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Focuses on all things romance - contemporary, historical, paranormal, and romantic suspense. Reviews, interviews, guest posts, spotlights, giveaways. Fun weekly features!

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Then Came You

Then Came You - Jill Shalvis Jill Shalvis ROCKS! Then Came You and her Animal Magnetism series are must-reads for any season.

It’s always a happy day in my house when there is a new Jill Shalvis book to be read, but it’s a huge celebration when there is a new series to be enjoyed. Really. It. Is.

Earlier this month I saw that Jill had a new title, Then Came You.

I snapped it up! Yes, she’s one of my must-buy authors and after my mini-celebration, I settled back to begin reading. But then I realized that this was book five in her Animal Magnetism series and I hadn’t read the previous four titles. Oh my, now I was celebrating big-time.

I know that Then Came You could be a stand-alone title, but why wouldn’t I want to read the four preceding stories and get the scoop on all the characters from Sunshine, Idaho. It’s Jill Shalvis. Small town romance. Humor to keep you laughing-out-loud for hours. Stories that center around animals, hunky vets, their family and friends. The question is not why would I read the four earlier titles, but why hadn’t I before! That situation was quickly remedied in one weekend.

I flew through books one to four. Fell in love with a pet duck (Animal Magnetism). Emphasized with Jade, while rooting for Dell (Animal Attraction). Cried a bit with Holly and Adam (Rescue My Heart). And totally lost my heart to Tommy, Kate’s younger brother, in Rumor Has It.

I felt like I had moved to Sunshine, Idaho, by the time I began reading book five, Then Came You. I think my golden retriever and four cats would like to visit Drs. Dell and Wyatt. Yes. I. Do. (And I wouldn’t mind seeing them myself!)

Then Came You sets up that perfect oops moment when two people who never thought they’d see one another again wind up working together for a year.

Yes, what happened in Reno didn’t stay in Reno. (Perhaps the vet conference should have been held in Las Vegas.) Veterinarian intern Emily arrives in Sunshine, Idaho, already out-of-sorts and literally counting the days till her year internship is finished. She had hoped for the more glamorous slot in LA, where she’d be tending star's teacup dogs, instead of getting down-in-the-dirt with livestock at a ranch.

Her year only became harder when she realized Wyatt, her new boss, was her hook-up from Reno. They hadn’t exchanged last names. They didn’t intend seeing one another again. But it seems neither one could forget the other.

I really enjoyed this story and thought Wyatt was almost perfect. Why? His two sisters had already trained him in most things woman related. Their interactions were wonderful as was Emily’s with her sister. As with Rumor Has It, the families were as central to this story as the main protagonists.

Once again I found myself laughing-out-loud with situational humor that Shalvis writes so well. The pages also scorched my Kindle a bit as Emily and Wyatt’s relationship progressed. The Kleenex box came out at the end of the story, as it does quite often with Shalvis. She’s an author who knows how to give her readers an all-encompassing emotional ride, and have them line up eagerly for the next.

I highly recommend the Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism series and Then Came You. Jill Shalvis ROCKS!

Withholding Evidence

Withholding Evidence - Rachel  Grant As you might guess, I quickly began reading the next title in the Evidence series, Withholding Evidence.

This time the heroine, Trina Sorensen, is a military historian who works for Mara and in the same government agency as Erica. Yes, all three women are rocking their respective professions.

It’s clear that Trina has faced quite a bit of chauvinism in her chosen field. If you’re someone whose been up against the old boy network, you’ll appreciate how Grant describes Trina’s struggles - and her triumphs.

To keep the peace at the office, Trina takes on an assignment from one of the most condescending old boys she works with. She feels she can’t afford not to as she needs the job security. What’s the assignment? To interview members of a SEAL team about a Somalian mission they had undertaken a few years ago.

From the moment that former Navy SEAL Keith Hatcher slams the door in Trina’s face, you know that they’re going to be dynamite together. In another engrossing story, Grant ratchets up the sexual vibe to smoking hot for Trina and Keith.

After one of the most explosive (ahem) encounters I’ve read, Grant provides Trina and Keith with a conspiracy to unravel. In addition, we learn more about the other members of Keith’s SEAL team. If I hadn’t had a reader crush on him earlier, seeing the caring and understanding way he dealt with his teammate who sought escape through drugs, would have moved him up my hero list.

Withholding Evidence is a bit shorter than the other two books in the series and is a slightly faster read.

My only complaint about Rachel Grant’s Evidence series is that I’ll have to wait a few months for the next installment. Yes, these books are that good.

So if you love romantic suspense, kick-ass highly intelligent heroines, and super alpha heroes, pick up Rachel Grant’s Evidence series today!

Body of Evidence: 2 (Evidence Series)

Body of Evidence: 2 (Evidence Series) - Rachel Grant The second book in the Evidence series, Body of Evidence, begins with the heroine, archaeologist Mara Garrett, facing a firing squad in North Korea. Oh my goodness, my heart about stopped as she walked blindfolded to her final sentence, and only began to beat again when U.S. Attorney Curt Dominick (from Concrete Evidence) arrived.

Curt flexed his negotiating skills a bit to help Erica in Concrete Evidence as Lee's best friend, but that was nothing to going up against the North Korean leader with the poker face that ex-President Clinton coached him on. I’d swoon if he were on my side and it’s clear from their first encounter that Mara and Curt have a pretty strong attraction to one another. However, Curt is prosecuting Mara’s uncle, a former U.S. Vice President, so while he’s riding to her rescue they’re on opposite sides of that fence.

Soon they’re both being hunted by Mara’s ex-fiance on behalf of his father who runs the security/black ops company that her uncle works for. Planes explode, friends are murdered, car chases ensue. Oh yes, Grant raises the level of adrenaline-pumping action in Body of Evidence. But once again it is the details of Mara’s work as a forensic archaeologist, her career dedicated to finding and bringing the bodies of MIAs home for their families to have final closure, that draws me in.

I also admit to really liking the character of Mara. She'd be a great BFF. Perhaps she’s a bit too trusting for a world that seems to be imploding around her, but it’s her spirit and faith in humanity that touches a chord with me. How could Curt resist her?

The romance between Curt and Mara is one of the most beautiful that I’ve read. Grant proves that mental stimulation is just as sexy as any physical details in their nightly phone conversations, writing some of the most loving and erotic passages I’ve ever read.

I couldn’t put Body of Evidence down, either. While it seemed like there really wasn’t much mystery as to who was corrupt, Grant pulled out some last minute plot twists that ratcheted up the suspense even more.

When I turned the final page, I knew that Rachel Grant is an author that would have a permanent home on my must-read shelf and will be a future auto-buy. Yes, Body of Evidence just ROCKED! It’s filled with suspense, passion, tenderness, and features a dynamic, intelligent heroine and a hero who's sexy, strong, and skilled at negotiating the halls of power.

Concrete Evidence

Concrete Evidence  - Rachel  Grant Review: Rachel Grant's Evidence Series ROCKS!

Finding an author who writes stories that strongly resonate with a personal passion is like birthday and Christmas surprises combined. That’s one reason I love preparing the weekly Feeding Your eReader Friday posts, as I’ll search out books that are either free or almost free to recommend to you. In order to do that, I read the titles (yes, I do), before recommending them to you.

This past week, when I was looking for titles to include I found the first book in the romantic suspense series, Evidence, by Rachel Grant. The description of Concrete Evidence totally intrigued me as it featured an underwater archaeologist (yes, one of my passions). So, along with Elisabeth Naughton’s glowing endorsement, I knew couldn’t go very wrong. (Plus, it was and is FREE!)

Little did I anticipate becoming so caught up in the story, that not only did I read Concrete Evidence, but also Body of Evidence (book 2) (available for $0.99 in the six-book bundle, Crimes of Passion: 6 Romantic Suspense Books), and Withholding Evidence (book 3).

Yes, I purchased and read the entire series and the only complaint I’ll voice is that there isn’t a book four yet. Rachel Grant recently posted photos to her Facebook page from a research trip to Alaska for her next Evidence title. I can’t wait! Just like caffeine in the morning, I need my Rachel Grant fix! NOW!

Grant is an author who knows the worlds she’s writing about intimately (she’s an archaeologist and her husband is an underwater archaeologist). She uses that authentic background to create powerful and compelling protagonists and engrossing stories. But don’t worry, it’s not all geeky facts (though geek girls will love these books). Each book is a suspenseful page turner that I already want to read again!

Concrete Evidence, the first book in Rachel Grant’s Evidence series, begins with a tragic scene from the 1950s. Soon, I was so wrapped up in former underwater archaeologist Erica Kesling’s story that the earlier scene slipped from my mind (but not too far, as it’s quite important to the story).

Erica’s been blackballed from her graduate program, can no longer work as an underwater archaeologist or for anyone in her industry on the West Coast. On the edge of bankruptcy, she is working as a consulting archaeologist for a private D.C.-based company that does quite a bit of contracting work for the government.

The reason behind her career slide is integral to the story as in order to clear $100,000 of debts her mother incurred in her name, she took a job with a salvager the prior summer. Crossing the line from straight academic archaeology to working for someone who’s a treasure hunter is a huge no no in her field. Let alone finding out that her boss is stealing priceless Aztec objects that were supposed to be left in situ until the Mexican authorities were alerted to the find.

Erica now lives under the threat of blackmail from the salvager and is hoping to find what he did with these priceless objects as one of her company’s clients may be involved. However, she’s not the only one who’s searching out a thief and contraband. Unexpectedly, she's saddled with intern Lee Scott, who seems a bit old to still be in college, but acts the slacker as the ultimate Tetris warrior. But in actuality he’s there undercover to find out who’s smuggling illegal Iraqi antiquities - the same antiquities that were to be traded for the Aztec ones that Erica had discovered.

Neither of Erica nor Lee trusts the other with the truth of what they’re in search of. But in rooting out the history of a house that was built for a military base, now on a Native American reservation, both of their searches collide. The way Grant combines the historical search for the special concrete that was used to build the house with the search for the objects, along with the many threats Erica and Lee face is riveting. I really was swept up in the search they did in the National Archives, following the paper trail, yep, geek girl heaven!

I don’t want to go into too much more detail, as the story is much better as told by Grant, but be prepared for a very intelligent and suspenseful thriller that has political and international elements - as well as plenty of romance.

Country Heaven Cookbook: Family Recipes & Remembrances

Country Heaven Cookbook: Family Recipes & Remembrances - Ava Miles Filled with comfort food that will top your chart!

If you’re looking for some recipes that you’ll add to those handed down in your own family, you should consider purchasing Ava Miles’ Country Heaven Cookbook: Family Recipes & Remembrances.

This relatively short cookbook (67 pages, including an excerpt from Miles’ novel Country Heaven) is chock full of the best in comfort food. Not only are the recipes from Country Heaven included, but also several from Miles own family.

In addition to being a bestselling author, Ava also worked as a chef. So you know that she’s made sure to test these recipes out and they’re so clearly written that it’s a sheer pleasure to follow them.

May I say, I was particularly delighted by this book as I had loved the inclusion of recipes in the novel, but they were hard to find (my little magnifier search icon was a bit overused as I searched for corn bread and some other favs). Now, I just open up this handy cookbook and all the recipes are there - and are indexed - so no more searching is needed.

These dishes are both fun to make and a joy to eat. I whipped up a batch of that cornbread last night and it was light, airy, and tasty… I was lucky to have enough left to toast this morning (one of my favorite breakfast treats) after some friendly locusts descended on it.

My friends unanimous taste test verdict? This was probably the best cornbread ever - and I take no credit for it. It’s purely Ava. Really, cornbread was one of my Nana’s (Dad’s mom) favorite things to make, along with Angel Food Cake for birthdays, and Lady Baltimore Cake for special occasions (yes, just like Ava’s family). But I have to say Nana's cornbread was much heavier as the proportion of flour to cornmeal was equal. This recipe shakes that dynamic up and the results are FABulous.

Some other recipes include fried chicken (and yes, this is the exact same recipe that was passed down in my family, even to the milk gravy), a lemon meringue pie that my father would have loved, cream puffs (I’ve never attempted these, but just may with this recipe), candied nuts that just look so tasty, a great BBQ dry rub, and, oh yes, buttermilk biscuits.

Ava makes reading these recipes fun with her personal interjections and humor. But for a cook, this is like a treasured gold mine volume of down home comfort foods.

I look forward to more books - and recipes - in Ava’s Dare River series. Next up is THE CHOCOLATE GARDEN (pub date: 12 August 2014). Chocolate and Ava, mmmm. Can’t wait!

Add Ava Miles' Country Heaven Cookbook: Family Recipes & Remembrances to your cookbook shelf. It's comfort food that will top your chart!

Hero of a Highland Wolf

Hero of a Highland Wolf - Terry Spear Review: Terry Spear delivers a laugh-out-loud, HOT & sexy, page-turning story in Hero of the Highland Wolf

I became hooked on shifter romances years ago and one of the people I blame for this addiction is author Terry Spear. Yes, that’s right, when I began to read Terry Spear’s Heart of the Wolf series, I was hooked. Why? Because Spear creates a fabulous, believable shifter world.

No, I didn’t start looking at my neighbors too closely (though I did wonder about that coyote/wolf that began wandering around). Seriously, though, Spear’s Heart of the Wolf series combines believable protagonists that are shifters whom I’d love to have move in next door. (Yes, quite a few hunky alphas in this group.)

In addition, Spear is a writer who makes every detail clear for her readers. We can see this Heart of the Wolf world take form in front of us with each page we turn. Each of the books include not only charismatic protagonists, but also exciting stories that keep the reader turning page after page.

This spring, I reread the entire series and enjoyed it even more as the details that thread each story and link each book to one another were so clear and well-integrated. The stories may be set in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Maine, or Scotland, but there are themes and characters that remain consistently as touchstones for her readers.

Beginning with book seven, Heart of the Highland Wolf, Spear introduces us to some fabulous wolf shifter clans of Scotland. Think HOT Scottish lairds - in kilts - who are also alpha wolves that speak with a bit of a brogue. (Fanning my face right now.)

Her fourteenth book in the series, Hero of a Highland Wolf (pub date: 4 Aug 2014), is a fabulous read. I was hooked from the moment that Colleen Playfair, an American she-wolf, arrives in Scotland to investigate her inheritance - a castle and property that is managed by the MacQuarrie clan.

Laird Grant MacQuarrie is HOT, surly, and not at all happy that the American is coming to live in his castle for a year and a day. He has several plans to make her uncomfortable, beginning with a scene that I could see - like a news clip - play out before my eyes. A field of kilt-wearing Scottish hunks, bare-breasted (and oiled), dueling with one another in front of a battle-scarred castle. And Spear answers definitively that question that we all ask at one time or another. “What does a Scotsman wear beneath his kilt?” (Fanning face yet again.)

Add in the HOT romance between Grant and Colleen, a few ghosts, some mischievous wolfish brothers, an American best-friend now married to a neighboring wolf-clan laird (see book 10 for her story), innumerable witty interchanges, and a very jealous, vindictive wolf and you have a story that you cannot put down.

That’s right. Hero of a Highland Wolf by Terry Spear is a laugh-out-loud funny, slightly mysterious, engrossing, cannot-put-it-down read.

Just remember, you can never go wrong picking up one of Terry Spear’s shifter romances. I do recommend you read the series, because it’s just that good. But you don’t have to in order to enjoy each book. In my opinion, Spear’s series sets the bar for other writers to emulate as she’s just the top in this genre.

Five stars

(I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley for use in this review.)

Bound to Danger: A Deadly Ops Novel

Bound to Danger: A Deadly Ops Novel - Katie Reus Katie Reus' Bound to Danger is a cannot-put-it-down, sexy & thrilling summer must-read

I think that Katie Reus’ Bound to Danger should come with a note for employers, spouses, and friends. They just have to understand that if you begin reading this second book in her Deadly Ops series that you, the reader, will not be seen or heard from until you turn the last page. Yes, that’s right. Reading this book may be hazardous to interpersonal relationships, but will bring you much enjoyment along the way!

Seriously, I couldn’t put it down. I've really enjoyed several of Reus’ other series in both the romantic suspense and paranormal genres, but even so this particular book grabbed my attention like no other had before.

I didn’t want it to end, yet at the same time I wanted, no needed, to know what was going to happen. Yes, from the moment I cracked the cover and began reading the backstory of how Cade O’Reilly came to work for the black-ops NSA team, I was hooked.

Then Reus introduces Maria Cervantes, who’s on her way to an exclusive Miami party in order to seek funding for a non-profit community center she manages. Yes, her parents are well-to-do, but she’s not a debutante. Instead she’s dragging herself from her sickbed, albeit with her father’s bodyguard as chauffeur, to attend a gathering of Miami’s glitterati to try to keep the center open.

But her good intentions only go so far and it’s clear she’s under the weather. When a friend of the family takes her to a room off the beaten path in this mansion, she's relieved to be avoiding the party scene where servers uniforms are literally painted on (yes, paint on skin). But her respite doesn't last for long as what she overhears in the room next door causes her to run outside, just before the whole world implodes around her.

Unknown terrorists with an agenda that cannot be guessed at had bombed the mansion. Everyone in attendance, including Maria’s mother, was killed. Only Maria survived, but now has no memory as to why she was outside or what took place after she left her home to attend the party.

Whew! From that description you can see that Reus immediately amps up the action in a way that makes it totally impossible to even think of taking a break from reading. Yes, this book is that good!

For the romance quotient just add in the fact that the NSA Agent who wanders into Maria’s hospital room is Cade, who also just happened to be her deceased brother’s best friend. But while Cade survived his military service in Afghanistan, Maria’s brother did not. Nor did their budding relationship that had promised to be “the relationship” for both of them.

Soon Maria became the prime target for the terrorists and Cade was doing everything he could to protect her.

Like Maria, I couldn’t hold onto my reader resentment toward Cade for his dropping her like the proverbial hot potato. It was clear that there was more to the story and, if I were patient and didn’t put the book down, I’d find out. (Yes, you’re beginning to see a theme here, right?)

Usually in books like these the good guys and bad guys are well defined, no matter how many shades of gray one thinks one sees. However, knowing the terrorists' motivation in seeking retribution made me sympathize and empathize with them. In fact, the terrorist leader was someone who I almost felt could be rehabilitated, unlike his angry and violent lieutenant.

Bound to Danger has so many plot twists, so much action, and is so well written that, yes, you guessed it, I couldn’t stop reading - all night long. Thus my warning, this book may cause temporary insomnia until the last page is read.

Now my next mission is to pull Targeted, the first book in the Deadly Ops series, from my Kindle library and reread it. Guess I won’t get any sleep tonight either!

So, if you’re looking for a romantic suspense thriller that will keep you up all night. That is also a compelling romance and includes some fascinating and unusually portrayed characters. That includes enough pulse-pounding action to have adrenaline spiking throughout your body. Well, look no further than Bound to Danger by Katie Reus, a cannot-put-it-down, emotionally charged, sexy and thrilling summer must-read.

(I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley for use in this review.)

Beauty and the Cowboy

Beauty and the Cowboy - Nancy Thompson This review was written for and appears on TheBestReviews[dot]com

"Nancy Robards Thompson offers up a fun, fast-paced, and charming cowboy romance"

What's a girl to do when she and her almost fiancé can't agree on a wedding ring? That's what is on Charlotte Morgan's mind at the beginning of Nancy Robard Thompson's, Beauty and the Cowboy from her Montana Born Fair series.

After being involved with the hometown rodeo hero Tom, who spends more time on the Professional Bull Riders circuit than he does with her, this quandary sparks some serious doubts about their future in Charlotte's mind. But she's not too distracted to notice her former best friend and boy-next- door, Jesse Guthrie's very delectable backside at a meeting with him and her Chamber of Commerce boss, Jane McCullough, about the upcoming Miss Marietta Pageant.

When Charlotte solicits Jesse's advice about her misgivings and he tells her that if he were in love with a girl he'd know what ring to choose without even asking - and not hesitate or take six years to pop the question - this reader did a little swoon. Jesse is a former bull rider himself who got sidelined after an injury, but returned home to take over the management of the fairgrounds and the raising of his teenage sister, Mattalyn. Yes, prime spoonable cowboy material here!

Well, here's Charlotte's description of Jesse:

"At six-foot-four with mile-wide shoulders and piercing blue eyes, Jesse possessed considerable gifts. Plain and simple, he was hot. Being her friend didn't diminish his hotness. In fact, as a friend, she'd glimpsed other facets of him that added depth and dimension to the man that others who might be put off by his gruff exterior might never see."

Don't you agree Jesse is some cowboy!

After Charlotte desperately and unsuccessfully tries to reach her almost-fiance in Las Vegas where he's competing in yet another tournament, Tom finally returns her call a day later to let her know that he married someone else. I think that Marietta, Montana, has definitely chosen the wrong cowboy hero to celebrate.

The first person Charlotte sees when she goes to drown her sorrows (and eat loads of onion rings, because Tom hates them) is, of course, Jesse. Charlotte's and Jesse's tiptoeing around acknowledging their mutual attraction creates fun and touching situations. The following scene were she is toasted and speaks in drunken truth is just hilarious. While Charlotte's sensitive and gentle coaching of Jesse's sister Mattalyn for the beauty pageant is touching.

The question remains will Charlotte, who's always been a beauty pageant runner- up, become the number one (and only) choice of her love. Will Jesse, who's lived through the death of his parents and the loss of his first dream, have the courage to reach out for love.

Read Nancy Robard Thompson's fun, fast-paced, and charming Beauty and the Cowboy to discover the answer!

Savannah Sacrifice: Nymph Series, Book 4

Savannah Sacrifice: Nymph Series, Book 4 - Danica Winters a highly original, sensual, and suspenseful paranormal romance

I really love Danica Winters’ paranormal Nymph Series, that features demigoddess, shapeshifting nymphs, who are cursed by Zeus that if ever they fall in love, the object of that love will die. Oh, nymphs also have the power to seduce at will that means that they’re pretty much out of luck on the falling in love front (unless they want to be serial killers). Rather a bit of dilemma for these beautiful women, right? Oh, did you note the fact that they’re demigoddesses? Yes, in addition they’re pretty much immortal and live very long, loveless lives. Oh, and one other thing, since demigods know the score, that falling in love with a nymph causes death, they try to avoid hooking up with them. This leads to a lack of nymph progeny, because it seems that only demigods and demigoddesses together can procreate successfully.

Winters’ previous three titles in this series - The Nymph's Labyrinth (Book 1), Montana Mustangs: Book 2 of the Nymph Series (Crimson Romance), and Winter Swans (Book 3) - are really fabulous reads that combine the paranormal with some very sensual romance and great suspense. I’d really advise you to read the series as each detail that Winters provides in these books helps give added dimension to the world of the Sisterhood of Nymphs she’s created. And it’s a fun and fascinating world!

Savannah Sacrifice, the fourth book in the series, picks up where book three left off. Starling Jackson, a very rare, young swan shifting nymph, is traveling to Savannah in order to find a set of books her ghosts tell her they have to have. Yes, in addition to being one of the very few to be born of a nymph and a demigod in recent history, her special talent is that of being a medium. Her struggle with the cacophony of ghostly voices led to her the murder of her mother in book one as she searched for a drub to aid her.

If you’ve read book three, Winter Swans, probably like me you've been waiting anxiously for Starling’s story. Well wait no longer and pick up Savannah Sacrifice to find out what happens in her search for peace. Oh, I have to mention that Jasper Gray also returns to help in her search and serve as her bodyguard once again. Jasper and Starling definitely seemed to have the possibility of a little something developing between the two of them in Winter Swans , so it’s great to see what will happen when they’re thrown together again.

Will Starling find a way to coexist with her voices without medicating herself to death? Will Jasper be able to protect her from both himself and their enemies? Will a Nymph be able to once again overcome Zeus’ curse and find true love? I recommend that you pick up Savannah Sacrifice to find out the answers to these questions and for a fabulously fun and highly original paranormal read.

Winters mixes up the wonderful Southern atmosphere of Savannah with a bit of voodoo and witchcraft, a few ghostly spirits, some mortal enemies to the Sisterhood of Nymphs, and a whole lot of nail-biting action for a fabulous four-and-a-half star read.

Four and a half stars

When Day Breaks

When Day Breaks - Maya Banks One of the most beautiful, compelling, and inspiring love stories I've ever read

The last time we checked in with Kelly Group International (KGI) team, Donovan “Van” Kelly had taken charge of an orphaned family in After the Storm. Now it’s Swanny’s turn in When Day Breaks by Maya Banks, the ninth book in her KGI series.

From the first moment that I “met” Darryl “Swanny” Swanson in Whispers in the Dark, which tells of the months of captivity, abuse, and torture that both he and Nathan Kelly suffered in the mountains of Afghanistan after their mission went very wrong. With their miraculous escape and Nathan’s subsequent search to find and help his practically angelic whisperer, I also wanted to know more about Swanny - this strong, resolute, self-effacing, and quiet man. One could say he epitomizes the romantic “tortured” hero, with Banks careful and affectionate depiction of his inner and outer scars.

It was definitely a celebratory red letter day for me when Swanny's story, When Day Breaks, was delivered to my Kindle.Now this solid protector would have the chance to shine. And he does.

Only Banks would have the creativity and sensitivity to pair Swanny, who wears the signs of his torture both glaringly on his scarred face and body as well as within his soul, with top model and golden girl, Eden Sinclair, who at one time was named the most beautiful woman in the world. At first glance this might seem to be the most disparate “Beauty & the Beast” pairing possible. Swanny, whose self-image seems irrevocably damaged, and Eden, whose beauty has the the world at her feet.

But Eden isn’t superficial or in love with her looks, instead she is refreshingly nice and down-to-earth, finding the most enjoyment during the time when she’s at home in jeans and a hoodie playing with her non-yip-yap dog, an English mastiff. Plus her entire family is made up of the same alpha warrior caste that populates KGI. Her father is a retired military special ops commander, her one brother Ryker served in Afghanistan with Swanny, Nathan, and Joe Kelly, while her other brother Raid is a cop. So Eden well knows - and can deal with - her alpha men.

Swanny, since his rescue, has closed himself off from most interactions with women - aside from his KGI teammates and their families. Yes, he’s a big, strong, alpha warrior, but he prefers to reside in the background. Self-conscious about his scars, he’s afraid of having women react in horror when they see his damaged body. And frankly, he can’t imagine any woman wanting him with his scarred face. But that just proves he hasn’t met the right woman and is also blind to his own attraction, which his KGI teammate Skylar explains to Eden. Yes, he’s one of those alpha warriors who attract women like mad, but even before his captivity it’s implied that he never took advantage of that. Oh Swanny, you are a fairytale hero for sure.

KGI is called in by Eden’s brother Ryker after she is almost killed by a sniper on the Boston streets. There's a perceived threat to her due to the last mission her father went on before he retired. Her mother's life was already forfeited through a prior retaliation, but Guy Hawthorne had taken that threat out - or so it was thought. (Yes, that Guy Hawthorne who keeps popping up, is back once again.)

Even before KGI is mobilized, Banks’ makes it immediately clear that Eden holds a special place in Swanny’s heart - even though they’ve never met in person. Swanny self-reflections on the importance of the letters from Eden and news about her (including some magazine covers) that Ryker shared before the mission went south are incredibly moving. However, Swanny doesn’t think that Eden will ever notice him, but is looking forward to finally seeing this woman - this ideal - that helped him through the darkest nights of his captivity through her very existence.

When Eden and Swanny meet in her Boston hotel, with all her family and his KGI teammates present, it’s quite clear that there is a strong mutual attraction between the two of them. No matter how much Swanny wants to disappear in the shadows. Eden won't let him and acknowledges to herself that she wants to know more about this man who has fascinated her for years, each time her brother discussed his teammates with her.

Now, you may notice from the above description that there is far more about a romance between Swanny and Eden than there is about jam-packed, thrilling action. That’s because although Eden does have a stalker/assassin after her, that really isn’t the focus of When Day Breaks. Instead, action takes a backseat to one of the most beautiful, compelling, and inspiring love stories that I’ve ever read.

Now, some of you may stop right now and say to yourself, that’s not the KGI I want to read. If you do that, I think that you’re doing a disservice both to yourself, Maya Banks, and a series and characters that, in my view, continually breaks and remakes the mold of a romantic suspense series.

Maya Banks is one of the most talented writers around and is able to create characters that set up home in our reader hearts. The KGI family - the Kellys and their teammates - have become, book by book, people to care about. Because of this, I realize that passions run high with this series and expectations about what the books should be like. All I can say is that the way Banks is envisioning and presenting KGI, her books will continue to be preordered and remain on my must-read shelf.

So please add When Day Breaks to your bookshelf if you’re looking for a title that is inspiring, passionate, populated by characters that one can truly admire. It is a story that I am proud to share with a younger relative for them to use as a sort of updated fairytale, with a hero and heroine to admire and fall a bit of reader in love with.

True beauty is drawn from the spirit within, and both the writer behind When Day Breaks and the story itself epitomize this.

Five stars

On Sunset Beach: The Chesapeake Diaries

On Sunset Beach: The Chesapeake Diaries - Mariah Stewart Small town romance at its BEST! The PERFECT summer read!!!
Will an urbanite gallerist and a cynical soldier find love in Mariah Stewart’s On Sunset Beach?

Combine the story of an art historian / gallerist who’s discovered a priceless cache of heretofore unknown paintings by an early-20th-century female artist, with the return of a disillusioned soldier, a hometown boy who’s served for too many years it seems as a support for UN Peacekeepers in a Central African country and you will have a bit of magic to read. Yes, you guessed right, I’m describing On Sunset Beach, the newest book in Mariah Stewart’s The Chesapeake Diaries series and one that I couldn’t wait to read.

I so enjoyed Stewart’s depiction of Carly Summit. It was all spot on and made me ever so wistful about not “using” my advanced degree in art history . . . but all the more appreciative of the realistic and sometimes hilarious descriptions of Carly’s life as a very well regarded gallerist, her research, and her curatorial work.

Another reason I adored the character of Carly was that she's so unabashedly positive. She happily creates the finest lemonade from a serving of life’s lemons that might have other people tearing out their hair. In all probability, it is this positive energy that is the major draw for Ford’s troubled soul. A good life lesson for all of us to send out positive vibes, rather than dwelling in negativity - and some magic may occur. Yes, a bit of the “Law of Attraction” right here on the Chesapeake.

But what is urbanite Carly doing in St. Dennis to begin with? In book seven, At the River's Edge, Carly and her BFF Ellie Ryder discovered a cache of Caroline Ellis’ paintings, that will be the focal point of the exhibition, in Ellie’s attic. Yes, Ellie is the great-great-granddaughter of Ellis. So many threads to weave the tapestry of The Chesapeake Diaries.

So there is a definite St. Dennis connection for Carolina Ellis. The fates (and some St. Dennis natives spurred on by Grace) decided that instead of the planned debut of exhibition Ellis' work at Carly’s Manhattan gallery that this exhibition of a St. Dennis native should open the new Art Center to be located at the former Enright estate. (If you’re a series regular you’ll remember how and why the estate was given to the town.)

So, that was first lemon handed to Carly - moving a groundbreaking and reputation enhancing exhibition from one of the art world’s capital cities to a small town on the Chesapeake. How does she deal? She grumbles for a moment than figures out a way to make it all work, from overseeing where on the estate the exhibition will be held to getting the art world's decision makers to attend. It's fascinating how she oversees how the space will be designed and making it art friendly (climate control, security, etc). Luckily Ellie’s fiancé Cameron has a construction company that will handle the remodel - and perhaps a certain ex-soldier might have a security expert friend to help too.

Speaking of … Grace Sinclair’s son Ford returned after years away in a very needed, but soul-destroying, off-the-books military service in Central Africa. He won’t speak to anyone about his experience there, and really tries to avoid discussing his time away from St. Dennis, but does seem to find some peace in solo kayak trips on the Chesapeake. Ford eventually takes over some of Grace’s newspaper duties after an unexpected accident. His first assignment? To interview and profile Carly.

Grace, the series’ namesake diarist, is in her seventies and is the owner and publisher of the local newspaper, who lives at the families’ five star Inn, and once in a while may use a bit of matchmaking magic to ensure friends and family pair off successfully. Her intuitive sense definitely went on the alert for a pairing of Carly (whom she just met) and Ford (who she senses is darkly troubled), but very little of her magic turns out to be needed. Really, they sparked from the moment they encounter one another in the Inn’s lobby in front of one of Carolina Ellis’ paintings.

On Sunset Beach is the perfect book to read and savor on a mid-summer day. There’s just enough unresolved conflict surrounding Ford and Carly’s budding relationship to keep a reader crossing fingers till the last page is turned. Many of the well-beloved characters from the previous books have return engagements and once again Scoop is a favorite destination as is the new restaurant, Blossoms.

That’s one of the things I love about this series - the very magical way Stewart weaves together all these characters and story lines and creates a town that I know if I drive about three hours south I’ll discover not the Chesapeake. Yes, she has that ability to embue her stories with such a realism that I’m sure there are readers looking for St. Dennis all the time. Isn’t that what every author seeks to accomplish? Just a perfect series! If you haven’t read the seven other books, Stewart does provide enough backstory in On Sunset Beach for this to be a very interesting standalone title. But I do think you’ll be swept up by a bit of Grace’s magic and will put The Cheseapeake Diaries on your must-read shelf. It’s just one of the most engaging small-town romances around.


Ricochet - Skye Jordan A hot, sexy, cannot-put-it-down summer read!

Have I got a smutastic, sexy, and keep-that-Kleenex-box-at-your side read for you! Yes, that’s right, Ricochet the third book in Skye Jordan’s Renegades series is just plain out amazing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series - Reckless (Book 1), Rebel (Book 2) - and their stories about former top models, now successful women of business, who hook up with members of the A-list Hollywood stunt team, The Renegades. But hold on to your seat, Jordan has not only turned the heat level up in Ricochet, but I’m still wrapped up in the story almost 12 hours after I turned the final page.

The group of hunky, alpha guys that form the Renegades are truly eye candy for readers. These thrill seekers channel all that adrenaline into creating stunts that propel them them on the top of their industry. This is the second book where the team is creating stunts for the latest James Bond film. Yep, there in charge of creating the innovative and dangerous stunts for one of the longest running film franchises. These guys ROCK!

Who keeps them in line? That would be their office manager aka little sister, Rachel. While she’s only been with the team for six months, her organizational skills, ability to assess risks, and most importantly, ease in working with difficult personalities, has made her an invaluable asset. So invaluable, that she’s declared off-limits to the team members for any extracurricular action.

When we first meet her, Rachel’s having a particularly lousy day, that just keeps getting worse. When she’s told she has to collect a demolition consultant at LAX, I groaned along with her. Sure enough her luck holds and she’s stuck in traffic for over 90 minutes in the sweltering summer heat and then she can’t find the consultant anywhere. He’s disappeared.

Ryker, the consultant, is on leave from his military job in Afghanistan for two months and is the best friend of Renegade stuntman, Troy. In Ryker's mind, he’s doing his bro a real favor by coming out to LA to give the Renegades some advice about how to safely blow some things up. But is Troy looking out for him in creating this opportunity? From the moment Ryker intervenes in a fight among three taxi drivers at the airport, cursing them out in Pashtu while flashing back to the war zone he just left, the inner battle he faces in this story is poignantly made clear.

When he heads to the bar in the International Terminal he hooks up with a woman who’s 180 degrees different from his normal one-night-stands, a series of encounters that help hold his demons at bay. He can’t understand the attraction to her, but he can’t and does not want to escape it.

The woman just wants to have anonymous hot and heavy sex, because she’s been betrayed by the two people she trusted the most. She no longer trusts or believes in “relationships.” The tough guy on the bar stool next to her is perfect for her first foray into the world of a one-night-stand. Not only does he like the same craft brewery, but with a glance he gets her hot and bothered. More hot than she's ever been.

Yep, you guessed it. Rachel is the woman sitting next to Ryker and the sizzling encounter they have will leave your eReader smoking. Ryker (or Nathan as he introduces himself to Rachel) realizes who she is, but doesn’t say anything. I know, kind of silly, but he doesn’t want to take the chance of his night going south.

In the morning, when she’s gone, he realizes that he’d like this one night to last through his time in LA, but will that be possible? Not from the reception Rachel gives him when she realizes that the anonymous Nathan she never expected to see again is Nathan Ryker. Unknowingly, she’s just broken her cardinal “no involvement with the team rule,” but that wild passion they shared probably can't be denied.

From this moment forward, I was totally involved with the story, so involved I ignored the wild thunderstorm that erupted around me. Sure I loved the hot and dirty sex scenes, but I wasn’t counting the pages till the next one popped up. No matter how well written they are. Nope, this whole story just wrapped its fingers around me and pulled me in headfirst.

Between Rachel’s quandary of how to handle her growing attraction to Ryker alongside her devotion to the Renegades to her dealing with a constant barrage of messages from her parents and her sister, I was totally hooked by her character. I love it when there is a heroine like this who is not only fiercely attractive, but wildly intelligent and take-no-prisoners kick-ass fabulous. And yes, I loved it when she channeled her inner bitch!

And Nathan Ryker? Well, I fell a little bit in love with him too. I admit it. I. Did. He is unabashedly secure in himself, in his military service both as a former Ranger and as a demolitions (EOD) expert. However, he’s also not afraid to express himself to those he serves with. When he tells his comrade “I love you,” you know that this tough alpha guy is solid with himself in so many ways. Yes, he’s had a tough childhood (in and out of foster homes), but he had therapy and seems to have dealt with a lot of those issues. What is dragging him down now though, is the recent loss of several of his EOD team from a hidden bomb in an Afghanistan market. Instead of addressing his PTSD he’s been self-medicating during this forced two-month leave. Yes, that’s why he went through a woman a night in New Orleans. But when he encounters Rachel, it seems no other women will do. For now, anyway.

Rachel and Nathan just captured my reader’s heart. Truly. They. Did. In her afterword, Jordan described how much she enjoyed writing Nathan’s “damaged layers.” May I say she triumphed in doing so. May I say that’s why I really enjoy reading books by Skye Jordan (aka Joan Swan). She’s a writer who is always surprising me in the most wonderful way. Plus she’s an absolutely fabulous storyteller.

So if you’re looking for a hot, sexy, cannot-put-it-down, summer read, pick up Ricochet today!

Five stars

(I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley for use in this review.)

The Lightning Charmer

The Lightning Charmer - Kathryn Magendie Interesting paranormal romance with a southern flavor

I couldn’t resist this book as it combined a southern setting (deep in the Appalachian mountains) with a paranormal tinged romance. The heroine, Laura, is fascinating as her paranormal talent as a synesthete (seeing and tasting colors that are reflective of emotions, people, and objects)is not something that’s written about often. When she’s drawn back from New York City to her Appalachian mountain hometown and rediscovers a friend from childhood, Ayron, who is now a recluse. Magendie writes their story in a lyrical prose that is imbued with accent of the inhabitants of Appalachia. As in the south, there is no hurry to rush to finish this book, but each page is slowly savored. Sometimes a bit too slowly for this more fast-paced northerner, but absolutely perfect for the lazy, hazy days of summer.

Three and a half stars

For Her Eyes Only

For Her Eyes Only - Shannon Curtis An adrenaline-spiking, page-turning, steamy read

I really enjoyed Shannon Curtis’ For Her Eyes Only, the third book in her McCormack Security Agency Series. Yes, I love romantic suspense and in order to give this a fair review I absolutely HAD to read the previous two store sin this series, Viper's Kiss (Book 1) / Guarding Jess (Book 2), right? Well, that was my excuse anyway and soon I was happily immersed in some adrenaline-spiking, page-turning reads. I really enjoyed this series and For Her Eyes Only is filled with plot twists and suspects, as well as some steamy scenes. Ryan, the hero, an operative with McCormack Security is paired with a desk worker at the security agency, Vicky. They once shared a steamy kiss, but then Ryan beat a hasty retreat, now however they are undercover (in more ways than one) at a couples resort where some unsavory things seem to be taking place. I’d highly recommend you take a look at all three books in the series, but if not, this story does stand on its own. A fun summertime read when the days are hot, as the winter descriptions may help you cool off.

(I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley for use in this review.)

Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes - Trish Jensen Hilarious rom com that's a perfect summer read

Behind the Scenes is a hilarious novel about the vagaries of Hollywood. This behind-the-scenes look at a beauty makeover reality television show, to be hosted the self-effacing Tanya Pierce, who just happens to be the niece of one of the network’s executives. The show’s reluctant producer, AJ, doesn’t want anything to do with this niece and distrusts all women thanks to his greedy ex-wife. But put AJ and Tanya together and all sorts of things start to occur, including a budding reluctant romance. The combination of a fun story with Trish Jensen’s fabulous deft hand at dialogue and humor make this book is a winner! Perfect for your beach-friendly eReader.

Four and a half stars

(I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley for use in this review.)


Accidentally...Cimil? - Mimi Jean Pamfiloff A hilarious must-read for Accidentally Yours fans. Cimil ROCKS!

If you’re a fan of Mimi Jean Pamfiloff’s Accidentally Yours series, you know and may love (or hate) Cimil. This goddess of the underworld definitely does not leave anyone without an opinion. But is she truly evil? And what’s with the unicorns and the clowns? Well, if you’ve ever asked those questions as you’ve read books one through four, Accidentally...Cimil?: An Accidentally Yours Novella will fill in all the blanks. This hilarious and oh too short story gives Pamfiloff the deep background on Cimil that they’ve been dying for as well as deep belly laughs, a bit of hot sex, and definitely prepare us for the final book in the series, Accidentally...Over? (Accidentally Yours Book 5), to be released 26 August 2014. Before that date, I’d advise you to reread the entire series: Accidentally In Love With...A God? (Book 1), Accidentally Married to...A Vampire? (Book 2), Sun God Seeks...Surrogate? (Book 3), Accidentally...Evil? (Book 3.5), and Vampires Need Not...Apply? (Book 4). Just be prepared for friends and strangers to give you the fish eye as you burst into loud laughter. Pamfiloff is the mistress of paranormal romantic comedy and Accidentally Yours is the perfect read under the summer sun.