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Long Hard Ride (Rough Riders)

I’ve had a few cowboy stories in my TBR pile for ages. Months. Why did I wait so long to read them? Hot cowboys have become my new current addiction * grin * And according to most people, few do Hot Cowboys quite as well as Lorelei James.

From the opening lines of Long Hard Ride, I was hooked. Channing Kincaid is tagging along with the rodeo alongside her new boyfriend, Jared.

On a drunken dare after too many kamikazes, Channing Kincaid found herself standing on a shellacked bartop with a bartender named Moose sprayed her chest with ice-cold beer.

 

I love books with amazing starts. So much promise – and even better, this one delivers. Shortly after winning the Golden Knockers trophy and snogging a gorgeous stud named Colby McKay, she learns that her boyfriend is actually married.

She should leave. Right away. Tonight.

Colby’s words surfaced. Come talk to me before you do anything rash.

The scared part of her wanted to run to Colby right now. Demand to know why he hadn’t told her Jared was married.

But in his own way, Colby had warned her.

 

She’s trying to figure out what to do when Colby finds her.

“Do you want to go home?”
”God, no.”

“Good.” Colby angled across the narrow table and repeatedly brushed the back of his knuckles over her cheek. “Run away with me, Channing. At least until we get to Cheyenne next week.”

 

She’s tempted, even when Colby tells her there are conditions.

Colby studied her carefully from beneath the brim of his hat. “You’ll be in my bed.”

Her pulse fluttered. “I figured that much.”

“As well as Trevor and Edgard’s.”

Channing’s jaw dropped. “I’d be sleeping with all three of you?”

“No. You’d be fucking all three of us, ain’t gonna be much sleepin’ involved.”

 

Colby travels with his buddies on the rodeo circuit, and sharing women is the norm. Despite herself, Channing is interested, shocked – and excited. Of course, things don’t go exactly to plan. Channing finds herself caring more for Colby than she should.

The truth was, she’d missed Colby.

What kind of idiot did that make her? They’d only been together two days and she’d already attached herself to him like one of those pesky sticky burrs that get caught up in horses’ tails.

 

They’re only supposed to be together for a week, and after that, Colby fully expects her to go back home to pick up her previous life as a teacher, while he completes the rodeo circuit. And even though it was his idea for all three guys to share her, he discovers that he wants her all for himself.

“Have we really only been together a coupla days?”

She stiffened up. “Yes. Why? Is time dragging?”

“No. On the road, time usually drags like an old dog. But it seems like you’ve always been around. I’m glad you’re here, darlin’.”

Probably not the first time he’d said such sugared words, but she’d take it since it was the first time anyone had ever uttered them to her.

 

But life never runs smooth in rodeo-land. Channing struggles to fit in with the other wives and girlfriends. Trevor and Edgard spend all their time fighting and losing their events, and Colby’s father hates her on sight. Colby gets banged up in one of his rides and Channing realises the stark reality of how dangerous the rodeo is.

If I wasn’t fanning myself from the burning hawt sex scenes, I sat on the edge of my seat desperately watching the story playing out. So what made this read so irresistible? Apart from the hot and sexy trio of gorgeous well-mannered cowboys (Colby, Trevor and Edgard), there were interesting and well thought out secondary characters including Colby’s sister, Keely, and Gemma & Cash (the stars of the next book).

I’m so pleased that Lorelei James has written lots more books in her Rough Riders series and I can’t wait to read them. A definite 5 out of 5.

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Connected (Twists of Fate)

 

What can I say – I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Rock stars – check

Paranormal – check

Tugging on the heart-strings – check

Sharp, laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue – check

Addison is waking up from an operation when she realises she can hear a voice in her head.

She was alone. Completely alone.

“Hello?” she whispered.

Jesus. It’s about damn time you acknowledge me. I mean, what the fuck? Are you deaf or what?

“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.” She held her head, certain she was hearing the voice in her own mind now.

No freaking way!

Ah, yeah… I don’t think God had anything to do with this, but what do I know. She could practically hear the mental shrug. Maybe he did.

And then she remembers the weird dream she had, the one where she was floating somewhere in the darkness and another person was there… a guy…

His voice still carried the smugness of ‘I told you so’ since she’d received confirmation of her death and resuscitation. And then he’d rubbed her face in it as she came around to one indisputable realization: she had some guy’s soul stuck inside her.

 

Of course, as a lapsed Catholic, she decides to ask a priest for help.

Oh this ought to be good.

She imagined him kicked back in her head with a bag of popcorn, waiting for the show to begin. As the panel between her and the priest slid open, she panicked. What was the protocol? Was she even allowed to be in there?

 

She does the only thing she can. Tries to cope with having a strange guy take up residence in her head. She nicknames him the Afterlife Leech and tries, with some success, to block his thoughts and emotions. That is, until he nags her into Googling him.

“Who the hell are you, Rhys?”

Got a lot of hits, did you? The pride in his voice was clear. I’m a bit famous.

“Don’t bother with the feigned humility. It doesn’t suit you,” Addison stated dryly. “So, you are…”

A rock star.

 

Rhys Alexander played rhythm guitar for the massive rock band Black Codex, alongside his brother, Xavier. And now that he’s trapped somewhere in the afterlife, he wants to contact his brother, to say his goodbyes. Addison is convinced it’s a bad idea, that Xavier will write her off as another demented fan but she gives in to his nagging and sends an email. When Xavier phones, she has no idea how to respond.

Rhys started to yell, to really holler in her mind. His string of obscenities was so loud she only managed to catch a word her and there, and through it all, she felt his desperation and fear.

“He recognized your voice,” she blurted out, wanting to stop the onslaught in her head.

Her ears pulsed in the sudden silence, but then she heard Xavier’s response, his voice dark and controlled.

“Who, exactly, recognized my voice?”

Xavier insists on meeting her, to determine if she’s a fake, or just another “crazy-assed-bitch.” And that’s when it gets even stranger.

It felt like someone had fisted her shirt and was pulling her near. And that pull was coming from Xavier’s general direction.

Wait. Something was wrong. She felt… empty.

Rhys?

Panic flooded her as her eyes flew open and locked on Xavier. He stared at her with a horrified expression on his face, his mouth moving soundlessly. Then his gaze darted from side-to-side as his hands gripped his head.

Her breath caught as the realization slammed into her. “Rhys,” she whispered, reaching out to Xavier as if he held an element of her soul she couldn’t breathe without.

 

Of course, sometime during the weeks they spent ‘together’, she started to fall for him.

“Rhys?”

Mmmm. He sounded lazy, relaxed. And for whatever reason, she pictured his big, strong body all kicked back into a mass of fluffy pillows… with his shirt off, a hint of stubble across his jaw, dark hair tousled, and a deep sensuality shadowing his eyes as he flipped the top button of his jeans open…

 

But how can a normal girl have any kind of relationship with a dead guy? You’ll have to take my word how fabulous this book is, and read it for yourself < smug smile >

I was captivated from the first page and I couldn’t put it down. I just wish it had been longer. Thankfully, Jolyn Palliata intends more in the Twists of Fate series – the sooner the better for me  🙂

A very definite 5 out of 5.

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Seeing Spots

Another gem from Ellen Fisher.

Dare and Kathy have been interested in each other since high school, but neither of them realised. Dare was your typical sports jock, always surrounded by the prettiest girls, while Kathy was more studious.

She was still a geek, and he was still the town hottie, with women throwing themselves at him everywhere he went. And no wonder – with those long-lashed eyes, movie-star face, and that solid muscled body, he looked like a six foot three package of sex. Whereas she herself was barely passable.

They had nothing in common. That is, until Dare asks Kathy to design a website for his business.

Katherine Parrish glanced up at her client, offering him an encouraging smile, and caught him staring at her oddly. No – he was staring at her shirt. Which was odd, because it wasn’t low-cut or sexy. It was just an old t-shirt with leopard spots on it.

And for some reason, Dare can’t take his eyes off it… Spots. He was seeing spots. And he liked them.

He’s always been in awe of Kathy.

She was a freaking genius. He was the dyslexic one. “Looks great,” he muttered, feeling his cheeks grow hot. This was why he’d never dared to make a move on her. He’d come up with the idea of having her design his website as an excuse to talk to her – but talking to her didn’t do any good if every word out of his mouth just proved how dumb he was. Someone like her was not going to be impressed by a moron.

Kathy puzzles over his reaction to her t-shirt and next time Dare comes to discuss his website, she’s wearing a slightly visible leopard-print bra – to see if that has any effect.

The image of her in leopard print bra and panties, and absolutely nothing else, dug its way into the depths of his brain and made itself right at home. Mentally he added three-inch leopard print heels, because, well, he was a guy, and high heels were hot. Leopard print was hot. Katherine was hot.

Yes – he notices!

He tried really, really hard to stare at the computer screen, but his eyes were pretty much spinning around in their sockets of their own accord now, and they rolled downward and gave him another fabulous view of spots.

Kathy is thrilled – he’s finally noticed her. She invites him to take a closer look…

He suddenly realised that he was undoing her jeans, too. He hadn’t meant to, really. But right now he was the slave of some dark, primitive part of his brain. His brain gave orders, and he obeyed.

It’s the start of a wonderful affair, only Dare’s liking of leopard spots begins to border on obsession.

“You’re not supposed to giggle,” he informed her. “You’re supposed to be turned on.” “Oh, my God.” She giggled harder. “You’re wearing leopard spot boxers.” “Yes, I am. And they’re not an easy thing to find in Swift Creek, let me tell you. Could you possibly quit laughing?”

I love the way Ellen Fisher writes about people falling in love. Her dialogue is crisp and funny, and her pacing is perfect. There’s usually a bit of a twist too, and Seeing Spots has one. Kathy breaks out in spots. And so does Dare.

“Kathy,” he said, very gently. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but this isn’t from sleeping on sheets, okay? People don’t grow spots just because they have spots in their environment.” “Thank God you don’t like floral prints!” She raged, trying futilely to get away. “Otherwise you’d have big daisies stamped all over your ass right now!”

It’s a great, quick read and a definite 5 out of 5.

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Love Bleeds (Only After Dark Series -Book One)

Love Bleeds (Only After Dark #1) by Maggie James
This book, on paper, ticked some major boxes for me.
Rock stars – check
Vampires – check
Hot sex – check
I skimmed through the reviews on Amazon, figured it was a new author and worth splashing out the $5.99 Kindle price tag.  Mistake.
The book has a sound premise, a bunch of potential characters for a series and… that’s about it. I’m always keen to support and encourage new writers, but I really struggled with this. It’s a great example of how fiction can be so subjective.
So what did I have trouble with?
Every new person that makes an appearance is given a formal description, more akin to a police report. They almost all include a summary of outfits, too.
Lucas: Towering over them, he appeared to be at least several inches over six feet tall. His jet black hair pulled tightly off his face and secured in a braid that travelled halfway down his broad back.
Julian: At five foot ten with brown wavy hair that barely touched his shoulders and warm chocolate brown eyes. Julian was a sensitive, attractive, well-built man, nearing thirty.
Max: Standing at a meagre five foot four with what was left of his rapidly depleting hair a blending of white and silver-grey. His round cherub like face edged with a neatly trimmed goatee.
Joe: He appeared to be a few inches shy of six feet tall with a medium athletic build. His shoulder length blonde hair shone like spun gold.
Typos and spelling mistakes are everywhere (e.g. blonde instead of blond). Grammar and punctuation have gone MIA. Commas seemed to be rationed as closely as a smoker on his last packet of ciggies and all night until the corner shop opens again.
It’s supposedly set in Dublin, but written by an American author who persists in using American terms for everyday things. Elevator. Lobby. Purse. Curb. The rock stars are supposed to be English but their dialogue is so clunky and awkward that you begin to wonder if English is their native language?
Joe: “No need to be embarrassed. We may be the undead Phillip but mortal death cannot wane the true desires of the flesh.”
Joe: “Drink dammit, for fear I will eventually grow tired of this game and kill you myself!”
Joe: “You’re fairing well my friend.”(sic)Speech tags are littered like autumn leaves on a windy day.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Joe stated coldly. “Whoa… down boy!” Joe interrupted. “He’s right Joe.” Phillip agreed. “But Joe…” Phillip pleaded.
And the whole premise of show-don’t-tell is just a blue-sky concept.
Erick Slade was the leader of a modern day vampire coven who got their rocks off terrorizing innocent mortals and preyed on young beautiful women.
There were however, plenty of rock hard abdomens and lots of tanned skin and tattoos 🙂
Head hopping is dire and confusing, motivation is unfathomable… Why oh why didn’t I read the other reviews before I splurged my $5.99 on this? If it was a paperback I could at least tear the pages out and burn them 😦
Okay, I’m being harsh, especially since I think this writer has potential. I’d love to see her work properly edited. Hell, I’d love to have the opportunity to proofread her next manuscript and whip it into something un-putdownable.
Ms James, if you read this review, I’m serious with that offer – add me to your list of crit-partners. What have you got to lose?
There are gazillions of fantastic writers out there to learn from. To get into this genre you could read some JR Ward (perfect vamps) or Olivia Cunning (perfect rock stars)… The combination of Vampires and Rock Stars could be a winner; it just needs a little more work in this case 🙂
Abandoned at 30%. A reluctant 1 out of 5.

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Rent-A-Stud (Coopers' Companions, Book One)

I’m giving it 3 stars, it had promise and failed to deliver. I like to suspend belief when I’m reading, but the dialogue between mother and daughter was pushing it too far. She buys her mother sex toys? And not just a fun vibrator, but an entire box of stuff (and wasn’t she a hard-up student anyway?!?) – and then talks in detail about mother’s sex life… Sorry, I don’t buy that. Also, and this really made me cringe, she nagged her mother into stripping naked and trying on new underwear IN FRONT OF HER. Ewwwwwwww.

And I did some numbers in my head. Zach has been a ‘popular’ escort for 10 years, so lets say he has sex with one new woman every 2 weeks (I’m being generous here, stay with me a moment…) – that’s an average of 26 a year – over 250 in 10 years. Yeah, he’s experienced < rolls eyes >.

I thought Zach fell for her too quickly and I really REALLY think she would be more put off by his slut-history – especially when she screws him WITHOUT a condom, and without even asking first. So ok, she couldn’t get pregnant, but HELLO…  she works in a hospital and has never heard of STDs? Yeah, right!

So apart from the terrible cover and the cheesy title (which is actually kinda fun), it was only the author’s great writing that held this together for me. 3 out of 5.

 

 

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Carnal Ecstasy

 

I think after the sheer perfection of Simple Need, it would be hard to match it, and I had high hopes for Carnal Ecstasy, the second book in this trilogy.

Dallon, part bar-owner, part-tattoo-parlour-owner and best friend of Vintner and Jaz is not looking for an emotional entanglement. He’s especially not looking for Carrie – the complete opposite of his ‘type’. She’s a good girl, a well brought up Christian who follows her parents instructions in everything. Until now. She’s rebelling – and first on her list of things to try is the gorgeous man that she’s just met.

“You don’t need to be messing with me, Carrie. You really don’t. If ever there was a black sheep, I’m it. My reputation is bad, very, very bad. It’s best that you go. Now.”

He wants her – wanted her from the moment she stopped him outside to ask for directions – but recognizes that she isn’t the type for his usual one-night stand. So he tries to resist her… and fails.

FedEx was going to bust through the doors, package him up and send him straight to hell by ten the next morning for asking his next question and already knowing the answer. “What else do you want?”

“You.”

She worries that she’s too innocent.

“Naughty girls are always sexy, but taking a girl like you,” he slid a hand down the lace to cup her pussy through it, “and turning her into a naughty one is even sexier.”

For the first time ever, Dallon shares his bed with a woman. All night.

She looked adorable and rumpled though. Her skin had that just-awakened flush, her eyes were still drowsy and heavy lidded. She was so warm and soft, and he wanted to melt into her at the same time he wanted to kick her out of his bed because she was a threat to everything he knew prior to meeting her. His one-night stands and easy lays were gonna come to a screeching halt if he didn’t get rid of her soon.

So… Carrie and Dallon hook up and have some hot sex. There’s a bit of character growth and a nice easy ending, but it didn’t grab me. It was just too… empty, a bit like a puzzle where you fill in the blanks.

I think it suffered from being so short, that there wasn’t time for any character depth. I didn’t get why Dallon was such a bad, bad boy. He has tats and piercings, and runs a bar. He didn’t come across as anything other than thoughtful and generous – and affectionate. He’s polite with her parents. Good with his friends, and loving with Carrie. And why did Carrie suddenly decide to rebel? Going from long-term celibacy to instant sex-kitten overnight, was a bit of a leap.

On the plus side, Lissa Matthews has a lovely relaxed style of writing, so if you’re looking for a quick, hot read, this ticks the boxes. 3 out of 5.

 

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Frontier Wolf

 

Rosemary Sutcliff writes historical drama with such an eye for detail, when you stop reading and come back to ‘real life’, there’s a brief sense of disorientation. Her work is so vivid, the narrative breathtaking in parts – and the storylines are filled with characters you come to love.

And so it is with Frontier Wolf. Alexios Flavius Aquila is a young commander in the Roman Army, despatched to the semi-wild Frontier Wolves north of Hadrian’s Wall following a disastrous command decision in Germany.

“We’ll never make it.” Centurion Clovis forgot the “Sir.”

They faced each other across the table, and after a moment Alexios said deliberately, “Centurion, I am in command here.”

And silence came down between them like a sword.

Centurion Clovis, who had grey hairs in his beard, looked back at this puppy, who with nothing to recommend him save that he was a first-class swordsman (and you could say the same of any gladiator who outlasted three fights in the arena), just because he had an influential uncle, had been promoted over the heads of men like himself, before he had time to learn his job, and said, “I should like to place it officially on record that I disagree with your decision, Sir.”

This takes place in the last years of Roman rule in Britain, and Aquila’s new soldiers are a mixture of native tribesmen and Romans. He has much to learn.

“They may make some kind of man out of you – if they don’t arrange for you to have a fatal accident instead,” said Uncle Marius’s voice in his memory.

Not only does he have to gain respect from his soldiers, he also has to maintain the uneasy peace with the local tribes – the nearest of which is the Votadini. Here at least, he finds it easier. The Chieftain’s eldest son is a similar age and they become friends.

Suddenly laughter caught at them both, eye meeting eye; a quiet laughter – men seldom bellow their mirth in the wild places – but quick and potent, linking them together.

His first Midwinter Night, two months into his new command, brings trouble. The celebratory dancing gets out of control and he has to impose his authority for the first time.

Alexios found that he was shaking a little, and hoped desperately that it did not show, as he looked from one to another of the men about him. And the men in their turn looked back, taking in the fact that their new Commander stood in their midst with one cheek cut and an eye rapidly filling up and turning black. Maybe some of them were pondering the punishment for striking an officer. Well, it would do them no harm to sweat a little.

This is a story as much about forging friendships as it is about Alexios growing and learning his trade. His seconds in command (Lucius and Hilarion), the young trumpeter Rufus, the Quartermaster Kaeso and the Chieftain’s son Cunorix all take their places in your heart. He goes hunting with Cunorix to gain his own wolfskin.

Between the darkly sodden wreck of last year’s bracken and the soft, grey drift of the sky, the catkins were lengthening on the hazel bushes, making a kind of faint sunlight of their own, and in one especially sheltered place, as the two young men brushed past, the first pollen scattered from the whippy sprays so that they rode through a sudden golden mist.

But peace is tenuous at best and things deteriorate during an inspection of the fort.

Montanus raised his voice as Alexios tried to cut in. “These people forget who is master all too quickly. They need to be taught the lesson afresh from time to time.”

“I doubt you’ll teach it them by putting the Chief’s brother up as a live target for javelin practice!”

“It’s a usual enough form of execution.”

The second half of the book revolves around Alexios trying to survive a series of pitched battles with the tribesmen and it’s difficult to tear yourself away from the pages as he throws himself wholeheartedly into the task.

The Dextra gate, well greased in advance, opened without sound onto the windy darkness of the night beyond. And men and horses slipped forward like a long skein of ghosts, one after another through the gate and down the steep track to the ford, the men of the decoy party leading the way.

Most of the story takes place in the middle of winter. I frequently looked up from the pages to see summer sunshine blazing through my windows and felt a moment’s confusion. While I read this book, I was there, with the soldiers, riding a rough pony through the wind and rain.

It’s a delight to immerse yourself in a Rosemary Sutcliff and to my relief, there are still plenty for me to read. 5 out of 5.

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