June 30, 2009

Jacket Copy:
Autumn Adams never planned to follow in her mother's footsteps as Chicago's answer to Martha Stewart--she can't cook, doesn't clean, and would rather play soccer than discuss the joys of white bathtub grout. Then some lunatic starts sending her threats in the mail and Audie finds herself under the protection of simmering, sexy Detective Stacey Quinn, a man determined to examine her every nook, cranny, and ex-boyfriend in his effort to find the stalker. A disarming combination of macho cop and sweet charmer, Quinn is hard to resist. But with Audie's bad luck at finding and holding on to Mr. Right, she think it's best to keep her distance...

Quinn soon discovers that the real Audie is an alluring blend of fantasy babe and tender-hearted female all wrapped up in what he can only hope is leopard-print underwear. She's not what he's always pictured for himself, but could she be everything he'll ever need?

Digging through Audie's many layers could turn out to be the hottest, craziest, sexiest bit of detective work Quinn has ever attempted...if it doesn't kill him first.

The ingredients for Susan Donovan's KNOCK ME OFF MY FEET are a hunky, Irish police detective and threats by mail to a Martha Stewart-esk columnist who'd much rather spend her time on the soccer field. Furthermore, there is mention of kilts and what is worn beneath them and bagpipes and their possibilities, there’s a bunch of ex-boyfriends who are suspects, an associate with a questionable taste in clothing, lots of bed talk by the otherwise quiet detective, quite some touching and feeling and a smoking hot scene on a porch.

Stacey Quinn is a Chicago PD detective. He is Quinn to his friends and family and if you want to stay on his good side, you'd better not call him Stacey. He is straightforward and direct but not very talkative, however, there are some nice exceptions to the latter, which I will address later in this review. Subtlety is lost on him and he oozes masculinity. He is a confident and sweet man who’s a bit rough around the edges but has a heart of gold.

After her mother’s death, Autumn (Audie) Adams took over her “Homey Helen” column. It is something she does out of guilt towards her mother, although why she felt guilty is beyond me after reading how Audie's family life was while she grew up. Audie is clumsy, disorganized, outspoken and impulsive. She would rather play women soccer than give homemaker tips. She is lonely and sometimes lashes out because of insecurities that come from her messed up childhood but considering her upbringing she turned out pretty well and she too, has a heart of gold.

Audie and Quinn are really sweet together in the way that, despite their immediate attraction, they both take their time to gradually open up to each other. They are opposites in many, many ways, which causes a lot of awkward situations and fun dialogues between them to go along with the fiery and instant chemistry. He is neat, she's messy. He grew up in a warm and close family, she grew up in a dysfunctional one. He is very much in control of everything, she is clumsy. He is the silent type, she is talkative. But I do need to rectify that last one a bit because Quinn can be talkative on a few subjects. One is his family, he can talk a lot about his family when he's gets into his stride and he is also oh so very talkative in bed and I loved that. My dear old heart goes into overdrive when a hero talks the talk during love scenes and Quinn definitely talks the talk and he does it quite well. My favorite talkative hero used to be Butch (J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood) but Quinn has definitely dethroned him.

There are enough secondary characters to provide a nice number of suspects for the suspense thread of the book, but still it is Quinn and Stacey who take center stage in this wonderful contemporary story. Supporting characters like Quinn's partner, Quinn's family and Stacey's friend Griffin are essential for the humor that runs through the book. I especially liked the scene with brotherly talk at the pub with Quinn and his brothers and the banter between Quinn and his partner. Actually, in all the dialogues, no matter in which situation and no matter between which characters, the humor shone through. Sometimes it was subtle and in the background, other times it was laugh-out-loud funny.

Susan Donovan is great with humor and wit. Her writing is easy to grasp and fluent. She fleshes out her characters in a thorough way, making it able to really get to know them and go through all the motions with them. She provides her hero and heroine with extensive backgrounds and although I had some trouble with the pace of the book in the beginning, when it seemed like the book was crawling forth, it is that slow pace that makes it possible for the romance to develop gradually in a realistic way and for the characters to really grow on you as the reader.

Having read some extremely fast-paced paranormal and suspense books right before reading this book, I think I just had to make a little adjustment in order to appreciate the slower pace in the beginning of this book. And rest assured that Susan Donovan does make up for the slow starting pace because what starts as a mellow, slow paced and sweet romance novel changes completely and for the better when Donovan takes it up a notch both with the pace and with the romance. When Quinn and Audie decide to act on their mutual attraction and budding feelings, it really changes the tone and pace of the book. It turns sizzling hot when Quinn starts to get all touchy feely and talkative and when Audie lets her inhibitions and insecurities go. It was an unexpected change that gave the book an extra dimension and which made it shoot a few places up my list.

Susan Donovan sure knows how to write sensual build-up and how to heat things up in the bedroom to such a peak that if I wore glasses, they would've steamed up real good. She proves that explicitness doesn't equal hotness because one of the hottest scenes in the book is one where Quinn and Audie aren't even having sex, though they are talking about it.

In the beginning of the book Donovan tricked me into this comfortable, non-too impressive lull, just to end it with very hot romance and some surprising twists in the suspense plot. She did have me sweating for a bit with the suspense plot because I thought there was going to be an unforgivable plot inconsistency but she saved it just in time to give me the great ending she had been working up to.

KNOCK ME OFF MY FEET is a contemporary romance just the way I like them. Smooth and fluent and filled with fun, chemistry, the right amount of resistance to the attraction and a suspense plot that stays in the background just enough not to make it a romantic suspense. I will definitely be reading more of Susan Donovan's work soon.

Oh, and let's not forget the best part about her life --Stacey Quinn! The intensely sexy cop who kissed her until her spine fused, then disappeared with some lame excuse, then sent her a gift so inexplicably sweet and personal that it made her cry.

He wanted what his parents had and he decided early on that he'd settle for nothing less. He wanted the kind of love that was beautiful and resilient and funny. He wanted passionate love. He wanted love that would challenge him, complete him, make him a better man.

Audie watched him do the one-handed macho T-shirt removal thing and toss it to the chair. And there he stood in front of her, wearing nothing but the kilt and a muscular chest, trim abdomen and strong arms. Audie knew she might very well be drooling, but she didn't care. His body was exquisite--powerful, sprung tight, ready for whatever might be required. (...) He was the most exquisite male specimen she'd ever seen, and beneath the hard-ass cop routine, he was the kindest man she'd ever known.

June 29, 2009
Jacket Copy:
It was a desperate plan. But Mary Grace Winters knew the only way to save herself and her child from her abusive cop husband was to stage their own death. Now all that remains of their former life is at the bottom of a lake . . .

Armed with a new identity in a new town, she and her son have found refuge hundreds of miles away. As Caroline Stewart, she has almost forgotten the nightmare she left behind nine years ago. She is even taking a chance on love with Max Hunter, a man with wounds of his own. But her past is about to collide with the present when her husband uncovers her trail and threatens her hard-won peace. Step by step, he's closing in on her— and everything and everyone she loves.


A brave woman who tries to leave a life of pain, misery and spousal abuse behind and move on with her son, a chance on love in the form of a hunky history professor, a race against time to catch an abusive husband, who is leaving a trail of victims, before he finishes what he started, two kindred spirits who are both emotionally scarred, moving and wonderful romance and bone-chilling suspense. These are the ingredients of Karen Rose's debut romantic suspense novel: DON’T TELL.

Caroline Stewart is the name Mary Grace Winters takes on after she's staged her and her son's death to escape her abusive husband. She is the school example of the high school drop out who got married for all the wrong reasons, including an unplanned pregnancy, with the husband from hell. Seven years later she's worked hard build up a new life and just when she starts to get comfortable enough to stop looking over her shoulder, her husband finds out she’s still alive and he goes on a manhunt to track her down. Caroline is intelligent, courageous, resilient and compassionate. In everything she does, her son comes first and she doesn't shy back from confrontation or discussion.

Max Hunter is the history professor who takes over the position of Caroline's former boss and mentor. He is a wonderful man who is caring and sweet but he also has a stubborn streak. He too doesn't shy away from confrontation and this provides a few fiery dialogues and even a heated argument or two between him and Caroline.

Max is just as scarred by his past as Caroline is and they both struggle to accept things that have happened to them and are happening in the present. They both bring heavy emotional baggage into the story and this weighs on their budding relationship. The sexual tension and emotional chemistry between Max and Caroline is an element that runs throughout the book, complementing the suspense thread.

There’s a variety of secondary characters and yet it is never overwhelming or too much. Karen Rose does an amazing job in the character development. Not only of the main characters but of the supporting cast as well. Next to the POVs of Max and Caroline, there were POVs from abusive husband Rob Winters, best friend Dana, son Tom and Special Agent Stephen Thatcher. It allowed me to really get into their heads and grasp the story from multiple angles. I got to know the characters through the backgrounds provided, the dialogues and the POVs and even though the book is character driven, it is also action packed and the characterization and emotions never took away from the pace or the suspense.

The POV of Rob Winters was creepy and mesmerizing at the same time. He and the things he did scared the crap out of me but I was glad his POV was in the story; it was as if I could keep tabs on him. I have rarely read such an evil, malicious and relentless character. There were times I actually wanted to get into the book and pound on him myself for his condescending and degrading treatment of other human beings. From the beginning it is clear that he is the bad guy and the suspense is clearly not about who the bad guy could be but about whether the good guys would find and stop him before he did finish what he started 7 years ago.

Before I started reading DON'T TELL a little bird told me that some secondary characters were going to survive to have their own books. Of course this made reading the book all the more exciting because would the ones I was rooting for, survive and be a step closer to their own future happy ending? Well I am glad to say all the ones I wanted to survive, actually did and I already know which ones are their books. Except for one...He's only 14 years old in this book so his own book would have to be in the very distant future, but he has so much potential: Tom, Caroline's son. Now that’s a tortured, romantic suspense alpha hero in the making if I ever saw one.

Twitter proves to be an inexhaustible source for book recommendations and my reading Karen Rose's DON'T TELL is a perfect example of this. There were a few people who recommended Karen Rose to me and since I already had my eye on the pile of her books on my bookshelf for a while, the decision was quickly made. I am very pleased to report that this book hit home with me in an impressive way.

DON'T TELL was my first Karen Rose book and it was an edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense that kept my interest from the first to the last page. It was compelling story telling added to in depth characterization to make romantic suspense at its very best. My reading needs and my emotional needs were utterly satisfied with a story that grabbed me from the moment I read the prologue to the moment I turned the last page. Some may argue that the plot of a battered wife staging her death, running away and falling in love with her new boss isn't original and maybe it wasn't but I couldn't care less. Karen Rose wrote a story around spousal abuse that was definitely worth my reading time. She took a subject that has been beaten to death in the suspense/thriller genre and made it her own with emotional depth, original characters and excellent suspense. She doesn’t shy away from horrifying scenes and actions, but she also knows how to ratchet up the heat when it comes to the romance.

This book reminded me of one of my favorite movies: "Sleeping with the Enemy" and gave me the same emotional satisfaction the movie gave me with a worthy and well-written ending, a lovely and lively romance story and a suspense plot that kept me guessing. Not as to who the bad guy was, but as to what was going to happen next. This was definitely an above average romantic suspense. If you're looking for the perfect combination between heart stopping suspense and heart wrenching emotions and romance, you will find it all in DON'T TELL. The combination of police procedures, law enforcement, romance and characterization is perfectly done and Karen made me care about almost every character in the book.

In the books I read and movies and TV programs I watch, I am a sucker for anything even remotely to do with crimes, crime solving, FBI and taskforces. Karen Rose answered to this craving with her amazing first book, DON'T TELL and I need more of the same very soon.

His mouth was everything she’d dreamed. Strong and soft, it monopolized, demanded and gave back everything it took. And more. He nudged, nipped and feasted, still touching with only the hand on her head and those sensual lips.

Mercy. The man could melt her into a puddle of goo with just his voice. He raised their joined hands to his lips and kissed each one of her fingertips. It was barely a kiss. Yet so carnal it rocked her to her toes.

„Is this what you wanted?“ he asked, his voice so rough it was almost unrecognizable. She nodded, catching her lip between her teeth. He dropped his lips to hers, kissing her hard. "Don’t try to hide all those little cries from me, Caroline. They’re mine.“ He kissed her again, clamping his fingers against her possessively. "I’ve laid in my bed dreaming of this. Dreaming of you. Dreaming of the sounds you’ll make when I make love to you. Of all the things you’ll beg me for. Please, Caroline. I want to hear you ask me for all the things that make you scream.“

June 16, 2009

This book was released on June 2nd and I reviewed it for REALMS ON OUR BOOKSHELVES

Jacket Copy:
An Infamous Beauty. A Daring Warrior. . .
For five years, Sapphire has been the King of Sari’s most treasured concubine. Independent at last, she refuses to put herself in anyone’s control again. But now another’s meddling has led her into the path of proud, arrogant Wulfric, Crown Prince of the rival kingdom of D’Ashier…a man who is dangerous to her in every way.

And A Seduction That Could Destroy Them Both
The daughter of Wulfric’s fiercest opponent, Sapphire is a prized warrior in her own right and highly skilled in the sensual arts—in short, Wulfric’s perfect match. A lasting union is unthinkable, but the bargain they strike—to spend one night together, and then part—proves impossible in the face of a desire powerful enough to bring two countries to the brink of war, and two hearts to the point of surrender…


An ambush-attack on Wulfric when he accompanies a patrol to the borderlands between D'Ashier and Sari and a devious plan of a jealous Queen bring Wulfric and Sapphire together. Wulfric is offered to Sapphire as a servant when the Queen forces her husband to relieve Sapphire from her duties as his concubine. When they find out their respective identities, things get complicated. Wulf returns to his homeland but finds out he can't live without Sapphire and takes her with him against her will. The time they spend together in D'Ashier brings them closer together and their initial passion grows into love. But there are many obstacles in the form of mercenaries out for blood, the war between their kingdoms and a jealous monarch and jilted lover.

Katie "Sapphire" Erikson has been the preferred concubine of the King of Sari for five years and he fell in love with her from the first moment he saw her. Sapphire doesn't reciprocate these feelings and feels awkward towards the Queen who truly loves her husband but must endure his feelings for Sapphire. Sapphire yearns for her freedom and recognition as an individual. Her time as the King's concubine feels like confinement because she is not able to speak her mind or follow her desires and wishes. She is confident, outspoken and smart. She is not only skilled in the amorous ways. When it comes to combat and battle strategies she also has knowledge and skill. She is tough and strong but deep inside she is vulnerable. Her feelings for Wulf take her by surprise and make her feel uncomfortable at first.

Wulfric "Wulf" Andersson is the Crown Prince of D'Ashier. He is ruthless, intelligent, cautious and meticulous. There is truly nothing anti-hero about him. He is the epitome of an honorable warrior hero who is alpha to the core. The moment he sees Sapphire he is under her spell and his feelings confuse him. Before Sapphire women were meant to enjoy temporarily and he didn't commit to one woman alone. Sapphire evokes deep feelings in him. Feelings he has trouble dealing with because of the situation between their kingdoms. One thing I definitely liked about him was how he refused to address Katie as Sapphire after he found out her true name and kept calling her by it. He refused to acknowledge the name another man had given her and this scored big points with me. Wulf's declaration of his love for Katie to his father literally made me cry, it was so beautiful.

The physical chemistry between Wulf and Sapphire is fierce. Their mutual desire sets this book on fire. Their passion leaps of the pages and in the midst of all the extremely hot love scenes, Dare delivers a plot that is unpredictable and fitting the characters and the romance.

Though Sapphire and Wulf and their courtship take center stage in this book, there is enough room for some intriguing and complementing secondary characters such as Gunther and Brenna, King and Queen of Sari. The despair in Brenna of loving someone who loves someone else is palpable in the scenes where Brenna, Sapphire and Gunther appear, especially in the beginning of the book. Other important secondary characters are Sapphire's parents: Grave and Sasha Erikson. The warm relationship between Sapphire and her parents is a delight to read. Contrary to many novels portraying difficult, strained parent-child relationships this one oozes love and warmth. Wulf's relatives, his father Anders and his brother Duncan, are a bit less warm and loving, both of them possessing this cruel, mean streak but in the end the bond between them turns out to be just as strong as Katie's with her parents.

Sometimes it's really great to go into a book unknown, unprepared and totally without expectations. This was one of those times and what I received was a book able to put erotic fantasy romance on my reading map. Combined with the Sci-Fi touch and feel I got a taste of a genre that I don't read regularly. Although I'm not really a Sci-Fi kind of girl (at least not with my reading) I really liked it. It's a nice mix of fantasy, futuristic and historical elements and the book totally caught me off guard. To be honest I am not an avid reader of fantasy, not even fantasy romance but I must admit I have to readjust that statement after reading IN THE FLESH. Maybe that is because it had all the elements I appreciate in other subgenres of romance. The writing was masterful, it was fast-paced, it had suspense, it had humor and it had a love story that was excellently told. And on top of all that it had elements I really wasn't expecting.

Livia Dare’s approach of concubines is one that is rare in the romance world. They are prized, revered and respected. The way she combined this outlook with some scenes that made me think of the romances I read when I just discovered this genre made it a refreshing and original book. There were scenes where Wulf would portray a true conquering warrior with Sapphire as his captive. These scenes brought back memories of the romance novels from back when I was a young girl and read those books with a pounding heart and all flustered. Since then I've become an experienced enough romance reader to recognize and appreciate a great romance novel when I read one and this was definitely that. Furthermore IN THE FLESH was very erotic. Because I went into the book knowing only that it was a fantasy romance I wasn't prepared for the rather explicit love scenes. They were a nice and unexpected treat and an addition to the intriguing and fast-paced plot. A lot happens in the book, keeping me entertained from the first to the last page. I was surprised in a good way with every chapter. I loved the characters, I loved the plot and I melted at the "kidnapping scene" where Wulf takes Sapphire to D'Ashier.

Livia Dare had a surprise for me at every turn. There were moments I thought I knew where she was going with the story but then she'd throw in something totally unpredictable. IN THE FLESH is a perfect mix of great characterization, action and old school romance. It is lush, emotionally gripping and definitely red hot. She has created an elaborate world that has a lot of potential for future books of this trilogy. I am glad I had the pleasure to review this book as an ARC for ROOB because with IN THE FLESH she has given me a very promising and intriguing first installment of a trilogy that is in a genre I would never have discovered on my own: erotic fantasy romance. I'm extremely curious as to where she is taking this trilogy. The end left me with a touching HEA but also with many unanswered questions about how things will proceed.

He sensed she was a kindred spirit, a primitive creature like himself in a world that had long ago evolved and been tamed.

Only when her hands fell to her sides and her legs hung limp over his shoulders did he desist and rest his cheek against her thigh with a breathless chuckle of masculine triumph. As her senses drifted back into awareness, Sapphire resigned herself to the truth. She was in deep trouble.


June 15, 2009
A little background may be useful for new comers who aren't familiar with my reading and reviewing habits. While reading I am always taking notes for the reviews I write for my blog and for ROOB. Many times while reading I come up with the greatest paragraphs for my reviews and then when it was time to sit down and write the actual review, my mind would go completely blank and I wouldn't remember them...So I decided to write everyting down that pops up in my head while reading. The same goes for quotes. I would read something worth quoting and by reviewing time I wouldn't remember where I had read it exactly. Since I started reviewing books in February 2007 I have filled 4 notebooks with reviewing notes.

With quotes, I used to write down page numbers and some keywords in the notebook and when writing the review I would look up the quotes in the book again and decide whether to use them or not. But ever since I discovered the colored sticky markers I have changed my ways and it's a lot easier now: I find something that moves me, makes me laugh, sends me into awe-mood or is just typical for a character in the book and WHAM! a sticky note is slammed on the page.

Normally I find about 3-5 possible quotes in a book and the choice which to use is pretty simple. But since last week I have started with what I am now calling "my Quote-posts" when I had more Whisper No Lies Quotes than I could include in my official review and the choice was terribly difficult as to which ones to cut and which ones to keep. I thought that with 12 quotes I had set a pretty decent record. Well, I thought wrong! Because while reading Atlantis Unleashed I noticed that more and more markers were appearing and the result was the 18(!!!) markers below.

When writing the actual review some of those 18 didn't make the cut but still a new record has been established with the following 14 quotes that made this post. Read them at own risk if you haven't read the book yet because although I try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, with quotes I cannot always guarantee that. After all, what isn't a spoiler for one person could very well be one for the next.


Justice when he's with Anubisa:
The burning red of her eyes deepened until they glowed, and then she freaking sniffed him, inhaling his scent like a beast, and his skin tried to crawl off his body.

Keely about Ven:
The one Liam had called Lord Vengeance laughed, and his laughter changed him from forbidding warrior to pure, potent male.

*Justice and Keely when they first see each other:
"You are her. You are Keely."
"Yes," she replied, voice barely a whisper. "I am Keely."
He smiled a slow, dangerous smile, and the whiteness of his teeth was almost shocking in the darkness of his face.
"We are Justice," he said. "And you are ours."

*Justice when he thinks he will be trapped in the Void forever:
And then in an act of courage beyond any he'd known in all of his centuries, he raised his head to take one last look at Keely. He drank in the sight of her (...) "Remember me, my lady, that is all I ask of you for this or any lifetime. Remember me, although you never knew me, for I feel that I have known you for all eternity and hungered for you for even longer, still."

When she spoke, the liquid cadence of her voice caught at something deep in his soul. In both his souls.

Keely and Justice in the cavern:
"Rest? Rest?" She heard her voice rise into a near shout, but couldn't seem to help it. "Are you kidding me? You've just (...spoilers...), you kidnapped me, your talking about yourself in the plural again, and about claiming and baser impulses, and you want me to take a nap?"
(...) "If I ever get out of this, I’m buying a switchblade," she snapped. "Or maybe a Taser. Or a gun. There is no napping. There is no resting. There is only you, getting me out of here."
(...) the primal male warriors she'd sometimes seen in her visions, when she'd touched certain artifacts from ancient civilizations, simply didn't exist in modern times. They certainly didn't show up in the academic offices at Ohio State. But she wasn't in Ohio anymore. The hard, muscled male proof of it was climbing out of the water, stark naked and dripping wet, not a dozen feet away from her. Keely had never thought of water as an aphrodisiac before, but the drops that clung lovingly to Justice's body might qualify. They caressed him in all the places she suddenly found herself wanting to touch. With her tongue.
No way she would respond to him. Nothing in her background of fiercely independent personality would make her the type to be turned on by some naked, alpha-male throwback to the days when men were men and women were possessions.
(...) "Cut it out," she snapped. "Stop staring at me like I'm the spoils of your own personal war, and get dressed (...)"

Keely trying to rationalize her attraction to Justice:
Nobody knew better than she did that sanity was a spectrum of relativity. Anyway, it had been so long since she'd been naked with a man that maybe she needed to lower her standards. Crazy? No problem, so long as he had great hair.
He wasn't Prince Charming; he was Prince Tall, Dark, and Deadly. Justice was no perfect plastic prince, but a very real man with a very damaged psyche.

Keely tries to convince Justice to let her join him in a dangerous situation:
"If there's any chance that it can help you --both of you-- I'll take that risk," she said softly. "I don't really understand it, but you've become pretty important to me in a very short period of time. There aren't many people who are important to me, Justice. Please don't ask me to be a coward when a little bit of my courage might mean an awful lot to you."

Alaric about Quinn:
It was the force of her personality, a fervor and charisma that shone out at him with all the strength and glory and brightness of her soul. Her soul called to his so powerfully that she was a beacon in the darkness of his existence.

Keely finds it hard to resist Justice:
Keely gave herself a mental slap and nodded briskly. "Right. Shade. Ahead. Great."
(...)"Is there any reason you seem to have lost the use of verbs? The low, husky tone of his voice sizzled across her nerve endings, and suddenly the jungle was a whole lot hotter than before. "I have a strict 'no verbs in jungles' policy, of course. If we stay here much longer, adjectives will go by the wayside next," she said, flashing an innocent smile. The kind of smile that said "nobody here wants to rip your shirt off and lick your bare chest. " She hoped.

Justice and his Nereid soul:
Keely's smile, though tremulous, held a wealth of trust that humbled him. "Tell him...no. Let me tell him--tell you both. I want you. All of you. You don't need to be rough or overpower me. Just make love to me. Please.
The Nereid's angry, driving need faltered, turning into confusion. How can she want me? Even you, who are the other half of my soul, do not want me.

Better to be surprised than to have to live with the anguish of shattered expectations.

*Alejandro's bartering skills:
Alejandro stood up, leveling his shotgun at the vamp's head. "I propose a barter," he said calmly.
The vamp barked out a chilling burst of laughter. "What barter could you--"
The shotgun bucked and roared and exploded the vamp's head into acid chunks of skull and meat. Justice shot a look at Alejandro, who shrugged as the vampire's headless body fell to the ground, dissolving in a flood of slime. "My shotgun shell for his head. Seemed fair to me."

(The ones with the * made the official review)

June 14, 2009
Jacket Copy:
Poseidon’s warriors swore an oath eleven thousand years ago to protect humanity from those who stalked the night. Now those powerful forces are uniting. So are two souls who are all that stand between justice and the eternal darkness…

A warrior prince…Lord Justice made the ultimate sacrifice for his brother and paid for it with an unimaginable torture. Now he’s back, rescued from death, his sanity shaken, and his mission inescapable—the search for the lost Star of Artemis. But the beautiful human female whom he has sworn to protect is shadowed by an evil that could destroy them both…

A woman of science…The archaeological artifacts of Atlantis speak to Dr. Keely McDermott, sharing visions of life long ago. The ancient revelations have cast her into a world between past and present, between reality and illusion—and, when she meets the fierce Atlantean warrior assigned to guard her, between terror and temptation. Now as their two worlds collide, so too will danger and desire…

A quest for a lost star…Atlantis is unleashed.

A self-sacrificing half Nereid/half Atlantean warrior on the edge of sanity because of his fractured soul, a feisty, pragmatic and independent object-reading archeologist, a pre-destined love match, a quest for a lost gem and plans to wreak havoc on a vampire goddess. These are the ingredients of the newest installment in the WARRIORS OF POSEIDON series!

Let me start by stating that this was a book of which I have been anticipating its release for well over a year! I read ATLANTIS AWAKENING in November 2007 and upon closing that book I was desperate to know how things would continue. At that time the wait was going to be about 6 months. However, unfortunately due to circumstances beyond the author's control that 6-month period was extended to waiting for over 18 months before I could satisfy my need for Justice's story. In this period my anticipation grew and grew and grew and when this book finally arrived on my doorstep I literally cheered and couldn't wait to dive into it. I am glad and very relieved to say that my very high expectations of this book were thoroughly met.

The first two chapters chained me to both Keely and Justice with such strong emotions that I just knew this was going to be worth every minute of the long wait. Then, unexpectedly, after those first two chapters I had a little bit of trouble getting into the flow of the story but this was just for a brief moment and I think I could have avoided this little hitch if I had re-read at least ATLANTIS AWAKENING before diving into ATLANTIS UNLEASHED. More importantly, it was so minor that before long I was pulled into a book that gave me a cast of warriors anyone should have at his or her back, a wonderful heroine and a tormented hero I just wanted to cuddle up to, wrap my arms around and tell him everything was going to be okay. After the few chapters it took me to get reacquainted with the world of Atlantis, I just wasn't able to let go of this book. With every page I went down deeper and deeper into this intriguing world that Alyssa Day is building up excellently. She did it again and gave me a book that fitted the previous ones perfectly and still had its own unique vibe and story.

What I truly love about Alyssa Day's books are her characters and her world building. The men are alpha to the core but still very much aware of their weaknesses and flaws. They are dominant without being overbearing or annoying and they have a great sense of humor. I really admire Alyssa Day for being able to write heroes like these and I absolutely think it is linked to the heroines she pairs the Warriors with. The women in Day's books are all strong, feisty and no-nonsense heroines, who aren't afraid to put the men in their right places when they threaten to cross the line, whether that is in dominance, in arrogance or with stupid actions.

In this book I liked that Keely was just as protective of Justice as he was of her. But then again I liked Keely a lot. I loved her dry sense of humor, her strength of character, her tenacity, her courage and her compassion. Despite all she has gone through with her gift that others, even those closest to her, mistake for insanity, she takes life as it comes, makes the best of it and is there to help others, to help Justice. She is truly light to his darkness.

And then Justice, he really touched my heart. His youth, his fractured soul, his internal fights both between honor and defiance and between doing what's right or giving into his power-hungry side. It all made they way he cared for Keely and the way he clung to his sanity for her sake, more intense. He came from a dark, dark place and struggled his way to the light, both literally and figuratively. I must confess that, in the previous books, Justice only caught my attention at the very end of ATLANTIS AWAKENING but with his own book he has made a big and lasting impression on me. And that’s another winning point for Alyssa Day, because there are authors out there who manage to do exactly the opposite with secondary characters turned heroes.

The secondary characters are mainly the other warriors and potential heroines and I foresee some more great chemistry and dialogue in future books of this series. I caught some glimpses of Alaric, Alexios, Christopher and Brennan that make their stories much anticipated. Because of the set-up of Justice and Keely's story the supporting characters’ roles where less prominent than in the other books but still there was enough room for the familiar and much appreciated brotherly bantering and camaraderie. There are a few other secondary characters that intrigued me, especially the ones in Guatemala. For fear of spoilers I'm not able to say much about them but I have to say one of them gave the story a very heart breaking and endearing dimension.

Alyssa Day's world building is something that I noticed and liked from the very beginning. It started in ATLANTIS RISING, was continued in ATLANTIS AWAKENING and the novellas and now in ATLANTIS UNLEASHED once again I wasn’t disappointed with it. Not only does she provide a comprehensible and clear background for the characters and plot, she also weaves plotlines seamlessly into each other. She connects elements that seem unrelated in a very subtle way, bringing it all together for the reader without much difficulty and with the perfect balance between plot and romance and characters.

Compared to the other WARRIORS OF POSEIDON books/novellas, there aren't many sex scenes in this one ("only" two), but that didn't bother me at all, because the ones that are in there, boy, Alyssa Day really makes them count. They are touching and arousing at the same time, oozing with a hungry urgency and sizzling passion and still there is room for humor and fun. For me quality is much more important than quantity. I’d rather read one excellent love scene in a book than half a dozen halfhearted ones and Alyssa Day fulfilled this requirement with flying colors in ATLANTIS UNLEASHED.

One thing I did expect in this book, and I was a bit sad about it when it did not come, was a confrontation with Anubisa, the vampire goddess. It was something that was in my line of expectation after the previous books but surprisingly Alyssa Day took me in a different direction with that part of the ongoing plot. Still I think she is setting up the ongoing plot brilliantly, she just took a different corner than I was expecting in this book.

With every book the plot seems to get clearer and a sense of understanding is beginning to dawn, at least with me. I have my suspicions about what direction Alyssa Day is taking but I also say this with much caution because my favorite authors (and Alyssa Day is one of them) always seem to surprise me with unexpected twists and turns. Needless to say that I am willing to go wherever she takes me in all this and even though I missed a true battle with Anubisa, it still didn't take away my satisfaction with the plot part of this book.

ATLANTIS UNLEASHED was a wonderful story of love, sacrifice, darkness and light. It was filled with witty fun, arousing sensuality and at times tear jerking emotions. With every word, every page, every chapter this book got better and better, working up to a mind-blowing, emotional and action-packed conclusion. All I can say is that I'm ready for the next Warrior of Poseidon to tell me his story when I dive back into the Alyssa Day's world of Atlantean warriors, courageous human women, shape-shifters and vampires.

“You are her. You are Keely."
"Yes," she replied, voice barely a whisper. "I am Keely." He smiled a slow, dangerous smile, and the whiteness of his teeth was almost shocking in the darkness of his face. "We are Justice," he said. "And you are ours."

And then in an act of courage beyond any he'd known in all of his centuries, he raised his head to take one last look at Keely. He drank in the sight of her (...) "Remember me, my lady, that is all I ask of you for this or any lifetime. Remember me, although you never knew me, for I feel that I have known you for all eternity and hungered for you for even longer, still."

Alejandro stood up, leveling his shotgun at the vamp's head. "I propose a barter," he said calmly. The vamp barked out a chilling burst of laughter. "What barter could you--"
The shotgun bucked and roared and exploded the vamp's head into acid chunks of skull and meat. Justice shot a look at Alejandro, who shrugged as the vampire's headless body fell to the ground, dissolving in a flood of slime. "My shotgun shell for his head. Seemed fair to me."

June 7, 2009
Jacket Copy:

As night falls, Claire Roth flees, driven from her home by a fiery threat that seems to come from hell itself. Then, from out of the flames and ash, a vampire warrior emerges. He is Andreas Reichen, her onetime lover, now a stranger consumed by vengeance. Caught in the cross fire, Claire cannot escape his savage fury--or the hunger that plunges her into his world of eternal darkness and unending pleasure.

Nothing will stop Andreas from destroying the vampire responsible for slaughtering his Breed brethren . . . even if he must use his former lover as a pawn in his deadly mission. Blood-bonded to his treacherous adversary, Claire can lead Andreas to the enemy he seeks, but it is a journey fraught with danger--and deep, unbidden desires. For Claire is the one woman Andreas should not crave, and the only one he's ever loved. A dangerous seduction begins--one that blurs the line between predator and prey, and stokes the flames of a white-hot passion that may consume all in its path. . .

ASHES OF MIDNIGHT starts around 3 months after we left Andreas Reichen at the end of VEIL OF MIDNIGHT, devastated by the loss of his family and hell-bent on revenge he seeks retribution for those who were taken from him. One by one he is executing the ones involved in the attack on his Darkhaven, slowly but determinedly working his way up the chain of command to the one who ordered the attack: his archenemy, Wilhelm Roth. And he is willing to take everyone down who surrounds Roth, until he stumbles upon his first love, Claire Samuels, who is now Roth’s wife and mate. He decides to use her to get to Roth, but doesn't know she and Roth live estranged and things are more complicated then they seem. Before long danger and loyalty are overridden by an all-consuming passion and love that never died when they went their separate ways.

Reichen is consumed by hatred and his need for vengeance. So much so that he has transformed into someone totally different from the charming, easy-going and rakish Berlin Darkhaven leader I met in MIDNIGHT AWAKENING, save for some rare occasions and those occurred well into the story. Reichen's Breed talent is pyrokinesis; he has the power to summon fire at will, from small fireballs to complete annihilating infernos. But this talent is taking over, every time is manifests, he is losing more control over it, however, he doesn't care because all he cares about is his revenge on Roth.

I still feel a bit ambiguous about Claire. She didn't impress me. She is described in the book as independent and spirited but I didn't get that vibe from her actions and she makes some strange decisions at some points in the story. Ironically, those were the moments she felt less bland and a little feistier to me. Despite the insecurity, at some occasions she showed that she could be tenacious and brave but these occasions were as rare as the ones where Reichen's charming personality would surface. Even Claire's Breed talent, dream walking, seemed bland to me for most part of the book. No, Claire is definitely not making the favorite heroines list.

Roth is a secondary character whom I disliked immediately but still he made more of an impression on me emotionally than Reichen and Claire could together. Okay, they were negative emotions because Roth is coldhearted, calculating arrogant and self-serving. But hey, negative impact is impact and better than no impact at all.

I have been a fan of Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed Series since the second half of the first book. I needed the first half of that book to get into the world and the story but from that moment on the warriors of the Order and their Breedmates reeled me in one by one and kept me hooked on an ongoing plot with surprises around every corner. Needless to say I was anxiously anticipating ASHES OF MIDNIGHT, certainly after the way VEIL OF MIDNIGHT ended. This could be nothing else but really good. As I started in the book the dedication in the beginning of it immediately caught my attention and I was even more eager to start:

To the phoenix that lives in all of us:
Strong, glorious, indestructible.

Well, unfortunately I can't be as enthusiastic about ASHES OF MIDNIGHT as I had expected, at least not with the first 3/4 of the book. And it has everything to do with the characters of Reichen and Claire and their story. Do not get me wrong; Lara Adrian knows how to write stories that are definitely set up well and there was nothing wrong with her writing. It was as engaging as the previous books but for me the emotional connection with Reichen and Claire was totally missing.

Reichen was so different in his own book from the way he was portrayed in the other books he appeared in. Of course I understand that something horrible happened to him at the end of VEIL OF MIDNIGHT but still it was such a radical change of character it didn't work for me. He actually started to annoy me at some point. Reichen is so consumed by his thirst for vengeance and at times literal blood-thirst that at some points in the story all I could think was: Oh come on and get it over with: kill Roth and feed on Claire already! This is not the way I want to engage and experience a hero in the books I read.

My disappointment also derives from the fact that with both the romance and plot arc in this book, Lara Adrian has deviated from the original concept and the way she has been setting it up over the first 5 books. She has gone in such a different direction, both romantically and with the world building of the Midnight Breed and I truly hope this was a one-time glitch. Elements of the world building that were set up in the previous installments are left behind and "rules" that were given to define the blood bonds between Breeds and Breedmates seem to be discarded seen as how Claire and Reichen's romance starts and develops. It think what least worked for me in all this was the fact that Claire was blood bonded to another Breed, Reichen enemy no less, for the majority of the book. In my opinion this definitely impeded the chemistry between Claire and Reichen and I was only able to enjoy and appreciate their chemistry and romance when that other bond was severed. My main issues are all linked with the background for their story and the fact that it doesn’t fit the world as is was established in the previous books.

There is also the ongoing plot arc, so brilliantly set up and then expanded with every next installment. In this book for me it came to a standstill with the exception of the very end (more about that later in the review). I left the Order at the end of VEIL OF MIDNIGHT involved in a battle against a formidable enemy with plans that shook up the entire Breed community and in this book there is little progress or development in this overall and ongoing plot. The plot definitely lost the battle for focus to Claire and Reichen's complicated love story and Reichen's quest for revenge. The ongoing plot being one of the things I truly liked and admired in the other books, it was only logical that this had to influence my opinion of this book.

ASHES OF MIDNIGHT really differed in vibe from the previous books in some other ways too. For example Reichen is not an active member of the Order, he is a German civilian Breed out on a solo mission of vengeance. Secondly, he and Claire already have a history whereas the other Breed males didn't have a history with their Breed mates prior to their story.

These were all things that one their own are not bad or negative. On the contrary; changes, focus on the romance and variety are good things and things I welcome in ongoing series but these altered elements were not in sync with the way Lara Adrian has been setting up this series and that is what bothered me and took away from my overall enjoyment of ASHES OF MIDNIGHT.

With every chapter I was hoping that Lara Adrian would make things right again and restore my believe in the Midnight Breed, that she would offer me an acceptable and believable explanation for the change-over she was pulling with ASHES OF MIDNIGHT. And with every chapter my hope was diminished, to the point that I was on the verge of profound disappointment. Luckily and to my utter relieve, the turning point did come, but only at the very end, in the last last quarter of the book.

From that moment on I truly believed that the phoenix had indeed risen from the ashes and made me a believer again. I do think it’s regretful that it came at such a late point in the book because in spite of the emotional, fast-paced and action-packed end, it was too little, too late to make up for the fact that Claire and Reichen just did not resonate with me for most part of the book and the deviation from the ongoing romance arc as it was set up in the other books.

However, it must be said that from the moment Claire and Reichen joined forces with the Order to find and bring down Roth, who is working with the archenemy of the Order, the story picked up in an impressive way. The pace picked up speed and the action kept me on the edge of my seat. I was getting back that familiar feeling of what I had liked in the previous books. And though it couldn't make up for the things I liked less in the book, I have to say that in that last quarter Lara Adrian brought everything together for me, even emotionally with Claire and Reichen. More, importantly she made up for the lesser focus on the ongoing plot arc by leaving me with a huge cliffhanger that has my heart pounding with speculations.

“If you were mine,” he murmured low under his breath, “I would walk through the fires of hell itself to keep you away from a man like me.”

(…) wrapped her in his protective embrace, giving her a hundred solemn promises that he was very eager to keep, and loving her with all the reverence and worship of a blood-bonded male who had stared hell in the face and now understood that he was holding heaven in his arms.

Kade shrugged, slanting a grin at Brock, the third member of their patrol. “You wanna see dead clubs, let me take you to Alaska. It’s pathetic, man. We’ve got more moose per square mile than women.”
“Is that right?” Chase grunted. “No wonder you jumped at the chance to get out of there and come to Boston last year. How many months of freezing your nuts off before all those moose start looking like prime pieces of ass?”

As I was reading Whisper No Lies I soon noticed that the colored markers of quotes I would love to use in my review were almost starting to take over. Every few pages I would either laugh-out-loud, be touched or just melt at something said, thought or done by either Crystal or Johnny.

As I was writing my review I was already starting to panic because I didn't know which three I was going to pick for my review. As may or may not be known at ROOB there is a sort of rule that the reviewers don't include more than 3 quotes in the reviews.

As you can see: I had marked a lot more than three:

Because I didn't want to leave the ones I didn't chose for the official review out, I decided to dedicate a whole blog post to the quotes from WHISPER NO LIES (Cindy Gerard). It's one of the longest reviews I've ever written and the book in which I marked the most quotes ever. Even more than in my Lora Leigh and Lorelei James reads...And really, that says a lot!!!

*Crystal's newly adopted motto was: Men. Can't live with 'em. Can't tie 'em to a train track and wait for Amtrak to do the deed.

Crystal and Wong Li after the proposition:
Did you understand that my answer is no?"
"Mr. Yao understands your response but respectfully rejects your answer."
She blinked. "He said that?" She hadn't heard a word.
"Mr. Yao is quite taken with you. He expresses regret that you are reluctant to allow him the opportunity to get to know you better but must insist on your cooperation."
"No, seriously. Is he like texting you or something because I never saw his lips move."

Crystal when Johnny comes to bail her out when she's arrested:
Jesus, would you look at him. Hair too long and too blond. Eyes too sexy and too blue. Body too buff, ego in danger of lift-off. Standing there in his tight faded jeans, painted-on T-shirt, and snakeskin boots, he looked like God's guilty gift. Trouble was, he knew it.

Johnny after watching Crystal sleeping in only a towel:
"Down, boy," he muttered as his hair-trigger dick rose to the occasion.
He rolled his tongue back into his mouth, sucked in a bracing breath, and headed straight for the shower where he seriously considered a little hand-to-dick combat to arrest the situation.
"What? Are you friggin' thirteen?" Disgusted with himself, he stepped into the shower.

Johnny and Crystal arguing about Crystal going along on a rescue mission with him and the others:
"When pigs fly."
"Yeah, well, seems to me they already did the day I dropped you on your ass."
When he didn't deny it, Doc broke into a grin. "A girl? An itty-bitty girl got the drop on you, macho boy? Hell, maybe you'd better sit out this op, Reed, 'cause you're obviously slippin'."

Johnny and Crystal in the shower:
He groped for and found the showerhead. Then he pressed her against the shower wall and hung on for the rest of the ride as she took him down the path to perdition. Yeah. He was destroyed. Utterly. Irrevocable. Blissfully. Tinkerbell had taken him down. And there wasn't a damn thing he could do or wanted to do about it.

Crystal realizes she's fallen for Johnny:
(...)because when she played --not that she played very often-- she played it the same way they did. That's how it started with Reed, after all. Fun and games.
Now...well, the door to Heartbreak Hotel yawned wide open again.
She watched him move about the room, gathering his things, all buff and beautiful and capable and thought, So help me God, if he lets me down, I'm going to slit my wrists --right after I cut off his dangly parts.

Tension between Johnny and Crystal on a high during chase scene in Jakarta:
"Step it up."
Step it up? She'd been stepping it up, down, inside out, and sideways all the fricking day long. And she had had it with his drill sergeant edicts.
She put on the skids. Glared at him when he spun around to see what was holding her up.
"You know. I'm about this far from the end of my rope." She pinched her thumb and forefinger together and shoved it under his nose. "So don't be ordering me to step it up." (...)
"Why don't you shriek a little bit harder? I don't think the nice policeman over by the exit with the automatic rifle heard the waspish American shrew throw her fit (...)."

Crystal about Johnny:
There was more, so much more to the man than hot looks and flirty smiles. Last night...well, last night she'd been falling apart. He'd put her back together with tenderness and compassion and a strength of character that she suspected surpassed that of any man she'd ever known

Johnny and Crystal blowing off some steam after they leave Jakarta:
She giggled: "You're not taking me seriously."
He reached for her hand, guided it to his lap. "It doesn't get more serious than this, darlin'."
She laughed again, because he made her want to laugh. He made her want to do so many things. But most of all, he just made her want.

*Johnny gets the jitters when things start to turn serious:
He needed to think. He needed to think really, really hard. And he needed to do it without the distraction of a certain green-eyed pixie who glanced up at him and smiled a smile that made him melt and want to swallow her whole and get out the old vampire cross at the same time to ward her away.

*Johnny and Crystal go on a date:
The cowboy cleaned up good.
Johnny Reed wearing faded jeans, bed-head hair and a scruffy beard was enough to give a woman heart palpitations. But Johnny Reed in a suit and tie, blond hair perfectly styled, and clean-shaven was cause for a full-blown heart attack.

Those marked with an * are the quotes that made it into the official review.
June 6, 2009
Jacket Copy:
When a high roller at the Vegas casino where Crystal Debrowski manages security makes a scandalous proposition, she flat-out refuses, especially given rumors of his shady overseas connections. But then counterfeit bills mysteriously flood the gaming tables, and her reputation—and her life—are on the line.

Despite his big, flirty grin, Texas heartbreaker Johnny Duane Reed can’t get sassy Crystal off his mind. When she asks him to help her defend herself from an international crime lord with a threatening obsession, he takes a leave from Black Ops, Inc., to pursue a dangerous mission of his own.

Between Crystal and Johnny burns a scorching flame, but as they trace her relentless stalker to a remote hideaway on the other side of the world, they uncover a malicious arms trafficking and slavery ring. Together, they must destroy the tyrant’s wicked enterprise or face his reign of terror themselves. . .

Johnny Reed and Crystal Debrowski have been dancing around each other since TAKE NO PRISONERS when they both were round up to help Sam and Abby. Since then they’ve been having some sort of sexual relationship. Whenever Johnny's in town he looks Crystal up for a quick romp in the sack and then leaves again to go do what he does. Crystal is okay with it since she is just as not ready to commit as Johnny is. Things change when some creepy Chinese rich guy propositions Crystal at the casino where she works as a gaming manager. She turns him down politely but adamantly. After that the trouble starts for Crystal: counterfeit chips and money during her shifts, theft from the casino vault and disappearing security footage. Crystal is arrested and bailed out by Yao. Not long after that she is abducted from her apartment and finds herself a victim of human trafficking by Yao who is the head of a vast crime syndicate. Johnny and the Black Ops Inc. (BOIs) come to the rescue and save her and a few others. They set out to take Yao completely out of business and a lot of things happen before they can safely set foot on Las Vegas grounds again and even then, Crystal is not safe.

Johnny is something else. He is the embodiment of a womanizing charmer with a glib tongue. He has this "pretty boy" image but don't let that mislead you. He is dedicated, competent and intense. Nothing seems to faze him but when he gets in gear and the action starts he shows his professionalism and capabilities. If you thought you'd read all about heroes who are so much more than they seem, wait till you meet Johnny Reed! From the beginning I knew there was more to Johnny than I was led to believe. When these suspicions were confirmed I met a complicated man behind the suave, blonde womanizer he pretended to be. In the beginning I couldn't totally figure him out but I was sure Cindy Gerard would provide some insight along the way, and behold, by chapter 8 it began to unfold. As with many heroes the driving force behind his tormented youth and his incorrect self-image was his abusive father and indifferent, selfish mother. Johnny is convinced he has nothing to offer a woman. That's why he makes sure they have fun while it lasts and never let's feelings come into play. He learned at an early age how to hid his true feelings and pain.

Crystal is such a great heroine. She is one of my favorite characters/heroines that I've read so far; I almost loved her more than Johnny and that is some feat because I really, really liked him. Crystal is brave, outspoken, resilient, resourceful and stubborn. She is the perfect woman to bring slick playboy Johnny Reed to his knees. She is a woman with guts and she knows how to handle herself in dangerous situations. She isn’t fearless which would be unrealistic but she does everything to look beyond her fear and do what she has to do. Where she ended up in the end of the book, career wise, was absolutely no surprise to me and I loved this development in the series.

It’s not only Johnny who is good at masking his emotions. Crystal is also very adept at it. Both Johnny and Crystal are commitment phobic. Crystal has a problem with trusting men because of her track record with them. Johnny has a problem with intimacy. But they both turn out to be the cure for each other's phobias. The attraction and chemistry between Johnny and Crystal is scintillating. Their encounters both sexual and intellectual are heated and fiery. Neither of them wants to show vulnerability or admit their feelings for the other. Feelings that are most definitely simmering beneath the surface, just waiting to erupt.

Next to Johnny and Crystal there's an impressive cast of secondary characters that the book couldn't have done without. The secondary cast consists of bad guys Yao and Wong and of course the BOI-team sent to Jakarta: Nathan Black, Luke “Doc” Colter, Wyatt “Papa Bear” Savage and Joe Greene. Sam Lang and Gabe Jones (heroes of the two previous books) also make important appearances and as Crystal’s best friend, Abby Lang Hughes couldn’t stay absent. It was great to see how the couples from the previous books were doing. I always appreciate that in ongoing series.

All these supporting characters provide the stage for Crystal and Johnny to shine on. The BOIs are getting tighter and closer with every installment in this series and with every HEA each one finds, the heroine adds to the mix and dynamics. Their camaraderie, their support to each other is matched by their bantering, even in dire situations they don't stop jabbing at each other. But they are always there for each other, emotionally and professionally. The bond between the BOIs is growing in every installment and I love it.

The bad guy Yao and his sidekick Wong Li are so good at being bad it's almost over the top. But fortunately Cindy Gerard has a writing style and a way of setting up the suspense plot that this doesn't happen, for which I’m extremely thankful. The scenes with them in it, especially Yao gave me the creeps and isn't that just the point of the suspense part of a romantic suspense? She really has a knack for writing some seriously messed up bad guys who meet their fate at the hands of either hero or heroine in an incomparable way.

Cindy Gerard never fails to entice, entertain, arouse and even educate. I know exactly how to arm C4 with blasting caps, the differences between all types of guns and how to make lethal weapons with just a giant-sized perfume bottle and a framed mirror. What I liked is that it is never annoying or intrusive on the plot or the romance. And yet, she never gets too descriptive. She uses quite some abbreviations and military jargon and a lot of what I call tough-boy talk, but strangely it is never distracting from the story, as I have experienced with other authors. The abbreviations are immediately explained either explicitly or by the surrounding context, so there's no interruption by having to look things up and she doesn't overdo it. And the tough-boy lingo fits the situations and the characters. Some authors (not mentioning names here) should follow her example. Cindy Gerard has found the right way to balance the mix and offers extensive background without overdoing it.

With Cindy Gerard's BOIs you just can't go wrong. She writes believable but nail biting suspense, hot romance and awe-inspiring characters that are very easy to like and to root for. This was another great book. Fast-paced and filled with action, including horrific bad guys and suspense that is so realistic and current, it's really scary. The romance and characters are just as excellent, if not more. I loved the entire book but I must say that the second part of this book just blew me away. The pace picked up at warp speed, the action was unstoppable and it was, both literally and figuratively, explosive.

WHISPER NO LIES took me from the Las Vegas Strip to the sweltering Jakarta and back and when you think you have had all the plot twists Cindy Gerard could come up with, she throws another one at you to keep you glued to the pages not wanting to stop reading for fear of missing something. The chemistry between Crystal and Johnny is sizzling, Crystal is on my favorite heroines list and Johnny has made the alpha heroes list. That should say plenty. A while ago I thought Johnny's book would be the closing book of a trilogy but I was very pleased to find out that there will be more installments in this series, number 4 (FEEL THE HEAT) is scheduled for October 2009.

For me this was the best Black Ops Inc. book of the bunch so far. Everything worked for me and was right up my romantic suspense alley: Johnny, the bad guys, the action, the romance, the love scenes and especially Crystal, my super heroine!

Crystal's newly adopted motto was: Men. Can't live with 'em. Can't tie 'em to a train track and wait for Amtrak to do the deed.

He needed to think. He needed to think really, really hard. And he needed to do it without the distraction of a certain green-eyed pixie who glanced up at him and smiled a smile that made him melt and want to swallow her whole and get out the old vampire cross at the same time to ward her away.

The cowboy cleaned up good.
Johnny Reed wearing faded jeans, bed-head hair and a scruffy beard was enough to give a woman heart palpitations. But Johnny Reed in a suit and tie, blond hair perfectly styled, and clean-shaven was cause for a full-blown heart attack.

June 4, 2009
Jacket Copy:
Reclusive Sir Alistair Munroe has hidden in his castle ever since returning from the Colonies, scarred inside and out. But when a mysterious beauty arrives at his door, the passions he's kept suppressed for years begin to awaken.

Running from past mistakes has taken legendary beauty Helen Fitzwilliam from the luxury of the ton to a crumbling Scottish castle . . . and a job as a housekeeper. Yet Helen is determined to start a new life and she won't let dust-or a beast of a man-scare her away.

Beneath Helen's beautiful fa├žade, Alistair finds a courageous and sensual woman. A woman who doesn't back away from his surliness-or his scars. But just as he begins to believe in true love, Helen's secret past threatens to tear them apart. Now both Beast and Beauty must fight for the one thing neither believed they could ever find--a happy ever after.

On the run from her former protector and the father of her illegitimate children, Abigail and Jami, Helen Fitzwilliam (born Carter) changes her name to Halifax and takes on a housekeeper's job on a remote Scottish castle, owned by Alistair Munroe, who was involved in the battle of Spinner's Falls as a civilian, a scholar accompanying the regiment n order to study flora and fauna. He was captured, tortured and maimed and has been living as a recluse in his castle, writing his books and minding his own business.
Then a beautiful woman appears on his doorstep with two children, claiming she is his new housekeeper. Unable to turn her away during a rainstorm he decides to let them stay the night, but one night becomes more and before he knows it, he truly has a housekeeper, one who penetrates his dark and desolate castle and life and whom he finds hard to resist. But danger is in her and her children's wake...

Helen is the former mistress of the Duke of Lister, a powerful and rich man who lured her in his clutches when she was just a young girl and now refuses to let her and her children go, even though he has discarded her and has taken on a new mistress. But he is the kind of cruel man who goes by the rule: If he can't have her, no one can and he'll even use his own children to get what he wants. Helen is determined, tenacious and impulsive. She is also caring and compassionate. She tries to carry her roles as mistress, mother, housekeeper and lover as best she can and her children's needs and safety always come first.

Alistair is a true scholar/scientist. A scholar who can, stereotypically, totally lose himself in his work. He is rude, stubborn, sarcastic and surly. He is as dark, cold and desolate as his castle is, but beneath his self-imposed detachment there' s a lonely, appreciative and sensitive man. The incident at Spinner's Falls left him scarred, both mentally and physically. Still somewhere deep down there's a man with a wicked sense of humor, which was nicely displayed in the sibling bickering between him and his sister Sophie.

Another character worth mentioning is Abigail, Helen's nine year-old daughter. She has a few own POVs in the book, which I found a joy to read, but at the same time they were heartbreaking. Abigail is a girl who is different than other girls of her age. She isn't playful or bubbly. She is too serious and troubled when she should be a carefree child with no troubles on her mind. She is an adorable child who is wise beyond her years and the scenes where the focus was on her were surprising, refreshing and utterly endearing. They gave the book something unique.

Elizabeth Hoyt never fails to please me with her books. TO BEGUILE A BEAST is yet another one that was bang on target. The "beauty and the beast" theme is used in a charming and original way and involving children and their well-being was a stroke of genius that really hit the mark with me. The direct and honest writing style, the raw sensuality and the Hoyt-trademark of imperfect and realistic characters are the elements I gladly welcomed once again in this book. I've heard and said before that Hoyt's writing is something you take to immediately or not at all. For me it is full and deep embracement all the way.

For me this book had two distinguishing parts. The first is the part where Helen, Alistair and the children get to know and accept each other with all the problems that go with it. They carefully go about finding their way around each other and explore their different individual blossoming relationships. Then something happens in the plot and the vibe of quiet exploration changes to one with a sense of danger and urgency that is quite intense.

The plot of the Spinner's Falls traitor is pursued the least in this installment compared to the first two books in the series. More information about the traitor is gradually released and I suspect the great revelation will come in the last book: TO DESIRE A DEVIL. These suspicions grew immensely after reading the preview of TO DESIRE A DEVIL and I am really looking forward to the unraveling of the mystery in that final (at least I think it's the final book). I'm sure Elizabeth Hoyt is saving the best for last, lulling us to sleep with this installment, only to blast us with a tremendous grand finale. This book was mainly to tell the story of Alistair and Helen and prepare us for things to come.

When I read Elizabeth Hoyt’s work I am oblivious to the world, enthralling as I find it, I emerge in a world of emotions, sensuality and characters that touch me deeply. And it's never too heavy because there are always sweet, funny moments to lighten up things when they threaten to tip the scale to the dramatic side. The ending of this book really struck a chord with me. All the pieces of the story of Helen, Alistair and the children came together in an emotional and utterly satisfying culmination. Elizabeth Hoyt blindsided me with a wonderful ending that included a most captivating proposal that was absolutely beautiful in its sincerity and simplicity.

"I said if I ever courted you, I'd bring you wildflowers. Well, I'm courting you now, Helen Carter. I'm a scarred and lonely man, and my castle is a mess, but I hope someday that you'll consent to be my wife despite all that, because I love you with all my poor battered heart."

Men talked of an afterlife filled with heavenly bliss, but this was the only bliss he wanted, in this life or the next: to feel Helen's bare skin beneath his own. (...) Oh, God, if ever there was a chance of paradise for him, he'd relinquish it, and gladly, to stay right here in Helen's arms.

Her heart slipped its traces and went racing away, beyond her grasp, beyond her control. Entirely free and racing towards this complex, vexing, and utterly fascinating man.

June 3, 2009

This book was released on May 19th and I reviewed it for REALMS ON OUR BOOKSHELVES

Jacket Copy:
Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon--to no one's surprise, not even Bryony Asquith's. A man as handsome and sought after as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his life with a woman who rebelled against society by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years later and half a world away, does he track her down to the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him, but he won't rest until he's delivered an urgent message from her sister--and escorted her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them--or their rekindling passion?


Bryony Asquith is in India, running from her failed marriage to Leo Marsden. They were an unlikely couple whose marriage was doomed to fail from the beginning. Although the physical and emotional attraction was strong, their marriage started of on the wrong foot and ended in an annulment. After that Bryony fled England in a futile attempt to get away from her enigmatic ex-husband and her feelings for him. When he shows up in India, claiming her sister sent him because her father is very ill, she is shocked. Even though she doesn't believe her sister's story and despite her shaky relationship with her father, she decides to go back to England with Leo. The book describes their journey from India to England and due to Bryony’s fear of being near to Leo and falling for him again and her wish to get to England as soon as possible they end up in the middle of a battle between Indian rebels and British settlers. It is that battle that forces them to face the feelings and unspoken issues between them.

The book was extremely character-driven and because the characters were so well developed and rounded I didn't miss any action or suspense plot. This doesn't mean that there wasn't any action at all. The sequence with the battle between the Indian rebels and the British army and Bryony and Leo trying to get to safety in the British fort was astonishing. It was described so masterfully I could feel the anxiety and almost hear and feel the bullets fly. But still it were Bryony, Leo and their dramatic love-story that mainly carried the story. And they did it in a magnificent way.

They start out as characters that you know little about as the story starts at a point where a lot has already happened. But slowly and gradually the reader gets their story presented in bits and pieces and I really connected with them both. Leo is handsome and witty but underneath his easy charm is a man who has been hurt by his ex-wife and he doesn't know how to make it better so he lashes out, trying to hurt her as she has hurt him. Leo has had a fascination where Bryony is concerned that stems from his early childhood. He admires her and his intentions going into the marriage are good but circumstances soon turn the marriage into something forced and unhappy for both of them. Of the main couple to me he was the least complicated character.

Bryony on the other hand was one complex woman and I mean complex in a positive way. She is analytical and has a very scientific look on everything. But underneath that chill exterior is a passionate woman who yearns to be accepted and loved, but not at the expense of her dignity or self-worth. At first glance she is aloof and keeps her distance from people. Her youth was not easy and everyone she starts to care about leaves or disappoints her so she retreats inside herself and focuses on her medical career. That is, until she falls in love with Leo Marsden. The boy she knew from childhood because they grew up on neighboring estates. He is a few years her junior but she is drawn to him like a moth to fire. He is everything she is not and she wants him. Her perseverance and Leo's fascination for her ends in their marriage and certain events and decisions made before the actual marriage lead to a painful annulment

Since the story's focus is on Bryony and Leo there aren't many secondary characters. Leo and Bryony's relatives, Leo's brothers and Bryony's sister and father, are the ones who have a little influence on the story and are important to the characterization of the main characters but that about sums it up.

There are a few settings that I tend to avoid in my romance reading. Among those settings is the British/Indian setting. But with NOT QUITE A HUSBAND Sherry Thomas has made me make an exception once again. Her amazing descriptive talents made me feel like I was truly in India, taking in the scenery she described so vividly and lifelike. And I liked it! Her writing is powerful, filled with beautiful metaphors and descriptions. It's elaborate without compromising the pace or action and it's descriptive without taking away from the intensity of the emotions.

This book made me appreciate things I usually am not fond of in the books I read. For example her way of characterization is done with flashbacks. I don't like too many flashbacks in a book but the way Sherry Thomas uses the flashbacks to allow the reader to get to know the characters, their background and their feelings was truly awe-inspiring. As I mentioned before British India is not one of my favorite backdrops for the romance novels I welcome to my bookshelves but Sherry Thomas made it work for me.

My first taste of Sherry Thomas' writing has left me mesmerized. I like intense emotional stories and this book gave that to me in a very satisfactory way. Everything was intense, the characters, their interactions, their passion, the animosity between them, their desperate longing for each other. It was a mix of intense storytelling and historical facts and a heartbreaking story of two people grown apart for reasons that derive from miscommunication but at the same time their situation is understandable from both their points of view. Next to the intensity it was also sprinkled with little moments of subtle humor that broke the tension at exactly the right spots in the storyline.

NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is wonderfully written, exposing motivations and developing characters in an excellent way. From the start I knew there was a reason for Bryony's coldness towards Leo, despite her love for him and slowly Sherry Thomas reveals this reason. Pulling me deeper and deeper into the story, wishing for a happy end between these two people who love each other deeply.

I can't describe this book other than brutally honest, genuine and original with no embellishments or romanticizing of the harsh truth and emotions.
NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is a perfect example of intense, compelling storytelling and Sherry Thomas is truly a gifted writer who kept me engaged in a story that was mesmerizing from start to finish. I'm ready for her to take me to India again, or anywhere she wishes to take me. I will go willingly and gladly.

He took her breath away in the most literal sense: She was too asphyxiated for her lungs to expand and contract properly. He aroused every last ounce of her covetousness--and there was so much of it in her, hidden in the tenebrous recesses of her heart.

Then he did smile, one of his dazzling smiles that restored sight to the blind and instilled music in the deaf. But even that smile had an undercurrent to it that made her heart do medically worrisome things.

June 2, 2009

The damned will be sucking snow cones in hell before Gregor Faustin succumbs to love and marriage. Or so he thinks. Until he ploughs his BMW straight into destiny. Madelena, with her smart mouth and her luscious ass, her old-man wardrobe and pointed questions, affects him like no woman he's ever met. Gregor can't decide if he'd rather throttle her, suck every sweet drop of blood from her body, or lock her in a room and make love to her until they both die of exhaustion.

Maddy begs the man who ran her over to keep her out of the hospital. In answer, he heals her with a kiss that leaves her haunted by erotic, soul-stealing dreams. But she's got too many problems to risk what's left of her heart on any man.

Gregor would like nothing better than to pull his usual disappearing act, but he finds himself entangled with Maddy in a way that goes beyond obsession. By tasting a few precious drops of her blood, he's bound his life to hers. Now both their days are numbered.

I won’t do a summary of the story in this review because the cover blurb actually says it all and I don't want to spoil.

Maddy is a librarian with a secret that I will leave undisclosed due to spoilers. She is mouthy, reclusive, self-sufficient, stubborn and hotheaded. She is the perfect match for Gregor who is a nightclub owner on the verge of opening a second nightclub. He is a grumpy workaholic, sexy as hell and tough but brought to his knees by the power of love and a mouthy woman.

Gregor and Maddy are great together and their chemistry is extremely powerful, despite (or maybe because of) their constant bickering. Their interactions feel like sparkling verbal sparring. Gregor is sexy and Maddy is fierce but they both have a touch of vulnerability that makes them easy to relate to and sympathize with. Maddy's despair about not being able to have a future with Gregor, once she accepts that she does want that future, is heartbreaking and palpable. It gave the story a deeper dimension that was much to my liking.

Maddy is perfect for Gregor. She offers resistance where needed but at the same time she makes him feel wanted once she accepts their mutual feelings and despite the difficulties surrounding their future. Gregor, to my relief, is not the overbearing, dominant vampire and yet still very much in control and alpha. But he is also aware of his own flaws and weaknesses and although ultimately and deep down he feels that Maddy belongs to him and he belongs to her, he still respects her choices and boundaries. Next to Maddy and Gregor's story, this book also does a lot in setting up an extended world around them. Prominent places are reserved for Gregor’s brothers Alex and Mikhail and in a slightly lesser extend for their parents.

The Faustin brothers are three brothers with totally different personalities. Gregor is the serious, workaholic and practical middle child. Alex is the romantic, playful and charming youngest brother. And Mikhail is the brooding, responsible and old-fashioned oldest son. From the opening scene of the book you just know they are all going to meet their match and fall hard, no matter how much they fight it or don’t believe in their mother’s antics.

Sometimes true treasures are stumbled upon via the most unexpected places. When I clicked on a link via Twitter to a blog-post at Samhain Publishing by Evie Byrne and immediately after clicked on the "buy-button" at MBSAM, I couldn't have guessed how impressed and overwhelmed I would be by an erotic vampire romance novella. What this book evoked is that gushy feeling over a book that I hadn't felt in quite some time. Heck, I'd never felt it over a novella before!

I was glad I had prior knowledge to the fact that even though this is book 2 in the series, chronologically the events in it precede those in book 1 (CALLED BY BLOOD). Being a bit obsessed with the chronological order of books I wouldn't have wanted to read it out of that order and I was relieved I knew the deal upfront.

When I started reading this story I was forewarned that it was a different approach to vampires and I must say I was a little skeptical at first. There are so many vampire-based stories, especially in the paranormal and erotic romance genres. What could this author and story bring to the table that could be new and/or refreshing? Well, my skepticism was totally unfounded. With BOUND BY BLOOD Evie Byrne has indeed delivered and original and different take on vampires, vampire mating and vampire romance and I loved it, she has shot straight to my favorites list by giving me a distinctive concept of vampires combined with a beautifully written tale of love, destiny and fate.

The dialogues and characters were outstanding. The plot was original and refreshingly unique. The sex scenes made me go tingly all over. They are explicit but very complementing to the story and writing style. Had these scenes been less explicit, it wouldn't have worked so well for me. I couldn't stop reading as Byrne's writing pulled me deep into the story and it was hard to let go. Maddy and Gregor's journey from dislike and bickering to fascination and attraction to ultimately love was done exquisitely, gradually and believably. I was sorry when the journey ended and I had arrived at the end of the book. 108 pages weren't nearly enough; I could have gone on reading about Gregor and Maddy endlessly.

This for me was truly a perfect read; containing all the elements I love in my romance reads. It was intense, fast-paced, witty, endearing, high on family dynamics and arousing. The ending with the ingenious solution to Maddy's problem (involving Gregor's whole family), Gregor's declaration of love to Maddy, Maddy's acceptance of the solution and Gregor's love, it was all prove of Evie Byrne's amazing talent and imagination and it was the ending that truly sealed the deal for me! With BOUND BY BLOOD premise and promise were met beyond my expectations!

There were so many quotes in this book I would have liked to share but they'd give away too much of the story, so I limited myself to the ones below and one on the RealmsOnOurBookshelves message board. I was enthralled and mesmerized by Evie Byrne's writing and I fell hard for Gregor Faustin. The way his story unfolded is a tough act to follow but I'm ready to see where Alex' destiny and story will bring me in CALLED BY BLOOD.

All I can say is: read this book and experience it for yourself. If you like vampire romances and you like ‘em hot and intense, Evie Byrne and her Faustin brothers are what you seek.

No one—no one—tasted like that. He could eat her down to the bone. He could roll in her scent like a dog. Like a sophisticated drug, those few blood cells on the tip of his tongue were rushing through his bloodstream and altering his chemistry.

She begged in a raspy whisper, completely lost, unaware of anything but the solid feel of this man beneath her hands, the need in her beyond anything she’d known. (...) Mr. Patel’s voice sliced through her dream. “Get out! Get out, you filthy perverts, before you ruin my cab with your love juice and beef franks.”

At the threshold of his hearing he picked up a little noise from the back of her throat. A choked cry. Pure desire. In that moment he knew he was enslaved. He may as well be in cuffs and leg irons.

I never include more than 2 or 3 quotes max in my reviews, but couldn’t leave this review without a little taste of Alex (youngest Faustin brother) which sums up the brothers’ personalities perfectly:

“You know, you and Mikhail make fun of me for watching Oprah, but Misha is a monk, and you’re a Neanderthal.” Alex folded his arms and leaned against the railing. “You make me proud to be a metrosexual.”

Rating: 10 out of 10

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39, married to my real life romance hero, addicted to TV shows, reading romance novels and Twitter. I'm a chronic (e)book hoarder and my absolute favorite genres within romance fiction are contemporary romance and romantic suspense, but I don't shy away from historical, paranormal or erotic romance either. Even the occasional (urban) fantasy romance, futuristic and sci fi romance may make it to my Mount TBR. This is my corner of the world wide web where I let you know what books I'm hoarding, reading and reviewing.
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2011 Reading Challenge

Pearl has read 10 books toward her goal of 50 books.

On My TBR Shelf

  • Unforgivable - Laura Griffin
  • Snapped - Laura Griffin
  • Darkness at Dawn - Elizabeth Jennings
  • Sizzle and Burn - Alexis Grant
  • No Mercy - Lori Armstrong
  • Animal Magnetism - Jill Shalvis
  • Crazy for Love - Victoria Dahl
  • Kink - Saskia Walker/Sasha White
  • So Sensitive - Anne Rainey
  • Dark Taste of Rapture - Gena Showalter
  • The Darkest Secret - Gena Showalter
  • Vampire in Atlantis - Alyssa Day
  • Vampire Dragon - Annette Blair
  • Captive Spirit - Anna Windsor
  • Chosen by Blood - Virna DePaul
  • Rebel - Zoe Archer
  • Stranger - Zoe Archer
  • A Taste of Desire - Beverley Kendall
  • Mistress by Midnight - Maggie Robinson
  • To Desire a Devil - Elizabeth Hoyt
  • To Tame a Dangerous Lord - Nicole Jordan

Digital TBR Next

  • Driven - Jayne Rylon (reread)
  • Shifting Gears - Jayne Rylon
  • Beg Me - Shiloh Walker
  • Tempt Me - Shiloh Walker
  • Jazz Baby - Lorelie Brown
  • Playboy Prankster - Pamela Britton
  • Just Like That - Erin Nicholas
  • Sweet Inspiration - Penny Watson
  • Breathe - Donna Alward
  • My Gigolo - Molly Burkhart
  • Scent of Persuason - Nikki Duncan

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