom should give this series a read. This is book one in the Perfect Gentlemen series. It gives the overall back story and introduces the men who’ll star in the next books. They’re all so different and I can’t wait to be a part of their stories. This is a must read!

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts

WITCH
Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.

Ireland.

County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.

Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.

When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horseman, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.

Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive…

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and Iona Sheehan has made it happen. All she has ever wanted to do is go to Ireland and find her roots… and learn more about the witch that she is. What she isn’t prepared for, however, is the dark force lying in wait for the return of the three. Can she and her two newfound cousins defeat this ancient evil and bring peace to their family?

Iona Sheehan is quite a character. Exuberant, young, and eager, she makes me laugh out loud throughout the book. Her love of horses and family is very endearing and sweet. I loved the way she embraced her heritage – lurking evil force or not – and dove in head first in order to be ready in time to face off with Cabhan with her cousins.

Boyle McGrath is the embodiment of all I’ve ever expected an Irishman to be. He’s surly, he’s stubborn, and he’s one hundred and ten percent lovable. His gruff reluctance to give in to his emotions is adorable and amusing because we know that Iona will find a way to worm her way into his heart, right? Once she does, they become the closest thing to a perfect couple. They don’t always agree or get along, but they find a way to stick it out in the end.

In addition to the main couple, you are treated to an entertaining cast of characters. Branna and Conner, Iona’s cousins, are like night and day, and yet so much alike sometimes that it’s scary. Maera and Fin, co-workers of Iona’s and friends of the cousins, only add humor, friendship, and love to the mix. I’d love to sit in on a night with this group, whether in Branna’s home or at the local pub, either way you know you’d be in for a night you wouldn’t forget.

Set in picturesque Ireland, a place I’ve dreamed of visiting, the story takes off from the very first page, whisking you off on adventure and into a romance you can’t help but root for. With its rich storytelling, loveable characters, and intense plot, I had a hard time putting this one down. For my first Nora Roberts novel, it was a giant win.

Guarded by Mary Behre

GUARDED
Guarded by Mary Behre
Publisher: Berkley Sensastion
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (293 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

She’s given up on finding love…

Veterinarian Shelley Morgan has always preferred animals to humans, and not simply because she can communicate with them psychically. Unlike most people she’s known, animals have never broken her heart. But after six months in her new town, some of her favorite four-legged companions begin disappearing from the local zoo. Determined to track down the animals and their thief, the telepathic vet decides to investigate, unknowingly delving into a deadly mystery…

He’s ready to make her heart go wild…

Although his bear-like physique has been an advantage in the Tidewater Police Department, Dev Jones’s size often intimidates people. Only Shelley has seen past his massive build to the intelligent man inside, but that was years ago. So when she contacts him requesting his help to solve a series of animal kidnappings, he’s eager to reconnect with her. But the thefts escalate to murder and all the evidence points to Shelley as the killer, and Dev faces a devastating choice: forsake his career or risk losing the woman he’s grown to love…

This book surprised and confounded me. When the villain was revealed you could have put an apple in my mouth and knocked me over with a feather because I was so stunned, all I could do was gape and stare. AWESOME!

Guarded picks up where Spirited left off – with another sister discovered. The Scott sisters have some unique paranormal gifts. Although these types of gifts have been used before in other romances, Ms. Behre has placed her own imaginative and creative mark on them. This time around it’s being able to speak to animals and it comes with all the mayhem and unique crises that can arise from it. It made perfect sense to me that Shelley was a veterinarian.

Even though I didn’t rate this story quite as high as the first book, which continues to blow my mind when I remember how cool it was, Guarded is still a high recommend. I think I was confused quite a few times because there was SO much action and frenetic responses to the drama and suspense mixed in with a rather large cast of characters, I found myself lost on just who was who speaking to whom and doing what. It caused me to reread parts just to get it straight.

There is no doubt in my mind that readers who enjoyed Spirited are going to be equally enthralled with Ms. Behre’s latest mystery. There are red herrings and villains who they’ll figure out but it’s the one that remains a true mystery until the big reveal that could leave them as amazed as I was. The intricate web of revenge the author wove is truly mind boggling because now that I know the end results, I remembered certain ‘meaningful’ moments that actually had a more profound impact than what I initially read. Being able to weave those kinds of details in is talented writing.

Part of a diabolical mystery is the fact of casualties. I almost stopped reading this book because of one certain death. The author had introduced a character that she imbued with enough heart, dreams and the feelings of strong emotion that when the secondary character met a bad end, I was heartbroken. It affected me greatly. You do know what that means, right? Ms. Behre did her job. If the character was a one dimensional throwaway person, I wouldn’t have cared. I would have shrugged and say, “Okay, that’s just to show how far the bad guy will go,” and that would have been that. Instead, I was so shocked I almost couldn’t go on. But of course, I did … a couple of weeks later, but I did restart reading. I’m very glad I did. The death was not in vain and for that I applaud the author. From that point on, the action and pace picked up even more and I never stopped reading until the end of the epilogue. Guarded is a mind bending roller coaster of a read.

Remember earlier I said that I was confused because of too many characters on scene? Wait until you get a load of Ryan and Ian. There was something about those guys that intrigued my ‘yummy meter’. I cracked up when a monkey took something away and their reaction to the zoo situation was priceless. They are two secondary characters that would make ideal heroes in future books. I hope they do. I liked meeting them, even if so briefly and during so crazy a pace. Then, there is Seth and Jules from Spirited, and the sheriff and other town characters and talking animals and the cutest ferret I’ve ever read about. It’s quite the menagerie but every single person or animal, or ghost, played a role that was pivotal, sentimental, sweet or surprising, not to mention fascinating.

Here is where I must thank the author profusely. She made her male characters smart. And I mean awesome smart, quick on the uptake, it’s a clue and they GOT IT, smart. I knew what happened to Shelley. I understood it immediately but she brushed it off. I was yelling at her, “No! Don’t just disregard this, it’s a clue, you have a clue!” But of course, she can’t see what a reader can see. But the guys did. I was so happy that I wanted to hug all of them. As it was, I did a happy chair dance. Because one was a marine, the other a cop and the other, I think a P.I., the author had them living up to their professions. I am impressed. They were heroes!

There is so much more to talk about but I have to reign myself in. Guarded is definitely a standalone story, it has a sweet happy ever after, it has some hot and sexy exchanges between Shelley and Dev, and it ends with a perfect hook. Of course it won’t come as a surprise that they get a lead on Shelley and Jule’s final sister but it’s the other discovery they made in this novel that indicates that this may not be the end after all. And that’s a wonderful thing. This really has been an amazing series so far and I highly recommend reading both Guarded and Spirited because they are both excellent reads. True keepers because their stories are so chock full of details and dialogue, I’m sure I missed something the first time around. This is worth re-reading, guaranteed.

Ghost Seer by Robin D. Owens

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Ghost Seer by Robin D. Owens
Publisher: Berkley Sensation, New York
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (303 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

There’s just something about Clare. Apart from the ghosts……

When her eccentric aunt passes away, no-nonsense accountant Clare Cermac inherits more than just a small fortune. She receives the gift of communicating with ghosts. While Clare may not believe in spirits, it’s hard to overlook the shadowy talking dog appearing on her bed or spectral cowboys tipping their hats to her in the streets of Denver. And when she locks eyes with sexy—and living—Zach Slade, there’s certainly no ignoring him either.

A former deputy sheriff, Zach is leaving a painful past behind in Montana for a new life in Denver as a private investigator, a job that has him crossing paths with beautiful Clare. Not that she minds. After the restless ghost of a Wild West gunman demands her assistance, Clare finds herself needing Zach more and more—and not just for help.

I’m so glad that Ms. Owens still has animals in her stories. She gives them such interesting personalities. In this case they are a little otherworldly but still fascinating, helpful and provide just a touch of humor and extra weirdness to make the plot ride bumpy, unconventional and fun.

Ghost Seer is the first book in her new series and it’s quite a deviation from what I’m used to. That’s a good thing. This storyline is unique, refreshing and completely fascinating. What I also like is the author’s use of an actual historical character. For readers who like “what if” scenarios, this is a treat.

Clare is the main focus of the story as it follows her during a major transition. She goes from being a confident and knowledgeable accountant and into a world of the supernatural; a world she wants nothing to do with. However, she doesn’t have much of a choice. This novel follows the progression of her denial about the paranormal and shifts towards resigned, and although not totally 100%, begrudging acceptance. The journey alternates between being amazing, funny, heartfelt and bizarre. Poor Clare has a lot of changes to make in her life, one of which is believing in her new talents and her ghostly doggie sidekick, Enzo. He’s a bit mysterious too.

Then comes Zach. A man with his own inner conflicts and roiling emotions, he is a wonderful counterpoint to Clare. I liked his depiction of strength, both in mind and will and mostly his body. For what doesn’t work as well as it used to, he’s rather stubborn and is still going through the grieving process. Not that he’d admit to that. He’s got his manly pride after all. But I loved how the author had him dealing with the revelations about Clare’s talent. It’s very human, understandable and lent itself to some great plot conflicts. I liked watching his slow progression from disbelief to belief, from wanting to run away to support and from just liking Clare to maybe wanting a future. It’s a hard journey for him but it’s well worth it. Clare made it worth it and Zach was wonderful with her.

In addition to the two personal conflicts, there are two main external conflicts that contributed significant amounts of drama, suspense, intrigue, action, surprises and an amazing degree of empathy, to the novel. One is integral to Clare’s new talent and the other is more in line with Zach’s expertise. But the really bad villain still caught me by surprise. Ms. Owens gave hints that things weren’t quite right but in no way could I have guessed just how ‘not right’ they would turn out to be. That was a gripping piece of writing.

The only thing I noticed that made me raise an eyebrow was the overuse of a few words throughout the book. I’m not sure if that was accidental or on purpose but it was done enough to notice. It might not bother other readers but it did bother me. Not enough to make me stop liking the book, far from it. I enjoyed Ghost Seer tremendously. I just observe those types of things and I’m compelled to mention them.

For the start of a new series, Ghost Seer is a wonderful springboard. It tackled the world building head on without falling into the trap of an info dump. Everything that was revealed was done in due course of telling Clare’s tale of becoming a ghost seer and the complications that it introduces to her life. The how of Clare and Zach’s getting together was delightful and their blossoming romance is a treasure trove of discovery. Enzo, the ghost puppy, is intriguing because he is more than the wag of his tail. He’s a wonderfully creative character. In fact, the whole premise is creative and engrossing. It’s a meaty story on so many levels that I know this review isn’t doing it justice. For fans of Ms. Owens, they know her quality of writing and I can assure them that the tradition of excellence in storytelling continues. This is also a great book for a new reader to discover the wonderful talent of Ms. Owens. Ghost Seer is a sure pleaser and a must read for new and old fans alike. It’s not just really good, it’s really cool and I encourage readers to check it out. It’s worth it.

Theirs to Cherish by Shayla Black

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Theirs to Cherish by Shayla Black
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length; Full Length (400 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/F/M, Menage, BDSM, Spanking
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The perfect place for a woman on the run to disappear…

Accused of a horrific murder she didn’t commit, former heiress Callie Ward has been a fugitive since she was sixteen—until she found the perfect hideout, Club Dominion. The only problem is she’s fallen for the club’s Master, Mitchell Thorpe, who keeps her at arm’s length. Little does she know that his reasons for not getting involved have everything to do with his wounded heart…and his consuming desire for her.

To live out her wildest fantasies…

Enter Sean Kirkpatrick, a Dom who’s recently come to Dominion and taken a pointed interest in Callie. Hoping to make Thorpe jealous, she submits to Sean one shuddering sigh at a time. It isn’t long before she realizes she’s falling for him too. But the tender lover who’s slowly seducing her body and earning her trust isn’t who he claims…

And to fall in love.

When emotions collide and truths are exposed, Sean is willing to risk all to keep Callie from slipping through his fingers. But he’s not the only man looking to stake a claim. Now Callie is torn between Sean and Thorpe, and though she’s unsure whom she can trust, she’ll have to surrender her body and soul to both—if she wants to elude a killer…

Crime, death and a lot of hot sex! Have I got your attention? Then you should read Theirs to Cherish.

This isn’t my first foray into the world of Shayla Black. I’ve read her other works, but not in this series. That didn’t detract from my enjoyment with this book. It sizzles with sexual tension and the writing crackles. I needed to know what would happen next.

Like I said, I haven’t read the others in this series, but I didn’t think that was a problem. The characters were described well enough and the story solid enough for me to keep up. That said, there were moments I skimmed through pages, needing more action. The story isn’t boring, but the pacing could’ve been ramped up a bit.

So who are the players? Thorpe is the head Dom of Club Domination. He’s a tough guy and isn’t terribly easy to understand. I got that he was uber alpha, but there were moments I wished he’d have cracked a bit. He’s got a back story I won’t divulge and it’s heady. It’s hardened him. I liked that he was crusted over, but I had a very hard time liking him. He came across, as the heroine says, like a caveman.

Then there’s Sean. He’s the Dom Callie ends up with at the end of the previous book. He’s multi-dimensional, but also hard to love. I wanted to like him earlier on and I’m glad I kept reading to find out his secrets. The one thing that drove me crazy about him and Thorpe was the drive. I liked that they had to learn to get along, but the conversation was stilted in spots and didn’t seem terribly masculine. Do guys really talk about their emotions that much?

Callie is a conundrum, too. She’s not just a bratty sub – and she’s very bratty – she’s also a on the run heiress. I get this is fiction and she’s going to be a tad larger than life, but I had a hard time connecting with her. Many times I thought she would zig and instead she zagged. Her dialogue comes across bubbly at times and whiny at others. I really wanted to like her and root for her, but I ended up putting the book down more often than not.

Now don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dislike this book. There were hot scenes throughout. The sex sizzles and you’ll want something cold by the time the book is over and the mystery itself was strong.

If you want a menage story with a BDSM twist and mystery to boot, then this might be the book for you.

Happy Medium by Meg Benjamin

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Happy Medium by Meg Benjamin
Publisher: Berkeley
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (299 pgs)
Heat: Hot
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Love is good for the soul… unless it’s one that you’re trying to exorcise.

Ray Ramos has a problem–the King William District mansion he and his business partner purchased for a fast renovation needs more work than expected. Ray could use a quick infusion of cash. Enter Emma Shea, assistant to Gabrielle DeVere, the star of American Medium. Gabrielle is looking for San Antonio houses to use for her televised séances, and Ray’s fixer upper seems to fit.

When Gabrielle does a sample séance, Ray and Emma become the target of a touchy ghost with no respect for boundaries. After Ray learns his family has a special affinity for ghosts, the two decide to investigate the haunted house. It doesn’t hurt that Emma is immediately attracted to the laconic Ray or that Ray is intrigued by the buttoned-down beauty who seems determined to hide her considerable assets behind sober business suits. But can the two of them fight off a vengeful succubus bound to the house while getting a lot closer than either of them planned?

Looking for a super sexy, fun and exciting paranormal romance?

Happy Medium is the first in this series I’ve read. It stands alone well, though I’m sure followers of the family would catch references and nuances that I may have missed. Regardless, I really enjoyed this book.

Coming into this with no knowledge of the other books, I full expected Emma to be the medium. I was quite surprised to find out that wasn’t exactly the way things were! Apparently the Ramos family has some paranormal talent, and Ray discovers his in this book as he tangles with something you don’t see all that often in a non-erotic romance… a succubus.

While the plot was interesting and well conceived, I really think the true strength of this story lies it its characters. I was so completely hooked from the first sentence. Ray’s character builds right off the bat, as does Emma’s when we meet her. I really loved them. They were interesting, real and unique. I wasn’t as big a fan of Emma’s boss, Gabrielle. She especially made me mad by continually harping on Emma’s weight. It didn’t endear her to me. Fact is, though, I was absolutely invested in all the characters and that above all is what kept me turning pages.

The chemistry between Emma and Ray is off the charts hot (as is the sex because, hello, succubus), and the plot was strong and occasionally nerve-wracking. I admit to wishing I’d read the series in order because I was completely entertained. I’ve gone back to check out what I missed and I’m definitely a new fan of Meg Benjamin.

So, if you like your paranormal stories hot, fun and exciting you should grab a copy of Happy Medium … or maybe you should just start at the beginning and read all three books straight through!

Spirited: A Tidewater Novel by Mary Behre

SPIRITTED
Spirited: A Tidewater Novel by Mary Behre
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (294 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

She’s running from who she is…

All Jules Scott wants is to live a normal, quiet life—preferably one that doesn’t include ghosts. Jules’s talent for communicating with the dead has brought her nothing but trouble. Despite her best efforts, needy spirits always find her and draw her into their otherworldly drama. When one implicates her in a series of deadly crimes, she may need to entrust her secrets to the person least likely to believe her…

He’ll do whatever it takes to catch her.

Detective Seth English can’t get distracted from the big case he’s working on, not even by his alluring new neighbor. He doesn’t believe that Jules had anything to do with the string of robberies-turned-murders that he’s investigating, but when she keeps showing up in all the wrong places, his gut tells him she knows more than she’s letting on. To solve his case, he’ll need to expose what the sexy redhead is hiding—no matter how impossible the truth may be….

Ever read a book that was so suspenseful it left you shivery, so exciting that it left you hyperventilating? That can partly describe this amazing story called Spirited. One thing is for sure, I was blown away. Ms. Behre has an amazing capacity to draw in a reader with her characters and deliver an intensely entertaining and eye-popping read. I am in awe.

Spirited is the first book I’ve ever read by this author but I was so impressed by my reading experience, I will not only look forward to the next book in the series, Guarded but I’m going be looking for any previous books. If this is a sample of her usual style, I want more. Understand something. I don’t think I’ve had a book take over me like the way this has done in a LONG time. Yes, I’ve enjoyed books, some immensely so, but to have a physical effect on my breathing and dry eyes from trying not to blink so I won’t miss a second of the action, the jumpy feeling of wanting to know what happens next yet maybe afraid of finding out, but the burning obsession of having to know – to do all that to me? Now that is writing talent.

There are a lot of stories out there about so called ‘ghost whisperers’ and psychics and whatnot, but the author took a common paranormal theme and made it her own. I adored how she lead Jules, the heroine, from ignoring her gift to embracing it and using it to perform a miracle. That growth of personal acceptance was phenomenal. Ms. Behre imbued her characters with warmth, humor, honor, and distinct and interesting personalities. Every single person, dead or alive, played a key role in helping solve a mystery that seemed to get messier, more mysterious and intriguing as each chapter lead Jules to find her true love while solving the crime.

Finding true love while keeping a secret is hard. Keeping that secret when your true love might end up being a cop is almost a recipe for disaster. Seth is the hero and he really defines the word because he has some wonderful, romantic qualities. He’s not perfect and he makes mistakes but he does a lot of things right and one of those is falling in love with the heroine. The journey is bumpy and is never ever boring. I got the biggest laughs right in the beginning when they first met. When Jules got an eyeful of Seth’s sleeping attire I could not contain my mirth. That. Was. Hysterical! And little zingers kept popping up here and there throughout the story so it was a nice touch. Clever, actually.

Let’s talk sensuality. The pages steamed from it. I adore a story with a sexy build up. The teases, the glimpses of heat, the yearning, the ‘almost’ moments that bring that passion to a fever pitch only to have life or a cold wind blow to pop the moment – that is the kind of romantic tale that makes reading fun. The anticipation builds not just for the characters but for the reader as well. Jules and Seth weren’t the only ones happy when they finally did the deed. It was great!

Another thing that was powerful was the suspense of solving a mystery. The clues, the deaths, the race against the clock – it was gripping. Here’s another thing about Spirited that I appreciated – the writing style. Every chapter ended with a plot twist, a cliff hanger, a surprise reveal, just something that hooked me and kept me wanting to know what happens next, who was going to learn what and would Jules ever trust Seth enough to tell him her big secret? How was that going to look like? Sound like? How was he going to take it? And is the good guy really a good guy? Oh man, there was one scene when I almost came off of my chair because I thought Jules had just trusted the wrong guy. It’s writing like that which impresses me no end and Ms. Behre makes it look so easy.

Spirited is a must read book for fans of romantic suspense. I can’t come up with one complaint or wish that something could have been done different. I consider it one of the most perfect books I’ve read in a long time. Its characters, dialogue, plot, editing, method of delivery and mastery of descriptions were everything I could wish for in any book, not just a romance. For readers willing to give this book a try, leave yourself plenty of time to read it because if you’re like me, you might not want to put it down. This is the kind of book that if I could drive and read at the same time, or walk and read or work and read , this is the book that I’d do it with. I took a chance on a new author and I consider it one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. I’m a happy reader.

Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh

HEAT
Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh
Psy-Changeling #2
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (340 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Hailed as a major new talent in paranormal romance, Nalini Singh takes us deeper into the world of the Psy and the changelings in her latest extraordinary novel, where a gifted woman sees passion in her future – a passion that is absolutely forbidden by her kind…
Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous – aching need…exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D’Angelo can take the form of either man or jaguar, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar’s instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith’s sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced – and keep her from Vaughn.

Embracing the future is the toughest thing a foreseer can do. Faith Nightstar is a very powerful foresight talent within the Psy people. She lives in near total isolation to contain the known instability of her abilities. After all, everyone knows foreseers eventually go mad. She never counted on seeing murders and dark deeds in her mind. Worried she’s going insane early; Faith seeks out the only Psy she thinks can help – Sascha Duncan. But Sascha is part of the changeling leopard group and they hate the Psy. A powerful lieutenant, Vaughn D’Angelo, may be attracted to Faith but he’s determined not to let any Psy harm his people. A delicate balance of trust and need are necessary as they hunt down a serial killer.

Visions of Heat is the second book in the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh. Although you could read this one on it’s own, I’d recommend reading the series in order to fully appreciate the various relationships and connections. Not to mention all the background and world building. The second book builds on the foundation and information offered in the first book. That said, I read the books back-to-back and I was definitely more annoyed with this book because of that. The two books are so similar it set my teeth on edge. Some readers definitely look for a familiar and comfortable formula with books and they may love that the second book so closely resembles with the first with a few obvious differences. For me, this hurt my enjoyment.

The book simply feels like a carbon copy of the first story. Here the gorgeous, but fragile Psy is Faith and her dominant, overbearing, highly sexual mate is Vaughn, a jaguar in a leopard clan. The two are immediately attracted to each other but must overcome the changeling’s hatred of all things Psy and Faith’s emotions slowly emerging. At the same time, there is yet another Psy serial killer that they must stop and Faith (of course) has a unique connection to the murders. These elements aren’t bad on their own and even together they can still make for an entertaining erotic romance for the right reader. I found myself frustrated by the obvious similarities when I wanted something more unique to each couple.

The writing is decent though I find it at times overly melodramatic and hyperbolic. There are also many overused phrases such as “nightsky eyes.” I wish the author had come up with a different descriptor, especially since the same phrase was definitely overused in the first book too. Here reading one book so close to the other easily affected my view and enjoyment of them both. I also got frustrated with the continual painting of the entire Psy clan as evil and wrong. There is no nuance or subtly to the characters, they’re very one dimensional and good or bad. There’s no in between.

What I did like about the book was its ease. I listened to it, rather than reading it, and found the narrator had a pleasant voice and was easy to listen to. The story was engaging enough to keep my attention but not complicated or intricate to need a lot of effort. There are a lot of sex scenes and a main focus of the story is the erotic romance. Faith slowly experiences an awakening of her emotions and needs – all Psy are virgins of course, but never have a bad first time – and Vaughn is the romantic jaguar that loves her to a ridiculous amount and will never let her go. The serial killer subplot keeps the players moving around and the book progressing forward while giving more insight into the secondary characters that will eventually have their own books.

While I didn’t love either this one or the first one in the series, it’s an easy series to read/listen to. It’s not great for me and it’s one I’ll need a lot of space between books to appreciate it more but it has the elements of popular series. It has a ton of romance and sex and those are the main focus with an action subplot to keep things interesting. I’d recommend it for fans that like more formula books and series.