Captivated by You by Sylvia Day Release Day November 18, 2014

Review: Captivated by You (Crossfire #4) by Sylvia Day

Captivated by You by Sylvia Day Release Day November 18, 2014

Title: CAPTIVATED BY YOU (Crossfire Series #4)
Author: Sylvia Day
Availability: 18 November 2014 (Paperback and e-Book | Berkley), 368 Pages
Where to buyBarnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  iBooks  |  Amazon (US) |  Amazon UK paperback
Series Info: A Crossfire Novel, #4 (Bared to You (#1), Entwined with You (#2), Reflected in You (#3))

Giveaway:  Leave a comment ON THIS POST telling me why you love the Crossfire Series and you’ll be eligible to receive a signed hardcover copy of BARED TO YOU (Crossfire #1), the book that started it all!  If you’re not familiar with the Crossfire Series (*gasp*), comment telling me what you look for in a steamy read – chances are you’ll find it here!(contest ends November 25, open to U.S. residents only, winner selected using random number generator).

My Summary:
Captivated by You captures the reader from the first line and doesn’t let go until its satisfying end. As can be expected by a Crossfire novel, we witness the exhilarating and passionate love of Gideon Cross and Eva Tramell as they face ghosts from the past while working toward the happy future they both dream of and finally realize they deserve.  On their path, they must deal with jealous exes and meddling parents, complicated by juggling friendships, business dealings, and their own emotional baggage.  Loving Eva has opened Gideon up to change and acceptance, allowing him and Eva to deepen their connection as she learns to let go of her past and embrace a future with Gideon. They must fight for each other and their shared goal against numerable obstacles, including themselves.

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Blurb:

Gideon calls me his angel, but he’s the miracle in my life. My gorgeous, wounded warrior, so determined to slay my demons while refusing to face his own.

The vows we’d exchanged should have bound us tighter than blood and flesh. Instead they opened old wounds, exposed pain and insecurities, and lured bitter enemies out of the shadows. I felt him slipping from my grasp, my greatest fears becoming my reality, my love tested in ways I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to bear.

At the brightest time in our lives, the darkness of his past encroached and threatened everything we’d worked so hard for. We faced a terrible choice: the familiar safety of the lives we’d had before each other or the fight for a future that suddenly seemed an impossible and hopeless dream…

My Thoughts:

It took me over 24 hours after finishing Captivated by You to sit down and write this review. I needed at least that long to process all the feelings this book brought out in me. All day, while folding laundry or putting away groceries or whatever chore I was engaged in, my mind kept coming back to this book. That’s what a good book does, it stays with you even after you’ve read the last page.

And let me tell you, I didn’t want that last page to come. As I raced toward the finish, my e-reader kept me informed of exactly how far it was to the end and I kept complaining “there isn’t enough time!” Well, at least I can be comforted by the news there is another Crossfire novel ‘coming soon’ from Berkley Books, One With You (no release date yet – Grrrrrrr!).

As the fourth book in a five series, Captivated by You doesn’t really work as a stand-alone novel. Yes, a reader can pick up this installment without ever having read the others but the nuances of the characters would not be as rich and the character/relationship growth would not be as rewarding. The first three books in the series are great and I strongly recommend them (see my reviews of #1 Bared to You here, #2 Reflected in You here, and #3 Entwined with You here).

Now on to the good stuff: 5 Things I Loved about Captivated by You and 1 Thing I Didn’t

#1 Gideon Cross’ Point of View
As the book opened to Gideon’s voice for the first time, I actually bounced in my seat with excitement. As a fan of the series, I (like his fictional love Eva) have been frustrated by the character’s brooding alpha male tendencies. Gideon has always been open and honest with Eva regarding his feelings for her, his insecurities and failings. However, there has been much that he’s held back. Reading his thoughts and seeing events from his perspective really brought a whole new layer to an already complex character. Kudos to Ms. Day for giving Gideon his own distinctive voice. [This doesn't mean I wasn't thrilled to read Eva's perspective in the alternating chapters told in her POV – it was like catching up with an old friend.]

#2 Character Growth
This is one strong positive I think a new reader to the series might not appreciate if staring with book four. I have to admit it, I’m proud of these two crazy kids and how they have grown, making mature decisions and dealing with problems head-on, together (for the most part, more on this later). Gideon’s character arc especially, has impressed me. As pointed out above, reading his point of view emphasizes the changes loving Eva has helped him with. It was also refreshing to see Eva respond differently, with more reasoned reactions (usually).

#3 Scenes of Past Abuse
I can’t sugar coat it, there are some intense, emotionally raw depictions of sexual abuse of a minor told through flashbacks and dreams. These scenes were hard to read – and it’s a testament to the quality the writing that something so horrifying doesn’t turn a reader off but rather draws them further into the story. Reliving these events through the character’s eyes was an important part of novel and the reader’s relationship with the characters. Thank you to Ms. Day for not shying away from the realities of abuse and it’s effect on the victims.

Be prepared – it ain’t pretty, but it’s handled masterfully.

#4 Secondary Characters
I’m going to be honest, in the first three books I didn’t really care too much about the secondary characters. Most were either threats to Gideon and Eva’s relationship or took time away from the main crux of the story. My ambivalence has been erased (for most characters, some still bore me). We are introduced to more of Gideon’s circle of friends– he actually has a Guy’s Night with all his wealthy, hot male buds. [Shout out to Arash Madani, Gideon's lawyer and my new bestie! The man is smart and funny *sigh*]

Gideon and Eva even go out on a group date to co-mingle their groups of friends and there’s a scene here that I thought might play as cheesy but ended up kinda hot. [Rule #1: Always Trust Sylvia Day] It was great to have some scenes of fun and lightness in an otherwise dark tale; there’s a nice, and necessary, balance.

We also saw more of Gideon’s relationship with his family, including his step-father. I have become so attuned to threats to Gideon and Eva’s relationship that I actually get a bit wary when new characters enter their sphere. [Note: still hate you, Corrine and Brett]  My actual notes on Chris Sr.: “I hope my liking him doesn’t bite me in the ass.” SPOILER ALERT: It didn’t. [Rule #2: See Rule #1]

Oh, and I’m still in love with Gideon’s driver Angus, the red-haired Scotsman (I have a type, don’t judge me).

#5 The “Good Parts” Are Very Good
Sylvia Day is a master of writing erotic romance (please note the emphasis on romance). No matter how raw and sexual a scene between Gideon and Eva becomes, it’s about the love and deeper connection between the two. Let me assure you, there are plenty of raw, nearly animalistic scenes in this book – but these characters are always making love (even if it’s a quickie in the back of a limo or introducing a new ‘toy’).

The Crossfire series is often mentioned in the ‘what to read after 50 Shades’ conversation. Nope, wrong. No contest. This series (and this installment especially, I think) puts that comparison to shame. Crossfire is hotter, has more emotional depth and is just so well-written. Do yourself a favor, skip ’50 Shades’ and go straight to Sylvia Day’s Crossfire novels.

Aaaannnnddd: 1 Thing I Didn’t Love About Captivated by You: Eva’s Overreaction (maybe?)

For so much of this book (I swear 90%), I was gushing over the way Gideon and Eva communicated and worked as a team. I should have known it was too good to last. I’ve sometimes wondered if Eva’s reactions to Gideon’s behavior haven’t been a tad too over the top (couples therapy, really? after a couple of weeks of dating?). Unfortunately that concern reared it’s ugly head again.

There came a time in this book where Gideon set things in motion without consulting Eva (SO hard to not give spoilers!). Unlike his behavior in earlier books, in this instance he confessed quickly and when she (predictably) blew up, he immediately backtracked – two things he wouldn’t have done before (yay growth!). Rather than talk things through, Eva ran off and stopped talking to him for days (feels like this happens every book). She’s all about him opening up but then she shuts down. Gideon was juggling so many threats and emotional issues, I guess I just felt Eva needed to show a little more understanding. The conflict felt a bit too forced for me – but hey, without conflict, you can have make-up scenes. And given her character’s history, her reaction might be entirely proportionate.

Some favorite quotes:

“You make me happy,” he said, in the deep firm tone he used when making an unswayable decision. “I’d forgotten what that feels like. Don’t devalue what you mean to me.” –Gideon

I believed Gideon implicitly. He always told me the truth. The problem was, there was a lot he didn’t tell me. –Eva

“Was that a laugh, Cross? Were you seriously just laughing? Or were you having a stroke?” –Arash

“No fair. You’re all ripped and shiny and mostly naked, and I have no willpower.” –Eva

I couldn’t grasp the dream I’d had, but it refused to let go of me. –Gideon

Take me. Take all of me. The good and the bad. Everything. Take it all. –Gideon

“It’s not the past she’s thinking of […] it’s the future.” –Angus

He had to stop pushing me away to protect me, and I had to stop worrying that I would disappear when I became Mrs. Gideon Cross. –Eva [their issues in a nutshell]

This couple has definitely earned their happy ending. No doubt they’ll find it in One With You, the next, and reportedly last, Crossfire novel.

About Author Sylvia Day:

Photo Credit: Ian Spanier Photography 2014

Sylvia Day is the #1 New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of over 20 award-winning novels sold in more than 40 countries. She is a #1 bestselling author in 23 countries, with tens of millions of copies of her books in print. Her Crossfire series has been optioned for television by Lionsgate.

Connect with Sylvia’s Social Media:

www.sylviaday.com | Facebook.com/AuthorSylviaDay | Twitter: @SylDay

First Three Chapters of ‘Captivated by You’ by Sylvia Day

Captivated by You by Sylvia Day Release Day November 18, 2014Author Sylvia Day has shared the first three chapters of the highly anticipated fourth installment of her wildly popular CROSSFIRE SERIES:

CAPTIVATED BY YOU CHAPTERS 1-3

These chapters feature some Gideon POV! Inside look at the thoughts of one of contemporary romance’s hottest men, sign me up!

Giveaway!

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment below telling me why you love the Crossfire Series and you’ll be eligible to receive a signed hardcover copy of BARED TO YOU, the book that started it all!  (contest ends November 25, open to U.S. residents only, winner selected using random number generator).

If you’re not familiar with the Crossfire Series (*gasp*), comment telling me what you look for in a steamy read – chances are you’ll find it here!  You can read my review of BARED TO YOU here.

CAPTIVATED BY YOU is scheduled for release November 18.

Spotlight: The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide) by Sally Orr

The Rake's Handbook

Title: The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide)
Author: Sally Orr
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Pre-order Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | iBooks

Summary:

The definitive guide to seduction…

The Rake’s Handbook was written on a dare, and soon took the ton by storm. Now its author, Ross Thornbury, is publicly reviled by the ladies—who are, of course, forbidden to read the handbook—but privately revered by the gentlemen. Unfortunately, Ross’s notoriety is working against him and he flees London painfully aware of the shortcomings of his own jaded heart.

Spirited young widow Elinor Colton lives next to Ross’s country estate. She’s appalled not only by his rakish reputation, but also by his progressive industrial plans. Elinor is sure she is immune to Ross’s seductive ways. But he keeps coming around…impressing her with his vision for England’s future and stunning her with his smiles.

How does one resist the man who wrote the manual on love?

GIVEAWAY INFO!!!!

Giveaway!

Enter Rafflecopter Giveaway – Two copies of The Rake’s Handbook are available (two winners, ends 11/7) (Click on Giveaway Kitty for a chance to win).

Excerpt from The Rake’s Handbook:

“You really are a rake,” she whispered, the sight and feel of their joined hands warming her cheeks. “A proper gentleman would never hold a lady thus. I have been warned about your charms. Perhaps I too should write everything down. Pen a handbook to instruct my widowed sisters what to expect upon attempted seduction and how to fight it.”

“Factual or satirical?”

She bit her lower lip to stop an indelicate reply.

“I could write that handbook too.”

His boast made her smile. “I seem to have found another trait of a rake.”

“Humph. I’d be delighted to show you all of my traits. Perhaps start with chapter one?” The determination in his voice indicated he was quite willing to comply.

“Please do, sir,” she replied in a facetious tone, tugging her hand free. “But I can already tell that I’ll stop reading your book after the table of contents. You know, all of those funny pages in the front of the book numbered v and i.”

He chuckled softly, then stared at her until he captured her gaze. “My handbook starts with fine eyes.” He reached up and swept back a ringlet that had fallen over her eye and carefully tucked the curl under her bonnet.

Her heartbeat raced.

“The eyes are followed by a notable vee.” His gaze lowered to the upper edge of her bodice and lingered in the center.

“Oh my, if that’s the table of contents, I don’t dare read chapter one.”

“I’d be pleased to read you all of the chapters. There are a total of . . .” He glanced at her leisurely, from the top of her leghorn bonnet down to her sensible half boots. His focus returned up to her neck—almost. His chest broadened as he inhaled. “Ten.”

“Ten.”

He gave her a smoldering look from under heavy lashes. “Ten in volume one,” he continued in a silky baritone. “Let’s start with chapter one.” He leaned forward slowly, staring at her mouth, as if he might take liberties and kiss her. The distance between them shortened to inches. Close enough to feel his warm breath.

About the Author:

Sally Orr worked for thirty years in medical research, specializing in the discovery of gene function. After joining an English history message board, she posted many, many examples of absolute tomfoolery. As a result, a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she is a hopeless Anglophile, it’s not surprising that her first book is a Regency romance. Sally lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many nerdy books and not enough old English cars.

Connect with Sally’s Social Media:

Website | @OrrSally | Facebook | Goodreads

Cover Reveal: THOUGHTFUL by S.C. Stephens

I’m happy to share the lovely new book cover for bestselling author S.C. Stephens upcoming release THOUGHTFUL, the retelling of the events of THOUGHTLESS from the point of view of that book’s hero, Kellan Kyle.    (And by lovely, I mean smokin’ hot, abtastic deliciousness…)

Hope you’re ready for this..
It’s stunning…
Here it is…
Thoughtful by S.C. Stephens
Title: THOUGHTFUL
Author: S.C. Stephens 

Release Info: February 24, 2014; Forever Trade Paperback and E-book

Book Blurb:

The only place Kellan Kyle has ever felt at home is onstage. Gripping his guitar in a darkened bar, he can forget his painful past. These days his life revolves around three things: music, his bandmates, and hot hookups. Until one woman changes everything…

Kiera is the kind of girl Kellan has no business wanting-smart, sweet, and dating his best friend. Certain he could never be worthy of her love, he hides his growing attraction…until Kiera’s own tormented heart hints that his feelings might not be one-sided. Now, no matter the consequences, Kellan is sure of one thing-he won’t let Kiera go without a fight.

Pre-order links:
B&N |  Books a Million  |  iBooks  |  Kobo  |  Google Play
About the author:
S.C. Stephens is a #1 bestselling author who spends her every free moment creating stories that are packed with emotion and heavy on romance.  In addition to writing, she enjoys spending lazy afternoons in the sun reading, listening to music, watching movies, and spending time with her friends and family.  She and her 2 children reside in the Pacific Northwest.
Connect with Author S.C. Stephen’s Social Media:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Yummy, no?

New Release Review: Lock & Key by Cat Porter with author Q&A

lock & key Title: Lock & Key
Author: Cat Porter
Where to Buy Lock & Key:  Amazon // Barnes & Noble

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My Rating:

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4/5 bottles of polish for a steamy and emotional novel featuring sexy and mature lovers standing up for the life they want – and deserve!

Lock & Key  Blurb:

Love not only stings when you lose it, when it’s ripped away, but when it first sinks its teeth into you, it can cut just as raw and sting just as deep.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten that.

I was allegedly South Dakota’s most famous Old Lady.
Fifteen years ago I had survived my Old Man’s murder and swore to myself never again.
Never again surrender my heart.
Never again sacrifice to the Club.
But that all changed in one night.

I came home and crashed into him,
and my past and present blew up in my face.
Both of us lonely, running on empty, and unwilling to admit it.
Until now.
I feel things I’d forgotten about, want things I had cut out of my insides.

Who holds the keys to betrayal? To suspicion? To trust?
To brotherhood? To family?
To a bleeding heart?
Right now, I just might.
I suppose some of us have to get really dirty before we can become truly clean.

My Thoughts:

I am absolutely in love with the idea of a contemporary romance centered on female character over the age of 40.  This is no virginal shy miss experiencing her first sexual awakening or a goody-goody off to explore her wild child side with the big bad bikers’ club.  Grace Quillen was once an innocent young woman, and we experience her through flashbacks, but even then, when first encountering the One-Eyed Jacks and her future first love, Dig, Grace was a strong woman.  When Lock & Key opens we meet Grace as a fully formed adult, world-weary and complete with scars and baggage from her time with the Club as Dig’s “old lady.”

Family tragedy and Club politics bring Grace back from a sixteen year exile rooted in the death of her husband and it’s devastating consequences.   The mysterious circumstances surrounding Dig’s death and Grace’s flight play an important role in sucking Grace back into the fold of the One-Eyed Jacks and their club politics.  However, before returning to her hometown, Grace stops for the night and meets a tall, handsome stranger, Miller, with whom she shares an instant emotional and physical connection.  Allowing herself to feel and connect for the first time in ages gives Grace the strength to continue on her mission.  The magic of the evening is marred when the harsh light of day reveals the sight of a tattoo on the back of her new lover – the symbol of the One-Eyed Jacks.  Reeling from the collision of her past and present, Grace leaves Miller to awake alone, wondering if he’d imagined the depth of his connection with Grace and fearing he’d never find her again.

Being romantic fiction, they find each other at the bikers’ club house.  By the time they do, Miller has been forced to pull back from Grace and deny their bond, all in the name of the good of the club and its politics.  Miller is obviously conflicted and his character shines in these moments of torment as he holds Grace close in his heart while pushing her away.  Miller is artistic and honorable and sexy as HELL.  Serious book crush worthy – he’s a man’s man (really a MAN, around age 40).  His club name is Lovk because he keeps his emotions locked up, ashe’s closed himself off emotionally following his military service and the death of his brother, who rescued Miller from a childhood of abuse. Yet, with Grace, he opens up and can finally be his true self.

“Everything unlocks with you, Grace. Anything good suddenly fits.  You’re my key.  I found you , and I’m not letting you go.  Not ever.  I’ve waited too long for you.”

I didn’t know what to do with those beautiful words, that precious confession.  My soul soared.  I yanked it back to earth.

“Lock…”

“I only want to hear my real name out of that mouth when we’re together.”

Yeah, I’m kinda in love. *swoon*

Poor Grace goes through so much in the course of this novel.  She never shrinks into weakness, always doing her best to face head on the pain of the past and the agony in the present.  Grace does what she must for her family (both blood and club) and she’s an admirable character for it.  Her relationship with her ailing sister and her nephew are key to her character development and her actions throughout the novel.  It’s a lovely sisterly dynamic that’s played out beautifully.

I do have to say I was a bit skeeved out over some Grace’s actions on behalf of the club (I’ll just say: Butler *ew*).  The club/brotherhood that was supposed to have her back didn’t feel 100% behind her at times by asking too much from her.  In the end, Grace used her intelligence and cunning to come to her own rescue (with some help from Miller).  I would have liked to know more details about the injury she suffered at the time of her first husband’s death and how it affected her psychologically.  The book touches on those dark times but we see them mostly through the experiences of other characters.  Even in the current day, Grace has to deal with the physical aftereffects and I’d like to see more about how she deals with it.  One that note, I am happy to learn there is more to come in the One-Eye Jacks universe and I look forward to reading more from Cat Porter.  Really, anything from Cat Porter – she’s a talented author we can expect lots of great things from!

About Author Cat Porter:

Cat PatrickCat Porter was born and raised in New York City, but also spent a few years in Europe and Texas along the way. As an introverted, only child, she had very big, but very secret dreams for herself. She graduated from Vassar College, was a struggling actress, an art gallery girl, special events planner, freelance writer and had all sorts of other crazy jobs all hours of the day and night to help make her dreams come true. She has two children’s books traditionally published under her maiden name. She now lives in Athens, Greece with her husband and three children, and freaks out regularly and still daydreams way too much. She is addicted to the History Channel, her iPad, her husband’s homemade red wine, really dark chocolate, and her Nespresso coffee machine. Writing keeps her somewhat sane, extremely happy, and a productive member of society.

Connect with Cat’s Social Media:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Q&A with Cat Porter:

Is there a message in your novel [Lock & Key] that you want readers to grasp?

In L&K Grace and her sister sacrifice in order to protect each other all their lives, from parents who abandon them and turn to alcoholism, from loss, depression, cancer, the threat of death, you name it. It’s noble and it drives those two women, and unfortunately the men around them often use it against them. The same goes for Miller and his older brother Wreck. There’s also the notion of identity- the use of their names, their biker road names, their real names. There are the ideas of family identity and cultural identity at play here too. When Lock first meets Grace he decides to use his real name and that’s how he wants it between them. He doesn’t use a nickname for Grace other than “babe” or “baby” unlike her first love who had had several nicknames for Grace. But this is a different time and place in both their lives- they’ve both reached this point of Brutally Real or Nothing at All. 

The other idea is that both Grace and Miller are both living with their heads down in a mediocre glide through life. When they first meet they joke about that cliché “change keeps the blood flowing” but it proves to be true for both of them, because for years their blood has not been flowing, and that needs to be changed. And in order to push through and stand up for what they want after all this time, they have to get dirty and taste ugliness in order to fully realize their truths, know their worth, and be able to stand up and say “No more. This is what I want, what I need and I want to live it now. Screw you and screw everything else.”

Will you write more about these characters?

Yes. In my upcoming 2nd installment, we will follow up with Grace and Miller and a new character from Grace’s past will make an appearance, and in the 3rd installment I’ll focus on another member of the club.

What are your current projects?

I have a new book coming out in November, “Wolfsgate” a romance drama set in 18th century England. I’ve had an obsession with the 18th century since I was a little girl watching Masterpiece Theatre with my parents every Sunday and I enjoyed reading the classics and historicals from a young age. The notion of an arranged marriage used to fascinate me to no end. What happens if the husband and wife actually, truly, fall in love and how does that happen? I’m currently writing the second book of the One-Eyed Jacks series and planning on releasing it this winter.

Tell us about your first book. What would readers find different about the first one and your most recent published work?

My first (traditionally) published book is a religious children’s myth, so it’s very different from “Lock & Key”! But the differences between L&K and “Wolfsgate” aside from the obvious- a bike club in contemporary South Dakota and upper class society of 18th century England- is a remarkable two sides of the same coin idea, I think. In the bike club there are no rules or restrictions (just those of their “tribe”), they live on the fringe of society and their moral compass is off the standard chart.

In the 18th century it’s all about the formal rules and restrictions of society. People then spoke indirectly about the stuff bubbling under the surface. In the bike world, they bluntly lay it out in a raw, unabashed way, do what they want, take what they want. In the 18th century world, there may be rules and restrictions (and bindings on their corsets, but no panties!) Yet there is so much implied and not said outright in their fancy speech and formal behavior, so much struggling to get through, so much crudeness and rule bending going on underneath the gilded niceties. All that fascinates me just as much as the raw, brash in-your-face-no-shame culture the biker world represents.

What is for you the perfect book hero?

I read a recent article about why we love Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy so much, and how it’s because we see him become transformed by his love for Elizabeth. So true! That’s what I want in a book hero. I love a good Alpha who goes for what he wants and won’t take no for an answer, who’s hiding some dark secret maybe that he can only share with his woman eventually. But at the core is his transformation into the better person he can only be through his experience of connecting to his woman. I find that journey of his extremely intriguing, breaking down the barriers, finally getting to the point of do or die, him making a stand and finding a new strength.

Deleted Scene from Lock & Key © Cat Porter

“Aunt Grace, look what Lock drew for me! Isn’t that the bestest tiger you’ve ever seen?”

Jake jumped up and down shoving a lined yellow page in my face. A strapping purple tiger, fangs bared and ready to pounce glowered at me.

“Wow, purple?”

“You don’t like purple?” came the deep voice I knew so well.

My head shot up. All my senses were drawn towards that sound like the tide under the magnetic force of a full moon. Lock stood in the kitchen doorway, one hand slung low on his hips, the other stretched out against the frame of the door. His white T-shirt was smeared with black grease and smudged with dirt. My breath stalled. He held my gaze, his head cocked to the side as he waited for my answer.

I shifted my weight. “I like purple. Majestic color.”

“Majestic,” he murmured, his lips twitching.

Jakey brandished his drawing in the air. “Isn’t he scary, huh? Ready to attack!” He let out a great big howl.

“Yeah, attack.” I mumbled, my gaze still stuck on Lock’s eyes.

Lock’s eyes…

Mesmerizing pools of lava that sucked me in and swallowed me whole.

“I’m gonna go show it to Wes!”

“Jakey, wa—”

Jakey sped out of the room, and Lock and I were suddenly alone. We hadn’t seen each other since that ugly explosion in the hallway three nights ago. Since my stupidity with Butler. Since Iris. Since my evil deal with Jump.

Since my little world blew up in my face.

He stared at me. I stared back, the silence deafening. Roaring.

His teeth grazed his bottom lip.

My heart hammered in my chest.

“How are you holding up under lockdown?”

“I’ve been keeping busy with the Bone Marrow Drive. Writing thank you notes, that sort of thing.” I sucked in a breath. “Oh, did you want some?”

His eyebrows lifted and a grin stole over his lips.

I rolled my eyes, my face heating. “The cake?” I gestured to the chocolate sheet cake next to me on the counter.

The amusement lingered on the taut lines of his face. “Did you make that?”

“Yeah, I did. I thought the kids would . . .”

A sharp prickle raced up my spine as he stalked over to me. Like a fucking tiger. I turned around quickly and began cutting him a thick slice.

The heat of his body brushed up against me, pressing into my back and my side, his warm, breath fanning the back of my neck. The scent of motor oil, metal and sweat swept past me as his arm reached out, a long finger swiping through a dollop of velvety chocolate ganache. On some primal instinct I was powerless to control, I tilted my head to watch his full lips suck on the tip of that finger. The finger that only days ago had swiped at me, thrusted inside my body, inside my most intimate, vulnerable place. The finger that had made me surrender to him.

It had tormented me, bruised me, angered me. And left me hungry for more of what only he could give me.

“This is what I do to you. Remember that.”

I dropped the knife on the counter with a clang. His lips released that now wet finger, and his thumb stroked over a chocolate smudge on the corner of his mouth then dragged lazily across his generous lower lip, his eyes on me. My tongue darted over my lip, a pathetic attempt to satisfy my sudden need to lick his.

His eyes blazed. It was only a second, but I recognized it—a flash of want, of hungry, potent need, a wild, irrepressible, insatiable urge. The tremor of it pulsed deep in my center and simmered in my blood. I should hate him, despise him for making me feel it, especially now, now that things were broken, mangled, dirty.

But I didn’t.

His wet finger trailed gently up the back of my neck like a drizzle of liquid fire, and a shiver snaked through me.

“That’s really good,” he rasped.

I stopped breathing, and my body melted into his magnificent towering wall of sinewy muscle. Into the impulse to throw everything away and dive into a warm, swirling sea of chocolate and cream and hot blinding mess.

His hand swept around my throat, the other around my waist. “Goddammit.” His rough whisper vibrated across the suddenly sensitive skin of my neck.

But I couldn’t afford to indulge in impulses anymore.

“Stop,” I whispered, my hands clasping his wrist.

His body stiffened around mine. “I know you hate me now, and I deserve it. I hate myself more for the things I said to you the other night, for the way I treated you. I had no right. No right to take from you, to be so cruel.”

I squeezed my eyes shut against the humility laced in his words, against the intimate timbre of his voice. I didn’t want to forgive him. That would mean letting him in again, and I wasn’t going to do that. No way. I was done with hopes and wishing and believing. I was going to do what I had to do then get myself the hell out of here. Again.

He lowered his head further, his face against mine. “Grace? You won’t even speak to me?” His lips brushed mine, and I gasped. That mad jolt of electricity, our electricity, coursed through me. His hold on me tightened as his mouth lingered over mine. Teeth tugged, warm lips nuzzled, teased, and coaxed that unwinding hot coil of disaster within me.

The luxurious taste of dark chocolate, sugar and Lock beckoned me to dive in and bathe in its lushness. His tongue nudged my lips open further and delved inside my waiting mouth. My tongue slid against his, stroking, eagerly exploring. The air around us was sucked away. Who needed oxygen? It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered when I had this kiss, his kiss.

His tongue dipped through the ache that swelled inside me, dipping through the havoc, the riot of warring factions on the battlefield of me. A fucking civil war. And silencing everything.

Everything but Us.

The Us that was precious.

The Us that had turned ugly.

The Us that was never meant to be.

I tore myself away from his mouth, slamming into the sharp edge of the counter. A muffled growl caught in his throat. Lock’s hooded eyes were dark, unreadable, his breathing as ragged as mine. His hands gripped my arms, then suddenly let go as if they’d realized their transgression. The craving still drummed between us, but now it snagged and clawed at my insides.

“That cake any good?” Jump’s taunting voice spiked from the doorway. It was the voice of cold, hard fucking reality, a bucket of icy water toppling over us, drenching everything.

Lock’s cold gaze leveled at mine. His jaw clenched, the lines of his face hard. I braced for the burn sure to come.

“Chocolate’s not my thing,” he bit out and strode out of the kitchen.

*GUH* You can feel the tension and passion and PAIN leaping off the screen!  If a deleted scene is this good, you can only imagine how amazing the final version is!

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Book Review: An American Duchess by Sharon Page

An American Duchess by Sharon Page

**I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Title: An American Duchess
Author: Sharon Page
Available: September 30, 2014 (e-book)
Where you can buy An American Duchess:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

My Rating:

nail-polish fullnail-polish fullnail-polish fullhalf-a-bottle-nail-polish-spill

Summary:

Set on a crumbling English manor estate during the height of the Roaring Twenties, an American duchess must decide how much she’s willing to risk for the life she truly desires…

It’s 1922, and New York heiress Zoe Gifford longs for the freedoms promised by the Jazz Age. Headstrong and brazen, but bound by her father’s will to marry before she can access his fortune, Zoe arranges for a brief marriage to Sebastian Hazelton, whose aristocratic British family sorely needs a benefactor.

Once in England, her foolproof plan to wed, inherit and divorce proves more complicated than Zoe had anticipated. Nigel Hazelton, Duke of Langford and Sebastian’s older brother, is as austere and imposing as the family’s ancestral estate. Still reeling from the Great War, Nigel is now staging a one-man battle against a rapidly changing world—and the outspoken Zoe represents everything he’s fighting against.

When circumstances compel Zoe to marry Nigel rather than Sebastian, their heated quarrelling begets passion of another sort. But with Nigel unwilling to change with the times, will Zoe be forced to choose between her husband and her dreams?

My Thoughts:

Author Sharon Page uses the love story of English duke Nigel Hazelton and free-spirited American heiress Zoe Gifford to deftly illustrate the struggle of a generation aching for adventure in the wake the tragedies of the Great War.  Ms. Page does a wonderful job bringing the Jazz Age to life.  She uses Jazz clubs and Speakeasies, struggling aristocratic estates and the excesses of new Hollywood to capture the climate of the early 1920′s.   The use of plot devices such as the post-war aviation craze and the burgeoning film industry added to the authenticity of the time period – this definitely isn’t wallpaper historical.   I think I squealed a little at Zoe’s period-appropriate description of Nigel:

The Duke of Langford had the same smoldering gaze as Valentino, who once crept into her girlish fantasies about passionate lovemaking.

See?  That sounds like the thoughts of a 1920′s young woman.

And what a young woman Zoe Gifford is!  It’s easy to see how Nigel was ensnared by her joie de virve.  She’s determined to put the pain of her lost love and the poverty of her early childhood behind her and embrace life to the fullest, something that both enchants and infuriates the staid Nigel, Duke of Langford.  It was hard to remember how young Zoe was (only 20 at the beginning of the book) given the tragedies she’s forced to deal with for the duration of the tale.  NOT going to spoil it, but heed this warning: TISSUES AT THE READY!  It was almost jarring to be reminded how young she was, as she sometimes came across as an old soul in a young body.  However, occasionally her youth would prevail and lead to immature actions and reactions that frustrated the situation with her husband.

That brings me to Nigel, poor dear traumatized Nigel.  Half the time I wanted to hug him, the other half I wanted to throttle him – a sentiment no doubt shared by his wife Zoe.  Scarred, both physically and emotionally, by his service in the war, Nigel is struggling to maintain his Estate, care for his tenants, lead his family, and suppress his demons.  With Zoe, he begins to feel alive and only once he fully embraces the light she can offer his life does he begin to heal.  Unfortunately, he is own worst enemy, allowing secrets and pride to stand the way of his and Zoe’s future happiness.

At times the pacing of this novel kept me from fully engaging with the story.  It felt like major events happened too quickly, one on top the other, without allowing the reader or the characters time to adjust.  Most of the conflict between Nigel and Zoe could have been dealt with by open and honest communication, a fact that didn’t strength their relationship in my opinion.  There were some interesting secondary characters and relationships, such as Sebastian, Zoe’s original Hazelton fiancé, and Zoe’s [annoying] mother.

Once Zoe and Nigel cleared the air (and he got his head out of the sand), their love lived up to the potential it showed at the beginning of the novel.  It was a rocky road with a satisfying emotional payoff.

Can we also give a shout-out to the art department for the GORGEOUS cover?  It’s beautiful AND it looks just like Zoe!

About author Sharon Page:e

Author Sharon PageNew York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Sharon Page sold her first book, an erotic romance novel A GENTLEMAN SEDUCED, in 2004. Since then, she has published more than 20 novels and novellas, both traditionally through NY publishers (Kensington, Random House, Harlequin), and on her own through self-publishing.

Sharon writes:
Historical romantic women’s fiction (AN AMERICAN DUCHESS)
Erotic historical romance (SIN, DEEPLY IN YOU)
Erotic paranormal romance (BLOOD RED, BLOOD CURSE)
Sensual historical romance (THE CLUB, ENGAGED IN SIN)
New adult contemporary erotic romance (The Yardley College Chronicles series).

Sharon’s books have won many awards including two RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Award of Romance, and the Golden Quill. Sharon was nominated by RT Book Reviews in 2013 for Career Achievement in Erotic Romance.

She graduated with a degree in Industrial Design (School of Engineering) and worked for years in the structural engineering field. Married, with two children, Sharon now writes almost full time.

Connect with Sharon:

Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter @ReadSharonPage  |  Facebook

New Release: Ruining Mr. Perfect by Marie Harte

Ruining Mr. Perfect by Marie Harte**I was provided an e-ARC in exchange for my honest review**

Title: RUINING MR. PERFECT
Author: Marie Harte
Series Info:  McCauley Brothers #3
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Available: October 7, 2014 (print and e-book)
Where to Buy RUINING MR. PERFECT:

Amazon  |  BAM  |  B&N  |  Chapters  |  Indiebound  |  iTunes  |  Kobo

My Rating:

nail-polish fullnail-polish fullnail-polish fullnail-polish fullhalf-a-bottle-nail-polish-spill

Summary:

Ruining Mr. Perfect by Marie HarteIT’S NOT EASY BEING RIGHT

Vanessa Campbell is a CPA by day and a perfectionist by night. She’s fit, successful…and decidedly lonely. She can’t stop thinking about the youngest McCauley brother, Cameron. He’s just like her: smart, attractive, and usually right—except when dealing with her.

…BUT SOMEONE’S GOT TO DO IT

Cameron McCauley likes Vanessa a little too much. She’s a blond goddess with a razor-sharp tongue. She hates to be wrong, just like him. But she can hold a grudge and is stubborn to a fault—also like him.

A past disagreement has them rubbing each other the wrong way. Cam is dying to shake Vanessa up—get her to let loose. But if he succeeds, can his heart handle it?

My Thoughts:

I get positively giddy when I discover a new writer whose voice just clicks with me.  Marie Harte is one such writer.  I adored the first book of hers I read (The Troublemaker Next Door, McCauley Brothers #1), I fell even more in love with her writing style while devouring How to Handle a HeartbreakerMcCauley Brothers #2.  Now, with the publication of Ruining Mr. Perfect, I am officially smitten.  There is such an ease and fluidity to Ms. Harte’s writing that everything that happens, from dialogue to character development feels natural and organic.

I have to give Marie Harte extra kudos for her depiction of male relationships.  One of the female characters (a romance writer) makes a point of sneaking away to eavesdrop of the McCauley brothers’ poker night in an effort to assist with her writing males.  I have to wonder who Ms. Harte has been sneaking off to observe (and can I come along next time?)– she has practically perfected the art of male conversation and camaraderie (and braggadocio).  The McCauley brothers don’t pull any punches (physical or verbal), which makes their portrayal all the more realistic in my opinion.  Ms. Harte does an equally compelling job crafting her female characters, each one is unique and fully realized – no cookie cutter females here. Yay!

The lead male and female characters, Cameron McCauley and Vanessa Campbell, both appear in the two earlier novels of the McCauley Brothers Series.  Ruining Mr. Perfect can be read as a stand alone novel but the reading experience is definitely enriched by having read The Troublemaker Next Door and How to Handle a Heartbreaker (plus, the McCauley boys are so delicious and their ladies so entertaining, it’s a shame NOT to read the other books in the series).

Vanessa and Cam are both type-A, career driven financial guru operating with a detailed life plan, yet neither of their plans included falling in love and starting a family – not yet anyway.  Where they differ is the place they are each coming from: Vanessa is the only child of two distant and emotionally stunted parents while Cam comes from a large, loving, and more-than-occasionally meddlesome family.  Cam’s father and brothers are all blue-collar alpha males who tease Cam endlessly for this posh ways (be prepared for some non-politically correct language), making him sometimes feel like an outsider.  With Vanessa, he’s able to be his true alpha-self without compromising his sensitive nature.  Vanessa, on the other hand, learns to embrace the vulnerabilities she’s previously hidden behind a very prickly exterior.  I loved the journey these two made to one another, with Vanessa’s lessons in how to love and how to be loved being beautifully handled.

The secondary characters were all very strong, especially since most appeared earlier in the series.  It’s always nice when characters from previous books are still relevant and engaged in the story rather than merely serving as decoration.  I really enjoyed the extended development of the character of the McCauley patriarch, James.  He and Vanessa had some wonderful scenes that added depth to the plot, and James’ relationship with Cam is written with the proper balance of tough love and tenderness.

Gee, can you tell I liked this book?  Delicious love scenes, witty banter and deep emotional connection … what’s not to love?

Excerpt:

“Colin,” Cam tried again. “You know dumping water on someone in the shower is a no-no. And especially Ubie’s new girlfriend.” Ubie—short for Uncle Brody. Brody Singer, the blond “adopted” McCauley who had grown up as part of the family

“But he told me to do it.”

Cam blinked. “He did? Well, you should never—”

“Dad thought it was kind of funny after he yelled at me.” Colin gave him a sharp nod, then added with a smirk, “Dad said he used to do that to you, and that you cried like a girrrl.” Considering Colin’s anti-girl phase, that was a high insult.

“Is that right?” Cam frowned, remembering being the butt of too many jokes while growing up. “Mike has no idea what he’s dealing with. You think your dad’s tough? Watch Uncle Cam.” Knowing he shouldn’t encourage the mischief in his nephew’s eyes but unable to stop himself from the unspoken dare, Cam hurried to the kitchen, found a large glass and filled it with ice-cold water. Considering the freezing January wind outside, Mike would be basking in a hot shower to warm up. Cam grinned, looking forward to his brother’s howl of misery.

Colin trailed him like a puppy. “Oh wow, Uncle Cam. Are you going to get Dad?” He clapped.

“Shh.”

“Oh, sorry.” Colin’s big grin showed a missing front tooth.

Cam walked down more ugly brown carpet that looked as it if had been vacuumed to death—Mike and his obsession with cleanliness—and tiptoed into the big guy’s room. He made sure he had a clear exit. If his goliath big brother caught him, he’d be toast. Fortunately, he could move like a gazelle.

Gliding into the master bathroom, he readied himself. One, two…three. He yanked open the curtain and tossed the cold water at…Vanessa Campbell?

He stared in shock at the sexiest woman he’d seen in a long, long time. Naked, her creamy skin glistened with water as she gaped at him in horror. Which quickly turned to anger.

“Cameron McCauley!”

“Oh, wow.” He couldn’t look away.

About Author Marie Harte:

Author Marie Harte

 

Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marie Harte is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether hiking in Central Oregon, biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. Visit http://www.marieharte.com and fall in love.