October 29, 2009

Sylvia Winters returns to her hometown where 8 years ago she broke her engagement to Joe Dixon. Stricken with cervical cancer, Syl moved away for treatment but never told Joe the truth. To heal the pain of his fiancée’s imagined betrayal, Joe turned to drinking and accidentally killed a man. Now Joe is out of prison and Syl is back in town but it will take a miracle to restore their lost love.

Lottie Sparks and her grandson, Teddy also live in town. Eight-year old Teddy lives with Lottie, his only living relative. Teddy loves his grandmother so much and desperately wants to buy her the old Victorian clock she adores in the window of Tremont Antiques ~a clock that vividly reminds her of her childhood. But the memory is soon to fade along with al the rest as her Alzheimer advances.

Summer turns to fall and Lottie worsens. With winter approaching, will a Christmas miracle be enough to bring the people of Dreyerville hope, love and redemption?

Honesty compels me to admit that I started reading this book with a few preconceived notions: I thought it was going to be a Christmas story and was not in the mood for a Christmas story in a warm August month. I thought it was going to be a story centered around an 8-year old boy and wasn't in the mood for a romance-less children's story and finally I thought it was an anthology story and I wasn't in the mood to read a short story with no room for a well-rounded story or fleshed out characters.

Subsequently, I went into this story with low expectations but from the moment I read the prologue, I knew I was going to be proven very wrong. The prologue intrigued me and due to some personal issues in the past, the first chapter caused me to choke up and I knew this was definitely not going to be a light and breezy Christmas story. And now after having read the book I have to eat my words (or rather thoughts) and fess up that Kat Martin surprised me and wiped out my preconceived notions entirely with a well-written, beautiful, heart wrenching and romantic story that brought a lump to my throat and a fuzzy, warm feeling to my heart.

THE CHRISTMAS CLOCK isn't a just story about a boy who wants to buy his grandmother a clock and the people surrounding him. It's about the lives of a woman dealing with a horrible disease eating away at her memories, her everyday functioning and the ability to take care of her grandson. It's about a young couple that was torn apart by fear and lies and is now trying to overcome their pasts and find happiness. It's about an older couple finding their way back to each other after having slipped into their own worlds and everyday comfort, neglecting the joy of loving each other and each other’s company.

This was a book that is far from my usual reads; it is definitely a different style of contemporary romance I am used to reading. It was not fast-paced and there was no action or suspense. There was no witty fun and the heat level was far from sizzling. Instead I was treated to a story that was touching, lovely and heartfelt and to characters that were true to life. All the character’s backgrounds and history were touching, their actions were endearing and their emotions were genuine. I liked and empathized with each and every one of them. From Freddy, a brave and sweet boy who wanted to buy his grandmother the clock she desired and finds a new family to love, to Dottie who was coping with a disease she had no control over, to Sylvia who was reunited with her one true love whom she had pushed away to shield him from pain and loss, to Joe, who was left devastated by Sylvia's rejection and slipped into destructive behavior but managed to overcome it all, to Dottie and Floyd who rediscovered marital happiness. They all won my admiration and affection and made this a memorable read. Kat Martin did an amazing job of intertwining the lives of all these characters in a realistic and subtle matter, writing towards an ending that was a little bit predictable but no less impressive or touching.

To me THE CHRISTMAS CLOCK read like the Wednesday night true-story movies I used to watch together with my mom, when I was a young girl and as with the movies I couldn't but wipe away a tear on occasion and breath a sigh of content relief with the happy ending.

Rating: 7.3 out of 10
(ROOB Rating: 3,5 stars)
October 28, 2009

And we have a winner!!


You chose SKIN GAME...a very, very good choice. Please contact me via email with your mailing address at pearl(at)realmsonourbookshelves(dot)com so I can put things in motion to get you SKIN GAME!

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Timestamp: 2009-10-28 15:52:03 UTC
October 26, 2009

A beautiful fugitive—wanted dead or alive. 

Kyra is a con woman and a particular kind of thief. She steals with a touch, but she only takes one thing: her target’s strongest skill. Which means she can be a fighter, an athlete, a musician, an artist—anything she wants… for a limited time. Heartbroken, she turns her gift toward avenging her father’s murder; with deadly patience, Kyra works her way into casino owner Gerard Serrano’s inner circle. After pulling off the ultimate con, she flees with his money and his pride.

A hit man who never misses the mark. 

Reyes has nothing but his work. Pity for Kyra, he’s the best and mercy never sways him once he takes a job. He’s been hired to find out where Kyra hid the cash—and bring her back to face Serrano’s “justice.” Dead will do, if he can’t locate the loot. He’s never failed to complete a contract, but Kyra tempts him with her fierce heat and her outlaw heart. So Reyes has a hell of a choice: forsake his word or kill the woman he might love.

I won this ARC on Ann Aguirre’s (Ava Gray’s alter ego) blog and I think it’s safe to say that it’s the best win of this year, even if we still have 2 months left to go. I can’t imagine another book having the impact on me this one had. Despite having the books by Ava Gray’s alter ego on my shelf this was the first taste of her writing for me and it definitely tastes like more. If I were asked to describe SKIN GAME in one word, it would be: compelling. It’s the first word that came to mind and it describes this book perfectly. SKIN GAME sucked me in, slowly and surely it got under my skin and didn’t want to let me go. Even now a few weeks after finished it and even though I don’t do re-reads, ever, I am certain this book will be re-read and maybe multiple times even.

Ava Gray’s writing really resonates with me, she penned down a mixture of romance and suspense with a sarcastic and raw undertone that worked wonderfully. She’s an admirable storyteller and a most talented writer. The way she builds up the setting and the plot, using a perfect combination of descriptions, dialogues and emotions is astounding. She doesn’t dumb down the language and regularly uses movies references, which I loved and they were never disturbing or annoying but rather fitting the rest of the book. There is never any question to what her meaning or purpose is with the language and references. The writing, the characters, the plot and the pace all conspired to lure me into a story that worked for me on so many levels I am still amazed at it. The reader has information the characters don’t have and knows the basics of the plot but still I was very curious as to where it was going and how certain things were going to pan out.

One of the things I undoubtedly liked about SKIN GAME were the characters, from the main couple, Kyra and Reyes, to secondary characters as Mia and Foster, to the villain Gerard Serrano, they were all exceptionally portrayed and developed. Next to the dialogues, the characters are a major strong point in Gray’s writing. Let’s face it, an author who names her hero Porfirio Ten-Bears Reyes and manages to make me forget that outrageous name and focus on the amazing character he is, deserves to be praised for that.

SKIN GAME swept me away to a world of suspense, intrigue and on top of that I got a story of raw passion between two people so alike that they are perfect for each other. I loved the chemistry between Kyra and Reyes. I loved how Reyes would chase and Kyra would find ways to outwit him. I joined them on a road trip and the further their trip progressed, the more their relationship developed from assassin and target to partners in crime to lovers and soul mates. Kyra doesn’t fit in any mold. She’s a free spirit, both literally and figuratively and this is what attracts Reyes to her. Reyes tries hard to stay in control of his emotions, her and his assignment. It’s hard but he manages to fight the attraction and his feelings. This made him an even stronger character to me.

One thing puzzled me at first about Kyra and Reyes: How come Reyes got immune to Kyra’s talent? I was hoping for an explanation for it by the end of the book and when I didn’t get it, the only thing I could think of was that being in each other’s vicinity so much must have made Reyes resistant to it. I reminded myself that Kyra had always shied away from repeated contact with other people so for me this explanation is the one I’m sticking with until the author tells me otherwise. Though this had me thinking for a while, it didn’t bother me or impede me from enjoying the characters. I definitely appreciated that Kyra stayed cautious and vigilant despite her attraction and growing feelings for Reyes. It was refreshing to see that Gray doesn’t make the mistake some romance authors make of letting the heroine (or hero) spill their guts the moment their hearts (or other body parts) come into play. Gray handled this part of the story excellently and it earned her some extra points.

The villain of the book, Gerard Serrano, is a paranoid and ruthless control freak. He reminded me a bit of Shannon McKenna’s villains but with a lessened “icky” factor, which made him more realistic and more believable.
Speaking of villains, let’s talk about Foster. He intrigued me from the very moment he stepped into Serrano’s office and the book. I knew from the start there was so much more to him than met the eye and he was definitely not whom he was making me believe he was. My suspicions were confirmed in a few scenes that were as tantalizing and mesmerizing, as they were confusing. Scenes that raised many questions in me, questions I hope will be answered in his own story, SKIN TIGHT, which is coming out Summer 2010. I have formed my own ideas about him, but will have to wait and see if my speculations are correct. He managed to distract me from Kyra and Reyes and that was quite an achievement as they aren’t characters that can be easily surpassed. I fell for Foster from the start and have no doubt my fan club membership is a lifelong one.

Even though SKIN GAME is labeled and being marketed as paranormal romance (for obvious and understandable reasons), in my opinion, it belongs in the romantic suspense section of the romance genre and takes a special and unique place within it. As some may know I am a big fan of romantic suspense and this was romantic suspense as it’s meant to be: compelling, mind-blowing, excellently set up without the fluffy embellishments of unnecessary action or missions impossible. It’s raw and candid writing that allowed complicated emotions to come through loud and clear. It’s wonderfully written with a perfect pace, excellent character development and an intriguing plot. This is one of those books you don’t want to end and yet you can’t stop reading so you try to drag it out to make it last as long as you can. I really didn’t want to reach the end because I knew I would have to leave this amazing story and the intricate characters Kyra, Reyes and Foster turned out to be, behind. I am more than ready for the next installment in this series and that’s not just because Foster will be the hero of it.

SKIN GAME is a very good read for readers who appreciate romantic suspense with paranormal elements and a perfect must-read for those of us craving unembellished writing, raw action and strong characters that you need to peel through their layers to get to their cores.

Rating: 9.3 out of 10
October 23, 2009
If you've been keeping track of my blog and reviews it won't be a surprise that Lorelei James is one of my favorite authors! And she has a new fix for my addiction coming up soon. Unfortunately I have been side-tracked lately, both by some newly discovered authors and by my life outside the reading realm, but I know that the moment this ebook is available at My Bookstore and More, I will be hitting that buy/download button so hard and fast, my computer won't know what hit it.

I really can't wait for this story. I've met both Keely and Jack in previous books and this is going to be one explosive firecracker of a book. But before that I still have a novella (on Quinn & Libby) and Rough Riders book 7 (Cam's story) to devour!!

I leave you with some info and with the advice that if you like em scorching hot AND heartwrenching, you'd better hop on Lorelei James' Rough Rider train without any delay!!

...Pulling off the ultimate con... if they can keep from pulling off their clothes.

Keely McKay knows Jack—and Jack Donohue is a certified pain in her Wranglers. The lone girl in the prolific McKay family, Keely needs another man giving her orders like she needs a hole in her boot. What she does need is a restoration specialist so she can open her physical therapy clinic—and prove she’s left her wild-child days behind. That means dealing with buttoned-down, uptight Jack.

Jack is this close to securing a career make-or-break project, until he learns his lack of marital status puts him out of contention. When the notoriously hot-tempered and hot-bodied Keely begs him for help, he proposes a crazy idea. He’ll oversee her project—if she acts the part of his loving fiancée.

Their sizzling lust makes it all too easy to go from butting heads to knocking boots—but outside the bedroom they’re as mismatched as ever. The McKays remind Jack of the humble upbringing he left behind, and cowgirl Keely feels she doesn’t measure up to Jack’s big-city lifestyle.

When the dust settles, Jack and Keely must face the fact they’re not fooling anyone but themselves—or they’ll risk losing the real deal.

Warning: this book contains one hot-blooded cowgirl and one cool-headed businessman in a stripped-down, revved-up game of sexual truth or dare.

Click HERE for an excerpt!

Series: Rough Riders (book 8)
Release Date: November 3, 2009
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (eBook)
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 978-1-60504-684-6

My reviews of the previous books:
1. Long Hard Ride
2. Rode Hard, Put Up Wet
3. Cowgirl Up and Ride
4. Tied Up, Tied Down
5. Rough, Raw and Ready
6. Branded as Trouble

Click HERE to visit Lorelei’s website
October 21, 2009

Pearl proudly presents: her new and improved made-over Blog!!!!
Thanks to the wonderful Barbara from Designs by Barbara I have achieved blog bliss. Barbara took my wishes and instructions and made me a place in Blogland I can feel right at home in. It's exactly as I envisioned it and then some!

I hope the visual changes have been agreeable to everyone. It certainly has for me and I've already had some great feedback on the new blog for which I again want to thank Barbara, because if I wasn't for her I'd be pulling my hair out by the roots at this moment and I wouldn't have this spiffy new place to brag about.

So, what has changed?
Well duh! The lay-out, colours and header of course, those changes are pretty obvious.

What else can you expect on the "new" blog? As announced in my blog about changes a while back:

I have changed the rating systems from stars and flames to 0-10 rating. Please note that I have not applied this to reviews from September and older as it would take me a bunch of hours to do this, hours which I don't have to spare.
Furthermore, in line of the new rating not being applied to earlier reviews, I also haven't replaced the images with the old background color in them. Again this would cost me too much time. I may be changing them in due course whenever I have time or when the situation asks for it.

The first mini-review round up blog is to be expected in the near future.
I will not be making as many elaborate, "full" reviews as I used to. Of course the reviews of the ARCs and review requests (both for ROOB and for the blog) will be full and elaborate as always but as for the enormous amount of books on my TBR (past, present and future) it's not doable to review them all as extensively as I have always been doing. Again this has to do with lack of time. (do we see a theme here?) Time I'd rather spend reading to be honest. And believe me, there will always be books that demand an extensive review and who am I to deny them that.

Genre focus: 
I will be focusing on contemporary romance, romantic suspense, thrillers and mysteries, as these are my favorite genres to read. Of course for variation and since I also have favorite authors in the paranormal, historical and urban fantasy genre, these genres will not be neglected.


Give away
In celebration of my new blog I decided to do a giveaway. It's very simple, all you have to do is to let me know via the comments what book you are looking forward to reading but haven't had the chance to yet because you don't have it. (I am not talking hard to find/out of print books here)

On Tuesday October 27th I will randomly pick a commenter who will receive the book of her (or his) choice via The Bookdepository.

This giveaway is open to all, worldwide

Looking forward to your choices!
October 13, 2009

In the Scottish Highlands, two warriors are about to clash over a woman of passion…

They were the unlikeliest of friends debauching their way through London: The Earl of Camdonn, a nobleman of vast wealth and power, and Scottish laird Alan MacDonald, a respected Jacobite with ambitions of his own.
But their friendship is destroyed when Alan marries the beautiful Sorcha Stewart --only to witness Cam kidnap her from their bedroom. Then Alan learns the truth: his bride was not an innocent. She took a lover before him --his friend-- who taught her the ways of pleasure.
Now, Alan will do anything to get his wife back. Cam fights to redeem his honor, even as he refuses to give up his desire. Torn between love and duty, Sorcha must watch as the two men she desires go to war over her. And when the battle lines are drawn, all three lovers are lured into a triangle of forbidden passions.

When Dawn Halliday asked if there were reviewers interested in reviewing the upcoming anthology she contributed to, I didn’t hesitate. However, after some emails back and forth we decided I’d review HIGHLAND OBSESSION instead. This has to do with my reading-in-order obsession but I have bored you enough with that in other reviews so I’m not going there in this one. The scorching first chapter of HIGHLAND OBSESSION immediately set the tone for me and I knew I was in for a steamy and emotionally complicated read. My expectations were thoroughly met after that first chapter because Dawn Halliday delivered an emotional and heartbreaking love story against the backdrop of Highland political turmoil, a background that added to the already emotional tension between the main characters of the story.

As I don’t want to spoil the main storyline and important stuff of the book I will not say too much about it but for me it was a beautiful story with a good resolution. I’ve read my fair share of ménage and permanent threesome stories and some were good, some were of lesser quality, some were emotionally detached, some were very intense. HIGHLAND OBSESSION belongs to the good and intense ones. It is well written, fast-paced and engaging. The three main players are distinct personalities with their passionate and fiery nature in common. This makes for a story of passion, betrayal, trust, friendship and love with great chemistry and synergy and emotional, explosive interactions.

I totally fell for the way Alan fought for his wife and showed his resentment towards Cam. Alan is kind, honorable and humble, but that is to a certain extent. Cross him and you will suffer the consequences. He will fight for what he perceives as his with determination and charm. Cam on the other hand struck me as rough and unpolished at times. Dark, brooding and stubborn, he is used to getting what he wants and can be quite arrogant. There were times I actually didn’t like him in the way he was convinced Sorcha belonged with him. In the end, I did however sympathize as I saw why he hides his compassion and tenderness behind his hard-headedness and that he wasn’t out to hurt Alan and Sorcha intentionally. With the battle between Alan and Cam for Sorcha’s love and affection, at first I was afraid she was going to be overshadowed by the men. But my fear was unfounded, bit-by-bit her determination and strength came out and I admired her for standing her ground with both Alan and Cam and fighting for her happiness. When she accepted her feelings, she showed her true smart-mouthed, quick-witted and stubborn self.

This highly erotic historical romance is definitely not conventional and for me that sealed the deal. As I said I have read several stories with this topic, mostly in contemporary settings, but this one was brought in a wonderful combination of history, emotions and characters. Dawn Halliday has a way of enthralling with the imagery in her writing and combined with the strong emotional dilemmas, this book totally worked for me. I will definitely be on the lookout for the sequel, HIGHLAND SURRENDER (coming April 2010), because with HIGHLAND OBSESSION Dawn Halliday gave me an enticing read that has me wanting more.

Rating: 8.7 out of 10
October 11, 2009
Doing my thing on Goodreads this morning, updating reading statuses, rating and adding books to Mt. TBR I stumbled upon a series that just made my heart rate go sky high...Unsuspecting I saw a thumbnail of the following cover

Turn up the heat with the lastest romantic thriller from bestselling author Nina Bruhns. "An awesome,
sexy story" -- Allison Brennan

and I was immediately compelled to type in Nina Bruhns in google, go to her website and.... *cue the drooling, pounding heart and emerging of the romantic suspense addict within*

Because just drooling over a cover doesn't equal me hitting the buy-button I had to read the blurbs and the excerts and by the time I read the excerpt of book number two I was totally sold on this PASSION FOR DANGER series. Needless to say the buy and pre-order button has been hit, and hit hard!!

Book one of the series came out in August:

A disillusioned black-ops hero is kidnapped by his ruthless former employers and forced to go on a suicide mission back to the scene of his worst betrayal—-but an innocent woman is caught in the trap and sent with him, forcing him to choose: her life, or his vengeance.

KYLE “KICK” JACKSON is a bona fide bad-ass. The product of a rough childhood and a youth spent proving how tough he was, Kick was the perfect CIA black-ops operative. Right up until the fateful mission that left his best friend dead and Kick in the hospital for months. They were betrayed…from the inside. Now his former bosses will stop at nothing, including kidnapping, to get him back to complete his mission.

Unfortunately, there is a complication. A big one.

LORRAINE “RAINIE” MARTIN is a fiercely dedicated ER nurse—-a vocation decided upon when her parents were killed in a brutal carjacking. But the impenetrable fortress of safety she has erected around herself and her heart do no good when she finds herself stranded in the unforgiving desert, dependent on a dangerous man without mercy for her very survival…and the only way home is to confront her worst fears.

EXCERPT: Shoot to Thrill

And books two and three are lined up to release respectively in December 2009 and April 2010:

A kick-ass Yankee cop and her special-ops Cajun guide search the Louisiana swamp for a deadly virus, but succumb to a fever of a very different sort.

Mysterious deaths stalk the bayou. No-nonsense Louisiana State trooper Tara Reeves reluctantly enlists the aid of Marc Lafayette, a too-sexy-for-his-own-good Cajun heartbreaker, to guide her on her search for evidence so she can bring down those responsible. But the source of the deaths is more dangerous than Tara could ever imagine. A foreign terrorist cell, plotting an attack on U.S. soil, is testing a deadly biological weapon in the remote wilderness of the swamp.

But the terrorists aren’t the only ones with secrets…

What Tara doesn’t know is that her sexy guide is part of a covert special ops team sent to destroy the terrorist threat, and Marc is not happy about having to babysit a nosy cop—even one as temptingly beautiful as Tara. But as they search the Louisiana swamp for a deadly virus, they succumb to a fever of a very different sort. Both of them know that love and work don’t mix, a harrowing showdown with the enemy will make their steamy passion boil over…and change their lives forever.

EXCERPT: If Looks Could Chill

Eight months ago, Dr. Gina Cappozi and CIA black ops commando Captain Gregg van Halen were lovers --until Gregg committed the ultimate betrayal. Left in the hands of terrorists and to do the unspeakable or die, Gina vowed to kill the man she once loved.

She knows that Gregg lives in the shadow world of violence and darkness. She knows that he's watching her every move. What she doesn't know is that Gregg isn't the only one following her–or that he still cherishes her.

When Gina's burning need for revenge leads her back to the one place she can easily lure Gregg–his bed–she rediscovers another, more irresistible need. Now, with the threat of enemies at every turn, Gina and Gregg realize that the power of betrayal and revenge is nothing compared to the power of love.

EXCERPT: A Kiss To Kill

I know there are a few cover lovers out there who'd buy these ones based on the covers alone, because even I am tempted to pet, lick and drool all over these ones...But even if you're not a romantic suspense reader/lover...you would, wouldn't you? *wink*
October 9, 2009

Bound by the demon of doubt, Sabin unintentionally destroys even the most confident of lovers. So the immortal warrior spends his time on the battlefield instead of the bedroom, victory his only concern…until he meets Gwendolyn the Timid. One taste of the beautiful redhead, and he craves more.

Gwen, an immortal herself, always thought she’d fall for a kind human who wouldn’t rouse her darker side. But when Sabin frees her from prison, battling their enemies for the claim to Pandora’s box turns out to be nothing compared to the battle Sabin and Gwen will wage against love…

People who know me, my reading and my favorites won't be surprised that I can't find enough appropriate words to express how much I love Gena Showalter's books. With THE DARKEST WHISPER she nailed it again. From the first page she latched on to me and didn't let go until I reached the end.

For me Gwen is the best heroine in the LOTU series up till now. She is a character that I loved from the minute I met her in the book. She is intriguing and likeable, powerful, yet vulnerable. She had two very different sides to her. A dark, violent, powerful side, her Harpy side, but she is also known as Gwen "The Timid" because her non-Harpy side is timid, kind and selfless. This, however, is just a thin veneer and a consequence of her tamping down her Harpy side. She craves normalcy, independence, and freedom from her Harpy and she wants to prove to her sisters that she can be as wild and strong as they are.

And then Sabin. He is just so deliciously masculine and protective, all the while denying his endearment and attraction to Gwen. He too is a contraction. He is hard, harsh, vengeful and calculating but has a boyish charisma at the same time. With his efforts to control his demon Doubt he may come across as confident and sure but I think it's more determination not to let Doubt overrule him than confidence. Sabin caught my attention in the previous book with his gruff and standoffish behavior but underneath he was so passionate and so sweet to Gwen it made me melt into a puddle. As Sabin never was a character that I was particularly intrigued by, I was very surprised at how much I loved him in his own story. He has definitely conquered a place among my favorite characters in this series.

I adored Sabin and Gwen and their journey to the happy ending but I was also utterly intrigued by the tidbits surrounding Aeron, Gideon, Thorin and Paris. I loved seeing the couples Maddox, Ashlyn, Lucien, Anya, Reyes and Danika again. And Anya’s sex addict friend William, who’s become the Lords’ permanent houseguest, added an intriguing and witty note in the midst of the cast of deities, humans, demons and harpies.

Every couple in the LOTU world is unique and Sabin and Gwen are no exception. They bring something different to the series both with their personalities and their love story. I like it when authors do that and Gena Showalter never fails me. Gwen and Sabin’s story is awesome and for me THE DARKEST WHISPER is the book I loved the most of all the books I’ve read to date in this series. Despite a lot of other things going on with the other Lords and the overall story arc, the romance and chemistry between Sabin and Gwen always stayed on the forefront, their story pulled on my heartstrings and on occasion also jumpstarted my laugh muscles.

Another thing I admire in Gena Showalter's writing is that despite of the tone of this book being more dark and intense (Paris and Aeron are turning darker and more tormented with every page) and the LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD are no happy, fluffy band of warriors (they do horrid things to their enemies), she still manages to retain that humorous undertone that's so typical for her writing and which I love so much.

With THE DARKEST WHISPER Gena Showalter has expanded considerably on the foundation she build with the first three books of the series. Those were meant to introduce the world, the characters and the overall plot arc. This book expanded on that and has further set the stage for things to come. Sabin and Gwen's story was told against the backdrop of an overall plotline that definitely made me want more. The small snippets of the storylines surrounding the other Lords (Aeron, Gideon, Paris, Thorin, Cameo and Amun) show stories unfolding for which the description "interesting" is an understatement. These sneak peeks and enticing POVs show things to come that offer many things to ponder and a lot to look forward to in this series.

My favorite book of the series was THE DARKEST NIGHT but THE DARKEST WHISPER with the twists and turns in the overall plot arc that totally surprised me, the wonderful romance between Sabin and Gwen and the fleshing out of future main characters and their stories has taken over the spot on the top of my list.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10
October 6, 2009

He was the stuff erotic dreams are made of...
Salon owner Julie Stanford wanted Nathan Tucker ever since she gave him his first massage. Getting paid to feel every inch of his body, stripped, oiled, and spread out in front of her? Stuff dreams are made of. But the sexy lug was oblivious to the signals she was sending—until she finished off his final rub-down with something extra. In fact, the best extra he ever had. Unfortunately, he came around too late. Now Julie’s moving on…

She was everything he’d dreamed of...
The woman was driving him crazy. She lit fire to his insides then ran like a scalded cat. And now she’s going to someone else to have all her fantasies fulfilled? Over his dead body… He’s more than willing to give her what she wants, and as soon as he pins the little minx down, he’d show her his own brand of sweet seduction.

Sweet Seduction mainly tells the story of Julie Stanford and Nathan Tucker. A story which starts when in the first book of this series, SWEET SURRENDER, when Nathan decides he wants an earring to go with his new bald head and Faith (heroine of book 1) takes him to the beauty and massage parlor owned by Julie to have the job done. After the earring he decides to frequent Julie’s salon for her massages. He doesn’t know that while he love struck but too shy to act on it, despite her not so subtle hints. Julie is also attracted to him but annoyed with the way he doesn’t pay attention to her, thinking she’s not good enough for him. Julie being the outspoken, independent ball-busting woman that she is, decides to teach him a lesson and then go her merry way, a way that includes fulfilling her ménage fantasy. The only thing she didn’t count on was Nathan not leaving it at that and going after the woman he wants in a most surprising way.

To say I discovered Maya Banks on the social network called Twitter is not accurate because I bought her eBook Brazen ages ago (No I haven’t read it yet but will very soon) but it was Twitter that brought her to the center of my attention when the second book in the Sweet series (SWEET PERSUASION) ended up in my possession after a contest.

As I am obsessed with reading books in order I read SWEET SURRENDER and SWEET PERSUASION before I read this ARC. With the introduction of Julie and Nathan in book 1 and the tiny glimpses in book 2 I was primed and ready for their own story in SWEET SEDUCTION. As with the other two books, I flew through SWEET SEDUCTION. Maya Banks has a writing style that is very agreeable. Her books read like speeding trains and you want to keep reading, flipping the pages as fast as you can, just to know what happens next with the characters and their story. Still she manages to keep her writing realistic and her characters down to down-to-earth despite bordering on hot and emotional topics and delivering some extremely hot sex scenes.

I loved reading Julie and Nathan’s story. Julie was an amazingly strong heroine, even if she sometimes came on a bit too strong in my eyes and was too stubborn for her own good. With Julie being such a strong character, something had to give and in this case it was Nathan’s character. Nathan was just too sweet for my taste and a bit overshadowed by Julie’s in-your-face personality, which I really liked, don’t get me wrong but I thought the balance between them was a bit off for a big part of the book. Of course it was remedied at the end of the book where Nathan decides enough is enough. Again it was an ending that twisted my emotions into a pretzel and one which definitely contributed to my liking this book a lot, despite Nathan not being one of my favorite heroes of this series. Even though I would have loved to see Nathan more edgy and less sweet, I understood that Julie was the driving force of this book and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

In Maya Banks I have found another new author to provide me with crazy hot and sexy contemporary reads that definitely aren’t a dime a dozen. I love her voice, one that is in-your-face, real, raw and humorous and SWEET SEDUCTION, in fact the whole Sweet series, is a must-read for everyone who loves to read sexy contemporaries filled with drool-worthy men, strong heroines and scorching hotness.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

In Helen “Hell” Roston’s elite black ops world, failure isn’t listed as an option in the rulebook. As the leading guinea pig in a dangerous combination of virtual reality training and a mind-altering serum, though, every day offers a thousand ways to blow it. And the very real sexual chemistry that sizzles between Hell and her trainer is messing with her head even more.

COS Commando Jed McNeil is an expert in mind manipulation games. He’s been chosen to be Hell’s monitor and anchor in the Super Soldier Spy program. Trained to compartmentalize his needs and feelings in an assignment, he’s unprepared by how much Hell affects him.

When the experimental serum gives Helen incapacitating headaches, her pain throws Jed into protect-at-all-costs mode. A position the fiercely independent Hell would rather die than be in. But with a rogue CIA faction out to sabotage the program, Hell has no choice—even if it makes her head explode. It’s trust Jed, or die.

Since the back cover copy pretty much summarizes the story and anything more would spoil it for those who haven’t read the book I am not doing my own summary of the story and I’ll get straight to my thoughts on the book.

When Gennita Low offered an opportunity to review an eARC of VIRTUALLY HERS I was very interested because romantic suspense/action adventure novels intrigue me and was curious how it would work in a futuristic setting. I have several of Low’s books on my bookshelves but haven’t gotten around to reading them yet so this was my first encounter with her work.

I must start by saying that I did not read the first book in this three-book story. Not for lack of trying but I couldn’t get a copy of VIRTUALLY HIS within the deadline to read and review this one so I sort of went in blind. I have an obsessive and compelling need to read books in order and while I must praise Gennita Low for her ability to make it a very good stand-alone read I still felt something was missing for me to fully enjoy the story. It was not that I missed something tangible, just those little nuances that make books that are connected in a way that these are that bit more enjoyable. After reading this book I also found out that VIRTUALLY HIS is the start of the story between Hell and Jed and their story will continue in VIRTUALLY ONE, which is the third book of this trilogy.

This being said I must say I am still overwhelmed by this book, both positively and negatively. Without the head start of VIRTUALLY HIS I had a lot of catching up to do on what was going on, what the game was and who the players were. From the start the intriguing plotline captured my attention and I was wondering where it was all going. In the first part of the book there were many times I would get a bit lost in the technical stuff surrounding virtual reality and remote viewing. I would get distracted from the plot and the romance by the abundance of world building, technology and terminology. This made the pace much slower and the action much less present than I am used to in suspense and action adventure romances, certainly in the beginning. It also didn’t leave much room for the characters to develop and for me to get emotionally connected with them. I think this would have been different if I had been able to read VIRTUALLY HIS before reading this one. Therefore, even though technically it’s not needed to read VIRTUALLY HIS first because very subtle references throughout the book fill in the blanks, for the complete enjoyment of the story between Jed and Hell I am nonetheless inclined to recommend doing so.

Fortunately, after a number of chapters into the story, the plot came to the forefront and started to unravel. I started to catch on as to where things were going and getting into the story much better. The connection with the characters, the pace and the action also started working for me. There were the occasional scenes where I still wasn’t able to completely wrap my mind around the remote viewing and virtual reality stuff because whenever the story would go into the technical details of it, I tended to zone out a bit. Still the storyline and dialogues definitely made up for that and together with the characters and plot developments they were fascinating enough to keep me interested despite my trouble with the technicalities of how remote viewing worked.

When the plot started to unfold and Jed and Hell’s relationship started to develop I became much more enthralled by the book and I think maybe it is my own limited knowledge or interest in the technology that causes my reluctance to embrace the virtual reality and remote viewing because I have to say that Gennita Low knows her stuff. After the stint of world building in the beginning she managed to intertwine it nicely with romance and plot, and intrigue me enough with it to want to know more about it.
At the end there were two things that threw me for a loop. First there was a fairly long flashback scene that, to me, seemed somehow out of place. It would have made more sense and been more logical to me in an earlier spot in the story. I did like this scene a lot because it provided me with more insight in Jed’s character and background. The other thing was the cliffhanger ending and I do not like cliffhanger endings even though this one is understandable and justifiable. Certainly after discovering that the story of Hell and Jed is being told over three books in total and that the Virtually trilogy is not one of stand alone stories on different main characters.

So in short, I really liked this book. It gave me a different kind of romantic suspense from what I am used to reading. Even though the complex and extensive world building and technology took away from pace and action, in my eyes, the combination of characters, romance and plot is definitely unique and well written. My interest in the other installments of this trilogy is definitely sparked as I will continue my search for VIRTUALLY HIS and am looking forward to VIRTUALLY ONE, if only to know how the story of Jed and Hell continues.

Rating: 7.5 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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GR Reading Challenge

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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