The Scandal of It All by Sophie Jordan


The Scandal of It All by Sophie Jordan
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 Pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Bluet

It takes two to make a scandal…

What kind of woman ventures into London’s most notorious pleasure club? An outsider like Graciela, the Duchess of Autenberry, snubbed time and time again by society because of her Spanish roots. Ela longs to take a lover for a single, wild night, and within the walls of Sodom there are gentlemen to suit every forbidden taste. If only she were not so drawn to the smoldering Lord Strickland…a dangerous man who sees beyond her mask, and could ruin her reputation with a mere whisper.

Lord Strickland never permitted himself to fantasize about the sultry, off-limits lady, but then he never expected to find Ela in a place so wicked, looking for what he’s more than too happy to give. She may not be to the ton’s taste, but she suits him perfectly. First, however, he must convince her to trust in this dangerous desire—and in the promise of forever unleashed by one wild, scandalous night.

Thirty-five years of exemplary living are about to go down the drain, as Graciela, the widowed Duchess Autenberry is about to be busted. After being a devoted wife to a less than deserving husband, raising and loving three children and step children, and living chastely for ten years as a widow, “Ela” has decided to take a walk on the wild side. A friend has convinced Ela that a visit to Club Sodom will let her explore her sexuality with no strings, and perhaps find the fulfillment she never reached while married.

As luck would have it, Ela is about to come face to face with her stepson, Marcus, at the club. As a frantic Ela tries to leave or hide, she falls into the arms of Colin, her stepson’s best friend, who hides her from Marcus by embracing her. This embrace is something that Colin has fantasized about for years, and he begins a pursuit of Ela to truly begin an affair. I liked Ela, while at the same time became somewhat exasperated with her. I found her to be an admirable woman, who endured a loveless, physically unfulfilling marriage to a philandering husband, while letting his children believe he was a good man and husband. She retained her outward dignity while enduring snubs for her un-English heritage. Yet, though she endured these things, she’s terrified of exploring passion with a man who’s younger than she is, fearful of society’s censure and her family’s reaction. Colin is a dream – he doesn’t see Ela as an older woman, just a woman that he desires. I love his treatment of her and his fearlessness about other’s reactions if they are found out. I was somewhat disappointed at the plot device used which ultimately brought them together, but the fabulous conclusion remedied that.

The Scandal of It All is a hot and steamy read, which deals with the taboo of an older woman and a younger man in a time when it truly was shocking. I enjoyed the hero’s persistence and devotion, and eventually the heroine’s awakening to her own self worth on the way to their happy ever after.

Flight of the Raven by Judith Sterling


Flight of the Raven by Judith Sterling
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (244 Pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

How eager would the bridegroom be if he knew he could never bed the bride?

Lady Emma of Ravenwood Keep is prepared to give Sir William l’Orage land, wealth, and her hand in marriage. But her virginity? Not unless he loves her. The curse that claimed her mother is clear: unless a Ravenwood heir is conceived in love, the mother will die in childbirth. Emma is determined to dodge the curse. Then William arrives, brandishing raw sensuality which dares her to explore her own.

William the Storm isn’t a man to be gainsaid. He’ll give her protection, loyalty, and as much tenderness as he can muster. But malignant memories quell the mere thought of love. To him, the curse is codswallop. He plans a seduction to breach Emma’s fears and raze her objections. What follows is a test of wills and an affirmation of the power of love.

If one is a loyal subject, she does what her king commands. But what if that command is to wed a stranger? And what if your family is cursed? And what if you are fated to die in childbirth unless your child is conceived in true love? Lady Emma has maintained Ravenswood and its inhabitants magnificently, acting not only as mistress, but healer. She’s much loved and respected. Now she’s been ordered by the king to wed Sir William L’Orage, a fierce warrior, who is being rewarded for his service. William is anxious to claim his property and his bride, and while Emma will abide by the king’s order to marry, she will make sure the marriage isn’t consummated.

Emma is one of those characters who is nearly perfect, but despite this, I still liked her, as her actions were genuine and done with the best motives. The immediate attraction that Emma and William feel for each other is going to test her resolve. I really liked William despite his wariness of love and his suspicion of everyone’s motives. He has lived a hard life, yet he treats Emma with respect. Though he’s desperate for her, he won’t force her, which is somewhat of a miracle in the 1100’s.

I’m generally not a fan of medieval stories – the primitive conditions make me shudder. This story tipped its hat to a modern day battle of the sexes, and there were a few modern expressions tossed in occasionally which seemed out of place. The medieval romance fan will appreciate the handsome and seductive knight’s attempts to woo the fair maiden, who attempts to hold on to her virginity until true love shows its face. If you enjoy a touch of the paranormal in a sexy battle of wills, and can overlook a few anachronisms, I believe you’ll savor Flight of the Raven.

The Great Estate by Sherri Browning

STATE
The Great Estate by Sherri Browning
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

Pulled apart by past mistakes…

Sophia Thorne was young and inexperienced when she married the dashing Earl of Averford . . . and through dark and troubled times, their relationship nearly came to an end. Now she’s determined to transform herself into the fiery, ardent lover she always wanted to be, giving them a second chance at love . . . before they’re lost to each other forever.

Driven by a passion neither could deny…

It took nearly losing Sophia for Gabriel to realize he had allowed his love for his great estate to distract him from his beautiful wife. But that time is over. Despite all the obstacles standing in their way, Gabriel vows to teach Sophia what it is to truly love . . . and to be loved by a husband devoted heart and soul to her every desire.

The Great Estate opens with a bang, with Sophia Thorne, Countess Averford, looking at her own portrait and reflecting on the mistakes she’s made. Her marriage was already on shaky ground, when she gave into temptation and kissed another man. Her husband, Gabriel, walked in to find her willingly in another man’s arms. As their marriage deteriorated further, Gabriel decides he has to get away, and leaves for Italy, where he ends up spending a year. Sophia only learns of his return to England second hand, and decides to travel to London to welcome him home, and work on repairing their marriage. As seems to happen with this somewhat star-crossed couple, Gabriel is travelling home at the same time, and the two miss each other.

I’m a great fan of the trope of estranged couples getting back together, but not when it’s due simply to a lack of communication, and this couple could win the prize for not communicating, especially Sophia. I admit that Sophia showed some growth over the course of the book, but I never totally warmed up to her. For example, she greatly enjoyed her initiation into physical love, and Gabriel could tell. Then she remembers that her mother told her that ladies don’t enjoy sex, only whores do, so she turns from hot to barely lukewarm in Gabriel’s arms, leaving him baffled about the change. I hated that she kept pushing Gabriel away after the loss of their child. When he finally stops trying, she seeks out another man to feel wanted.

On the other hand, I adored Gabriel, and found him almost too good to be true. Despite catching Sophia with another man, he remained faithful. His trip to Italy was for self reflection and to learn how to be a better husband and more romantic man in order to win his wife back. I was amazed at the thoughtful and generous gift he planned for Sophia, only to have her all but throw it back in his face.

Sherri Browning writes very well, and I found myself engrossed in this compelling story, wanting to see if this troubled couple could really make a go of it. I plan to read the first two books in this series, perhaps to gain more insight into Sophia’s and Gabriel’s past, as The Great Estate picks up at their estrangement and separation. If you enjoy a story of reconciled lovers, this one’s for you.

Put Up Your Duke by Megan Frampton

TDUKE
Put Up Your Duke by Megan Frampton
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

He was once happily bedding and boxing, but in the newest Duke’s Behaving Badly novel, Nicholas Smithfield has inherited a title and a bride . . .

To keep his estate afloat, the new Duke of Gage must honor an agreement to marry Lady Isabella Sawford. Stunningly beautiful, utterly tempting, she’s also a bag of wedding night nerves, so Nicholas decides to wait to do his duty—even if it means heading to the boxing saloon every day to punch away his frustration.

Groomed her whole life to become the perfect duchess, Isabella longs for independence, a dream that is gone forever. As her husband, Nicholas can do whatever he likes—but, to Isabella’s surprise, the notorious rake instead begins a gentle seduction that is melting every inch of her reserve, night by night . . .

To his utter shock, Nicholas discovers that no previous exploits were half as pleasurable as wooing his own wife. But has the realm’s most disreputable duke found the one woman who can bring him to his knees— and leave him there?

Nicholas Smithfield is very happy with his life as it is. His passions are boxing and sex (not necessarily in that order), and he enjoys an abundance of both. When he learns that he has just inherited the title of Duke of Gage, his reaction is not typical. Instead of being overjoyed, he is unhappy, especially when he learns that he has inherited a fiancee, as well. Nicholas sets out to visit his betrothed and her parents to see if there is any way out of the agreement. When he sets eyes on Isabella, he is awed by her beauty. He also learns that her parents have no intention of letting him slip away, and if he backs out of their deal, there will be severe consequences for everyone depending on the dukedom for their living. My first thoughts of Nicholas were not very flattering, as he was living a dissolute life with no ambition or real purpose. My opinion began to change when he showed concern for the people whose well being he now held in his ducal hands.

Isabella Sawford is a stunningly beautiful woman, and her parents have used her looks to further their own agenda. They have forced Isabella to become the perfect woman in her dress, manners, and conduct. Initially, Isabella appears to be little more than a pleasant, vapid puppet, willing to perform any task her parents set out for her, including becoming engaged to the former Duke, a man she loathed. I came to see that Isabella’s younger sister was being used as leverage, and any disobedience from Isabella will be unfortunate for Margaret, the one person she loves dearly. I had to admire Isabella’s lack of selfishness, which I originally believed was weakness.

So, two strangers agree to marry in only two weeks’ time. Isabella’s parents are truly loathsome, they have no regard for either of their daughters feelings or desires. Isabella has been so browbeaten, that Nicholas’ attempts to get to know her are met with the social perfection that she has cultivated, making her appear to be nothing more than a beautiful doll with little substance. Nicholas, however, has hidden depths that surprised me, based on the lifestyle he has been living. He chooses to give Isabella time to get to know him after their marriage, since she seems terrified of what happens in bed (thanks to a lovely lecture from her shrew of a mother). Nicholas uses his charm to slowly woo her, and bring the real person under all that perfection to the surface.

This book was a quick read, and a feel-good pure delight. I had to laugh at Nicholas keeping track of how long it had been since he had sex. He is the epitome of the reformed rake, and I adored him. It was wonderful to watch Isabella come into her own as a person, and to blossom from Nicholas’ care of her. I also enjoyed seeing her stand up to her parents. I love to read a story that is mostly about the developing romance, and this fits the bill. Megan Frampton has become one of my auto read authors. I know that I can count on her books for lots of smiles and a heartfelt romance. Put Up Your Duke definitely has those qualities, and is my favorite of hers – so far.

Never Resist a Rake by Mia Marlowe

RAKE
Never Resist a Rake by Mia Marlowe
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Bluet

John Fitzhugh Barrett is surprised to discover that instead of being a bastard, he’s the legitimate heir to the Somerset marquessate. Once word gets out that he must continue the Somerset line, eligible bachelorettes from across the country descend upon Somerfield Park, hoping to snatch John up before it’s too late. But John has no interest in a woman who’s only after his title.

Rebecca Kearsey, the daughter of a threadbare viscount, is the only one who understands. However, as her desire for John begins to build, she becomes painfully aware that she isn’t considered grand enough by Polite Society to be a future marchioness. Intrigued by the idea of challenging society’s rigid values, John’s interest in Rebecca grows. But can she show him that love is more than just childish rebellion?

John Fitzhugh Barrett grew up believing he was the bastard son of some unknown-to-him nobleman. He was fostered out to a couple who took care of him, and showed him some offhand affection. His schooling was provided for, and he grew up to be a hard working, moral man. When he is approached by a half brother he never knew he had, and told that his mother was indeed legally married to his father, and he is the heir to a marquessate, his reaction is very surprising. Instead of going to the family seat, to meet his father, grandmother, and half sisters, he flees to London, where he takes up with some lowlife friends, and begins drinking, gambling, and wenching.

John could have accepted what happened to him if his family didn’t know of his existence, but they, in fact, did. His grandmother believed he was illegitimate, so she made the arrangements for his upbringing. Now, John is bitter, and has no intention of meekly following his family’s wishes. I certainly had a lot of sympathy for a young boy who doesn’t have anyone to truly love him, and who is taunted at school for being a bastard. What I initially had a hard time with, was John’s transformation to a true rake, in the worst sense of the word. After several months of this style of living, he sees Rebecca Kearsey in a museum, and is immediately captivated by her. Rebecca’s friend drags her off when John tries to talk to her without a proper introduction. Fate provides an opportunity for them to meet again, and for Rebecca to attend a house party where his scheming grandmother plans to find him a highborn bride to help ease him into society.

I liked Rebecca right from the start. She is only the daughter of an impoverished baron, so she knows she doesn’t qualify to be John’s wife, yet she is attracted to him, and decides to come to the house party to offer him guidance. Soon, it’s obvious that they both have strong feelings for each other. I absolutely adore that neither played games about hiding their feelings for each other, but I did hate that John kept telling himself he was not good enough for Rebecca because of the way he lived. He was also letting his bitterness and unforgiveness prevent his own current happiness. But then John finally starts to heal, and has the opportunity to be a hero. It was wonderful to see his eyes open, and see him start on the path to a better future.

While I don’t expect John to ever totally love his grandmother, I expect that they will at least be able to have a cordial and friendly relationship. John and Rebecca have a strong love and passion, and I envision a very happy life for them. The last part of Never Resist a Rake was full of intrigue, and interesting twists, and I found that I couldn’t read fast enough to find the resolution. I recommend this book for all historical romance lovers, particularly those who like to see a hero who has to battle with himself, and then enjoy a very satisfactory happy ever after.

All’s Fair in Love and Scandal by Caroline Linden

LOVE
All’s Fair in Love and Scandal by Caroline Linden
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (176 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Bluet

Nothing wagered…

Douglas Bennet can’t resist a good wager, especially not one that involves a beautiful woman. When a friend proposes an audacious plan to expose the most notorious woman in England, Douglas agrees at once. After all, it would be quite a coup to discover the true identity of Lady Constance, author of the infamous erotic serial scandalizing the ton, 50 Ways to Sin.

Nothing won…

Madeline Wilde is used to being pursued. For years she’s cultivated a reputation for being unattainable and mysterious, and for good reason: her livelihood depends on discretion. When Douglas turns his legendary charm on her, she dismisses him as just another rake. But he surprises her—instead of merely trying to seduce her, he becomes her friend…her confidant…and her lover. But can it really lead to happily-ever-after…or are they about to become the biggest scandal London has ever seen?

I have a love / hate relationship with novellas. On the whole, I generally find that they don’t tend to have characters who are fleshed out enough, or a plot that is satisfying. I’m happy to say that’s not the case here. Douglas Bennet is your typical young gentleman who enjoys, among other things, women and wagers. When an opportunity presents itself that involves both, he can’t resist. At a ball, a friend wagers that he won’t be able to convince the aloof widow, Madeline Wilde, to dance. Sure of his charms, he takes the bet, only to be turned down.

Rather than become discouraged, he finds himself intrigued by the beautiful lady, who doesn’t dance or socialize. The stakes are upped when his friend tells him that he suspects Madeline of being the mysterious author of a scandalous publication called 50 Ways to Sin. There is a substantial reward offered for being able to prove the author’s true identity, so Douglas is even more intrigued. I found Douglas to be charming, if a bit shallow at the beginning. But the more he pursued Madeline and got to know her, the more he developed as a person. I love that he realized and admitted his feelings for Madeline and became protective. Madeline was a bit of a mystery for most of the story. She was widowed, but not a whole lot of information about her first marriage was given. I got the impression that it was not an unhappy union, though not a great love match. I wondered what it was that made her so aloof. Why would she attend all these functions if she didn’t dance or socialize, or if she weren’t looking for a husband or lover? I enjoyed watching her walls crumble as Douglas wore down her resistance.

All’s Fair in Love and Scandal is a must read if you’re following Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, and the continuing saga of the mysterious 50 Ways to Sin. You can read this as a standalone, but will appreciate it much more if you’ve read the previous novels. I enjoyed watching the passion and love develop in two very different personalities. As far as Madeline’s mysterious behavior, you’ll have to read and discover the answer for yourself. I recommend that you do, as it’s a lovely and enjoyable journey.

The Duke’s Disaster by Grace Burrowes

DUKES
The Duke’s Disaster by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

Noah Winters, Earl of Anselm, spent months sorting and courting the year’s crop of debutantes in search of an ideal bride. When the sweet, biddable young thing he selected accepts another’s proposal, Noah decides to court her companion instead.

Thea Collins, though, is anything but biddable. She has learned the hard way that men are not to be trusted, especially the handsome ones. When she reluctantly accepts, Noah rushes Thea to the altar before she can reveal her deepest secret. Can she finally move on from her past, or will it come back to haunt her?

Noah Winters, the Duke of Anselm, needs a wife. It’s time to fulfill his ducal duty and produce the required heir. Being the sensible gentleman that he is, he prepares a list of candidates, then culls the list down to one, and proceeds to court her.

After a few weeks, Noah learns that his potential bride is about to become engaged to a mere baron. Rather than being heartbroken, Noah is just annoyed at the time he’s wasted. Her companion, Araminthea (Thea) Collins should fill the bill nicely. She’s an earl’s daughter, sensible, attractive, and surely will jump at the chance to be a duchess. NOT!

Thea is content with her life as a paid companion. While she must give serious consideration to the duke’s proposal, she can’t see any great advantage in accepting. That is, until the duke agrees to let Thea’s younger sister live with them, and be launched into society. This proves too much of an inducement, so Thea accepts. But, still, there is something she needs to tell Noah before the marriage, a secret that he has to know. Fate seems to be plotting against her, and Thea can’t find an opportunity to talk to Noah alone. Before she knows it, she is married, and she’s facing her new husband on their wedding night. The circumstances that Thea wanted Noah to know about before the wedding are now revealed, and Noah feels betrayed. He makes the decision that they will have to wait for any sexual intimacy, and he will decide whether to put Thea aside or stay married.

I felt for Thea, as we learn later that she was truly a victim. She’s a kind person, who took her job seriously and didn’t bemoan her fate. I do think she should have insisted on finding a moment alone with Noah before their marriage, but can’t we all relate to putting off an uncomfortable situation? After the marriage, she did her best to be the kind of duchess Noah needed, while she waited to see what her fate would be. Noah describes himself as not a nice person, but I have to disagree. While he did make a few cutting remarks at first, he came around to treating Thea as his wife, giving her every courtesy. Soon, the two are growing closer, and coming to like each other very much. They begin touching each other, even sleeping together, but not sexually. Before the issue of the marriage is resolved, it turns out that Noah has a secret of his own, something major that he should have told Thea before the wedding. As Thea steps up, and takes this in stride, my admiration for her only grew.

Finally, they come together as husband and wife. Their amazing chemistry draws them closer together, not only in the bedroom, but in all facets of their life. As it looks like their happy ever after is assured, the past intrudes, and it hits close to home. Noah and Thea are going to have to be strong and remain united in facing new threats and past demons. Grace Burrowes excels in her character development, and her ability to turn the ordinary into something intimate and special. Sharing a cup of tea, or a meal becomes so much more. One scene in particular had the tears flowing. This book is warm, touching, emotional, sexy, and had me staying up reading into the wee hours. Most highly recommended

It Started With a Scandal by Julie Anne Long

SCANDAL
It Started With a Scandal by Julie Anne Long
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Bluet

Lord Philippe Lavay once took to the high seas armed with charm as lethal as his sword and a stone-cold conviction: he’ll restore his family’s fortune and honor, no matter the cost. Victory is at last within reach–when a brutal attack snatches it from his grasp and lands him in Pennyroyal Green.

An afternoon of bliss brings a cascade of consequences for Elise Fountain. Shunned by her family and ousted from a job she loves, survival means a plummet down the social ladder to a position no woman has yet been able to keep: housekeeper to a frighteningly formidable prince.

The bold and gentle Elise sees past his battered body into Philippe’s barricaded heart…and her innate sensuality ignites his blood. Now a man who thought he could never love and a woman who thought she would never again trust must fight an incendiary passion that could be the ruin of them both.

Elise Fountain made the mistake of falling in love with the wrong man. She trusted that her lover was honorable, but soon found herself abandoned and with a child on the way. Her shocked family cast her out, but the school where she taught kept her on. She had a relatively good life there, until a vindictive patron of the school had her dismissed. Now homeless and jobless, she has applied for the position of housekeeper in the residence of Lord Lavay.

Philippe is a French aristocrat with very blue blood, who lost many family members, as well as property in the revolution. His sole ambition has been to earn enough funds to buy back his family’s estate, and to provide for his remaining family. He is close to his goal, but a vicious attack left him near death, and unable to continue in his service to the king. He is recuperating in the village of Pennyroyal Green, but his injuries are very severe, and with no income, he still lacks the money he needs to purchase his former home. The deadline is looming before the estate goes to another buyer. He may have no choice but to go forward with marriage to the heiress his family has long expected him to wed.

Philippe has little expectation that the latest housekeeper will fare any better than the last several. His penchant for throwing objects, and the lazy, disobedient servants have sent the last several running away. Elise, however, applies techniques she used as a teacher to the ragtag staff, and soon begins to whip them into shape. She also realizes that the distant, and sometimes angry, Lord Lavay is still in considerable pain. Elise’s father is a doctor, so she’s soon preparing healing tea, and providing advice on how to help Philippe’s severely injured hand. As his household and his own health improves, Philippe begins to pay more attention to the lady who made these miracles occur.

Rarely have I ever fallen in love with both the hero and heroine so completely and so quickly. Elise’s one mistake changed the course of her whole life. Yet, though her lover and her family turned away from her, and fate was definitely not kind, she retained her strength of character, her convictions, her compassion, and her kindness. She’s a wonderful mother, and is raising her son to be kind and full of joy. Philippe, while a product of his noble upbringing, is never unkind, or consciously “top-lofty.” His reserve and occasional anger are caused by his situation and his limitations. He does retain an air of command around Elise as her employer, but it’s not meant as belittling. They begin to converse, and soon, each is taking pleasure in being able to coax a smile (or an “almost” smile) from the other. I was delighted when Elise finally drew a full joyful laugh from Philippe.

There were so many wonderful scenes, small moments that added up to their falling in love. One in particular that I love is when Elise catches a servant about to steal one of the objects Philippe managed to smuggle out France. She is so passionate and eloquent in her defense of Philippe, that I was hoping he was in the background able to hear it. And he was. And it was beautiful.

Philippe understands love for his family, but he can’t define the feelings he has for Elise. Love toward a woman is a foreign concept to him. He can’t quite comprehend his jealousy toward the man who is the father of her child. Since Elise has been in love once before, she recognizes what is happening to her. She knows that she is a passionate woman, and that she’s in danger of making a second mistake. She finds the strength to refuse Philippe’s advances. Philippe feels hurt by her rejection, but feels confident that she will soon become his lover. Observing Philippe eventually come to the realization of what “home” and “love” truly mean was magnificent.

While the time period covered by this book was relatively short, the characterizations were done in great depth, and the romance progressed slowly and believably. It Started With a Scandal was so well written that I resented time I had to spend away from the book to attend to things like work. The words just flowed, and I was truly enchanted by this heartwarming, passionate, and romantic book. Everything about this book worked for me, and it is my favorite of all the excellent works penned by Julie Anne Long. Though it’s early in the year, I can guarantee this will be on my “Best of 2015” list, and it receives my highest recommendation.

Synchronicity by Shelby Morgen

SYNCHONISITY
Synchronicity by Shelby Morgen
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (37 pgs)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Bluet

Jody’s won the masquerade costume competition for four years running. She should be a shoo-in for first place this year, as well, except that she’s being badly upstaged by a tentacle monster costume. Tara’s got to come to the rescue or it’ll be one miserable drive home. Besides, Jody’s a fantastic costumer, and she deserves all the attention she’s not getting. When Tara springs into action to divert the audience’s attention, the last thing she expects is a chance to experience some real live tentacle play herself!
Only problem is, her Tentacle Monster’s costume doesn’t come off. He’s really a shape shifting alien on the run from some real live alien bounty hunters dressed in what look like leftover eighties costumes from the set of Flash Gordon, and now Tara’s got to help him escape, or she could end up crated off to Zenon to stand trial for aiding and abetting a fugitive.

Where are the Men in Black when you need them, anyway?

Tara is attending a costume fan convention, and has been tasked with luring away a man in a fantastic tentacle costume who is stealing the thunder of her good friend. Always up for a challenge, Tara easily entices the man to follow her. As the elevator they are riding in is stopped, Mr. Tentacles, whose name is Juxtan, takes Tara on a whole ‘nother kind of ride. This boy is an alien on the run, and those tentacles sure feel real!

Tara comes off as brass and ballsy, but she’s really putting on a good face after her self-confidence took a dive. Juxtan is in a dangerous situation, but he finds himself wanting to play the hero for Tara, who has entranced him in a very short time. They have an explosive chemistry together, but have to outwit the villains before they can have any kind of future.

This was a very hot and sexy short story. Because of its length, the reader doesn’t really have time to become invested in the characters. They meet, there’s heat, and then the chase. It was amusing, and poked fun at comic conventions, and the people who attend them. I loved the heroic and sexy alien, and this story flowed along without a dull moment. For readers who are into sizzling sci-fi, this novella left me smiling. Don’t be surprised if you go looking for an alien of your own.

Truth Within Dreams by Elizabeth Boyce

roses2
Truth Within Dreams by Elizabeth Boyce
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (220 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

When Henry De Vere wakes up naked in bed with his longtime friend Claudia Baxter, it is his fondest dream and his worst nightmare come true. Could he truly have compromised one of his dearest friends without even the benefit of remembering it? Plagued by somnambulism his whole life, Henry fears his baser nature has asserted itself, and insists on doing the honorable thing to marry Claudia.

Claudia’s plan to stage her own ruination and escape marriage to the churlish and elderly Sir Saint had seemed foolproof. She was sure the kindly Henry wouldn’t mind helping her out … but somehow she hadn’t counted on him actually proposing.

Their illicit encounter awakens feelings long buried for each. Will this preposterous scheme result in a happier ending than either could have hoped for?

Claudia Baxter has a problem. She’s about to be married off to an aging dandy, and she has to find a way to get out of it. Her parents are determined to see her settled, so drastic action is called for. Her twin brother’s dear friend (and her childhood companion) Henry De Vere has come to visit. When they were children, Claudia always took part in their games and escapades, in fact, she was the instigator of many of them. So now, she concocts a plan. She will sneak into Henry’s bed, and make it appear that she is ruined, so her elderly suitor will reject her. What Claudia doesn’t know is that Henry has suffered from sleepwalking for most of his life, which has put him in a lot of precarious, embarrassing, and dangerous situations. Only recently has Henry begun to believe that the problem is going away. Now Henry wakes to find Claudia in his bed, the whole household is awoken and crowds into his room, believing the worst. The “props” that Claudia used make it appear that not only was she ruined, but tortured in the process. Henry believes the worst, that he ravaged Claudia while he was sleepwalking and is filled with guilt and self loathing.

Henry is such a dear man, my heart broke to see him suffering. He was so filled with remorse and anxious to put everything right. Making it worse is the fact that Henry has been attracted to Claudia, but never acted on it because of his sleeping disorder. He felt that he was not safe to be around, so he planned never to marry. He now offers to marry Claudia right away, but he has become a villain, and is banished from the Baxter household. I had a harder time with Claudia and her scheme. She went ahead with her plan without letting Henry know, and then, even when they had a chance to talk together before Henry had to leave, she didn’t tell him the truth. I found her a little weak for just not turning down the marriage her parents were trying to arrange in the first place.

Once Henry accidentally stumbled into what really happened, he concocted a scheme to get back at Claudia. While I’m not a fan of paybacks, unless it’s at the villain’s expense, I did feel that Henry deserved to get some of his own back. It was this painful incident that finally made Claudia realize just what she had done, and the consequences for Henry. Despite these reservations, the book did make for a unique and entertaining read. If you enjoy a historical romp, or a little madcap short story, Truth Within Dreams will fit the bill.